17 days is a LONG time to wait between games for any sports fan.
The time between matches always seems longer following anything other than a victory.
Time drags even slower when that non-victory was in conjunction with an absence of a score and, hence, the celebratory release of emotion fans enjoy when the team on the field achieves precisely that which they’re attempting to do.
So, how do you quantify the movement of time when the entire season has proceeded without your team scoring a goal at all?
Sidebar: I don’t count penalty kicks. They’re not exciting, really, even if they do achieve a score. Actually, it’s more exciting when a penalty kick fails, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Luckily for me, I was able to fill the void with the start of the NFL season (you know…American football), a baseball pennant race, a camping trip, my part-time gig as a high school (American) football official, and avoiding as much of the Kevin Pezzoni nonsense as I reasonably could.
Nonetheless, I awoke Monday glad that, unlike those in Germany, I didn’t have to spend the entire day waiting for kickoff, as the game was set to kick-off before lunch here on the west coast.
Though, it’s worth noting that my NFL team—the Detroit Lions—actually played the Sunday night marquee game, which means I spent most of my Sunday in hyper anticipation of what turned out to be a limp effort resulting in a loss and a somewhat foul mood.
Consecutive days of that, I really didn’t need.
As it was, I spent my Monday morning antsy for the game’s kick-off. While I was certainly anticipating the season’s first victory for the Effzeh, I think I was even more excited that, in my way of thinking, there was simply NO WAY the goal drought could continue. Statistically speaking, I was sure that someone in white had to put the ball behind the St. Pauli keeper and that I was going to explode in one of the longest build-ups to a score I can even imagine. It’s been a month and change, after all!
My enthusiasm for the match was further bolstered when both Anthony Ujah and Sascha Bigalke were announced as being in the line-up. I’ve admitted publicly that I had never heard of Ujah before reading he was being loaned to the Billy Goats the morning of my birthday and just before sitting down to watch the Cottbus match, but I also was irrationally thrilled by the addition of Bigalke. I’d seen him play only in Köln’s DFB Cup opening match at Unterhaching, but it seemed evident even to my untrained eye that he was a disruptively energetic player. I was so big a believer in him as a player, that I had actually compared him to Shinji Kagawa.
With the insertion of the two new players and a few other changes, Stani was clearly mixing things up on the field in the hopes of breaking the goalless streak as well as earning his first three-pointer as the bench boss in Köln, both at the expense of a club he called home for over 15 years.
It was going to be great!
And, it WAS great in large swaths, such the first ten minutes of the match when it was evident the new-look line-up was the right selection as the Billy Goats dominated possession and fired several shots on goal that were denied only by superb efforts on the part of St. Pauli keeper Philipp Tschauner.
Just a matter of time…
And, it still feels like it’s just a matter of time, but that time is going to be at least four days longer than what I had in mind. St. Pauli returned to Hamburg with a point after a scoreless draw while we Effzeh fans are left to puzzle over a match that looked like a victory in every sense of the word other than the final score.
Part of our collective coping strategy as a fan base is going to be adapting “Bigalke” as a mantra. The young newcomer established himself quickly with the same style of energetic play he showed in the game against Köln that likely caught the attention of management. In the game’s sixth minute, Bigalke launched a bending shot that would have curled itself into the net just inside the post were it not for the first of several outstanding plays by Tshauner. Though a goal would have done so even more firmly, Bigalke instantly established himself as the talk of the town just ten minutes into his Effzeh career.
And the apple-cheeked kid with the unmistakable blonde hair was not even the lone bright spot.
The defense, while far from perfect, helped Timo Horn post his first clean sheet.
Adam Matuschyk was back from injury and was…Matuschyk-y, earning a card just 16 minutes after the game’s start.
Ujah showed enough to establish he’s likely more interesting a striker than Chong Tese or Mikael Ishak at this point, but is bound to do more as he gets to know his teammates.
Effzeh outshot St. Pauli 22-8 on the evening, despite the four men in midfield and attack were playing their first game together ever.
Christian Clemens and Daniel Royer have yet to get a chance to see what they can do when inserted into the line-up with their new teammates, rather than being substituted on late in the game.
Granted, some/most of this is sheer optimism, which is my default mode as a fan. They were already bound to start scoring eventually (everyone does), but the performance Monday showed a fully different-looking style and level of ability on the offensive end. Between the shot differential and the time of possession, however, it’s clear to me that it’s not just being optimistic and wanting the team to crawl out of the relegation zone. There is some real progress and potential here.
Is it possible the team goes into Berlin Friday and completely lays yet another egg on the field and on the scoreboard? Of course it is.
And, should that happen, it’s going to contribute to an incredibly long stretch between games where we all get to deal with the reality of continued struggles topped with concerns that the promising play of Monday night was just an anomaly.
Right now, I can’t even consider that. In fact, it hurt my brain to even type that.
I hope Bigalke and Ujah are back in the starting eleven Friday at Union. I also have to believe Clemens will start the game on the field.
Until I see different, however, I’m just going to keep replaying those bright moments in my head knowing they’re going to develop into something resembling success.