I didn’t want to watch last night’s game. After Saturday’s gut-punch against Chicago the season was psychologically over. And yet it wasn’t officially over...United were lingering. It really is a shame that Jack Kevorkian is dead, because we needed someone of his ilk to come along and kick the plug on the life-support machine out of the wall.
Failure is one thing: I’m very familiar with failure and — not to brag — I’m getting pretty good at it. I fail at more things before 6 a.m. than most people do all day. I can take a heapin’ helpin’ of failure. But to have that failure spread out over several weeks, and to have glimmers of hope sporadically pop up only to be immediately consumed by the dense, rancid, churning pile of failure, was particularly cruel.
I was ready to move on. I was ready to turn my attention to the questions United will face this offseason, such as: if Dwayne De Rosario tries to leave, will Kasper and Payne grab on to his legs and yell “noooooo!” like my nephew does when his dad leaves for work? Will Charlie Davies return for a reduced salary, say $6.15 an hour? Should Joseph Ngwenya be put out on an ice flow, or should he be loaded into a rocket and shot into space?
And yet, there were 90 minutes of soccer plus what seemed like about an hour and 20 minutes of stoppage time left to play. It was truly one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched: with both teams needing a win, they completely vacated the middle of the field for the last 10 minutes and took turns snuffing out each other’s great chances. It was All-Star game-level defense in a league match.
Bill Hamid made several great saves, only to be matched at the other end by Troy Perkins. De Rosario almost won the game all by himself. Ngwenya proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he will never, ever, score. There were shouts for penalties, shots off the crossbar, a goal (correctly) called back for offside, and a split-second where it seemed like Blake Brettschneider might salvage United’s season. I’ll say this: it was exciting.
So, in one way, the season wasn’t a failure. I made it to the second-to-last game of the season still caring. Last year it was during the national anthem of the first match that I somehow understood that we were not going to make the playoffs. We got to watch a lot of exciting young players. Some excelled, some didn’t. Some excelled at first, then floundered, then flopped, then whined, then sued a bar for serving alcohol. So, in a way, we got what we wanted: entertainment.
But — to paraphrase the Simpsons — in another, more accurate way, the season was a total failure. Since preseason, the stated goal was to make the playoffs — that is, to be better than 44.5 percent of the teams in the league. That didn’t happen. If it had, United fans would have been treated to something we haven’t experienced since 2007: getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. It also would have been a nice line on Ben Olsen’s resume. But it didn’t happen and all we can do is be disappointed.
So, I’m flipping the switch to offseason mode. Time to start buying champagne for your “Joseph Ngwenya has been non-tendered” party. Time to speculate about draft picks that none of us have seen play. Time to wring our hands about how much it will cost to keep De Ro as a free agent, then click over to news about baseball’s free agents and laugh ourselves silly. But, as a goodbye to this season, I want to do one more set of player rankings for this last match. I’m not going to do numbers; I’m going to do word-association based on how I felt about them at exactly 10 p.m. on Wednesday night.
White: Not ready.
De Rosario: MVP.
Wolff: Lesser of four evils.
Davies: League minimum.
Da Luz: Bench.
Ngwenya: We thank you for your service to the club.