I love a good story. Telling or listening, it doesn’t matter. There were too many good stories from the Timbers/Sounders game-day experience to fit into one blog entry, so I’m breaking Saturday’s fun into two parts. In case you missed it, read about the pre-game experience here. Now for our thrilling conclusion: The match itself.
An unpleasant discovery. We’re in our seats — third row, natch — for no more than 10 minutes before coming to a startling realization: Before the day’s out, we’ll wind up a shade of red that would worry a lobster. We’re out of the shade, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It might only be 70-75 degrees, but with nothing between us and the sun, it’s almost oppressive. (Let this be the last time this native Pacific Northwesterner complains about the sun.)
It’s a good thing, then, that the Timbers Army is so animated. The “capos” who stand at the foot of the section and keep the 3,000 TA members chanting throughout the match haven’t arrived yet. But that doesn’t stop anti-Seattle chants from popping up nearly two hours before kickoff. My people!
Need further proof that this rivalry is intense? These lined the urinals in the stadium’s bathrooms on Saturday.
They’re too abundant and too professional to be the work of a well-meaning vandal. I’m pretty sure someone with the Timbers came up with the idea … and that someone else with the Timbers signed off on it. Bless their hearts.
The match itself is intense in the first half. The Sounders control the first 10 minutes; it’s a stark contrast to the previous affair between these teams, when the Timbers went up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes. But the Timbers even it out, and the rest of the first half is essentially a draw. We go into halftime tied at zero.
The Sounders strike first in the second half. Seattle forward Fredy Montero puts home a perfect shot in the 57th minute — mere inches over the outstretched arms of Joe Bendik, who’s been in the game for all of 30 seconds after replacing the injured Donovan Ricketts.
It’s crushing. Just crushing. Everything happened so quickly — first, Ricketts’ injury, and now, the well-placed goal — that the Timbers Army is as deflated as I’ve ever heard. The chants aren’t as loud, nor as passionate. The capos look to each other, trying to come up with — or sustain — a chant to rally the troops. People are yelling at the flustered capos, who stand with nowhere to hide, looking like deer in the headlights. We can hear the 750 Sounders supporters on the other side of the stadium for the first time all game.
And I’m petrified at having to face my Sounder-supporting co-workers on Monday.
But Rodney Wallace saves the day. Twenty-one excruciating minutes after Montero’s goal, Rodney Wallace’s header finds the back of the net, tying the game. I go about as crazy as you would expect, hooting, hollering, jumping up and down, high-fiving anyone nearby, and trying not to inhale the green smoke that fills the section.
Dusty, Wes, and I even find our way onto national TV in the aftermath. Mom would be so proud:
It’s absolute pandemonium. And, with that, the Timbers Army boomerangs back to life. It’s more frenzied than ever. The chants are louder and more urgent. The capos are more animated and excited. We’re clapping a little harder, yelling a little longer. It’s like we’re hoping to transfer some of our energy to the suddenly rejuvenated Timbers. Maybe we can will the ball back into the net. Rock concerts are less frantic.
But we settle for a 1-1 tie. Portland plays the final 16 minutes a man down, so I’m happy that Portland escapes with a tie. I’m hot, sweaty, exhausted, voiceless, and relieved. My nerves are frayed. My tomato-red face already aches. My voice is scratchy. It’s a rush of emotions as we walk back to the car. Portland might not have achieved the result it wanted, but it’s been a great day, in any event — one I won’t soon forget.
Hey, Portland Timbers … We Salute You.