Thursday, July 9, 2009

A soccer boom?

This post was written by Vanguard sports writer Clayton Hemlock.

Is there a soccer boom going on here in the Northwest? The recent success of the U.S. National Team at the Confederations Cup and the amazing showing at the Timbers/Sounders game has me in awe of the fan base here in Portland and around the Northwest. The Sounders have been producing 30,000 fans a game up in Seattle and brought down a huge fan base to sell out PGE Park that any sports fan would be in awe of.

The U.S. appeared to be done sauce in their opening round games and turned it around in a quick flash of brilliance and a little luck. I remember that game against Egypt and thought to myself, "God we have absolutely no chance of going on." However, being an avid soccer fan I had to watch the game. I couldn’t believe my eyes as we some how managed to erase a 6 goal differential. Our 3-0 win over Egypt and the help of Brazil dominating the Italians 3-0 made our dream of come true. Unbelievable!! They pulled off a miracle.

Then the Spain game occurred and at first I was thinking, "Yeah, they’re going to lose." However, I believed they could win. After the shenanigans that occurred in the first game, I believed anything was possible. Then, when Jozy Altidore scored in the 27th I had a feeling that we could do it again. Finally when Dempsey scored in the 74th minute, I knew we had it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The European Champions and world record holders for the most consecutive games in a row with a win, and without a loss was going to go down against a stubborn American side. This team showed a lot of pride.

The final against Brazil was insane! I was at the Cheerful Tortoise and I couldn’t believe how many people were watching the game in this little bar. I couldn’t even sit down. There had to be at least 50 people in the bar representing both the U.S. and Brazil. When we were up 2-0 at halftime I thought we had it. However, I was still very nervous because this is Brazil! Then Luis Fabiano scored twice and I began to tremble. I thought, alright if we play smart defense we can survive into overtime and regroup at the break. My thoughts were crushed and my heart was shattered when Lucio scored on a corner kick header. That goal shattered the hearts of so many people including my own. I was still very proud of my team and happy they made it this far. It is definitely something to look forward to in the upcoming year. GO USA!

As for the Sounders/Timbers game at PGE Park, that shit was absolutely crazy! I was at the game, and I’ve never heard so many people say, “I’ve never in my life seen this stadium so packed. This wasn’t even a regular season game or the playoffs. This was like the 3rd round of the U.S. Open Cup. It wasn’t really a big deal in terms of the bigger picture of things. However, I knew why this game was so huge! These teams hate each other and have been rivals for decades. Growing up being a Sounders fan I knew this game would be huge. However, I did not expect anything like this. The Bullpen bar was full of Sounders fans and Timbers fan alike. The streets were covered with forest green and neon green. Flags were being waved all over the place, and smoke bombs were going off. Then, there was the chanting as people walked to the gates. Keep in mind this was all before the game even started!

Had you been there, you would have had goose bumps. Hundreds of fans were disappointed due to the fact they were not getting tickets and scalpers were selling tickets five times as much you could get them normally. Fifteen minutes before the game the stadium was completely full, and then… The Chants began! The Timbers Army was singing their chants in sync and the NES and Emerald City Supporters were doing the same. It was a sweet little battle that was going on and the fan base was about the same on both sides. Then smoke bombs began going off, and a few made it on the field. This was boggling my mind at how loud this place was and the game hadn’t even started yet. Just under 17,000 people squeezed inside PGE Park to watch this game. The sidewalks were full as well, and I even saw one person climbing a tree to get a better glimpse of the game.

Finally the game started and the Sounders scored less than a minute into the match. The stadium went crazy due to the high number of Sounder’s fans in the stadium. Then the chants of “Sounders ‘til I die” and others were sung. Then the Sounders scored again! This looked like it was going to be a blowout. However just before half time the Timbers scored. The Timbers finally had something to cheer about and everyone went wild. Halftime came and went, and the game leveled off, but the cheering and the chants never stopped. There even was a little brawl in the beer garden where one guy got knocked out and had to be dragged off in a stretcher. However, security was tight and it ended right away.

The game ended 2-1 with the Sounders on top. Both die hard supporters on both sides began chanting their chants. Flares were going off all over the place, and smoke bombs were everywhere. The streets were over run by the thousands of people, and flags were being waved along in the air. This was a game that you can’t miss. Next time these two play again you have to get tickets as this was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. I’ve been to a lot of soccer games, and I have never seen it as intense as this because both sides have their own chants. The two have very strong fan bases, and it was an unbelievable sight to see. I felt like I was at an EPL game. I predict that once the Timbers enter the MLS we will see a heated rivalry that people in the northwest will love!

A soccer boom has just hit the Northwest, and the next step is 2011 when the Timbers enter the MLS. GO SOUNDERS!