Soccer is a cruel game, and professional sport is a cruel business. Riding high in April, shot down in May and all that.
Such is the case for the Chicago Fire and head coach Dave Sarachan, whose club has gone winless in its last five matches. After the most recent one, a 0-0 draw with winless Real Salt Lake on Sunday, Sarachan faced the normally softball-pitching media contingent and was (shockingly, at least to some) asked “Do you feel pressure to resign?”
To which Sarachan replied:
“Why would I resign? I can’t go out and score goals. Look, they didn’t give me a raise when we had the best start in franchise history and it’s going to take small steps to get ourselves back on track. Nobody died here. We didn’t lose this game.”
The fact the question was even asked is apparently causing some consternation; Luis Arroyave reports in his blog that club president John Guppy was “upset” with the question.
Now, I’m not a big fan of changing coaches in mid-season 1By my count, it’s happened 25 times in MLS’ short history, and only LA’s Sigi Schmid in 1999 and New England’s Steve Nicol in 2002 have turned things around and taken their teams to MLS Cup appearances., but that’s not what I want to talk about.
What I want to talk about is the notion that this wasn’t a fair question (and, in the spirit of accuracy, it wasn’t “Will you resign?” but “Do you feel pressure to resign?” which are two different things). Of course it’s a fair question.
Anywhere else in the world, a manager who had lost four in a row and then drawn 0-0 with the worst team in the league would be dodging concrete or hand grenades lobbed at his head. If you’re going to be a real soccer nation, you’re going to have to start accepting that accountability and controversy are things that come with the territory.
One of MLS’ major problems is that, over its 12-year history, it hasn’t mattered to enough people. It doesn’t matter if you lose. It doesn’t matter if you finish fourth. It doesn’t matter if you have a scoreless draw in May.
MLS has been bereft of heroes and villains (and I’d argue the latter are even more important than the former), of nail-biting games and playoff races, of memorable moments…of drama.
The nameless reporter who asked the question gave us at least a few seconds of drama in the midst of what is normally the same storyline for nearly every MLS match: “We fought hard and were unlucky not to score/get a point/get the full three points but we’ll try again next week and the week after that and did I mention Beckham’s coming in July?”
Dave Sarachan is human, and I feel for him. Let us hear him being human. You only do that when you elicit a response that’s real, that’s not from the coachspeak template.
There are few things the media (and, by extension, the fans) like more than second-guessing a coach or speculating on his or her future. If it means your club, your league and your sport actually matter to people, that’s a huge step forward, don’t you think?
TNT knows drama. MLS could take lessons.