Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Kevin Mooney, Portland]

Meet Kevin Mooney, host for the Gooner On The Road in Portland, Oregon. Kevin and his wife Ryan were a great guide for all things Portlandia. Not only does Kevin actually work for Arsenal, but Ryan works for a beer distributor and knows beer more than most other Portlanders, which was both impressive and useful.

Kevin and GOTR
Q. Why Arsenal?
It's the most free flowing football, with heart, that you can find. Yes there's the tiki-taka of Barcelona, but there isn't the same English spirit that Arsenal has. There is that perfect mix of beautiful attack-minded football, artistry and English grit.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
This goes back to the 1994 World Cup, I remember the goal that Dennis Bergkamp scored against Brazil. Of course, this was America in the early nineties and so football disappeared over here for a few years after. Eventually I ended up watching late-night football highlights and realised that "that guy that was playing so great now plays for Arsenal". Part Three for me, and the deal-sealer, was reading Fever Pitch [like 90% of other Arsenal fans in the USA] - I actually had the privilege of meeting Nick Hornby and we talked for a few minutes. The combination of all these things paved way for me falling in love with Arsenal.  

Q. Favourite Player?
Bergkamp. I wish I could have seen more of him in his prime, but every time I saw him he was a magician. I guess I would compare him with my other Sports idol, Steve Yzerman, who played for the Detroit Red Wings. Hockey was my number one guilty pleasure before Arsenal and the Premier League took over.

Q. Favourite current Player?
That's a tough one. Right now, between Ramsey and Giroud, I'd have to go with Giroud because I have a connection with the number 12. They have both had some bad stick from the fans but have answered their critics and proven they can be the best in the league.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Barcelona Champions League at Emirates. At Beulahland in Portland we all went ape.

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Portland?
We go down to Beulahland in North East Portland, the owner Jimmi is a Gooner; he reserves the main room with a projection TV for all Arsenal games. There are times when I can't actually make the game, because I'm busy doing text commentary and social media for [yes, I work for Arsenal USA].

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Emirates because I've never been to Highbury. I think the Emirates is the most spectacular sporting arena I've ever seen in my life. 

Q. League Prediction?
We're going to finish top of the league, I am the eternal optimist. The pessimist in me says finishing second. If we don't finish top, I can't say who will, that's how different this season is, and that's how confident I feel about us and our team spirit.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?

Özil. What we have seen is only the glimpse of what we can expect. He isn't even firing on all cylinders yet, but once he does and he integrates with the other creative players in the team, he is going to be unstoppable, both as a goalscorer and a man who can feed other people into the net.

So, that's it for the Pacific Northwest. Next stop, the state of CALIFORNIA! I will be in the iconic city of San Francisco for the Dortmund away match.


Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool [Beulahland, Portland, Oregon]

I arrived in the city of Portland, Oregon on Halloween. It's one of those places where you would look at the people on the street and ask yourself if they're dressed up for this particular festivity, or if it's simply their normal attire. Because this is Portlandia, a wonderfully weird mecca of people who do what they want to do (unless they want to sunbathe of course). If I could describe this city in one word, it would be the 'anti-corporation'. Like any city in the US there are McDonalds, KFCs and Starbucks within a stones throw, but in Portland you will find, per capita, more independent pubs, bars, restaurants, salons and grocery stores than in any other major US city, and, in addition to the abundance of hipsters and hippies, it's this that gives the place its character.

Portland. Grass, Water, Mud, Grey Skies

Portland is also famous for its food carts. There are hundreds of the across the city and the quality and choice on offer is mind-blowing, and much like Austin many of the people who start these food carts go on to establish restaurants or cafes. It's something that you don't really see much of in the UK, but, like many things I've found over here in the US I'm sure it could catch on.

Street food in Portland. The world's best?
The Arsenal fans in Portland are known collectively as the PDX Gooners, and they watch matches at Beulahland. It just so happens that the proprietor, Jimmy, is an avid Arsenal (and Portland Timbers) fan, so as you can imagine, the place is kitted out with the appropriate memorabilia and is open for every game. The food and beer selection is, as is usually the case with a Portland establishment, very good.

Good bunch of guys. Still can't sing, but it's in the works.

The game in question was a blinder: Arsenal v Liverpool at the Emirates. What a comprehensive performance it was too. The fact that the shortest man in the Premier League managed to assist himself with his head was the icing on the cake for me, but of course we have to credit the man that can't stop scoring, Aaron Ramsey, for his wonder goal. As you can see from the reactions below from the Portland Gooners, both goals were important and they set us up nicely for Dortmund away.

Which brings me on to the next stop, the penultimate city on the American leg of the Gooner On The Road mission: I will be in San Francisco with the infamous Bay Area Gooners to watch us take on the Bundesliga's finest. If you are from the Bay Area I expect to see you there!