Saturday, May 06, 2006

Timbers Opening Night

It was a magical night from start to finish. The pre-game crowd at the Bitter End sang songs. Section 107 couldn't be contained, overflowing and spilling out all over 106 and 108. Another incisive issue of Ax to the Head had rolled from the presses. The evening was warm and the long winter months of trudging past the silent stadium, peering through the fence and humming chants and wishing for summer all melted away.

A very different team from last year's took to the pitch (albeit retaining eight of 2005's strongest players). It was fantastic to see veterans like Byron Alvarez, Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar, Josh Saunders and S-C-O-T with one T Thompson back at work and exciting to see what the new lads had to offer as well. My new favorite player is Colombian Alejandro Gutierrez--speed and flair! At one point I heard no less than three separate grumbles around me, all to the effect of "A little too fancy!" Apparently, we are suspicious of the fancy in these parts. Other supporters, though, shared my enthusiasm for his style.

Newly signed striker Chad Bartlome scored the Timbers' one goal, in the 21st minute, which Vancouver equalized shortly after the half. Although the match ended in a draw, this had none of the "Timbers can't hold onto the lead" feel of last season.

Creative, unpredictable, fast, and entertaining--that's what I saw on the pitch last night. This team still needs time together in order to gel but they were actually stronger than I anticipated at this early date. I'm feeling good about the new season and hopeful for tonight's match against the Minnesota Thunder.

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