It's been a bit, so I'm providing a condensed recap of my last few events, and a few thoughts about topics about town:
Anniversary Trip - The trip was truly amazing, and I'm glad that girl and I were able to get out of town and see the sights on the Oregon Coast. I love vacation time, but being able to spend quality time together without interruption was just great. We did have a nice house rental, we had nice amenities with a TV and killer view, and there was no Internet available, so we couldn't even work or check email if we even wanted to, so it was a matter of really relaxing and just doing whatever. Which it was we needed, because our schedule is pretty packed otherwise, with sporting events, social obligations, me playing soccer again, plus the things around the house to deal with. But it was nice to get out of town, enjoy a sunny weekend on the coast as it was 75 and sunny Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and we took advantage. We wandered into Rockaway Beach for a day taking in the sights, we went to Lincoln City to shop a bit and visit the casino and while we were there, we found anniversary pie to eat, and we drank a lot of really good wine. Ok, six bottles worth, but it wasn't all at the same time. There was a lot of cooking as well, as I got to barbecue on a charcoal grill, while girl made a very good sirloin dinner on our last night there. I am so happy to have her in my life, and it was great to be able to celebrate it. I really didn't want to come back, but at the same time, income is needed to pay for trips. If you want to see pictures, click on this link and you'll see our fun time.
Portland Timbers - We are just 12 days away from the start of the 2009 season, and I can safely say that it's going to take a while to get to know this bunch, as the roster is almost a complete turnover from last year. In some respects, that isn't a bad thing as the Timbers were the last place team from 2008 after being in second place the previous year with essentially a similar roster in place. While last year's team had some decent defense at times, we lacked stability in the keeper spot, as we played 4 different players there, and our offense up front wasn't very creative unless Bryan Jordan was back with us on loan from the Galaxy. We don't have the luxury of relying on him this year, as he's finally stuck on the team there. But at least from what I've seen in two exhibition games here in town during the first part of the season, we already have a different mentality.
The offense is willing to take more chances, with Antou Jallow and Manjou Keita providing some speed up top, and new additions Johan Claesson and Alex Nimo providing some speed and energy in the middle. And our keeper situation is solidified with having Steve Cronin and Brian Visser with us all year, and not on loan. It was tough to get any sort of solid attack and defense when you didn't know who was playing in the pipes. And I like Stephen Keel and Takuro Nishimura in defense, as they showed a lot of smarts and energy in the two games I saw. At least from what I've seen, we have a lot more energy on the pitch, and we tried a few things with passes and plays that we wouldn't have even tried last year, and while some of them didn't work, it was nice to see them trying something new besides trying to get the ball in the box and then trying to draw a penalty. It will also be good to watch the new Under 23 team that is starting this year, which will give us a chance to develop some younger talent, with the intent of moving them up to the first team or possibly the MLS team in 2011. We've not done much with player development, so it's nice to see the team finally looking at creating a foundation with guys that have a shot of doing something special. I'll be up in Vancouver, BC for our opener, and I can't wait for the 2009 season to get going.
Portland Trail Blazers - The playoff drought is over, and we are finally living up to some of the potential that everyone has been expecting. We could finish anywhere from 3rd seed to 5th seed, but for us to advance far, we need to secure the home court advantage in as many matchups as we can. Simply put, we have a dominant advantage playing games in the Rose Garden, and we can't count on that being there for any road games, especially in places like Houston, Dallas and Denver, places that we tend not to play very well at. I'm actually glad that Utah isn't a possible opponent, because of all of the places that we struggle with, Utah is like a Bermuda Triangle of offense for us, as we just don't play well there. I think it might be different in the playoffs, but I don't want to chance it. It's just nice not having to plan a lottery draft party this year to celebrate another top pick in the draft to add to our collection of young talent. It's great to have a collection of players that have skills, but it's better when those guys start to put it together and show their talent and start winning.
This team isn't just Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge either, as each member of the team brings a specific skill that fits the overall puzzle. Nicolas Batum plays great defense and shoots from the outside well, Steve Blake runs the offense with precision, Joel Pryzbilla and Greg Oden provide blocked shots, toughness and rebounds, Travis Outlaw provides the offense off the bench, Rudy Fernandez provides more offense and long range shooting, while Sergio Rodriguez understands his role in running the team, making others better while on the floor. Even guys that don't play much like Channing Frye understand their role, and do what they can when they get their minutes. It's a great collection of talent, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do in the playoffs.
And as far as opening round matchups, I think we would do very well in a matchup with New Orleans or San Antonio, as we play great defense versus the Bugs, and San Antonio is reeling with major injuries around their roster. Houston just drives us nuts, and I'm hoping that if we have to face them, it's later than sooner. Even the Lakers don't provide as much of a challenge, because they just can't win up in Portland regardless of what they do, even if their top guys are on target.
MLS to PDX update - The plan for the baseball stadium is starting to take a bit more shape, and it looks like the Rose Quarter is the final destination. While some might not like the idea, I think it's great to consolidate these stadiums in a destination area with other shops and restaurants that will attract people to the area. It's not just firming up the actual numbers for the financing, and that magic number is $15 million dollars. There's lots of other news floating about with different figures, but essentially, with the removal of the urban renewal district around PGE Park, this amount needs to be secured before the deal can be finalized. The next few weeks, the city council will be firming up their commitment to the plan, and then coming up with final renderings of the stadium and more firm financial numbers.
This plan makes sense for the city, as we get two great stadiums that will help solidify our position as a major sports player, and we'll get the attention of the soccer world in 2011 going up to MLS. I do love a lot of the "Internet whack a moles" who quote a lot of their fears or issues with this plan, which falls into the "we need to think of the potholes or kids" or "why not when we're in crisis" thing. And there's just as much deception with some specific members of the media, like Beth Slovik from Willamette Week and Matt Davis from the Mercury, who think that good reporting is done with minimal facts and maximum conjecture. I don't mind people being against the plan as long as their reasons are valid or at least well thought out, because I realize that not everyone is going to be a fan of this. But at least be factual in your presentation, which is seeming to be hit and miss with some media.
Ok, that's it for now, talk to you all this weekend!!