Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Devil You Know

Or rather, the pitch you know. Surely it had to be a factor in those Milan boys' failure to trounce the Timbers on Tuesday night. That didn't keep it from being a point of contention Tuesday night when the new owner, Merritt Paulson, decided to make a gladhanding pass through the shed, where he was met with cries such as "Owner! Owner! Buy us some grass!" (and handshakes as well. It was decent of him to make the effort, as it's more than the previous owner ever did. He could really win some hearts and minds by joining the Army for an entire match one night.) At any rate, as this Oregonian article points out, the young lads from Milan were significantly technically superior to our Timbers. But they were unprepared for our secret weapon--the pitch of concrete!

I know it was a good night because I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat. We mocked Berlusconi; we shouted at them in Italian; we were led in singing something which was doubtless rude by a fellow clad top-to-toe in Inter gear; we gave them a show which was not even remotely what they are used to seeing every weekend in Italy, but perhaps we disabused them of the notion that Americans haven't a clue how to create a proper atmosphere for football. (Were those looks of surprise I saw on their faces, looking back as they crossed the field for the first time?) Good to see Italians come out as well, dressed in blue, waving their flags. I believe they were roundly abused as well but secretly we were delighted to have you all, no, really, we were. It was a perfect night for smoke bombs, alas. (Note: CALM DOWN! I am not planning on carrying prohibited smoke bombs into the stadium. I don't even know who's lit them in the past. I don't know anybody. I just think smoke bombs are cool and pretty. Plus, my head is still swimming from the display the Gremio fans put on in the Copa Libertadores last night. We all set now?)

It was a warm, clear evening, and 11,000 people turned out, despite an utter lack of advertising. The Timbers, fielding mostly bench players on account of tonight's game against Montreal, got the lead in the first half with a goal by Tom Taylor, but AC Milan Primavera's Enrico Traviani leveled the score in the second half. Oh, and Andrew Gregor got a red card. Did I forget to mention that? No one seemed to really know precisely why, but don't you kind of always want to give Gregor a red card? God, I'm sorry. I really am. I know, I know, he's a Timber now. Carry on.

With a 1-1 draw the match went to penalties, which is always exciting in PGE Park. I'd like to think it was the collective roar of the Timbers Army which caused the young Milanese to perform so poorly but it was probably just that crappy pitch again, and the final triumphant score was 4-1 Timbers.

Goalkeeper Bayard Elfvin, who always displays an infectious spirit on the rare occasions he gets to play, was man of the match for sure (though my love for Josh Wicks only grows thanks to this nice Oregonian profile, and if that doesn't tug at your heart then surely, like the Grinch's, it is two sizes too small). You can read match reports from Bob or Allison or just take a look at Allison's photos, which are, as always, fantastic. It was wonderful to have the AC Milan Primavera team in town . . . now if we could only get some grass or a centrally located soccer-specific stadium (which is not, God forbid, in Hillsboro, something I've been meaning to blog about for ages but I'm really just too mad to talk about it), we could attract top European teams on friendlies--like AC Milan Primavera's big brothers--and really live up to our "Soccer City USA" moniker.

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