I broke the press box protocol several times last night at RFK Stadium. It’s supposed to be an unbiased workmanlike office atmosphere. For some, covering this team is their job. But as one of the least compensated individuals in the press box for the job at hand (and I’m not complaining), I have slightly less incentive than others to keep my emotions fully in check. Normally, I do anyway though. Last night, I couldn’t.
And so in the dying moments of DC United’s 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers, when the ball was played across the goal mouth to an on-rushing (on-walking?) Joseph Ngwenya, I yelled "Ngwenya!" about as loud as anyone in the press box has ever yelled this year. It’s not a moment I’m proud of, but it’s a moment I’ll always remember.
It seemed as though time slowed down when that ball was rolling across the area. Maybe it slowed down for everyone watching, for everyone in the stadium except for Ngwenya himself. It was like the whole season was leading up to this very moment. I was asking "Who wants to be the hero?" Apparently Ngwenya didn’t.
It’s hard to imagine any other forward not finishing that chance. Josh Wolff or Blake Brettschneider would’ve scored. If Ben Olsen had moved Ethan White to forward instead of pulling him for Ngwenya, he would’ve scored. Kurt Morsink would’ve scored. Fuck, Bill Hamid probably would’ve scored. I don’t know if Francis Doe has played a soccer match in a year, but he definitely would’ve scored too.
I won’t be surprised if Ngwenya starts for United on Saturday. Olsen has consistently praised his work rate, saying that he always gets himself in good spots. But this moment was effectively the end of his MLS career. Maybe he’ll be remembered by Houston Dynamo fans as a player who was capable of scoring goals in the biggest of moments, but in D.C. he’ll be remembered as the player who cost us our last possible chance at saving the 2011 season.