Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Trip to P-Town for the Derby

Last weekend I executed a day trip by train from Seattle to Portland and back to watch the big rivalry match between Sounders FC and Portland Timbers. Rivalry games in soccer are called a derby (pronounced dar-bee).

Marquee at stadium - June 24, 2012
To do so, I would need to endure lines of early morning zombie passengers at the train station, an unending conversation by some high school guys heavily featuring the words "dude" and "like," and then of course the whole thing about being a fan from the visiting team - in enemy territory - and all that comes with that.

 Oh, and my team played poorly and lost.

 Sounds like I had a rotten time, right? Nope. Far from it. In fact, I had a great time.

 Let me explain...

This started off a bit rough. Turns out, to get to Portland from Seattle by train in order to be present and accounted for to enjoy some pre-game beer and get to the stadium by 2 p.m., you need to take the 7:30 a.m. departing train from Seattle. That's pretty early folks. And so it was that I stood in line at the station behind quite a few people who for all the world acted like they'd never taken any type of public transportation ever. Seriously. People...I know it's early, but if the check-in kiosk is open and nobody is using it, you can step right up and use it yourself. You don't have to wait for an invitation. This happened far too many times for me to walk away feeling good about how smart humans are. Interesting to observe, but kinda depressing.

OK fine. Whatever. I get on the train and into my seat and three high school guys roll in and sit in the row in front of me. Sporting Sounders jerseys, scarves and whatnot, at least they were on "the good guys" side as far as I was concerned. But, then commenced a running teenage conversation that lasted most of the train ride to Portland. Now, what was interesting (or horrifying) about these guys' conversation was not the content - mostly just high school guy stuff about sports, girls, prom, some travel stuff, the game and the like - but that virtually every fourth word was either "dude" or "like." Seriously. Almost every sentence started or ended with "dude" and contained a few "likes." Let me give you an example..

Guy #1: Dude, what do you think, like, is going to happen at the game today.

Guy #2: Dude, all I know is we're gonna win. Like, no way we can lose dude.

Guy #3; Dude, I heard like you have to tie your scarf so Portland fans won't like steal it. That's lame dude.

And so it went. As much as I was initially fascinated by this, it quickly became real tedious. Good thing I had an iPod. From there, thinks were looking up and "getting better all the time."

Arriving in Portland right on time at 11 a.m. - thanks Amtrak - I connected with my buddies and found out we were to meet at The Matador Bar in downtown Portland and right across the street from the stadium. I've never been to the Matador before, but that is one excellent bar. Between the cool bartender, loads of TVs with sports on, a great selection of beer and a studious jukebox, this was the place to be.

As I waited for my friends to show, quite a few Sounders fans started rolling in. This was a bit surprising. I did not notice any animosity between fans of the two sides, so all was good. One Sounders fan did tell me that the reason he came into the Matador was that up the block at another bar, some Portland fans told him to "Get the F*%#K out of our bar."

Our view from behind the giant banner (click link right for video)
And then my friends arrived. Good times catching up, predicting the game and generally enjoying the day. For the record, we all thought the Sounders would probably win...perhaps tie. Too much talent on that squad to lose to a Timbers team not having a good season.

With the sun shining, we made our way into the stadium and to our seats. The place was rocking, packed and ready to roll. Just before kickoff, fans in our section raised a HUGE banner commemorating their Timbers past and present. Impressive.

And then the game started. My review of this match goes like this:
  • Back and forth run of play slightly favoring Portland to start.
  • Clearly an uninterested Sounders squad transitioning to mostly defense.
  • Two really great crosses by Portland combined with horrendous defensive breakdowns by Seattle leading to two very nice goals for Portland in the first half. Queue screaming Portland fans in wild celebration.
  • Some resurgence by the Sounders in the second half and a decent goal scored to make it 2-1, but even then I knew...I just knew that it was too little too late.
  • And it was. Throw in a last minute red card to one of the Sounders players and, well, that pretty much was the capper.
  • Portland rode out the win and deservedly their fans went bonkers.
Game action - Sounders v Timbers
Off to the bar across the street for some post-game libations before I had to get back on the train to head home. Now, I must report that at no time was I harassed by Portland fans for wearing my Sounders scarf - not before, during or after the match. Sure, a little good natured ribbing here and there, but very mild stuff. I was impressed - particularly considering the amounts of alcohol I saw being consumed.

At last it came time for me to say my goodbyes and walk back to the train station for my ride home. Trudging under a disappointed hear but sunny Portland skies, I made it to the train no problem and enjoyed a quiet ride home.

It was a long ride considering it was a Sunday, but I arrived back to the Seattle station on time again at 9:45 p.m. All good and home after that.

So, what did I learn in my Sunday soccer sojourn?
  • I have some really nice friends - old and new - in Portland.
  • Portland is a great soccer town, and while they hate them some Seattle Sounders, they actually treat visiting fans just fine...at least from everything I observed.
  • Amtrak can actually run on time.
  • The Sounders are not as good as their early season success indicated...and it's mostly a mental thing in my opinion. Could be a long second half of the season.
  • Confirmation of my theory on sports...if you play horrible, you lose. Simple as that. Thanks Sounders for making that all to painfully obvious.
  • The vocabulary of high school boys has devolved into a few words spoken between "dude" and "like."
Timbers fans going bonkers
The Sounders and Timbers square off twice more this season, once more in Portland and one time in Seattle. So, while not encouraged by what I saw Sunday from my side, taking 2 of 3 from Portland this season is still possible. Here's hoping.

 NOTE: All pictures in this post taken by Marc Osborn and are not for any use without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

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