Were these the real Portland Timbers? Earning a gritty away "result," as hardnosed football realists call it, then transforming into an eloquent, zesty passing team the very next night? Dismantling the Hated Seattle Sounders in a 3-1 thumping that came within the proverbial hair's breadth of exploding into a goal fest? Lacing pretty triangles through a step-slow defense, lashing forward with zippy counter attacks, defending with manly resolve?
For one weekend in June, at least, the answer was a resounding: HELLFIRE YES, SON.
If you've read the hosannahs over on the Timbers Army board (see the blogroll conveniently located to your right), you know that last night ascended instantly into PTFC lore. A crisp early goal from Guti, a lightning strike from Mamba that de-equalized their equalizer, and extreme studliness in defense from Scot "With One T" Thompson all built to a lethal, beautiful coup de grace—Alvarez to Alcaraz-Cuellar, the Timbers' patented Rio Grande Connection—that I think just about peeled the skin off everyone in the stadium. A raucous post-game celebration ensued, highlighted by Timbers coach/capo Chris Agnello wielding Timber Jim's chainsaw and whacking hisself a massive hunk of Victory Log. Now that's Timberball!
At the behest of my lovely wife, who has a weird penchant for actually wanting to see the entire field, I didn't join the Timbers Army in the north end. All the better, for from my perch in the west stand, I enjoyed an eagle-eye view of both the frothing insanity in Section 107 and the sad little cluster of Dungeons & Dragons veterans who make up "The Pod," the Kitsap Sounders' self-proclaimed superfans. As to the latter, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
This is a group of (about 10) people who've never seen a cheap shot they couldn't defend. When Roger Levesque, surely one of the biggest cretins playing football anywhere, laid Thompson out with an unpunished elbow, these subnormals cheered. When El Hugo—who is, by the way, pure fucking class—scored the final goal, the Pod couldn't help itself; it had to start tossing garbage on our pristine FieldTurf. It was a display a six-year-old would shy away from in embarrassment. Rumor has it the Pod will dissolve if the Sounders complete their threatened self-exile to bucolic Kitsap. Consider it Darwinism in action.
On the other hand, last night pretty much summed up everything that's great about the Timbers. Results aside—and I'm quite sure plenty of frustrating scorelines await us this season—this is a club with soul. Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and Scot Thompson, to cite just two examples, are players who leave their bloody hearts on the pitch every time out. (I do wish Hugo wouldn't get caught in possession so much.) The players go out for a pint with the fans afterwards, and the fans do their damnedest to act as the club's de facto marketing department. With Guti and Mamba Chisoni injecting some Southern Hemisphere flair, the Timbers threaten to become a very fun team to watch this year. They're always a fun team to follow, win or lose. And that's something the Thorn City Futbol Conspiracy can be very proud of.