More Than a Feeling

Asprilla’s Goal

Old Roscoe was on the run. A band of ruffians was chasing after him with crude weapons through the post-apocalyptic dawn. He was out scavenging his daily grub when the gang ambushed him as he crossed what used to be I-84. Despite his advanced age, he still possessed preternatural quickness and strength. Running north toward what used to be Broadway he came upon a burnt out Subaru Forester in a collapsed parking lot. He immediately ripped off what remained of the passenger door and dove in the back seat to hide. The teenagers chasing him were intercepted by a rival gang on the railroad tracks below and their ensuing battle provided just enough cover to escape. Climbing out of the car, Roscoe noticed an envelope under the front seat. Somehow, it was wasn’t burnt. He stuffed it into his rucksack and sped off into the fog of the Cascadian Volcanic Cataclysm.

It was hard to remember how long it had been since civilization fell. Roscoe had lost his family, friends, pets, home, and wealth, in the CVC. Only traces remained of the city he loved. Earthquakes had ripped open the land, swallowed rivers, and crushed buildings. Blasts of Pompeian super-heated volcanic ash engulfed the region. A deluge of lava left behind spindling wakes of destruction and hell fire, flowing down mountains, crisscrossing valleys, destroying towns and communities of the Pacific Northwest. A perpetual stinging mist had fallen ever since. Forced to live off the land, Roscoe scavenged for his existence and established a tiny camp in a drainage tunnel out where the Portland International Airport was once located.

That night, in his cold, damp, corrugated steel hut, Roscoe pulled out the tattered envelope and opened it. Inside was a small stack of papers with lines of handwritten text which he could not decipher in the gloom. He wondered what information had been recorded. At that moment, something unusual happened. The surrounding fog melted away and a green hued full moon appeared in the sky above. Roscoe was suddenly bathed in comforting light as clouds broke and a single golden star shone brightly above the mossy hued moon. A tear fell down his wrinkled face and he tore into his treasure box searching for one remaining lens from his pair of broken spectacles. He felt its smooth surface and raised it to his good right eye. Scrunching his brow to hold it in place, he began to decipher the words on the page. In his trembling hands, the text glowed and pulsed in the moon-star-shine. It began with a simple title and in the first sentence was an indication of time.

 

Asprilla’s Goal

In the 51st minute, Ulloa comes back in after being evaluated for a head injury.  Dallas is not able to maintain possession after a throw in and the Timbers string together a series of passes on their left. The run of play moves centrally and then to right as the ball ends up with Asprilla who drives at the Dallas defense. He tries to slip it across to Nagbe, but the pass takes a deflection off Ulloa and Dallas regains possession. Two minutes and five seconds later, in almost the same spot, Dairon will choose not to pass the ball and instead take a shot on goal.  

Before that can happen, the run of play makes its way to Castillo, who chips and skips past Powell, leaving him to play catch up. Fabian makes it to the goal line and crosses the ball directly to Kwarasey who cradles it gently before distributing on the left to Chara who has some space to work with.

The Timbers manage a series of loose passes and bounces up the left side of the pitch and into the middle. Nagbe receives the ball just above the center circle where Acosta manages to do what so many can only dream of, he dispossesses Darlington. With a single touch, Kellyn dishes the ball off to Castillo who puts his foot on the gas and accelerates towards the Timbers defense. Once again, Powell is racing to catch up, but the Great Beard of Borchers stands his ground and Castillo’s insipid shot goes into the welcoming hands of Kwarasey who quickly distributes it back to Nagbe.

Darlington saunters forward patiently, calmly into space, looking, walking, judging where to go. With his black gloves he looks lethal, like he’s ready to strangle a sleeping victim gently. No one would ever know he did it and no trace of his presence would ever be found at the scene of the crime. Instead of pressing the play forward, Nagbe slows down what had been up until then a reasonably frenetic beginning to the second half, and chips nonchalantly over Diaz to Jewsbury. Jack chests it down and kicks it out wide to Villafaña who bounces it right back. Jack, sensing oncoming pressure from Texeira, circles and plays it back to Borchers who comfortably plays it over to Ridgewell.

All the while, drums are rumbling and a trumpet is blaring as the North End chants “We’re the Timber’s Army! Oi! The green-n-white army! We’re the Timber’s Army! Who are you! Oi! Oi Oi Oi Oi”! The message of the chant, imperceptibly, sinks into the collective unconscious of the entire living breathing organism of everyone involved in the moment.

