Thursday, October 20, 2011

United Chokes, but Strikers Advance to NASL Finals

This past Saturday, in a stunning display of mental collapse, DC United gave a match away to the visiting Chicago Fire in the final moments of the game, in a contest that was attended by the present writer.  Entering the match with their playoff hopes still alive despite a three game losing streak, United and the Fire played to a spiritless 0 - 0 draw after 89 minutes of play.  Then, in the closing moments of play, United was awarded a PK in the 90th minute, which Dwayne De Rosario duly converted, and for a moment the United faithful present at RFK were able to celebrate an apparent victory that was only moments away.  Unfortunately, stoppage time remained, during which United infuriatingly surrendered two consecutive goals in short order to give away the match, 2-1, before a stunned crowd of United fans.  Never has this writer witnessed the mood of a stadium swing so quickly from celebration to despair.  Astonishingly, despite this outrageous outcome, DC United still has a slim chance to make the playoffs if they win and the New York Red Bulls lose to the Philadelphia Union this upcoming weekend, an outcome that is surely unexpected and undeserved.  DC United's 2011 campaign is now mercifully drawing to a close.

But the best story of the weekend was in the NASL.  Our beloved Fort Lauderdale Strikers cinderella playoff run continued, as the Strikers dismissed the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 on the strength of two goals from Brian Shriver.  Winning the away-and-home series on an aggregate score of 5-2, the fourth-seeded Strikers now advance to the NASL championship final series with the sixth-seeded NSC Minnesota Stars, another improbable finalist.  Despite their respective .500 seasons, the Strikers and the Stars have defeated the two most dominant teams of the league this past season, the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina Railhawks in order to reach the inaugural championship series of the new NASL.  The two-game series will be decided beginning this upcoming weekend on Saturday the 22d of October in Minnesota, with the final match of the season played on Saturday october 29 in Lockhart Stadium to decide the 2011 NASL champion.  Go Red and Yellow!

Finally, it is seldom that my weekly FC Barcelona report comes last in this column, but for once DC United's stunning ineptitude and the Strikers magical playoff run seems momentarily more momentous that Barcelona's steady and victorious professionalism.  This past Saturday Barca cooly downed Racing Santander 3 - 0 before 80,000 fans at Camp Nou on the strength of two goals from Messi wan Kenobi and Xavi to reclaim first place in the Spanish League standings.  Then, last night Barca defeated a very talented Viktoria Plzen, with no less than six Czech team national starters in the lineup, on the strength of goals from Andres Iniesta and David Villa, thereby tying AC Milan for first place in Group 'H' of the competiton.  Holding first place in both ther Spanish League campaign and the 2012 Champions League tournament, FC Barcelona is--as susal--on track for another brilliant and historical season. 

Visca el Barca!