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A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...

  1. A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...

    I'm not a great writer, English is not my native tongue and I'm not too great at FM, either, so my tactics can and will fail, thus if all goes balls up I might just end up quitting mid story. That said, I'd like to jog my mind a bit and work on my English so I decided to write something vaguely resembling an FM story. I'm not too keen on updating every single match, mainly because the part I most like about FM is signing and developing players and not so much playing the actual games. Anyways, I'll try to have some fun writing and hopefully someone else will by reading. The first few updates will be a "prelude" to the actual story, trying to shed light on the background of my character.

    Also - I have already started the save, so I'll have some catching up to do, first few updates will come in quick succession.

  2. Prelude - Part 1: The rise and fall of a young footballer

    It was the year 2010 when, at the age of 22, I had begun to think I would not make it. It was the logical thing to think, really. For a footballer, not getting games at 22 is usually a wake-up call - you're just not good enough. After spending years in some of the most prestigious youth setups in Argentina, I had moved back to my home town at age 18 to play for local club Villa Dalmine in the third division. I couldnt even get a game there, but I stayed with them because I got to live with my family, not because I was particularly attached to them but rather because it gave me the chance to save what little I earned by playing. However, in January that year I had received my first call up to train with the first team during the mid-season break. After injury to the starting right-back in May I got a birthday gift of sorts - I started the last few games of the season. Luckily for me, my performances were solid and we kept six or seven consecutive clean sheets, making it all the way to the play-off finals. We lost on penalties, but it was a lot more than we had expected as a team and, on a personal level, it meant that at the age of 23 I was finally reaping what I had sown for such a long, long time.

    I was offered fresh terms during pre-season, and even though I had attracted interest from several teams from both the Nacional B and Primera, I decided to sign on for at least another season. The first few games in August were victories and my strong performances earned rave reviews in the press. For the first time in ages I was feeling like a real football player. But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and during a game against Ferro in early September I made a last ditch tackle in the six-yard box and my studs got stuck on the ground -it was one of those ugly lower league potato fields that happen to be used as a football pitch- and, while I managed to stop the opposition from scoring, I also managed to tear my ACL. The surgery was successful, but the season was slowly turning into a disaster, with the team slipping into the relegation zone after my injury, not so much due to my replacement being less than competent -which he wasn't- but rather because the team's morale plummeted. In February, against the doctors' wishes, I started playing again, and disaster inevitably struck in March. I tore my ACL again and this time the doctor said I should call it quits. It hadn't healed completely the first time and it would never be the same again. My "career" lasted a year or less. I went back to university, which I had quit when everything started looking bright, and although I took a few coaching courses paid for by my former club, the mere thought of being on a pitch and not playing was too depressing for me to bear. At just 23, it was the end of the road for me, or so I thought back then. It was only later that I would find out that it was just the beginning of a much, much longer one.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  3. Prelude - Part 2: Reach for the sky

    Back in '10, when I had quit university, I wasn't far from graduating. Having flirted with depression after retiring, my family and friends were concerned for my future, but after a few months I got back on track. It wasn't easy, mind you, to change a football for a pile of books, but I had always loved History and all I had learned before started slowly coming back to me. I moved to Buenos Aires to be closer to my faculty and managed to settle quite well there. It was hard, however, when people recognized me. There weren't many who did, but those who followed the lower leagues often came over or even took pictures of me. I found some of those pictures inside some crappy sports newspapers and webpages. Reading the comments online was particularly hurtful - you would always find an idiot laughing because I had been forced to live a "normal" life instead of the comfortable life of a professional footballer. Those are the kind of people who'll never understand how it feels to have a dream ripped apart in a second. Nevertheless, I didn't let that distract me. I had always been a good student and I wasn't going to let that change. In July 2012 I successfully took my final exam and graduated as a Licenciado en Historia. As I walked out of the classroom with a smile on my face, I saw my Russian History teacher standing outside. Without saying a word, he gave me an envelope, winked at me and walked away. Inside the envelope was a one-way plane ticket to Canada and a letter ? I had been chosen for an exchange agreement with a university in Montr?al to get a post-graduate degree in Soviet studies, paid for by the UBA. My French was crap but I didn't care. I raced home and looked up the requirements for a student visa and in a week the paperwork was ready. The plane was due to leave on the morning of the 3rd of August, my mother's birthday, but she wouldn't hold any grudges. Once again it looked like the future was bright, but fate had other plans.
    The day the plane was due to leave, the Peso suffered a minor collapse, and fell 30% vis-a-vis the US dollar. I didn't think much of it, but when I was already on my way to the airport my mobile rang and I picked up.

    "Is this Alejandro Perna? -said a female voice- It's urgent".
    "Yes, what do you need? I'm on my way to the airport so please be quick -"
    "That's the thing, I'm calling you on behalf of the UBA to let you know that, considering the current financial situation, you are not to board that plane because the university can't afford pay for your accomodation, expenses or your return trip from Canada, either. I'm sorry."

    was devastated. I didn't reply, I just hung up and told the cabbie to stop. As I was getting my stuff off the trunk, I remembered a song I used to listen to when I was a teenager:

    When I was young I was invincible,
    I found myself not thinking twice,
    I never thought about no future,
    It?s just the roll of the dice?

    I couldn't remember the rest of the song, but I just grinned, thinking that the dice hadn't been too kind with me lately. And then I just stopped. Perhaps it was time I felt invincible again, perhaps it was time that I stopped thinking twice. I told the shcocked cabbie that we were going to the airport anyways. I had a one way ticket to Canada, a student's visa and close to no money. I have a credit card, though, I thought. I never even asked myself how I was going to pay for the credit card bill. At 9 am, as I got on a plane for the first time, I remembered how the song went on:

    But the day may come when you've got something to lose,
    And just when you think you're done paying dues
    You say to yourself, "dear god what have I done?"
    And hope it's not too late 'cause tomorrow may never come.

    And as the plane took to the air and I looked at the increasingly small Buenos Aires that had been my home up until then, I realized I might just have fucked up. Confirmation came as soon as I arrived in Montreal and staff at the University told me in no uncertain terms that the deal was off and that I should've stayed in Argentina. I had no money, no place to stay, and no ticket back. What kind of idiot takes songs literally anyway? As I sat on the curb with my suitcase and my bag, I heard a voice behind me:

    "Oye, amigo, sorry for eavesdropping but it looks like you need some help. You can crash with me and my family for a few days. My name is Eduardo, by the way."
    It was the university janitor, who had overheard my conversation with the staff. Normally you'd refuse such an invitation from a stranger, but I didn't really have much of a choice. I shook his hand and followed him to his car, a decrepit old Ford.

