30 Points: An Obsession

My last look back at 2012 brings out what started as a fear and became a full blown obsession as the season progressed. Here’s how it came about and what cured it.

“Match day again and we are feeling whole
The drums are pounding, our voices full
We sing our love of team

“And in a flash, Jorge scores
I see that very first goal
Something in JELD-WEN is calling me”

These are part of some poached lyrics to a bluegrass tune I wrote during the silly season leading up to the preseason tournament. While I thought to submit it here and there, I also thought I might better wait until Jorge does score his first goal. So I waited. And waited. And I waited, and then Perlaza was traded without scoring a single goal in 2012.

Well, thanks Jorge, there goes my song. Actually that came as a big shock to me. Yes, I was one of “THOSE” guys. But this is professional soccer; trades come with the territory. After a few weeks, I moved on. (Although I confess, I’m happy to see Jorge is scoring goals with Millionarios.)

But now I’m way ahead of my story. I go back, back to the home opener. What a glorious night. After a very satisfying and successful preseason tournament, in which we whupped all comers, there we were, in the North End, rain pouring down, chills and thrills of anticipation, until BOOM! we pored our hearts out in the National Anthem again. And then the match. We won! Boyd scored! Glory and bliss for all! What a great season we were certain to have.

Real Salt Lake. After the match, at home I watched the recording of the live version I had only hours before witnessed at Jelly, with replays, and commentary, and reverse (perverse?) angles. The gut punch didn’t hurt any less the second time.

What I took away this time, though, was something I didn’t see at the stadium – the smile on Jason Kreis’ face. As he walked away, it looked like he was laughing. And why wouldn’t he laugh? He went from a loss, to a point, to three points! In a matter of minutes. It still burns.

Chivas USA. What just happened? We were winning. At home. That’s as it should be. TA singing our hearts out, stadium rocking, beautiful weather. Two rookie coaches, John Spencer and Robin Fraser, former teammates at Colorado, going head to head. It couldn’t get any better. But oh, it could get way worse!

At half time, one coach made an adjustment that immediately almost produced a goal. 120 seconds later it did produce a goal. Wait a minute. Where’s our team? Why aren’t we making tactical adjustments? Where’s that second half fire that Spencer was famous for producing last season?

*****

In between, there were some away games. We got a point out of one of them. The first one. Dallas away. We scored a goal. They scored a goal. ONE goal. Sure, it was March, but it was Dallas away. And we got a point. Four points out of six. This season is looking good, I thought.

Then we lost a game. Well, it was an away game. And yeah, we played poorly. But it was New England. Surely we could have expected 1 point. Maybe the boys had a big head from the away result – against Dallas. Maybe they were tired from the rigors of away travel in MLS. And we don’t really play well on the road.

We came out of March with 4 points. They came from the first two games. Two more games into April and we still have 4 points. Next we face the best team in the league, the only undefeated team in MLS.

Whoa! Now what just happened? We beat the best team in the league; we beat Sporting Kansas City! Sure, it’s 3 more points. But we beat the best. We beat Sporting Kansas City. Who are we?

And where are we now: 7 points from seven games. If you like draws, maybe that’s pretty good.

We finish April with those same 7 points. Ouch! (Troy) And obviously, by omission, I’m over that non-brace by Boyd. We would have been up 2-nil at that point. What would that have done to the bottom-dwelling league champions? But, I’m over that.

We get ready for May, hope in our hearts, courage on our sleeves, and knowledge. The season is only one-third over. We still have two-thirds to play and see the success we began the season knowing we deserved. So May, and we’re at 7 points from eight games. I’m starting to wonder if maybe draws ARE pretty good.

An unwanted and certainly unwelcome feeling is creeping into my subconscious.

We end May with 6 more points. That’s 6 points from four games. Or, 6 points from a possible twelve. We’re feeling pretty good. Nut, um, now we have 13 points. I mean, we have 13 points! That creeping feeling has identified itself.

We finish June with 16 points. We got 3 more points from three more games. Maybe there’s something to be said for the consistency of draws. Or maybe some people do like draws. I don’t. Maybe one or two here and there, but NOT as a replacement for wins. That said, 3 points from three games is an an average over three games. But oh were we not average!

Another painful loss in LA, a chance to avenge a wrongful loss – wasted. A wretched 3-nil loss in Colorado. What could that portend? What words for that game?

*****

That feeling I was so loathe admit to at the end of May, is here. Strong. It’s fear. Fear about points. But it’s early, I tell myself. And I didn’t want to admit to it at the end of May because of one game in June. There’s that one game in June that we’ve been looking forward to all year. That one game in June from which we got all our points. 3 points from one game. No average game at all. One game where our lads brought their game.

