Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Does No One in England Practice Their Penalty Kicks?

From the schoolyards of Eton to the concrete tower block jungles, the hue and cry must rise: "Englishmen, practice your penalty kicks!" Is this how the sun finally set on the British Empire?

England's Coventry City FC were felled by the Timbers (sorry) Saturday night following an overtime shoot-out--and did I ever say penalty kicks were a horrible, grim way to end a game? I lied! I had so much fun I still haven't scrubbed the grin off my face! Of course, it helps when you win. And when it's a friendly and nothing is at stake (besides our pride, of course). Still, I haven't seen 107 that excited since the Seattle match. You'd think the Timbers had won the World Cup, not an exhibition match against a squad from the Coca-Cola Championship. The stealthily detonated colorful smoke bombs--ticket to a season ban from the park--were a lovely surprise; don't expect to see that particular scourge of PGE Park security again anytime soon.

Rather soberingly, the Timbers scored their only goal on penalties, and it's now been 5 weeks since we've seen them score at home in open play, or even from a set piece. (They did pick up some goals in their mid-June away tour, with a win in Minnesota and a draw in Rochester.) This begins to sound depressingly like last year's squad instead of our new, shinier, faster, dazzling team, until I remind myself that we've had only three home games since the Seattle match including this one. (And lest we forget, they--and Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar in particular--were splendid in those penalty kicks this past weekend.) In fact, the next match is Seattle again on July 21, then another road trip followed by a whopping six home games straight, one almost every week beginning August 4 in which the Timbers will use the home field advantage to once again storm the heady heights of #1 in the USL. Or so I predict.

Match report, photos, and video here.

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