I had failed to do a match preview of the Timbers versus Miami last night, and maybe I should forget them after last night's result. The Timbers won 4 to nil, in a performance in which they dominated from start to finish. This was the team we all expected to see earlier this year, and it paid dividends last night in what really amounted to a must win match for both teams. Based on higher math, it was determined that Portland and Miami both needed a win yesterday to help their playoff spot. Portland had 28 points on the table and 5 games left to play, Miami also had 28 points with 4 games left going into last night, with both teams trying to stay near the bunch of teams between playoff spot 3 and 6. I've never seen this much parity in the USL before, but it's the final two weeks of the season and everyone still has a chance to get into the playoffs, so that's all you can ask for at this point.
The Timbers scored within the first 3 minutes, as Byron Alvarez headed in a shot and the game was off and running. Things were physical at times, very chippy at points, but overall the official let the teams play and only called fouls when absolutely necessary. For such a physical game, I was surprised only 5 cautions were issued, although the game did feature 2 penalty kicks for us, which we converted both. Everyone that put on a Timbers uniform performed amazingly, running with purpose, stringing together passes with urgency and playing defense that stifled any and all attacks Miami could muster. I would give special kudos to Cameron Dunn, Chris Brown and Tommy Poltl for their efforts. Dunn was all over the pitch, tracking down opposing strikers and marking them and even getting his first professional goal right before the half. Brown notched two goals from the penalty kicks and assisted on another, and really controlled the offense all night. Poltl was his typical bulldog self, messing with opposing players with well timed challenges, and he almost scored a goal in the second half for his efforts. I'd say Chase Harrison also deserves some credit for pitching a shut out in his second match with the club as a starter, and he wasn't really threatened all night. Overall, the team showed that it wasn't done yet, and so they got the points.
They head off to Rochester for a game tomorrow night at 4:35 pm their time, a place that we don't play well at historically, and then Montreal on Monday night at 5 pm their time, a place that we play very well at historically. The Montreal match was rescheduled due to their CONCACAF duties the past few weeks, so it will be interesting to see how well the Timbers play in this unusual back to back. Then, it's back to PGE Park for next Thursday's final regular season home game versus Charleston. We should know more about where we will end up in the playoffs this weekend, as we really now need 7 points to assure us a spot. But hey, let's just win out and really cause some ruckus.
MLS Update - With the website launched, the buzz about the plan has been mostly positive with some negative comments, mostly centered on why concentrate on soccer when we should go after MLB or NFL instead. Really, for what the price tag is here ($75 million for PGE Park upgrades and a new park in Lents), you would get one quarter of an NFL park and possibly a third of a baseball stadium, based on recent prices. And then there's the whole supporting these teams, which I think we'd do OK with, but we could get MLS for cheaper, get the Beavers their own park in an area that wants it, and we all win with upgraded facilities. Simply put, the money for the park comes from bonds backed by the city, paid back through ticket and merchandise revenue and tax on player salaries. While the city is on the hook for the bonds, the team has worked out a logical financing plan that mitigates the risk for everyone. Really, the plan makes sense. If you haven't seen http://www.mlstoportland.com/, you should go visit.
On my final note, the political conventions are all done and the candidates have finally been chosen. I'm getting a little tired of the smear tactics back and forth, because it distracts us from the real issues going on. For me, the issue is as simple as asking a question that Ronald Reagan asked many years ago "Are you better now than you were 4 years ago?" I can say honestly that I'm not, despite being married to a wonderful woman and living in a great home in East Portland. I'm asking folks to get involved and really research candidates and their positions to make the best choice. We need to stop this single issue focus, smear campaigns and talk about the issues that matter right now. We need to get education back on track, we need to get more money in the hands of people to use for their basic needs and stop paying for illegal wars and corporate welfare disguised as military contracts. I'm not advocating that our military doesn't need to be strong, but they must be smart and frugal as well, and we need somebody willing to make some tough choices. I don't normally get political, but after the RNC, I felt that it was time to stand up and say something. Look at Barack Obama's record, visit his site and learn more about the guy I think will really do wonders for this country. I promise we'll get back to more sports and stuff next time....