It ain't over till it's over (plus extra time...)

If there's one thing I've learned from watching soccer, it's that the game isn't over until the final whistle blows.  One of Alfie's and my pet peeves when watching soccer games is seeing fans leave the stadium before the game ends.  Usually that happens when one team is down by a few goals and there doesn't seem to be much hope of them catching up.  No doubt they can't stand to see their team lose, and they want to get a head start on the outbound crowd.

But there's always hope.  Really.  It only takes a second to score, and you can score a goal from anywhere on the field.  I've seen a goalkeeper score a goal, both live (when the San Jose Earthquakes' goalkeeper David Bingham scored against West Bromwich Albion in July 2011) and on tv (when Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard scored against the Bolton Wanderers in January 2012).  I've seen countless matches tied or won with a last-minute goal (that's Manchester United's specialty!).  I've seen goals in the 90th minute, goals in stoppage time, and goals at the end of stoppage time.  I've even goals long after stoppage time should have ended!  I'll never forget Arsenal's penalty score against Liverpool in April 2011, 8 minutes into stoppage time.... and Liverpool's equalizing penalty 12 minutes into stoppage time).  

In fact, Arsenal (my favorite English Premiere League soccer team) is the perfect example of why you should never, ever leave a soccer game until the very end. When they played Newcastle United in February 2011, they were leading by a score of 4-0 by halftime.  Arsenal looked unstoppable.  Newcastle fans began leaving the stadium at halftime.

But the unthinkable happened:  Arsenal imploded in the second half.  They had 2 players sent off, and Newcastle ended up scoring 4 goals, ending the game at 4-4.  It was an unbelievable (and for Arsenal fans like me, an agonizing) comeback.  I'll bet those faithless halftime fans were kicking themselves for not staying!

Our "never say die" philosophy stood us in good stead during yesterday's California Clasico game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy.  Last year the Quakes were in top form, and the 2012 California Clasico was an exciting game which the Quakes won, 4-3.  But this year the Quakes are near the bottom of the league, so I had every expectation that the Galaxy would bury their rivals with a 2 goal lead or more.

Sure enough, LA opened the scoring in the 20th minute and were 2-0 up by the 65th.  The Quakes did have their chances, but they were nowhere close to last year's form.  I thought it was hopeless.  Earthquakes fans got their hopes up in the 68th minute when Alan Gordon scored San Jose's first call -- only to have them dashed again less than 10 minutes later, when defender Victor Bernardez was sent off the field for his second yellow card offense.  Two goals down, one man down.  As the 90th minute approached, Alfie looked around the stadium and saw some fans leaving.  Who could blame them?  A tie seemed impossible.  A win, even more so.

And yet... the impossible happened.   LA blew chance after chance to score a 3rd goal.  Shea Salinas scored for San Jose in the 93rd minute.  Just 1 minute later, Alan Gordon scored the winning goal.  What. A. Comeback!  It was the most exciting 4 minutes of stoppage time I have ever seen live.  And we would have missed it if we hadn't stayed till the end.

The moral of the story:  there's always hope.  Okay, there are exceptions (like if the score were 7-0 with 5 minutes to go).... but the point is, if you're a fan, you stick with your team till the end -- and that means cheering them on until the final whistle has blown and the coaches have streamed onto the field.  Because you never know what's going to happen!

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