Where every game means the world.
Okay, so I’ll just get this out of the way: Allie Long made me cry.
It’s happened before. Vero made me cry more than once last year. Her passion for the game, her disappointment at losses, her love for the fans: her outward expression of these things brought tears from me regularly. Alex Morgan made me cry once when she herself was nearly in tears over the frustration she felt in herself over a less-than-stellar performance coming off an injury. There are pictures of Mana Shim in tears after a hard loss last year that invoke the No One Ever Cries Alone clause in my emotional contract with society at large.
But I didn’t expect it from Allie.
“I’ve said it a million times: my goal is to go to the World Cup or the Olympics so I’m just striving to keep improving and keep getting better,” she told the assembled media post-match.”The NWSL means everything. It’s all that I have to grow and get better each day, to achieve what I want for myself and the team.”
The NWSL means everything.
Listening to her answer questions about being one of the players expected to be in Portland for the full season rather than being called in to World Cup play, it was hard not to wonder how much that hurts. I think there’s still a part of her that believes there’s still a chance she’ll find herself in Canada this summer. And, in my humble and very biased opinion, I think she deserves to be there.
But the reality is this: it might take a lot of stars aligning to get her there.
And that, dear friends, was the point of the tifo.
I saw a fair few people post on Twitter and Facebook about how tonight’s tifo was a tribute to the players who will be playing in the World Cup this year. Well, sure, but it was more than that.
It was a tribute to those players who come from all over the world to play here, to play for us. It was a tribute to those players who pull on a Thorns shirt and play for the love of the club and have no aspiration to play for a national team. It was a tribute to those players who’ve had their shot at international play but won’t make the final roster heading into the World Cup.
Because here, in Portland, in Soccer City, USA, every match means the world.
There are dozens of little stories that could be told about the making of this tribute to our players: a last minute change of production venue when the first layers of paint weren’t yet dry that caused new swear words to be created; the hours and hours of work by dozens of volunteers who abandoned their families, their work, their friends and their normal lives; the absolute, collective refusal to let it be anything short of perfect. And those are the stories you’ll be a part of when you answer the next call for volunteers.