OK, confession time. In my 4+ years here in Portland, I had never been to PGE Park for a Timbers game. Soccer has never really been my thing (despite playing it through Jr. High), and minor league soccer was even further down on the list.
But after Portland landed an MLS expansion team, and our recent trip to Seattle to cover the success of the Sounders, I figured I should give it a shot. There was probably no better way to to do that than to watch the Sounders and Timbers square off Wednesday night.
First, I've got to tell you PGE Park was LOUD, really LOUD. I could hear the crowd blocks away here at our KGW main studios. Then, on the walk over to the stadium, things got even louder. Inside the stadium, I must admit I've never seen PGE Park that full. Announced attendance was 16, 382... a sellout (They could have probably sold even more tickets, but any of the empty seats I saw would have had just awful sightlines). I think it would be cool to sit with the Timbers Army for a game, but I'd probably need some earplugs. I'm also not sure who the guy with the chain saw was, though that's a pretty cool mascot. I would love to know how one hires for that job or how someone writes it up on their resume.
As for the game itself, all of the scoring took place in the first half, with Seattle grabbing a 2-1 lead they would win the game with. I know this is going to get me tarred and feathered by Soccer purists, but I really think they should get rid of the Offsides rule. I saw a couple of great scoring chances for both teams that were called off by Offsides calls. I think one rule change would open up the game a lot more (look at what eliminating the 2-line pass did in Hockey) and create scoring chances.
While I'm changing the rules, we've got to tweak the clock. I like that it runs upward as opposed to counting down like in every other sport. However, I think it's odd that only the referee knows exactly how much time is left in the game. When the time in the second half reached 90 minutes (the end of the game), we were in stoppage time, making up for stopping the game to attend to injuries and such. The PA Announcer told us we had less than 5 minutes left, and that's all we got. As I was wondering if the Timbers could get a tying goal in time, the game simply ended. There was no rundown of time let, just a simple announcement of "That's the end of the game." I think the leagues really need to find a way to tell the audience what's going on.
From the category of "Moms, don't let your kids grow up to do this," Entertainment in the second half came from some idiot who got into a little skirmish with security guards in the beer garden, and eventually Portland Police. Not sure if he'd been drinking too much (though that's a good bet). He even tried squiggling away from the cops as they carried him away handcuffed. Normally, I wouldn't glorify people like this with a mention, but it's a good reminder for all of us to SHOW SOME BLOODY SELF-CONTROL. A ticket is not a license to act like a complete and utter fool. There... lecture over.
All and all, I had a blast at PGE Park. I really can't wait to see what will happen when both Portland and Seattle are MLS teams. I've got a feeling it will quickly become the league's best rivalry.