Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
Let’s say I’ve got a number.
That number’s 1,100,000.
That’s 38 percent of 2,861,006.
With apologies to The Minutemen, $1,100,000 is the combined base salary of five players on the Union roster that are here because of Peter Nowak. Of that five, one has gone from being a starter to a running joke (Porfirio Lopez), another from being a starter to a $275,000-a-year sub (Gabriel Gomez), while the third has struggled to find minutes as a sub, let alone as a starter (Josue Martinez).
Of the other two, one counts it a good outing if he lasts more than 60 minutes (Freddy Adu), while the other, one of the team’s highest paid players, has been injured since he was acquired (Bakary Soumare—and yes, I know he was signed when Hackworth was the coach, but Nowak is the man who brought him here).
Five players, two of whom look to be busts (Lopez, Martinez), two who have failed to provide the impact their salary would seem to demand (Adu, Gomez), and one who, despite his history, is an even greater question mark now than when he returned to the league from Europe as damaged goods (Soumare).
Throw in Lionard Pajoy (traded to DC in August for Danny Cruz) and Jorge Perlaza (brought here in exchange for Danny Mwanga from Portland and released in late August after piling up 72 minutes of play over a span of 12 league matches—don’t get me started), and the total base salary expenditure of Nowak’s non-draft acquisitions since August of 2011 rises to $1,380,000 of not getting it done .
If you can bring yourself to set aside the immeasurable costs of throwing away a player like Danny Califf — someone who had every intention of remaining with the club long after his playing days were over to share his invaluable leadership skills, not to mention the deep experience derived from a long and successful MLS and international career— then Michael Lahoud might be the only Nowak non-draft acquisition since August of 2011 that has provided something even close to a fair return on what he is paid.
You can only do so much with what you’ve got
Saturday’s loss to Houston only underscored the mess of a roster that John Hackworth was left with when Nowak was finally canned. Where to start?
Well, instead of finding a veteran replacement for Faryd Mondragon, Nowak opted to go with a second-year keeper as his starter.
The back line remains as lacking in depth now as it did at the end of the 2011 season. Poor form here, an injury there, and it’s a shaky high wire act of players being played out of position.
The midfield is a shambles, with the conservative tactics of constantly playing two holding midfielders necessitated by the need to provide cover for a transition into the attack that is as much marked by inexperience as it is with promise. On top of that is what can only be described as inconsistent and all too often gutless play from the two highest paid players on the team, players who are supposed to be difference makers and are instead disappearing acts.
Up top, there are a total of four options who combine for an average age of 21.25 years. Our team leader in goals isn’t even old enough to buy a beer to ease the pounding his 5’10″, 150 lb. frame suffers up top as the lone striker because a viable option to play along side of him doesn’t exist on the roster.
Yet despite these limitations, Hackworth has—through the play of a core group of regular starters and other players who have battled for the opportunity to show their worth and then used those opportunities to show that worth to us— provided us with glimpses of what the future might hold.
No doubt, his tactical acumen has been questionable at times. But Hackworth took over a sinking ship, a ship whose frame was already damaged by hubris and cappabar (bear with me, I’m trying to complete the nautical metaphor here), not to mention the by all accounts tyrannical and capricious leadership of the previous skipper.
I blame Nowak
Still, whatever final disappointments may be in store from a season littered with them, I cannot place blame at the feet of Hackworth. He can only do so much with what he has.
No, I blame Nowak.
I blame Nowak for making a mockery of the fans’ faith by destroying the hopes and expectations that reverberated in the months after the 2011 season.
I blame Nowak for poorly preparing the team before the start of the 2012 season.
I blame Nowak for poisoning the fans’ faith in the team by throwing veterans like Sebastien Le Toux and Califf under the bus, all while lying about it through his teeth.
I blame Nowak for neglecting the development of young players who were already on the team (Mwanga, Jack McInerney, and Amobi Okugo) before this year’s acquisitions by either throwing them away or not playing them.
And I blame Nowak for bringing in a succession of overpriced disappointments who rarely are seen to play with a fire and consistency of belief that matches that of the Union faithful.
So take this pass, John Hackworth, and use it well. The offseason approaches and we will all be watching.