It’s good and right to lean into that right now. That’s OK. We’ll all get beyond this, players, coaches, and supporters alike. But right now a legitimate sadness exists because after all we’ve come through, from bottom to top and last to first we truly came so very… close.
The Eleven knew they had to score first and, if possible, early. This intention was obvious as the whole kitchen sink was up there running along the front lines. It was an impressive and relentless attack to open the game. Don Smart—surely Man of the Match for Indy—had the best chance for either side; a zinger off the crossbar that may haunt me for a long time. The momentum had to shift soon and it eventually did. New York possessed and began to offer up their own prayers before the half.
After the half the game leveled out considerably and adopted an intense but entrenched pace. That lasted the rest of the 90 minutes. Then it lasted another 30. Both sides were bending but no one was breaking.
Finally, the inevitable shuffled in and the match went to penalty kicks.
The whole match had been a tense stalemate, so perhaps a finish like this was fitting. But PK’s are never a satisfying way to end anything. The match is technically over, a draw has occurred, but there has to be a winner. There has to be a champion.
Indy Eleven was not up to becoming a champion by these means.
The PK’s quickly devolved for the Eleven. The decision (whoever’s decision it was) for Busch to take one of the PK’s himself was mind-boggling and much may be said and discussed about that at a later time. Regardless, it was a situation we needed never be in. This club was good enough to finish the match and decide a champion—one way or another—on its own terms. But they didn’t. By the end they had missed their chance and the Cosmos calmly and confidently put them away from the spot.
As I said, we will all move on from this and take joy in what we have found in this club.
For now it’s okay to grieve.
We have more and better memories than we would have ever imagined a year ago. Soon we will treasure those. But first we grieve. We have a coach and a team worthy of pride and celebration and celebrate them we will. But now we mourn. We have friends, new and old, who stand and chant with us almost every weekend. For now we just hurt, but soon we will chant with them again.