With the Kansas City Wizards now officially eliminated from the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs, we can begin to process of the funnest thing in all of sports - agonizing over what went wrong, how it went wrong, and everybody's favorite - who to blame.
Now, we'll save that last one for the offseason. I mean, I will need something to write about then, after all. For now, I'd just like to take a short trip down memory lane. Lets open back up some fresh wounds and agonize over the three biggest missed opportunities that could have seen this fairly talented team playing beyond this coming weekend.
Note: I swayed back and forth on whether or not to include the points that the team was (admittedly by MLS) robbed of against Seattle - 91st minute winner where Seattle was allowed a 20 yard run down the sideline on a throw-in (1 point) - and Chicago - referee blows whistle a split second before Davy Arnaud rips a goal from 25 yards out, because Wilman Conde lay out for 26 seconds of Chicago possession, though they never played the ball out for injury (2 more points). I'm really not bitter.
3. May 5: DC United 2-1 Wizards
This one may have been the worst performance of the season. With all due respect, DC is atrocious. They literally have 22 points. Roughly one-seventh of those (in a 30 game season) came in one Wednesday night (also, KC's only ESPN broadcast of the year) that started a terrible downward spiral for the better part of the next two months.
Through the entire month of August, Danny Alsopp had scored a whole two goals on the season in fourteen appearances. Would anybody like to guess who those two goals came against? Let's not even mention the fact that rookie goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who in fairness is going to be a very good keeper, had a clean sheet for 90 minutes, until Kei Kamara scored a meaningless stoppage time goal.
How a team that beat DC 4-0 on opening night of the season could, just over a month later, go to the nation's capital and play their worst game of the season, is completely beyond me. Don't believe it was that bad? Check the match highlights.
2. April 24: Wizards 0-0 Los Angeles Galaxy
This game makes the list for an entirely different reason that the DC game. In contrast, the Wizards played very well against the then-unbeaten league leaders. It took numerous Jimmy Nielsen-esque saves from Donovan Ricketts to keep the Wiz off the score sheet in the second half.
Of course, none of that would have mattered had it not been for the real reason this missed opportunity made the list. The easiest goal in the world has to be when the ball is sitting on the goal line, the keeper is five yards away and you're over the ball. Someone must have forgotten to tell Kei Kamara that. Whether you follow the Wizards closely or not, you've heard about and/or seen his blunder whiff that ultimately cost the team an additional two points. Even Kei's miss aside, KC did more than enough to earn three points.
Perhaps this loss did more psychological damage than anything. Seven days after the demoralizing loss to Seattle, a win - let alone against the league leaders - would have likely gone a long way four losses over the next five games.
1. July 10: Chivas USA 2-0 Wizards
The only team you could make a case for actually being worse than DC are the Goats. So, please tell me why we felt it necessary to let them walk into CommunityAmerica Ballpark and leave after embarrassing everyone associated with the Wizards.
It seems like every Wizards centerback had a game where they were almost solely responsible for dropped points. Aaron Holbein had the New York Red Bulls and Shavar Thomas had the Colorado Rapids. Well, Jimmy Conrad had Chivas. In a performance that cause me to unfairly question whether Jimmy still "had it" anymore, he played as if inspired by Holbein gifting three goals against New York just a week before.
For me, this game has to be considered the biggest missed chance for points of the season. At home, against a fellow (at the time) bottom-table team. No way they should be 1) keeping a clean sheet, and 2) the recipients of free goals for all.
If you take these three games, add the two points against LA that should have been, plus anything but a disaster against Chivas, the hole to climb out of was much smaller. Are there six other clubs (no chance for you, DC) that could claim such injustices and say they should be in the playoffs, too?
For whatever reason, I'm a huge fan of "what-if" conversations. Maybe I feel that I can justify to everyone (or maybe it's for myself) that things could have, or should have gone my way. After all, it is my world and you're all just living in it, right?
That all said, the playoff chase may be over, but there is still one game left Saturday night, at home, against San Jose Earthquakes. This has been a pretty wild ride of a year for Wizards fans, and the players, so come out and show your appreciation for the boys one last time. Besides, we owe the Quakes a little payback for a 1-0 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium back in August. Let's do our part to assure they only land the eighth playoff spot and don't go any higher.