Dec 28, 2012

My Favorite 2012 Soccer Memory--Soccer was My Succor

On a personal level, this year was a particularly rough one for me.  As a result, I often took refuge in the beautiful game.  When things were rough in my personal and professional life, I could retreat to the confines of the pitch, where an unpredictable game was played with predictable and known rules, so much unlike regular life.  Whether playing, watching or refereeing a game, being on the soccer field game me immense comfort.  I have refereed some excellent matches, seen kids play at all levels, enjoyed the camaraderie of my Monday night indoor matches, watched my alma mater University of Maryland win the ACC championship with a powerful performance against North Carolina with my youngest daughter and dear friends, and fought with my oldest daughter about watching games on TV.  I felt the fear and elation of the USMNT in World Cup Qualifying.  I watched DC United play well and play poorly, and felt the joy and anguish of each high and low, matching the course of my own life in many ways.

Yes, this year is filled with many memories, soccer and otherwise, that are both good and bad.  But soccer was this year more than any other, a comfort.  It was a place and a game that helped me get through all the crap in my personal life.

In a year when my personal life was a shambles, soccer was my succor.

There were lots of good memories this year to choose from:

  • The absolute wicked brilliance of Lionel Messi and 91 goals 
  • The USMNT winning at Azteca for the first time ever.  
  • Listening to the coach of a high school soccer team tell me I had a rough night refereeing having awarded not one but two stone cold penalties against his team.  After his team got spanked 8-0 by the eventual state champions, I was able to thank him for his opinion with only a touch of sarcasm (best I could muster).
  • My beloved DC United making the playoffs for the first time in five years despite the absence of Dwayne DeRosario.   
  • Posting my first clean sheet as a goal keeper for my team (a difficult task in the indoor game) and having a seven penalty kick save streak (not to toot my own horn too much).
  • The spectacular improvisation of Patrick Ianni's only goal of the season.  

But my favorite memory is this one:

The USWNT team versus Canada in the Olympics semi-final was a classic match to watch no matter who you root for, and one worthy of watching over and over.  Rarely do I feel heartache for any team that any U.S. squad beats (yeah, I am a homer and a patriot that way), but I truly felt bad for the Canadians, they played well enough to win.  The Canucks have nothing to be ashamed of, it was that good a game.

The game featured seven goals over 120 minutes of exciting soccer.  Topping it all off was Alex "Baby Horse" Morgan's 123rd minute header that looped over the Canadian goalkeeper.  The goal was just phenomenal, not because it was a difficult finish (although it is not easy), or particularly spectacular, but coming as it did, when it did, how it did.   I also loved the way Morgan celebrated, with arms out wide, in part she looked disbelieving, but in part she also looked like "yeah, I did that, I knew I could."  Just amazing stuff.

In a breakout year, this was, in my opinion, Alex Morgan's best goal of the year.  A simple, classy finish of a looping cross, touch of luck but coming literally at the death of a game to prevent the match from going to penalty kicks.

In so many ways, my own life mirrored that game.  I have battled back from being down, fought against tough odds and in the end, it is something simple that puts me over the edge of winning at the final moments.

When soccer mirrors life so much, it is hard not to like the simple moments of victory.  Yeah, that is my favorite 2012 Soccer Memory.

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