View from the Booth: "Wow" sums it up
Following Saturday's stunning 4-3 win at Montreal Impact, the word for the weekend was 'Wow!'
And that pretty much sums it up.
Definition of wow:
Noun - an outstanding success.
Verb - impress and excite (someone) greatly.
Exclamation - expressing astonishment or admiration.
Yes on all three scores.
Goal: Cascio's late game-winner
Saturday's encounter was not just a great advert for MLS. It was a great advert for soccer, and it's why - in my humble opinion - there is no sport to come close for drama, unpredictability and sheer spine-tingling excitement.
Who gave the Rapids a sniff of a chance in Montreal?
The Impact had not lost at home all season. They'd won six and tied one. They were four points clear in the Eastern Conference, boasted the joint-top scorer in MLS (Marco Di Vaio, who had scored in every game at Saputo Stadium) and were aiming for a fifth consecutive home win.
Compare that to a Rapids side at the end of three confidence-sapping road trips, without a win in four, having suffered three defeats in a row and entering the Saputo Stadium with the 3-0 mauling at Portland Timbers still fresh in their minds.
I'm not a betting man, but that had home win written all over it.
Goal: Brown ties it at 3-3
In recent columns, I've bemoaned the manner of the defeats. Well, the manner of the victory in Montreal should give Rapids fans great heart going forward.
Atiba Harris headed the first, only for a double lapse to allow the home side to go in 2-1 up at the interval. And, as stats showed, the Impact had won six and tied one when leading at the break. The Rapids, on the other hand, had trailed at half-time in five previous games this season, and gone on to lose all five.
So, the odds were stacked against a Rapids comeback … but what a comeback!
Dillon Powers, after a period of pressure, leveled at 2-2.
Goal: Powers ties it at 2-2
More ball-watching cost the Rapids, as Daniele Paponi toe-poked in from close range to nudge Montreal back in front.
Even at that stage, though, you sensed there were more goals in the game.
Give a huge amount of credit to Oscar Pareja, whose substitutions worked like a charm.
First, Deshorn Brown on for Nick LaBrocca (who had worked tirelessly all night, box-to-box). Brown made it 3-3 following cute work from Chris Klute.
With time ticking away, Pareja seemed settled for a point, as he brought Tony Cascio on for Edson Buddle - maybe just to tighten things up down the left-hand side.
Frowns all round when the 4th Official indicated five minutes of additional time, but thank goodness for those minutes, as Cascio came good in the 96th with a deflected winner.
As a result of his dramatic, late goal, we instinctively opted for Cascio as man-of-the-match. But Klute's cross for Brown's goal, plus his perfectly-timed challenge on Davy Arnaud and role in the grandstand finish, must surely allow him at least a share.
Goal: Harris gets the scoring started
Don't get me wrong, there are still questions on closing down space, but we're talking individual player error rather than a lack of collective ability.
And one mustn't grumble too much after witnessing that kind of gutsy, determined display.
The last three results will have hurt fans. But, from that performance on Saturday, it's clear to see that the players were also stung. Pride kicked in, as did a fighting spirit and never-say-die approach.
When Cascio's shot beat the outstretched gloves of Troy Perkins, joy was unconfined. The hairs on the back of the neck tingled. It took all of my control to remain seated, when every fiber of my body was urging me to leap up, rip off the headphones and race around the studio. I try my hardest to be as impartial as I can, but that late winner truly tested by professionalism (and I may have just displayed a hint of burgundy).
You could see how much it meant to Cascio, especially after his late miss in Chicago. And who didn't want to be in the middle of that touchline bundle, as the goalscorer leapt in amongst the jubilant Rapids bench?
Since arriving in Colorado, I've read some pretty laughable comments, from those with an affinity to other North American sports. One, in particular, suggested that for soccer to win over American sports fans it ought to - amongst other things - eliminate stoppage time.
Oh, to be so clueless!
Tell that to fans of the Rapids or, indeed, San Jose Earthquakes this past weekend.
Soccer has been around for a few years now, and seems to be reasonably popular, so it must be doing something right. For those who feel the sport needs to change in order to be better understood … we pity you.
When things are going wrong, yes it's frustrating, agonizing, emotionally draining and leaves you glum for days.
But when the stars are aligned, the breeze is blowing in the right direction and the soccer Gods are smiling - as they were on Saturday - then there's only one thing to say … 'Wow'!