Friday, August 8, 2008

Fan's Perspective - Shittle vs. Timbers 8/07/08

Ok, after careful consideration, I decided to try out a new thread of sorts, talking about the Timbers from the eyes of section 107. I'm not nearly knowledgeable about footy to tell you why a 4-3-3 works when a 4-2-1-2-1 wouldn't, I still have issues with the offsides rule in footy. I know that a pass can't be made to a player that is in an offside position - past the last defender going toward the goal, but I'm not even sure that explanation would hold up in footy school. I know that often times, offside flags get put up and I swear up and down it's not offsides until I see a picture or replay, but then other times I'm sure the flag will go up and it doesn't. It, like many calls in footy, are left up to the officials and last night, they didn't have a very good game.

But before I go there, last night was the last game in the current rivalry between the Seattle Sounders (aka Shittle Flounders) and the Portland Timbers. They both joined the A-League in 2001 after many years battling in the NASL and other professional soccer leagues, and the rivalry continued into the USL. Next year, the Flounders are heading to MLS, and barring a playoff meeting or perhaps a U.S. Open Cup game next year, these two bitter rivals won't meet again for a while. Mind you, I'm convinced that MLS will select Portland for a team in 2011 and things will get back to normal, but for now, it was the end. And boy, did the Timbers Army celebrate this in style.

Yes, folks, a coffin was brought into the stadium, containing a blow up whale and various Flounder gear, and it was paraded through the section to then reside on SW 18th Avenue just outside the park. Courtesy of video from my bud Oooh Yeah, you can see the fun passing this down. While we hate our rivals with a passion, I think for some of us it was a bitter sweet moment because we love to face them. I love traveling up north to watch the Timbers, although it's a nicer trip back if they win or draw. After the anthem was played, the streamer attack was in full force as well, as there were dozens of streamers flying about. Some pictures and a full match report are over at Soccer City USA, courtesy of Allison A, who does a great job of covering the team.

I'll miss matches against Shittle just because of the creativity of the TA, from Cinco De Mayo night up there last year to the coffin this year. I also know for a fact that we are a million times better footy fans than what they have up north. I realize full well they have USL titles, and now moving to MLS, but then tell me why their average crowd size over the past 7 years is 3,000 per game unless they play us. We've averaged between 5500 and 7000 fans for the past 7 years, and we've had some good teams (2005, 2007) and some not so good teams (2006), yet our fans keep coming back no matter what. Let's face it, if you survived the 2006 season with Agnello at the helm, trust me, you can live through anything. But Shittle's owner had the foresight to ask about MLS, got big money guys involved with his bid, worked to get MLS to approve Qwest Field as a suitable MLS park, got the owner of Qwest to join his ownership group, and the rest is history. I wish our former ownership groups had enough insight and forethought to have made a bid for MLS earlier, but soccer has been an afterthought until our new owner, Merritt Paulson, came on board, and realized the potential of MLS here. The bid is currently being worked on, but I have a feeling it's further along that anyone realizes. You can always check for more information about it, plus what you can do to contribute.

But back to last night's game and my observations. Our midfield did us no favors last night as passes forward went to nobody in particular, and Suzuki and Alvarez need good service in order to convert chances. Only Bryan Jordan can really create his own shot, which he did on a few occasions, but he never got a good clean look. When we did get the ball in midfield, the Flounders sent two guys after it, and our next pass was either to nobody or back in formation, allowing their defense to regroup. We certainly played with a lot of heart and passion, and I think had we not lost Scot to a really poor red card decision and gave up the early goal (which probably should have been called offsides according to some reports but wasn't), we would have probably done really well. But sometimes in footy, the breaks don't go your way no matter what happens, and essentially, we didn't get any breaks. When we did play aggressively, it usually led to a Flounder falling down or diving to either get a card or a foul, we would back off for a bit, allowing them space. Knighton played well in goal, and I can't blame him for the goal he let in, he's certainly improved a lot since we signed him.

We also were victims of spotty officiating all night, but that's to be expected from the USL. I can't tell you how many questionable calls don't go our way, from phantom red cards to offsides calls to non-calls on our opponents. Last night, the center official had little control of the flow of the game, allowing his ARs to call many fouls and make key judgements. In most instances, the calls were missed. Are you telling me that Leo getting a black eye from an elbow is a no call but yet Scot going in for a tackle a second late is a straight red?? Plus, Jordan being pulled down in the box and no call whatsoever? It was a bad night to be dressed in red and on the field. When the west side fans start booing and throwing crap, you know the referees have had a bad night, as the west side fans tend to be less animated. The other telling stat is 10 corner kicks in the game, and none for us. Seriously, that isn't a stat that will win you many games.

And the shed was amazing with over 5 full sections, yelling and screaming for 90 minutes, plus filling the air with streamers, balloons, an inflatable whale, and a few beach balls. The energy was amazing, as section 107 was starting to fill up 90 minutes before game time, and was about 3/4 full an hour before. I was impressed with the size, passion and energy of our sections, even after the match when folks were still singing and milling about. I'm a little upset that there were a few incidents between Flounder and Timbers supporters, because really, we are both here to support our teams, and I understand being rivals they will say or do things to ratchet things up. That is still no excuse to throw down, even if provoked. I understand things can get heated, but that's the time to walk away and be the better supporter.

Our next match is tomorrow night versus Charleston, which is really a must win if we want to have any hope of reaching the post season. Game time is 7 PM at the land of PGE Park. Hope to see some of you there...

Portland Tribune talking about game coverage of the game

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