Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things

October 30, 2005

Stream of Consciousness: FCD v Colorado – Conf. Semis, 2nd Leg

by @ 10:44 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer

I just don’t even know where to begin. I could just barely bring myself to write this column. There are words that describe this defeat. “Crushing”, for instance, seems to work nicely. “Nightmare” springs to mind as well.

The Cid and I, along with her son John, made the trip down for the game. It’s John’s first professional soccer match, though he himself, at age nine, is already a goal scorer in his YMCA league. He was fired up about hanging with the Inferno, so as you can see, he’s a really bright boy, as well as talented.

I’m always nervous before these big games, but in my heart of hearts I just knew we were going to win this game. The Rapids just don’t have anything on us. But, on the other hand, I’ve followed both the USA and Dallas for a long time now, so I was prepared for anything.

Well, almost anything. I wasn’t really prepared for this. How could I be?

I wasn’t even worried when Colorado scored late in the first half. It was a typical loose goal, given up by our talented but undeniably diaphanous defense. Jeff Cunningham stood unmarked six yards away from goal and headed in a well taken cross. A good goal, but still not a cause for worry. A rare lapse in my normally pessimistic outlook, I’ll concede, and a lapse that probably will never happen again.

It seemed, at the time, that I was dead on correct, however, because the second half was all FCD. Especially when Nkong was sent off and we started ripping through the Colorado defense, it seemed a matter of time.

And then, Carlos Ruiz. Carlos came alive.

Carlos scored two goals out of nothing. Nothing. He single handedly kept us in the game. He was sublime, he was perfect. He was en fuego. He was superhuman. He tied the game in regulation with a goal that had no business being scored. He did nothing short of will that ball into the goal. Then he gave us the lead in the first extra period from a header he hit with three guys draped all over him. It was beauty itself.

And then . . .

After he conjured those two goals like a magician makes a coin appear in your ear, he was brought down in the box; you just knew – well, I just knew, we were in. We were there. We were going to the Conference finals. And then, he hit the post.

Yeah. He hit the post on the penalty kick.

He hit the post so hard it would still be ringing if the PHP crew handn’t dismantled the goals within minutes of the end of the match. He hit the post so hard seismographs all across central Texas lit up like pinball machines, and will have to be recalibrated on Monday. He hit the post so hard little chips of white paint were lodged in Joe Cannon’s beady little eyes.

You can’t blame him for it. It’s just the nature of the game. Roberto Baggio missed a penalty that cost Italy the World Cup in ‘94; that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the all-time greats. It just happens sometimes. As Robert Duvall said at the end of A Shot At Glory after Allie McCoist missed a pk to lose the Scottish Cup: “That’s football son“.

Carlos, who had scored two goals when there were no goals to be had, stood on the penalty spot with a look on his face not unlike the look you see on people who have just experienced a successful airbag deployment on a highway. Kinda stunned, kinda incoherent, kinda other-worldly, as if they aren’t really sure if they’re in real life or a dream.

We finally got a call from Terry Vaughan, and didn’t convert. That’s like getting a call from the Governor right before they throw the switch on the electric chair, then confessing to another crime.

But like I said, that’s the nature of the game. That’s the nature of the cruel, cruel game of soccer.

All the rest of it – the Kotchau goal that never should have happened, the posts that got hit, the unconscious goalkeeping of Joe Cannon, the miss by Mina – it’s all like a blur now. One second we were in it, and the next some no-name scrub from the Colorado bench is running past the Inferno, giving us the two-armed Italian salute. How does that happen?

A group of about a dozen of us just sat in section 116 for about 30 minutes. Just soaking in the misery. We gave a yell to Simo, who clapped for us from midfield. The rest of the players, except for the great Bobby Rhine, just headed for the lockers. You can’t fault them for that; they’d just been gutshot and needed first aid.

But I’m telling you here and now (and I’ve said it before), Bobby Rhine exudes classiness from every pore. After everyone else had gone, he walked, slowly, all the way to our end, climbed over the advertising signs, shook everyone’s hand, and thanked each of us personally for coming and supporting the team. I wish I could describe the look of pain on his face. It was somewhere between “my dog just died” and “I just got kicked really hard in the crotch”. He was inconsolable, but still took the time to give some love to the folks who screamed their guts out for him that night.

It’s even more cruel for the fact that Bobby had his best game of the season. He and Chris Gbandi, two guys who have taken a lot of heat this season, were incredible. Bobby set up the first goal, and G-man set up the second. They both nearly scored in extras; had Chris hit the bicycle kick that just missed, he’d be a legend forever. He missed by not more than a foot.

Did I mention how cruel a game it is, this soccer?

Anyway, there’s more I could cover, but you get the point. I’m surprised I made it this far.

And I guess that’s it for the Stream of Consciousness for this season. Thanks to all the folks who read The Stream regularly, and especially those of you who take the time to tell me how much you enjoy it. Thanks again to Buzz for giving me the opportunity to take up space on his ever-brilliant 3rd Degree. Thanks to the boys for making it a season to remember, for both good and bad. Win lose or draw, you just can’t help but love them, ya know?

See you next season.

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