    Yesterday is history,
    And tomorrow's a mistery?
    AndySams10 and Mahoney85 like this.

  4. Really nice start mate, I'm intrigued...

    Oh.. and your English is very good!

  5. Your English is good what u talking about.... Keep it buddy

  6. Quote Originally Posted by Safc-mad-scotty View Post
    Really nice start mate, I'm intrigued...

    Oh.. and your English is very good!
    Quote Originally Posted by Amanado View Post
    Your English is good what u talking about.... Keep it buddy
    Thanks to both of you, I'll be posting a few updates soon at least until I get to the actual game I promise some screenies or something then, so it doesn't look so plain.

    Hopefully you'll enjoy the story!

  7. As a traveller myself this story kept me reading on and on. Brilliant read mate, especially for a first timer! And your English is excellent!

  8. Prelude - Part 3: Once you hit the bottom, the only way is up

    Eduardo turned out to be OK. More than OK, actually. When I heard his story, what I had been through looked like nothing. Salvadoran, he was orphaned in the 80?s, when he was 14. Due to the incessant inner conflict that plagued his home nation, he was close to joining the Maras with his brother before having a change of heart and fleeing across the border. However, his brother was killed in retaliation for his "defection", and that had haunted him ever since. He migrated illegally first into Mexico, then to the US and finally to Canada, where he managed to get his act together and settle down. Two decades later, he wasn't rich by any stretch of the imagination, but he had a house, a job, a car and most importantly, a family. I stayed with him for a few months helping him and his wife Marie at home, cooking, cleaning and giving their kids a hand with their school homework, and occasionally helping Eduardo out at work for a few dollars that I was hoping to save for a ticket back home. In the meantime, I hadn't told my family anything. For all they knew, I was studying. But one day, after lying to my mother on the phone and telling her everything was great, I broke down in tears. I had been a footballer, I had graduated from university, yet I was abroad on the fringes of legality -although I had a "student" visa- and mopping floors for a living. Marie and Eduardo heard me crying and walked into my room.

    "Look, Alejandro, I know you're depressed, I know you're alone here, but you can't feel sorry for yourself forever. You need to get a job, you could have a great future. I have no skills, I have no studies, I barely know how to read, that's why I work as a janitor. It's an honest job, a very honest job, but you... you could be doing a lot more." ?said Eduardo.- "You may not get the job you want as a teacher, but you've done a coaching course, correct?".
    "I have, but I've never actually coached. And seeing the players and knowing I could've been one of them, it's really depressing you-"
    Marie didn't let me finish. "Can it get any worse than this? I doubt so."

    I didn't answer that, I just sat there staring at nothing until they left. They say the best friends are the ones that tell the truth however hard it may be. I guess they're right. I needed someone to tell me that I had become a depressing, pusillanimous character who was afraid of doing something with his life, even if it meant spending my days cleaning toilets and changing diapers to other people's kids. I thought I had been oh-so-brave by getting on that plane back in the day, but looking at myself in the mirror I could hardly recognize myself. The next day I got up and decided to man up. Eduardo took me to the Saputo Stadium, home of the Montreal Impact. It was December 21, 2012. The MLS season was over and there was hardly anyone there, but I left my CV for a minor coaching role, hoping that maybe good Santa would get me a job for Christmas. He didn't. The following day I got a call from one of Joey Saputo's secretaries telling me that the club was at present not looking for another coach, but that I wouldn't have trouble finding a job and they wished me the best of lucks for the future. However, on the 25th Santa did bring me a present. After drinking myself to stupor the previous night, as per Argentinian tradition, Eduardo woke me up handing me what seemed like a piece of paper and a magazine. The hangover was killing me and I couldn't really understand what was going on, until Marie came and poured cold water over my head.

    "Wake up you drunkard, this is your chance!" she said.
    "Martin Rennie resigned as Whitecaps manager," said Eduardo, showing me the cover of the magazine. "I bought you a ticket to Vancouver, you're leaving tomorrow. Go get that job."

    I thought he was delusional, but I was too drunk to argue and too thankful for everything he had done to try and convince him that I was nowhere near ready for a management job. The closest thing I had done to coaching was teaching Eddie's kids and their neighborhood friends to play football, there was no chance I could manage an MLS team. Hell, I didn't even know how MLS worked, I had spent most of my life hating Americans for calling football "soccer". Still, the next day I packed my stuff, said goodbye to the kids and took a cab to the airport. Eduardo insisted on taking me but I had been enough of a nuisance for him. Alea iacta est, I thought to myself as I once again boarded a plane. That hadn't ended up too well last time. Hours later, I was in Vancouver.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  9. Quote Originally Posted by LDPLFC View Post
    As a traveller myself this story kept me reading on and on. Brilliant read mate, especially for a first timer! And your English is excellent!
    Oh and I will be reading part 3
    Athe~ likes this.

  10. Just read part 3, again very good.
    Has any of this come from true life?

  11. Quote Originally Posted by LDPLFC View Post
    Just read part 3, again very good.
    Has any of this come from true life?
    Some has, actually, but only the "normal" stuff. I'm a History student, I'm focusing in Eastern European History and me and my girlfriend are interested in moving to Canada (I want Montreal, she's not so sure) in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future. All of the exciting and fun stuff is sadly fictitious.

  12. This is fantastic and has all the makings of being a top top story. Well done and keep up the excellent work. Looking forward too much more.

