Slowly, teammates approached Danny Califf, trying to soothe and reassure the somber defender. His shoulders slumped and his eyes welled up as Simon Elliott patted him on the back. Califf, wiping tears from his cheeks, was disconsolate.
Califf had been involved in both of the Kansas City Wizards' scores Friday night in front of 8,320 at Arrowhead Stadium. They were goals that gave the Wizards an improbable berth in MLS Cup 2000 against the Chicago Fire while sending the Galaxy home for the winter.
The Galaxy entered the match needing only a tie to advance to Major League Soccer's title match for a second consecutive season and third time in the league's five-year history.
But after the Wizards won Game 3, 1-0, on a penalty kick that was awarded on a Califf foul, Kansas City won the match on a goal in the sixth minute of a tiebreaker period after Califf failed to clear a ball near the top of the 18-yard box.
"It was knuckling and I wasn't sure where it was going and I got kind of wrong-footed," Califf said. "It was in between and I took it with my chest and I should have just cleared it with my head, I guess.
"It was completely my fault and I'm truly sorry for putting our team through that."
The series-deciding play began when Kansas City forward Preki sent a high pass to no one in particular at midfield. Califf went up and, rather than heading the ball out, tried to catch it with his chest before clearing with a kick. Wizard forward Mo Johnston pressured Califf and got the ball to forward Miklos Molnar on the right wing.
Molnar was by himself and, while Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman forced him further outside and changed his angle, Molnar's shot was true.
"I felt like if I would have [charged Molnar] that I was going to foul him and bring him down," said Hartman, who had two saves in four Kansas City shots on goal. "I also felt like I slowed him down enough so that perhaps one of my defenders could fill in behind me a little bit."
It wasn't to be.
The winning goal appeared to catch Arrowhead Stadium personnel by surprise. They had to move three boxes of champagne across the hall from the Galaxy's dressing room to the Wizards'.
The Wizards' lone goal came after Califf was called for fouling forward Chris Henderson in the box in the 22nd minute by referee Kevin Terry, though Henderson was in no position to score, nearly out of bounds on the left side of the net.
"That was one of the worst calls I think I've ever seen," said Califf, who won Game 2 for the Galaxy Tuesday with a golden goal header. "He was falling down before I was even there. He fell forward and I don't even know what he was calling.
"I think it's really unfortunate that referees decide games like that."
Molnar's penalty kick found the right side of the net, though Hartman did manage to get a hand on it. It was Kansas City's first penalty kick in 46 games, a span of 4,127 minutes dating to Aug. 25, 1999.
Terry had a chance to award the Galaxy a penalty kick in the 90th minute when Mauricio Cienfuegos went down hard near the net on a slide tackle by rookie defender Nick Garcia, but no call was made.
"Was that a penalty? Probably not," Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said. "But there was more contact there than there was on the Wizards' penalty. And I think in fairness to the referee, I think he was screened. All he saw was Henderson fall down; he never saw if there was contact or if there wasn't.
"[When Cienfuegos went down] there was definitely a foul but he's not going to give us a penalty, obviously."
The Galaxy, which was outshot, 16-9, had its best scoring chances on an Ezra Hendrickson header in the 24th minute, which was caught on the fly by Wizard goalkeeper Tony Meola, and a Luis Hernandez shot from 10 yards out that Meola deflected in self defense in the 73rd minute.
"We just couldn't get it done on the [offensive] end," Schmid said.
Schmid and Hernandez were each fined by the league for behavior that was termed "encroaching the referee secure area/individual and public criticisms of MLS game" after Game 1 on Sept. 29 in Kansas City. Schmid was fined $500 and Hernandez $250.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Galaxy vs. Kansas City
* Galaxy 0, Kansas City 0
* Galaxy 2, Kansas City 1 (OT)
* Kansas City 1, Galaxy 0
* Kansas City 1, Galaxy 0 (mini-game)
(Kansas City wins series, 5-4)
New York-New Jersey vs. Chicago
* Chicago 3, New York-New Jersey 0
* New York-New Jersey 2, Chicago 0
* Chicago 3, New York-New Jersey 2
(Chicago wins series, 6-3)
Oct. 15--Kansas City vs. Chicago, at Washington