Monday, October 20, 2008

The "I" in team

You wouldn't know it from looking at the results over the last month and a half, but we have three games left in what really is the worst stretch of the schedule all season for the Men in Orange. With games in no less than five countries, thousands of miles of travel, multiple games of high pressure, drama and significant consequence, Dynamo are meeting a challenge unlike that faced by any MLS team ever.

And now it's time for me to come clean on my reaction. No matter how tough it has been for the team, I have literally loved every second of it.

Now, to be perfectly frank, had Dynamo come to this stage of the Great Gruelfest with more losses than wins, I would have been screaming bloody murder. No one would have been louder than I in raging about the rank unfairness of it all, how the MLS schedule-makers are a bunch of no-brained morons who can't realize the obvious importance of international play in the growth of the MLS brand, how, despite all evidence to the contrary, the league refuses to accept the reality of the what growing the game here really means beyond adding a new squad in every podunk burgh in North America.

And I know all of that is true beyond a shadow of a doubt. But thanks to the team-making skills of Dynamo Chief Operating Office Chris Cannetti (i.e. the guy who makes every coin), the game management of Dom Kinnear (the guy ON every coin) and the total, unflagging commitment of our heroes in Orange (the coins in question), we enter the final three games of this stretch unbeaten, with the No. 1 seed in the west and on the verge of qualifying for knockout stage play in Champions League.

And it has been brutal on the guys, no question about it. But if it were up to me, and I had to have them do it all over again, I have to come totally clean here and admit that as a supporter I wouldn't change a thing. (Other than the hurricane part of it. I mean, I'm not crazy.)

How many times have we all left Robertson Stadium wishing there was another game tomorrow night? How many times have we Just. Not. Gotten. Enough. of watching and cheering the team on to wins? How many times have we just wanted the feeling at Robertson to last on well into the night, to keep going and going until the last bit of juice has been squeezed out?

Well fellow Planeteers, since Sept. 23rd, we have gotten all of that and more. And make no mistake about it, it has taken all the Dynamo can give to make it happen, and over the next five weeks, they are going to have to keep going to make it even better, to find the pot of gold again that makes this all worthwhile.

After all of this, there are four home games remaining, Wednesday against Pumas, the first playoff game Nov. 9, the Western Conference championship match Nov. 16 and the rescheduled CL match against L.A. Firpo Nov. 26. (Add to this four away dates, to las chivitas Saturday, El Salvador next Tuesday, the first playoff game Nov. 2 and one last little date in Carson, California on Nov. 23rd.)

Eight games in five-and-a-half weeks, right on the heels of eight over the last four. Call me a torturer, call me unsympathetic, call me one who delights in the hardships of my beloved team, but among all other things, call me There.

And as a wonderful postscript, walking into the Dynamo game Saturday, enjoying the heck out of the great giveaway scarf that my 11-year-old says is "The best giveaway ever.", season book partner mister3d takes a look at the tag on the scarf and says "Hey, that's me!" And there he was, the guy holding up the scarf with a towel over his head (maintaining his secret identity) on the tag. And even though my first reaction (to be totally and brutally honest here) was "Hey, I was standing right next to him there. Where am I? (I know, I am a cad.), I have to say that I am absolutely thrilled about the whole deal. I think I'll frame the tag after I get him to autograph it!

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