Guest Writer: Tony Felich
I wrote an article entitled “Cause for Alarm” back in February that raised the public ire of many Cauldronites but elicited supportive responses by quite a few others. The article noted three areas of disappointment that put a damper on my desire to buy season tickets: the draft, the schedule, and the first pre-season game.
I remain skeptical about the draft strategy, but appreciate the argument some made about MLS ready offensive talent being rare in college players. Out of the teams control or not, the game schedule is unfortunate with a 2 ½ month gap between games in late Spring. The third area of critique, the first pre-season game, wasn’t so much about the results of that game, but what it communicated concerning team direction for the upcoming season. It was widely reported the Wizards were going with a 3-5-2 that depended heavily on Marinelli’s “creativity”. My legitimate questions were concerning his durability in such a middle sensitive formation and the lack of a legitimate scoring threat without Eddie. Trujillo was rumored to be on the way, however he remained an unknown quantity. Sealy has been productive in the past, but his effectiveness last year was tied heavily to EJ’s presence. Beyond these questions, and more importantly, I wondered about the team’s commitment to win now. Observing the demeanor and style of Vermes and Onalfo seems to indicate they are committed to winning, but winning now was the question in my mind. The EJ money was freed up, transfer money was gained, yet an effort to go after an immediate impact player wasn’t evident. The Wizards seemed to be content with a holding pattern of sorts, probably until the new stadium was done. Rip me for saying all this out loud if you want. Criticize me for voicing what others were thinking but were fearful of being Cauldronized (getting lambasted and called a “phony fan” for daring to question a team decision or action). Call me a jerk, rash, or a know- it -all who thinks of himself as the mayor (as one person did), but to say my observations were without any merit is just plain ignorant. I love the team and have supported them for my entire 10 years living in Kansas City. I just didn’t want to pay for season tickets if the product was only a hopeful prototype until the stadium was done. In response to my article, a gracious representative of the team wrote this-
“The DP is the trickiest thing in sports to find. You have to find someone who has the talent to merit the huge salary, is still young enough to make an impact during our hot summers, is motivated to play hard AND brings extra fans to the gates. This isn’t easy. Sign Denilson and look what happens. If EJ didn’t leave, we would have had a DP this year essentially.”
I didn’t view this response as a sign the team was going after a DP or some other piece that was missing, in fact, it seemed like the team was content to go forward with their roster as it was. As for the pre-season games, results aren’t that important, but it was clear scoring goals would be a problem for the existing line up. Heck, with a defensive line up they were allowing quite a few goals also. While I became more sympathetic for management’s challenges, I felt confirmed in my fear concerning the dreaded “holding pattern”.
NOW, having said all this in preface, my tune has changed over the past couple of weeks. Why? Because I was obviously wrong about the holding pattern. Why do I say this? Claudio Lopez.
Very simply, going after Claudio Lopez proves the team is serious about winning now. Lopez is in the twilight of his career, but can still help us greatly for the next two years. At 33, two productive seasons are all we can legitimately hope for (although Preki would argue against such an assertion), and the Wizards know this. As such, signing Lopez now is a move for the present, not the future. In addition to the Lopez signing, I was happy to see the creativity of Onalfo in these last few pre-season games where he is using the 4-4-2. I’d prefer the 3-5-2 if the personnel is right, but we’re probably one attacking midfielder away from effectively using this formation. With the addition of Lopez, the 4-4-2 is a safe and proven formation.
With the Lopez signing you can pass the crow and a fork my way so I can start eating. I admit it, I was wrong about management’s mindset on this. Will the Wizards improve upon last year’s record? I really don’t know. I hope so. But to be fair, the Wizards are clearly working toward building a championship team sooner than later, and that was my main concern when I wrote “Cause for Alarm“. The Lopez signing will give some time for the current roster to grow up, taste some success, and be ready for even bigger things when the new stadium is finished. This is the kind of progressive pattern I like to see.
Yes, I bought my season tickets this morning and heartily encourage all others to do so also.