Photo by ISIphotos.com
There is bad, there is awful, and then there are the 2009 Red Bulls, who have taken an already tortured fan base and dragged it to new depths of disappointment.
The Red Bulls are on pace to post the worst record in the history of MLS, haven't won in 13 matches, and have seen anything worth playing for disappear over the past few weeks. The Red Bulls are a dead team walking, yet not a soul has paid the price for this train wreck of a season.
Why? Where are the pink slips, the firings and the accountability for soccer's version of The Titanic? The inactivity by the club's ownership in Austria suggests the painful reality that Red Bull doesn't care about how bad things get this season, and consequently doesn't care what it puts its fan base through.
That might be acceptable in the world of soft drinks, but in the world of soccer that is as egregious a crime as a club can commit.
No, nothing Red Bulls owners will do at this point will erase the memories of a season full of blunders, bad signings and gut-punch losses, but some firings would at the very least show fans that the club has some sort of interest in the team it bought four years ago, and it may help the team salvage something from this season.
That purge should begin with two men, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio and technical director Jeff Agoos, the two men responsible for the construction of this abomination of a team.
Osorio did lead the team to last year's MLS Cup final, a first for the club and a high point for most Red Bulls fans, but no coach can survive a disaster like this season has become, at least no coach should. He has made a series of failed signings, and has made questionable lineup decisions throughout the year. When his team failed to dispose of a mid-table Trinidadian team in the CONCACAF Champions League, it should have marked an automatic pink slip for Osorio.
It didn't though. Things remained the same and Osorio remained on the sidelines to watch his team lose to Chivas USA, a team that hadn't won in seven matches.
As much as some would like Osorio to be the fall guy, the sole person to blame for this disaster, he isn't. Jeff Agoos has worked hand in hand with Osorio and is just as culpable for the construction of a team that has manage just two wins all year. Agoos has held a front post for three years, after never having held one, and his on-the-job training has produced nothing of consequence. Sources suggest that Agoos tries to hang his hat on the acquisition of Juan Pablo Angel in 2007, but it's pretty common knowledge that Bruce Arena was the instrumental figure behind that deal.
The scary part is that it is starting to look like nobody will be fired for this train wreck, at least not until the end of the season, and even then only Osorio looks like a good bet to be let go. Agoos and managing director Erik Stover went to Austria earlier this summer to answer for why things have gotten so bad, and while we don't know how those meetings went, we can assume that neither man is too worried about their future considering both men just took vacations during the worst season in MLS history.
Think about that. Two of the three highest-ranking members of a team ready to post the worst record in the history of Major League Soccer just went on vacation. Think that would happen anywhere else in the world? And think either of them is that worried about their future if they feel comfortable enough to take a break while their team crumbles? You might recall that Osorio canceled a family vacation last season when things were looking bleak. Apparently, Stover and Agoos didn't feel a similar sense of urgency.
Firing the men responsible for this mess isn't just about appeasing fans. It's also about giving the players a chance to prove that they aren't as bad as they have looked all season. There is this perception that Osorio has held the team back, and that the talent exists to be miles better than a two-win laughing stock. Th best way to find out if that is true would be to fire Osorio and see how the team responds to a new leader. If the players can't step up and show something more than they have in the first 24 games of the season, then the belief that an almost total purging of the roster is needed after this season is legitimate.
You might think that such an exercise is futile because the team has nothing to play for. That isn't exactly true. The team does have something to play for. It is playing for the chance to prevent being the worst team in league history. That distinction would spell doom for the careers for everyone involved with the organization. Think any team would be rushing to bring in a player or coach from a club that failed so miserably and showed so little heart and ability for a full season?
There is also the matter of who will ultimately replace Osorio. Red Bulls assistant Richie Williams was long regarded as one of the league's most respected assistants, and a good head coaching candidate, before this season. Rather than take advantage of his presence and handing him the keys to the faltering club, Red Bull has done nothing. While eight games may not be much time, it could be enough time to allow Williams to show the club that he could be a viable replacement. Apparently Red Bull has forgotten that it was Williams who served as a capable interim head coach back in 2006 when the team was starting to look like the disaster it became this year.
There is little doubt that wholesale changes are coming this off-season, with the new Red Bull Arena set to open, but Red Bull ownership is absolutely clueless if it doesn't think there is risk in standing pat and doing nothing for the rest of this season. Doing nothing will further alienate an already fed-up fan base, will further damage the development of the handful of talented young players on the roster, and will ensure that this team will go down as the worst team in the history of MLS.
None of that may matter to Red Bull now, but it will when Red Bull Arena opens next spring and the best stadium in MLS has trouble filling its seats. "Come see the worst team ever" doesn't quite sound like the marketing campaign you want if you're trying to sell tickets and trying to recoup the cost of a $150 million stadium project.
There is still some time left, time for Red Bull to do something, anything, to salvage something from this season and show its fans that this nightmare season is an aberration and not the unavoidable consequence of having an incompetent ownership group.