This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When it all slammed to an end on Wednesday night, as Real Salt Lake players fell to the ground as though the earth itself had shaken them to their knees, profound disappointment was thick as a brick. After a long stretch of international success, just as RSL was on the brink of an unadulterated high, there came sudden failure.
A 1-0 loss to Monterrey, a 3-2 aggregate defeat right on glory's edge.
If anybody in the run-up to the second leg of the CONCACAF final had asked any of the shaken whether they would take one goal from the Mexican side, you better believe they would have been pleased to nail down that deal. All RSL had to do, then, was tie it at one to advance to their bit of nirvana: the FIFA Club World Cup.
Try as they might, it would not happen.
And in that cruel moment at the end, I figured out what is so appealing though, at times, so devastating about soccer.
It's like life.
The game mirrors the human condition. It is a reflection of human existence, of life, as we know it.
Maybe you remember that sorry marketing campaign the Jazz launched a couple of seasons back, the one that encouraged fans to leave their miserable existences outside of EnergySolutions Arena for a couple of hours and exult in the fantasy of the NBA: "Life off, game on."
In soccer, the game is life.
Encased in one 90-minute match, and in series of matches, there are small triumphs, small defeats, there are moments of anticipation, moments of opportunity, moments of great hope, moments of excitement, and, then, moments of error, moments of lapse in concentration, moments of tedium, moments of fatigue.
One of the latter cost RSL in a big way against Monterrey, when the defense lapsed for a short span, allowing the visitors to score on their only shot on goal, or "on target," for the entire game with just seconds left in the first half. All told, RSL took 16 shots, four of them "on target," while Monterrey scrounged up eight overall, and the decisive one.
It was a bitter pill, considering how aggressively and, at times, brilliantly RSL had played early in the game. Jason Kreis said the brief lapse was the exact thing Real had worked on avoiding in preparation for the Champions League final.
Through the back half of the second half, RSL played with urgency, if not efficiency, fully aware they had to tie, but watching shot after shot sail wide or high. Chance after chance was missed, even as the effort put in ratcheted up.
Muhammad Ali once said: "What keeps me going is goals."
All Real wanted in their hour of need was one … simple … goal.
It never came.
Such is life.
It's imperfect, just like RSL was on Wednesday night.
It rocketed a group of players through months of heady competition to unprecedented heights, and then on a cold night in April, with all of American soccer tuning in dropped those players on their heads and to their knees on a pitch where they hadn't lost for two years.
In the postgame, Kreis mentioned that his team had to pull itself together. After all, it plays a regular-season MLS match at Portland on Saturday, which is a little like losing the Masters on a Sunday and being duty-bound to prepare for the first round of the Bushwood Men's Association on Tuesday.
"We'll see what kind of people we are now," he said. "You know, it's a really easy task to talk about how good everybody is and how happy we are and all those sorts of things when things are going our way. So, now, we have this major, major disappointment. Let's see how we respond."
Added goalkeeper Nick Rimando: "These kinds of games can either break a team or make a team stronger, and I think our team is strong enough to know that this isn't going to break us up. We're going to stay strong …"
Game on, life on.
In soccer, it's one and the same.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 104.7 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.