The Draw Stings Like a Loss

I am emotionally drained and physically exhausted. I slump in an unfamiliar chair in North Vancouver, a nervous wreck devoid of intelligence or energy. It is eleven PM. I bought dinner from PetroCanada, because it's the sort of night when you want to buy dinner from a gas station at 11 PM, but it sits next to my laptop untouched. I am too beaten-down, too exhausted, too completely played out to move.

We needed a win and the stars aligned in so many ways. Preki did not play a second-choice lineup but he started just enough of his bench that the Whitecaps had a skill advantage in a few precious positions. Vancouver, as it too seldom has in games this season, came out guns blazing, hungry for a result. The Southside was as packed as I've seen it and as raucous as it's ever been. I arrived late and as such heard the chanting from outside the stadium - my walk towards Swangard heralded by "here we go, here we go, here we goooo" as if they were serenading me in my absence.

How could we not win? That question keeps insisting itself upon me. How in heaven and earth did we not win that game? The refereeing was not partial but it was bad, as bad as it's ever been in a match I've attended. That's one reason. Toronto was just plain lucky, getting more than their share of fortunate deflections of shots off of legs and bodies and heads. That was another. Ultimately, it came down to that for once the world's worst football prognosticator, myself, was right when he said what the Whitecaps' glaring weakness was, when he started the "sign Ali Gerba" bandwagon and rode it as its lonely single passenger, when he cried and wailed and gnashed his teeth that this team refused to acquire a pure finishing striker when they were ankle-deep on the ground for the taking.

So we outplayed Toronto, and kept the more glamourous names pinned back in their own end for long stretches, and got a rogue's gallery of chances, and drew. We're on two points and Toronto is on seven. Two wins in our last two games and we're through. The Voyageurs Cup is not over, except for the fact that it totally is.

On the SkyTrain, there were a group of soccer moms near me discussing the Voyageurs Cup (by the way, lesson to Toronto plastics: the Vancouver soccer moms can understand and care about the Voyageurs Cup). They were pinning their hopes on a repeat of 2009, when Montreal with nothing to play for fielded a reserve team in the deciding match against Toronto. But after the evisceration the Impact took for their shameful capitulation I would be astonished to see a repeat performance that would "even the score" as it were. Besides, I wouldn't want to win like that if we could. Country before club and the last thing this amazing tournament needs is a bunch of Toronto plastics questioning its legitimacy now that it's their team that might get screwed.

And even if we do win that game - which we won't - we'd be heading into BMO Field, a more hostile domain than any in USSF Division Two, needing three points against higher-level opposition. Higher-level opposition that will have every reason to play its best. Forget it. Not going to happen. We'll be more likely to see Dwayne De Rosario grow a mullet.

We got the moral victories. I could count the number of times when Justin Moose has impressed me on my fingers after a bandsaw accident but tonight he was the man of the match in my books; omnipresent, devouring allegedly more-skilled players, hustling with aplomb and actually showing the intelligence to make something out of that hustle. The FC leave Swangard Stadium for the last time having never won on that hallowed Burnaby grass, the sort of record that is superficially exciting and completely meaningless. We comprehensively outplayed an MLS team, an MLS team that time-wasted in a nil-nil draw against less famous opposition for fifty minutes and hugged in relief and delight after that draw was over. The neutrals must have been delighted by a free-flowing game, and at Swangard (excepting a particularly obtuse, confrontational Mountie with a baton up his ass) a good time was had by all.

But it was that close. My god, we could have made a competition out of this thing, and instead it's a coronation.

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