Nathan Fogaça’s ninth-minute Team Yellow goal felt as if it was years in the making.
No, that didn’t occur in a game of EA SPORTS’ FIFA, but in real life in front of a large crowd at Providence Park. A Thorn assisting a Timber, teammates attacking one another in transition and a goalkeeper switching positions with a center back – Wednesday night’s PTFC for Peace match had it all.
“It was a super cool experience,” Team Blue captain Kelli Hubly said. “The entire first half I was smiling and laughing the whole time. [Tonight] was such an amazing opportunity to get both teams together for something bigger than just soccer.”
The scrimmage, which Team Yellow won 4-3, meant much more than a 60-minute mixed-teams soccer game that entertained thousands of fans. The importance of the game – one meant to be a fun way to raise funds and support for Ukraine – was evident before the opening whistle.
Four Ukrainian corner flags marked the edges of the field while painted in the midfield circle were two extra lines, transforming it into a symbol of peace. A full-size Ukrainian flag waved alongside the U.S. one in the stadium’s southeast corner and fans heard the Ukrainian national anthem, sung by Ukrainian-American singer Darka Dusty Stebivka. On the field, Ukrainian referee Sergii Demianchuk officiated the match.
“That national anthem gave me goosebumps,” Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson said during an in-game interview.
And then there was the match itself. On one side of the field, Natalia Kuikka attacked Thorns’ teammate Meghan Klingenberg; in midfield Christhian Paredes and Hina Sugita combined with one another. Seven minutes into the night, Weaver had one of her shots denied by Ivacic, both cracking a smile as play continued.
Other notable moments in the light-hearted scrimmage included Bill Tuiloma playing in goal at the end of the first half as well as Giovanni Savarese checking into the game and having a late-game assist wiped away for offside.
Those kinds of moments are why many have been clamoring for a Timbers and Thorns mixed scrimmage for years now. On Wednesday night, not only did those fans get their wish, but the club also announced that it had raised over $500,000 to be donated to UNICEF USA in support of Ukraine.
“This [match] was a big way for us to do more in the community,” Hubly said. “We raised half a million dollars, so I think being able to do more for the community and people in need, this was a good experience for us.”
So, yes, a soccer game took place at Providence Park and seven goals were scored. It was fun and full of smiles and laughter as well as chaos. But, beyond the goals and unique moments – although an entertaining byproduct – the night helped raise awareness and support for what is happening in Ukraine now. A soccer game, while fun, pales in comparison.
“We have been talking about a co-ed scrimmage for years and years,” Timbers and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson said on the broadcast, “we just needed the right catalyst to make it happen.”