Sundays have been terrible in my house this summer. Usually slightly hungover, always tired, and almost always frustrated and angry from the STLFC results from the night before. There’s usually house projects and chores to do, which makes it worse. I end up spending a lot of time thinking about the game, sometimes rewatching on YouTube. What went wrong, how they grabbed a draw or loss from the jaws of victory. Today was no different, except that frustration was amplified and boiled over this afternoon.
I had to run to Home Depot today, which isn’t out of the ordinary. But then, as I turned the aisle, our eyes met. STLFC’s coach, Preki, was with his wife. What felt like 5 minutes wasn’t even 2 seconds. I know he recognized me. And then he turned on his heels and went the other way before I could say a word.
That interaction (or lack thereof) is exactly what we’ve come to expect this season. A confusing, inexplicable feeling of disappointment and acceptance of that disappointment. A chance for the coach to do the right thing, to be responsible for decisions and represent the club in a positive light. Instead, I got a silent disregard.
And that’s the status quo this season. We knew Preki doesn’t do the PR side of the job. When hired, the front office flat out said he won’t do the podcast. At the time, we said, hey, if he gets results like he did in Sacramento, no problem. But that diva routine doesn’t fly this year with poor results and questionable lineups. Sadly, the local media doesn’t care about a losing team, so no reporters will be around to ask him the hard questions that Mike Matheny gets. The only people that would criticize would be our show, which he refuses to be on. Hmmm.
We’ve referenced on the show several times the quick interview we did get with him at the event where the team announced his hiring. Preki made the point to us that he felt the league was worse than when he won the league in 2014. Immediately 3 sets of eyes darted back and forth, but we wrote it off as the cocky coach we’d heard so much about. He’ll get the results, and this will just be a cute story.
And we started the season with a bang. A tie in Louisville in an ugly game for both sides. 3-2 back to back home wins against Ottawa and NYRB2. “We may not win them all but we’ll have exciting attacking football” said Preki at the announcement. We’re seeing it. 2-1 win in Pittsburgh. We’re on a roll!
Then a 4-0 murder in Cincy. OK, they were great last year, Dijibi was unstoppable, minor stumble. And then we start seeing disappointment game after game. A loss. A tie. A loss. A tie. Hmm. OK, a win against Torontwo. Then five winless games. The holes in the system are exposed. The roster is being shuffled. Games 2, 3, and 4 were the ONLY time this season we won 2 games in a row. The attacking football is gone. We see the bus being parked with a 1-0 lead, and dropping those games as a result. Matt Bird realized on the show that we’ve dropped TWENTY FOUR POINTS from a winning position. Twenty four points. That’s inexplicable. We get half of those points, and we’d be in third as of today instead of 10th.
The fans grew restless. The Louligan numbers go down, having three years now of disappointment. The draws given up from leads, the late minute implosions, that becomes the new normal for the fans. Our job is to support our team; we still give our all, but the strain is destructive. People just can’t take the emotional distress this team causes.
And the players know it. Tweets and interactions show they’re aware, and they ask us to stick with them. We do because that is what we do. But we hear rumblings. Players in Preki’s doghouse. We can’t remember the last time Calbaceta dressed. Angulo sent to OKC with 4 goals (tied for team lead at the time). We hear stories of a strong divide in the locker room, “Preki’s guys” vs the nots. Fans that sit over in sections 5 & 6 tell stories of blowups on the bench, Preki at players, players at players. Dressing his son over Daniel Jackson. A player blowing up about his teammate, a Man of the Match recipient, last night in the corner. Internal strife has carried over into the public. The locker room is lost. How bad has it been? The last five games, we’ve conceded FOUR last minute goals. Every recent game was a “must win” and they didn’t get it done. We’re not mathematically eliminated, but we need a lot of help, and that’s not how you earn a playoff spot. That was the expectation Preki set that will not get met.
None of this is heresay. It’s public and voiced by many. And it’s to the point for me to say, enough is enough. Preki needs to go. It’s not about ignoring the fans, the people that show up game in game out. It’s about tactics that have failed this team, this fanbase. We’ve given him every chance. It’s not the hope that kills you. It’s the knowing you’ll be let down by the man who promised to be different.