Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Very Busy Sunday - Fan Observations from Last Night vs. Montreal

Yesterday, the official high in Portland was 104 degrees. Trust me, it usually never gets that hot here ever, but this was our third straight day of temperatures over the century mark, and it was absolutely miserable. I grew up in Boise, ID, where the temperature would get above 100 very regularly, but being here in Portland, it just doesn't reach that maximum all that often. So people usually find relief at home in the air conditioning or at a movie or something...

We were hoping to find it watching an EPL match on Saturday, as West Ham took on Wigan to start the season. Girl and I are huge Hammers fans, and we wanted to take in the season opener to chat with fellow fans, plus give them some trinkets we got while over there last April. However, the venue we chose forgot to open up, so we ended up at Rose and Thistle, a nice pub in the inner SE part of town. West Ham won 2 to 1, but it wasn't without its adventures with potential injuries, defensive breakdowns, and craziness. That's what being a Hammers fan is all about, it's like a roller coaster ride. But at least we found a cool temperature place to watch, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was nice.

Much like the Timbers have been this season. Full of expectations and optimism in April, the team has struggled with injuries, inconsistent play, and lineup shuffling. Our opponent, Montreal, was in a similar boat, both teams really needing a win to further their cause. A planned tailgate before the match did occur in rather sweltering conditions, but plenty of folks were optimistic that the Timbers would end their home losing streak on Saturday. I decided after wandering about, I would take in the coach's chalk talk session with season ticket holders before the match. This would also ensure that I got my Taka bobblehead before the insanity at gate opening, so I wandered over to listen to Gavin talk.

I'll say this, Gavin is passionate about soccer in Portland and this team. He spoke very candidly about the team, saying that some players haven't lived up to their expectations, and some were given chances that they just didn't take advantage of. And the team was hurt significantly by the loss of Josh Wicks right before the season. He was a big part of the heart and soul of the team, and while there have been some great keepers here this year, we miss Wicks a lot. It's great having Bryan Jordan back, but we've underperformed in the midfield and it's time to go back to basics. Anyone watching this team for the past few months can see that, but I also think that some of the tentative play has to do with coaching decisions that have guys playing tentatively. You also have situations like with Taka, who is a very talented player but not somebody that has scored a lot of goals in his career. He's also been a victim of players targeting him with extra defense and attention, and Taka hasn't adapted to it very well. He's a strong player, and doesn't get pushed around easily, but I think he's a valuable asset to our team this year. Gavin also spoke in length about Chris Brown's 3 game suspension, and the teams that reviewed the video showing the incident. He still can't figure out why 3 games were given, and neither can any of us who saw the video. But it was nice to see that the passion is still there, and they are optimistic about the team's chances this year.

And with things being very hot and sticky, they would need to put out a big effort against a disciplined Montreal side, one who has also struggled this year. The game kicked off at 99 degrees at 7 pm, and both sides played a rather boring first half with few chances. The second half, the team and the TA turned up the heat and loud, and we netted two beautiful goals. Montreal got one back late, but we held them off for the 2 to 1 win. It was a much needed effort, and while the Shed was loud, the numbers were back to 2004/2005 side with many empty seats. The temperature just kept folks away, although the recent play probably didn't help either. But chants were flying, banners unfurled, and a great atmosphere for everyone. I can also say that I got a short video of Chris Brown's second goal and the end of game celebration for the team. It was a magical night, and one where I was proud of our team stepping up and playing their hearts out. Cameron Dunn played well in defense, but I thought having Chris Brown back really helped solidify the midfield and gave us pushes forward with a purpose, something that we'd been missing.

As I walked out, I stopped by and ended up helping the MLS to PDX table for a few minutes. We got over 500 emails from folks, wanting to know more about the efforts to bring MLS to town. I'm impressed that this many people were curious about MLS, and really wanting to know more about it. Apparently, the word is out, and people want MLS here. It will be interesting what will happen the next few months as Merritt moves forward with his plans. I did make it to the Bullpen in time for Kathy's retirement. She's done a lot for the TA over the years, and I couldn't think of a nicer person who deserves a break. The Cheerful folks will be coming in to refurbish the Bullpen, and I know they'll do right by everyone, cause if they do, the TA will come all the time. But I can't wish Kathy enough good thoughts on her being able to retire and relax after so many years of running the BP.

Sunday morning, the TA outdoor team got together for a friendly game vs. Midway, a team made up of firemen. And they were really hot, as evidenced by them putting 7 on us in a 7 to 1 win. They played in Division 3 last year, and didn't win a game, but they'd played together for a couple of years and it showed with their discipline and passing. While the TA looked better in our uniforms (thanks Obi), we really chased a lot and got out of position a lot during the match. We did have some good moments, and it leads me to think that we'll be OK during the season. At least we'll have a fan club of supporters already, as over 15 folks showed up to wish us well, and they even got a chance to strike up a flare and do some flag waving. Very nice.

My weekend ended up with watching the new Star Wars movie, the Clone Wars. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and so I had planned on going, despite the negative reviews. And I can safely say that it didn't suck as bad as the reviews made it out to be, but I wouldn't put this movie on the top of any best Star Wars movie. It had moments of great action, but the plot clunked a bit at points trying to do too much. Overall, it was worth me seeing it, simply because I can say that I've seen every Star Wars movie in the theatre, this would include the original trilogy, the re-releases with new footage, and the final trilogy which had its moments, but struggled a bit to find itself at times. Science fictions folks can be merciless at times in their scorn of scripts or movies, and I think I can say they were right about Star Wars 1 because it had enough plot holes to drive a couple of tanks through. Metaclorions? Are you serious??

I may not have gotten much relief from the heat, but with my teams winning, it was a great weekend all the way around. Have a good one..

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