Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tough End to the Timbers Season

Standing in PGE Park on Sunday afternoon after the Timbers match, my emotions were all over the place after the result. My beloved team, the team with a 24 game unbeaten streak, a top ranked defense, the top ranked offense, playing in front of a rabid 14,000 person crowd in PGE Park where they'd won 10 of 15 games during the season, and the team drew with the Vancouver Whitecraps at 3 all. Unfortunately, they'd lost 2 to 1 up in Vancouver on Thursday night, and since the series was total goals, the Timbers were done and the Craps were advancing to an all Canada USL-1 final.
How we got this point was a rather interesting ride, from the original email that I got from the Craps front office on Wednesday, Sept 23rd offering me tickets up there if the Craps had won their first round series, which would have meant the Timbers, ranked number one in the playoffs, would be paired to face them. I had been covering the playoffs from the first round, and sure enough, the upsets hit as the Craps knocked off the RailHawks, while Puerto Rico and Montreal survived to then face each other.
My Monday was spent talking with my boss to work out vacation time to drive up to Burnaby. I'd also been busy with my other blogging, keeping track of results and figuring out all the possible scenarios. Thankfully, he gets my obsession with the Timbers, and since I had the time, I worked it out to be off Thursday and Friday to drive up to Burnaby, then be back in time on Saturday for a birthday dinner, then Sunday for two soccer matches, my TAFC match and the Timbers second leg at home. Nothing like having a crazy schedule, but it's how things work for girl and I. We're going 100 miles an hour or we're going zero, there's not a happy medium.
Wednesday (9/30), I finished up the tasks I needed to leave work for two days, and then headed off to have an eye exam. I personally love to have doctors dilate my eyes and ask me repeatedly what works clearer, one or two, over and over again. Girl was having her appointment at the same point with the same doctor, and so we were both able to confirm our eyes are healthy and they aren't going to fall out of our heads anytime soon. I soon whisked off to Jiffy Lube to get the car serviced and some road snacks. Girl was working on things at home to get things sorted in our room, as we tried to get our stuff set up for an eventual giveaway/garage sale at some future point.
We awoke Thursday morning (10/1) at 8 AM and got our final tasks around the house settled, including saying good bye to our cats and getting our gear packed up. I'd put together a lot of stuff the preceding night, so there wasn't much to do except get in the car and go once we got breakfast and coffee ready. We left the house at 9:30 AM with the goal to arrive in Burnaby by 5 PM in time to check in to Ramada Inn MetroTown, eat a bit, and then be at the game for the 7:30 PM kick.
I-205 wasn't too backed up, and girl took the first shift of driving. We were making decent time as the morning traffic had cleared up, and we were left with trucks and random senior drivers on the road. Trucks are big, and tend to drive rather defensively, but can't move very quickly, much like seniors in their driving skill, so we got caught behind some cars at points. Once we cleared out of I-205, it became apparent that a few driving rules that we've seen for years heading north would apply:
  • Washingtonians will drive in any lane they want, as slow as they want. This even means driving in the far left lane usually reserved for faster traffic. It never ceased to amaze me how many times someone was driving 72 in the fast lane with the speed limit at 70.
  • Washingtonians will pass in any lane, including the far right. We got passed a lot to the right, as apparently it was OK to do 90 in the far right lane. I'd love to see the driver's manual in Washington to see what the rules say.
  • There's a specific ethnic group that is labeled as being terrible drivers, and when we got caught behind slow drivers or erratic drivers, they represented this group every time. Their food is pretty good if it's free of MSG, but they can't drive worth anything. We had no less than 4 different incidents with drivers of this group, and each one got more and more crazy the further north we got.

Thankfully, the rule of the express lanes in Shittle being in the wrong direction didn't apply going north, as we flew through there rather easily. As a matter of fact, we arrived in Bellingham just after 2 PM, even with a couple of stops for food and loo use, and for me to take over driving. We always have to stop at Scatter Creek, as it's a TA rule to stop there, and just around 3 PM, we hit the US - Canada border.


We actually talked with US officials just before the border crossing, who checked our passports and asked us a few questions about our trip north. They even knew about girl's high school mascot, and asked about the Oregon Native sticker on our car, so they were paying attention. As we were waived forward, we moved to Canada customs, and they asked us why we were going up there. Upon mentioning the soccer game, the official asked us if we were rooting for the Craps, and when we said no, he said you can't come into the country. Girl then said she loved the Craps, and I said the fans were good guys. Plus, as girl put it, you aren't Shittle, which the official then said "We can agree upon that. Have a good time", and we were off. I love border stops in 10 minutes or less.


We entered Burnaby at 4 PM after a short stint on Highway 1, and checked into our hotel. The same clerk that has been there for years was there, and actually remembered me from previous visits, so the check in was really easy. We got settled in our room in the west wing, and the weather was a bit chilly but still pleasant for a fall day. We'd heard it was a 95 percent chance that it would rain tonight, and so we'd prepared by bringing rain gear and sweatshirts to keep warm. Girl had also brought a bottle of wine, which we consumed in our room in a matter of moments. We soon headed to the Jaguar Pub for some pre-game drinks and food.


