Sometimes this is how you watch a game.
Say you’re at an indoor amusement gallery in a suburban shopping mall – we’re talking bum-fuck, even for the suburbs – and you’re trying to get 10 people into a laser tag arena at 10 o’clock on a Saturday. The place is loud, full of blinking lights and reeks of sweat. You don’t even want to look at the carpet. The second you walk in, though, you see they have the Timbers game on a big screen TV at the back of the room. Which is nice. You squint across the room – you need new glasses; have I mentioned that? – and see it’s 1-0 to Portland. Which is nicer.
Then again, the first thing you see is Portland failing to clear their lines on a set-piece. This is about the 65th minute, maybe closer to the 70th. It’s familiar, but definitely not reassuring. Still, the score keeps the bet you made alive (Portland needs to win) and that gets you wondering if the other bet you made (that Darlington Nagbe would score) came off. A replay reveals that Nagbe didn’t get Portland’s goal; Will Johnson did. Nagbe set it up, though, which is nice, but you know you’re already down a couple bucks.
That replay runs maybe ten minutes after you show up, five minutes after you confirm that 10 kids can get in for the next round of laser tag. So, you settle in on the hard plastic bench near the entrance to take in the end of the game. The sweat smell hits you every time the door opens. You can’t hear shit, so you’re not always watching the game. People stand in front of you from time-to-time and there are times when people-watching just feels more rewarding.
And there it is: Eric “Cubo” Torres doing the goddamn robot by the corner flag. He’s directly in front of where you sit whenever you get to Timbers games, in fact, which makes the way he’s rubbing it in (if that’s what a goal celebration ultimately is) that little bit more grating. Time to suffer through how it happens – and you see it. Alvas Powell gets beat on Portland’s right; the camera angle is tight, but Timbers defenders have the near-post covered pretty well. The problem – that guy named Torres – is at the back post, however, snuck between Pa Modou Kah, who is watching the ball with Torres behind him, and Michael Harrington, who, I guess, is trying to make sure Chivas can’t switch sides. Or something.
It doesn’t matter: Torres is WIDE open. He attempts to shoot the ball back across the grain – or he just screws up his shot – and Ricketts almost stops it. He doesn’t, obviously. Kah and Harrington only communicate after the goal. They stare at one another, their arms extended palms up to indicate the big gap between them. The question of who should have been there hovers over that gap.
And you just think, shit. Shit, shit, shit. Then the question comes: do I actually need to sit through this entire game on the archived feed? I mean, don’t I pretty much know what happened already?
The highlights suggest that Portland had a decent first half. The goal notwithstanding, Johnson looks like he’s finally rounding into form. Nagbe looked active and useful, too. Urruti banged a good shot at goal, etc. That first half did look pretty promising. But the Timbers didn’t do enough with that maybe/probably positive period. They really needed to score a second goal, or even a third. And now, you’re out $5 on the night. Fuck. (And will lose your pants, shirt, and dignity by the end.)
I got my wish from last week: the Twin Towers of The Gambia started. Portland’s defense didn’t let in four, so that’s good. They let in one, though. One incredibly soft goddamn goal. And that’s enough to continue the god-awful doomed trajectory that has defined 2014. I doubt there’s anyone left in Portland comparing last year’s start to this one and still thinking positive. Surely everyone knows by now that this year is supposed to be better. This team is supposed to be better. It’s not worse, at least not yet. But that first win still isn’t here, which means that, going forward, every game is a must-win. Dammit.