Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quick Timbers - Vancouver Match Update

The Timbers won tonight 2 to nil over the White Craps as 9,081 watched a beautiful match in about 90 degree weather at PGE Park. The scoring was from Ryan Pore with a PK in the 6th minute and George Josten in the 41st minute, and Steve Cronin kept the clean sheet.

It was a truly great day, as we started by honoring our fallen friend General Timber Howie, and then watched our boys get the win. I'll have a full match report later next week, and a special tribute to Howie as well, but I'm getting ready to pack up for a quick weekend trip with girl and I to the Columbia River Gorge.

Official Timbers Match Report, courtesy of the team.

Allison's match report, courtesy of Soccer City USA website.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Timbers Match This Weekend And Wrap Up Thoughts

I joined the Timbers Army in 2004 during the playoff match up north to Seattle, and I've found a group of people that are caring, passionate, and full of life in pursuit of supporting their club. I've read on a lot of blog posts that the Timbers Army are just a bunch of drunken hooligans who only care about causing trouble and getting drunk, and my experience has been anything but that. It's hard to convince some folks, because they only see what they want to see.

They don't see the hours of work that we do in creating banners or flags for the matches, or the hours spent traveling around the country to follow our team. They don't see the community involvement with Habitat, Doernbechers, or helping people in need whether it's our own people or others in the area. They don't seen us coaching in the local soccer community, attending other games, or even supporting teams in other sports. They don't see us participate in fair wage discussions in town, promote businesses that we either run or support, or participate in many of the processes the city has. They don't see us vote, they don't see us riding the bus to get to our jobs, be it teacher, postal worker, banker, student, media person, film maker, beer maker, or editor. They don't see us in any other terms but people who wear green and white scarves, and so we are immediately discounted. It's easy to label us because of what we wear, but to understand us means understanding the diversity and passion of this group.

We are involved in local politics, we pay taxes, we vote and participate in the process, and we support many local businesses, big and small. We love our city more than anything, and want what is best for the short and long term. We want good schools, good services in the city, and things to do when you aren't working, and expect that our local officials understand what a special place this is and that they will do what they can to protect, nurture and promote it. We are citizens of Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, and all communities and neighborhoods of Portland, but we are also Washington, Idaho, and parts all over the world. We come from all walks of life, offering different experiences and perspectives, and we come together to share our love for our team. Many of us feel that MLS is the right move for the city, not only to bring top level soccer to the city, but the long term future of the USL is in question, and the deal on the table to build a new baseball stadium and refurbish PGE Park is good for everyone. And we try and talk about our point of view, which we are entitled to do, even if we are dismissed with the various labels presented because while we are Timbers Army, we are people just like everyone else.

We play Vancouver Saturday night at PGE Park at 7 pm, and with the weather being good, I expect a good crowd. Sunday, the boys face the reserve team of Club America, a prominent club from the Mexican League at 5 pm at PGE Park, while the U-23 Timbers have a match in Vancouver Wa on Saturday afternoon. I will be at the WhiteCraps match on Saturday night, but will not be attending Sunday's match, as girl and I will be spending some vacation time in the Columbia Gorge, but I'll provide a report from the Timbers - Craps match later in the week.

Match Preview -

Last meeting - 4/25/09 in Vancouver, won by the Craps 1 to nil on a Martin Nash goal. The teams played very evenly for most of the match, when Nash put a shot on Timbers GK Steve Cronin that deflected off a few players into the back of the net. The game stayed that way, even with the Timbers increasing pressure late in the second half. This is the Timbers only visit to Swangard in the regular season.

Injury Status - Both teams appear to have their full sides available, with no notable injuries. The Craps were missing Justin Moose for the opening match, but he's back.

Vancouver Analysis - The Craps have scored 5 goals by 5 different players, so their scoring is balanced early in the season. Wes Knight leads them in assists with 2, and Jay Nolly has played all 7 games in goal for them, with a 1.00 goals allowed and a 3 W - 2 L - 2 D record. As with past Vancouver teams, they really try to control things in the middle of the pitch, using strong runs from the wings to then drop in crosses to their forwards and attacking midfielders. Nash and Knight are the main catalysts for this attack, trying to control the ball and spread the attack out from side to side. Their defense is solid if unspectacular, while Nolly has solidified the keeping situation with some good play. He can be dodgy at times, as he shanked a few free kicks versus Portland and didn't grab a couple of rebounds immediately, but he rarely seems rattled in back. Vancouver has traveled a bit early, going to Puerto Rico, Minnesota, Austin and trips for the Canadian championship, but get their next 3 games at home before a good amount of home games later in the summer.

Portland Analysis - Steve Cronin has solidified his role as the top keeper, getting a win and a draw in Puerto Rico. The Timbers actually haven't lost a match since going to Vancouver, as they sit with 3 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss. Their offense woke up a bit in Puerto Rico, as Mandjou Keita heated up with a goal and assist during the win and draw there. Ryan Pore and Brian Farber still lead the team in goals with 2 each, and Farber has 2 assists to lead that category. The defense has played stellar the past few weeks in keeping the streak going, as coach Gavin Wilkinson has shuffled Keel, Danso, Hayes, Thompson, Knowles and Nishimura around and each one has stepped up game after game. The mids have been especially good at generating opportunities, especially Savage and Claesson, while McManus has really been a bulldog out there. The only real issue has been finishing in the last third of the pitch, and Keita seems to have found his touch a bit, which is good to see. The Timbers have a friendly on Sunday, then face Montreal on Thursday before heading out on a two game road trip the following week.

Keys to the Game - Portland will win if their defense can keep the Vancouver mids at bay, because the Craps offense comes from the middle. Portland also must finish the chances generated by their mids, and not just pass the ball around. It's okay to shoot, really. Vancouver does try to play a bit more physical in PGE Park to neutralize some of the team speed the Timbers have, and I wouldn't be surprised if they try the same tact again. The Timbers need to keep their head about them, and take advantage of the chances.

Prediction - The Timbers get two goals and make it stand up for the win on Saturday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Natives Are Still Restless

Recent posts and articles about MLS and the Triple AAA Stadium:

Peter Apanel comes up with another idea to help soccer here, by building a soccer specific stadium for the Timbers instead of redoing PGE Park. His base premise is using Montreal as the bench point, stating that the team spent $13 million dollars to build Saputo Stadium, so why couldn't something like that be done here. Mind you, he never mentions a specific site for this stadium, he fails to mention that the Impact received a generous donation of land from the government of Quebec to build the stadium, and that the current owner has been asking for at least $25 to $30 million more to invest in upgrading various parks of the park. I'll get that Lents may not be the best place for the ballpark, but following this idea doesn't pan out in terms of saving money. The comments on this article are truly hysterical, but I'll talk about that in a bit.

The Portland Mercury has posted a blog entry about an economic study done for the new Lents ballpark, showing that the ballpark would create 453 jobs but the net result would be lost jobs in the end. The hastily prepared study was done in one day, and the results held for almost two weeks before being reported, and most ballpark opponents have been having a field day with the results, but there are major flaws in the premise of the study. It only accounts for ballpark construction jobs, it doesn't take into account the jobs for the team, the possibility of other jobs put in the area because of the park, or the other economic streams that Lents suddenly gets by having a ballpark there. But hey, the opponents need to hang their hat on something, and this gives the situation some traction. Now, their archrivals in the alternative newspaper world, Willamette Week, run a bit more balanced take on things, not immediately calling the idea bad but providing some food for thought that maybe this isn't such a terrible idea.

But perhaps the most crazy take on things was done when Commissioner Randy Leonard appeared on the Bald Faced Truth on Tuesday and spoke with the guys about the park. The few calls that made the air were against soccer, which led John Strong and Dwight Jaynes to rip on the soccer haters because of the process here. Leonard is hopeful a resolution is coming, it's all dependant on what Commissioner Dan Saltzman is deciding to do, and right now, he's not talking to anyone about his thoughts. But suffice to say, the process is really about where it was a few months ago, full of posts and conjecture and nothing really resolved. But what this whole thing has gotten me thinking about is some observations about how things work for the city that works:

Observation 1 - We love our process, no matter how clunky it is or how many hurdles it has. We love our neighborhoods, we love our town, and we love to talk about ways to get things done. And when decisions need to be made, there's more talking and more discussion and more thoughts, and then we talk more. It's the Portland process, labeled to be progressive and inclusive, and I don't want to squash anyone's right to be part of the process and provide their voice. The problem is simply that the process needs to have an end resolution at some point, and too often, decisions made lead to more discussion and a vicious cycle of talking. What our city lacks right now is someone to actually make a decision, good or bad, and have the guts to stand up and say I'm doing this and here's why. Instead, the circular logic goes on and on, and we sit in this version of status quo.

Observation 2 - While we crave change, we secretly despise it and are resistant. If you look at Portland as a whole, on the surface it's a lot about new ideas, trying to think outside the normal, or as it's put here, "Keep Portland Weird" We want to be thought of as a cutting edge city, thinking above and beyond other areas, but yet, the way our city is set up, it's really easy to keep within your own comfort zone, thus resisting the changes that could really kick start an area. People in NW Portland rarely venture to the eastside, because they have everything they want in their neighborhood, so why do I care about what happens in Lents? Well, the fact is the city is one big collective, and what affects one of us, affects us all. And staying within our institutions and not thinking on a larger scale sometimes puts us in a small town way of thinking.

