(Re-posted here from The Brotherly Game.)
It is 1 AM, I am tired, but I can't sleep. The Philadelphia Union kick off their potentially last game of the season in 19 and a half hours. This is a post that I probably should not be writing, however, I am a college student who has been swamped with work and I am desperate for something, anything to take my mind off that. This probably won't make much sense to you, but I feel like I need to express it. The quality of soccer of actual soccer content in this post will be little to non-existent. After the past few days I've had and the next couple of days I figure to have, I probably could not sufficiently analyze an upcoming soccer match even if I had to.
As a Philadelphia sports fan, the past year has been a particularly painful one. Well, maybe painful may not be the right word. After all, there are several sports cities in the United States that may envy the success Philadelphia has seen this year. Every major Philadelphia sports team has gotten into the playoffs this year. The only post-season experience Cleveland fans had this year was watching LeBron James falter in the NBA Finals.*
*Some Cleveland fans may point to the Lake Erie Monsters and say I am wrong. Most will read "Lake Erie Monsters" and have absolutely no idea who I am referencing. Also, after much research, they were the ONLY professional sports team remotely associated with Cleveland to qualify for anything resembling a post-season in 2011. As a final post-script on a team you likely have never heard of before and quite as likely barely hear of again, the Lake Erie Monsters' post-season came to an end in the first round. All things considered, they were probably showered with a parade anyway.
I sincerely apologize if this comes of wanting the cake and wanting to eat it too.* Maybe asking for this is wanting too much. After all, the Philadelphia Eagles had a miraculous 2010 season, capped off with a game that to this day still has its own Wikipedia page. The Philadelphia Flyers were the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers made the playoffs after an abysmal 2009-2010. The Philadelphia Phillies were a 102-win team and the undisputed best team in baseball.
*I told you this post would be incoherent.
But looking ahead to the end of 2011 and the current MLS Cup Playoffs, the last professional sports post-season of the calendar year, I still feel unfulfilled. The Eagles lost in the wild card round to the Green Bay Packers. The Philadelphia Flyers lost in the 2nd round to the Boston Bruins and then blew the team up. The Philadelphia 76ers lost in the first round. The Philadelphia Phillies lost in the 1st round. Agonizing loss, after agonizing loss, after agonizing loss, after agonizing loss.
A lot of luck is involved in the playoffs. After all, the Phillies lost Game 5 of the NLDS by five feet. But deserved or not, just once this year, I want something to go Philadelphia's way in the playoffs. I want to end a great year on a great note, to be able to say at the very least the 2-year old Philadelphia Union advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. I do not care if it ends up being deserved or not, I just want a win. Whether or not the Union play the best possible game is irrelevant if the Union win. Whether or not Peter Nowak manages the best possible game is irrelevant if the Union win. I have the utmost confidence the Union will do the best they can do. I have the utmost doubts Nowak will do the best he can do. I submit the first half of Leg 1 as evidence of these doubts.
Take a look at the MLS standings. The Philadelphia Union belong here. We are in the playoffs and we deserve that. This team is good enough. But many other Philadelphia teams said the same thing. They did not win. For 2011, the Philadelphia Union represent the Philadelphia's last chance. It may end tomorrow. If so, everyone and myself included will say how great a year the Union had and how they are set up well for the future. They will be right, of course. But that does not mean I don't want this anyway. Feelings of desperation crawl inside me saying "please, Union, please, give me something to celebrate in the playoffs in 2011." Those on the outside will likely see this as spoiled. They may be right, but something inside me just wants it badly. Maybe because the Phillies loss is not even a month old. Maybe it is because I want something to put that memory aside, if only for a brief while. Maybe because I do not want to endure that pain I had to go through less than a month ago.
The Philadelphia Union need a win tonight. A win by 1, and they force extra time. A win by two or more, and they are going to Kansas City.
I'm here, I'm now, I'm ready. Holding on tight, don't give away the end. The one thing that stays mine.