A couple of dangling thoughts this morning...
-After the MLS Cup back on the 18th, I thought I had seen my last live match until 2008. I was wrong.
Last night, I took a quick drive over the Washington Bridge and took in the Brown-Old Dominion second round NCAA Tournament match over on the East Side. I had never been to Brown to see soccer, but my first time there was a pretty memorable, despite the freezing temperatures (and the lack of hot beverages as regulation waned).
My first impression of top-tier NCAA soccer: astounding. Whether I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, or if this was typical of all tournament caliber sides (I'm leaning toward this theory), but every player was so technically sound that I almost thought I was watching an MLS match. If there was a weak link or player on the pitch, he disguised himself well. I mean really, I would have bet dollars to doughnuts that either OD or Brown could have easily bothered more than a handful of MLS sides that I won't mention right now. The action was extremely brisk and high-paced, surely benefitting the players who ran around the pitch surrounded by the chilly Providence air.
I missed the initial goal, which was scored by OD within the first fifteen, according to a fellow spectator to my right, as I stood atop a metal bleacher for the entire match. Brown equalized in the second half after a flurry of corners that finally struck gold when Kevin Davies converted a David Walls outswinger into paydirt. After regulation and a first overtime failed to separate the clubs, the match went into its second OT. Ambane Emmanuel broke through the backline and floated an impeccably weighted shot over the Brown keeper for the golden goal in the 107th.
Overall, it was a great to experience what it now likely to be the last live action I'll see until February, when Revolution try outs take place. The college crowd at major soccer colleges like Brown is lively and spirited, especially among the student section, which chanted "Let's go Bruno" and jeered the opponent throughout. In a remarkable contrast of crowd emotion, the place went almost dead silent after OD's golden goal. No boos, no howls...just stunned silence. It was as if someone had literally clicked the "mute" button on the remote.
Too bad it took me until the dead of autumn to discover Brown soccer. A wonderful squad (although no match in my heart for my beloved RIC sides) that I'll most certainly have to watch again next season.
-After watching consecutive Champions League matches (Manchester United-Sporting & Chelsea-Rosenborg), I almost forgot how much I associate CL matches with Christmas. I don't know what it is- perhaps it's a combination of that neon-lit multi-paneled shell of a ball that menaces the Bravia commercials (which amazingly fails in any attempt to be cheesy) and the time of the year invokes wonderful memories of Yuletide cheer and European football.
Speaking of Champions League, did you see that incredible Cristiano Ronaldo goal in extra time? From a free kick about 25 yards out, the Portuguese unleashed a fantastic curling ball that arched into the top far post for Manchester's game-winning goal. His reaction was hilarious...he shrugged his shoulders and sported a pseudo-frown like "that was nothing." Priceless.