Friday, May 21, 2010

O Campeoes in Foxboro

After Benfica's 4-0 annihilation of the Revolution during Wednesday's night friendly, I believe my mom summed it up best: "It was like a lion going against a cub." Moms. Aren't they the best?

Leading up to the match, there was a few criticisms floating around the Portuguese community about the players Benfica would bring. After all, Angel DiMaria and Oscar Cardozo were in their respective national team's camps getting ready for next month's World Cup. Others, like Aimar (who actually stayed back due to visa problems), Javier Saviola, Nuno Gomes, and Miguel Vitor, probably wouldn't show, either, so spoke the streets. It was going to be the reserves vs. the Revs.

A beautiful thing happened. No, I'm not talking about the club's late arrival to the stadium. That was It's what we do sometimes.

Rather, it was Filipe Menezes rocket shot in the 15th minute. Now, let me preface the following with this disclosure: I've never worn the Iron Man suit. But I have seen the movies - both of them - and I can just imagine Menezes, analyzing the geometry through the Iron Man mask, locking the spot of the goal, running up to the ball, and boom. Goal.

To me, that goal signaled that there was no doubt that Campeoes were in the house.

Knowing this, it was pretty much elementary how the rest of the match would unfold. The Revs, with three trialists on hand and their three best players watching from afar, could only do one thing: succumb. Kevin Alston v. Alan Kardec? Advantage, Benfica. Javier Saviola v. Cory Gibbs? Thanks for playing.

Now, I've said this before: Benfica is one of my teams. They are the same club my great grandparents, grandparents, my mother, not to mention various uncles, aunts, and cousins all supported. To me, Benfica and DeSousa-Rosa (my mother's side of the family) are almost synonymous.

But a funny thing happened after Cesar Peixoto's goal in the 32nd minute. While my voice strained after chanting "Campeoes" for a good half-hour, I almost completely forgot that the team getting slaughtered was the Revolution.* And I began to feel really sad.

(*It's a completely lame excuse, but I also think part of the reason was because the Revs trotted out in their road white kits, which they almost never wear at home, save for Open Cup and SuperLiga.)

Sad because this beleaguered club was really a crazy concoction of rookies, mixed with a few veterans here, a few trialists there, and to make it really unpredictable, a touch of Khano Smith. Sad because this club is only a shell of its former winning self this season. Sad because it drove home the point the Revs really aren't all that good this year.

Most importantly, though, I was sad because the Revolution are my team. I know journalists are supposed to remain neutral, but once you get know the players- guys like Alston, Cory Gibbs, Pat Phelan, and Preston Burpo - you cannot help but silently pull for them. They are class guys. And they were utterly humilated on their own pitch. They were heckled, their mistakes were cheered, and for one night, the overwhelming majority - I'd put the percentage of pro-Benfica fans at 90% - were rooting against them. It must have been tough.

Both clubs will move on, of course. The Revolution will march north across the border to face a revitilized Toronto, who will, no doubt, look to exact some revenge for last month's 1-4 massacre. Incidentally, Benfica travel the same route to face Panathinaikos on Sunday for the last leg of their brief, two-city North American tour.

In hindsight, I look back at Wednesday night's game for what it's worth. Yeah, maybe it was, like my mom said, a lion facing a cub. The fact of the matter was that two of my favorite clubs were on the same pitch together, and I was there with my family to watch it.

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