The End of the Beginning

When we originally set up a team party to watch the USA U-20 team take on Albania, the hope was that it was going to be a celebration of Alex Barton’s World Cup debut.  Instead, it turned into a wake, as a horribly-timed knock in our last cup match and the resulting drop in form put paid to his chances of joining the squad, at least for now.

Of course, we put the best possible face on it.  Denzell Koszarek, generally the leader of the young lads, did everything possible to make it an Irish wake, smuggling in a few bottles of Talisker and an array of snacks usually forbidden by our nutrition staff.  Meanwhile, the Mad Magyars kept the side in stitches by scheming up ever more elaborate revenge plots on the FC Keto midfielder that nicked Barton, while Nicky King debuted a new and wildly successful impersonation of manager David Jorgensen.

For the most part, Barton tried to join in the fun.  However, in the quieter moments, he would stare blankly at his bandaged thigh or look wistfully out the window as the incumbent US winger sent in another cross.  Still, his eyes stayed dry and, by the end, his smiles did not seem entirely forced.

There was one other incident of note.  Jorgensen, incensed by the failure of the U-20 coach to offer even pro forma condolences after SSW spent three seasons focusing all its training efforts on getting Barton to the brink of U-20, offered a few choice Danish expletives and hung up on the hapless national team staffer who called to suggest a training plan for Barton to narrowly miss out on making the senior national side in a decade.  When he turned apologetically to Barton afterward, the kid offered an enthusiastic “damn straight, skip” and turned the conversation to our upcoming opponents.  Who knows if this will hold, but an Alex Barton fully focused on SSW would be a terrifying prospect for our foes.


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