What a game! A game where the points don’t even really matter, only the delicious, orgasmic, satisfying result. Was it good for you too? Most of the time that’s a rhetorical question. Here, we don’t even have to ask. There were other delicacies in the tryst. Lots of good physical play. Before and after play. We scored twice! Kris Boyd created some amazing photo opportunities. Someone we don’t like got a red card. Oh NO! And someone else we don’t like got a red card. Oh WELL!

Usually, one NO is enough. Sometimes not.

As painful as 2012 was to endure as a supporter, as much as it hurts now, bringing this up again, there’s something else that is gnawing at me. I’m going over my schedule and my notes, and the points. I don’t see it. What is bothering me so?

Oh. Oh yeah.

Even though I’m only 5’7,” from where I sat behind the goal in late May, I could tell that, even directly in line with the one PK of that game, standing on top of the crossbar, I wouldn’t have had to flinch.

Oh yeah. That.

Back to the story.

We started July with 16 points. Before Independence Day we had 19! There was hope for the season after all.

July we ended with 19 points. Six games and we pulled out 3 points. Now we’re at 19 points in twenty- one games. Draws are starting to look positively appealing.

“MY GOD, WE’RE NOT EVEN GOING TO MAKE 30 POINTS!”

Aaagh! It’s out! All through July I had been repressing it. Now it’s been voiced. Granted, out loud only a few times, and certainly not in front of sane persons. But what had been a creeping, concealed fear a few months ago has turned into all-consuming, uncontrollable MONSTER!

The agony is on. The obsession has me in its jaws. 30 points. Will we make 30 points? Surely, we will. I resisted the temptation to look at our standing last year at this time. What good would that do?

*****

August. Dallas. But it’s at home. 19 points. 19 points. … A result! 1 point!! One graciously gained point. Gracias Capitán! Golazo!

20 points. Toronto away. We scored 2 goals! We never score two goals away. Uh, we gave away 2 goals. We gave away 2 points. But we got 1 point!

21 points. New York Red Bulls away. We scored 2 goals! We scored 2 goals. Away. Again! We gave away three goals. We gave away 3 points.

21 points. Vancouver – at home! We win!

24 points! Two wins away from breaking free! Two wins.

Colorado. The team that has mugged us away and robbed us at home. How can we possibly beat them? But we do! Maybe ginger ball is not imaginary after all. That’s two wins in a row.

So where are we? It’s September. We have 27 points. Nothing to brag about for a season. But most of us have pretty much given up on the season. But for me, release is imminent! One win and we’re there. One win.

So, 27 points in – nope! I’m not gonna do the math. We had two wins in a row. I like wins. I don’t want to think about draws.

September. 27 points. Colorado away. It’s okay. We showed them at home, we’ll show them away. After school, behind Safeway. Bring it!

Another mugging.

One thing that hasn’t escaped me in this all-consuming obsession with points is our record against our Cascadian rivals. Two wins and a dr–… (cough cough) put us in the driver’s seat to win the Cascadia Cup!! Really? With such a shitty season, we can still win the Cascadia Cup?

And look who’s up next? And not only that, a win, at home, clinches the Cup! How glorious would that be! Here at home. Beat our biggest rival from up north, here at our own stadium, and win the Cup! Right here in front of our own fans! Those Emerald City Idiots would have to present the Cascadia Cup right here, in front of the whole Timbers Army. Come on, boys, now’s the time!

*****

28 points. We can still actually win the Cascadia Cup. And there is another way to get to 30 points. But I’m not going to talk about that.

San Jose away. Who DOESN’T hate San Jose?

Two more away goals! Another goal against San Jose for the hometown boy.

Damn! I hate talking about this. Two goals up, two goals given, 2 points lost. One point gained.

29 points. Rio Tinto. The last time there put a different slant on a chant from last year, “Free John Spencer!” But I didn’t chant that, nor did I hear anyone else chanting that. Maybe it was Gavin. As much as anyone didn’t want to acknowledge it, even while recognizing the inevitability of it, it rang true.

29 points. Four more matches to go. One more point! Surely we couldn’t go four matches without a point. I take a quick look back at the results. March 24, March 31, April 7, April 14. Four losses – in a row. Holy shit! But that’s an anomaly. I scan some more. Lots of L’s and some D’s. Not very many W’s. There it is again! July. Four losses in a row. No, wait. I miscounted. Five losses in a row.

Not only was it possible, we’d already done it twice this season. 30 points! Four games. Oh, mama, help me!

29 points. D.C. United. We haven’t lost at home in two months. We’ve only lost at home three times this year. Oh, do I love home. 1 point. Please, Timbers boys, take me out of my agony.