  13. Prelude - Part 4: It's not over till the not-so-fat lady speaks

    I was staying at a hotel in Vancouver trying to keep up with what was going around at the BC Place. Having no agent to further my cause, if such a thing as "my cause" ever existed, meant I had to take matters into my own hands. I waited until the new year before making my "move", which I thought was smart because I didn't want to look desperate. On the 2nd I walked into the clubs administrative building and after asking for directions I was told that the board were currently having a meeting in the conference room. When I got there, a secretary stopped me.
    "Excuse me, can I help you?"
    "I'm here to apply for a job as manager of the club."
    "This is a rather? unconventional way of trying to get a job interview. You should've asked your agent to contact the club through appropriate channels. Anyways, aren't you too young to be a manager?"
    "Excuse me ma'am, but it's never too early to be forced into retirement by injury" I said, in a slightly irritated tone of voice.
    "I'm sorry, -she said- I shouldn't have said that. Look, I'm afraid you're late. The board are meeting the last of their candidates and they've just asked me to set up a new meeting with him, probably to discuss financial matters. I'm really sorry."
    But I wasn't about to give up this time. "Please, just get me 15 minutes. I'll have a word with them and then they can-"

    The door cracked open and a couple of men, speaking Spanish to each other, walked out with a smile on their faces. A mere minute later, five men emerged from the room, one of them being Steve Nash, who I quickly recognized. I was about to approach them when the secretary spoke.

    Pointing at me, she addressed the board. "Excuse me, this gentleman is here for an interview. I must have misplaced his number and he came here when I failed to contact him, it was my mistake, I'm sorr-"
    "Well, sir, excuse me but we're no longer evaluating potential candidates" interrupted one of the men.
    "I've come a long way for this interview, if I could have only 10 minutes of your time-"
    Nash interrupted me and addressed the rest of the board. "Let's give him 10 minutes, we have nothing else to do, do we? If it was an honest mistake on our end, the least we can do is listen to the man, what can we lose?". I walked into the room and they quickly followed, closing the door behind them.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  14. Prelude - Part 5: The interview

    I had never imagined just how scared one could be in a situation like this. It wasn't just a job interview. My future rested in the hand of a handful of people I had to impress. I took a piece of paper where I had scribbled some notes and started.

    "Well, my? my name's Alejandro Perna, I'm from Campana, a small town in Argentina and I used to play football, I was a right back, until I got injured, and then I did a coaching course, and..."

    It was pathetic, and of course they weren't impressed in the slightest. Why would they care about my story? I froze for an instant, but then I remembered all that Eduardo and Marie had done for me, I thought of my family back in Argentina, and realized I just couldn't fail here. There was no alternative, unless I wanted to go back to cleaning toilets. That instant, altohugh it looked like an eternity, allowed me to think things clearly. I'll try to sound confident, I thought, and see if I can get at least one or two of them interested, perhaps the interest will be contagious and make them doubt and then I might, just might, have a chance?

    "Let's start from scratch." I said, putting my notes away. "I'll be bluntly honest with you from here on. I'm here because I need this job. But you could do with someone like me, too. I wuldn't only give you my full dedication, I'm young and I'd like to stay here long term. What I do not know about the MLS I will learn, that's for sure. I know I have no experience, but while I can't guarantee success, there's also no risk of relegation, although I assure you the team will not languish at the bottom. You were probably impressed by that guy you were interviewing earlier. He probably flashed his Spanish passport in front of you, told you he was going to turn you into a Canadian version of Barcelona and sign some nice flashy Spanish players, right? Well, that's what we, in Argentina, call a "vende humo". Barcelona in Vancouver? That's not going to happen any time soon."
    "And why is that?" said one of the men, who introduced himself as Stephen Luczo.
    "You just don't have the players to do so at the moment. Your star player is Kenny Miller who, no offense intended, has only been any good in the Championship and the SPL. And just because your guy is Spanish doesn't mean he'll get Xavi and Iniesta down here, and there are no non-union Mexican equivalents. There's no "se?or Spielbergo" in football".

    That got them laughing. A Simpsons reference is always welcome, I figured.

    "Look, I'm sure you all like fancy football, but I believe there are other ways to win. I was a defender, I believe Bob here was one too -I said, pointing to Robert Lenarduzzi, former Canadian international- and he probably knows the satisfaction of a successful backs-to-the-wall performance, and even when you're the favourite team, sometimes things git dirty and you just have to dig in and grind out a win. I prefer a more direct style of football."
    "I'm Jeff Mallett, formerly of Yahoo! And part of the board of Derby County FC in England. Would you say you'd try to get the team playing something like, say, City?"
    "Well Jeff, I would, but I don't believe we're thinking of the same City. You're probably thinking Manchester City? I'm thinking Stoke City. You might not like their style, but it's effective, it's honest? and it's cheap."
    "Well, I never said I didn't like their style", he said with a wink.
    "Good, because I firmly believe the opposition should dread a cold, wet, windy Wednesday night at the BC, don't you?"

    The 10-minute meeting ended up lasting three hours. When it was finally over, my chances of getting the job had dramatically improved. As we walked out of the conference room, Lenarduzzi and Nash told me they'd keep in touch and, if everything went well, we'd set up another meeting to discuss financial terms. "Don't worry about that, just draw a number you like", I said. As I went past the front desk, I mumbled "thank you" to the secretary and left. A week -which seemed forever to me- later, I got a call from Bob telling me they were willing to sign me on a one-year contract with a view to extending it if I was successful. He did warn me, though, that a lot of the backroom staff were unwilling to work with such a young manager and had left for pastures new.

    Finally, on January 13, the players came back for pre-season. I woke up really early that day and was I waited for the bus I trembled in anticipation of what would await me in the training ground...
    AndySams10 likes this.

  15. Present day (January 13, 2013):
    Chapter I - Time for introductions

    Steve Nash had told me that the only backroom staff members remaining after my appointment were chief scout Jake DeClute and head of youth development Stuart Neely. I had met with Jake a couple of days ago and asked him to give me a hand in lining up potential additions to my "cuerpo t?cnico", and told Stuart on the phone to join me today to discuss future targets, the status of our Residency setup, come with me to the training ground for my first meeting with the squad. While I was on the bus to the training ground I started writing down a few questions I wanted to ask Neely when I got a message from him saying that his car had broken down and he'd be late, but he'd still get there before the players. I got off the bus thinking a boring 15-20 minute wait was forthcoming when I noticed a familiar face sitting in the freezing cold outside the complex. I couldn't remember who she was until she spoke.

    "You! They fired me because of you! And you didn't even pick up the phone when I called!" A slap in the face quickly followed.

    It was the secretary who got me the interview. I guess now I know where all those "unknown number" phone calls came from. They had fired her because they felt her "mistake" could've costed the club their new manager - that is me. She had taken a huge risk for me, even though she had known me for a full 90 seconds, and while it paid off for me, she wasn't so lucky. She had every right to be pissed, really. But I had an idea.

