Not long after Poland regained independence after World War I there were a lot of damaged military vehicles left laying around Polish territory. Needing vehicles for its army, the Defense Ministry set up Centralne Warsztaty Samochodowe (Central Auto Works) or CWS to repair the abandon vehicles. Once the dust settled on World War II Fabryka Samochodow Osobowych (ironically - "FSO" for short) was established by the Communist Polish government in 1951. "FSO Warszawa" was the first, and basically only, car manufactured fully in Poland.
Put that in your back pocket for a minute while we reflect on the relative calmness of this Crew SC bye week. You could even say it's quiet. A far cry from what fans are accustomed to here.
In recent years, under a Robert Warzycha lead team, an idle week meant idle hands and devil's work. Intense arguments ran pretty much A to Z. Who should be starting. Who sucks. Intense posts on why the coach should go. Why the GM is off his rocker. Number of times veteran players are seen in the beer aisle at Kroger. Facebook posts on how much he means to the community even though they've put on a couple. Columbus Dispatch columnists writing a thousand words on why the son of the coach should be given a chance while supporters’ groups debated whether or not to drop pink slips on everyone from the training staff to poor old Crew Cat as they left the pitch.
Looking back, Warzycha’s time as coach of the team starts to resemble one of those Soviet era cars. Remarkably useful in one, or even two areas, but woefully deficient in just about every other. Most have been there. One day you might be on your way to work and the windshield wipers inexplicably turn on (like benching Emilio Renteria or Justin Meram while in form) or maybe the latch on the trunk snaps when you are breaking at a busy stop light (inexplicable comments about national teams and... who knows what). Perhaps, as you are trying to park at your destination, the car doesn’t turn off even though you’ve removed the key from the ignition (the 2010 offseason or a couple years later stating that a MLS Cup is within reach only to finish 16th in the league).
From 2009-2013 it seemed like every little turn saw at least a hubcap popping off.
Maybe the best we to describe the way the team worked under Warzycha is how the FSO Warszawa is described on its wiki page - "popular as taxis because of their sturdiness and ruggedness. However, due to their weight they were under-powered and had high fuel consumption."
Endless metaphors - were things the same, the conversation would be turning, burning and intense this weekend. This past year has been as sharp a change as you can possibly get, though. For fans that have have seen their franchise flipped this current bye week (and to large extent, offseason) is very quiet.
Is this possibly a case of being "too quiet?" You know, the one like that self aware moment you get in movies. The funny one (no, the other funny one. You know the one I mean).
In keeping with the automobile metaphor; Is it possible that if you cramb all that this team and fans have been through in the past year into a computer machine - from the scoreboard fire to Hernan Grana - you get a boring Honda Accord?
Off the pitch, Anthony Precourt’s approach to both the business and operations side appears to be genuine while Gregg Berhalter’s philosophical and tactical one is 100% modern MLS. But in a sports climate like the one we live in now that measures clicks, unique visitors and ‘likes’ as much as results in the box score, is the competitive ‘on pitch’ approach a winning one? The answer to that question probably starts with how Columbus sports fans define winning.
For Major League Soccer 'winning' (success) is often defined by non-competitive soccer things. You don't have to go far to see article after article about attendance, league expansion, the best tifo, the latest and greatest stadium, food vendors in said stadium, 'best kit' debates, expansion cities being 'awarded' a team or how the league has finally 'made it'... The list of non-competitive words written vastly outnumbers that of on-field action (I'll go ahead and say it often smothers it).
A lot of that, it could be argued, is not unique to MLS but it is out of balance to the point that the league is becoming the Darren Rovell of sports leagues (or worse, creating thousands of future Rovells). All this of course is fine to most but it brings us back to the direction Crew SC are taking on the pitch. You know, what the weirdo snobs like to spend their time talking about.
In the world of cars the open market says the reliable, yet boring, old Accord (or Toyota Camry, if you prefer) comes out on top. Even though we seen some wiz-bang changes with the team, the focus remains with on-field production. Once the fresh new paint wears off the question becomes whether or not fans in Columbus respond to that because outside of a couple events, Crew SC fans have proven to not really respond at the gate to much of anything, and that includes years of hardware.
Ultimately, a good chunk of it’s up to the powers that be at MLS to decide. Other teams have their Dempsey's, Altidore's, Piatti's and fancy new stadiums. The approach that Crew SC is taking is a refreshing one so far but often it seems the league is interested in more expensive things. The eternal search for the next big ticket seller. In that, Precourt, Berhalter and company will have to pull resources to fight for this thing they are doing - right along side of what they do on the pitch.
Who knows. Maybe a few more fans might show back up to the stadium and enjoy the actual play instead of the event. Hell, maybe the soccer become the event. At least there's a chance. Crazier things have happened.
Have I told you about Polish built cars?