Taken all together it was a lovely evening, with a caveat.
I spent Saturday afternoon cooking like Wolfgang Puck with ten ounces of crystal meth in his system. Beef tenderloin and barbecued spareribs, dijon mustard potato salad, miso-butter broiled asparagus along with lots of hobnobs; smoked salmon and sharp cheddar (the twin towers of the Tillamook Bay coast), wasabi peas and peanuts, salsa-and-chips, berries and black grapes. A wide selection of craft beers with some Islay malt in reserve.The house was clean, the viewing area arranged for all our friends. The kiddos were terrific; friendly and excited, especially for their Aunt Kristi, who is like some sort of athletic, blonde kid-magnet; within half an hour they were stuck to her like adorable little iron filings.
And for all that the group had nothing in common but us everyone seemed to enjoy each other's company. After the match people lingered to talk, share observations and stories (a bunch of us gravitated to the kitchen; what is it about kitchens? Every party I've ever attended seems to end up in the kitchen at some point. Which reminds me - I need to go empty the dishwasher).
The only people I invited who didn't show up were, unfortunately, the guests of honor; the Portland Timbers.Because the entire evening was centered around Portland's first top-division professional soccer match since 1982.
Perhaps it was first-match nerves. Perhaps it was just bad luck. Perhaps it was the misfortune of having to begin the new Major League Soccer season against last year's champion, the Colorado Rapids. Perhaps it was a little of all three.
But whatever it was, it sure was ugly.
The story in the newspaper claims the Coach John Spenser wrote the word "DESIRE" on the whiteboard in the locker room. He must had written it in Cyrillic, because whatever the team showed on the field, desire was not it.Confusion? Yes. Passivity? Yes. Desire? Nowhere to be found.
The backline looked especially dire, with centerbacks Brunner and Wallace utterly unable to shut down Colorado's Omar Cummings. And I know I pick on him, but why the hell did we spend a roster spot on Kevin Goldthwaite? He's a terrible defender; slow-footed yet tentative. You could excuse the slowness if he was a typical MLS bashing defender, but the man doesn't even knock forwards down.He was primarily at fault on Colorado's first goal, though there was more than enough blame to go around (except for goalkeeper Adin Brown, who played like a Titan but got the sort of help from his backline that Prometheus got from the vulture) on that goal. But my question is why doesn't Spenser know this? We watched him mark space all last August and September. Why he's starting ahead of Futty Danso I have no idea. Maybe Danso likes to juggle live grenades on the pitch, or something.
But I don't want to single out the defenders. The midfield was aimless, and both Cooper and Perlaza up front went nowhere, losing possession, or, after a potential Perlaza equalizer in the tenth minute, not even getting much of a look at goal.
This one was ugly, and I hope the entire team knows it.This was just one match, and the first of a long season and, I hope, many seasons of Timbers soccer in the top flight. But it was a spectacularly bad match, and the team has only a week to prepare for Toronto. The failings we watched last night might be the basis for catharsis, or the catalyst for despair. It's now up to the men of the Portland Timbers to choose which direction they will turn.
The miso-butter asparagus was outstanding, the company entertaining, and the whiskey peaty and rich.
Let's just make sure the soccer is as good next match, eh, boys? "Oh, Rose City, Soccer City...score a goal!"