A bizarre few minutes turned out to be a microcosm of a crazy, crazy series and a letdown of a season.
Somewhere in the upper reaches of Red Bull Arena's section 101, as the final seconds ticked away from the Red Bulls' 2012 season, someone remarked that the few minutes between Bill Hamid's red card and Kenny Cooper's missed penalty was "the craziest five minutes I've ever seen."
It was a rough estimate, but he was just about right. Hamid was red carded in the 68th minute. Cooper's second penalty was saved in the 73rd minute.
That stretch, turned out to be a microcosm of a bizarre, bizarre conference semi-final series against D.C. United. The hurricane that drenched the New York area. The venue switch. Chris Pontius' missed penalty, followed by dueling own goals in the first leg. The insistence the second leg would get played, despite a crazy snowstorm. The league's decision to postpone the game during a national broadcast. Hamid's red card. Rafael Marquez's red card.
It was surreal, likely to all but the most cynical MetroBulls fans.
It started off well enough. Dax McCarty plays a perfectly weighted ball to Cooper, who holds the line almost perfectly to keep from going offside. Hamid comes out to play the ball, trips Cooper and almost immediately referee Mark Geiger whips out his red card and awards the penalty.
Geiger is almost immediately surrounded by black jerseys and admonishes Geiger to look at the replay, but not before a sneaky Tim Cahill makes his way over to tap the ball out of Brandon McDonald's arms.
When Cooper finally does get to take the penalty, Thierry Henry is clearly in the box, and not by a few steps, by three or four. When Cooper steps up a second time he approaches the same way and puts the ball in the same place. A ballsy move for sure, but one that didn't pay off. Joe Willis guessed right the second time and made the stop.
During the proceedings, Arlo White remarked the game -- specifically Hamid's game -- had gone "from the sublime to the ridiculous."
And he'd be right. An open, back and forth game went from free-flowing to a mess of fouls and missed opportunities.
But even more, the Red Bulls' season had gone from sublime -- the highest point total in MetroBulls history, finished off with a 3-0 drubbing of the Philadelphia Union that looked to give them the steam to do something in the playoffs --to the ridiculous, a series marred by weather and sloppy play.
That's how it went, too, for the South Ward and the rest of the assembled fans at Red Bull Arena. It took just a few minutes to change the South Ward's jubilation into general shock, that few minutes the time between Cooper's cool, easy finish, and his deflected re-try.
Two quotes. Five minutes. One train wreck of a game ending a season far too early.