Observation 3 - The NFL, MLB and NHL aren't coming anytime soon. Get over it. Seriously, I'm tired of sports fans shitting on the soccer idea because it's not one of the major sports, and they proclaim why can't we finally think bigger. Do you even seriously think the NFL would come here, knowing the process that MLS has been put through trying to be secured here. Other cities are clamoring to get professional sports to come to town, and Portland is tripping all over itself trying to figure out where to put a minor league baseball park. So by all means, sports that will demand an investment 7 to 10 times as much as the proposed price tag for just a stadium and need huge corporate support will come here simply because we have passionate football fans? It's not going to happen, and the sad truth is that if this deal implodes, no other league will want to come here knowing how difficult a process it is to try and survive here unless you are the Trail Blazers. Just ask Angela Batinovich, the owner of the Portland Lumberjax, the most recent team that failed here.

Observation 4 - We run the risk of losing both our teams if we choose to do nothing. If we choose to keep the current Timbers and current Beavers in PGE Park and say we are happy with the status quo, we are taking a huge chance that the park will be empty in 2010. That's when the Beavers lease is up, and there are cities already watching this process to see what happens. If Portland can't make a go of it, there is at least 3 other cities that have been rumoured to make a play to move the Beavers there. It's already happened twice when the Beavers left town, so you can't say it would never happen. And honestly, if I was an owner and saw the process here and then saw a city falling over itself to bring baseball and it could be a smooth process, where am I going to choose. The Timbers, meanwhile, would be the only west coast USL Division 1 team on the west coast with Vancouver moving up, so you have a soccer team on an island. So you immediately increase travel costs, scheduling becomes more difficult, and if another city that was closer to where the USL is came calling, what would stop the Timbers from going there? I would hate that happening, but seriously, doing nothing means this is a very true possibility.

Observation 5 - The teams can't share the stadium, no matter how much you think they can. MLS wants their teams to control scheduling and revenue streams, and with PGE Park as it is now, the Timbers are second fiddle to baseball. Baseball also requires a specific footprint that doesn't mesh with soccer, so that's why you have the empty area behind the Timbers benches. PGE Park is a great multi purpose stadium, but not quite good enough for baseball itself or for soccer itself. It makes sense to pick one sport and go with it. And soccer could easily stay by adding seats along 18th Avenue, and we could even host football there easily. Seattle already has that arrangement with their MLS and NFL teams, but that is only because the park was built with both sports in mind and the guy that owns the stadium happens to be an owner of both teams. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Allen.

Observation 6 - The Trail Blazers destroyed the Memorial Coliseum deal because they don't want competition. I can't confirm this completely, but I was in the room when J Isaac talked about the ballpark destroying income potential for the Trail Blazers, and that it would hurt the team in the long run. This despite the fact that up until then, most insiders felt the team was OK with triple AAA baseball coming in. The Rose Garden is dead most nights unless there is a show there or a Trail Blazers game, and the ballpark going for the Memorial Coliseum made sense because the MC has been under utilized and it's not been kept up. The Trail Blazers don't own the MC but run it and are in charge of the upkeep, but they've done about as little as they can just to keep it from falling down. And they want the land for their properties for bars, shops, and the like, and as long as the MC still stands and it's owned by the city, that will never happen. If the MC is still standing in 5 years, I'll be shocked, but for those that saved the building, it's coming down whether it's for a ballpark or the Trail Blazers ideas. And no, the MARC isn't the idea they are thinking of because there's not enough dollar signs behind it. The Trail Blazers want to keep their monopoly on the sports market, and so far, they're doing a really good job of it.

Observation 7 - The ballpark won't destroy Lents Park. It's not a jewel, but it is a good sized park in an area that has really not changed much over the years. And you have the footprint of an old baseball park that could be used for the new baseball park, and suddenly you have an anchor to the area that will draw people from outside the area to come and watch games. In the past 10 years, urban renewal monies for Lents have gone unused as they try to come up with ways to draw people to the area, and now there's an idea that could do that and suddenly it's a huge risk. I get that it's a huge investment for the area, but here's the point. What good is affordable housing and jobs if your residents have nothing to do when they aren't working? People expect a certain level of services from their town to give them things to do, and many people put sports on the same level as arts, movies, concerts, parks, and the like. I get that some of the park land will be used, but they are looking at replacement sites, and the traffic in the area is not nearly as bad as other areas of the town. It's all about planning, and then finding a plan and sticking with it. While I would have preferred the MC for the ballpark, Lents is a good fallback because it will give the Beavers a stadium that they can fill that isn't a cave, and it will give an anchor destination to an area that has been looking for.

Observation 8 - There is a market for soccer here. Just listen to stories of pubs around town showing the UEFA Cup championship earlier this week, or World Cup matches when that is going on in Pioneer Square. Yes, the Timbers are part of that, but follow the passion of the University of Portland and their fans, the Timbers, and the various clubs and national teams around town, and there are fans everywhere. Portland sports fans are unique in that they follow some of the more fringe sports, like track and field, cycling and soccer. I hate calling soccer fringe, as that is only the case here in the States, but having other sports fans refer to soccer as "boring" or "not cool" misses the point that it is a beautiful game to watch. It's not for everyone, but if you can appreciate the skill, passion, and strategy of what's going on, it's an amazingly fun game to watch. It can be very simple and so complex all at the same time, and if you bring MLS here, the fans will come.

Observation 9 - Public discourse isn't civil at all in a state that prides itself on being civil. Whether you can blame Fox News or the Internet, but simply put, there's a lot of haters on the whole MLS and Triple AAA idea simply because of who is proposing it. If it was Phil Knight, I don't expect we'd be dealing with nearly the backlash that we have here because of Merritt Paulson being involve. And people aren't very civil in their arguments either, latching onto any small nugget of information that can be distorted and then using it to post everywhere. And if you happen to wander into an article or discussion about the topic, it's usually the naysayers spouting anti-sports, anti-tax, why doesn't the rich guy pay for it himself versus the passionate sports fan who can't figure out why people are so against it. We don't have public discourse in this country anymore, it's who can come up with the cleverist line to prove a point.

Observation 10 - Cities and teams will work together to build stadiums. Cities want to own stadiums to help their tax base, earn some potential revenues and keep some control over teams leaving in the middle of the night. Some teams prefer to own their own park, but at the same time, if you have another group that is willing to own it and maintain it, why not? But as any tenant will do, teams demand things from the stadium owner, and it's usually a long discourse into getting sides to agree. But as Dwight Jaynes pointed out earlier this week, Memorial Coliseum was the last facility built here without public money, and that was over 40 years ago. You may not like the trend, but it's happening all over, and it's not going away.

I'm a sports guy, so this is simply my take and I'm entitled to it. And I've shared my thoughts on blogs around town, and the crowds are diametrically on the opposite ends of things. You have the naysayers talking about wasting tax money, the prosayers saying that events will come here. The arguments all really fall into one question in my mind - Are you satisfied with the city the way it is now or do you think it's time to invest in an idea that has the potential to help the city long term? It's that simple really, and you can phrase the arguments anyway you want, but it comes down to keeping things as they are, thus avoiding risk, or taking a chance on an idea that could bring revenues at a time where jobs are being lost and people are struggling to make ends meet. My answer is simply, passionately, unwaveringly, that it's time to think long term and invest in the future with MLS and the Beavers/Lents.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

So nothing throws off co-workers like wearing clothes that you don't normally wear to the office. Our dress code is business casual, although many of them take a lot of liberties with the things they wear. I've resorted to wearing nice shirts with jeans, so when I showed up today in a shirt and tie with slacks, it was noticed. Quite a bit, actually, as I fielded a lot of questions about whether I had a job interview or not.

Uh, OK, so apparently, I need to dress up more just to mess with people. I mean, I like to wear nice clothes, but since I don't work face to face with customers and I'm in a secure area of the bank, nobody really sees what I wear and I hadn't thought about it much. But I had a good reason for my choice of clothing, as I attended General Timber Howie's service this morning at Willamette National Cemetary in Happy Valley. He served in the military, and so the funeral was done with full military honors.

And since Memorial Day was yesterday, the cemetary was in full decoration as girl and I drove up. Every grave stone had a small American flag on it, and there were flowers and larger flags all over the place in honor of the fallen, and it was quite a sight to see rows and rows of flags as far as the eye can see. While I'm not a military person myself as mentioned in my last blog, I am patriotic and love seeing the flag displayed and I do sing our anthem as much as possible. I think it's great to show pride for your country, even if you don't personally agree with the direction it is taking. But since the new administration has come in, I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about our future, and optimistic that many of the people enlisting in the military won't end up being honored at the cemetary before their time.

