At long last we come to the end of the journey. The Seattle Sounders fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday night, winning 2-1. Somehow it doesn’t feel right. We should have won. It was our season. But every team can say that. Soccer is a cruel, cruel game.
It hurts so much to lose in the semifinals. I sang in the rain for three hours in 2012 only to watch the Galaxy leave the pitch victorious. I huddled on the couch with a bitchin’ head cold this weekend, only to suffer the same. This intimate knowledge with ascendency-interruptus is compounded with being an Eagles fan. Losing in the championship hurts, but it is an accomplishment in and of itself to stand in the arena and play. But losing in the semis? Knowing your team was good but not good enough? Not good enough for at least a shot at the top? That is a special sort of hurt.
In my heart of hearts, I selfishly and jealously feel the Sounders were the better team. I honestly do. I believed. I believed like in the Open Cup, that late RSL game and the first L.A. series. I believed that these Sounders would somehow find a way to get it done. As they had for the past eight months. These Sounders fight and, against all odds, win. That they didn’t hurts.
Losing to L.A. is double-edged. We lost to an incredible team. There’s honor in that. If Dallas had snuck in, or RSL, and beat us, that would’ve been an obvious stumble for a team chasing the treble. But L.A.? There’s honor in that. But it’s L.A. They’ve now knocked us out of the playoffs three times in the last five years. It’s embarrassing. Losing to them is becoming an annual tradition. Sigi and Adrian and Chris can assemble an incredible team and L.A. will still just beat us. That’s embarrassing. They can smirk all the way to diving class. They can smirk while they stop, drop and roll away the last two minutes of regulation.
Am I bitter? You bet I am. If the ref cards Penedo for time wasting and yet doesn’t add a second of time, that seems a little unfair. If L.A. checks Dempsey every time the ball finds his feet and we’re never awarded a free kick, that seems odd. The gamesmanship and flopping and Juninho rolling around howling didn’t cost Seattle the game, but it bled precious minutes off the clock. Maybe a better team would’ve never been in that situation, but we found ourselves desperately needing a goal in the dying moments. L.A. had no qualms resorting to various ploys and petty tactics to milk the clock in their favor.
Worse part, I feel like we lost this game back in Carson. Last week I was proud of our resolve, thinking hey, we’re only down a goal, without a top-flight lineup away. On the heels of the Galaxy’s dismantling of RSL, I felt we performed admirably. But it wasn’t good enough. We worked hard and hustled, but it wasn’t good enough. Seattle, on the balance, was not good enough.
But maybe they were. Over the five games L.A. and Seattle played this year, the series is tied 2-2-1. These teams are so close. If L.A. and Seattle played this series ten more times with the same exact conditions, weather, health, etc., do we win 6, 7, 9 of them? How often does Juninho’s goal go in, or Sarvas’s last week? Does Penedo always make that double save? Do Clint’s shots always go just awry? What ifs, what ifs what ifs.
Defeat is made of should’ves. Honestly there is nothing the Sounders should’ve done, or could’ve done, better. They players played their best and still lost. And that’s just it. Regret is made of what ifs.