Among the more consistent frustrations the past few years has been Red Star’s complete inability to make the Coupe de la Ligue matter, or at least be enjoyable – after both 2015’s first round exit at the hands of AJ Auxerre and last year’s particularly annoying implosion against Paris FC, we comforted ourselves by brushing off the competition all together, falling into the comfort of “now we can focus on league play,” etc. etc. etc. Why allow your heart to be broken into a golden cup when it’s so completely unreachable, even in the primary stages?
We can take this broader – for all of the soaring highs of the last handful of seasons, in a lot of ways Red Star’s general ascent, both upward through the tiers of French soccer and in the general, hipster-centric consciousness, actions on the field have more or less been defined not so much by the achievements, but as the subsequent tripping and falling down the stairs moments. Promotion was paradigm-shattering, of course, and the elation and disappointment of pushing for a spot in Ligue 1 (one point! Fucking Bob Bradley, double agent.) was so outside of what seemed intellectually possible that it still sort of feels like a fever dream (having a completely different roster, coaching staff, and stadium since doesn’t necessarily cement the reality of that season, either).
The boring, frustrating stank of last season, despite getting the team back to Bauer, has set the attitude for how to conceptualize the team, unfortunately. Yesterday’s match is exactly the sort of contest we expect to lose, and then the team fulfills these cranky expectations with gusto. Which is exactly why it’s so delirium-inducing to watch a squad that’s been together for what…a month? show such flashes of creativity and, fingers crossed, fun.
For as stagnant and listless as last season’s offense consistently was, this team played a high level of inspired, forward-seeking soccer consistently against an ostensibly much higher grade of competition. Grégoire Lefebvre is a revelation in midfield, streaking to the ball like a sherbet-booted electron. Ludovic Sylvestre is as steady as ever, adding a dimension of rhythmic calm to an otherwise very young team. One day the nameless Matias Ferreira will graduate to a complete kit after a few more sneaky-quick rushes from the right wing. Charley Fomen is a slab of beef.
And Teddy Teuma…I’m resisting the urge to anoint him the Bauer’s Next Big Thing™, but it feels like Régis Brouard has knocked this one out of St-Ouen. He may be young, and (yes, still) unproven, and he may have the hairline that’s more banlieue fish monger than world class footballer, but an energized Mhirisi dropping through balls to TT’s feet beneath a flash of Keita and Sané up top has the potential to be something electric.
Revenge has our teeth buzzing, especially against regular antagonist (and former tablemate) AJ Auxerre, and we seem, at least, to have a little bit of momentum for the second round matchup against Gazélec Ajaccio on Corsica.
Winning is fun! Cup wins are great fun! But watching Bauer jolt to life like an electrode-studded frog when Teuma slotted in the winning penalty – in a game that Red Star felt obliged to crumble in years past, no less – that’s enough to leave you breathless.