    "Please, calm down. I didn't know it was you. Come in, let's have a cup of coffee at least, I think I can make it up to you." Her face quickly turned red in anger and I realized what I just said could be, eh... misinterpreted. "Idiot," I thought. "Wait, wait, not that kind of coffee. Not that you're not pre... eh, this is the training ground, we couldn't... this is all coming out wrong, please just come in before I embarass myself any further." She didn't look entirely convinced, but I guess the cold was enough to persuade her to agree. We sat in the hall and I got a couple of cups of coffee from a vending machine. Not exactly formal but hey, what can you do. "How would you feel about being some sort of secretary/assistant/agent for me? I need someone who's smart, good with people and who'd look after my interests. Furthermore, I could use someone to help me keep in touch with what's going on around when I'm too busy with club matters."
    "That I can agree with. I've been calling you for days and you haven't picked up once. I thought you had your head too far up your ass to hear the phone ringing, but I guess you were probably busy. How much are you paying?"
    "I'm earning some 50k US. Let's say... 10% of whatever I'm earning plus a chunk of any fees I get if I move clubs. Is that okay?"
    She hesitated for a second before shaking my hand. "Deal". She said. "My name's Amelie, by the way. No movie references, please. Here's my number, and next time we meet I want that offer in writing. I'll be in touch, thanks for the coffee". She didn't give me time to say anything when she got up and left. "Yes, ma'am", I thought. Those words had come out of her mouth like an avalanche. "She looks a bit bossy, or perhaps she just doesn't like me after getting her fired, but this is the least I can do".

    I didn't have much time to think on it as Stuart came through the door, sat down, and got me up to date with the status of our youth squads, the financial situation of the club, and some MLS specific information I was unaware of. He also pointed out Uruguayan-American versatile frontman Diego Fagundez, Argentinian striker Maximiliano Urruti and American goalkeeper Sean Johnson as some of the best young talents in the league, and singled out Canadian utility defender/midfielder Bryce Alderson and American striker Omar Salgado as our top prospects. I texted DeClute asking him to keep tabs on the first three players and told Neely to keep me updated on the other two as Stuart and I walked towards the locker room to wait for the players. Once everyone was there I stood up and spoke.

    "You don't know who I am. Hell, most of you are older than me. I know it may be hard for you to accept the fact that you have a young, inexperienced manager, and I know you probably signed with this club expecting something different, but I believe we can achieve our goals together. If we push in the same direction I'm sure it'll be mutually beneficial. You could grow as footballers while I do the same as a manager, while helping this club rise in status in the MLS and, why not, maybe in a few years' time we'll be competing with the bigger clubs in the continent to bring a cup to Canada. For now, all I'm asking of you is a vote of confidence. If we work together, I believe a mid-table finish would be a realistic target for this season, what do you think?"

    Most players took my speech well. Jay DeMerit, the skipper, was injured but had come in at my request and he was vocal in his support of me. Nigel Reo-Coker, too, backed me up, and being one of the highest-profile players in the squad his support spread to the others. There were, however, a few players that didn't seem too happy with my appointment. As everyone walked out of the room, I wrote down a few names on a piece of paper. "These will have to go..."
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  16. Skipper Jay DeMerit:
    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-jay-demerit_-overview-profile.png

    Newly appointed Vice Captain Nigel Reo-Coker:
    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-nigel-reo-coker_-overview-profile.png

    Our young talents, Bryce Alderson and Omar Salgado:
    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-bryce-alderson_-overview-profile.png
    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-omar-salgado_-overview-profile.png

  17. Chapter II - Starting on a high

    March 2, 2013.

    We were minutes away from our first game of the season, a derby against Toronto at the BC. Pre-season had come and gone. A lot of players left the club, disappointed at my appointment, but they wouldn't be missed. Not even the likes of Camilo and Darren Mattocks, arguably our best strikers, nor all three of our senior goalkeepers. My recently assembled staff and I had worked hard during this few months to bring some good and experienced players in, and we felt our squad was competitive enough to achieve our goal of a mid-table finish. With some luck we could even make the play-offs. Our biggest signings were probably Greek international striker Angelos Charisteas -who'd be a good role model for the 6ft 4 Salgado-, Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts, Algerian winger Hameur Bouazza and Bahrein international Mohammed Salmeen, along with Canadian star Mike Klukowski. These few signings were going to allow us to play the way I wanted, or rather, the way I knew, a direct 4-4-2 with a big striker and a smaller partner up front.
    As we entered the dressing room, I walked up to the chalkboard and look to the players.

    "We've been through this for the past month. I want you to stretch the play if you can, we've got quick players on the flanks. Mike, Lee, I want you to support the attack, but be sensible going forward, we don't want them taking advantage of any gaps. Angelos, try to play simple passes and flicks to Kenny, you know the drill. The rest of you, you know what to do. I want you to give me 100%, but most importantly, the fans do. Let's win this for them, shall we?"

    As we walked onto the pitch, we were welcomed by a roar from our fans. They weren't like the fans in Argentina. They weren't less passionate, they were just? different. They enjoyed a good tackle as much as a goal, and their beer and burgers as much af either of those two. As the announcer named our squad, the fans shouted and applauded, and on their faces you could see they were really excited to see the new players.

    "The Whitecaps line up with Donovan Ricketts; Lee Young-Pyo, Brad Rusin, Johnny Leveron, Mike Klukowski; Khalif Alhassan, Mohammed Salmeen, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hameur Bouazza; Kenny Miller and Angelos Charisteas!"

    The Greek was received with particular delight by supporters, being a decent goalscorer and remember by "soccer" fans as the man who scored the winner for Greece in the 2004 European Championship final, even if it was almost 10 years ago.

    When the ref blew his whistle, I felt my heart was going to burst out of my chest. We started the game well, passing the ball around, stretching the play, and quickly turning defense into attack with quick transition down the flanks, courtesy of our wingers. Highlights of the first half were a header by Miller, a free kick by Bouazza and a header by Leveron who rattled the bar. During half time, some of my players looked very nervous.

    "Look, we've done well so far, we just need to be a bit more clinical. We had the most shots, the best chances, we even hit the woodwork. Keep calm and focused and we can still win this!"