Ridgie avoids the urge to send a long ball downfield and instead distributes it to Jack who two touches it to Jorge. He zips the ball up the left side line and it skims past a slipping Melano. Adi and Loyd run to recover the loose ball; Zach gets there first and clears the play back into the Timbers defensive third. The ball flies to Ridgewell who kicks it back to Melano. Lucas collects and as he tries to shield it from Watson, the Costa Rican manages to poke it away. The ball falls to the feet of Texeira and he begins to drive forward. After a couple of touches, he feeds it to Barrios who cuts in central to his left. He looks up and notices he is surrounded by six Timber’s defenders. His response is to cut the ball back to Diaz. Castillo is on Mauro’s left and Hollingshead is making a run toward the top of the 18-yard box with Asprilla tracking him. Diaz has Chara in front of him. The Argentine hesitates, feints, takes a touch with his dragging right foot to sneak past Chara, but the Colombian stays even. Diaz manages to spring an attempt at a through pass with the intention to have the ball meet Hollingshead just inside the penalty arc. Borchers and Asprilla are there to corral the attack and Ryan’s first touch is too heavy and too clumsy. The needle cannot be threaded and the ball bounces up field toward Chara and Powell. Chara’s momentum is carrying him toward the 18 while Powell’s weight is carrying him in the opposite direction up field. Alvas dances around Diego, who allows the ball to fall to Alvas’ feet. As Powell turns forward, players start to react to the changing direction of play. The Jamaican takes two light touches with his left foot to move into space and then initiates an attack with a sliding, skimming pass up through the middle of the pitch to Adi. At the same time Asprilla turns and starts to sprint up field to join in the excitement.

Fanendo’s a big man and he is running back to mid-field to collect the ball. His first touch is slightly heavy, but still under control. It occurs inside the Timber’s defensive half of the center circle. Adi is moving upstream, against the direction of play as he follows the ball outside the center circle and applies a more delicate second touch, allowing him to skip past an oncoming Acosta, who is running to get back into defensive shape. Simultaneously, Adi starts turning left to find some space in the middle of the pitch. Hedges has been marking Fanendo the whole time and he is closing down on him from behind. Chara has followed the play and is in space within Adi’s sight on the right.  Adi’s perfectly weighted third touch sends Diego scampering, 11 steps, toward the ball and the halfway line.

At this point, Melano is out wide on the left with Watson, Nagbe is slightly left of central at the halfway line, behind Melano, and Asprilla has continued pressing forward high on the right.  Adi has curled his run and is immediately bombing forward with all 6’4” 185 lbs. of his frame. Keeping up, just to his left, is all 6’4” 185 lbs. of Hedges. The referee is briefly sandwiched between them as they blow past. Their four legs pumping and grinding in a full-speed a-head, synchronized sprinting contest. A wave of energy and noise rises as the crowd senses the potential urgency of the situation.

Over on the right, Chara’s got the message; he’s been keeping tabs on this development as his first touch takes him across the halfway line. There’s a brilliant little stutter step as Diego winds up: one step, two steps, three steps, four and with the inside of his right foot, he sends a through ball up field. Hollingshead is there closing down, lunging, stretching, flailing; every sinew and limb of his body extended as far as it’s physically possible, in an attempt to keep his balance so he can poke the ball away with his left foot. He misses by millimeters and the arc of Chara’s pass curls past him toward Adi and Hedges, meeting them about 2 yards from the top right side of Dallas’ 18-yard box.

On the sideline, Oscar Pareja’s arms are raised to implore his players to halt Portland’s attack. His frustration at the dangerous situation into which his team is suddenly thrust is perceptible in the fleeting instance his image appears at the bottom of the screen.

Asprilla is lurking, between Hollingshead and Ulloa, anticipating what might come of this run of play. 

Adi and Hedges’ run comes to an end when the latter bumps the former just before he can receive Chara’s wonder pass. The bump is risky. It’s enough to destabilize Adi off the ball as it goes through his feet and behind Hedges. There’s a moment of uncertainty as Adi falls to the ground, hoping to draw a free kick in a dangerous spot. Unkle has a clear view of the play and all uncertainty is erased as Ted decides there was no foul and motions for Adi to get up. The crowd disagrees and howls their disgust. Asprilla raises his arms in disbelief. There’s a moment when it seems like all the Dallas players’ shoulders relax slightly for just half-a-second, but the ball is still in play and the danger isn’t over yet. It falls to Loyd, who takes two touches and with a rapidly approaching Melano, is forced to make an awkwardly sliding clearance with his left foot.

