Six Degrees: Making The Beautiful Game Ugly

This is my shortest Six Degrees ever. No jokes, no gifs, and very few words. I hope you’ll forgive me. Saturday’s 1-0 loss to SKC is something I need to leave behind as quickly as possible.

1) I’m not exaggerating when I say that I wanted to punch something Saturday night at Providence Park. Ideally, I could have gone onto the field with my punching. Since that is not allowed, and since I’m good at holding in my violent urges, there was no punching at all. But trust me, the punching urge was strong. The anger and the frustration and the hate were all very, very strong.

SKC makes me hate soccer. In fact, I kind of think SKC hates soccer. If they loved soccer, why would they play it the way they do? Fouling, diving, bumping, complaining, taunting, aggravating, these are the tools in SKC’s toolbox. Yes, you can do that for 90 minutes and win the match. But at what cost? You have made the beautiful game ugly. You have made the world a worse place. You have made non-violent people dream of doing violence. If you loved soccer, would you do this? I can only conclude that SKC hates soccer.

2) Dom Diver is my least favorite MLS player. And possibly one of my least favorite human beings. When he is touched, he falls to the ground and cries to the ref. When he fouls someone, he immediately turns and walks away, chin high, chest out. I hate him with a hate so pure and strong it could power a rocket to Mars. If he were traded to the Timbers, I would boo him, even while wearing the Green and Gold.

During the game Saturday, I had the same thought many, many times: How can SKC fans root for this team? If the Timbers played the way SKC does, I couldn’t root for them. I mean this sincerely. I would stop being a Timbers fan. I want to watch soccer. Win, lose, or draw, what SKC does is barely soccer. I don’t want any part of it.

3) Despite my current mood, I don’t think this is the end of the world. The Timbers are still a good team. We’ll win more than we’ll lose. We’ll play pretty more than we’ll play ugly. I am not here to bury the Timbers, I’m here to bury SKC.

4) It must be said, though, that this wasn’t the best game the Timbers have played. They were off.

Is it SKC and their hatred of soccer that put the Timbers off? Possibly. Maybe even probably. But if that’s the case, the Timbers need to learn from this. They need to figure out how to succeed even when facing a team that fouls and dives and complains and aggravates. More teams will try this, especially when they see that SKC won. Destroying soccer will strike them as a theoretically bad thing, but those three points aren’t theoretical, they’re real and they will be awfully tempting.

5) Nagbe’s wonderstrike almost saved us. I had a perfect view of it from Section 205. Perched there, directly behind Nags, I saw the way that right-footed blast wasn’t a perfectly straight line, but followed a curving, dipping path, almost knuckling at times. If Melia hadn’t gotten a fingertip to it, would it have sneaked under the bar? I think so. I also think we’ll need more of those in future matches like this. Perhaps the way to vanquish the darkness of Ugly Soccer is to shine a light upon it so brilliant that it has no shadows in which to hide. Nagbe’s shot nearly did that.

6) Next weekend, we host Vancouver, another team that, at times, kind of hate soccer. They won’t ugly things up as much as SKC, but a little bit? Sure.

But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe it’s good to face another ugly team so quickly. Because, while I don’t want to think about the nightmare we just went through, Caleb Porter and the team are made of stronger stuff than me. They’ll spend this next week recovering, healing, thinking, and planning. They’ll analyze the tape, come up with some strategies on how to beat Ugly Soccer, and then, next Saturday afternoon, try them out against Vancouver.

Can Pretty Soccer defeat Ugly Soccer? I believe it can. But right now it’s 0-1-0. The next time we face a team that plays this way, the next time we face a team that hates soccer, we need to change that. We need to beat them the way they deserve, and prove that Pretty is stronger than Ugly.