One of the most frustratingly compelling circumstances in sport is when you do just enough to take fate out of your hands, but not quite enough to definitively screw yourself. It is the place where hope, prayer and cynicism theatrically collide. Such a collision occurred Sunday morning at 9:15.
On Saturday, we opened with a 0-0 draw with Maitland, a team defined by a high work rate and exceptionally physical style of play. The game saw more fouls than chances and mirrored a 1-1 draw we had with them two months ago. They are the soccer equivalent of a cunning, leathery tough club fighter that can and will alter the course of promising campaigns, a definite red flag in any team’s State Cup group.
In the night cap, we played Tampa Bay United who had already beaten us in FPL play. We scored first on a Mikey Lynch header, but they equalized immediately. We lead again midway through the second half when Eric Brody converted a penalty, but conceded two points and control of our destiny late on a free kick scramble.
We arrived to dissipating fog on Sunday morning needing to beat Lakeland by three goals and having Maitland amd TBU tie. There was aggravation at having thrown away points the day before and putting ourselves in this position, a pervasive feeling of unworthiness for doing so, and a vague sense of entitlement that we deserve better and the soccer Gods will show us favor churning in our stomachs.
We jumped on Lakeland and won 4-0. With the game in hand full attention was directed to the next field where TBU held a 1-0 lead at the half. Maitland equalized midway through have and for the final twenty reckless and chaotic minutes it seemed impossible another goal wouldn’t come, but it didn’t and we advanced to the final to play our FC America second team.
The final was as boring as soccer can be. We scored in the first minute, and our goal was never seriously threatened thereafter as we benignly passed the ball around the field. The final whistle seemed to blow prematurely, but it may have felt that way because it woke me up. It was a title scrounged from unlikely good fortune, but did little to define us going forward. We are 27-9-8 with four titles as a team since June and somehow feel adrift and embattled.