The ball goes directly to the lurking Asprilla. Meanwhile, Adi is on the ground complaining and Loyd is scrambling to get back up after Melano jumps over him. Lucas signals to show he is ready for a pass, but Dairon decides differently. Hollingshead is out wide to the right and as soon as he sees that Asprilla has the ball he starts to move centrally. Watson is at the top of the Dallas 18-yard box watching to his left as the play evolves and Acosta is stranded away from everything somewhere in no-man’s land. The goalkeeper, Jessie Gonzalez, has been yelling something to his teammates and is standing on the 6-yard line. Nagbe and Chara barely come into view on the periphery of the screen. The stage is set.

Dairon takes a first touch with the outside of his right foot to intercept Loyd’s poor clearance. The ball bounces up to around his knees. On its way down he caresses and controls it gently with the inside of his right foot. His head is raised and he is considering Ulloa who is in front of him in a proper defensive position, body parallel to the touch line, up on his toes, arms out, with all the appearance of being ready to shut down the Columbian. Loyd has gotten to his feet and is crouched just to front and right of Hedges. Melano is between Loyd and Hollingshead. His feet are apart, his back is to goal, and he is watching and waiting to see what his teammate is going to do. Loyd looks like he is ready to pounce if Dairon makes any move to pass toward Lucas.

Asprilla is moving forward toward Ulloa and there’s a little dance going on between them. Ulloa is balanced, lightly bouncing on his feet, waiting for Asprilla to commit and trying to guess which way he’s going to go. One little step, and another, then Asprilla makes the slightest feint to the left and gets Ulloa to commit to follow his direction. Just then, Dairon plants his left foot and shifts his weight up field to the right. He draws his right foot behind the ball and gives it a light touch with the outside of his boot. This takes him a step in front of Ulloa. His right foot touches the turf lightly, a little dancing step forward with his left, a half step with his right, and then his left foot plants. He is in a little perfect pocket of space which he created all for himself and no one else. He brings his right foot back, cocking it like a rifle hammer. His full weight is on his planted left foot, his body is coiled and he begins the swing to strike the ball. Everyone is tensing up and probably thinking something like, “What the hell is he doing taking a shot from there? That’s too far out. There are too many players in the way. There’s no way he will ever be able to make that kind of shot. What is this guy thinking?”

And then it happens.

Asprilla makes contact cleanly with the ball. His right leg’s bullwhip follow-through cracks the evening, it’s as if Rafael Nadal entered his body for a second, forgot all about tennis, and took a swipe at the ball. Just in front of Asprilla, there is a narrow space between Loyd and Melano. If they stretched out their arms at full length, their hands would probably touch. The ball zooms between them and they spin around in-synch to their left to see what happens next.

The ball flies through the air.  

Given the angle Asprilla shot from, it looks like the ball is going near post, so Gonzalez takes a step to his left. In an instant, Gonzalez realizes this living breathing dragon monster of a shot, is now swerving like crazy and is swinging toward the far post. The ball enters the airspace of the six yard box and is floating and hanging in mid-air. It’s rising and falling at the same time. For a split second, it feels like the earth’s orbit changes because this ball has become the axis around which we are all spinning. All eyes are fixed on it. Is it really going to go in? It’s still too soon to be sure. Gonzalez makes a feeble attempt to raise his hands and change his direction, but he quickly gives up. He’s done the calculus, he’s charted the arc, he knows that whatever this thing is, it’s been hit perfectly beyond him and there’s nothing he can do except hope that it hits the cross bar or floats over it.

It doesn’t.

Have you ever had that feeling, when you are in a focused Zen-like zone and you are able to do something without any thought? When things get quiet and time slows down. When your thinking mind knows what to do, but it gracefully gets out of the way and lets your deeper unconscious mind do the work. In popular culture terms, it’s basically Obi-wan Kenobi talking to Luke at the end of Star Wars about the force. Hopefully you have experienced this feeling in a good way and not in a car crash way, or in a, I’m falling and breaking my ankle kind of way.

Asprilla’s shot skims the underside of the crossbar and gently nestles into the side netting of the goal. The build-up is over. The run of play stops. Ted blows his whistle and makes the hand signal. The crowd is stunned for a moment before twenty thousand voices strong triumphantly roar. An incredible goal has been scored. Let the celebrations begin.

 

Roscoe hiccuped as he read the final words. He let wave after wave of memories from that long forgotten November night wash over him. Its images seared into his brain from watching gifs of it over and over countless times in wonder and awe. Later in life, he would tell his own stories about it to his grand-children as he tucked them in bed at night. Bittersweet recollections of good times buried and lost swirled through his mind. He returned the papers back to their envelope and hid them away in his treasure chest.

A thickening fog obscured the green light of the moon and the single golden star. Roscoe shivered. As the ashen mist settled on his face, a vision flashed through his mind and he sensed it was time to build something new.

 

Asprilla’s Goal
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