Dave Ord: Soccer fanatic attends 3 games in 1 day

2013-01-30T00:00:00Z 2013-01-30T08:09:12Z Dave Ord: Soccer fanatic attends 3 games in 1 dayDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tuesday was a marathon. Not the 26.2-mile type, but still an endurance event that few would attempt, much less finish.

The goal was to see all three MLS Desert Friendlies matches at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5.

Past preparation included seeing two matches in two English cities in the same day and going to a match just a few hours after completing an 18-hour journey from Tucson to Johannesburg.

But was I up for a new soccer first - a tripleheader. Here's how the soccer-thon played out:

Colorado vs. Portland, 11 a.m.

I take a seat with the 100 or so fans in the main grandstand on the west side. As the event organizers promised, you are extremely close to the game. Lean over the railing (which I'm not saying I did), and you can almost touch Portland's left back.

You can hear the thwacks of the ball against foot or shin against shin.

Portland midfielder Diego Valeri is on the wrong end of a crunching tackle, and, based on the cringes on the faces of the folks sitting in the stands, most of us could almost feel the pain as well. It's amazing that Valeri is back up on his feet in about two minutes. It borders on a miracle when he scores on a free kick eight minutes later.

Two FC Tucson interns walk through the stands handing out rosters. Who knew you'd get such service at an MLS scrimmage.

Portland has the best of the early chances and the best jerseys - a two-tone green that looks vivid in the Tucson sun.

The comments from the players and officials can be heard all over the pitch. Sometimes that's not such a good thing when the language gets saltier than the pretzel I bought. But on the whole, it's great insight into the game. You can't get any more in the game than this.

Halftime brings a visit to the concession stand for a brat and a soft drink. Got to keep that energy up for the whole-day event. The brat is surprisingly good - nice and grilled.

Taking a 1-0 lead into the final 45 minutes, Portland resumes its dominance despite both teams making wholesale changes. The Timbers add two more goals to wrap up a 3-1 win, which pleases some of their faithful.

"It's a good, intimate setting," says Jeff Deline, a Portland resident and member of the Timbers Army, who came down with friends he is visiting in Mesa. "It was nice to see them switch out the players at halftime so we could see most of the team."

Houston vs. San Jose, 3 p.m.

Game 2 brings a chippier affair with a Houston squad sporting some of its first-team players against a San Jose squad where most of the uniform numbers are above 20 and only the most knowledgeable of Quakes fans would know their names.

Many of the players on San Jose, no doubt trying to squeeze out a place on the roster, are playing at full speed.

After a scoreless first half, San Jose gets on the board with the best goal of the tripleheader. Midfielder Sean Dasilva volleys a screamer across the goalmouth and into the back of the net.

Fellow tri-spectators Fernando Ma and Keaton Koch agree that it's the best goal. The two FC Tucson supporters are here for the duration, sitting in the north endline bleachers.

The tripleheader "is excellent," Ma says. "I don't know how many other places you would be able to do this.

"Though, it might be a little too much, hanging out with this guy," Ma says while pointing at Koch, who holds up his Philadelphia Union flag.

Dasilva converts near the end to give the Earthquakes a 2-0 triumph.

FC Tucson vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 p.m.

The temperature is dropping, dipping down to the low 40s, but both teams quickly heat things up.

Each side is on the board in the first 15 minutes. The local lads equalize on a goal by Patrick Wallen in the 14th minute.

FC Tucson has a few more excellent chances, prompting one of the supporters to say: "We could be ahead 3-1."

When one Sporting shot sails over the bar, the group chants "How high do you want the goal?"

Both teams squander chances in the second half, leaving a 1-1 result to round off the soccer that started nine hours earlier.

"My impression is that these Desert Friendlies are just what we hoped them to be," says Greg Foster, one of FC Tucson's managing partners.

"The quality of the viewing experience is really great."

Along with that quality came quantity. Not a pairing you see too often.

With the marathon over, this tired soccer fan headed home to rest and dream of the next soccer pinnacle to climb.

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