2020 has been a challenging season for everyone. In every sport. In every profession. For RSL, though, it seemed the pandemic just wasn't enough. The turmoil finally coming to light with the ownership and the front office complicated things that much more for this club, the fans, the players, and everyone who is part of this in some way. The head scratching decisions of this club, from player movements, to decisions on acquisitions, to business ventures finally started to make sense. The head of the beast was (and continues to be) a major problem. The club's lack of direction suddenly made a whole lot more sense.
But through all of that, the soccer continued. RSL still has played 18 games through this season (19 if you want to include that game at MiB against San Jose) and has been anything but consistent. There are moments this club looks like it could be a legitimate playoff team for spots 4-8. There are moments they beat the top dogs and you think maybe they have a bit of 2009 in them and could make a run. However, far more often, they look like an absolute train wreck of a team without any cohesive plan. Circling the bottom of the standings, trying their best to just not be the worst team in the league. With all the aforementioned drama, it can make sense that this would happen. In fact, anything else would be miraculous. However, that doesn't absolve those in charge from receiving criticism.
There has been criticism aplenty for Freddy Juarez as head coach, this year. The inconsistency of his team's is a big one. The substitutions patters, in rare era of 5 subs with congested schedules, is another one that can't be stated enough. What hasn't been discussed, at least not at length, is that this team isn't young anymore. Let me clarify on that, there are young players on the ROSTER, but the starting lineups and the (rare) substitutes for RSL doesn't feature the young guys much, if at all.
The league is publishing their 22 Under 22 piece this week. In year's past (when this was 24 Under 24) RSL would always have a shout for a player or two, maybe even three, to appear on the list. In fact, there were years we thought we had a top 5 player for the list. Well, the first 11 players were released today for the 22 Under 22 piece and there isn't a single RSL player on the list. When you look at the candidates for RSL, it's hard to think any of them will feature in the top 11 spots. Lets take a look at those players:
- Luis Arriaga (19)
- Christopher Garcia (17)
- David Ochoa (19)
- Jeizon Ramirez (19)
- Pablo Ruiz (21)
- Julian Vazquez (19)
While there are certainly teams out there with more candidates on their roster, 6 of our 30 man roster is below the age of 22. That is an adequate amount. So it isn't about a lack of options, it's that Freddy doesn't value them. Besides Ruiz (1,068 minutes), not a single one of the other five players has logged over 100 minutes this season. Most (Arriaga, Garcia, Ochoa, and Vazquez) have either 0 or a measly 1 minute. Ramirez is all the way up to 69 minutes - that's just not enough.
It begs the question: Why aren't they playing? Well, part of that is that they were sent to the Monarchs. Arriaga played in 9 Monarch games (6 starts), Ochoa played in 5 (all 5 as a starter), and Vazquez played in 8 (3 starts). But Garcia and Ramirez didn't play a single minute for the Monarchs. Injuries have been another concern, all 5 having had some form of a knock this year - but none of them on season ending or long lasting (as it relates to games available) problems. So what else is it? Freddy has harped on the lack of training opportunities for his players. Which I would be a lot more sympathetic to if there weren't 16 year old's scoring game winners in other MLS teams. Something isn't right about that excuse if kids are able to crack the lineup's at a place like LAFC.
To me, with all the crap that 2020 has given, the opportunity to play your kids was a bit of a silver lining. Hell, you have 5 subs in a single game now - that's enough to give some experiment minutes to a kid, no? But Freddy didn't do it. Which doesn't make sense when you look at his background - he was part of the academy when it first was producing talent. This guy, out of anyone else, should know how much talent can come from the academy and how all those kids are just begging for an opportunity. It simply doesn't make sense that Freddy refuses to give these kids a chance to play.
To me, it isn't THE reason to let Freddy go before 2021, but it certainly is another reason. With the (hopeful) new ownership group wanting to (hopefully) come in and show their willingness to invest in the club, every person that is part of this club should doing their all to ensure job security. They should be making it so that fans point to them as one of the parts of the old they want in the new. They should make it so that if they were fired, there would be a bit of an uproar. I don't see that from Freddy. With so much talk about the players stepping up, and others not (while hosting big house parties), more needs to be said of the coaching staff. They aren't doing enough. When you look at Freddy, and the rest of the staff, I fail to see any reason to keep them. I fail to see why a new ownership wouldn't want to bring in some new folks.
When you look at RSL in 2020 there is a whole lot of competing headlines. I'm not expecting one of the top ones to be "too old", but it needs to be said. We don't play our youth anymore. We call 23 year olds our "young core". That isn't the modern game. Those should be the expected ages, especially in a league the has shown it can be a "selling league" with some big success. Freddy's lack of faith in the kids is inexcusable. PLAY YOUR KIDS.