Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Beautiful Game

A soccer game like the one on a balmy Tuesday night could make Portland Timbers matches habit forming.

I joined my son, daughter-in-law and two of their friends to watch the Timbers play AC Milan’s under-21 team at Civic Stadium, aka PGE Park.

We were joined by a reported 11,000 others. Not bad for a week night in the city.

The senior AC Milan club is one of the best in Europe so the AC Milan Primavera youngsters, many destined for stardom, had a tradition to uphold. The Timbers, undefeated at home this season, had a streak to defend.

At that, the exhibition match had an almost convivial cross-cultural, diplomatic feel to it.

The game was close and fluid. A dance of quicksteps and turns, feints and lunges, lobs and leaps.

So much of it is what Hemingway called “grace under pressure.”

You can see why soccer played this way is called “the Beautiful Game.”

As the sky darkened and a finger-nail moon rose over the city, the match wound ever tighter.

Portland was ahead by a goal when a red-carded Timber player put the team down a man. Milan soon scored the equalizer. The Timbers, back on their heels, fended off Milan probes, volleys and assaults, hoping to struggle to the end-of-regulation tie-breaker when the game would be settled on penalty kicks. Portland knew the shoot-out would even the teams again.

The strategy worked.

The Italian team fell into a malaise as its first three penalty shots missed the goal every which way. The shooters were like basketball players throwing bricks from the foul line in the closing minutes. While Milan missed; Portland was dead on with four goals in a row.

In the celebration that followed, the score seemed an afterthought. The Portland victory and Milan loss were laid aside as the two teams mingled and strode around the field together, waving to the crowd.

Together, they had given us a treat.

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Blogger Lucas said...

Nice write-up of the game. I'm happy to see more people in town taking notice of our beloved Timbers (11K is indeed a remarkable crowd, especially for a weeknight). I do hope you decide to return to more Timbers matches (they play again tonight vs. league powerhouse Montreal, and there will be another international exhibition on July 28 vs. English side Preston North End).

8:18 AM  
Blogger The Cap'n said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed the match. Come out and watch the Timbers again sometime soon. It's always a great way to spend an evening. Many fans meet up before the match at the Bitter End and Bullpen pubs near PGE. Swing by and say hi.

1:57 PM  

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