Sunday, August 12, 2007

First Place Never Felt So Bad

The Timbers played twice in the last few days, both to scoreless draws, and as a result I, and doubtless the team and and a whole lot of other fans, are feeling vaguely...unfulfilled. Actually, it's worse than that: this piece really ought to start off "the Timbers were robbed of a win Saturday night," because Bryan Jordan's fine 80th minute goal was inexplicably and incorrectly called off. Of course, the difference between a good team and a great one (and what makes the US-style of playoffs and the knockout rounds of tournaments so frustrating) is the ability, over the course of a season, to overcome a few poorly called games. Still, with PGE Park reporting season-high turnouts for the last couple of games, it's a shame the masses had to witness two nil-nils in a row.

Actually, I have my own theory about what's going wrong. It's that damn chant, the one that's been around forever and always seemed perfectly innocuous and has somehow become the default for corner kicks and free kicks, the one that goes, "Here we go, here we go" etc. etc. It's a curse, I tell you. Invariably, I find myself muttering "...and there we went" as yet another opportunity is wasted--and when we did score on the chant last night, leading me to briefly believe the curse had been broken--well, we all know how heartbreakingly that turned out. Personally, at such moments I like the groovy musical numbers the best, the drumbeats accompanied by "Heeeeeyyy...for the Timbers...." which I am firmly convinced conjures up the appropriate football deities for victory. I tell you, it's a demon-haunted world, this business of footie fanaticism.

It was good to see traveling fans from both Minnesota and Vancouver, some of whom even braved the Bitter End for pre-game drinks. We here at apm have a soft spot in particular for fans of the Thunder; back in the day when we first began attending matches regularly we sat right behind the lone vocal fan, whom Army regulars from several years back will doubtless remember. In those salad days of yore the dreaded YSA seemed so shiny and promising and each time the Army roared the imprecation, he followed plaintively, his voice hoarse and failing: No, you rule, Joe Warren! (To this day, when we catch a Minnesota Thunder game on TV with Warren in goal, we cry You rule Joe Warren!)

The Timbers have one regular-season home game left, an August 23 match against Charleston followed by a difficult road trip schedule of 5 away matches, most of them to the miserably hot and humid regions of the USL. It's safe to say we'll make it into the playoffs this year but I'm feeling increasingly anxious about how we'll perform there. I do think they're capable of winning the league but I'd feel better if I saw more consistency, more complete domination during matches. Still, we've known all along this stretch of the schedule was going to be challenging, and we're still in first place, even if nobody seems to feel very good about it. Let's hope Thursday's road trip back to Minnesota will be beset with fewer difficulties than the previous one and somehow up there in the wilds of Garrison Keillor country, our boys get their mojo back.

No comments: