Funny thing, life. Just a year ago, if you'd asked a fan of the Portland Timbers about one Andrew Gregor, they would likely have intimated that he was just the sort of chap who, given different circumstances, could have served as Slobodan Milosevic's confidential personal assistant or worked as an expediter in the white-slave trade. Of course, he was a Seattle Sounder back then. Now, he's a Timbers hero—his fizzy little outside shot skipped over a hapless Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper and bounded into the net in front of the frothy Timbers Army with the joyful verve of a young bunny. It was the goal the Timbers needed to win their aggregate quarterfinal series against the 'Caps (though they'd add one more). And it was occasion for Gregor, who has the steel nerves and icy blood of a veteran mercenary, to stand stock-still with his fists in the air as his green-clad Timber mates swarmed him.
A very nice moment on a good afternoon of (s)crappy, edgy, ragged-in-a-good-way United Soccer Leagues First Division playoff action—a perfect day for football, from the cup-tie atmosphere to the gray, cool Englandy skies. The Eleven Devils Press Team watched the match from the sedate confines of PGE Park's family section, surrounded by squealing seven-year-old girls and their fathers, who repeatedly informed their charges that "we're rooting for the green team, the greeeeeeeen team, they're trying to get the ball in this net over here..." Ah well. Sometimes football isn't perfect, but it's never all that bad, anyway.
Now, the Timbers "return on success" amounts to a two-legged tie with the Atlanta Silverbacks. That's one long-ass flight to ATL for Friday, followed by a similarly long-ass flight home for the Sunday finale. That's the glamor and prestige of the USL for you. In any case, the hated Seattle Sounders are even worse off, with their first semifinal match slated for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And thus we find ourselves torn: assuming, of course, that the Timbers can make the Final, do we want the Sounders to lose to the Islanders, thus ensuring our rivals' humiliation and a theoretically weaker opponent for Portland...or do we want the Sounders to win, setting up the apocalyptic Mother of All Battles in the Final?
You tell me.