1) At the beginning of the year, if an impartial soccer fan had looked at the MLS schedule, he’d have seen the March 9th game between Portland and Montreal and thought, “Well, that’ll be a stinker of a game. Portland? Montreal? Couple of losers, there.” Now, here we are, at the half-way mark in the season, and those are, arguably, the two best teams in the league.
Can you believe this? Last year, when I came home from Timbers games, I’d be bitching and complaining to my roommates. This year, I’m all smug and arrogant, crowing about one more victory in the books. Last year, it was “so what if we suck?” This year, it’s “first place, baby!” Yes, I’m pretty much insufferable.
2) Okay, Timbers fans. Time to get ready for all future trivia contests. Who scored the 100th goal in Timbers MLS history? Frederic Piquionne, that’s who. And what a goal it was… I remember it like it was yesterday… It all started with Will Johnson taking a very quick free kick, so quick that most of the Colorado defense still had their backs turned. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace doesn’t waste time, he immediately sends it in for the Flyin’ Frenchman, who heads it home. And for once, the crossbar is our friend. Great goal.
3) But the other goals were pretty sweet, too. Right at the end of the first half, RFW sends another ball in, this one to Cap’n Will, who chips it to himself, then bangs it home. In the postgame radio interview, Will said it wasn’t an accident, he really was trying to chip it to himself. Beautiful play, brother.
And then the third goal? Just as pretty, simply because of the gorgeous passing. Quick ball from Zemanski to RFW, who one-times it to Ryan Johnson, who one-times it to the back of the net. Bang, bang, bang, and it’s three-nothing. Thank you, sir, may I have another?
4) But this game wasn’t all about offense, since Donovan Ricketts earned his league-leading EIGHTH clean sheet. The defense looks great right now, don’t they? Jack Jewsbury saves a goal, Ryan Miller fills in beautifully for Harrington, Andrew Jean-Baptiste plays another game essentially error-free, and I can’t tell you how happy I am with Pa Modou Kah. He’s been stellar, no matter who he’s paired with back there. Another absolutely brilliant signing by General Manager Gavin “We-Hated-You-Last-Year-But-Can’t-Help-But-Admire-The-Team-You’ve-Put-Together-This-Year-Though-We’ll-Probably-Give-Most-Of-The-Credit-To-Caleb-Porter-Just-Out-Of-Our-Long-Standing-Distaste-For-You-But-Honestly-How-Can-You-Blame-Us-And-Also-How-Much-Longer-Is-This-Ridiculous-Nickname-Going-To-Continue” Wilkinson.
5) Okay, we’re half-way through the year. What’s the rest of the season look like?
Well, for starters, we have three games versus our co-league-leaders Real Salt Lake, but two of them are at home. In fact, in our final 17 games, we have nine at home, eight on the road. So that’s nice. Even better, a lot of those away games are very winnable. Two are at Chivas, who are in freefall. Another’s at Columbus, and they’re not looking so good. Same for San Jose. The game in Philly, that should be a tough one. But the game in Vancouver? We always play well there. As for the game in Seattle, well, they invented soccer, of course, but I still think we’ve got a shot, especially since it’s a Cascadia Cup game.
So, all in all, the second half of the season doesn’t look too awful. I think we’ll do okay. Sure, there might be injuries, but hell, we’ve already had injuries, haven’t we? We’re deep. We’ll handle it.
6) Now, last thing. This Wednesday, in Dallas, US Open Cup quarterfinals. How seriously do we take this game?
Clearly, it’s not a league game, so a lot of people will say, “Hell with it,” but Coach Porter’s already stated how important he thinks it is for this team to win trophies. He wants the US Open Cup. He wants the Cascadia Cup. And I’ll go out on a limb and say he wants the MLS Cup, too.
Even better, winning the US Open Cup gets us into the CONCACAF Champions League. That’s our version of the UEFA Champions League. You know, the one with Barcelona and Chelsea and AC Milan? Sure, CONCACAF’s not Europe, but it’s still kind of a big deal. We’d get our shot at the big-money clubs from the Mexican League. How fun would it be to show them that we’re the real deal? We’d get a chance to say we’re not just the best American team, we’re the best in all of CONCACAF.
So I say we take this game seriously. Let’s win this US Open Cup. And then let’s win all the other cups, too. Why not dream big, right? I mean, no one thought that half-way through the season we’d be leading the league, but we’ve done that. So why not keep rolling? Let’s win the quarterfinals in Dallas Wednesday, and then let’s win all the games after that. Let’s follow Coach’s lead. Let’s go win some trophies.