Colorado Crashes Out; Portland Ponders What Might Have Been; Nashville Never Gives Up
Of the three Major League Soccer (MLS) teams which have Soccer Chaplains United chaplains serving and supporting the organizations, only one team has pulled through the first round of the 2020 MLS playoffs. Nashville SC, a new, expansion team for 2020 won their first round playoff match last night to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Columbus Crew.
Colorado Rapids the #5 seed in the Western Conference, on Sunday, lost 3-0 in an away trip against #4 seed, Minnesota United. The team started brightly, and looks dominate in many parts of the game, but ultimately injuries and lineup changes led to a few inconsistencies and unfinished chances and the Rapids quickly exited after having last been in the MLS playoffs in 2016. As volunteer chaplain for the Rapids, I shared with someone recently about the loss,
It really feels devastating in a number of ways — after watching the team face challenge after challenge this year — months away from families, starts and stops to the season, a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the team…and then there are a lot of unmet and unrealized hopes and expectations. To come this far and to achieve (for the team) a spot in the playoffs has been a tremendous feat, but I know to a person — from front office to the footballers to the equipment staff — everyone had hoped for so much more. I am super proud of each and everyone who gave their all and I pray that as we rest and get ready for next year there will be a looking back on a solid foundation laid for the future.
The Portland Timbers faced similar challenges this year, albeit a win in the MLS is Back bubble tournament earlier in the year might soften the early exit for the #3 seed in the West. Portland had a home match against #6 FC Dallas, and nearly advanced, but top man Diego Valeri’s chip-shot effort glanced the outside of the far-post. The teams, drawn, finally went to penalty kicks and FC Dallas came out on top. Timber co-chaplain, Ben Dudley, commented on the loss,
Always tough to lose a match, especially, on PK’s. Proud of the team and their resilience this season. 2020 MLS is Back Champs is something that we will uniquely claim! 2021 here we come!Ben Dudley, volunteer co-chaplain Portland Timbers
For Nashville SC, 2020 is also a year and season full of trial and adversity. Beginning with the spring tornados which trashed East Nashville, the team being suspended from the MLS is Back bubble tournament in Orlando because of a COVID-19 outbreak, to even a “minor” early-season switch from the Western Conference to Eastern Conference, Nashville SC has also had its own challenges to face.
So when Nashville SC handily beat expansion-side Inter Miami FC 3-0 in the play-in game for the Eastern Conference Playoffs, that was one thing. But last night’s 1-0 win in extra time against perennial playoff contender and former MLS Cup winners (2017), the #2 seed in the East, Toronto FC meant a new level for this new Nashville team. Soccer Chaplains United volunteer chaplain, Rev Billy Cerveny expressed his emotions with me in a text exchange, last night:
For the teams that have finished, end-of-season meetings will inform players about team plans for next season. Some will end up moving on from their teams, some will stay. Some will have contract negotiations, offers from other teams. Some are preparing to welcome a new child to the family. Some will be getting married. The busyness of life will resume (briefly) until the pre-season begins again.
For Nashville SC and the other remaining MLS playoff teams, December 12 is what they are all striving for — the MLS Cup trophy match. There’s still football to be played!