There was at least 80 people waiting for the service, many of the Timbers Army present and many of Howie's coworkers and some family there. It was great to see many of my friends there, dressed up for the occassion, and while it was very solemn in some of the tone, it was still interested to see the pagentry of a military funeral. The gun salute and the playing of Taps was something I'd seen in movies and television, but to see it live was rather moving. And then the flag presentation was truly a sight, as the soldiers unfolded and refolded the flag in precision before presenting it to Howie's sister. It was true pagentry, and something that I was moved by, the precision of the moves, the deliberate motions, it was a sight to behold. A chaplin said a few words which were nice, and then Drumman shared a few Howie stories that put a smile on our faces. But as we left, I saw the grounds crew removing all the flags, with their ball caps, torn shorts, and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, and it seemed odd that something that was done so respectfully would be taken away in such a cavalier manner. I suppose that after seeing such precision and honor, it was odd to see the near opposite afterwards, but then again, we live in a world of very stark contrasts.

I can imagine the wake for Howie on Saturday is going to be a bit more jovial and there will be a lot more laughs. I'll be bringing a surprise that girl and I have been keeping safe, and it's all to do with Howie and one of our road trips. We will be spreading some of his ashes at the park, and celebrating the life of a truly great man. I already miss you, Howie, but I feel like you've never left because you're watching over us and smiling.

Timbers News: So in talking about promotion and relegation in soccer, Burnely was one of the teams promoted this weekend after winning a playoff with Sheffield United. Well, today it was announced that Burnley is coming to PGE Park on July 25th to face the Timbers in a friendly match. And it was announced today that Burnley is giving their most passionate fans a special discount for season tickets in the Premiership for next season.

Burnley has quite a bit of history in English soccer, as they haven't played in the top level of English soccer since 1976, and have been relegated to the bottom level of the leagues a few times over the years, and they now become the 43rd different team to join the Premier League this coming season, and they will be coming to Portland. This is close to the same situation that we had in 2005 when Sunderland came to visit after they were promoted to the EPL and played a friendly match in Portland that ended in a draw. That was a magical night, and led to some of us traveling to England in 2006, and then me and girl making a return trip in 2008 as part of my honeymoon. Sunderland fans were some of the greatest fans I've ever encountered, and that day in 2005 was true magic. While I'm not expecting the Burnley match to really match the same intensity or passion level, I would love to be wrong. Let's face it, Burnley hasn't been in the Premiership before, and I would expect many of their fans to make the trip to celebrate the honor. And for some of us TA, we'll be making a double header of it as we are providing some support to friends in their match earlier in the day.

And to John Strong, well done on the Talking Timbers show, this week's edition was really good, and in response to your question, Vancouver is a great city to visit, their fans are very respectful, they play in a nice park, and their teams are pretty good, but there is only one rival to the Timbers, and that is the team from the city that shall not be named. As if there could ever be any doubt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Timbers Updates and Interesting Sports Weekend

The Timbers come back from Puerto Rico with 4 points in hand, after drawing on Friday night 1 to 1 and winning last night 2 to 1. Mandjou Keita headed in a nice cross from David Hayes to level the game Friday, although the adventure on Friday was actually getting the game feed. Sitting with abou 15 Timbers Army at the Cheerful Bullpen, we kept trying to get video for the game for the entire first half, and turns out it never happened. We finally found an audio feed for Andy Mac, and listened to the game and it was a back and forth affair. We've traditionally never done well in Puerto Rico, only getting 1 draw in 5 games down there previous, so getting a draw was pretty impressive. Since I only heard what was going on, I don't have much to really comment about, but did find a match report from the team.

Sunday's game was a lot better, as the Internet feed did work and USL Live actually did have a game to show. Since I had a few deadlines here, I watched the game from home while working, and it was another physical battle, with lots of long passes, quick shots, and dangerous set plays. Keita got his second goal in the 24th minute, similar to the goal on Friday apparently, as it was Keita knocking in another wicked cross from David Hayes. The Islanders leveled it in the 35th minute after a big pileup in the box, and Steve Cronin couldn't corral a deflection and it was put past him by John Krause. Two minutes later, a pileup happened in the Timbers box, and after a deflection, the ball ended up at Mamadou Danso's feet, and he knocked it past Islanders keeper Bill Gaudette to put the Timbers up 2 to 1. The Puerto Rico announcer kept saying it was Keita, but apparently, he missed the number, and Danso did come up limping after the goal celebration, but he stayed in the game.

The rest of the first half and second half was a defensive struggle, as Puerto Rico kept attacking and trying to get set plays where they seemed to be dangerous, and Portland fought off every attack. There were a couple of late offensive pushes, courtesy of Alex Nimo and Jason McLaughlin, but Gaudette wasn't seriously threatened by any shots after the two goals. Cronin got a lot of help from his midfielders and defenders, and kept the Islander attack at bay until the final whistle, after 5 minutes of extra time instead of the 1 minute announced. Apparently, they use metric time down there.

Overall, it was a great win as it was the first time Portland had won in Puerto Rico, and we used our speed and depth to our advantage. We did get 4 yellow cards in the second half (McManus, Nimo, Danso, and McLaughlin), but we were playing very smart while being physical. A couple of the challenges were aided by some flopping, and really only Danso's situation I felt warranted consideration for a card. He was trying to get the ball with a bicycle kick and got the PR player off the side of the head, and I really don't think Danso saw him. McManus and McLaughlin played physical in their situations, and the official felt they had crossed the line, although I'm not sure. Nimo's card was simply trying too hard to keep the ball away from a PR player, and he didn't stop at the whistle. Overall, though, I'm pleased with our efforts, as we have really used the depth to our advantage, and we have good overall team speed and defensive strength that will keep us in most games. Our next match is Saturday versus the Vancouver Whitecaps (or Wankouver Craps for most of the TA) at 7 PM at PGE Park, hope to see you all there.

The interesting sports weekend had little to do with the traditional sporting events happening this weekend. I've lost interest in the NBA Playoffs after the Trail Blazers were eliminated, even though the quality of basketball this year has been better. I just don't like the Lakers, and could care less to see Lebron or Kobe be crowned this year's king. There's a compelling story that the Nuggets and Magic are attempting to crash the party, and the Magic even have a lead in their series with the Cavs right now, but it's not enough to make me want to watch. I used to like the Indy 500 race when it meant something, but after the troubles in racing, it's just not the same any more. And it's a bit too early to worry about baseball yet, as it's early in the season. Plus, while I like hockey, there's something unusual about playing a winter sport in May even though playoff hockey can be quite compelling. What I found interesting this weekend was English football, as they dealt with their promotion and relegation this weekend.

It's a unique thing to club soccer, as the good teams will get promoted to better leagues as they do better, and teams that don't do well could be dropped from the top tables. No other sport has such an arrangement, and I think it's a rather interesting thing to have in your league. Think about having it in the NFL, where you could banish the Detroit Lions to another league for their continued years of ineptitude, or the NBA, where the Clippers couldn't sleep walk their way through a 15 win season. America would never endorse such a concept because of the money and prestige of professional sports, and we don't quite have any sports with such a league structure outside of baseball, and I wouldn't depend on MLB to do anything this progressive. What this does is give teams something to play for all year, as you don't want to see your team dropped from the Premiership, and nothing is as satisfying as seeing a team promoted that hasn't played in the top flight for years.

Watching yesterday's matches, there were 4 teams in danger of being relegated in the Premier League: Sunderland, Hull City, Middlesborough and Newcastle. Sunderland and Hull City were clear, but needed to get points or hope that Borough and Newcastle lost and didn't get points to stay up. 4 different matches in 4 places, and all with implications of staying at the top flight or dropping down. While Sunderland played well and lost to Chelsea 3 to 2 and Hull lost a tough match to Man United 1 to nil, West Ham sealed Middlesborough's fate by winning 2 to 1 and Newcastle lost 1 to nil to Aston Villa on an own goal. Newcastle has some amazing and passionate fans, but their team really never put it together on the pitch. Middlesborough, meanwhile, had been in the Premiership for 14 previous years, but they had Timberitis, a disease we dealt with in 2008 where we couldn't score goals or keep players healthy. West Brom had already sealed their relegation fate last weekend, so 3 teams moved down, and the Premiership will be welcoming Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Burnley, who won a playoff this morning. While Birmingham has been in the EPL recently, both Wolverhampton and Burnley are new teams to the top flight, and now play on a whole other level.

I get that other sports try to incentive teams to play the string out, whether it's a weighted lottery for players next year, or higher draft picks, but I see the benefits of making teams earn their top flight status year in and year out. I realize that professional athletes should have enough to play for in pay and prestige, but at the same time, nothing can be more dreary than watching a meaningless end of season game between two 1 win teams in the NFL, who are simply going through the motions. I'm smart enough to realize that this idea would never be accepted in the US, though, because as I mentioned, there's too much money and influence in sports, and leagues are happier if teams make money even if the results on the court/field are crap. The NBA doesn't mind the Clippers stinking if they are doing well financially, and at least for now, they are. But there's hope that perhaps leagues here could learn something from this, and give more incentive for teams to play hard throughout the year rather than just pin hopes on highly coveted college players who may or may not pan out or the fallings of ping pong balls.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Long Holiday Weekend! WEEEEEE!!

