Also file under: "This guy has no idea what he's talking about. Again."
At the beginning of the 2010 MLS season, had anyone offered me odds, even at 10,000 to 1, that Birahim Diop would have a two goal game, a three goal game, or tie for third in goals with five during the upcoming season, I wouldn't have wagered one of my hard-earned dollars on even one of those bets. If you know a friend that found someone to take a bet on any of those three things, it's time to start kissing up to that man or woman, because after the Wizards defensive midfielder(?) center forward(?) recorder his first career MLS hat trick on Saturday night, they are one rich individual.
I can think of no other way to properly capsulate the Wizards 2010 season into a single 90 minute segment, other than the sheer insanity that is a Birahim Diop hat trick. Let's face it - that was NOT supposed to happen. But, it did. So, for the time being, I take this huge plate of crow in front of me, for calling out head coach Peter Vermes for continually playing Diop at the center forward spot, and bite in nice and deep. There's a reason Vermes is the manager of a professional soccer club, and I am not.
The quirky night started as normal as any of the Wizards other 29 league games this season; they hit rocket shots at goal, only to see one skip off the top of the crossbar, one bounce just wide of goal and one quality header at goal loop just over the top. Finishing was by far the achilles' heel of the Wiz this season. So, for the first 35 minutes of Saturday night's game, everything was business as usual.
Then, something insane happened.
Birahim Diop happened.
The makeshift starting lineup drawn up by Vermes produced at the same level, if not better than, the regular starting XI had for the previous three months. Jonathon Leathers, replacing regular rightback Michael Harrington, picked up his first and only assist on the season when he played for a very ambitious lob over the midfield to a surprisingly unmarked Diop, who managed to stay just onside. In his very own, special Diop sort of way, he headed a masterful first touch chip over Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch that bounced to, and over, the goal line. I didn't know what to think.
I felt slightly more vindicated after Diop's second goal. Had it not been for a serious non-committal error by Busch, where he absolutely failed to commit to coming after the ball or staying back on his line, nothing would have come of the high bouncing deflection off a Quakes defender. Busch tip-toed halfway off his line towards the ball, but it was too late and Diop, using every inch of his 6'3" frame, power-headed his second goal of the game into the back post. 2-0 to the Wiz, and 2-0 to Diop. As I said, I felt slightly more confident in my opinions, seeing as how it was a keeper's mistake.
A quick Chris Wondolowski goal in the 70th minute brought a slight doubt back into the game, and whether the Wiz could hold on for all three points.
So, on a night like this, when the world was seemingly being rocked by Birahim 'freaking' Diop with his second brace of the season, who would step up and respond to put the game out of reach and secure the Wizards ended their CommunityAmerica Ballpark experience in grand fashion? Birahim Diop. This is the part that left me searching for words.
When a player is feeling it, he's just feeling it, I suppose. When you've got all the confidence in the world behind you, I suppose you can take one touch off your chest on a ball lobbed forward, let it take a single bounce, rear back with your favored left foot and let one rip from about 22 yards out. In such an instance, perhaps it will have the perfectly placed trajectory of a looping strike to the back post, get down just in time and snuggle itself just inside the back post for a brilliant goalazo to complete your hat trick. Head. Explodes.
There I sat, inside the CommunityAmerica Ballpark press box, jaw resting on the table before me, reveling in the nicest goal I've ever had the privilege to witness live and in person. Birahim Diop had just made me look a fool.