    As play resumed, our guys seemed to be in control, although we weren't threatening the opposition goal. But then, on the 52 minute, a misplaced pass by Reo-Coker led to a break down the right side, and when Richard Eckersley crossed the ball Robert Earnshaw was there to slot home past the hapless Ricketts. I was heartbroken, and the fans were rightly disappointed, as we had been the better team by far. I called Nigel and told him not to beat himself over his mistake, and to get the team to push forward. Around ten minutes later, after a scramble in the box, the ball fell kindly for Bouazza who powered it into the back of the net. But we weren't done just yet. Four minutes later, Klukowski crossed from a corner and Charisteas nodded it into the bottom right of Joseph Bendik's net. I hugged assistant manager Rick Williams and physio Darcy Norman, the bench rushed to congratulate Charisteas and the stands erupted in joy. Not only did we hold our lead for the rest of the game, we also restricted them to a couple of long range, speculative efforts while having a number of chances to increase our advantage - although that didn't happen. Our debut couldn't have been better - a turnaround victory in a derby at home? The day couldn't get much better than that.

    While we were celebrating after the game, I got a message on the phone. "Congratulations on your first win. I need to discuss a few things with you. Dinner tonight? Amelie."

    Perhaps it could get better than that.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  18. The game:

    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-vancouver-v-toronto-fc_-overview-overview.png

  19. Chapter III ? The good, the bad, the good again, and then the ugly

    In case you were wondering, it didn't get better than that. I guess when she said she wanted my offer in writing she meant it. But once that was settled, she proved to be an asset. The rest of the month of March was full of ups and downs. Soon after the Toronto game, Johnny Leveron suffered an injury in training that would keep him out for 6 weeks, leaving us with only Brad Rusin and Bryce Alderson as CBs, and the latter would have to step up his game to fill for Leveron while he was out. However, things got worse on our first game without Johnny. We were playing at home to Columbus, and Kenny Miller had nodded in a delightful cross by Hameur Bouazza when, 9 minutes into the game, Brad Rusin lunged in two footed on Jairo Arrieta. "Brad, what the fuck?" I told him as he walked past us and down the tunnel. "I'm sorry coach, I really am... I thought I could get the ball". He would be suspended for three games but, most importantly, we had a lead to protect and no centre backs available to play. The players on the bench were looking at me to see what I'd do now. I believe these are the truly defining moments. If you're hesitant in this kind of situations, your hesitation spreads to your players, who lose confidence in your leadership, and it can all go down shit creek in a second.

    "Mike, you're in for Angelos" I told Klukowski, while I motioned for him to come closer. "Tell Kenny to sit a bit deeper but to be ready to hit them on the break. I know you don't play in the centre, let alone as a right centre back, but I have the utmost faith in you. And try to keep Bryce focused, any minor slip and we're done." Mike nodded in agreement and walked onto the pitch while Charisteas made his way to the bench.

    What happened after that was well beyond my expectations. Twice before half time Kenny Miller found the back of the net on the break, once assisted by Bouazza and the other time by Steven Beitashour, another of our acquisitions. After the break, Miller hit the target for the fourth time, again assisted by Bouazza, and although Columbus clawed one back through Dominic Oduro with 5 minutes to go, there was no way back in it for them. It was a massive, morale lifting win, all the more so if we consider the circumstances. That was the good.

    Then came the bad. Without Leveron for at least a month and a half, and without Rusin for the next three games, I was forced to sign a centre-half. Three of my four senior CBs were out, and although I promoted teen defender Bob Bridge to the first team, he wasn't anywhere near ready to play for the team, let alone start. As we had reached our salary-level player limit, I had two choices. I could either sign a young-ish defender on a reserve contract or place Leveron on the disabled list for six games and use his spot on the roster. Ironically, I would end up doing both.

    We had a two week break before a game with Houston and I had given the lads a break until the 12th. I decided to enjoy those 2-3 days as well, as the break applied to me, too. Or so I thought?

    [random ringtone]
    [random ringtone again]
    "Jesus fucking Christ, who the hell is it calling me at... oh, it's 2 in the afternoon. How much did I drink? Oh god..."
    I picked up the phone. "Who is it?"
    "It's Amelie. What happened to you, are you ok? I've been calling you all morning-"
    10 lost calls. Ouch. She doesn't like it when I do that. "Yes, yes, I'm sorry, I've had a rough night. What can I help you with?"
    "You can't help me with anything, I'm calling to help YOU. The revs just waived Fagundez"
    "I'm trying to get some sleep, just call me lat... wait, they did WHAT?"
    "They wai-"
    "Yes, yes, it was a rhetorical question. Get in contact with his agent, let him know I'm interested ASAP"
    "I already did, he's coming over to my place to discuss terms, he'll be here in 20 so you better hurry. Oh, and I had Rick move Leveron to the D List to clear space for Fagundez, but he's waiting for your approval."
    "20 minutes? That's not enough time, I need to at least have a shower."
    "That's why I've been ringing you all bloody morning, you drunk fool. Grab some clothes and come here, if you hurry you can have a shower at my place"
    "What's with the name calling, I'm your bo-".

    She hung up. She can be irritating, but god, do I love that woman. She is bold, aggressive and isn't afraid to take the initiative. And I'm not talking about sex here. Anyways, two hours later we had agreed terms with one of the hottest prospects in the league, and while we don't play with an AMC he's versatile enough for us to reconvert him to a forward or a winger. We'll see.

    That's the other good. Now comes the ugly. Our next game was against Houston, an evenly matched game, but it's in the middle of the international break. Half of my squad was away on international duty, including my keeper, three fullbacks, a winger, a striker and a central midfielder, plus Alderson and my other young CB. I asked to postpone the game to no avail, even though the Houston coach supported me. My criticism of the league earned me a suspension and the game had to be managed by my assistant. It ended in a 1-1 draw, with our goal being scored by Charisteas off a pass by Hector Jimenez. I'm guessing it's not going to be the last time that the FIFA calendar and the MLS calendar get in the way of each other.

    After the Houston game we finally signed a centre-half, 6ft 3 Gambian Emmanuel Gomez, formerly of Toronto. At age 22, we could sign him on reserve terms, and although he'd never be good enough to play under normal circumstances, he might just be a decent stop-gap measure.