It's a long holiday weekend, and I'm really happy about it. Memorial Day always starts the summer holiday season, as the cookouts and camping trips start up, and people talk about their planned trips out of town. Girl and I aren't going out of town, but we'll be plenty busy as is usually the case...

Timbers Update: - Match Preview

The Portland Timbers make their annual trip to Puerto Rico to play the Islanders, and this year, it's a bit of a different traveling agenda. Like with Carolina here a few weeks ago, the Timbers are playing their two games in Puerto Rico this weekend on Friday at 5 PM PT and Sunday at 4 PM PT, then they are done with traveling there. It's a cost saving measure not having to travel there twice, especially since the Timbers have struggled a bit playing there. But the team is coming off an impressive late win last week against Rochester, and everyone is healthy at this point, so I would expect a good effort and for us to get some points from the weekend. Puerto Rico is usually a solid team, attacking from the midfield with flash and creativity, and they usually have steady goalkeeping, and this year's group seem to follow that trend. They've also been busy playing as one of the USL representatives in the CONCACAF Championship League, and winning matches, so they've got talent. And Puerto Rico does have a pretty crazy home crowd apparently, which keys up the home team. They are viewing parties this weekend all about town for the matches (Beulahland in SE Portland, Rogue Pub in the Pearl, Cheerful Bullpen near the Park, St. Johns Pub for Sunday's game), so if you are up for some Timbers come on out. Check the SCUSA site,, for more details about viewings.

The Holiday:

I understand the significance of this holiday, and have a great deal of respect for those in the military that choose to sacrifice for their country so that many of us can enjoy our freedoms at home. While I still don't agree with our decisions in the Middle East made before our current President was elected, I understand that we have a job to do and I'm glad that there are those that choose to hear the call. It's important to remember those that have served, either in the past, currently, or in the future, because it truly is honorable. I took one ROTC class in college, mostly because some friends had signed up and it seemed like fun, and part of me wanted to understand the whole military mindset. While some of the skills were interesting and I enjoyed myself in learning new things, I just couldn't get or understand the military vibe, so I decided to take my talents elsewhere. I'm glad I have that choice, and understand that veterans have had influence in allowing me that right.

Update from Last Post:

Finally, I was listening to Strong at Night on 95.5 the Game, and John spent a great deal of time talking about the subject of my last post, our friends from Wilsonville who were upset about language. He had a great take about exactly who should the team market towards, families with limited disposable income and potentially many competing interests or single people without those influences. Soccer has tried to market itself under the family banner for years, as the common convention was that kids that played soccer would become soccer fans. Suffice to say that hasn't happened, as soccer has remained relatively obscure in television ratings although attendance figures are up this year for the MLS.

Part of that phenomenon is Toronto, who has continued to sell out like crazy with its passionate fan base, and Seattle, who is riding the new team factor to record crowds and attention. I have issues with the team up north for them not supporting their old USL team very well, but it's hard to ignore what's happening up there now. I expect crowds to level out a bit, but both teams have done a good job successfully marketing to a lot of different groups to get them in the park. Toronto went after the soccer fans that had disposable income and marketed the chance to sing, chant, and have an authentic football experience, while Seattle used their website to help fans pick which section fans wanted to sit in based upon their fan preferences of standing, singing, chanting, or the like. It's a smart move.

The TA does distribute chant sheets for each match in the PG version without swear words, and many members alter words based on their own preferences. And the team and the TA meet regularly to discuss things, and we've even killed off one of the more offensive chants that the team specifically said they didn't like. It's not like we can't be reasonable about the situation, but all the TA ask is that it's important that the team respect everyone's fan experience and we'll try and do the same thing. I get that families should feel welcome to come to PGE Park and watch the Timbers, but if they are expecting a Disneyfied, homogenized, bland fan experience where you'll be prompted to make noise and show support, it's not going to happen. I'm not anti-family, I want to have one, but I also don't feel that every experience has to be family inclusive. It's OK for Dad to hang out with the boys and play golf, or Mom to visit her friends and go dancing without the kids now and then, and if you go out as a family, not everything is going to be family friendly. That's why teaching kids about correct behavior and expectations is so important, especially if you want them to behave.

My expectation is that the Timbers will find a way for everyone to co-exist in the park and everyone will be able to enjoy their fan experience. The fan sign marking section 107 as supporters is a great start, and the park employees also do a great job of laying out what to expect if you sit near 107, and the TA will do our part to help in that cause. But as much as we want to help, we also want the ability to cheer and chant and do what we do, and the fact that MLS management was in the stands for the Rochester game and loved what we did and want it to grow to other teams means that football culture is growing, and people understand what we have here. It's special, it's unique, and it's definitely Portland.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Year's Obligatory Complaint About Language in Section 107

Unknown fan from Arizona, Teresa S, or Andrew and Laurie from Wilsonville. Those names ring legend in the Timbers Army as the fans of the Timbers who object to the antics of section 107 (actually now sections 105 through 109). While some fans may not like our language or object to some of the actions of the group, the folks above have actually written to the Timbers or the local media to express their concerns: - John Canzano's article after receiving an email from Andrew and Laurie - The Offside Rules talks about it. - The response from one of our members, Finn.

I get that the Timbers Army fan experience isn't for everyone, it's a chaotic, crazy, mind blowing experience at points, and it can be the most frustrating time as well when things don't work right. I personally cringe when idiots in our section pull out our most infamous chant YSA and still do it, even after being told numerous times that the chant is dead. There's songs we sing that I choose to alter the words, mostly because I just don't like them. That's my right, and that's why our chant sheets are done in PG version and the more salty English footy version. We try and cater to all tastes as best as we can, as long as you show up and show passion for the Timbers.

And I also understand that the Timbers' fan base needs to be diverse between the hardcore and casual fans. Hardcore fans show up week in and out, buy merchandise, and live and die with the team, and they are constants. You can count on them always, but yet even the best teams in the world can't 100 percent rely on the hardcore fans to support them to survive. You have to draw in fans of all walks to watch matches, which is why the Timbers have other sections of the park and label section 107 as Timbers Supporters Section. Even the security and ushers point out to fans wandering around that this section is where the crazies hang out, so if you are easily offended, this might not be the best area to be in.

It's a balancing act for sure, but yet the team and its owner get it. Merritt Paulson realizes the vocal, organic group of TA is showing passion and commitment for the game, and MLS wants more of that, which is a big reason why we were tagged as an expansion city. I'm not going to pretend for a minute to be objective about this topic, because I love what the TA does. I've been going to Trail Blazers games for years, as well as other sporting events, and the language at PGE Park for Timbers is not any worse than I've heard there, even after being in England watching football. And while the Trail Blazers games are loud and boisterous, it's also very controlled and manipulated by the game operations, as people cheer when prompted and the environment is very scripted. There's something to the spontaneity of creating atmosphere simply from voices, instruments, and passion, and what you see on match nights is simply amazing. In talking with players this weekend at a meet and greet, they love the energy from our group, and many of them chose to come here simply because of what the TA does.

And this group means something to me because they propped me up when I lost my mom to cancer, and wasn't sure how I would deal with it all. I met my wife in the section back in 2005, and she went from being a woman hanging out with soccer fans to being my best friend to becoming my wife during a wedding last year done Timbers Army style. I've stood with these people at Habitat for Humanity working on projects, tossed teddy bears for kids, contributed to Doernbechers, marched in the Starlight parade, gave money to various causes to help others including a young cancer patient that lost her beloved Timbers memorabilia to victims of identity theft cheated by a former Timbers player. As with any group, I consider this bunch a family, and I've met some of the best people here although at times, I'm infuriated at times. But yet, that's what happens in a family. You love them no matter what.

My hope is that anyone that wants to come to Timbers matches finds their own fan experience, whether it's part of a rowdy group, sitting in the beer garden drinking a few, or sitting in a family section just watching. It's important that everyone find their place, and we respect what each other brings to the match. Personally, I wouldn't trade what the Timbers Army brings, no matter what. I'm glad that the team and its ownership get what a special commodity we have.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gee, Doesn't This Sound Familar?

Courtesy of the San Francisco Gate, the San Francisco 49ers are working on getting a new stadium to replace Candlestick Park, or Monster Park, or 3com park, or whatever they are calling it this week.

