Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Incredible Night - Minnesota Vs. Timbers, and Grand Opening of Sports Complex

It was an incredible night last night at PGE Park, although Mother Nature was trying to do her best to change up the festivities. The last home match for the Timbers against Montreal, the heavens opened up with a crazy amount of rain, wind, and other assorted craziness, so yesterday being a Timbers match at PGE Park, the rains had to come and visit again, dropping over an inch of rain on parts of the metro area around 2 to 3 pm. Things seemed to be smoother, though, as traffic on most of the busy streets was moving along OK. I wasn't going to miss this match, and with it being an 8 PM kickoff, I left our house at about 6 PM to get down there in time. The drive down had a few crazy rain moments, but by 6:30 PM, I was parked in NW Portland and walking to the Bitter End Pub to give a ticket to my friend S3K and see some folks before lining up for the match.

It was also teddy bear toss night for Doernbechers', so people had lined up with bags and bags of bears ready for chucking, but the team also had bears that they were giving out as door prizes for people to throw. I got into my seat just after 7 pm, and waited for the remaining Row N folks to show up to cheer. And we had a lot to cheer about.

I can't remember the last time we got 5 goals, it's been a while I'm sure. We had a lot of scoring chances, and on this night, we took advantage of them. We also got great defensive play from the backline, and Steve Cronin played very well and steady, even with letting in a goal in the first half. The guys picked him up, and got 3 goals in the second half, aided by 3 Minnesota red cards. Yes, Minnesota had 3 players ejected from the match, one for a rather late challenge in the box that lead to goal 3, a red for throwing a punch at Alex Nimo, and a final red for an absolutely horrendous challenge after goal number 5 that didn't need to happen. I can't blame Minnesota for being frustrated, they were being run around the pitch all night by a Portland team that didn't seem to show any ill effects from having played on Tuesday in California after being on the road all the past weekend. The Timbers looked fresh, confident, and on their game, and it probably helped when George Josten notched a goal in the 4th minute to start the bear throwing chaos.

Goals for the night - Josten, Suzuki, Hayes (PK), Keita and S. Thompson. Josten's goal was a nice give and go from a great pass from Farber, while Suzuki got a great angle from the wide side of the box to get the second goal. Hayes knocked in the PK after Minnesota's first red card, while Keita got his goal during a bit of a scrum near the box. Scot took a great pass from Hayes off a corner and knocked it in for number 5.

Key Observations:
  • Gavin really did a great job of substituting last night, bringing in Danso at the half, then Nimo, McLauglin and Poltl late for some fresh legs. I did like how Steven Keel played in the first half at points, but he also had a couple of tough touches that really caused some dicey moments in back.
  • I don't fault Cronin for the goal he let in. It was after a questionable foul, and he did catch the free kick but it bounced a bit funny and it spun in. But, he was very decisive on his lines, and made some quality saves, plus his goal kicks were spot on all night.
  • Johan Claesson has really become a great playmaker in the middle, and he got a lot of great help from Taka Suzuki last night. Between Farber, Suzuki and Claesson, they controlled the midfield quite nicely all night, and never really let Minnesota get any offense going while they literally had their choice of offensive options most of the night. Minnesota really didn't offer much defensive resistance, and we took advantage of it all night.
  • The rest of the team looked a little flat and tired in the first half, but played with a lot of urgency in the second half. Apparently, Gavin lit into them pretty good at the half, and the results showed per the O-Live match report.
  • I really didn't see how the official couldn't award red on the three different challenges that caused Minnesota to lose players. The first takedown was a pretty obvious call in the box, while Nimo was hit by 3 different players before he finally hit back. I don't mind him getting a yellow in that spot at all, you have to defend yourself. I've seen one red card, and yes even two, but never three red cards leaving Minnesota playing 11 versus 8 while already down 4 goals.
  • Nick Platter was left on an island most of the night, and he tried to do his best to keep things civilized, but even he couldn't stop the bleeding.
  • I can imagine the Thunder won't forget this game one bit, and have a bit of revenge on their mind for July 4th in their place.
Links for match information:

Allison's great match report from Soccer City USA, along with pictures.

I got some pictures myself that I posted to Flickr, and I got some video of the PK and Keita's goal (thanks Timberista for catching that update, I thought it was goal 5, but it's goal 4), along with a few other shots. The video quality is Ok, but I got some great noise from the TA, who was in good form last night.

The Oregon Live match report, with some decent information and rather useless comments.

I didn't get much chance to celebrate the win late, though. I had to be up early, for I was volunteering at Gradin Sports Park in Gresham for their grand opening. My company got a request from the city for volunteers to help with the grand opening, and the Timbers would be practicing and offering a clinic later in the day, so I said why not? My company pays us to volunteer, but at the same point, what's not to like about seeing the boys a day after their big win. So, yes, I couldn't go to the TIFO party, but I had a good reason.

The U-23 and first team were both there to work out, and they seemed awfully embarrased when me and my mother in law clapped and cheered for them as they ran by doing warmups. I got a chance to chat with Gavin a few times, plus Timber Joey and Lucky Beaver also showed up, while I also got to say hi to Scot and said nice goal. He said thanks, but it was luck, and I said, no, it was 5!! After the practice, many of the players stayed around to talk to fans, sign cards, and then offer help in a clinic for the kids, which I thought was great. The boys had a spring in their step and didn't seem to have any ill effects from the exceptionally physical match from the previous night.

Professional athletes get lambasted for being out of touch, making too much money or thinking too highly of themselves, and then I get to see this up close and personal. These guys were personable, charming, and I even got to see Taka with two infants and who I believe was his wife or girlfriend in one of my pictures, plus Timber Joey working the crowd. They love their job, and love what they do, and nothing was more evident in that than watching them interact with the kids during the clinic. I'm really glad that I saw another side of them outside of on the pitch during the match, because what I saw today was pure class, giving of themselves to help the community and give something back to the soccer community as a whole. Well done, boys. I do have a few pictures from the event that you can all peruse.

To all the dads out there, have a great Fathers Day, and to everyone else, RCTID!!! We're up to 11 league matches without a loss and counting!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great great writeup. A very consise and pleasant read...