A Homeric death march of planes, trains, automobiles and one Moldovan cab driver fetched Eleven Devils back to the City of Thorns after a solid week in Redbullistan. I spent most of my time in New York: a) hassling busy professional journalists who had better things to do; b) drinking Brooklyn Brewing products; c) eating Ukrainian pickles on the Brighton Beach boardwalk.
So very little of footballing substance coalesced in the cranium brine, but various Items are on the boil all over the jogo bonito chart. Scattershot observations (sort of a prose version of keepie-uppie):
ITEM: I trekked to Gotham in large part because my gorgeous, intelligent wife worked on a small project involving a pair of reasonably well-known companies. While I swilled and gladhanded my way across two of five boroughs, she put serious hours into the production of a first-division media event. The sheer effort, stamina and dedication invested in this one happening filled me with wonder at the labors that will unfold, behind the scenes and completely unheralded, during next month's Big Show in Germany. It's fashionable (at least here in lefty Portlandia) to ascribe The Corporations the power to unleash their glitzy razzle-dazzle at whim. In fact, the countless sideshows that will surround the World Cup—think of them what you will, o purist footballniks—will absorb the creative energy of thousands of hardworking, skilled human beings. Worth remembering while your Che Guevara T-shirt is on tumble dry.
ITEM: While I didn't watch a minute of Team USA Fighting's singularly unenticing send-off tour (Morocco! Venezuela! Latvia!), the results do not exactly stuff a partisan heart with hope, do they? Reyna pulls up lame. Gibbs, ditto. Enter the awesome force known as Gregg "With Two G's" Berhalter. The Greatest American Team Ever Assembled—with Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and the Brians on the front line—manages three goals in 270 minutes. Against that kind of opposition? The blood veritably drains from the face. Will we stack our chips on two dire draws against the Czechs and Italians, praying Ghana is dead money going in? Say it ain't so, Bruce La Bruce!
ITEM: The Mighty Mighty Timbers show signs of life, with two straight wins (and even the one over Toronto counts). This weekend brings double-derby action, with one of the USL's patented Friday-Saturday series against the loathsome Seattle Sounders. With the side seemingly coming together and the usual Timbers Army invasion of Seattle's home ground in the offing, Portland should have its eye on taking four to six points.
Meanwhile, the background noise out of Seattle is grim: looks like the First Division champion* Sounders are likely packing their bags for Kitsap. It seems that after trying to make a go of it at more odd suburban locations than Starbucks, the Blue, White, Teal, Aqua, Seafoam Green and Whatever can no longer stomach crowds of dozens at Qwest Field. Distant and bucolic captive markets beckon. (In a related development, Sounders players will henceforth shuttle to matches in their moms' mini-vans.)
If the move comes off, the club will allegedly rename itself "Kitsap Sounders." As I've already argued on the Timbers Army message board, no club from Kitsap is worth hating. In the future, Portland fans may be forced to greet their erstwhile rivals with warm blankets, orange slices and comforting stuffed animals.
[*On penalty kicks AET. Against a club that immediately self-relegated to the Second Division.]
ITEM: I finally did spot a dude in a New York Red Bulls replica shirt, namely a paisan stuffing a hot-pepper sandwich down his gullet in the sad remains of Little Italy. Suffice it to say he was the only living evidence of Superclub Fever on the streets of New York.