Friday, September 3, 2010

De Martin is the hero!

Tonight's scramble between the Timbers and the Islanders was nowhere near as fun to watch as the game earlier this week between the Timbers and CP Baltimore.   If I had to guess it's in part that our crew can't pull off the creative, diverse offense that makes them look good against the best teams in the division.  Puerto Rico is one of those teams and the game tonight looked evenhanded but not at all pretty.  Doug De Martin is the hero of the match in my opinion because it was his little piece of 'one on one' out in the left corner that led to his being free to make a sterling cross for Ryan Pore to put in the goal.   Pore gets much credit for being there on the receiving end, but De Martin's moves in the corner were worthy of the best players in La Liga or Serie A.   

The bottom line for our guys is whether they can hold the line and play staunch defense against four good teams on the road to bring home a playoff berth.  I wish them all the best.

Meanwhile, back in the stands.  The Army's territory looked like Day of the Triffids with the dangling stalks of thousands of sunflowers brought for the purpose of illuminating 'You are my Sunshine".   The stalks talks....

In our section of the world, disputes broke out between fans who wanted to sit in their seats and fans who thought that standing up at any opportune moment was good,  as for example for quaffing a beer or hiking one's crimson kilt upward around the tropic of corpulence.  The reality for selling mucho tickets to MLS is that never the twain should meet.  Standers should sign up to get their bona fides and report for duty in the Timbers' army.   Many fierce Timbers supporters who are not thirty years old should be able to find a seating area where standing through the game isn't mandatory to see something other than the tattoo on the back of the head of the goofball in front of them.   For friends of mine this isn't a 'choice' it's a reality for attending matches.   A little empathy here, Army folk?  But when all was said and done,  folks were enjoying the match.  And that's a good sign.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Soccer practice in modern times.

Tonight at the end of practice, one of my teammates said, in a helpful way, "you have a cloud of mosquitos flying around your head".    And he was right.  I did.   It's the beginning of September and we're swarmed by skeeters who are voracious and go for the eyes.  Never had this experience before.  But 'the game' requires sacrifice, blood sacrifice I guess. 
The FC77 crew has had a Wednesday night practice since sometime in the misty years of the 80s. For a long long time we practiced under the tennis court lights at Colonel Sumner Park on SE 20th and Belmont.  I remember being there when there was snow falling steadily and the boys were arguing about how much snow it would take to have to quit and go home.   We were practicing the night of the famous plane crash in far southeast Portland.  The odd thing is that the crash was on a Thursday night and not the night we normally practiced.  It was three days after Christmas and so it would have been possible we moved that night to Thursday because of holiday obligations.   I remember seeing the plane circling around in the East and then going very very low.   We didn't realize that it had crashed right then.  But we all were convinced something bad had happened out east.
Wednesday night practice moved from Colonel Sumner when the Big Dig started. One of the portals to the new stormwater and sewer retention system was in the middle of the field we used.   Even after the crews 'cleaned up' there were ankle breaking ruts in the surrounding ground. 
So we found Kenilworth Park after some searching.   And as the years have passed, that practice has become an anchor.   While it started with FC77 players and friends, in recent years we've had kids from Cuba,  kids from Romania, Tibetans and Southeast Asians,  odds and ends of players from the surrounding neighborhoods, and the core of old guys from the club.   
Soccer practice is actually one of the unspoken rewards of the game.   Guys and some girls who love to play, not necessarily speaking each others' languages, pull on their boots and side up 'dark or white' to knock the ball around together.   There is laughter.  There is trash talk.  There is good play and bad play,  but the ultimate reality is that the game we all love becomes the language we speak.
Practice is not just about game.  Practice is about being part of the incredible human race.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Timbers v Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace Baltimore arrived in Portland last Sunday night hoping to shake off the mental impact of a 0-5 shellacking by the Montreal Impact the previous weekend.  The Timbers not only showed no mercy but stepped up their game,  looking like the team Coach Gavin Wilkinson had been talking about all season.   The three goal shutout featuring a brace from Bright Dike and a solid finish from Ryan Pore was not only notable for the bottom line but also because it was the prettiest display of football the team has displayed.   Passing was crisp and particularly precise in slotting dangerous, short through balls in the box from a variety of directions.  Claesson's early intrusion in behind the defense and his lovely ball to Dike on top was only one example.  It was pretty to watch.   And it stands as the kind of game in which the excitement of creative interaction between the players on attack makes those moments almost as satisfying as the tallies in the net.
The Timbers got both in this match,  and it's perfect timing as they head toward the last home stand on the schedule Thursday night.   One other interesting note was that we had the first chance to see Kalif Alhassan,  the young player from Ghana.   He's got quick feet and looked poised in his first runout.
We'll hope this starts a run.