By Ryan Fleming
Few American soccer fans are lucky enough to have their favorite team come to the United States, have a majority of their games televised and even fortunate to attend one. Celtic FC, my favorite team, is currently taking part in a preseason tour in the U.S. Two of its games have been nationally televised, and I am lucky enough to attend their upcoming game at Fenway Park in Boston this Wednesday.
Despite all these fortunes I am rather down, almost embarrassed on what I have seen or heard so far.
1. The Hoops are in no way on the same page – Losing to the Philadelphia Union was near embarrassing. Celtic seemed like an lower-rate side in nearly every facet of the game. Its passing was off, and its shots were off target, making the Hoops seem like they were a European afterthought more than a contender for a a championship in a European league.
In Sunday’s 2-1 win over Seattle, Celtic didn’t look much better. There was a lack of fluidity in its play, no real solid passes and the movement up the field was haphazard. Despite going ahead 1-0 and their opposition down to 10 men, the Hoops didn’t control play like they should have and didn’t press like they will be expected to do. I realize that they have only played as a team for three friendlys with players coming in weekly, and they are improving, but as a team with high expectations Celtic looks way off, weeks, even months off from playing as a whole unit.
2. Celtic’s preseason schedule will harm them more than help – I am all for scheduling friendlys against tough opponents in order to get fit and ready for the upcoming season. What I don’t understand is how Celtic could arrange such a schedule and see it as being beneficial; it seems more suicidal.
The Bhoys are in the midst of playing four games in seven days, a near intolerable amount. At the end of the month Celtic travel to North London to take part in the Emirates Cup where they will face host-squad Arsenal, Lyon and AC Milan – daunting foes to even the most accomplished of teams. I have faith in my team, so much in fact that it borders on mentally unstable, but when I saw its opposition in this warm-up tournament, I was in disbelief.
Not only is Celtic almost certainly unable to compete with Arsenal and other hefty competition (it was showed in the teams’ Champions League Qualifier) using their first team starters, I could not fathom how they would fair against the Gunners the day after they play Lyon. I’d like my team to stay competitive, not embarrass itself.
3. No fans will be gained here – I’m fully aware of the main purposes that preseason friendlys are supposed to achieve. An out-of-shape, relatively new squad takes that time to gel, get used to how one another plays and the onlooking manager uses this time to see who he’s going to dedicate time to and who will get sent down to the reserve team. An additional purpose of the visit is to spread Celtic’s name and brand to fans of the game that normally do not get a chance to see the team play and perhaps gain some supporters along the way.
Celtic, though, won’t see their fan base increase.
This lackluster play on national television isn’t doing it any favors. Despite the 2-1 win over Seattle, who were playing with 10 men most of the game, Celtic look like a second-rate team struggling to move forward. The play is boring and bland. More people were surely changing the channel than leaving their remotes alone.
Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, but having a desire for your team to perform when others see it as inferior to most is something that I take personally, especially when they are as storied as Celtic is.
Ryan Fleming is a writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.