Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Benny Award 6: The Freddy

By definition, the Freddy Award goes to the biggest story for DC United this year. This award should go to the individual who has created the biggest stir around DC this season. The award's namesake Freddy Adu wasn't only the biggest story in DC when he was on the team, he was also the biggest story in MLS. Still to this day, the most frequent question we United fans get from non-soccer-fans is "Does Freddy Adu still play for them?"

Last year's award went to Santino Quaranta after Goff's article on his struggles with painkillers gained national attention.

1. Kevin Payne and his very public argument with Adrian Hanauer of the Sounders sent waves through the DC sports community, starting with the full page ads the team ran in every newspaper they could find. This propaganda was a huge success by marketing standards, resulting in attendance of over 17,000 at the US Open Cup Final, but unfortunately did not result in a win.

2. Josh Wicks and his short temper earned him some bad publicity nationwide after stomping on Freddy Montero in the Open Cup Final. And that was just a week after he had a shoving match with Marc Burch in the middle of a game.

3. Christian Gomez returned to DC this season after being an incredible disappointment in Colorado, and he returned with something to prove. Gomez was cast aside last year in favor of fellow Argentinian Marcelo Gallardo, but returned to the team in 2009 earning 6 goals and 4 assists to easily surpass Gallardo's production.

4. Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace may be stars in the making for DC United. These two rookies have taken the league by storm, and are respectively #1 and (tied for) #2 on the team in appearances this year.

Please enter your votes now through the end of the season, and remember to post in the comments section to be eligible for the exciting prizes that I announced last week.

Up next: The Harkesy - Who is the team leader?


The AMT said...

I voted for Kevin Payne, but as much as anything it has to be a vote for Kyle Sheldon and the marketing staff at DC United. They were the biggest push behind the biggest media story of the year, the US Open Cup "feud" with Seattle. Well, them and the fans in the Twitterverse who were going at it with ECS for weeks before the game. The team did a great job of turning that riffing from the hardcore into hype in the mainstream.

Jeremy said...

The Open Cup propoganda was definitely the big story this year.
Anyone who was at that match can attest to the success of the marketing campaign. The crowd was electric, and it was probably the second best fan experience I have had at a United match, behind the '04 Eastern championship match.

I love the rose colored glasses you used for the Gomez story. "Easily surpassing Gallardo's production". True, but he was still a major disappointment this year. I wonder which of them had more minutes on the pitch in their year? Probably Gomez (especially if we include international play), but I would wager that it is closer than you might think.

rob said...

I voted for Wallace and Pontius, but that was before reading AMT and Jeremy's comments. Now I'm not sure; while the emergence of the rookies is the bigger of the two events on the field, I'd definitely agree with Jeremy that the Open Cup game was one of the best fan experiences in years. Certainly the best this year. And we lost. So that says something.

Agree that you're being too kind to Gomez, too... I'd trade Gomez for a healthy and fit Gallardo in a heartbeat, even knowing that Fred and Emilio would do their best to flub the chances he creates for them. Bet Pontius would have finished a couple of these, though.

Shatz... said...

Gomez 1514 minutes to date in 2009. Gallardo had 1161 last year.

It's not a question though of trading a fit Gomez for a fit Gallardo. We'd all do that. But its not a question of skill. If Gallardo were here again, he'd get injured again. And somehow it would manage to be a special kind of injury that can only be healed on Argentinian soil. He just wasn't motivated to try his hardest while he was here. The same was true when he was playing for PSG.

rob said...

It's not that Gallardo was great for us (he wasn't, and yes, fitness and motivation seem to be perennial problems for him when he steps across the Argentinean border), but that Jeremy's right that Gomez was still a major disappointment (unless, I guess, you weren't expecting much at all from him, but you've set up a comparison with Gallardo, who was supposed to lead us to international glory and eternal fame, or something like that). He's only been on the field for 3/5ths of the season, has exactly the same number of assists as Fred (who's had a horrendous season), and doesn't fit well into the formation that's become our best (4-4-2). But, even then, my point's not that Gomez is a bad player, or even mediocre -- even having declined as he has, he's still an above average MLS player. But he's not above average enough to be the fulcrum of a title-winning attack, which is what Gallardo was supposed to be, and that's why I don't think the storyline you've constructed is really accurate. It would have been great if Gomez came back to us in MVP-form and led us to another Supporter's Shield or Cup, but he's just not that player anymore.

Which leads me to what I think might be the real big story of the year: the slow and irreverisble decline of our veterans. I think we all hoped that, after a much brighter start to the season than we'd anticipated, the veterans (Olsen, Moreno, Gomez, Emilio) would be able to hold it together for one more year and somehow go out with a bang. But all four, despite showing flashes of quality and intelligence (Emilio, for instance, has worked really hard to do the little things this year -- holding up the ball, playing with his back to goal, winning balls in the air -- but has lost the predatory instinct that made him a valuable member of the team in the first place), haven't been able to play consistently at a high level, and so we've turned out mediocre. Ryan Johnson has more goals than Emilio. Josh Wolff has more than Jaime Moreno. Mehdi Ballouchy has more assists than Gomez. So does stick-a-fork-in-him-himself, Clint Mathis. Kheli Dube has twice as many game-winning goals as anyone on our team. Ben Olsen may have the best soccer brain on the team, be the heart and soul of the team, and have an underrated ability to beat his man with a sick turn, but how many times has he had to give up a free-kick because he wasn't quick enough or agile enough to stay with his man? (Roughly, thirty times.) It's not a pretty story, but can you honestly tell me that's not bigger than the Open Cup or the rookies?

giffenbone said...

Voted Wicks ... that was just a dumb thing to do.