Monday, July 23, 2007

Timbers Still Tops; Merritt Paulson on MLS

As the boys in green headed home from a game in Charleston, South Carolina that ended their winning streak, new owner Merritt Paulson appeared on a channel 8 sports show last night and said a few things in his brief appearance that made me very happy: That Portland is a fantastic market for MLS. That "they don't call it Soccer City USA for nothing." That it is too early to speculate as to whether he would be one of the owners of an MLS team, but that the Timbers name has a great tradition that should be carried over into MLS. Aaand...that PGE Park is a great urban location for the home of an MLS soccer team.

I've never had the time to write a proper indictment of the appalling prospect that floated around for a bit about a soccer stadium in Hillsboro, not even within reach of public transportation--which is probably just as well; I'd have ranted about the suburbanization of soccer, the American cult of the automobile, and God knows what else, probably turning red and falling out of my chair from indignation at the end as I marshaled the last of my strength to ill-advisedly hit the "publish" button. But really, PGE Park converted to a soccer-specific stadium is like a dream come true: smack in the middle of downtown, bus and light rail drop you off at the gates, bars and restaurants in the vicinity abound.

In other Timbers news, the boys won in Atlanta 1-0 but last night fell to Charleston 2-0, for which I can hardly blame them--five games in ten days, the last two on the opposite side of the country, in places which, at this time of year, are unbearably hot and humid. (Native P-towners: when y'all say "humid" out here, you have no idea what you're talking about.) Anyway, I'd have started thinking they were robots, not human beings, had they kept it up--no way would top-level players ever be submitted to such a grueling schedule, but the ways of USL scheduling are strange and arcane. Apparently Josh Wicks got hurt in Atlanta and Bayard Elfvin had to finish that match out and play in Charleston; as much as it grieves me to lose Josh for a few games, Elfvin has been a fantastic backup keeper for us in years past and, best of all, plays with real passion and heart.

The Timbers face the Atlanta Silverbacks again in PGE Park on Thursday night at 7 p.m. and then on Saturday night welcome England's Championship side Preston North End for a friendly.


Zach Dundas said...

It's great that they got some points out of that brutal road swing. I'm starting to thing they have "it." For one thing, they seem to be the sort of side that actually might thrive in knock-out play—gritty, hard to break down, opportunistic, etc.

MLS>>>PDX? Gawd, it makes almost too much sense. I doubt it will ever happen.

Lynda said...

You know, I am actually cautiously optimistic for the first time ever about this MLS thing maybe going down, and in a best-case-scenario fashion. I have a real soft spot for USL soccer, for all its wonkiness, but can't argue with the lure of a real stadium and more cash and opportunities for the boys in green.

And yeah: I do think they have "it." Your description of them matches what I've seen of them on the field.