You can’t always get what you want. At least that’s how the song goes. But sometimes you get what you need. I think that’s about right for this season. The play on the pitch has not been what we’d hoped for. One win at home is nobody’s idea of success. We have a few more games and may (or may not) grab a few more points. But let’s not kid ourselves- we aren’t playoff bound.
Before this season started we knew that as an expansion team there would be some bumps, but hope triumphs logic. We wanted the fairytale. Last season in the USL the Sacramento Republic embodied that dream. Expansion team that shattered attendance records and won the championship. Unreasonable, sure- but it was the dream. A more reasonable and attainable goal was the OKC Energy model. Some ups, some downs and steady good attendance numbers.
Sadly, our “rivals” LCFC have had the storybook expansion season. They’re killing it attendance-wise and are challenging for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. There was a lot of expansion this season and a lot of uncertainty with several MLS2 teams coming into the league. Some expansion teams are better than us on the field (not many are worse). A couple have a little higher average attendance, but I think we can say our attendance has been amazing considering we’ve only had one home win. Currently we’re 4th in the league. We’ve managed several sell outs and a few others that were close. Also, unlike some other teams in this league we own our facility and concessions so we’re making more money on game day than most teams.
So with all of that said, I’m still saying that this season has been (and when its over, will have been) an amazing success. Yes. Losing record and all. I said “You can’t always get what you want.” But we also got exactly what we needed. We have a stable front office and ownership group that is planning for the long haul. Those of us that were around in 2010 for the one and only season of AC St. Louis will appreciate this most of all. At this point that season we already knew that the team was dead. We went to games each week knowing it was over. We didn’t know because the team told us, we knew because you could feel it. In fact, AC STL never announced they weren’t coming back- they just faded away.
This season, by contrast, has been heaven. The GM and coach and owners talk to us on a regular basis and are responsive to our suggestions. One of the owners routinely responds directly to things we mention on our podcast. Let that sink in for a minute. The owner of the team listens to our podcast and takes action on things that the fans are talking about. The GM will text me sometimes just to give me shit about Arsenal. After the games when I’m leaving the park I routinely run into the coach walking out to his car. After a bad loss he’ll stop and lean into my car and talk for a few minutes about the team when he could easily put his head down and pretend he didn’t see me. This team is building for a long future and including the fans in that future. We’re helping to build the culture of this club.
When I look out over Soccer Park on game day I see the full house. The corner that never stops singing and never sits down. Other sections joining in on the chants and standing with us. Occasionally the expensive seats even sing along. These are the things I notice most. The losses hurt, I can’t sugar coat that, but I always have fun with my friends at the games and I’ve never given up hope for this team’s ultimate success. I have no delusions that we’re the best team in the league right now, but I do have a belief that we will get there.
With the season we’ve had and to see the passionate support never wavering tells me more than a fairytale season ever could. If we were crushing the opposition I’d worry about what would happen if we hit a slump or had a bad season. Now I know- win or lose, St. Louis loves this team. My worry is how quickly we can build more seats for when we finally start to turn it around and start putting wins together. 5200 seats won’t be nearly enough when the product on the field is as good as the product off the field and the quality of support we have. And I’d much rather have a bad season with our front office than have a good season with a mess behind the scenes. We know there are a couple teams with front offices that don’t know what they’re doing and routinely lie to their supporters or just make it up as they go along. You can’t buy loyalty. You can’t create passion. You have to earn it and STLFC has.
Without question there will have to be some changes made this offseason. There will be players we like that get moved or lose their starting spots. There may be coaches that get changed. Front office personnel might be shuffled. These things have to happen after a season of on the field disappointments. Some changes are needed some will just be the nature of the business of professional soccer, but I do believe that this organization will make those changes for the right reasons and with an eye toward future success.
At the end of the day, we’re fans and we’ll never stop supporting our team. Scarves Up! We were there from the beginning and we’ll celebrate all the more when the winning starts.