on a night when the football should have done the talking, it was the supporters who sent the message. in my opinion there are very few things that should overshadow what occurs on the pitch, especially during the match. but circumstances still remain and actions are still taken that are offensive enough to have made it possible for me to accept campaigns and messages at sporting events.
racism. bigotry. prejudice. hatred. ignorance. these things are worth movements to bring awareness to the continued existence of something so repulsive. over the last few days there were many people on twatter who questioned, even railed against, the need to have a display of solidarity against racism. i could not agree any less than what i do. to them, i say: shame. shame on you. to many, racism is an anachronism--it no longer exists. it is that irresponsible belief that allows for people to think a black kid who wears a hoodie is obviously up to no good. that we could forget or fail to police others when they use words or express beliefs in stereotypes is why it is still important to acknowledge the pervasive effects of racism.
racism occurs everywhere and is not limited to the backwoods of the southern states. in fact, racism is prevalent in the footballing world. it occurs with the abuse of players, coaches, officials--whether it is because of their skin color, their race, their nationality, their religion even their ethnicity, it happens. many footballers have been targeted for racial abuse for something as stupid as the fact they play for an opposing team. in italian and spanish football matches ultras are known to make monkey chants to black players. luis suarez, a player of color, repeatedly used the spanish word "blackie" when taunting a notable twat, patrice evra. the world's biggest douchebag, john terry, called anton ferdinand, the brother of his english defensive partner, a "fucking black prick." while footballers have never been accused of being the smartest, most aware people, they exist in a microcosm of the world; they play with multiple cultures, languages, and races on their sides. these differences and the negative responses to these differences are why thierry henry and nike created stand up speak up in 2005.
in response to the killing in florida (whether racially motivated or not) and the hubbub that sad event caused, the timbers army and the 20k crowd at the jw made clear their opinion about racism, not florida. i am proud to have experienced that movement, that the timbers army had the forethought to find an appropriate platform to bring awareness to such a ridiculously antiquated way of life. if the display from last night can make just one person re-think his or her position on race for the positive, teach just one child that race matters not, and shows them that in the world acceptance is better than ignorance...job well done.
however, the display in the last 5 minutes of the match that followed may lead the gaffer to re-think some things. it has certainly informed me of where we sit as a team. we are not good. we are not bad, but we are not good. until we learn how to kill off games and prevent late minute goals from being scored, we will remain neither good nor bad and without a winning record. before i begin to describe the let down, i want to say something positive. it seems ages since i have written something positive about this team we all love, and i really need to write something positive. darlington nagbe was brilliant and eric alexander played his socks off.
the match started off rather tame, and neither side looked as if they were going to do much. even though real had a few shots on target but nothing seemed to bother perkins. finally, nearing the 20 minute mark, nagbe was set free to goal with a great ball that split the defenders. he had space and was making his run; however, the referee determined that playing the advantage after a tough tackle on jack would give portland too much advantage and called the play back. an omen of things to come.
more outstanding play from nagbe saw the attack switch to the left and the ball in the ever so capable hands of the rod wall. rather than using his left foot (i point this out because he is left footed) and taking an open and direct shot on goal, which most likely would have done the business, the rod wall chose to do something he is inept at doing: pass. he played the ball into boyd and boyd flailed. wasted opportunity.
at 2130, eric alexander made some room for himself on the outside left edge of the box and let one fly. great shot and it required and even better save from nick rimando to prevent it from going in. at this moment, i began to think we might flip this around and we might actually be controlling the match. every time nagbe touched the ball he made something happen. every time alexander touched the ball he made something happen. this looked good.
and then the rod wall touched the ball. but let me back up a bit. alexander was taken out by one those real goons (frankly i cannot remember which goon and i take notes throughout the match), advantage was played. what? yes, the referee played an advantage. we had it, we were on the break and perlaza was set loose. he brought the keeper towards him, rimando challenged and perlaza rounded him. i hoped and prayed and waited for that ball to float luverly into the net. and then it hit the net. i thought to myself: could this be? did we score? oh, no, perlaza wasted another easy opportunity. false alarm.
and then rod wall touched the ball. ok. ok. ok. to be fair, he was left all by his lonesome against a steaming pile of real salt lake. he checked him. the ball floated up as he is stretched out his arms and whammo! pena. yellow card? pena. saborio stepped up to the spot to take the kick. he finished it with aplomb, sending perkins to the left and slotting the ball down the middle. 1-0 the bad guys.
the half ended with perlaza wasting another opportunity and alexander doing the work of two. if there is one word that best describes the first half it would be wasteful.
one thing i did not waste was one drop of hot chocolate during the intermission. it was cold out and my wife was so kind to go get us a couple cups to kill the chill. and then the second half. it started out with attacking play on the left with more alexander and more nagbe. nagbe took the ball on the lefthand corner of the real box, he dribbled about 10 feet, switched to his right, and then laced a shot that sliced by rimando. there was no margin for error with that shot and it is was a shot that really displayed the talents of this young player. 1-1.
20 minutes later, following the substitution of the active, but ineffective, perlaza for franck songo'o, nagbe did it again. this time he shot from the other side of the box. 2-1 good guys and a hug with the gaffer on the sideline. at this point, i expected the timbers to close it out. i expected the timbers be ruthless and close down any real player with the ball near the box, hit real on the counter if possible, and win the game. that did not happen. somewhere in the recesses of the collective footballer psyche that resides within each of the timbers players the killer instinct was lost.
so jonny steele, not to be confused with johnny quest, though he did leave the jw like a bandit, came on for tony beltran and within 10 minutes he had equalized. steele had the ball at the edge of the box and was flanked by several timbers. he faked to his left, dribbled past brunner and into the box where he megged jean-baptiste to slot the ball through to goal. if he were a midget and good, he might actually have looked like messi. next up to nail the game: beckerman. as much as he looks like the love child conceived at a rainbow family gathering between heaven the hippie and the predator, kyle beckerman is a good footballer. i hate hippies and i was glad when arnold told the predator that he was one ugly son of a bitch, but when we went 2-2 i knew it was only a matter of time before beckerman won the game for real. he wanted it, we did not. at the 3rd minute of stoppage time, beckerman was left alone at the top of the d and he called for the ball and a received it through a lovely cross from espindola then drilled the ball low into the left hand corner past perkins. game over.
all the goals can be viewed here.
to be honest, the game was over almost directly after nagbe put the timbers ahead. they had the lead and they did not work to retain it; instead leaving gaps in the defense, failing to make contact on tackles, and failing to clear their challenges. and i know many, including myself, felt the referee was not watching the same match. much can be said of the ref, and he was cack, but the timbers were no less cack than he. again, it was the supporters who sent a message. honestly, it was better directed to the players because they failed to put this away when they had the chance.
with that, try to have a good day.
match thoughts and quotes tomorrow.