Trying to Enjoy the Ride

A month or so back, my family gathered for my dad's birthday the weekend after De Rosario got injured. I caught my brother's eye, nodded at the United away jersey his younger son was wearing and asked, "Shouldn't he be sporting a black armband on that for United's playoff hopes?"

I should explain that my brother is a United fan, but not a fanatic, so he hadn't yet heard about De Rosario's season-ending injury yet. Instead, he arched an eyebrow, said something about United's form being uneven but that they would probably have enough about them to make the playoffs.

"DeRo did his knee on Canada duty," I interrupted. "Done for the season."


No need for further explanation. We've been here before.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Last year wasn't exactly the same picture, but you'd be forgiven for ignoring the minor differences. That United was looking likely to make the post-season when Pontius went down in the midst of a dominating performance against Chivas USA. From that point, 2011 United imploded, losing 6 of 9 matches down the stretch and only claiming a single victory during the same run.

Bye, bye playoffs.

So you'd have been forgiven for expecting much of the same when De Rosario went down in early September this time around. But United have responded by going 3-1-1 since that time, solidifying their hold on a playoff spot.

If it walks like a duck...

If you've been around these parts for a while, you'll know that I'm not a "results-first" kind of appreciator of the beautiful game. I like moments of individual skill and daring, the transcendent geometries of a well-worked passing sequence, and demonstrations of fierce grit and bravery.

I suppose that was the promise of the Olsen Era for United. Could his characteristics as a player: tenacity, determination, the youthful flair giving way to scarred-veteran guile, be translated to his team? Olsen was always clever, courageous, and ready to kick your ass. There have been flashes from his United, sure, but what I've seen over the last month hasn't inspired. The games are ugly, the performances too often uneven and, more frustratingly, uninspired.

A results business

But the results are there. True, they've come at the expense of the league bottom-feeders in less-than-dominating performances (contrast, if you will, having only three of those final nine disastrous 2011 matches against non-playoff sides). But those results look to be enough for United to plant a flag in the post-season for the first time in years.

But is that really enough?

Most of us came into this season expecting to scrape into the playoffs, and that looks to be on the current menu. But do you honestly expect the team you've seen over the last month to be capable of anything other than meekly bowing out at the first hurdle? Granted, you can't wave a magic wand and replace a guy with the big-game x-factor qualities of De Rosario. But you'd expect maybe a little more fire, a little more chutzpa from a team that's eager to take some scalps. There is enough quality remaining on this roster to post more than pedestrian results against relegation-fodder.

Instead, I'm left scratching my head, wondering if, robbed of the type of moments that make me love the game, robbed of any degree of optimism that United can do anything more than simply qualify for the post-season (do you really harbor MLS Cup ambitions still?), if I can simply sit back and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

The majority of my lack of posting of late has to with the new baby sucking up huge amounts of attention, concentration, and waking hours. But I've still managed to catch most of the games. I'm simply reaching the end of those games and staring at the keyboard, feeling little in the way of inspiration, be it positive or negative.

So pardon me while I closet the ennui and try to enjoy the ride (all the while hoping that inspiration strikes -- not just me, but United to boot).


  1. I totally understand the feeling. I was blogging the Fire on the theoffside during the Juan Carlos Osorio meltdown, and the long slide to crapitude in 2008. At some level, without an editor calling me to say "write something now, you idiot!", I just couldn't do it. I didn't want to rage against my team, I didn't want to be vicious, snarky asshole about my club, and so I just sort of faded off-stage, leaving the blogging to a pure carpetbagger who'd just graduated from J-school.

    I'm disappointed by Benny's decisions recently. There's only so much that can be done with this Effort! Effort! Effort! approach. At some level you're going to need some quality, and I'm afraid he's alienated most of the quality on the roster (Bosko, Salihi especially) by his public disdain over what they bring to the table.

    That said, there's still time for DC to up their game. If they go out against the Crew with Saragosa and Kitchen in a double pivot and Pajoy as a lone striker, we'll know the jig is up.

    Maybe it's time to anonymously gift FM to the front office? Heh.

  2. I expected United to be capable of qualifying for the playoffs and to fail miserably. At something like twice last year's point total, I already consider the season a relative success, and the squad's performance since DeRosario's injury is very encouraging, given that DeRosario is an aging attitude problem who thinks that the whole league should center on him, who visibly blames others for his age- and arrogance-related failings, and cannot be far from reaching a point of disastrously diminishing returns. A counterargument that the club should ride that pony until it dies would not be entirely out of line, but that's not what my gut says here.

    I agree with Sean--I have a problem with Saint Benny's man management, especially with respect to Branko and the Albanian Shithammer. These are people who should be playing.

    I also agree with Sean that Benny and KasperPayne need to play some freaking FM.

    Good to see you back, and since I don't remember congratulating you on the recent family addition, congrats and best wishes.

  3. I wish I could say that I'm surprised Benny's leaning on grit over quality...


    I'm intrigued by the new "Classic" mode in FM. It runs contrary to my normal need to tweek every little aspect of the club, but given current time contraints, it may be the only way I can play FM at the moment.

    On a related note, I see that you can delegate some responsibility (youth setup, recruitment, etc) to your Director of Football. As soon as the beta comes out, I'm going to try a United game and see how many pooches an empowered Kasper can screw before I chuck his pup-buggering bum out the window.