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The Morning After

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This morning, while I was drinking my coffee, a bird flew into my living room window. It was a small bird and made quite a loud thud, so naturally I was quite worried about the little guy. Peering down into the bushes, I saw it sitting on a branch. I could tell that it was alive, but not looking too great. It was clearly stunned, its head cocked at a weird angle, and every now and then it would glance up the window with something that looked like a mix of confusion and spite. I feel you, dude.

I can feel the seasonal depression settling in. For me, the second year of a global pandemic has been harder than the first. Gone are little novelties like zoom happy hours, and also any lingering hope that the crisis would bring people together in a sense of shared responsibility. The idea I had that the vaccine could get things back to some kind of normalcy turns out to have been naive. Things seem, in a word, bleak.

Oh, and last night we lost on penalties.

What I can’t stop thinking about is how much that game was a perfect microcosm of the entire season. Injuries to key players held us back, but the team rose to that challenge and came out strong. At times they felt dominant, destined to do something special, but it the end it only led to frustration. The talent was there, it was just a constant mix of unlucky and not quite good enough. None of the breaks went our way. Our magic makers didn’t have enough time together, and it showed. Not enough Nouhou, but… Shane O’Neill was surprisingly good. Don't get me started on the refs. And of course in the end it was the post that did it to us.

It just feels like so many times this year a well deserved goal was coming, only to be denied by the woodwork. Like Joao’s stoppage time free kick that caromed straight down off the bar and bounced over Nouhou’s head, denying this fanbase the one thing that would send it absolutely bonkers. Or Cristian Roldan’s laser beam volley that would have leveled the KC game in a way that would have felt redemptive, that would have felt well earned, that would have made up for all the hardship that led to that moment... but was just inches away, denied by the crossbar. It seems fitting that the final action of the season was a ball caroming off not one, but both posts before stabbing a knife directly into our hearts. Damn, I hate penalty shootouts.

But there’s absolutely a silver lining. The team was good, and they will probably be just as good next year. They were fun to watch, games were dramatic, we got to see some absolute banger goals and take down a few Mexican teams. Joao Paulo is a golden god. The team is close to where they want to be, but not there yet, which is actually a pretty cool place to be. And even last night’s game? Not that bad a way to go out, in the end. Sure, everyone hates David Ochoa now (though you really shouldn’t bother booing him, he clearly likes it), but it would have been way more painful to lose to either KC or Portland, and if I’m being honest we’re probably not beating either of those teams, at least not playing the way we have for the last couple months.

I’m happy to put this 2021 season out of its misery and move on to the next, I look forward to doing the same with this calendar year. Let’s hope we all learned something from this trip around the sun.

Oh, and that little bird that ran into my window this morning? He’s fine. It took him a few minutes, I watched the whole time, but eventually he shook it off and flew away.

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