OK, so this is all about pointyball, but the theme of this sounds really familiar. As a matter of fact, if you take any stadium debate over the past 15 years, the theme of the conversation is the same. I could simply outline it in the following way, just change the sport and city name, and it will follow this path.
  • The current team is dissatisfied with the current stadium for whatever reason, be it the stadium is old, lacks certain amenities, they want something more centrally located, they want to make more money, lather, rinse then repeat.
  • The city wants to get involved because they either own the current facility, or want to ensure that the team doesn't cut out of town for the big shiny competing town, whether it is a real threat or implied threat.
  • The city can't very likely spend money targeted for other services on a stadium for a bunch of athletes, so they get creative with their financing, be it targeted taxes, urban renewal districts, private investment, or other revenue streams. Once the plan is announced, there's canned lines about "not threatening vital services" or "protecting the taxpayers"
  • A group of organized or disorganized NIMBYs will step up, saying this is the worst investment ever, and if it was such a good idea, why wouldn't the team finance it themselves. Never mind that if it was financed by the team, the team would find the location that allowed them maximum revenue with minimal restrictions without concern for the city or the fans, and they could leave them high and dry at any given point. Or the fact that sports now is considered part of the livability for certain cities, and put on the same level as arts, entertainment, parks, and other amenities by some citizens.
  • Other NIMBYs will quote exhaustive economic studies about the waste of money sports is for an investment, and talk about potholes, schools, or the like. Never mind that even most economists realize that any authoritative study only covers actual revenue streams directly related to the team, and they can't account for things like secondary businesses being affected by the team (say restaurants in the area getting more business during game day) or how a successful team makes people feel.
  • Either the original plan survives after a ground swell of discussion, or a fallback plan mysteriously appears that actually works in the situation, and then Plan B is the best plan for what we need to do.
  • Repeat these steps until nauseated, the team and city work out a deal, or the team moves to greener pastures.
I'll agree that Lents isn't the best option for a baseball stadium, and as I've posted already, I squarely blame our NBA team for torpedoing the plan and the city council for not sticking to their guns when opposition made their voice heard. Everybody knows the Memorial Coliseum is the right place for the ball park, and I'm only happy that Lents is not only willing to have the park built there, but at least in reading some of their comments, they seem to be happy to have something destination related to draw people in the area.

Cities and sports teams must work together to ensure that all sides are happy, and that you don't have the team leaving in the middle of the night for some destination. Whether you like it or not, sports is something that many people put in the livability category of an area, and what sport experiences are available do play into decisions to move to an area or not. And so these discussions will continue for years to come, and my hope is that the talks get more and more civil in discourse instead of the drop-down, drag out fight that often occurs.

And now..Some other random thoughts:

The Timbers have two matches in Puerto Rico this weekend. Normally, I don't do match preview for matches that I watch on TV, but I will make an exception for this weekend. It's a long weekend, which helps, but I also like the stories from this team. There will be viewings all over town, and to learn about the latest locations, check out, and visit the Game Day Chat section for Away Game Viewing Locations. At this point, we know Beulahland and the Rogue Pub in NW are showing games, the Cheerful Bullpen is getting set up (I actually get to check out the location tomorrow), and the St. John's Pub is showing Sunday's game. There's rumours of other locations as well, so check out the site for the latest information.

I spent some time getting to know the Timbers on Saturday during the Fan BBQ/Meet and Greet, and the players I did talk with were great. David Hayes is one of my new favorites, as he was extremely personable, charming, and he's happy to be in Portland playing in front of a passionate group of fans. Plus, I got to play a little bit on the PGE Turf in a 7 vs. 7 tournament, and I appreciated the opportunity to run about with an audience. I made a few good plays, and messed up a few points, but it was a good time. Thank you to the team, players and to my friend yabollox for putting it together.

The Timbers Army Football club got its first point by drawing on Sunday afternoon, and I played my best game of the year. Well, the entire team played really well, and we matched up well versus our opponents. And not even the 85 degree temperatures, hot and sticky turf, or the 60 or so opposing fans were going to stop us from getting points. Way to go, dudes!! Although now, our keeper is busted up, so we'll have to resort to plan B.

Isn't it great to not be in the NBA Draft Lottery this year?? Well done, Trail Blazers!!

But in sad news, Brian Grant is dealing with the early stages of Parkinson's disease, as he shared this news earlier this week with ESPN. One of the truly great Trail Blazers of the modern teams and one of the most well likely, this is sad news. But knowing the Rasta Monsta, this disease has no idea who they are dealing with here, and I know he'll do everything possible to beat it.

Finally, 95.5 The Game is debuting a new show tonight, Talk Timbers, in the Portland area. John Strong will host the weekly show, starting at 7 PM, and talk nothing but Timbers for one hour. Gavin Wilkinson, Andy McNamara, and various players will appear on the show, talking about upcoming matches, MLS topics, current season, and other great stories. If you are a Timbers fan, remember to tune in and participate. If you are outside the area, visit to learn more about broadcasts, or to download a podcast. Oh, and they will be broadcasting some games on the Game, too.

Ok, talk to you all later this week!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Timbers Vs. Rhinos 5/14/09 Match Report

Last night was one of the most roller coaster sports experiences I've ever had. It was a match of great highs and crippling lows, and while the result pleased me, there's still a nagging feeling of something missing from last night. I lost a dear friend and right now, I'm just trying to deal with that reality.

As many long time Timbers Army members know, General Timber Howie was a fixture at the Timbers matches, he sat in the first seat in the first row in 108, arriving right as the gates opened. Often times, he would waive to girl and I to join him up front in line to get into the stadium, as we are notoriously early arrivals as well to stake out our space. I've talked with Howie for many years about his love of baseball and hockey, traveling with him to England in a large TA group, seeing him on the road at many locations. He gave us a great tour of San Francisco, including eating lunch at a great place in Chinatown and we saw him at a Giants - Diamondbacks game that same night from AT&T Park. The man had a enormous heart, and always had wonderful things to say to everyone, and I will miss his smile, the talks with him, and his presence in the TA.

I found out the news about Howie about 4 hours before the kickoff, and my emotions were all over the place for the rest of my day at work as I tried to concentrate as best I could. I came home, and hugged girl and we cried and talked about our feelings. Howie always asked me to hug my wife to make sure she knows how I feel about her, and after the news, I needed a hug. We felt a bit odd going to a Timbers match after the news, but I also know that I needed to be there because it's what Howie would have wanted. It was a late start, so we wandered to our usual gate and nobody was in line where Howie stood. So in his honor, I stood there and waited. And I waived other TA to come up and join me. I felt odd being there, but at the same time, it felt right.

We got into the stadium, and there was a memorial already being constructed at his usual seat. For the first time in over 3 years, I went to a Timbers match without a camera, but at the same time, I wanted to just watch and be a fan for a night without worrying about the shots or the angles. I did notice that in the back of section 107, the team had hung a sign labeling the section as Timbers Army Supporters Section, which we'd been asking about for a long time. It was a nice touch. TA members filed in, and there was a lot of hugging and crying, as we all tried to deal with the loss. For one night anyway, Howie's seat held flowers, and as I helped with the memorial, others came to pay their respects. The team even agreed to have a moment of silence before the anthem, which I really appreciated, even if some of the tourist fans didn't have a clue about or care to observe the moment. As a few of us tried to shut them up, it became apparent to me like on many Thirsty Thursdays, there are some fans that don't give a flying fuck about anything but getting drunk at the match. I appreciate new people wanting to experience this for themselves, but at the same time, you should show some respect.

The anthem singer decided to do her version of the anthem, which was way slow and done like a bad R and B song. Seriously, the pauses were crap, and so the Army sang the last verse as loud as we could to get things started. And then the match began. Keel was in for defense, as Nishimura was not on the bench (apparently, he has a VISA problem that is being resolved) and Keita started up front with McLaughlin, but I had the rest of the starters pegged.

The first half was a pure passing clinic by the Timbers, as they tried to stretch the Rhinos defense with short passes and crosses. The plan worked pretty well, as they were getting chances, but as with previous matches, some players seem content to pass rather than shoot. The Rhinos, meanwhile, countered with some solid, extremely physical defense, as they held position and really pushed our guys around a lot. Some of the tackles were good, hard challenges, while a few drew cards, which they should have. Overall, the first half was pretty even until Brian Farber knocked in a gorgeous cross from Keita to get the Timbers' first goal. We had the control of the possession, and the defense was doing a great job on Johnny Menyonger, the Rhinos key forward. Steve Cronin was solid in goal, even sporting a cool black and light blue kit in two color English fashion. The mood of the Army was still a bit all over the place, as some sang and danced like a normal match, but many people had a heavy heart, and so getting the goal helped ease some of the tensions.

The second half saw some of the same pinpoint passing from the Timbers, while the Rhinos were content to play long balls over the top to get chances, and try to create set piece opportunities. While Andrew Gregor might not be a favorite person around here, he's still dangerous in set pieces, and we got to see that later. At the 62nd minute, Nino Short from Rochester went in with a hard challenge, and drew straight red for the contact, putting Rochester down to 10 men. However, the Rhinos seemed energized by this and actually outplayed the Timbers for the next 15 minutes or so, creating chances all over the place and testing Cronin. In the 66th minute, a free kick from Gregor was headed towards Cronin and saved, but Darren Kenton pounced on the bounce and knocked one past Cronin to level the score and end the Timbers' defensive scoreless streak. And after that, they kept the pressure on, as shots came at Cronin and the defense seemed to be struggling to find itself.

