Actually, that’s not quite true. Let me rephrase: I am really fucking unhappy right now.
The last week has been absolutely miserable for me for many reasons, a couple of which I will talk about and a couple that I simply can’t put in this blog. I value things that I’ve worked hard for and wouldn’t want to destroy them with a few frustrated words. If you want gossip, get a People magazine. If you want the hard truth about being a foreigner and having an absolutely terrible time trying to chase his dream in Europe, then I’ve got just the post for you.
Before I begin, let me say for full disclosure that I did not get into the last game, a 0-0 draw with Jaro. It was a game we honestly needed to win and certainly should have won. Jaro got a red card with about 20 minutes or so left and after that they didn’t even attempt to attack. Once the red card happened we needed to have a sense of urgency to win the game, but also remember to work for good chances. We did neither. I just wanted to mention that I didn’t play last night so if you want to think that what I’ll say going forward is just sour grapes, then you have every right to believe what you want.
Let me also say that I have no interest in attacking any players on this blog. I generally like this team, though not half as much as I liked the guys on my team in Sweden. Part of that is that I was with the Swedish team on a preseason trip to Turkey. I got a chance to really start to bond with some players in Turkey who otherwise I would never have spoken to outside of trainings. Here, I don’t speak with over half the players beyond a simple, “Moi” when I arrive. That’s not to say that those guys are bad people; hell, if anything it means that I haven’t made enough effort to reach out to everybody. But when you’re in a situation like that, it makes the shitty times shittier and the good times not so good.
Anyway in our last match we played Obi and Jonne as our starting wingers (I might do a “Meet FC Haka” sticky page like I did for ESK, but that took a long time to do. I dunno if I want to do another one.). I really like Obi and Jonne. No one on this team understands my style or plays with me more comfortably than Obi. Jonne has proven himself to be a very important attacking player in our team and he deserves to start every game. They both are also really nice to me and all-around great guys. I wish my teammates nothing but the best. But Obi and Jonne are strikers. They live to score goals. They are both good at creating goals, but from the position of the middle of the field, not the sides. As a result, our team played against Jaro with very little width. That was ok, because we pretty much lined up to play that way. It wasn’t necessarily the plan, but we all knew that Obi and Jonne would drift to the middle and we encouraged it. I have no problem with Obi and Jonne (or Claudio or Juha Pirinen) starting, that’s not my problem. I’ll get to that in a bit.
|Before that though honestly...how adorable is my niece? If you don't think this is the cutest thing ever, then go jump off a bridge because you are incapable of feeling.|
Like I mentioned earlier, Jaro got a red card late on and essentially decided to bunker in and play for a draw. For the next 10 minutes, I watched as we pushed wave after wave of attack in the same style: We’d get the ball to the fullback or defensive midfielder, and he’d play a deep ball into the box. Now, both of Jaro’s center backs are about 6’ 3”, 210lbs. These guys aren’t gonna be beat by a 40-50 yards cross. In fact, we were probably just adding time to their highlight tapes by playing those balls that they powered out of the box almost every time. And that leads to my problem.
If I have any role on this team, it’s to stretch defenses. I’m not on the team for my passing ability. I’m not on the team for my amazing touch on the ball. I’m not on the team for my defending. I’m not on the team for my good looks (though honestly, that should be enough for a contractJ). My point is that I’m on this team for a very specific purpose. Specific enough that I understand (even if I’m not happy) if I don’t play every game. If ever a defense needed to be stretched, it was last night against Jaro. They were effectively playing 5-4-0 for the last ten minutes of the match. Yet the tendency of our team was to play through the middle all the time. In my humble opinion, if I had been given 5-10 minutes, I could have caused Jaro problems by getting all the way wide and putting pressure on Jaro to defend the wide areas behind their defense. Even if I didn’t put in the killer cross to win the game, a few runs from me behind would make the Jaro defenders wary and possibly open up the gaps in the middle we were looking for. As it was, we could still be playing and probably not have scored the way we were playing. Not that we played poorly; We actually played quite well overall, but our inflexibility in attack meant that we never looked like scoring from a passing move. In fact, we had 3-4 good chances to score. One was from a corner kick, one was from a 2nd ball after a cross came in on the floor (the only cross on the floor of the whole game) and one was from our fullback shooting from distance.
To be clear, I’m in no way saying “Bench so-and-so and put me in.” I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that for a player like me, one who has a very defined and specific role, it is very disappointing and disheartening to not be used when that very specific situation arises in a match. I’m not even saying that I should have come in for a winger. I could have come on for any of the six defensive-minded we had in to deal with a non-existent attacking threat at the end. I would have played as a winger, but that doesn’t mean that in this situation I had to come on for the person playing winger at the time.
All this has led me to come to a very somber conclusion that I have no reason to doubt: the staff does not think that I have the ability to help Haka avoid relegation. There are other possible explanations, but that seems the most likely at the moment. It’s not like I’m the only person in the squad in that position. I won’t names but you can look at the roster and see the names of players who haven’t been used and make your own conclusions. Most likely not everyone will be used down the stretch. That’s just the nature of soccer. There are only three subs so you have to play your best team pretty much every week to be competitive. This conclusion makes me very upset and even angry, but I am a professional and I will be ready and willing if and when the staff decides they need me. It might be Wednesday at MYPA or it might not be until the final minute of the final match. Regardless of when I get another chance I’ll be ready, just like I was ready last night if I had been called upon.
The last thing I’ll mention (I planned to talk about other stuff, but this point went on much longer than I anticipated) is that I absolutely do not think that I’m being treated unfairly or with any malice. I know that the staff is doing only what they think gives the club the best chance to win. I have never felt that there is anything personal keeping me off the field or down the pecking order. If I was the best player but the coach hated me, I would still start every game. I think that Juha likes me in fact, he just thought yesterday that subbing me in (or Topi, Sasa, Juuso or Pauli) wasn’t the best way to win the game. I obviously don’t agree with that sentiment. But Juha’s been brought in because he is a top-level coach and has proven himself multiple times over. And no one’s ever asked me to coach a team, so what do I know? J
This was a depressing post, so I’m gonna put up two memes today. Try and lift the spirits a bit!