Road to Rose

Sunday 8:30 p.m. I don’t consider myself a particularly superstitious individual.  I tend to feel you control your own destiny in life and any external forces that may impact events in your life are primarily the result of coincidence or serendipity. But when push comes to shove and a sporting event hangs in the balance, this sense of pragmatism goes out the window and I’m left clutching at any sort of thing I can do to help influence the result. Tonight, this was me getting out of the supporter’s section. Don’t get me wrong, the 25 or so fans that made the trip were amazing, chanting their hearts out and doing a great job of pestering the officials and home fans.  Even a couple Emerald City Supporters showed up to join in on the fun.  But as the half wore on and Portland looked more and more in control, I couldn’t handle it.  I was a ball of nerves and I felt sick to my stomach.  I went up to the media room at half and stayed there the rest of the game.  Something about the sturdiness of the chair and countertop gave me security.  I still had knots in my stomach but I felt a little better being further away from the intensity at field level.  And when Vancouver scored the first goal in the second half to take the lead again, I knew I was in the right place (even if I did scream out in joy and was told that’s not appropriate in the media room!).  There was no way I was going to jinx things by heading back down to the stands. Looking back, it feels like a complete blur.  The crowd – over 14,000 – was intensely loud.  The Timbers Army do a tremendous job of giving PGE Park an intimidating edge.
Players in a swarm of 'Caps fans
On the pitch, that was probably the best USL match I’ve ever seen.  What a battle.  Toure was spectacular on the left side, but injured his leg and didn’t last the half.  Nash was brilliant – the best player on the pitch.  Pozniak beside him was equally up to the task.  Pejic and Luca were solid yet again.  Haber was a force.  Taka did well in the transition game. When the match was over, I raced down to the field to get quotes for Simon’s match report.  The scene was pure jubilation.  The players were running around hugging and squirting each other with water.  ‘Caps fans had now moved to the edge of the field and the players ran over to get showered in adulation.  Teitur looked like a kid and took part in the celebration as well (all that was missing was a somersault!).  Assistant coach Todd Wawrousek was on his cell phone and I overheard him saying it was the wildest game he’d ever been a part of.  I’m about to win the game here
Teitur joins in to the celebration
But the moment I’ll always remember occurred between Wes Knight and Martin Nash.  Wes - in his typically excited, high-energy way - grabbed Nash – in his typically subdued and confident way – and said to him, “Do you remember what you said to me before that goal?  Do you remember?  I asked you if you were nervous and you said ‘Nope.  I’m about to win the game here.’ ” In true Nash-like fashion, he simply nodded and gave a look of satisfaction. Now true, that goal didn’t actually win the game, as Marlon James’ goal proved to be the winner (yet another game where Mar-Mar-Mar scored – Marcus, Martin and Marlon).  But that moment typified what you want from your Captain: solid play, leadership, and stepping up at key moments.  You can’t ask for much more than that. So with that, we are now set to drive back to Vancouver.  I’ll admit, I’m not really looking forward to it.  It’s a good five hours and work will be busy tomorrow as we have six days to pack Swangard for Saturday’s first leg.  But after a match like this, the drive home will be that much more tolerable. I also have to find a way to get to Montreal for the second leg.  I don’t know if my nerves can handle another game like this, but I can’t miss it.  After all, having been to Rochester in ‘06 and now Portland, I can’t mess with superstition, now can I?
Timbers Army were dejected but had to be proud of their team this season
Sunday 3:35 p.m.
I just finished uploading my previous diary posts and I'm now headed out of the media booth to join the Whitecaps fans in attendance.  But not before I wolf down the amazing food selection the Timbers have set out for media.  Two pastas, chicken, salmon, salad and a brownie.  Considering that we have to drive home later tonight and will likely not be stopping, I plan to make at least two stops to this station. But now I'm off to join the rest of the 'Caps fans.  The team looks loose.  The only change to our starting lineup is Pozniak replacing Versailles next to Martin Nash in central mid.  Oh and one more thing: the stadium music played Neil Young's Keep on Rocking in the Free World.  Somehow I feel like that's a good omen.  Neil would never let his own down! Sunday 11:25 a.m. - Sunday Service Is sports the new church?  This is the thought that keeps cycling through my head.  For centuries, religions have been a place of gathering.  The one communal event that people of a common interest can gather, celebrate their passions and enjoy peaceful assemblage. In today’s day and age, it would appear the number one communal gathering event is sports.  In the last 24 hours, I’ve seen it in multiple forms.  Yesterday, at Buffalo Wings, I witnessed an entire bar devoted to college football.  There were at least 6 different games on the television, and everyone was cheering for a different team.  I think this is unique to college sports: because people come from different states and attend different universities, etc. there is a vast distribution of supporters spread throughout the country.  We left before the Oregon game started, so I’m sure the tide would’ve turned in that bar, but it was still fascinating to see, for example, a group of fans in the corner cheering on the Vanderbilt – Mississippi  game.