Taka Suzuki came on in the 70th, and the offense continued to sputter until about the 82nd minute when the TA broke into the Sunshine song. The passes that weren't working for the Timbers suddenly found players, and the pressure on Scott Vallow, the Rhinos keeper, over the last few minutes was relentless. It appeared at minute 83 that Rochester was simply trying to play for the tie and a point, but the Timbers were trying to salvage a win. The game's physicality escalated with some altercations, a few more yellows, and some challenges that went awry but were missed. Until the game hit stoppage time and at the 94th minute, Steven Keel was in the box and went down hard on contact away from the ball. Darren Kenton had shoved Keel in the box, and the center official called it with only seconds remaining.

The Rochester players were incensed, and Vallow did his best to delay the kick by walking around and drinking water. The other Rhinos players did their best to wander around and mess with the shooter by kicking the ball around. The Rhinos were also upset at 2 minutes of announced stoppage time, yet when Menyonger was substituted for in the 90th, he took over a minute to leave the pitch after first trying to feign injury with a limp. The official extended the time, and so Ryan Pore stepped up to take the PK. Vallow, after a delay, went left, and after waiting a tiny bit, Pore punched it right and into the back of the net. Pandemonium struck the shed, as we got a second goal, and just 30 seconds later, full time was called and it was over.

For such a draining night, it was nice to get a win, and everyone felt Howie was in the house, watching down on us and his team. I've never been so relieved to get a win, because we deserved it. As much as soccer has talent determine winners, sometimes luck has more influence in determining outcomes. Needless to say, we got a win for the General, and so we could all smile after a rather trying day.

Match Reports:

Allison's recap from Soccer City USA, including pictures.

Official Match Report from the Timbers.

My Observations
  • My man of the match was Steve Cronin. After some shaky communication at points, he settled in and kept us level. I would say the entire defense would probably be 1B, because everyone in the back stepped up to keep Menyonger from getting shots, and they marked Gregor well all night.
  • Keita continues to get shot opportunities, and I like his work rate, although he doesn't have a goal yet. As a matter of fact, our 4 goals are all from midfielders, and we had 2 official shots from forwards last night. I like our forwards but at the same time, don't be afraid to pull the trigger from time to time.
  • McManus, Pore, Farber and Claesson all put in solid work all match. Claesson may not be the fastest guy out there, but he's smart and crafty, and he works very well with faster players like Pore and Farber. McManus has some tough matchups, but he held his ground, and I was impressed with his play.
  • Taka did OK in his short stint, but he still struggled with a couple of good chances. We overall shot 25 times to 9 and 11 shots on goal, but we had to pull it out late.
  • Vallow is a seasoned pro, and so is Sancho. They payed a lot of respect to the TA after the match, and I loved watching them work. It's nice to see some veterans from other teams get it when they are on the road, and they showed class in defeat. I didn't like some of their tactics during the match, but if you're willing to try it.
  • There will be a lot of talk about the officiating, but the center official actually did an even job of calling things. There were calls missed on both sides, and while Rochester earned 6 cards, I felt that we deserved one or two with some awkward challenges. But in my mind, Keel was contacted hard and Kenton extended his arms, and the PK call was made I think because of that, plus a few other non-calls just prior. The Rhinos played physically, and we lost our composure after the 63rd minute and it cost us because they turned up the heat. We deserved the win, but seriously guys, can you do it a bit earlier next time?
  • And yes, we always win 2 to 1!
Tomorrow is the TA meet and greet, and I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of folks and seeing some familiar faces. Plus, we get to run around on the PGE Park surface, which is always fun. The TAFC also has a match Sunday afternoon, so my weekend is very much soccer filled.

Next Timbers match is next Friday night in Puerto Rico. If you need a Timbers fix this weekend, the U-23 boys will be playing at PGE tonight (actually the game tonight versus Spokane is done) and tomorrow night versus Yakima. The game tomorrow is a 7 PM kickoff.

And finally, Howie, rest in peace, and Rose City Til I Die.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Timbers Match Report and Sad Day in the TA

I'm doing a quick update today for a match preview for the Timbers versus the Rochester Rhinos tonight at PGE Park. The game is a late start of 8 pm as we are on Fox Soccer Channel so you can see the game live if you have digital cable or satellite. While the late start means a slow morning tomorrow, it does prevent the craziness of trying to get from our place to downtown by 6 pm, which happens most game days.

The Timbers struggled in Cleveland last Saturday, putting 24 shots forward, of those 11 shots on goal, and yet they couldn't get one past the City Stars, who were giving up 3 goals per game going in. The offensive effort generated some nice chances, but as often happens in soccer, luck sometimes is the most important component. The Timbers played well defensively, and held on for a point in what was described in the match reports as "completely terrible spring weather". In listening to the match, apparently it rained, sleeted, and the sun shone within a 10 minute period.

The Timbers have been working on shots on goal this week in practice all week, with our forwards trying to get more offensive. No, not worse potty mouths, but actually putting better shots on goal. And really, what I'm impressed with more than anything, it's the fact that we are getting shots on goal, which was a huge problem with last year's Timbers.

The Rhinos, who used to be called the Raging Rhinos, are no longer officially raging, but they are sitting towards the top of the table with 10 points (3 wins and a draw) in 5 games. Their leading scorer is Johnny Menyonger, who has 3 goals already this season, and is an active guy up front. Ok, he kind of looks like Gary Coleman, but he's very skilled. We will also see former Timbers Andrew Gregor, unceremoniously traded from the team last year, and Brent Sancho, who played with the Timbers back in 2001 and 2002 and has played well. Gregor will be the target of a lot of abuse from the TA, while Sancho will get some love at first until the game starts. I also look forward to seeing Scott Vallow, the Rhinos' keeper, who is a great sport in goal but does get a lot of abuse as well. He's a seasoned veteran, and is a very steady influence in back.

The Timbers are healthy, as Steve Cronin is back in goal for the team, and we have no reported injuries, so everyone should be ready to go tonight. We've got 9 days until we travel to Puerto Rico, and it's been 5 days since Cleveland, so our team should be fresh and rested. I expect a backline of SCOT, C-Knowles, Hayes and Nishimura, Claesson, Savage, McManus, and Pore in the mid, and up front, Josten and McLaughlin. We have Warren Ukah, a former Atlanta Silverbacks forward, in camp, which means that if he sticks, we'll have 4 former Silverbacks on roster (Hayes, McManus, McLaughlin and Ukah). They lead the league in goals last year, so they could score but the defense was a bit of a concern, and now they are taking this year off, so their players have been spread about the USL. The Timbers have 3 consecutive shutouts going, and would tie a record if they hold the Rhinos scoreless, and they would also break the record for longest scoreless streak on defense (380 minutes per Allison A).

Prediction ---- Timbers get 2 and the Rhinos will not score a goal and we hold our scoreless streak.

Also, a heavy heart to tonight's game as I found out that one of our beloved TA, General Timber Howie, passed away earlier today. He was a legend in the TA, and I recall fondly his guided tour of San Francisco when girl and I went there a few seasons ago. He had just retired from his job to help a co-worker out who had just had a baby when his firm needed to cut a job. I also traveled with him to Sunderland a few years ago, and he always had kind words for me and my wife. He is truly a class act, and will be seriously missed around the TA. RCTID, Howie

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stadium Update and Timbers Thoughts

Reading Links:

The City is close to a deal to put the new Triple AAA Baseball Park in Lents Park.

The original article announcing the change in venue from Memorial Coliseum to Lents Park

Anna Griffin from the Oregonian asks should we care about the Beavers at all?

William Glasgow talks about MLS again and gets schooled in the comments

The Trail Blazers' plan to refurbish the Memorial Coliseum isn't without its own set of risks.

And apparently, the cost of upgrading the Memorial Coliseum is about as much or more than actually building a baseball park there.

So it would appear that things in the MLS to PDX and the Portland Beavers world have gotten a bit clearer, but things have really changed a lot since my last posting about it. To recap the high points, the Memorial Coliseum is safe from demolition for now as the baseball park is now being considered for Lents Park. The particulars couldn’t be worked out, as the Trail Blazers decided to support their Live Area concept of restaurants and shops around the Rose Garden, although it’s now been determined that the cost of saving the MC will be significantly more than the cost of putting the ball park there.

So why are we at this point? Well, apparently, the Trail Blazers and a small chorus of architectural professionals have convinced the city that the MC should be saved, because of its structure and significance to the area. Yet, in the 15 years since the Rose Garden was built, the Trail Blazers have effectively done nothing in the area around their arena, and the MC has fallen further into disrepair. It still serves a purpose as the home to the Winter Hawks hockey team and other assorted events, but the arena is slowly dying in front of our eyes. I place a lot of the blame squarely on the city and the Trail Blazers, as it was their responsibility to keep the arena updated. The Trail Blazers owed it to the city as part of their operating agreement to help keep the MC updated, yet it hasn’t made a dent in the overall condition. The city should have been more proactive in keeping the Trail Blazers at their word, but instead, they just let things sit where they currently are.

The city council had the right idea in bring the ballpark to the MC, where it would be centrally located, easily accessible to transit, and put near the center of the city. It would revitalize the area, giving baseball the attention it deserves while giving PGE Park new life as a soccer and football facility. But instead, the NIMBYs and naysayers clouded the facts of the deal, stating that this was a bad deal for the city and the MC deserves a better fate. And so now, we are looking at putting the ballpark in SE Portland.

