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.

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