Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Omaha 1-2 FMFC: Shithousery

Growing up on the north side of Madison made for an interesting mix of people. The north side, specifically the Vera Court, Trinity Park (where I grew up), and Berkeley Oaks neighborhoods are historically predominantly poor, working class neighborhoods. In the 90s, people worked blue collar jobs and about one fifth to a third lived below the poverty line. Not much has changed in the past 30 years. The north side historically was and still is home to a good share of the low income housing in the city. Those neighborhoods are sandwiched between and sharply juxtaposed by two very affluent neighborhoods: Cherokee and Maple Bluff — many of whose residents are mansion-dwelling millionaires.

2013 Census Tract Data – Percentage of Households Receiving Food Stamps

In school there was generally a divide between two types of people: mostly rich kids with some of the poorer athletes mixed in — generally the more popular, privileged kids, at least in appearance — and everyone else. Those popular kids usually got elected for student office, elected prom queen/king, got away with selling drugs in school and coming to class fucked up/drunk, and were generally at the top of the social hierarchy. And did they ever make their social standing clear to everyone around them. It ran like this from elementary through high school — and if you were one of the kids like me — wearing clothes from thrift stores or charity shops, whose parents got groceries from food pantries or used food stamps — you fucking heard about it from them. The abuse some days was relentless.

Occasionally that class of people would get checked on their behavior and attitudes, and it was always glorious. One day in my senior year of high school, one of those incidents occurred right in front of me during my lunch hour. I was walking back in from smoking a cigarette, about to pass by “the wall”, a chest-height concrete and brick divider between sets of lockers (East High’s main mall area used to be open air when my mom attended), when a glorious moment occurred.

I’m not a proponent of violence. But sometimes people need to get checked, and sometimes seemingly nothing else can accomplish it either due to stubbornness or desperation. I’m not talking about beating someone relentlessly, or using lethal force, but sometimes there’s nothing else that can be done to get someone off your back, to stop the antagonizing. That day I saw one of the biggest, tallest athletes push someone walking in front of me too far. This pretty bookish (some might say nerdy) kid — let’s call him Mike — is walking, minding his own business, when one of the star basketball and football players said something off-color to him. After a decade plus of one-way bullying and taunting, this incident would mark the last time a similar interaction would happen between these two.

I’m not sure where Mike’s head was at that day, or what was going on at home, but Mike took a few running steps and cold-cocked this behemoth of a teenager with a right cross. Everyone stopped in their tracks, and the room went dead silent. Mike proceeded to grab him by the collar of his shirt, pull him off the wall, and punch him three more times in the face, shouting word salad all the while, and then dropped him to the floor.

This big fuck just sat there, slumped over, staring up incredulously at a hyperventilating, now beet-red faced Mike, who’d started to cry behind his thick, fogged-up glasses. A teacher came and grabbed Mike and his tormentor by the arm, and walked them off to the Principal’s office to a thunderous mix of laughter and applause. It would seem Mike was emblematic of many of us in that moment.

Cynicism Begets Cynicism

I certainly don’t intend to compare Union Omaha or all Omaha fans with rich kid grade school bullies. But when you see the result of someone — or a team — reacting to abuse dished out by people who by and large are just trying to be nasty, it’s hard not to feel like you’re watching somebody(s) stand up for themselves. Last night didn’t feel like just desserts to me necessarily, it felt like watching this team find some backbone after months of trying and striking out.

After the match last night, one of the players rang me and said someone sent them a couple of minutes of audio from a certain Union Omaha podcast before the game. I’ll admit I haven’t listened to it, nor do I want to, because again — I’m a miserable sports fan on my own, before adding in outside negativity and vitriol. I don’t relish “banter” or trash talk, and personally I feel like forcing that behavior in a league only three years old is silly. From what I read on Twitter before the match yesterday, this podcast episode contained ~30 minutes of bashing the FMFC team, club, and fans. While I don’t like it, I understand why that type of cynical mentality and behavior happens in sport, the practice of playing head games with athletes and opposition fans to destabilize their confidence and in turn, their performance. In this case, it backfired.

It fired this Madison team up. These guys have had a long, hard season filled with underachieving, things not clicking, and after the past four games ending in losses, their backs were up against the wall. Hearing this podcast audio, our guys took it personal. This particular situation wasn’t the beginning, though. After nearly two years of Twitter chirping, shit-talking, and generally unprovoked abuse from this small yet vocal section of Omaha’s fanbase, it would seem that this pocket of Omaha fans might have gotten what they wanted. A contrived “rivalry” doesn’t happen just because fans decide it — and last night is the type of night on the pitch that actually starts to create a real rivalry; actually giving it meaning.

The cynical play, the pushing, shoving, arrogance, and gamesmanship — shithousery — was in full force last night, and those Omaha fans brought out the most physicality and negative play I’ve seen from this Madison team. If Omaha fans want to blame anyone for playing “dirty”, or for things said by Madison players to their players or fans before/during/after the game, they’d do well to remember that turnabout is fair play. To quote modern philosopher Jamie Richard Vardy, “chat shit, get banged”.

Schadenfreude is one thing (and something I don’t particularly enjoy), karma is entirely another and if those things hadn’t been said so publicly — on a podcast available to anyone — I don’t think Madison would have had the same intensity and arrogance on the night. All that shit talk fueled the performance. It goes to show you fans really do affect games, and if you want to wind people up or abuse opposition players and fans, you ought expect it in return. And if a wind-up was the goal, our players got the message loud and clear.

