Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Portland Timbers Prove Soccer's Worth

What Portland did for their fans in their first 2 home games is to give them a reason to come back to the stadium for the next few years.  Not only did they not disappoint in these games, they rose to the occasion and surpassed entertainment expectations.  If only Soccer was played like this more often.

Portland also showed that it doesn't have to be Real Madrid and its opponents, the Chicago Fire and/or FC Dallas, don't have to be Manchester United or Arsenal in order to see quality, skillful, imaginative games played in a U.S. professional league.  After matches from last Thursday and Sunday, its hard to understand why fans would want to see foreign teams playing exhibitions.  Portland's matches proved everything worthy about 'the beautiful game.'

Much has already been written about Portland's crowd, its mascot and the unique way it celebrates goals.  The crowd was sold out and electric.  The mascot is Timber Joey and he chainsaws a slice of wood from a huge tree for each goal.  Arguably, this is the single greatest sideshow of mascot antics ever for a sports team.

But, it was the unusual circumstance of goal-scoring and comeback chances that gave these 2 matches a different feel from other stale, stagnant Soccer matches.  These type of matches need to be typical of what to expect when attending a Soccer match.  Unfortunately, it has not played out this way during the first 15 years of MLS.  Exciting matches have been a rare occurrence for MLS.

Both of the matches came close to the 4-3 ideal average score that would surely engage more American sports fans.  The first match was 4-2 and the second match was 3-2, both way above league scoring averages and world scoring averages.  MLS has averaged below a 2-1 score for years while the rest of the world has hovered more closely to an exact 2-1 score.

What 4-3 on average would mean is that more highlights can be expected.  Of course, it means more goals.  Generally, though, it would also mean more shots, more saves and more hits on posts and crossbars.  Plainly put, you can expect more action and more comebacks.

0-0 games and 1-0 games can be thrillers, but too many of them can drain even the most ardent of Soccer supporters.  To guarantee maximum mainstream success with U.S. sports fans, low scoring and uneventful games have to become the exception, not the norm.

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