This morning, I woke up early to catch the Chelsea-Liverpool match.  Ok, ‘early’ is relative because I did sleep in.  But in my cab ride down to Kell’s, I was told there was a marathon going on downtown and thus the cabbie might not be able to drop me off precisely at this establishment.  There were expected to be 3000 people participating in this marathon.  I realize this is tiny compared to the Boston or New York marathons, but that is still an impressive number in itself.  To think 3000 Portlandians (sp?) decided to wake up early on a Sunday and run 26 miles is beyond me.  But those that do it are extremely passionate about it. Once I arrived at Kell’s to watch Liverpool v Chelsea, I was pleasantly surprised to see the place packed with footy fans.  Liverpool jerseys littered the room and the familiar barking and chanting of supporters was refreshing.  I’m not happy that Liverpool lost, but to think that people drag themselves out of bed early on a Sunday to support a team 10,000 miles away is very cool. And now, I’m sitting in yet another bar, where hordes of NFL fans have filled the joint to cheer on their team.  There’s at least a dozen different games on and at least that many different jerseys being worn.  Across from me, a young woman wearing a Vikings scarf is watching the games and looks completely content by herself in this testosterone-filled establishment. Finally, we are 4 hours away from the Whitecaps-Timbers match where an estimated 10,000+ people are going to come down midday in hopes of helping the Timbers overturn their one goal deficit.  Meanwhile, more than a dozen Whitecaps fans have made the trip to help our boys secure the win.  Travel costs, hotel, food, work schedules be damned – these guys are not missing such a big match. Boy, what a cool day of sports.  Yes, Sunday is a day of worship alright.  Sunday 8:15 a.m. I'm awake and already late for the Liverpool-Chelsea game.  Some Southsiders found a place that is open this early and showing the game (Kell's), but I have to figure out a way to get down there.  Probably a $30 cab ride.  Last night was a lot of fun, as we met up with the Whitecaps fans that had made the trip down yesterday.  Portland is an interesting city in that it's very hipster and unprententious, and the pubs are full of character.  Plus, Oregon is a hotbed for microbrews, so the beverage options were abundant.  My favourite story from the night was one particular Southsider getting turned down by a girl with the excuse 'I have swine flu'.  If there was a pantheon of rejections, that has to qualify. When we returned to our hotel around midnight, I decided to stroll up to the bar for a nightcap.  Bad idea: I spent the next two hours immersed in an Amway sales pitch from the guy to my right; and at one point, I tried to make a comment about how Walmart sucks money out of local economies and the guy to my right almost wanted to kill me for my blasphemy.  However, apparently my other option was joining Nate, Andrew and Iain for a late night dip in the hot tub, so maybe I made the right decision after all. Saturday - 2:00 p.m. We make amazing time to Portland thanks to little traffic and guy-driving (fast lane, few stops).  We get to the training grounds just in time to catch the last 20 minutes of practice.   The team looks really loose, passing the ball around in a 6 v 2 possession game.  Lyall Martin is easily the loudest of the group, running around and joking – Randy the subject of many of his barbs.   The other highlight is Luca showing us a nice scorpion kick to keep a ball inbounds.
Shaun Pejic in a post-training interview
The session ends with Teitur giving a final talk about focusing for tomorrow and the team disperses to board the bus.  But not before Taka tries a 30-yard shot at the adjacent basketball hoops, narrowly missing a deep 3 pointer by a couple feet.  In true showman fashion, he took his time, made sure everyone was watching, flipped some grass into the air to judge the wind and then calmly chipped the shot toward the hoop. We are now back at the hotel – a very nice hotel, but because it’s at the airport, there is virtually nothing nearby in terms of food, beverages, shopping, etc.  We will have to venture out at some point, but are now taking this time to update the website and make ourselves look presentable again.
A game of 6 v 2 possession
Saturday - 6:10 a.m. I am up and barely coherent at 6 a.m.  I could probably win a Barry White karaoke contest right now.  I played hockey last night at 9:45 and am feeling every shot (I’m a goalie).  I probably shouldn’t have played because I sprained my foot earlier in the week after mistakenly thinking my near-30-year-old body could just slip on some running shoes and run 10k with stretching, tightening my laces or anything.  But you probably don’t want to read about my complaining so let’s just say I’m up and a big day beckons.
How you know you're in America - Exhibit B
Joining me on this trip is Nate our Communications Manager, Fudgie our Whitecaps correspondent and Andrew our webmaster/multimedia specialist/steak sandwich aficionado.  And finally we have the team’s two equipment coordinators extraordinaire with us, Corbyn and Matt. Finally, my name is Ryan - I work in marketing for the club and occasionally write an article or blog. Friday - 8:15 p.m. I can't believe it's been three years since me and a group of other Whitecaps staffers decided to venture to Rochester to cheer on our squad in the USL-1 Championship. It was a crazy, last-minute, little planning, no preparation style trip that turned out to be one of the most memorable trips of my life. I posted my running diary on along the way and I was overwhelmed by the amount of well-wishes I received. Many of our fans could not make the trip, but it seemed that I, in some small way, helped bring them closer to the game. I've posted the diary on my blog - - if you care to look back.
How you know you're in America - Exhibit A
Now with Portland a much closer destination, we are sure to have many more 'Caps fans making the journey down the I-5. However, not everyone can make the trip, so maybe I can bring a little of the experience of the trip back home. What do they say, it's not the destination, but the journey? So check back often for updates to this blog. Thanks to wifi and my iPhone, I should be able to post fairly regularly.
This is what it looks like at 6 a.m.