The Timbers season came to an end on Saturday night on the road versus Carolina, and like many of the matches this year, the team played well in stretches but gave up a late goal and took the loss. We won't be making the playoffs this year, actually as of Sunday's matches, we are last on the First Division table by a whole three points. While there was a lot of parity this year in the USL, the Timbers simply were too inconsistent for their own good. They'd look amazing one night in a match, then come out completely clueless the next night. I realize that it's tough to keep mentally focused for a long season, heck, I have trouble remembering where the grocery list is, but being mentally tough is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. And no, it's not that I can't remember what's on the list, its actually where I put the damn thing.
The offseason for Timbers fans can be a bit tough, especially since our message board becomes a harbor for crazy rumors, thoughts about strategy, the things the front office should do, and so on. Some of the ideas make sense, others are wildly crazy, but the offseason isn't boring around the Timbers message board. Some people actually fill their offseason with distractions, like watching footy from other parts of the world or watching a different sport (GASP!!). I spend my offseason watching West Ham in the English Premier League and our own hometown Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA.
I've always been a basketball fan, and so following the hometown team is an easy choice, especially after moving here in 1989 and there was a championship run that very year. This town gets nuts for their team, and I got a full on taste of what Rip City is like around here. There are signs everywhere, the games are talked about all over the news and about town, and the town cheers each win and tries to shake off each loss. The town loves its team, and there is a sense that the community is really part of the team. It's something really special, and I'm glad to see that it's coming back a bit. We certainly have a solid team base, with the rookie of the year from 2006 - 2007 (Brandon Roy), the first overall pick from the 2007 -2008 draft (Greg Oden), and a solid nucleus of players, including one of the better players from Europe coming over this year (Rudy Fernandez) to join the club. I bought an 11 game pack to watch games, and so girl and I will be going to games throughout the season. When we aren't at the game, the television is usually on the games. We are a true Trail Blazer house, and I'm glad I married such a sports fan.
West Ham is my choice to follow in English Soccer, mostly for my allegiance to a former Timber and prominent member of the Portland soccer community, Clive Charles. He played for the Hammers, as well as one of the Timbers' former coaches, Bobby Howe. Plus, one of my favorite memories of my honeymoon is watching a full stadium in Upton Park as the Hammers met Newcastle, and it was the loudest, most intense footy experience I've had. Girl supports them because of her teaching experience in Basildon, UK, and using the kids' love of football to bond with them, and the Hammers were the local team to support. I do have a lot of fondness for Sunderland, another EPL team, mostly because of the fans there. I took a trip over there in 2006 with 32 other members of the Timbers Army, and was treated to one of the most amazing experiences while there, plus another return trip in 2008 as part of my honeymoon, where they took care of myself and girl for 5 wonderful days. I respect the Black Cats a lot, and they're great folk, but the Hammers was a slightly more intense footy experience. Plus, we got to stay a night on the West Ham grounds as guests of our friends here as a wedding present.
I think the offseason is a great time to also get caught up on other pursuits, like reading or doing odd jobs around the home. While I love my Timbers a great deal, it does tend to fill our social calendar with matches, gatherings and such, and so every once in a while, it's nice to take a bit of a break. However, we still see many members as I'm playing outdoor soccer on a TA team, and girl and I bowl with some TA as part of Underdog Bowling Portland. Besides, the rains will come soon and keep most of the folks inside for the remainder of the year, which is too bad because I like the rains and the fall around here. It's actually some of the best weather here in Portland, when the mornings are crisp and the afternoons are still a bit warm and sunny. I will miss the sun when the winter comes around and the work day pretty much covers getting up and coming home in the dark, but it's a small price to pay for the coolness that is here. And besides, I already have my 2009 Timbers tickets, so bring on next year already!
For more information about the Timbers and offseason stuff, visit www.soccercityusa.com or www.talktimbers.com to learn more.