Before you read any further, understand that I started writing a blog in 2007 after reading another blogger comparing Jason Kreis and his management style to Robert Murrary’s days after there was a collapse in the Crandall mine owned by Murray killed several miners. It was a time when RSL struggled a lot on the pitch, but was in the midst of trying to rebuild yet so many people online were simply so negative about everything that it was frustrating as a fan to see. If you have read any version of my blog you will know that I am a RSL fan, pure and simple, I look at the team from two perspectives (a fan and as a business). The 1-0 loss last night sucked, and every person who bought a ticket has a right to be mad that we lost. You have a right to vent however you want, I have a right to look at things another way, we are likely not going to see eye to eye on things. Others will look at how the match was played, I thought I would look at something else. That being said:
Well 64 teams entered the US Open Cup, two were fortunate enough to make it to the final, but only one was going to win it, so is it better to have been one of the final two teams and to have lost or to have been a team knocked out by a lower division team like last year’s RSL squad? Don’t get me wrong I hate losing, it makes me mad for days, but I don’t let it cause me to threaten to cancel my season tickets, it doesn’t cause me to question the loyalty of the team or staff, it doesn’t cause me to throw a temper tantrum online.
Yes you have a right to be mad, you have a right to do whatever want, but for me as a soccer fan (long before there was a RSL) I learned a valuable lesson, soccer is never about one match, it is never about one season, it is about the adventure of a lifetime of backing a team that you believe in. It means you take your lumps along with enjoying glory, for the vast majority of teams in all sports there are a lot more lumps than there is glory.
So in the aftermath of the 1-0 loss to DC United last night, I wasn’t surprised at some of the venting online, but I tried to look at the positives. The reactions I got were interesting and in some cases a bit troubling, see RSL is a young team by soccer standards, not even to our 10th season yet and we have become one of the most consistent teams in MLS history. Actually we are the first team to have 4 straight seasons with 15 wins and 50 points, we may be joined by the LA Galaxy who can achieve that this season as well. We have the longest playoff streak in MLS with this being our 6th straight season of making the playoffs. We are spoiled, spoiled by the success of the team, and that has shown clearly in the hours after the loss.
Folks you can be mad however you want, I can’t change that. You can choose to not renew your season tickets because we didn’t win that trophy, I can’t stop you. You can throw away your RSL scarves and jerseys if you choose. You can stop coming to matches, you can stop watching RSL on TV, you can stop listening to the matches on radio, and there is nothing I can to make you do those things. I get that, but I also think we are too quick to forget our own history, perhaps we forget to be thankful for what we have.
Some of your quick to be critical have forgotten 2005, when we were all excited to have a team, even if they sucked. Maybe we have forgotten 2006 when we had to watch the Colorado Rapids celebrate winning the RMC at Rice Eccles, and another sucky season. Even in 2007 we weren’t a very good team, but things started to change, in part due to the changing of our head coach but also because of a new GM and eventually a new President. 2008 wasn’t a great season, there was a ton of chaos around the club as we prepared to move to Rio Tinto Stadium, but we celebrated a new home, and we squeaked into the playoffs on the final day of the season (with help from other teams). The playoffs were amazing, facing off against Chivas USA our expansion brothers and winning our first playoff match and series in franchise history. Of course that was countered by losing to the Red Bulls in the Western Conference final, but I don’t remember nearly the amount of negativity after that match as I have seen since last night. Perhaps because the expectations were so much lower and we were thankful just for a shot at the playoffs.
History of course took a big change in 2009, but not at the start of the season, we again were not a very good team. In fact we would end the season with a losing record of 11-12-7, and got shipped off to the Eastern conference for the playoffs. Things however were changing and all of a sudden we got hot, in large part due to the incredible goalkeeping of Nick Rimando, but remember we again made the playoffs on the final day of the season and again with help of other teams. The road to MLS Cup was tough but we were the hot team at the right time of the season, and it paid off in Seattle when we became the second ever expansion team to win MLS Cup. We are still only the second ever expansion team to win MLS Cup, a feat that I am very proud of.
Of course after 2009 RSL became really popular with fans, in part due to the new stadium, in part fans who were excited by us winning MLS Cup, and I think perhaps some fans believe that winning trophies every year is an easy thing or something to be expected. It is funny that just a couple days ago, Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated posted an interview he did with Jason some months ago, and there are some things that ring so relevant today:
KREIS: I think it’s a very, very interesting thing to think about. It’s very interesting to think about because of the fact that we have such a different level of expectation, even within our own club. It used to be very clear that everything we did, we were basically overachieving.
STRAUS: Did that come internally or from fans and people like me?
KREIS: Internally, people like you, people in our management, ownership, everybody. Fans. Right? Making the playoffs, then a conference final [in 2008]. “Oh my God!” MLS Cup [in 2009]. “Oh my God!”
Now it’s the point where we’ve lost that feeling of, “We did really good! We did really good getting to where we got to.”
We completely lost it so much so that last year, after attaining more points than we ever attained in a season, more wins, more goals. We did a lot of it again. Every year it seems like we get this “first” that we went after and we achieved. And we did X, Y and Z last year, the three things I just said. And we finished the year [with a conference semifinal loss to the Seattle Sounders], and it’s like we failed. The feeling from the top to the bottom was that we failed. And I personally I feel like that’s so wrong on so many different levels.
I guess growing up with a father who is a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan and never having known the thrill of winning a SuperBowl, and having to be excited by things like a winning season and making the playoffs, combined with my own being a Liverpool fan and having to deal with the good and bad years has made my being a RSL fan from the first day easier.
Just a couple other of issues to deal with: thinking our players, coaches or staff don’t get mad at losing, or lack the heart or passion to win big matches. Really? Clearly you have never been in a Jason Kreis post match press conference after a loss, or had a conversation with Bill Manning after losing the Champions League final, or a player after just a normal match being lost. These are the most competitive, passionate, driven people I have ever known in my life. If you want to question their skill level, fine, but I think if you want to question their heart or passion, then you need to go and do it to their face, not hiding online. Our players are competitive in everything that they do, come out and watch a practice session or two, every drill is a competition, watch how mad they get at losing to each other (their friends), then you will understand that our guys are likely at home right now beating themselves up over what they could have done differently.
I have seen/heard some people who think the players don’t care that they let the fans down, again Really? Over and over again our players and coaches have said how important the fans are to them, and how much they agonize over poor performance at home and disappointing the fans. Maybe it is that I have been very fortunate to have had those conversations with our players, coaches and staff members over the last few years of doing various blogs, maybe it is why people venting (I get it) sometimes just pushes my buttons and forces me to respond in ways like this.
I remember the good times at the team hotel after winning MLS Cup, and the bad times in the tunnel after the Champions League loss, I know that nobody is ever more high or low with emotion than our players and staff. So while it may seem to you that they maybe don’t care, or that they didn’t try hard enough, it is easy to watch a match on TV or even from the stands and sometimes think that, but I can ensure you that nothing is further from the truth.
Soccer is a harsh mistress, often the better team doesn’t win. Matches sometimes are decide by strange bounces, missed calls, and a hundred different things, but being a fan is about celebrating the wins, lamenting the losses and always being faithful to your club.
That’s How I See It