Commerce City, Colo. - If there is someone who can relate to the U.S. U-23s elimination from the Olympic Qualifying tournament Monday, it's Rapids defender Drew Moor.
Moor was part of the U.S. U-20 team that was eliminated in a similar, gut-wrenching, fashion by Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2003 FIFA U-20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, Moor was involved in the play that resulted in Argentina's win.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Moor said Tuesday. "Unfortunately I played a big part in the game-winning goal - a penalty kick on a foul called on me. It's tough to get over."
Bobby Convey had given the U.S. the lead in the 59th minute against the South Americans. Victory and a semifinal berth were seconds away - until Argentina's Javier Macherano struck in the 5th minute of stoppage time to send the game into overtime.
Ten minutes in to the first extra period, as Moor lunged to clear a ball away from his own endline, an Argentinian player came around his blind side and got his foot on the ball a split second before Moor.
"I kicked him and the ref called a penalty kick," Moor recalled. "It was absolutely devasting."
Fernando Cavenaghi knocked in the penalty kick - the golden goal - eliminating the U.S. and sending Argentina to the semis. It turned out to be the last-ever golden (sudden death) goal in a FIFA Tournament.
But Moor couldn't dwell on the outcome. He immediately began the long trek back to the United States and two days later played the full 90 minutes for his Indiana University side that defeated St. John's in the NCAA College Cup in Columbus, Ohio.
"(Winning) eased that pain," Moor said. "But that's a wound that will never go away, having lost on a such a big occassion like that. It's something you remember your whole life, obviously."
On Monday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the U.S. had come from behind to lead El Salvador 3-2 in the last game of group play. All the U.S. had to do was kill off the final seconds of stoppage time to advance to the semifinals and be one win away from qualifying for the summer Olympics in London.
However El Salvador's Jaime Alas' 95th minute shot was mishandled by U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson and tied the match 3-3, sending the Central Americans on and eliminating the Yanks.
"It's hard to move on after situations like that," Moor said. "But you have to keep your head up. As an individual, if you're part of an experience like that, you have to move on, dig deep, and believe that you belong there."
Johnson is a goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire - the Rapids next opponent on Sunday, April 1 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (5 pm MT).
"Sean is a fantastic goalkeeper," Moor said. "I guarantee Sean is his own biggest critic, and he's devasted right now. That's just part of being a professional - making mistakes. It's the ones that learn from it and grow from it that are the true professionals and the ones that really belong."
While Moor relates to what Johnson may be feeling, he's not intending on helping the Fire 'keeper out so quickly.
"We're still going to try to give him a hard time this weekend," Moor added.
The 9th-year veteran has clearly grown from his experience, and he has a College Cup and MLS Cup to show for it. But that doesn't mean Moor has forgotten that game in 2003.
If anything, the friendships he made on that team have made it easier for him to move forward. It's something Moor says this U.S U-23 team will also always have, and should realize soon.
"I'm still good buddies with some of the guys on that team," Moor said. "They still take jabs at me here and there, in a friendly way. Because we were all in it together, and we probably should have put the game away before it got to that point."