Pinch me, did we really defeat LA Galaxy with a 4-2 win on April 1st? All I had been hearing from the echo-chamber of despair that can be #VWFC Twitter is that there’s no way we’ll do anything good this year. The frustration wasn’t completely without merit. With one point from a possible nine we came out of the gate with a whimper. Ultimately we criticize because we care, but the team showed us on Saturday that they have it in them to not only entertain us but also win in spectacular fashion.
Forget your umbrella? It’s going to pour. Running for the train? It’ll pull away just as you get to it. Your striker misses a sitter steps from the goal? Why is he even on this team?! The path of least resistance when these things happen is that everything is awful. It’s easy (and cathartic) to look for flaws and dissect them until you’re enraged. The more difficult endeavour is to look at something that appears to be irrevocably broken and attempt to find a silver lining with which you can weather the
There are things I can’t sugar coat – 2016 was a rough season and, though it’s early, most are wondering if enough has been done to turn it all around. We offloaded DP contracts that weren’t performing, but we also lost players these past two seasons we didn’t want to lose and, alternatively, signed players who played for bitter rivals. Were appropriate adjustments made to win back trust that was lost in lacklustre performances and heartbreaking stoppage time seconds last year? Change is inherent to soccer – players, rules, kits. What can’t change is that they are wearing our crest and need support.
A (very) small group of devoted fans on Twitter have dubbed the reaction against the negative to be the #OptimistsUnion. The application process is exhaustive – membership is free and you have to look for the good in the present moment. This seemingly simple concept is surprisingly difficult for many to achieve. For clarity, being a member doesn’t mean you’re wilfully blind. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constructively criticize when you feel there have been errors and that things should have been done differently. It doesn’t mean you can’t think about an upcoming game, knowing the odds, and think that we JUST might not be able to win that one. It means that you attempt to look for the positive and think that one day, we will overcome our shortcomings. Ever the optimist, I’d like to share what there is for us to look forward to in 2017.
Last season’s defensive woes were in part attributed to our right backs commonly playing further up the pitch, leaving a large exposed area for Kendall Waston to try to cover which was easily exploitable. Bringing in Sheanon Williams has brought stability and ever so important MLS experience to the position. Maybe he’ll never completely fill the Beita-shaped hole some supporters have in their hearts, but I hope we can all agree he deserves more than three games before too harsh of criticism.
At the beginning of the season, injuries depleted us, but once we’re fully fit we have a roster that can and will impress. If you blinked you may have missed preseason Yordy Reyna before he unfortunately broke his foot. Eyes wide open and you saw that he’s got moves and was a very exciting addition to our team. He’ll be back in the summer, JUST IN TIME, for us to turn the switch to turbo and make our run for the MLS Cup.
Injury also left us without experienced, calm, cool, collected, Christian Bolaños for our first few games. He impressed with an assist to Kendall Waston for a second-half equalizer in Costa Rica’s World Cup qualifier versus Honduras to signal that he’s back. While he wasn’t directly involved with our goals on Saturday night, it’s great news that he’s back and his creativity is an asset we require.
Alphonso Davies. Don’t you dare try to tell me how old he is. His patience and maturity on the ball is remarkable. He weaves through defenders and no matter how hard they take him down, he’s usually up quicker than them and sprinting on. He created four chances with sublime passes and gave Ashley Cole a run for his money. It’s only a matter of time before he’s scooped up by Europe, so why don’t we enjoy every minute of him while we can?
In a world where it’s getting increasingly more difficult to find a happy corner, we’ve made our own place. Whether it’s making lofty predictions for games or reaching out to congratulate team members on a job well done, it feels good to be kind. No matter what happens, we’re the ones waving flags and singing anyway.
Why do you watch the beautiful game? I’m here to be entertained, banter and spend time with friends. I don’t watch games in a benign blissful ignorance with a smile from ear to ear. I yell, I have questions and, oh boy, do I have expletives. But I’m quick to think “alright, on to the next”. Even when it feels impossible to find a silver lining, I promise you it’s there. I’m here for the long haul. One day the tide will turn and I’ll be glad I stuck with them through it all.
[ED – We want to extend a warm welcome to Anna, our newest member of the AFTN writing team. This is her first piece for the site and I’m sure you’ll agree that her upbeat disposition will be a good counter for my grumpy cynicism!]