How Will the Boys Start?

Photo credit Marjorie Elzey

Every SOB and Unionite is eager to see the Union finish well (in more ways than one) Tuesday.  To do that, it is essential that they start well.

Will the Boys in Blue come out flat, as they sometimes do?  Or will we see the U that steamrolled Toronto from the start? This is critical because Freese will likely be in goal – a marked upgrade over Bendik, but you can’t expect him to be Blake 2.0.  And while the rookie exudes the energy and enthusiasm of youth, he can’t help but lack the wisdom and command of Director of Defense Mondragon.

A clean, fast start by the Boys in front of him is critical if Freese is to keep his wits about him. And that means that everyone in front of him will need to have their heads in the game from the opening whistle.

There are challenges ahead of that start.  No professional sports teams since 1917 have tried to play through a worldwide pandemic. While the White Sox beat the Giants in the World Series that year, and the NHA’s Toronto Dentals won the Allan Cup, there was no Association Football played in Europe, due as much to WWI as to the ravages of the Spanish flu. Not surprisingly, everyone in MLS has been trying to figure out how to do this as they go along.

Then there is the rust factor. The Boys haven’t played a game in anger in a long time – that alone could be a problem.  And while the homegrowns were blooded in last year’s playoff game, they know this first game will be like no other.

On the flip side of that we have America’s Captain and the Great Gaddisby to steady the nerves, as well as Ilsinho and a bunch of imports who are playing as if they have something to prove, hoping they might get a trip across the pond if they impress.

The ignition for a fast start will be up to the Coach of the Year and how well he tunes up this Blue machine.  And to avoid having a dead battery, he might want to check the shop manual of the Philadelphia Eagles for Super Bowl XV.  This from Wikipedia:

The Eagles traveled to New Orleans for Super Bowl XV and were heavy favorites to knock off the Oakland Raiders, who were merely a wild card team. Things did not go the Eagles’ way, beginning with the disastrous decision by (owner Leonard) Tose to bring comedian Don Rickles into the pregame locker room to lighten the mood. Jaworski’s first pass was intercepted by Rod Martin, setting up an Oakland touchdown. Later in the first quarter, a potential game-tying 40-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Parker was nullified by an illegal motion penalty. The final score was 27–10. Veteran journeyman quarterback Jim Plunkett was named the game’s MVP.”

Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil was elevated to the Birds’ head coaching job straight out of UCLA and as a motivator, he could make Ted Lasso look somnolent. But like many a college coach, he saw the setting in New Orleans as a threatening distraction. So sports reporters noted the tight rein on the Birds’ behavior throughout their stay in the Big Easy, curfews and all.

On the flip side, Tom Flores knew the Raiders wanted to live up to their mascot’s name and N’Orleans was perfect for them. They were allowed to carouse on Bourbon Street – for the first week. Then Flores gradually tightened the screws and got them ready to play.

The outcome? Eagles players told the press that Vermeil had them charged up and ready to win the Friday before the game. Flores had the Raiders ready on Sunday.

If there is a lesson for coaches from Vermeil’s preparation, it’s about regulating adrenaline:  Players can have too much adrenaline at the start of a game, not enough adrenaline, or just the right amount of adrenaline.  Too much juice and you tighten up and can’t perform.  Not enough juice and you won’t be sufficiently aware. Just the right amount and you’ll be physically and mentally focused.

We don’t know what Ron Jaworsky’s blood chemistry was like at the start of that game, but it’s a sure thing Don Rickles didn’t help.

Jim Curtin has to find the right formula for getting the Boys just ready enough by game time – and not before. Player selection and game plan will be key as always. But physical readiness and emotional focus are perhaps more important now than at any other time of the season.

Props to the coach for leading the Union this far through a Covid minefield.  Now, just keep the insult comics out of the pregame locker room.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    This is the game Kacper needs to begin having a say…. love him to get a little surge the next three or four matches.

  2. The Union Academic says:

    “One can dust off the manuscript called the Uni-cyclopedia for knowledge on the history of Union adrenaline. It is an ancient tome that dates back to the before times… when zooming was a synonym for traveling at great speed, Thanksgiving stress was about what would happen when your family got together (not the other way around), and Unionites gathered by the thousands in their place of worship with the only mortal fear that existed was a hatchet job by Geiger.

    The Uni-cyclopedia has three entries for adrenaline:

    Counter-productive adrenaline – commonly referred to as the “yips”. Causes costly errors. See: Austin Trusty in the Open Cup’s own goal.

    Productive adrenaline – causes super human feats of union-ness that are imprinted into unioinite retinas for millenia. see: Ilsinho beating the entire Red Bull’s team by himself in 20 minutes in 2019.

    Non-productive adrenaline -no definition needed… just… any time Danny Cruz touched the field

    • el Pachyderm says:

      just might be the greatest of all PSP posts all time.
      holy shit- its so funny…. and just—-so true.
      Something feels different about his team however. I expect, despite my existential concerns about meeting and/or beating a team six times in one season, no matter how often my 9 year old plays street footy with my 10 year old… he is just incapable of beating him.
      My 10 year old knows this and revels in his superiority…toying with him. I expect a poised and thorough display of being the better team tonight.
      Bury the old.

  3. I worry about the law of averages and statistics meeting another club this many times….and beating them seven times in a row since last season. Every time you play them…..the likelihood of a win becomes less. These are professional clubs and I am shocked we have beat them this many times on a clip. I worry about tonight just having seen them so many times. Meeting another club three times would give a gaffer nightmares……I can’t imagine Jim’s anxiety.

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