Point/Counterpoint: Was the season a failure?

Matt >> Dan

The other night we started talking about whether or not this season could/should be regarded as a failure, and a lot of folks in the Rabble comments and on Twitter latched on and shared their thoughts. Most of ’em seemed to side with you that it wasn’t, so I figured we’d milk this for a little bit and go a little more in-depth with it.

I say, overall, the season is a failure, and it’s a failure to me for the simple reason that, before a ball was kicked, we said that this should be a playoff team. I don’t think either of us thought, given the massive changes off and on the field, that we’d be serious contenders for either season title, so we’d need to finish high enough in the combined table to get in. Instead, we fell 2 points short, so to me, it’s correct (and at the same time not harsh) to say the combined season was a failure.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some good/great things to take away from this season or that we wasted money on tickets, and there’s an argument to be made that expectations were too high before the year started and only got higher after the Spring, but I thought this was a playoff team before that and the playoffs should be the minimum return on investment for ownership and fans.

Dan >> Matt

I can understand from a fan stand point declaring the season as a failure, but I disagree. We benefitted from an extended preseason and kicked off the season  in near midseason form while other clubs were still learning their teammates names. Warning signs were there in that listless Ottawa match, and the beginning of the fall even before the coach Rongen’s dismissal.

Despite missing the playoffs, every sign I see, despite a lot of rumblings from inside and outside the fan base, is encouraging. We have a home, we have a core group of players who seem to be returning, and a young coach with the soccer brain needed to win.

While many have a belief that owner and President Bill Edwards will be operating as GM, I do not. I think with financial constraints off, Perry Van der Beck (if he stays operating in his current role) or any GM we decide to bring it can fill the few gaps we have in this squad. Yes, that tired joke of “One Year Plan” lingers, but as our cohort, Jake, pointed out, there was a wry smile on Bill’s face. While highly ill advised, I believe it’s telling. Bill wants to win and any person with any amount of knowledge of building anything knows you need to build a foundation in place and we have done that. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we don’t have Brian Clough to do that job, so I will say I like where we are headed.

Matt >> Dan

I’m definitely not saying the future isn’t bright, because I think it is (esp. if we can hold onto Freddy for another year) and we’re definitely light years from the finish of the season before that, but I still think that we should be playing today instead of sending each other emails. Surely next year HAS to be playoffs or bust then, right?

My new-ish theory on what I will now start referring to as “The Edwards Conflagration” is that people, especially fans, like to/want to be able to pin the blame for any failings on one solitary person. Rongen was popular with the fans, and Campbell is as well, and the players are our heroes so the next guy on the list is the owner. In general, it seems like people want more info out of the club (which is the case probably everywhere) and they don’t want to hear it from Bill. This is another role the GM could fill – or even a guy like Lee Cohen, expanding his public presence. Farrukh was already a beloved figure, and coming out to the tailgates each game was kind of a big deal. People could talk to Farrukh at tailgates or listen to us and hear Rongen – it made the fans feel closer to the club, that their voices could be heard too. Repairing/replacing that public connection will go a long way to healing the wounds some perceive to be there. Keith Savage made appearances as time went on – hopefully he can get back on the field next year but if not, I hope he stays involved with the club in some form.

Back to the original topic though – if the season wasn’t a failure, were the expectations too high? I honestly don’t think so. Even with all the madness of the Fall, we were still breathing on the very last day of the season. One road win in Indy, in either season, and we’re playing today. Something else that occurred to me today – all 4 teams in *cue the music* THE CHAMPIONSHIP had the same coach they started last season with. Sure, Gunter Krankypants took a little break, but his return ended up making the difference for FTL. Hopefully we’ll reap the rewards of some consistency next year.

Dan >> Matt

I agree that fans, including us, want more information on what went on. It wasn’t a plan issue, I don’t think Edwards hires people who have a differing vision. You don’t get to be as successful as he is by being that dumb.

I think we underestimated the league. Fort Lauderdale started as a dumpster fire but had more time to correct their course. Without knowing how bad the behind the scenes things got, it’s hard to think we’d have enough time to completely balance ourselves out.

We were only still breathing because Fort Lauderdale was also extremely inconsistent as well. Both teams couldn’t string together needed results. You focus a lot on Indy, but the spring game against Ottawa is the one that stuck out to me. You can’t blame the refs in Indy for the team missing the playoffs when they didn’t show up in Ottawa.

Next year, if Stuart is given the resources and time, I think we’re a playoff team. Consistency and good player buys will do it. We aren’t far off. But as you said, if Adu stays, and some competent strikers playoffs or bust it should be.

Matt >> Dan

I wasn’t referring to just the Spring Indy game, but the Fall one too. Show up and get the result half of the other teams in the league got there (Indy lost 1/3rd of their home matches in the combined season, even Atlanta and San Antonio won there) and we make the playoffs. Whether it was coaching or players or some combo of both, regardless of the state we are/were in, not beating Indy one single time this year isn’t something that should be acceptable. It’s not the be-all/end-all but it is symptomatic of the mess this season turned into. Don’t even get me started on the Coastal Cup. For next year to be successful to me, I want to reclaim the Cup and make the playoffs. An Open Cup run would be nice too, but I’ll take 2 out of 3.

We could keep going back and forth on this, but I think we are destined for “agree to disagree.” I still love you though, boo. We should do these more often – maybe once or twice a month on whatever topic people seem to get into? We should also get together over some beers in the near future and discuss this and more…

Was the 2015 combined season a failure?

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Matthew Cox
Co-host of The Unused Substitutes podcast, web guy for TUS & NASLPulse, not a robot.