Friday, September 08, 2006

Rose City Til I Die!

The Timbers played their final match against the Atlanta Silverbacks last night. Technically, this was a meaningless game for the Timbers, who fulfilled Zach's predictions in the comments the other day by falling to the very bottom of the table, even below Toronto Lynx levels. I like to think of this as a bit of altruism on our part, saving the Lynx from another season of humiliation. We're generous that way.

At any rate, it turns out that a meaningless game is never meaningless when your pride is on the line. The Timbers fought hard, at least in the first half, and nobody could fault Byron Alvarez or Guti! for the spirit displayed as the clock ticked down the final minutes of a bad season. We lost 2-0 but you'd never have known it from watching and listening to the Timbers Army, from the sea of streamers at the start to the bravura line of flares that lit up the night at the 90th minute.

After raising questions about Josh Saunders' goalkeeping the other day, I gotta say I was disappointed to see he wasn't starting last night and relieved when he was subbed in at the 75th minute; ditto for Scot Thompson, who was injured in his Coventry City tryouts and has been sitting out ever since, until coming in after the half. The future of everyone with a team that has performed so poorly is uncertain: Scot and Josh have been stalwarts of the squad and this may be the last time we see them play for the Green and White.

For the disappointing end of a horrible season, it was actually a beautiful night. A hint of autumn in the cooling night air, and the Timbers Army went on singing and singing long after the whistle blew and the team made their final pass before us, as they moved on toward the tunnel, as they stopped on the far side of the pitch to sign autographs. Somehow I ended up standing on the seat in front of us--emptied when its occupant rushed further down to see the finish--and when I turned around Derek had somehow acquired a flag on a pole, which he was swinging with all his might, and Lisa held someone's soccer boot. Unlike Cinderella's prince, we never learned whose foot it came from.

So, good things this season: we saw some fine new players, although whether any of them would (or should, for their own sakes) play for the Timbers again is anyone guess. We got a trumpet player! And he leads the Boca Juniors (replace "Boca" with "Timbers") chant really well! The "Seven Nation Army" that we ripped off from the Italians is a nice one as well, and green and white army and we are mental and we are green, we are the greatest football supporters the world has ever seen. And who can resist everybody pogo? (I am not so in love with the TA that I am forgetting about the football; there's just not much good to say about the football this year.) There was the magical night that we beat Seattle.

I hate the offseason. I gotta move to a country where they play football most of the year, not the other way around. I hate walking past PGE Park in the thick of January's damp winter gloom and pressing my face against the fence and imagining the players on the pitch, the ball slamming into the net, the songs rising up from the north end of the park (because I really do this, you know). Last night Derek and I walked home from the Bullpen, and park employees were out on the pitch, working under floodlights to do whatever it is they do to that godawful playing surface at the end of a game. And somehow--by accident or design, I don't know which--down toward the south end, in the middle of the pitch, one lone soccer ball waited in the dark.

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