Carlos Valdes missing the New England match: Meh.
Carlos Valdes missing the game at Real Salt Lake? Dammit.
Due to New Englanders being scared of weather, the second scenario has come true. The options to replace Valdes are clear because, well, they are so few.
1. Drop Stefani Miglioranzi back and fill his spot with either a recovered Brian Carroll or an antsy Amobi Okugo.
2. Slide Sheanon Williams into the middle and start either Michael Farfan or Ryan Richter.
3. Keon Daniel at left back, Garfan on the right.
4. Give Michael Orozco-Fiscal a phony moustache and glasses, pretend he was picked up from an obscure league in Macedonia (on Pauno’s recommendation).
12. Juan Diego Gonzalez.
But if there is a silver lining to Valdes’ absence, it may be in the psychological effect it has on the team.
For all that Jordan Harvey brought to the field, his best attribute was his presence in the locker room. He was the perfect mix of child and veteran when it came to soccer: Completely in awe of the sport while reflective on its complexities and subtleties. Harvey’s post-game description of a big play could take on the structure of a zen parable, as an enthusiastic tale of a simple give-and-go gave way to a nearly-cliched conclusion like, “That’s the game.”
Gabriel Farfan has ably filled Harvey’s position (and his locker space), but his affect is less buoyant than confident.
While Harvey’s exit was amicable if undesired, Carlos Ruiz’s was the opposite. Ruiz himself said nothing, allowing his former coach to push blame onto anyone and everyone outside of the organization. Is it cynical to suggest that the recent push to make Peter Nowak more accessible through a Supporter’s Summit and a Twitter account were well-timed to counter any backlash from his comments about Ruiz’s departure?
Whether it was the best thing for El Pescadito and/or the club, Ruiz’s departure undoubtedly affected the players. And why wouldn’t it? A team is overachieving and battling for first place and its leading scorer wants out?
A large part of what elevated the Union’s early season play was its chemistry, that strange, unquantifiable thing that turns a good team into a great team; that makes the fans feel like they are a part of the success, that their noise or their prayers helped lift this group of players to an elite level.
Since the Harvey trade and the Ruiz sale, the chemistry is gone. The midfield is jumbled. The defense is permeable. The swagger is AWOL.
So maybe. Just maybe. Losing the player who, more than most, has embodied swagger this season, the Union will be forced to get off the mat and play for each other again. Many have said that the Union look a better team when they go down to ten men this season. Being down a man is a backs-to-the-wall feeling. You’re supposed to lose. And you either take it or you push back.
With Carlos Valdes suspended, the Union are down one of their best men. It’s time to push back hard.