If you are an avowed fan of the beautiful game, as I am, you are probably both a student and critic of your team’s play. What is it you want from your team?
I am a fan of some of the greatest futbol teams in the world, but no less a fan of my hometown team, the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS. The Quakes have a storied past that includes a couple MLS championships and further back even George Best, but I am loyal to them mostly because they are my home town team.
I am also a fan of Manchester United, and more dispassionately some of the other great teams in Spain, Italy, Mexico and England. You may know that Manchester United won the English Premier League the last three years running, and lost the UEFA Champions League this year to Barcelona.
Is it fair to expect the same of the Quakes that I do of United?
Last season, Man Utd often didn’t play with the brilliance one associates with world domination. They were good, fine, but wasted far too many chances, while Barcelona was running up high goal counts with perfectly clinical finishing in Spain. United dominated the possession against many of their rivals and, rarely under serious pressure, their vaunted defense looked like it atrophied. The best club in the world, the archetype for a modern soccer team? In most games last season that would be a tough statement to sell.
What Manchester United did most of the time, instead of playing perfectly, was win. Winning allows the fan to see everything they want in the team. The harshest lens of reality is saved for teams not winning or at least not meeting their competitive expectations. Winners get a pass.
Last Saturday my hometown team, the Quakes, did something unusual. They are a team which quite often this year has shown good skill and flair, passing like a team of higher pedigree, challenging defenders with Beckham-esque long balls, and testing keepers with a barrage of fine shots. This Saturday, with a shaken up roster and maybe a poor pitch, they exhibited little of that quality. Instead they just won. [See story Quakes hold on to beat Galaxy 2-1 on American Soccer News]
In the game of soccer, just victory often deflects off a goal post, evaporates in a split second of inattention, or is even abused by refereeing decisions. In soccer the better team can win, but not always.
Fans of teams like Barcelona and Manchester United at the pinnacle of the sport will always demand an exceptional approach to the game showcasing skill, cunning, style, and verve from which victory follows like fruit dropping ripe from a tree.
I appreciate all those finest qualities of play, but as a fan of one of the other 98% of soccer clubs, a result that allows me to chant victoriously as I march out of the stadium is good enough.