Wow, it has now been 5 days from that wild and wooly match on Sunday. All I really have to say about the match is I am, for the first time since we started MLS play, impressed. We have had exciting moments in the first two seasons, we have made a few comebacks in that time, but I never came away impressed with the performance across the team.
Alhassan dazzled in the opener last season, Nagbe had that wonder goal in season 1, Brunner made the most spectacular own goal I have ever seen, I mean Perkins had no chance, and if you are gonna give up an own goal why not make it spectacular!
There have been lots of individual performances worthy of note over the last two years, but far too often this team would get bullied to lose grip of a lead or to thwart an attempted comeback. The few comebacks there were it never felt like we were going to get that goal like it did on Sunday.
The improved skill almost across the board was apparent and at a higher level than we have seen the prior two years. They had their communication issues which is to be expected in early season play, but what really made the difference was attitude and expectations.
From AJB getting pulled down in the box with no PK awarded but then scoring on them anyway (invariably the past two seasons the opponent turns that into a good opportunity if not a goal for themselves), to Harrington punching the ball out of Cahill's (I think it was Cahill) arms when he was trying to hold it to time waste, to Will Johnson tossing those Gatorade bottles off the pitch when Henry was faking his "injury"...
We refused to let them dictate anything, we refused to let the ref bother our play, we refused to be bullied. We dictated what was going to happen and how the game would be played. I credit that for this comeback as much as anything. Toughness for toughnesses sake is never effective, but toughness as a sign of will, that is what often determines who wins and loses in sports.
I think all the new skill on the pitch is exciting to see, but that toughness born of shear will to win will be the difference maker this season and in future seasons.