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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Portland Soccer, July 16, 2013

The past seven days were very busy for soccer in Portland, as we saw some great games and big news for the city.

Last Tuesday, the Gold Cup came to Portland for two games. This tournament is for the national teams of countries in the Confederation of North, Central, and Caribbean American Football Associations (CONCACAF), and is played every two years. The most recent tournaments have had games at cities all around the United States. This year, Portland was selected for group stage matches between Costa Rica and Panama, and the United States against Belize. This would be the first time since 1997 the US Men's National Team had played in Portland.

As expected, the game itself was a comfortable win for the US, with the final score 6-1, but the important part was that over 18,000 fans came to Jeld-Wen Field to see international soccer and showed that support for the game at every level is as strong as anywhere in the country. The US Soccer Federation will almost certainly consider Portland for more of its games in the future. This is good for the city in general as soccer fans from all across the country came to see the US play last week and in the process also got to enjoy the city of Portland.

There was more good news for the club and the city the next day, as MLS announced the 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Jeld-Wen Field sometime next July or August. The MLS All-Stars will play a major club, likely from Europe, who is yet to be determined. This will be another chance for fans to come visit Portland and enjoy high level soccer along with all the sights and entertainment options around the city.

Saturday the Timbers returned home to face the Los Angeles Galaxy. LA is a traditional power in MLS, winning the championship four times, and almost always has a strong team. Saturday's game was no different as the teams traded goals in the first half for a 1-1 tie heading into the second. The match was a very close, back-and-forth affair, and either team could have won it. In the last minute of stoppage time, with the game almost over, Diego Valeri sent a corner kick toward the LA goal, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste headed in the game winner. The stadium was a loud as I've ever heard it during the celebration, and anybody who was there will remember it for a very, very long time. It was another big win for the Timbers, as they moved back into second place in the Western Conference with the three points.

The Thorns ended the week by playing the Western New York Flash on Sunday. They had been struggling, with no goals in their last three games, and were down 1-0 on a 38th-minute goal from Abby Wambach, one of the best players in the US. One minute later Christine Sinclair found Mana Shim at the top of the penalty area and Shim put her shot inside the far post. The most exciting moment of the match, however, came in the 84th minute after Western New York was awarded a penalty. Abby Wambach stepped up to take the kick, but Thorns goalkeeper Karina Leblanc saved the shot to preserve the draw and keep Portland in second place, within striking distance of league leading Sky Blue FC. Portland and Sky Blue will face each other one more time this season, in Portland on July 31.