We win! No, I win! We draw! (We draw and you’re happy?) 30 points! 30 points. We made 30 points!

There aren’t words sufficient to express my relief!

So, where are we now? 30 points. Three more games. Possible 39 points to end the season. Three less than last year. Respectable. But who’s counting on that?

We STILL have a chance to win the Cascadia Cup? Are you kidding me? Up north. In their stadium. Clink, clink. And the Emerald City Imbeciles present the Cup to us in THEIR home? Even better. Come on, boys!

*****

Are you kidding me?

What do we have now? Yeah, sure we can STILL win the Cup. Do I want to now? Chance to win it at home. Chance to win it where it smells like fish. Cal FC. I’m not feeling very good about this season. So if we win the Cup, IF we win the Cup – meaning we have to win on the road – IF we win that Cup, am I going to feel good about the season? Do I feel I DON’T want to win the Cup? Well, kind of, in the sense we had a chance to take it, show we were men on the pitch; instead we let it slide way, twice. Do we deserve the Cup? Do you ever NOT deserve something you win? After two weeks of agonizing, I realize I’m not with Cory Cordero: no way can you root for the other team. No way do I NOT want to win the Cup. I just realize that winning the Cup isn’t going to make me feel good. Cal FC still sticks out as the highlight of the season. Low light. Wish I could block it out.

30 points. (Other than me, who really cares about points? And even that’s wearing off now.) Vancouver. Away. No road wins to date. Chance to win the Cascadia Cup with a win. No chance with a draw or worse. Well, more than, anything, like always, I want the boys to play well, and win the game, which would win the Cup, which still wouldn’t assuage the pain from Cal FC.

Come on boys!

Wow! Again, Capitán, GOLAZO! We won! We won! We scored a golazo on a listless Whitecraps team and won! We won on the road! We won our first road game! And we win the Cup!! Ah, look at Abe. Look at the imbeciles in their aviators. They sure look happy! Ha Ha! (assholes) Sure would like to know that exchange between them and Abe. Ah look at Abe! He looks great! And there goes Gavin. Wonder what he he’s doing? What exchange with Abe there?

Wow! Look at the boys. Jack, Dike, Sal’s in there, Kosuke looks pretty happy, Brunner! Wow, it’s great. And Abe, above all. Hey MP. TV coverage can provide some great angles.

Wow. We did it. We won on the road. We won the Cascadia Cup. And we have more than 30 points. It feels great.

*****

Now that the season’s been over for a while, that 30 points obsession really doesn’t feel so bad. We made it and we broke it. We ended up with 34 points. Not so bad. Not very good. Winning the Cascadia Cup really did help take the pain of the season. I didn’t expect there to be such a catharsis from the Cup. Cal FC still hurts. But it feels a whole lot better knowing the Cascadia Cup is resting proudly in the Fanladen.

One more game? I don’t have any notes about it. It was a home game, I must have been there. San Jose. Oh yeah. All I can say is, you didn’t break the record in our house, Wondo. And you still haven’t scored a goal here in the run of play. And that was a shitty call, anyway.

34 points.

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2 thoughts on “30 Points: An Obsession

  1. Y’know, it probably says something about the trainwreck that was last season that I honestly had no idea until I read your post HOW many points we ended up with at the end.

    And, yes, the Cup was a nice kiss after the many many kicks of 2012.

    But, overall, I think the really frustrating thing about last season for me wasn’t the points earned (or not) or the won-lost totals, or the Cup, or even the failure to advance past the end of the season.

    It was that we made no – no – progress in our play on the pitch from 2011, and, in fact, slid back in a number of critical areas; set plays and defending.

    If there’s anything that has given me a spark of hope for better days ahead it has been watching the moves the club has made this offseason. Acquiring players not because they were there, or available, but because they filled a weak spot or addressed a need. This wasn’t perfect, and we still have a glaring problem at outside back and real question marks all across the pitch (will we have a midfield capable of providing service and controlling the run of play? Will we have forwards who can actually consistently put a bulge in the onionbag?), but it sure looks better than 2012, where we started with the same damn problems we identified in 2011 and did absolutely nothing about.

    So…onward, Rose City! “Timbers in (more than) 30!” the motto in 2013…

    1. I agree 100%. They didn’t build a club around a marque striker in 2011, did poorly, canned him, and signed another marque striker again. Same results. Huh?
      During preseason Last year I was seeing goals and productivity from a lot of guys, KAH, Dike, Perlaza, Songo. I really didn’t understand the Boyd. Now that he’s officially gone, we can truly put that behind us. And, LOOK what we have now…! Valeri and W Johnson are probably the two most important acquisitions of the off season. Very excited Trencito is on the pitch, and R Johnson is a Timber.

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