I feel a bit bad for my Omaha-supporting friends down there, but then again dealing with a hard, battling loss is part of sports fandom. And when you support a team, you’re lumped in with people whose attitudes and methods don’t always mesh with your own. This week has been part of an ongoing education in that for me, learning once again that not everyone reacts the same after a loss or sees positivity as a necessary staple of their support/fandom. In this case, vocal negativity from a section of Omaha fans invited a flurry of negativity back at their team. You want to be cynical, you invite that in return. Also — I don’t feel that bad for my Omaha friends: they’re still going to clinch first place.

Lineup

In for Justin Sukow was the trumphant return of Jiro Barriga Toyama after several months out with a knee injury. Trimmingham, Sukow, and Leonard all started, and while I mentioned them in my preview as being preferable on the team sheet after their performances in Richmond, I wasn’t sure if rotation was needed as the guys were absolutely gassed after that game. Derek Gebhard was given the night off, which surprised a lot of people based on the contributions he’s had this season and the quality he brings to the side. Replacing Gebhard and Diaz were Audi Jepson and Tyler Allen, both of whom had very solid games.

Match Recap

It’s potentially too little, too late, but I think Carl Craig might have found a missing ingredient in galvanizing this team: a common enemy. They played with arrogance and blew off the steam of a four game losing streak. They had a chip on their shoulder and took down the first place team.

The Flamingos played with urgency and physicality, pressing most of the game and containing many of Omaha’s usual goal threats. Young Walton Goggins Devin Boyce was fairly anonymous most of the match, while Evan Conway, Greg Hurst, and Conor Doyle were repeatedly denied by Phil Breno, who again had a standout game. The Flamingos’ back line came up big on many occasions, and Leonard / Tobin / Rad looked largely resolute against some of the most high-powered attacking players in the league.

A challenge on Viader just inside the 31′ mark earned Tyler Allen a yellow card, and even watching it in full speed on TV it looked to be all ball. You can be the judge on the video below. That caution was followed by yellow cards for Evan Conway as well as the Madison bench. Some of the calls in this game were baffling, while plenty of hard challenges were completely waved off by the official.

Josiah Trimmingham tallied both goals for the Flamingos, the first coming just 8 minutes after the interval. Jiro played in a cross to Sierakowski, whose effort ricocheted off Nuhu and fell at the feet of Trim, who emphatically smashed it into top corner. Madison’s second goal inside the the 57th minute. Talkin’ Flock’s Rob Chappell pointed out that this goal doesn’t happen without Enriquez both pressing and working with Sierakowski to block passing channels, forcing a hurried backpass from Viader.

Osumanu made a mess of the backpass, Trim picked up the loose ball and chipped the keeper who tried valiantly to get a glove on the shot. Josiah gets in on the shithousing, running smiling, arms open, directly through the Omaha technical area to mug off their bench. He’s met with defiance from the Omaha technical staff and is quickly wrapped up by Gustavo Fernandez and led back behind the Madison bench, looking like a pop star being whisked through a crowd of papparazzi. Trim would receive a yellow card for that, and for all the cackling I did from my couch watching it happen, in my opinion it was worth it for the entertainment value alone. Just absolutely disrespectful in every way. Josiah would put six efforts off the crossbar, and it’s clear he’s got a hunger for goals our other strikers do not.

A notable bit I got from people on the ground in Omaha which the cameras didn’t show: As soon as the second goal went in, Carl got up and did the airplane, running around the middle field boards down toward the Omaha bench.

Omaha would put a shot on goal in the 72nd minute, Viader putting in a dangerous cross to Greg Hurst, forcing a fantastic close-range save from Breno who pushed it up and over the bar. Evan Conway let fly a shot in the 77th, which was deflected just in time by Eric Leonard and rattled off the crossbar. Omaha players got into the gamesmanship as well, with plenty of pushing and shoving and making a meal of Madison’s challenges.

Greg Hurst would fire home a penalty with just under a minute to go in regulation after a very soft Connor Tobin challenge inside the box, and even the commentator mentioned Hurst going down easy. The Union Omaha man displayed his own brand of cynical play, elbowing Breno out of the way after squaring it home from the spot. Even if it was to stop the Madison keeper from wasting time, in any other league in the world that would have been a yellow card. Evan Conway made a habit of leaving an elbow, hand, or push in every contact, especially in transition and on set pieces.

In the final minute of stoppage time Breno would come up huge again, making a massive 1:1 save from an Evan Conway effort and yet another save from a run of play from the resulting corner. Carlos Gomez would clear the danger to Tyler Allen as the referee blew the final whistle. Madison came up huge in this game with interceptions and recoveries, holding Omaha to just 66% passing completion, their 2nd lowest all season.

Aaron Molloy was clearly targeted all game by Omaha, Jay Mims remarking before the game that he was a passing threat when given too much time on the ball. Jiro looked dangerous and lively as ever, though it was clear he lacked full match fitness and it seemed at times as if his knee was a bit tight. Eric Leonard channeled his best Roy Kent impression all night, covering a ton of ground and snuffing out many of Omaha’s chances. This might have been one of the most emphatic defensive games by captain Connor Tobin all season, despite the foul on Conway resulting in the penalty.

Cynical or not, this is the type of defiant, fighting spirit this team has been missing much of this season. If it keeps up, Breese will be rocking these final two home games. The team needs it, the fans need it, so if you’re in Madison we absolutely need you there in full voice. I’ll unfortunately miss this weekend’s match as I’ll be out of town for a wedding, so give Tucson hell for me. I’ll see you in the Flock End on the 30th to close out the season with the Red Wolves.

Author

  • Andrew Schmidt

    Eclecticist, FMFC supporter, Flock co-founder, designer of things, and taker of photos. Writer, wrench, motorcyclist. Pro-intellectualist, anti-pedant. Drinker of coffee and greeter of dogs.

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