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One glorious afternoon in the Swamp

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If you were at the Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon, you couldn't help but feel astonished at what you saw. You hoped - no, you expected it might be something like that. But that good? Really? Never mind the previous forms of the two teams - a story of two sides going in opposite directions quickly. This is an ongoing blood feud, and those rarely yield laughers.

So it seemed this one would be a nailbiter, too. What started off as a close contest changed dramatically about halfway in. All too inevitably, the more organized, more discipline, more spirited, all around better side seized the game by the scruff of the neck and took it away. It was decided early in the second stanza by a irresistible flurry of goals, but the piece de resistance, for me anyway, came in the latter stages of the tilt; a broken play, a swift turnover, and then in one delectable move, our forward controlled, stepped, and casually back-heeled over to a wide-open teammate for an easy goal. Stylish. Astonishing.

Yes, for a Devils fan like me, beating the living hell out of the Rangers was like a two and a half hour orgasm.

And oh, the Reds played at the same time across the parking lot? So they did. "Played," if you're being charitable. I'm only being charitable out of pity, pity for the players and coaching staff, who have been thrust into an untenable situation and are doing what they can. I don't believe that the talent gap between this team and the rest of MLS is that wide - there are good players on this Metro side. Nor is Mo Johnston necessarily a coaching charlatan. But given all that's gone on - not just in the past week, but since the takeover itself, Saturday's result shouldn't have surprised anyone. I didn't make it through the entire match - too busy watching the Devils-Rangers game in the company of an agonizing Blueshirt buddy to bother with it, to be honest - but I saw enough. Right now, this team's got nothin'. But we knew that, didn't we? The parts aren't there, and what parts are there, aren't working right. What was most startling Saturday was the sense that those rumors we've been hearing about Youri - those saying that he detests the whole Red Bull takeover, that he came over to have some fun playing and win a championship here, and is inclined to eye the exit now - is being reflected a little in his play, a little more in rumors that he and Amado are on the outs (if they were ever on the ins).

The only semi-interesting thing about this game would be the admittedly "dumb" post-goal celebration by Helmet Boy. Was it classless? Funny? Clever? Disrespectful? Worthy of a card? Or should everyone just shut up about it already? Over on the winning side of things, DCenters tries to equate it with Clint Dempsey's rococo celebrations, like his home run swing at the home of the Washington Nationals last season.
Well, that's not quite right, D. As much as both kinds of celebration are premeditated (like a lot of goal celebrations, of course), there is a significant degree of difference - a more caustic brand of salt for the wound - when you start adding props into the mix. Nor was this prop the self-glorifying, look-at-me kind, like Joe Horn and his hidden cellphone. The spirit of this was pure show-them-up, in-their-face, and in their house.

Thing is, why should we care? On one level, I don't. Make fun of Red Bull, for all I care. It's a stupid product, with a stupid name, and a stupid image which I've got no affinity for. The problem is, its stupid identity is now firmly tied to the identity of this team, leaving it wide open to dopey, contrived shit like Special Alecko's stunt. Funny funny, ha ha.
However, if you're a team in crisis (and this team clearly is), on the edge of coming apart at the seams (as I believe this team is), you have to do something there to show you still have a pulse. That you're not just going to be trod over and made to look like a gutless laughingstock in front of the few fans left caring.

There were 18 minutes between Eskandarian's second goal - the de facto end of the contest, given the toothlessness of the Metro Red attack - and his substitution out of the game; that was ample time for someone in Red to attempt to seat Alecko in the stands for 6-to-52 weeks. And it's an indictment (as well as a damn shame) that not one player on this shambling, disconnected bunch of individual runners wearing a meaningless shirt had the ability, the will, or the nuts to try it. Medieval, brutal and rashly unsportsmanlike? Yes, of course; it's also quite likely what would happen if this was a team in anything other than name, something more than a simulacrum of a soccer club. Ask Mo or Youri about the probable results, if someone pulled that playground crap in a league they played in. It wouldn't likely be pretty, and the odds on that team ending up with a Fair Play award would lengthen considerably, but so be it. Is it too much to ask, for someone to Roy-Keane-on-Alf-Inge-Haaland him? Go finish the job Matt Reis started, for God's sake. Try and do something in response.
Look, it was damned apparent to anyone with a pair of eyes that this team was not getting back into the game, so "score a bunch of goals" isn't really the answer. Yet you have to do something, anything. Eric Wynalda actually observed something valuable (yeah, shocked me too) when he noted how the team's reaction to Youri's goal, well, sucked. This team is anything but right now, and with more change imminent, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Well, at least we've got the Devils.

More on them, and other stuff, later

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