The storybook ending was so tantalizingly close on Easter Sunday at the U.S. Cellular Arena that the Wave and more than 5,000 fans could practically taste it. With a six-point lead on the scoreboard and momentum on Milwaukee's side, the Wave seemed poised to win the Major Indoor Soccer League championship.
In a flash, sweet gave way to bitter.
Led by veterans Chile Farias and Genoni Martinez, La Raza de Monterrey overcame the deficit and shocked the Wave, 12-6, to win the title.
"It's disappointing," Wave coach Keith Tozer said. "To have someone celebrate in your own building is pretty tough. We won the regular season (title). We made the playoffs. We saved the franchise.
"Now, we've got to go out and keep selling during the off-season."
Too bad the off-season didn't start when the Wave led, 6-0, early in the third quarter.
Farias, the MVP of the game, started the rally with a long three-pointer in the third quarter and then scored the go-ahead goal minutes later. Martinez, who was MVP of the MISL regular season, chipped in a critical a short-handed goal before Farias iced it with an empty-netter in the final minute.
"We said at halftime, I thought the guys stuck to the game plan, which was to take Chile out of his game and keep Martinez at bay. We did that great. We gave up one power play and hardly any restarts.
"Then, we fell asleep on Chile twice. Chile came through. He was the MVP. What can you do?"
The Wave, which had won eight straight heading into the final, had two weeks to prepare. They showed few signs of rust early, with Ryan Mack, Giuliano Oliviero and Marcelo Fontana scoring the first three goals of the game against Monterrey goalie Bontti, who stopped seen shots in the game.
Tozer said the momentum shifted with the three-pointer and quick followup goal "took a little wind out of our sails."
"I don't think we fell into a comfort zone," Tozer said. "The kinds of guys they have... they're dangerous. When a team gets on a roll in any sport -- all of a sudden -- their engine, their heart, their passion and their desire goes (up). They were blocking shots on the line. They were blocking shots with their body. In a championship game. it's intensified a thousand times more. I give them credit."
Tozer also credited his players, who overcame the uncertainty of the franchise's future and injuries to key players.
"Those guys battled all year long," Tozer said. "I'm very proud of them. I love all these guys."
Tozer said the memory of the loss would drive him and the players when training camp opens in fall.
"I think the real story here is that Jim (Lindenberg, the owner) gave us the ability to be in this game, win or lose," Tozer said. "I think fans of Milwaukee, fans of Wisconsin and fans of indoor soccer across the country, I think those are the true winners."
Said Lindenberg: "It was a fantastic game. I want to thank all the Wave fans for coming out on Easter Sunday. We'll get ‘em next year."
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.