You wish and you hope and you even pray that your team will do something different.
You spend 16 hours of your weekend packed into a van.
You spend all that emotional energy thinking up ways that this game will be different.
And yet, with this team, this season, nothing changes.
What a waste. In a way, it was a fairly typical late-season performance from United. Who amongst us really thought we were going to win after going into halftime scoreless. Not me. That was nearly our best lineup we tossed out there and we could not even come close to imposing themselves on the match. Yes, we got a few chances. But in terms, of controlling the match in the attack half and forcing saves out of Hesmer, you would’ve thought this was a midseason snoozefest in 105-degree heat.
There are a million ways you could breakdown this performance, though let me start by saying that it’s never a good sign in a must-win game when your goalkeeper has more first-half touches than every other player combined, but let’s keep it simple. Here are our players earning six-digit salaries against our cap and how they did in our most important game of the season:
- Fred – Played, and always was there with 17 touches when just two or three would have sufficed just fine.
- Crayton – Played well, did his job, and seemed like he had more of the ball in the first half than any other United players.
- Emilio – Missed his one decent opportunity on goal, otherwise barely looked interested in the proceedings. Was an absolute disgrace.
- Gallardo – Did not play… of course
- Guerrero – Played okay. Didn’t actually do anything wrong. I guess that’s a good thing.
- Martinez -Did not play
- Moreno – Played a half, barely looked mobile and clearly had nothing at all in the tank.
- Olsen – Did not play
- Peralta – Came on at halftime, and was almost immediately (partly) responsible for surrendering the season-ending goal
Let’s compare that to Columbus’ big-money guys:
- Carroll – Played most of the match, and was one of the comeback players of the season
- Ekpo – Did not play, but showed flashed of big talent w/Crew and Nigerian Olympic team
- Gaven – Played entire match and even looked somewhat dangerous
- Hejduk – Played entire match and played over 2,000 min this season despite USA callups
- Marshall – Played full 90 and is clearly the MLS Defensive Player of the Year
- Moreno – Played full 90 after leading team in scoring
- Noonan – Came off the bench late. Who here wouldn’t take Noonan coming off of United’s bench?
- Padula – Played entire match, though was less than impressive. That said, he played.
- Schelotto – Played 89 minutes and simply bossed the entire midfield for Columbus while making every single set piece difficult.
Look at the contrast. Look at how much Columbus’ big-money players contributed compared to United’s. In a salary cap league, there is no way that you can expect the sub-six-figure players to carry the big-money guys. And yet, that is pretty much what United was expecting yesterday. The big-money players’ lack of performance is a big anchor weighing this team down. And that absolutely includes Olsen.
Fans, and I think the front office, spent the entire season in complete denial about our ability to compete with all that salary tied up in ineffective players. Everyone wants to think that this is how DC teams were always built – focused nearly entirely around old foreign guys. It’s not. Do you want to know who else built their 2008 rosters around old, overpaid, inconsistent guys? Toronto and LA, and guess what – they’re not in the playoffs either. That’s the company that Kasper and Payne’s moves left us hanging around with.
Which brings us to the offseason. If Payne/Kasper have any stones whatsoever, they expose Olsen to the expansion draft and ask him to retire with a nice six-figure coaching position waiting for him if he does. There is too much $200k-deadweight on this team. If Olsen, Gallardo and Moreno are all on our salary cap by roster-freeze time next season, you can write off 2009 too.
I was thinking last night, what do we really lose by exposing players like Olsen or Moreno to the expansion draft. Olsen would probably retire before playing elsewhere anyway. With Moreno, you know he maybe has one season left in the tank anyway, and that’s only if he comes off the bench. Say Seattle wants to MLS experience to go with its bald guy and skivvie model, they might decide to take Moreno and his wages off our hands. Imagine what we could potentially do with Moreno and Olsen’s salaries off our books?
Anyway, we have many cold months to figure out what we’re going to do over the offseason. But let me leave you with this. This team, as it’s currently built, is not close to winning real silverware – not close at all.