I'm a little late in offering the now well-known news that the UP women's soccer team has won the national championship for the second time in four years. I watched much of the Penn State game on Friday, and a fair bit of the final's second half--but I fell in love with their style of play against a very good Notre Dame team last week. It is collegiate soccer no doubt, with more frantic clears and mis-hit passes than either the pros or the international game, but the Pilots are as talented an assemblage of amateur soccer players as I've ever seen.
They work so well together, particularly IMO on defense (although their offense was devastating this year, led by Christine Sinclair). Time and time again over the last two weeks it seemed that opposing attackers began to approach the penalty area and discovered that they had run out of options. Opponents rarely made clean breaks to the wings in order to serve an unmolested cross into the box, and on that cross no one inside the box found themselves without a marker. And if they did happen to get a shot off, Cori Alexander made the critical stop with an aggressive leap or a full extension dive. They really do play high quality soccer, and in a game with only a few climaxes of play, the flow of play is perhaps more important for entertainment than in any other sport. If you've got a crappy game of soccer, the lack of goals makes it seem all the worse.
The Oregonian did a pretty good job of catching the zeitgeist this morning, at least having the sense to splash it on the front page and across the full top fold of the sports page. They also put together a couple of nice sidebar articles (see the items in the link marked parts 1, 2, 3), but as usual the one from the print version that I want to share with you is nowhere to be found.
When I came back to Portland in 2002, it was the last year of Clive Charles' coaching career, and also his life. He died before the season began in 2003. I went to the Portland Building to see them place the trophy in a temporary display--me and about 10 other non UP, non media persons. (I suspect a few more will show up at Pioneer Square on Friday). I knew who Charles was, but in person he was larger than life. It was clear the players idolized him not just as a coach but as a personal guide and mentor. I thanked him for his contributions to the city and soccer, and he thanked me in a quiet but direct voice. It was obvious he was sick, but he couldn't have looked more pleased to speak to me or anyone.
And this article that remains hidden in The O's ether was testament to the lasting effects of Charles' legacy, both professionally and personally. Alexander did not know Clive, but speaks about how much he influence her life anyway. Senior Lindsey Huie has CMC tattooed on her foot, along with footprints to symbolize the mark he left on her. To read about how much everyone involved still included the memory of Charles in their celebrations was something I found very moving. It's always a revelation to discover people whose lives had that much power for others, and helps restore faith in the power of humanity during times when we can be forgiven for having lost so much of that faith. So to everyone involved with the Pilots' success, the highest congratulations and thanks for enriching our community. We're very proud.