Californians put Biblical touch into Timbers match
After David used a slingshot to defeat Goliath, he proceeded to sever Goliath’s head to prove that he had defeated the Champion of the Philistines. While Eric Wynalda will not return to California with any Timbers heads, he will return with the knowledge that his team had pulled off the greatest upset in the 99-year history of the US Open Cup.
In sports, it is no fun to be the Goliath. David gets the glory, while the Goliath is conquered and cast as a loser for all eternity. Some fans of Goliath might flee as the Philistines did, but many more will shake their heads in shame and rue the day the Portland Timbers lost to a bunch of amateurs.
When the final whistle blew Wednesday night at Jeld-Wen Field, Cal FC were the victors. Cal FC, an amateur team that plays its soccer in the Gran Liga de Oxnard, came into the match as massive underdogs, only to leave Soccer City, USA in mourning.
Despite only practicing at most once a week, the pay-to-play side was able to defeat an MLS side that started its best available 11 players. Those 11 starters will be paid a combined 2.86 million dollars for the 2012 season. Cal FC, on the other hand, had to buy its jerseys from Nike before the match.
When Artur Aghasyan scored the winner in overtime, it was the first goal ever scored by an USASA (United States Adult Soccer Association) side against an MLS club in a tournament competition. At the highest level of the USASA, there are at least 175 leagues around country, in which 1000s of teams compete. Considering Cal FC is currently ninth in their league, it means that Cal FC would currently be ranked behind at least 500 other amateur teams in the fifth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.
And while the players from the Thousand Oaks club will have positive stories to share for a lifetime, it is a different tale for the players, coaches, management, and fans of the Portland Timbers. There might be a time when the loss in the US Open Cup is seen as a bump on the road on the way to great successes. However, any successes seem like an impossible climb for a franchise that has never won a national playoffs or tournament of any kind.
The Timbers have played in many divisions, conferences, and leagues since their inaugural 1975 season, however their losing effort in the ‘75 Soccer Bowl remains the lone league or cup championship game the team has ever been to. Despite the lack of trophies, the Timbers found themselves in an unusual position on Wednesday night. That of an overwhelming favorite.
How the team reacts to its historic loss will set the tone for the team in just its second MLS season. If the Timbers are unable to make the MLS playoffs, the loss will become the defining moment of 2012 regardless of anything else the club does.
The site of amateurs celebrating in front of a defeated Timbers side, will be an image that will be engrained on the minds of the 5,000 in attendance as a humiliating reminder of how far the team has sunk. That image will linger until Portland is able to win a meaningful game in front of the home crowd.
Moral victories will no longer be attainable for the club that has played just 46 league matches in the MLS. The stench of Wednesday’s loss will only be cleansed after the Timbers deliver a winner to a trophy-starved fanbase.
On Wednesday, Jeld-Wen Field became the Valley of Elah of American soccer. Over the course of the upcoming days, months, and years, the Timbers will try to claw their ways out of the Valley and reach the mountaintop.
The Portland Timbers organization will always have the scar to remind them of what happened at the feet of Cal FC. The question is, will this scar fade over time or remain for years to come?