Just after lunch today I received an email from the Seattle Sounders (US soccer) club, telling me that there was an “international exhibition match” this evening. When I hear “international exhibition football”, I tend to think of the Real Madrid match I saw this time last year, or Sunday’s much-ballyhooed encounter between Los Angeles and Chelsea. But football isn’t just a winner-takes-all sport, and there are lots of teams that play international exhibitions. Like… Preston North End?! OK, I admit that surprised me. Of course the name is legendary:
In the past Preston were famously successful, being the first winners of “The Double” in English football. In 1888â€“89 Preston became the first, and only, team to go throughout an entire season unbeaten in both the league and FA Cup â€” only Arsenal F.C., in 2003â€“04, have managed to have an unbeaten season in the top division since. They were league champions again the following season, but have not won the title since.
These days they play in the Championship, where they finished 7th last year.
During a staff meeting this afternoon, I pondered whether to go to the match. There were pros and cons. Pro: the stadium is across the street, it would be easy and cheap to get a ticket, I could sit anywhere I wanted, there would be lots of English fans, and it would be fun to watch a match. Con: the last time I saw an English team in the US was a disaster (for England), I would probably be surrounded by squads of identically-uniformed ten-year old girls (with their parents and coaches), and the only food on offer was likely to be hot dogs and Bud Lite.
I decided to go. I wound up sitting with a group of Preston fans from England, and so I joined in their singing and chanting. Unfortunately, the match was another debacle. Preston started strong, while the Sounders looked really tentative, and Preston went ahead midway through the half. After the break, Preston slowed down (?jet-lag) and Seattle picked up their pace. Their first goal was something of a fluke, coming off the crossbar twice; by the time they scored their second, the Preston defence was simply too slow. A draw would have reflected the run of play, but 2-1 wasn’t unreasonable.
And now I have to find some real food, to make up for the hot dog and Bud Lite…