So which excuse do we go to this time? Because, for the life of me, I can't figure one out. Sure, you could play the "fixture congestion" card, but San Jose played midweek as well, and they did it at altitude followed by a cross-country jaunt. Add in that they have little to play for but pride and the fact that they were missing Cannon in net, season with our first-half dominance, and the resulting head-scratching gets so intense it starts to bleed.
Some questions before I start to weep...
(1) What did Fearless Leader say at halftime that saw us come out so flat and lame in the second after controlling much of the first half? I'll take a stab. "Keep things tight, boys. Don't take risks. Play within yourselves. We've got this one in the bag. And for God's sake, DON'T MAKE MISTAKES, OUR PLAYOFF LIVES ARE ON THE LINE!!!" Curb the ambition, pile on the pressure. That sound about right? The silver lining here? Whatever small chance the Champions' League turnaround may have given Tommy to stay in a job this off-season surely just went up in smoke, right? RIGHT? Did you see how the chances started to flow when we got desperate? For christssakes, why were we not desperate to get the second goal in the first place?
(2) What is Burch good for besides launching bombs from distance? And if he can't get said bombs on target, is he, in fact, more a liability than a neutral force? The sad, sad punting of our playoff chances pretty much consigns him to the former. Yes, there is blame to be meted out elsewhere, and he was returning from injury, but that one moment, more than any other (and there were a few), killed any chance we had of winning this match. Hitting a ball really hard is not sufficient qualification to be a top-flight professional. USL beckons.
(3) Why do folks insist that Wicks could be our long-term solution in the net? The guy is a walking brain-fart. What the hell was he doing charging out to the top of the 18 to try and punch out a corner kick? We're lucky Toledo equalled Wicks' stupidity by blowing the play dead, because that sequence probably should have resulted in the Quakes' first. Whatever the case, it was probably should be up there with Burch's error as a humungous turning point. Wonder how much of an effect his leaving injured had on the patchwork back line slowly crumbling, and I wonder as well how much the Quakes started licking their chops when Kocic came on.
(4) I fail to see why Pontius does not start at forward for us. Yes, he did manage to blow the biggest chance that fell to him, but he was consistently getting into dangerous positions, forcing the defense to adapt to his movement, winning balls in the air. Contrast this with Moreno's assortment of balls to nowhere and ill-advised flicks. Contrast it with Emilio's stunning lack of movement (do you really want your striker's response to an incisive dribbling run to be "Screw running off the ball to open up space or present a passing option, I think I'll just stand here and wait for that guy to give me the ball because I get payed an obscene amount of money relative to my talent and deserve to have the ball delivered on a silver platter by a naked slave boy...oh, here comes the ball, let me boot it about 10 feet with my iron touch!").
Quick mentions before my head explodes...
* Benny, flinging himself prone to execute an outrageous backheel. Favorite. United. Player. Ever!
* Was it just me or did James go from winning virtually everything in the air in the first half to winning virtually nothing? Against the same player? How does that happen?
* Why did we swap Pontius and Quaranta on the flanks? Pontius can cross with his left, an ability that led to our goal. Quaranta consistently pulls it back onto his right to deliver the in-swinger. Effective at times, but only when we have guys in the box who can win headers. Also...predictable in the extreme.
I'm done. I hope this putrid abomination of a result serves as a fitting answer to all those who fell victim to having hope bloom optimistic in their hearts in the wake of the false dawn on Thursday. Wake up call! We've got a blind, inept helmsman steering a leaky, slow, overpriced boat, and half of the rowers consistently fumble their oars overboard. Are we completely sunk yet? Not yet. But that was a huge chance squandered. Now we depend upon others' results, and we saw how far that got us last year, didn't we?
Ugh (squared, cubed, raised to the nth power, god help us all).