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Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew: Illustrated box score

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IT WOULDN’T GO IN THE NET

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-Columbus Crew at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a chapter in the book Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galiano for almost everything: goals, individual players, every World Cup until 2010, every single part of the game. Here is what he had to say about the ball:

The ball can also be fickle, refusing to enter the goal because she changes her mind in midflight and curls away. You see, she is easily offended. She cannot stand getting kicked or hit out of spite. She insists on being caressed, kissed, lulled to sleep on the chest or the foot. She is proud, vain perhaps, and it is easy to understand why: she knows all too well that when she rises gracefully she brings joy to many a heart, and many a heart is crushed when she lands badly.

Many a heart was crushed last night.

Agency is seldom given to the ball, but it refused to go into the net until it was given no choice in the penalty shootout. The ball hit everything except for the back of the goal: posts, goalkeepers, Michael Parkhurst, an invisible force field, magic, whatever devil Bobby Cox conjured when he won the 1995 World Series, I think the ball just hated the idea of going into the goal last night; and why not?

That was the most exciting 0-0 game I’ve ever seen. It was wide open, at times it was beautiful, there were chances for both teams, huge saves, moments when it looked like the only possible outcome of a sequence of plays was the ball going into the net. It seemed inevitable that one team would score, neither did. Watching the game was like reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (if you can’t tell, I’m in a bit of a reflective, magical realism mood, thanks for indulging this), a story where it seems like two estranged lovers would never get together but after suffering, longing, and heartache, in the end they do.

The loss last night wasn’t a story though and all that Atlanta United fans have is the suffering and heartache. Now the team faces an offseason where that other quality of love looms: desperate longing thanks to separation.

I’ll spare you more of this, here’s how it looked:

In case you didn’t know, Zack Steffen had a statement game yesterday. The guy has made some good plays this season, and I noted that he’s been uneven for the Crew, but that was the best game he’s ever had and if he keeps it up Columbus could ride him to MLS Cup.

I still can’t remember seeing a game where the ball refused to go into the net the way it did last night. It was actively willing itself out of the goal. There were 41 shots between the two teams with 13 on target, I’m sure the expected goals is going to be something like 57.

Good luck to the Crew, if there’s any solace in the loss yesterday it’s knowing that a deserving fan base that is having something unjustly taken from them will get at least one more extra game to watch their beloved team play this year.