Saturday, March 03, 2007

Miracle in Brooklyn

Not the mighty New York borough, but the unassuming Southeast Portland neighborhood home to Portland Futsal, the Rose City's newborn industrial-chic indoor football venue—where the rattle of a chainlink fence, frigid meat-storage temperatures and the wheeze of passing TriMet buses let you know you're keeping it really real.

As those four readers who managed to slog through the tiresome account of PF's Third Division below will dimly recall, my Albina Going FC Unicorns faced a do-or-die match last Thursday night. Three points against the lowly Cheetahs, the winless anchor of our six-team group, would put us in a strong position to make the four-team Finals. Given our opponents' lousy record, we also dreamed of piling up an unassailable goal-difference advantage over the two other sides locked in a virtual deadheat for the second and last playoff berth.

Well. Turned out that Cheetahs were a bit more up for the occasion than we were—or maybe we'd successfully psyched ourselves out with a full week of email back-and-forth about league tie-break scenarios and just how many goals we should win by. We looked frightful—utterly gash, as they say—in the first half, staking Cheetahs to a huge lead. The half-time chatter was a little tense, let's say. The second half didn't look much better. But then...slowly...inexorably...the Unicorns began to climb. Wings sprouted from the mythical beasts' frothy shanks...and they began to soar. I mean, score.

6-6. Fifteen seconds to play. A draw does us very little good. Doug Hurley, the Bracknall Bomber, collects the futsal spheroid on the wing. Finds Peter Noordijk, the Flying Dutchman, in the area. First shot thwacks off Cheetahs' keeper into a thicket of flailing limbs...and an achingly slow speed...the ball rolls into the net.

My first thought was that the referee would surely disallow this ugly mess for—something. It did not look good. But he pointed at the center spot, and Cheetahs barely had time to kick off before the buzzer. Our overcrowded six-man bench erupted at this most dramatic of all finishes to a Winter season in which we: A) Won three games by a single goal; B) lost two games by a single goal; C) won one match by two goals; D) lost one match by two goals; and E) recorded an anomalous 6-0 victory over the team that completely dominated the group.

So now we are bound for the one-day, four-team divisional Big Dance in two weeks. We will play the top team from "Conference Brazil," while "Conference Argentina" winners Sofa Kings (we were the only team to beat them, BTW) face C-Brazil's second-place squad. Could our under-fit, over-aged gang of (mostly) Anglo-American doughboys possibly survive not one but two matches in one night? Against opposition that might include a team with the prepossessing name "Samba Boys"? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. If we gathered anything from our near-death experience against Cheetahs, it's that you should take futsal one baby-step at a time.

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