Well, that certainly wasn't how I envisioned the season coming to an end. I was fully aware that NYRBII was the regular season champ and set league records for points, wins and goals, but attributed some of that to the fact the Eastern Conference was weaker than the West.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Red Bulls were just as strong as their numbers would suggest. While a couple of those goals were after the air had already been taken out of the Rangers balloon, it was still a 5-1 result for the home side and makes this a time to reflect on the season.
If I had to pick one moment where I had to pick up my jaw off the floor, it would have to be Dane Kelly's extra time game-winner against the Orange County Blues. To give you an idea of how impressive the feat was (not necessarily the goal, but winning down to nine and not having to go to penalties), I'll use a pair of lines from the movie Tombstone (still one of my favorites).
After the scene where Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp kills Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) after wading into the creek, Sherman McMasters (Michael Rooker) says, "Have you ever seen anything like that before?" Turkey Creek Jack Johnson (Buck Taylor) replies, "I ain't even heard of anything like that before."
The heart that the team showed in that match, and really, in every match down the stretch, has been the most impressive thing about this run. The fact they never got negative or nasty, not even in June when they were in 13th place, shows they never gave up in their belief in themselves. With a master motivator in Marc Dos Santos, anything is possible.
There were a couple moments where I just couldn't help but smile, one in the regular season and one in the playoffs. The regular season one happened early on, probably in May (wish I'd written it down). After the first yellow card of the match, I said, "A yellow card caution has been to the referee...," instead of "...by the referee..." I knew the mic was on when I heard people outside the press box clapping. When Chris Wyche, EVP of Operations for SKC came up behind me in the press box, I turned and looked at him and he had the biggest turd eating grin on his face.
The one in the playoffs happened after the first round game with the Los Angeles Galaxy II (or "Los Dos"). After a rather hard-fought match, I was talking to a player on the field and he said, "I really hate those t***s!" It made me laugh because you never think of certain guys as saying things like that.
There have also been some moments that I classify "Only with the Rangers." For example, Mark Anthony Gonzalez's mom Marisa follows me on Twitter and Amer Didic's dad Jida is Facebook friends with me. There was also the time that Johnny Grant thanked me for waiting for him. All I wanted to do was give him a message from a mutual acquaintance. Those things wouldn't happen in a bigger club.
Now, not everything was positive. After all, the club was in 13th place in June before making a run up the table to finish fourth with a home playoff game. The moments that really broke my heart mostly dealt with injuries to players I liked. The first was Kevin Oliveira tearing his ACL in late June. Even after that, though, Kevin was still named to the USL's list of the 20 best players age 20 or younger. Ualefi blew out his knee during the playoff run and missed out on the conference final.
There are a couple people I would like to thank, individually, for their roles in this happening. The first would be Rangers GM Kurt Austin and Mr. Wyche. They were the people that gave me the opportunity for a dream job. While I had worked in radio (a long time ago), I had never worked as a public address announcer before (outside of one wrestling dual meet while I was in high school). They did what they could to make the process as painless as possible for me. I will be eternally grateful for the faith they put in me.
I would also like to thank Patrik Bergabo, Rangers Communications Manager and fellow Liverpool FC fan, for putting up with me. I didn't always make your job very easy (especially this week), but I appreciate you and your assistance before, during, and after games this season.
I would be remiss if I didn't also thank Marc Dos Santos, Rangers head coach this season. Marc was always warm and positive when I talked to him, win or lose. In fact, after one match, he said the loss was his fault as the subs had not been the right ones. I will miss seeing him around next season. He's already been announced as the head coach of the San Francisco Deltas, an NASL expansion side for 2017. It will be his third team in three years, but I can't blame him, really. He's an ambitious guy and I can't blame him for wanting to be the guy in charge and he can't do that in Kansas City with Peter Vermes around.
The 2016 season has come to an end and we'll have to wait until March for it to start again. If next year is anywhere near as good as this year has been, I can hardly wait for it to get here.