Sorry for no United match reaction this weekend; a youth soccer tournament intervened. That said, watching my girls roller-coaster through the tournament was a lot like watching United's uneven 2011 progress. So much so, in fact, that those thirteen girls in red shirts running through the rain were starting to look distinctly like tea leaves in which I could read United's valiant, but ultimately futile, stretch run.
We started with a 1-1 draw that we should have won by four or five goals save for the intervention of the post and a couple of shots dragged just wide or thumped into the keeper's midriff. That was followed by a 2-1 victory where we had to re-take (and consequently have saved) a PK and contrived to hit the post three more times. Through those first two games, our top forward was responsible for pinging it off the frame an incredible five times, mostly in the wake of a Pontius-like cutback move in the box. Strange symmetries suggesting themselves there...
After two games, we were tied atop our group and facing the other team level on points with us in the final group-stage game. Problem was, we had lost our key defensive cog to family commitments for the remainder of the tournament. Consequently, we came unglued at the back and got hammered 6-0 to finish third place in the group by a single lousy point.
The placement match was where I finally lost my voice. In the early going, we were rampant, but only managed a single goal from the penalty spot despite six or seven quality chances from the run of play. They, by contrast, had only two breaks on the counter that our keeper snuffed out. You can see where this is going, can't you?
They equalized on a third counter chance and we wobbled severely, but somehow managed not to go behind despite coming under heavy pressure. We even managed to rally for a second late in the half, only to be pegged back a minute or so later, unable to maintain the advantage.
2-2 at the half, and I gave my most rousing, "last game, leave it all on the field" speech only to see us ship two just after the break (Mourinho-style master of motivation I, apparently, am not). They were pouring it on and looking to bury us, but couldn't find another. We finally came back into the match, a series of chances finally resulting in a goal to pull us back to 3-4 with only a minute or so left on the clock.
We almost pulled it out. We took the ball away immediately after the restart, got it forward on the right and had our second-leading scorer make a break from midfield onto a cross that found her one on one with the keeper. Predictably, she mis-hit the shot just wide of the post and the whistle went as the resulting goal kick was taken.
You'll pardon my jaded response when the inevitable happens in October, won't you?
I'm sure there will be similar moments of joy that make the journey worthwhile.
(or so I keep telling myself)...