While it’s not the center of the city, Lents Park wants the ballpark there and I think it will do quite well in the area, giving the neighborhood an anchor that it has been lacking for a while. It should attract development, it will bring people to watch games in an area that is deserving attention, and allow baseball to flourish. I’m based this simply on the enthusiasm for bringing baseball there, along with the attention that most teams get in a new stadium. Portland is a good baseball town, and we will support this team, despite the challenges. It doesn’t help when the Mariners have a hold on the area because of their aggressive marketing and television presence, as well as the fact that Triple AAA baseball, by nature, is hard to market at points because players come and go all the time. Unlike other sports, it’s hard to build the face of the franchise when the faces change all the time. But give the Beavers credit, they are getting more attention now than they have in a while. And unlike other versions of the Beavers, it's nice to put them in an area that really wants them there.

But the fact that this park should be in the Memorial Coliseum instead is a travesty, and the blame can be pointed in many different directions. The Trail Blazers don’t want direct competition on their doorstep unless they have control of the revenue streams, and I can see why they opposed the baseball deal. It’s too bad that they couldn’t see the benefit of revitalizing the area by bringing a baseball team that wouldn’t directly compete on most scheduling nights, and attract more people to the area for events. We aren’t a Live Concept kind of town, especially since we already have neighborhoods that have the same amenities that are being offered by this. But the Trail Blazers have had such a monopoly on the attention of sports fans here, they want to protect their position at all costs, never mind that having another top-level professional team would improve the overall sports profile of our area, and draw attention away from the team at key points. When the Trail Blazers were having all sorts of off the court issues, I bet they would have likely having some other sports around to distract attention. It's about establishing a sports profile for your town, and the Trail Blazers at this point prefer to have the spotlight all to themselves, whether it's best for the city or not.

I blame the city for not realizing or supporting the deal more than they should have. I get that you want to have a public process here, and it’s important to see all sides of things, but at the same point, the facts need to be made and presented. In looking at the costs of the Live Concept, the cost of it doesn’t compare to the cost of putting baseball there, yet that distinction was hardly made. I understand that some of our political figures have issues right now, but you have to stay with your convictions unless you are proved wrong, and none of the criticisms leveled by the opponents carried enough weight to cause this kind of reversal. Every point could be refuted, yet we still have plan B coming around because the voices kept saying this won't work. I have news for those that say keeping the MC is a good idea, it's coming down whether you like it or not. It's a matter of whether you want a developer to help with the costs and put forth a good idea for the space or the alternative of having it destroyed for some cookie cutter bars and restaurants.

I blame the sports fans who are pining for MLB and NFL or just hate soccer in general. I respect the desire to have those leagues come to town, but if you are struggling to commit $88 million in funds for MLS, how can you justify spending 10 to 12 times as much to bring MLB or NFL here. Recent stadiums for both leagues are costing around $700 million, and that doesn’t include the needs for corporate support or the need for ticket sales. We watch games quite a bit, but does that translate into success when it’s live? MLS is a great jumping point to establish Portland as a real sports town, and will cause MLB, NFL or other sports that want to come to town to look at us differently when it’s a success. And soccer is growing in popularity here and abroad, where it’s already a hugely popular sport and America in on the cusp of ingraining it into regular sports. But instead of realizing that other sports help bring attention to a profile and supporting them will make a market more attractive, it’s easier to belittle or hate on it. Mind you, I have a beef with some soccer fans that couldn’t care less about baseball and it’s future, because as long as the teams share a stadium, their futures are intertwined and will be until they both get taken care of. And our future with baseball is much better than if they leave, as it will give further credence to the non-sports fans of another team that got away for whatever reason.

I blame the media for not asking the right questions until now, and providing a thorough and well written analysis of the deal in detail. Instead, the facts came out very piece meal, and it distorted the picture at points. Mind you, the sound bites are catchy and easily digestible, but they don't provide an honest investigation unless necessary. I give the Oregonian some credit for trying to keep up, but they've done as much damage by printing stories from people that don't completely understand the facts of the situation, using tired and faulty arguments to make their point.

But finally, I blame the NIMBYs who use pithy quotes and misinformation to cause undecided people to make faulty decisions. I get that you might not like soccer or sports in general, but this plan won’t hurt the city or their providing services to those in need. While it’s important to take care of potholes and kids, it’s also important to give citizens things to do when they aren’t working, and sports does that. And cities want to own stadiums, not only to share in revenues but also to have some control over teams in case they want to leave for greener pastures. What makes sense is teams and cities working together to find a deal that works for everyone. And while this plan was on the table before, it’s now dead and so Portland moves forward with plan B.

I’m not worried about the long-term fortunes of either team, because I think for a fallback plan, this will work just fine. What I worry mostly about is the attitude that keeps Portland in a perpetual state of wanting to keep the status quo. We want to keep the town weird, but at the same point for many residents, it’s important to keep things as close to the way they are as possible, using the process to help. Let’s talk to whomever will listen, and try to use whatever tactics we can to make whatever point we can to gain traction against the plan. So many good ideas have come through town and left, yet all I seem to hear about at points is what is wrong with what has been done.

For a supposedly progressive city, we seem to lack in confidence to make tough choices, especially when the “I told you so” people pop up all the time. I get the Tram was a huge cost overrun, I get that we are in tough economic times right now, but at the same time, tough times demand tough choices and conviction, and right now, our city is struggling in that area. I feel that Sam Adams is still our best choice for Mayor, because he has shown the ability to make tough choices, even if he’s made a mistake or two in his life. And I think if he survives the recall, we’ll see more leadership in that area. Otherwise, I worry about the next few years in our city with the mass asylum running the show.

The Timbers played Cleveland last Saturday and drew nil to nil. For the non-soccer group, that is zero to zero. My plan really is to only do match reports on matches that I actually see in person, either on TV or on the computer, and I had a match of my own to play Saturday night. The Timbers are in action Thursday night versus Rochester, with a late 8 PM start due to the game being on Fox Soccer Channel. Hope to see you all there.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Timbers Early Season Preview

Honestly, what fun would things be if you knew the outcome ahead of time? Well, it might save for some anxious moments here and there, but at the same time, there is a sense of discovery and anxiety that come from the unknown. It can be terrifying, nauseating, and completely intoxicating. Where I'm digressing here is that I'm doing a Timbers season preview 3 games into the regular season, which might not seem like a good idea, but I'm doing it anyway. Part of this is that I want to do a preview after seeing most of the new players, and last Saturday was the final game for me to see most everyone, and I want to base my thoughts strictly on what I've seen.

I'm no footy expert, I've just been watching the Timbers since 2001, playing for almost a year, and watching as many games as I can from leagues all over the world, and so I think I have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. That's the neat thing about blogs, you can share your opinion in cyberspace, and people can do with it what they want. It's sort of the feeling that I described in the first paragraph, you might read this and see something that inspires you, or it could just be read as blah blah blah...

I did find a couple of entries about the team, from the Oregonian's early season preview, done a few days before the match in Vancouver, and the official team roster page. And with the number of new faces, it might be good to refer to the site because it's taken me a bit to get the names and faces associated. So without furtuer ado, here we go. Players in italics are here on loan, players in green are returnees from last year.

GoalKeepers (3) - Steve Cronin, Brian Visser, Chris Seitz

Cronin and Visser have been in camp for most of the year, Cronin signed from the LA Galaxy, and Visser from Purdue University. Cronin was the on and off starter last year, but suffered with the rest of the Galaxy defense in giving up tons of goals, although it was determined that most of them weren't his fault. The Timbers were looking for a full time keeper after last year's revolving door that saw 4 men man the pipes for us, and Cronin was signed to a higher salary that usual to get him for the next two years. Visser was a trialist that showed promise, and I thought he looked good in the exhibition game at U of Portland versus the Pilots before he got hurt. Cronin was very good in the Vancouver game, the one goal that he let in was a deflection, but he's got a strong leg, is extremely vocal and seems like a good organizer of the defense. However, Cronin was injured in training before the Carolina matches, and so we acquired Seitz on loan for two games from Real Salt Lake. He's got a cannon for a leg, and seems to have great hands, and performed admirably on Thursday for essentially being thrown into the deep end.

Outlook: I think our keepers will be a strength for us, especially since barring injury, we should have the same two guys all year. During 2007, we had one keeper, Josh Wicks, play most of the games except for friendlies, and the continuity kept things sharp, unlike last year's train wreck.

Defense (7) - Mamadou Danso. Scot Thompson, Cameron Knowles, Cameron Dunn, David Hayes, Stephen Keel, Takuro Nishimura

We led the league in 2007 in goals allowed and goals allowed average, courtesy of Wicks and the work of Scot and Cameron. Needless to say, 2008 was not nearly as successful, as the defense really was exposed by teams that pressured aggressively and could make quick crosses. It didn't help with the revolving door of keeper, but the defense digressed a bit.

