At the beginning of the MLS season, hopes were high for the Seattle Sounders to have the best soccer season ever, but amidst injuries, suspensions, etc., our team has not played well and is fighting for a playoff spot. The match yesterday was against our arch rivals, the Portland Timbers. Tensions were high.
Sounders were up 2-0 in the second half, which normally a comfortable lead, but the crowd remained on edge. The Timbers scored. It was 2-1. A tie wouldn’t help, we needed the win. Key positions on the pitch were filled by inexperienced athletes. Would they crack under the pressure? Underperform during a set-piece? Commit a foul that would allow the Timbers to score the equalizer?
With seconds left, a seasoned Sounder’s player is called for a foul just outside the penalty box. The teams line up for the free kick. If the Timbers score, they will tie the game with no time remaining. If the Sounders defend well, they will gain the win.
It is down to this. Whatever has happened in the previous ninety minutes is irrelevant. Unfair penalties, missed fouls, none of it matters because right now, the Timbers have the opportunity to score the equalizer. Right now, the Sounders must defend with heart.
The ball is kicked and sails over the net–not into it–and the crowd erupts with cheers and high fives. Sounders win!
The opposing coach criticized the referees, and it is possible he was justified, but like life, not even soccer matches are always fair. We want them to be (both life and soccer) but time and again, we are hit with the reality that fouls are committed without penalties, and penalties are awarded without justification. We can shout for the ref to issue a red card for that grievous misconduct, but he isn’t listening to us. We can whine to our neighbors, but all that does is make our mascara run.
What we can do is follow my grandmother’s advice. She’d say we must “play the hand we are dealt.” The Timbers had opportunities, but didn’t capitalize.
I can’t spend my life looking backwards on the fouls committed, called or not, whether my mistakes or other’s. Am I ready to grasp the opportunities life presents? Regardless of fairness, I want to choose to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”