Hans Backe’s off and on neckbeard is symbolism that Fitzgerald himself would be proud of. The oddly placed beard encroaching slowly but surely towards his face is perfect for a coach drowning in his own poor decision making and mistakes. Or perhaps it’s a futile attempt to protect his neck from the axe that is sure to fall as soon as this horrible season comes to an end. Maybe it’s not metaphorical at all and the appropriate placement of a beard is one of the many things Backe is completely oblivious to.
Whatever allegorical value you place on Backe’s facial hair there is no doubting the fact that the man has done a surprisingly efficient job of destroying the reputation he gained last year. He is unable or unwilling to stop his team’s slide to the bottom of the standings and his post game quotes are those of a person who is completely out of touch with reality. He called a recent draw against last place Vancouver “promising” and after Wednesday’s debacle he said, “We came out flying for seven minutes and looked very, very sharp, and hungry”. While it was a glorious seven minutes, in the following twelve they averaged a goal against every four minutes. Someone needs to shake Hans like a delusional doctor in an over the top medical drama, “She’s dead Hans, she’s gone. You killed the season, it’s over.”
Backe isn’t alone in putting together the most under-performing team in MLS history. General Manager Erik Soler never prepared his roster for the Gold Cup break and then made a number of baffling moves that have gutted the team of any depth. It’s become crystal clear that former assistant coach Richie Williams was the expert on American soccer and Soler along with his Scandinavian cronies are clueless when it comes to engineering success in MLS. Why exactly was Williams fired? No details have emerged since he and goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan were let go suddenly in February. The longer fans go without answers the more inclined they are to suspect the worst, whether that’s fair or not.
While Backe and Soler deserve the Lion’s share of the blame for this year’s failure, the players shouldn’t escape criticism. Even faced with a clueless coach and puzzling roster management, the players are grown men and theoretically have some amount of pride. At some point you would expect to see a modicum of fight from the team, even if only to maintain some semblance of self respect.
Thierry Henry, despite his silly fouls, whining and tendency to mope around the field, has earned his big paycheck with 12 goals and the occasional moment of brilliance. His fellow designated player, Rafa Marquez, is a different story. The Mexican had a solid if unspectacular half season in 2010 before falling apart in 2011. He has spent all season getting caught out of position and ball watching and it’s obvious he doesn’t show the same effort for New York that he does for El Tri. On Wednesday he decided to top it off by going full villain in his post match quotes to our very own Dave Martinez and Brian Lewis of the NY Post. .
I think I am playing at my maximum level, and doing everything I can. I don’t have, unfortunately, four defenders on my level that can help me out.” and added “I think this is a team game and unfortunately there isn’t an equal level between my teammates and I.”
Who could of guessed that Rafa Marquez wasn’t a stand up guy?
Ream has had a bad year and some truly terrible gaffes but he also makes 76 times less than Rafa Marquez and is still developing as a player. The Red Bulls can do better than Marquez with their DP money, both on the field and off.
If the on field performance wasn’t infuriating enough the Red Bulls new President of Business Operations , Chris Heck, has managed to rile up the fans in record time with bad decisions and nonsensical corporate babble.
One of Heck’s first tasks was dealing with fan unrest after the team essentially forfeited the Open Cup under the guise of focusing on the league (how’s that going?). Heck’s response became an instant classic due to it’s complete lack of substance and a bizarre and unnecessary allusion the the tragedy in Norway.
We love your passion for New York’s Soccer Team and value your support through good times and not so good. I believe that it is your right to protest in a peaceful way even if I don’t agree with your reasons. I believe this is one of the greatest gifts our country affords us every day.
On a day when a terrorist act takes the lives away of innocent individuals (Erik’s home town of Oslo, Norway), it certainly puts sport in proper perspective. Sports in general, soccer in this case, should be a place to appreciate our freedoms and allow us a safe environment to enjoy ourselves with friends and family.”
After falling on his face completely in that situation, his next move was to alienate the team’s most loyal fans with ticket increases and decreased benefits to season ticket holders. While it is true many people’s tickets didn’t go up in price, the seats which were hit with the biggest increases are those which house the longest tenured fans . In addition the loyalty points program was left out of next year’s plan.
I know that even in the supporter’s section where ticket prices remained the same, there is simply no incentive to renew. I guess I could try to scrounge up the money in the less than three weeks we have to qualify for our season ticket reward card or I could just pick up tickets hours before every game. The major advantage to season tickets was using loyalty points to get tickets for friends, without the loyalty points I’ll just go on a game by game basis and will likely save money as people try to dump unwanted tickets in an already half empty stadium.
Luckily it looks like Heck has big plans for the future as evidenced by a recent story in the Vancouver Sun.
We have a very, very ambitious plan for 2012 and we hope we’re able to pull it off,” said Red Bulls president of business operations Chris Heck. “I hope you’ll see lots of kids wearing Thierry Henry jerseys and other things like that out there.”
Heck, who unsurprisingly has no experience in soccer, looks like he has a very detailed plan to do things as well as stuff next year. Too, he sounds slightly confident in his ability “to pull it off.” Seems like a man we can all believe in.
I wish him luck in galvanizing this fanbase whose morale is at or near an all time low. The second half against RSL was the quietest Red Bull Arena has ever been. Forget about attracting new fans, retaining the current fanbase, crushed with disappointment and fed up with a clueless front office, will be a gargantuan task in it’s own right.
After this disaster season Backe and Soler both have to go. Continuity is the key to success in MLS but you can’t build on such a flawed foundation. That means Yet another offseason of turnover and roster confusion as the Red Bulls will basically have to start from scratch. A trophy seems as far away as ever.