We did get one nice surprise with the signing of Cameron Dunn last year, formerly from the California Victory. Dunn is heady, with a good sense of positioning and speed to push players to the outside, which is something that Thompson does very well, too. Knowles is as physical of a defender as you will meet, standing guys up anywhere on the pitch, and playing the game very smartly. With the loss of Leonard Griffin and Justin Thompson, you couldn't ask for better defensive anchors to return as Scot and the Camerons. They provide a savvy veteran influence, as well as an ability to play within themselves.

The new defenders bring some good skills to the table. Hayes is an all league defender from Atlanta who loves red boots, and has a wicked left foot. His long kicks are a huge weapon, and I don't recall us having a strong left boot in the back for a while. He also has good recovery speed, and plays positioning well. Keel is very tall, and also plays good positioning which makes up for the fact that he may not be as fast as the other defenders. He plays with a huge amount of passion, which is good as long as he keeps a clear head. He needs to take a page from Scot on that. Danso may be the best overall athlete in the back, as his motor doesn't stop when he gets on the pitch. I didn't see him back down from any challenge on Saturday and he played very calmly and collectively, which is a positive against Carolina, an extremely physical and chippy team by nature. Nishimura was another trialist from Japan, who is probably the fastest defender and most able to play the wings and run a lot. He also moved up to mid in the first Carolina game, so he shows some great versatility on the pitch.

Outlook: We will have a very strong defense, and can match physical and speedy teams with various lineups. I'm curious to see Dunn get a chance this year, but based on how well he played last year, I expect him to be a contributor this year. The backbone of this unit is Scot and Knowles, and how they play will dictate how this group performs.

Midfielders (9) - Tom Poltl, Tony McManus, Keith Savage, Johan Claesson, Ryan Pore, Brian Farber, Alex Nimo, Shawn Higgins, Josh Cameron

As you can see, of the nine guys on the team, we have only two holdovers from last year, as the midfield was a true mess last year. Players couldn't stay healthy last year, but I think the team also suffered from trying to play a style that wasn't condusive to the talent they had. It didn't help when former team captain Andrew Gregor was traded mid-season, which is never a good thing to have happen to what was supposed to be a key cog of the attack.

Nobody will ever outwork Poltl, as he plays very smartly on the pitch. He also plays on the ragged edge of passion, which leads to him getting a lot of foul calls and cards because of his style of play. The issue with Poltl is his height, which other teams really used against us last year with taller mids covering Tommy. Higgins, on the other hand, can play all over the pitch as he's a utility man. But like some utility men, he's really non-descript in playing, not doing anything special out there. He won't make mistakes, but at the same time, he's not going to generate much offense either.

Of the new guys, Claesson played in Sweden, Savage with Chivas USA from the MLS, McManus was in Atlanta, Farber was in Minnesota, Pore was with Kansas City of the MLS, Cameron was with Oregon State, and Nimo was with Real Salt Lake of the MLS. So you have three guys with MLS experience, one with international experience, two from other teams in the USL and a college guy. Not a bad mix to bring veteran experience with youth.

Claesson is very smart and disciplined in the midfield, attacking when he has an advantage. He also seems to scan the field quickly and makes passes designed to push the defense. Savage is the tallest midfield, and seems to be the strongest, mixing it up when he can. He tries to push things a bit much, but so far, it seems to be working well. Pore has the best motor in the mids, by virtue of his sweet goal and assist on Saturday, and he was pushed a lot by Farber, who got the other goal. They seem to play very well together on the wings, and they are very dangerous with their crosses. McManus is very much like Poltl, playing a very physical brand of soccer as evidenced by a card in the game Thursday. But his passion is also shown with a burning desire to outwork everyone, and he feeds off the energy from others. He's also gained a cult status in the TA with his work on our SCUSA board as TonyMcManus12, as he seems to have a love for quick phrases, working out, and drinking tons of G2. Nimo might be the fastest midfielder, but he's also the shortest guy out there, and he's not afraid to shoot from anywhere as evidenced by his play in Vancouver. Cameron might not get much time this year, but at least in the friendlies, he played mistake free ball, which is all you can ask from young players.

Outlook: Creative, feisty, and able to make good crosses, this might just be the best midfield group we've had. But then again, we thought Andrew Gregor was the second coming, and he got ran out of town. The depth helps a great deal here, but one concern I have is the only mid over 6 foot is Savage, so some teams with a lot of height in the middle might use that to their advantage, unless McManus pummels them.

Forwards (5) - Taka Suzuki, Antou Jallow, George Josten, Jason McLaughlin, Mandjou Keita

Taka Suzuki has a very impressive resume from his play in Japan for their national team and with the J League, but after his wicked goal versus Seattle early last year, he suffered with inconsistent play and it seemed like his spirit was broken. I didn't see the same passion from him that I did during the friendlies in the first part of the year, and I wasn't sure if it was unrealized expectations, language barrier or missing home that led to his funk. Whatever it is, his first few games this year show an improved spirit, although his footwork is still lacking a bit. He had some great chances in Vancouver that he failed to finish on, and whether that's rust or what, he needs to improve on that.

Keita has a great work ethic, and seems to have a nose for the ball, although he hasn't notched a goal. He does lead the team in shots, so perhaps that will come with extra work, but so far, he's been a nice addition. Josten really showed good speed and pace in his first work on Saturday, carrying the ball well and making good decisions with passes. I look forward to seeing him more, as well as McLaughlin, who came in late Saturday and showed some spunk. I remember him from Atlanta, and he's got a good shot and can hold the ball very well. Jallow also came in late on Saturday, and he didn't do anything good or bad in his short time, but he did generate some good work during the friendlies early with some good decisions and work rate.

Outlook: Suzuki may be the face of the franchise, but it's the work of the others that I think will either spell victory or defeat. Suzuki needs to finish better, and at least with his four partners, he's got good passers and guys that can pass, trap, and shoot quickly. Gavin has used various lineups so far, and so I don't have a good idea what combination will work best, but I like Josten for the job at least for now.

Coaches - Gavin Wilkinson, Amos McGee

Gavin is an old school Timber from his playing days, and he's had success in 2007 and trouble in 2008. I think he's earned a shot to keep his job in 2009, but the true question is whether his normal style of long passes and crosses will work with a team this creative. He seems to have let guys add their flair a bit on the pitch, which might be a sign of things to come, or it could mean that Gavin takes more control later if the wheels fall off. This is by far the most talent he's had in his years here, so if the team can't win, I don't expect him to be able to keep his job. Amos McGee joins the team from Minnesota, where he was a Hall of Fame coach for many years, and he'll focus on assisting Gavin with the first team and coaching the U-23 team.

Outlook: Winning takes care of the issues here. If they win, Gavin will be fine, if not, he doesn't have much of a leash here.

Our next game is May 9th in Cleveland, and you can watch the game live on USL Live, or by visiting the Soccer City USA board ( and finding a viewing site for Saturday. So far, Beulahland and Rogue Pub are confirmed for Saturday, but check there for more locations.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We Scored Some Goals!!! Timbers Vs. Carolina 5/2/09

Video From Last Night's Game

Pictures from Last Night's Game

We beat Carolina 2 to nil last night, getting our first goals of the 2009 campaign, and getting our first home win. It had been so long for girl and I to see a home win, we'd forgotten what it was like. Well, we won 3 home games last year while we were still in England, so it's been a while.

  • The weather was great, although about 4 pm, it was coming down in sheets with thunder and lightning. They announced a crowd of 6724, but I thought it was more like 8,000 myself.
  • Tried the new cheesesteak sandwich at the park, it wasn't terrible but needed more cheese. At least the park is trying new menu options, and most of their stuff is pretty good.
  • It was old school night in Row N, as Harrison Bannister made an appearance, which hasn't happened for a long while. He was a regular before he and his lovely wife had a baby, although now the young one will be coming to games soon I'm sure. That, and Dick Danger forgot his ticket so he showed up late, and Firestarter forgot when the game started, so they were late, too. But we had a very full row, and full of people we knew. Apparently, Hoss is back and hopefully it's more than just part time, and we get other guests like last night, like Stuarto and the missus, Nando, and Red Scout.
  • I like Brian Farber a lot, he showed some energy and drive on the pitch, and he got a goal, which you can see on the video page noted above. Ryan Pore was the man of the match for me, with an assist and goal. He was all over the place, and really helped our midfield gel.
  • I like Keith Savage and Johan Claesson a lot, too, although they didn't play together last night. Savage is tall, rangy, and has a good first step, while Claesson is smart and crafty.
  • Tony McManus and Tom Poltl were separated at birth, I swear. They play the same way, bulldog style leaving everything on the pitch. They may not be the tallest or biggest guys out there, but you will not outwork these guys.
  • Chris Seitz played really well in goal for us on loan from Real Salt Lake, and I wouldn't mind seeing him stay, although Cronin is apparently our number 1 guy for this year. Wishing him speedy recovery, and hope to see Seitz back again sometime.
  • I'm still buzzing after the win, and it's the next morning!!!
Girl's family birthday dinner is later today, and so I'll check out for now. Have a good one, and remember, Rose City Til I Die!!!