    The final game of the month was an away game at Chivas USA. We started off well with Charisteas taking full advantage of a defensive lapse to put us 1-0 up. The second goal came quickly as Carlos Borja scored an own goal after a corner, but things gut messy when 40 minutes into the first half Lee Young-Pyo got himself sent off. This time it was Kenny's turn to sit, as Charisteas was proving a handful for the Chivas defense, and although Salmeen scored an own goal to put our victory at risk, the Greek frontman scored with a glancing header just after the break to secure the three points, even though Chivas would claw one back near the end.

    All in all, March wasn't a bad month, but whether our makeshift defense would hold on for much longer remained to be seen. We're yet to keep a clean sheet, and with Alderson and Gomez as our starters, I don't see that changing any time soon.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  20. Chapter IV - Surviving

    April was a tough month. On the back of our 3-2 win against Chivas came another 3-2 win, this time away at San Jose. We had only 5 shots on goal, but all were on target and three of them were clear chances. As I had told the board before I got the job, sometimes you just have to dig in to grind out a win. This was followed by yet another 3-2 win, at home against Real Salt Lake, a brace from Kenny Miller standing out in a fairly decent performance. We were getting the points, but our makeshift defense was leaking goals badly. Still, by mid April we were sitting pretty at the top of the table as the only undefeated team in the league, although we were yet to play the "big boys", namely the Galaxy and the Red Bulls.

    A 3-1 win at Dallas, where Carlos Ruiz got a goal of the week award, cemented our position before the start of the Canadian championship. I wasn't even aware such a thing existed, but apparently it's a short cup competition with four teams, every tie being played over two legs. I had been drawn against Montreal Impact, easily the strongest team in Canada, boasting the likes of Italian internationals Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta and Marco Di Vaio among their ranks. For this game, Johnny Leveron was available once again, and since I thought this competition was nowhere near as important as the league, I decided to throw him straight into the starting lineup.

    We started off on the wrong foot, the referee awarding Montreal a very dubious penalty 9 minutes into the game that was swiftly converted by Patrice Bernier. Although Kenny Miller leveled soon after, Bernardello put Montreal back in front shortly after the break. The Quebecois dominated the rest of the game, getting most of the shots and the best chances, even hitting the woodwork twice. However, when it looked like it was all over, it turned out that the in-form Miller had other plans. Running onto a good pass by Alhassan, he took the ball in his stride and powered it home on 93 minutes. The whole bench rushed onto the pitch to congratulate him. I was ecstatic. I honestly didn't care much for this competition, but to level a game against one of our closest rivals, who had a far better squad, so deep into injury time was a most gratifying experience. The return leg would be at home and I thought we had a decent chance with this result.

    Our final game of the month was Dallas at the BC. After a tough game at their ground I expected a close shave but in the end it was a comfortable 2-0 victory thanks to an Angelos Charisteas brace, twice assisted by Alhassan. April was over and we were still unbeaten and league leaders. At our final backroom meeting of the month, Rick Williams brought the subject up.

    "We've been performig above all expectations, but we all know this is going to end at some point, right?"
    "I believe we do," I replied. "but as long as the players don't, we're golden!"

    We all laughed but soon went back to more serious matters. The return leg against Montreal was on May 1st, and that didn't leave us much time to fool around.
    AndySams10 likes this.

  21. Chapter V - A taste of glory

    The return leg against the Impact was easier than anticipated. We controlled the game from the moment the ref blew his whistle, a quick double by Kenny Miller helping us to a 2-0 win and a place in the finals against Toronto, and our second clean sheet of the season. The joy was not to last, though, as our next game, away at Real Salt Lake, brought us bad news. Kenny Miller suffered a double leg break after a horrific challenge that the ref didn't even deem a foul. We managed to rescue a draw thanks to a late goal by Charisteas, but losing our designated player and top goalscorer dealt a hard blow to our chances, particularly considering our next game was LA Galaxy at home.

    That was a far sterner test than what we had faced so far. A forward pairing of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane facing Johnny Leveron and the inexperienced Emmanuel Gomez? A rout was on the cards, and when the game begun our worst fears were confirmed, as the Galaxy threatened our goal time and time again. Finally, half an hour into the game, Robbie Rogers got the first goal for LA. "If we can hold on till half time we might just turn this around", I thought. It was not to be, as just before half time Rogers got his second. While my main concern for the game had been my centre backs, it was Klukowski, playing at left back, that proved most vulnerable. A sigh of relief mixed with disappointment could be heard around the ground as the referee called time on the first half.

    "We've been poor and you know it. They may have some top, top players in their team, but I expect more from you, and so do those fans. This may be a retirement league for the Robbie Keanes or Thierry Henrys of the world, but not for us. We're expected to work hard. I expect you to work hard. So let's get out there and give 100%. If we are to lose, at least we'll do it with our dignity intact. Let's go get them!"

    The response was almost immediate. It wasn't reflected on the scoreline right away, mind you, but the team showed a different attitude, with Charisteas heading inches away five minutes into the half. A handful of minutes later, a foul by Omar Gonzalez inside the box was overlooked by the ref, but we were not to be denied for long. On 60 minutes, after a scramble in the box, Emmanuel Gomez hit the back of the net. Soon after, Rogers had to leave the game after being injured by Klukowski, who got booked, and I decided to replace him with Lee for the final minutes of the game. It proved to be a lucky call - on the 89th minute, Salmeen found Lee open outside the box and the Korean set himself up before unleashing a powerful strike past the hapless Jaime Penedo. The fans were ecstatic, and even though we missed a couple of chances in added time, I was more than happy with the draw. It wasn't only a good result, but it was also a morale-raising one in preparation for a tough run of games: away at Toronto for the first leg of the Canadian Championship final, a derby against Portland, the return leg of the final and a trip to New York to face the Red Bulls.

    Things went a lot better than expected: The first game against Toronto was hard-fought, but we were in control for most of the 90 minutes and right after the break Charisteas managed to curl a cracking long range effort past the hapless Stefan Frei. The real surprise, however, was the game against Portland. 25 seconds into the game, Bouazza put us in front, and three minutes later Rusin doubled our lead. 2 minutes later Charisteas scored his first goal of the game. Alhassan made it 4-0 on 16 minutes and Charisteas scored twice more on 21 and 30 minutes to put us 6-0 up. I decided to rest a few key players for the second half in anticipation of the second leg against Toronto and the scoreline wasn't altered in the final 45 minutes. Confidence among the players was at its highest, and so was the trust the fans and most importantly the board had in me.

