The first round of the playoffs in MLS is played over two games, home and away, total goals. The Galaxy won the first match 3-1 the previous week, which meant they would advance with another win, a tie, or a loss by one goal. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Ned Grabavoy of the Galaxy scoring the equalizer right in front of us, so the Galaxy advanced 4-2 on total goals.
The Galaxy played really well at home and well enough to get the draw on Saturday. But here's the real key to the Galaxy victory:
The Earthquakes were pounding the Galaxy in the first half, and shortly before the half ends, the Galaxy gave up a bad goal, and so now only led by one in the aggregate score. At half time, I am consumed with dark thoughts. First, I have no confidence in our coach, Steve Sampson. Sampson came to the Galaxy infamous for having panicked as coach of the U.S. National team during the 1998 World Cup, resulting in the US finishing last in the 32 team field. Sampson carries himself as if he invented soccer, but all year the Galaxy have underachieved under his often inexplicable direction. Second, given the run of play, I was fully expecting the Quakes to knock one in early in the second half, which would lead to more goals, a total collapse, and the ugly fact that I had driven all that way only to witness the Galaxy's elimination from the playoffs. But then I noticed, for the first time, a giant bedsheet sign, I mean like 15' x 15' in the corner opposite us which said:
Don't Stop Believin'
At that moment, like John Wesley at Aldersgate, my heart was strangely warmed, because I thought, in fact, I knew...
"You can't quote Journey unironically. You can't tempt fate or provoke the soccer gods like that".I don't get these flashes of insight often. But when they come, you have to honor them, and so I began to feel encouraged. And then, AND THEN, they actually played the song over the PA system, as if they were taking it seriously, as if they actually believed that Steven Perry's histrionic whine could lead their team to victory.
This was real turning point. It did not occur in the Galaxy locker room at halftime, nor on the feet of goal scorer Ned Grabavoy or Landon Donovan, who made the incisive pass, nor in the hands of the Galaxy's keeper Kevin Hartman, who had several brilliant second half saves, nor even within the giant head of our worthless coach Steve Sampson. The game and the series turned when they played that song.
Look, it's OK to like Journey. (Well, really it's not, but I'm feeling expansive today). But you cannot rely upon Journey. Journey can be the source of vaguely embarrassing memories from the 80's and they may continue to serve as the source lame requests for "Love Songs on the KOST", a cheesey evening radio show here in SoCal that does dedications -"Hi. Can you play 'Open Arms' by Journey? Send it out from Megan to Manuel, and to tell him that even though we've had our troubles, I think our love can overcome this, and I'm waiting for you with open arms." - but Journey cannot be relied upon as a source of soccer power.
Afterwards, I shared my flash of insight with the gathered Riot Squaders, and one of our more literate members responded, "So the soccer gods must hate Journey more than they hate Steve Sampson".
They most certainly do.
And that was that.