Because we've determined that girl is gluten intolerant, we spend a lot of time checking menus to make sure she doesn't end up with food that is going to make her sick. We chose a Caesar salad and potato skins, taking out the croutons, while I got a large burger to fill my stomach. While the drinks were strong, the waitress forgot one of girl's drinks and then noticed that the croutons were left on the salad while girl was picking them off, yet she never offered to take the salad back or discount us for the mistake. I soon realized that her tip was dwindling, because that's the kind of mistakes that could cause long term issues. Once the drink was

We soon wandered to the stadium, which is one of the nicer stadiums in the USL. Swangard is a natural grass stadium, and a smaller surface, and you are really close the field, thus making smaller crowds loud. We got our tickets, settled into the TA section, and prepared for the match. While the first half was reasonably entertaining, the Timbers didn't play exceptionally well but were still in it tied at 1. It was then the heavens opened up, and the rumoured rain hit hard. It was rain that was coming up and down and sideways, yet because girl and I brought rain pants and a jacket, we put our gear on and we were fine. It was amazing to watch people scramble to find cover, yet the TA crowd stayed put for the half just getting wet. I never got cold once, but was worried that the rain would adversely affect the Timbers' performance.
The second half saw the Craps get an early goal, and then the rain was broken up by a fog caused by smokebombs from the Southsiders, which caused the field visibility to be questionable for most of the second half. I have no issues with smoke bombs themselves, but setting them off for no reason was just dumb, much less in a way to cause visibility issues. The game ended with the Craps winning 2 to 1, and the Craps fans were more than happy to let us know who won. One fan was escorted out by security as he tried to dance in front of us with his scarf, and when security tried to make him stop, he tried to hit the security officer. Not exactly smart.
Girl and I ended up heading to Safeway near our hotel to pick up things for breakfast in the morning, and because we dressed casual, we could move about the crowd without being identified as Timbers fans. We completed our shopping, ate a bit of food back in our room while chilling in front of the TV, and we ended up asleep by 1 AM.
Friday morning came, and I'd slept Ok, but girl was kept up by the thunder and lightning, plus the curtains let in some light that hit her right in her face, so we moved slowly about to get ready to go. We wanted to leave by 9 AM, but we ended up leaving at 11 AM after eating, checking email, showering, and collecting our stuff. I took the first shift of driving, but with girl being groggy and her back giving her issues, I was ready to make the drive myself if needed.
The drive really didn't have much issue early, as we got through customs with little issue and time, but we hit construction around Bellingham that delayed us a bit. We stopped to allow me to eat a sandwich, then made a quick Taco Bell stop in Tulalip so girl could get some foods, and then we hit the clusterf**k of traffic in Shittle. Everett was backed up, North Shittle was slow, including a car that was in the mediam turned the wrong way in the south bound lanes, downtown Shittle was awful, the express lanes were heading north, Tacoma was crappy, Fife was bad, even Olympia was terrible. We hit every bad stretch of traffic everywhere, and it took almost 3 hours just to make this area. Once we got loose of the traffic, we made good time to get home by 6:30 PM, which meant it took us about 7 and 1/2 hours to get down, but it was about 6 hours going north. The express lanes make that much difference.
Saturday, we took girl's mom to Hawthorne Fish House for her birthday to try the gluten free food, and it was awesome. The food was very tasty and good portions, the help was extremely attentive, and it was reasonably priced, and girl's brothers were able to join up as well. It was nice to meet up as family, and celebrate the birthday. We'd slept in a bit on Saturday from the drive, and our Saturday night was even more mellow, as I worked on my blog for match 1 while getting to bed early because I had a TAFC match at 9:30 AM in Gresham.
Our TAFC match went pretty well, as we lost 2 to 1, but there were a couple of issues. I was involved in what turned out to be the winning goal for our opponents, as I got caught flat footed in the back and they stole the ball from me, and turned it into a quick goal. However, this was at about 30 minutes in, so we had plenty of time to earn a tying goal. And we held them scoreless in the second half, this being the top team in the table. Not bad, and I was feeling optimistic about the Timbers match later that day.
My story of the match is at my other blog home, but it was an amazing, roller coaster emotional day. I was happy, sad, angry, hopeful, excited, crushed, and ecstatic all within a 2 hour period as this crazy match unfolded. I really felt good about our chances in this match, but in the end, the Craps did enough to keep the score level and give them the series win. And I salute them for their efforts, as they are very good fans and classy in wins or losses. I'm not sure who I want to win the USL Final, but it should be an entertaining series if you watch what the Craps and Montreal did to get to this point.
As I sat around Sunday night, I really wasn't sure how to feel as my emotions were all over the place. My schedule is now cleared out as we move to the offseason, and I can concentrate on my remaining games for the TAFC and bowling one night a week. I'll still blog a bit about off season news for the Timbers, because there will be news relating to player movement, stadium developments, and other things to report on, but at the same point, I didn't want this special year to end. I'm proud of the boys, but I wasn't looking forward to the offseason until later this month. That's the crazy thing about sports, you can't always predict how things will turn out, but you keep coming back because of it.

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