    The second leg of the final was, in the end, a walk in the park. Goals by Charisteas and Reo-Coker gave us a 2-0 win in a game we dominated with ease. It was my first-ever title, as either player or manager, and I was thrilled. While it was a relatively minor competition, it was the first time since its inception that Vancouver took the trophy home. Furthermore, it gave us a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, and 80 thousand dollars I could use for transfer purposes.

    The game at New York on June 1 was a different matter. We had a few shots during the first half and Charisteas put us in front just before the break, his goal turning him into the top season goalscorer in Whitecaps history. From then on, however, it was all New York, who -luckily for us- were without the injured Thierry Henry. They had a glorious chance wasted by Dax McCarty, who had hit the woodwork in the first half, and decent chances for Timmy Cahill and Bradley Wright-Phillips, but Donovan Ricketts had a blinder and managed to keep us in front. When the ref blew his whistle, there was a huge sigh of relief coming from the away stand where our fans had been biting their nails throughout the half.

    We had had four clean sheets in a row, after finding them hard to come by during most of the season. We had held out against LA, had won the Canadian Championship and had beaten NY at their place, even if it they were without their star player. As we rode the bus back to Vancouver -we had a few days off and the chairman was feeling like saving a few extra bucks-, I couldn't get something off my mind. Sitting alone at the back, I couldn't help but worry about our goalscoring. Granted, we had put 6 past Portland, but none of those came from Kenny Miller's replacement, Guatemalan veteran striker Carlos Ruiz. Charisteas was on fire, and our midfielders had pitched in with a few goals of their own, but what would happen if Charisteas' goals dried up, or if he got injured? We needed a killer in the box, someone who we could rely on to score goals regularly. As I was thinking on potential alternatives for Ruiz, my mobile rang.

    "It's me, Amelie. Bob sent me an e-mail, he's offering an extension. Before you say anything, there's been contact from Mexico. The season is about to begin down there and a couple of teams asked about your availability, being on a short-term deal and all."
    "I'm not going to leave the boys mid-season, plus I'm pretty comfortable here anyways. Thank the Mexicans for their interest but I'd rather prolong my stay."
    "Alright, when do I set up the meeting with Bob?"
    "Don't, I won't be back for a couple of days and I'll be quite busy when I get there. Could you handle this for me? I trust your judgement."
    "Well, considering I get 10% of whatever you earn, I should try to get you a good deal, shouldn't I?"

    I laughed, said goodbye and hung up. "Enough chit-chat," I thought. "Back to business. Next game is Seattle away, followed by New England and Chivas at home? all in the middle of the international break. This is going to suck..."
    AndySams10 likes this.

  22. Chapter VI - It's not about not going down, but about getting back on your feet

    "This is Joe Maher from the American Soccer Messenger. Sigi, first of all, congratulations on the win. What's your take on the game? How did you manage to stop the so far undefeated Whitecaps?"
    "Well, it was always going to be a tough match" replied Sigi Schmidt, "but once we were 2-0 up we just had to dig in and hope for the best, that's all you can do when facing such a talented team-"
    "What's that smell?" I interrupted. All of the cameras quickly turned to me. "It's like a mixture of bull and shit."
    A murmur was heard across the room, and the look on Schmidt?s face was just priceless. "...excuse me?"
    "You know what I'm talking about. You may brag about defeating our team, but you are well aware that I had to buy a new keeper just to have someone older than 15 between the sticks. Half of my starters were away on international duty thanks to this stupid calendar. You're lucky none of your players are good enough to play for their national teams." That wasn't entirely true because Dempsey was a member of the USMNT, but I didn't really care.
    The Seattle press officer was indignant. "Mr. Perna I'm going to have to ask you to-"
    ?Shit up? You can kiss my ass, I'm leaving. Fuck you, and fuck whoever designed this calendar"
    "That would be commissioner Garber" said one of the journalists in the press room.
    "Well then, fuck him" I said, as I stood up and walked out of the room. Most of the press walked out with me, trying to get a few answers.
    "Are you planning on complaining to FIFA about MLS not respecting their calendar?"
    "Are you going to leave the MLS for Mexico? We've heard of interest from Pachuca and Tijuana."
    "What are you going to do for the next couple of games?"
    I turned around at the door and addressed them collectively. "All I can tell you is that I'm not planning on losing the next few games, even if I have to take the pitch myself. Now go back to the press room, Sigi must be feeling lonely over there."

    As I walked out, the smile I had worn so naturally on my face during the conference vanished. It had all been a charade. Deep down, I felt was a mixture of sadness and fear. It was my first ever defeat as a manager, and it felt like crap. I hadn't expected it, either. Furthermore, it was a derby defeat, and I didn't know how the players would take it. Not well, I suppose. I got on the team bus and, as expected, the lads were not looking good. Without saying a word I walked past them to the back of the bus. I hadn't even sat down when my phone rang. A familiar female voice was on the other side.

    "You idiot, you're going to get fined for that. Why did you have to take a swing at Garber?"
    "I was pissed. Plus, I wanted to put on a little show, you know..."
    "Oh, enjoying the spotlight, aren't you?"
    "Something like-"
    She didn't let me finish. "A few months ago you were so desperate to get the job that you got me fired. Now you're just wasting your money to "put on a show"... You're turning into a cocky idiot really quickly, did you know that?"
    "Hey, I-"
    She hung up, but I wasn't about to let the issue die out so easily and dialed back. She sent me straight to voicemail, though.
    "I know you're there, pick up. I'm sorry, I was pissed after the defeat and I figured I could try a few mind games before the next couple of games. I'm sorry."
    Soon she texted me back. "I'll pick up when you stop acting like a child. Play all the "mind games" (What the hell is that, anyways?) you want, but that was just a tantrum. Show some class next time. And grow up, it's not going to be the last time you get beaten".
    "Grow up". That comment really pissed me off. Who was she to tell me to grow up? But then it hit me. I was sitting alone at the back of the bus like an angry child after throwing a little tantrum in the middle of a press conference while my players were shouldering the burden of our first defeat, in a derby nonetheless. It was not only childish, but it also showed a lack of character... she might just have a point. I got up and hurried to the front of the bus.

    "Come here, lads." I told the players. "It was always going to be a tough game. Those who had to step up did well and I'm proud of all of you. Don't worry, we'll get revenge sooner rather than later. I know a few of you are off to your respective international commitments tomorrow, but those who stay, I want you to know that I have the utmost faith in you. We have a tough couple of home games coming, but I know you will be up for them. I told the press we weren't planning on losing either game, are you with me on that?"
    Nigel spoke up for everyone. "Yes, coach. I'm sure we'll do the fans proud. And I'm sure we?ll make them pay next time we meet."
    "Great. Now try to get some rest, next game is coming soon and I' plan on working your asses off when we get back home."

    A few hours later, as we were reaching Vancouver, I got an e-mail notifying me of the 50k fine imposed by the league for my "inappropriate behavior and offensive language". I couldn't care any less. But it reminded me that I had a phone call to make.

    "Of course it's me who else is it going to be? You do know it's 2 AM, right?"
    "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn?t realize. I-"
    "Can't it wait till tomorrow?"
    "I... I guess it-"
    "Good. I'll talk to you then."
    "Okay, sorry". She had already hung up. Tough woman this one, I thought.

    I didn't have much luck with her the next day, either. I did have some more luck with my pep talk on board the bus, though. Even though I only had 14 players available for the next 2 games we got a 1-1 draw against New England -courtesy of a 94 minute penalty converted by Carlos Ruiz- and a 2-0 win against Chivas, followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw against DC United in our last game in June. Still, going undefeated for three games after the derby loss wasn't that bad. First game of July was away at Sporting Kansas City, and then it would be payback time... a home derby against none other than the Seattle Sounders.

  23. First defeat, and we deserved to lose.
    A cold, wet, windy Wednesday night...-seattle-v-vancouver_-overview-overview.png

  24. Chapter VII - Up, down then up again!

    Kansas City was no match for us. We only got a 1-0 win, but we dominated the game and only an inspired performance by their 'keeper prevented a rout. But the real joy came with the game against Seattle. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. And this was a cold, wet, windy night at the BC for Sigi Schmidt and his boys. Eddie Johnson put them in front 24 minutes into the game and Ruiz leveled for us 6 minutes later. But after denying us at every opportunity their keeper was heartbroken when first Bouazza on 91 minutes and then Heinemann on 93 hit the back of the net to give us a 3-1 win. I did publicly apologize to Sigi for my previous comments but for the US media I was already a "bad boy", and for the local press I was a lovable anti-hero of sorts. A Canadian newspaper gave me front page with the title "What's that smell? It's like a mixture of victory and revenge".

    We didn't have much time to rest on our laurels, though. After a convincing 2-0 win over Chicago came a tough away match against Los Angeles, where only the profligacy of their strikers kept the score at 0-0 throughout the 90 minutes. While it was a performance to be proud of, considering LA were our closest rivals in the league, we were unable to build on it as a week later we lost our first home game of the season, a 2-1 defeat to Philadelphia in a game we dominated, but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net. It was a day to forget, as our following game would be our continental debut. We had been drawn in a group with Mexican side Toluca and Guatemalan Comunicaciones, and we were to face the seasoned Toluca first. In a game like that you want, or rather need, your players to be in good spirits.

    During midweek most of our exercises were focused on defensive play, but we also let the players enjoy themselves with some team bonding exercises aimed at keeping them in a good mood. Although Leveron would miss the game with injury, I trusted Bryce Alderson to hold his own at the heart of defense. When the crucial day finally came, they were raring to go.

    "Lads" I told them in the locker room, "this is the first time ever this club has qualified for continental competition. This fans will, for the first time, enjoy the experience of an elite football tounament. Let's make them proud!?"A roar of approval came from the players and we made our way towards the pitch, where the fans greeted us with cheers of joy.

    Spurred by our support, we got in front really quickly, Reo-Coker taking advantage of a scramble in the box to score a short-range shot. The Mexicans were unable to get a foothold on the game and throughout the first half we dominated them, which made my team talk at the break rather easy.

    "We've done well so far boys, but we need to stay focused. They're veterans in these kind of games, both here and in the Libertadores, so we must keep pushing forward. A second goal would be great, but just keeping them in their half would do us the world of good. Now let's go!"

    The second goal took it?s time to arrive. It was substitute Omar Salgado -who would in the end be named man of the match- with a powerful header following a corner kick who got the goal that put the game beyond doubt. If there was any, that is, because he had most of the possession until that point and we had almost triple the amount of shots on target, and that was counting their long shots. When the ref blew the final whistle, the fans let their excitement be heard. "Good job lads" was all I had to say to my boys after the game. "Let's have some fun now, shall we? Go out, get some drinks, enjoy yourselves tonight." As the players left the dressing room, Nigel turned back and asked me if I wanted to join them at a nearby pub. I respectfully declined. "That would undermine my position", I thought. But nothing was going to stop me from getting drunk tonight... just not with the rest of the squad.

    I stopped by a pub on my way home. I walked towards the bar and asked the bartender for a beer. When she brought it, she stared at me for a second. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
    "Believe me, if we had met before I'd remember you", I told her. She was quite pretty, really. Dark skin, short, black hair, and big brown eyes, maybe a bit short, but I wasn't exactly tall, either. After my compliment she just smiled and went to pour another guy a drink.
    As I drank my pint, my phone rang. "Amelie", read the screen. I was about to pick up when the barmaid came back.
    "I know who you are! You are the Whitecaps manager, aren't you? Here, this one's on the house!" she said, handing me a new pint.
    "Fuck it", I thought. Amelie darling, it's your turn to pay a visit to my voicemail. I turned to the barmaid: "Yes, yes I am. You can call me Alejandro. Thank you for the drink by the way, but you needn't. I'll tell you what, have a drink with me" I told her, handing her a few bucks. Amelie called again but I didn't pick up, either, and she didn't try again.
    A few hours (and drinks) later, the pub was closing. As I made my way out, I heard the barmaid behind me. "There's a room upstairs, if you want to stick around for a cup of coffee..."

  25. I'm not sure anyone's even reading this anymore but in the end I won the league and it kinda became pointless to keep writing as I had expected this to be a big big challenge which in the end it wasn't. If anyone's still reading or is interested in the MLS I wouldn't mind posting a couple more OOC updates on how things ended up, the draft, and stuff like that.

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