Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Gamesmanship Relating to Kits for Tomorrow's Open Cup Match

So, as we reported yesterday, FC Flounders was reported to be debuting an all blue kit that they haven't had to wear yet, but now according to the Flounders blog, they are bringing their Flounder blues and the puke green jobs, and are being very coy as to what they might wear. Apparently, it's a game of chicken to see which club will get to wear their green, and it's a tactic that we've seen in Flounder land for many years.

They've shown up in Portland with their green kits only, making us play in white at home when it wasn't our primary color (I don't even want to touch the decision in 2006 to switch to white at home by the former coach who shall remain nameless), and we've had to change our kit choice a few times playing up there, so I'm not surprised about this tactic at all. Teams try to earn an advantage anyway they can, even in the headgames category, and this just falls into that realm. But unlike previous Timbers squads, I think this is one of our strongest teams physically and mentally, and I don't expect them to be bothered by this in the least.

Only 1700 tickets left per the ticket office, so if you don't have a ticket, do yourself a favor and get it now. If you have an expectation to try and get a match ticket on game day, expect that it will take a bit more time to navigate the crowd, or you might get shut out. Just avoid it, and get down to PGE Park to get a ticket. The ticket office is open from 10 AM to 5 PM at 2000 SW Morrison, and they would be happy to help you out. Do it now, or you might regret it, I'd even expect a full fence full of people on the SW 18th side of PGE Park.

More Articles About Wednesday's Epic Match

To balance out the coverage for the match, which based on yesterday's entries was very Flounder specific, I've found a couple of articles from Timbers country to share. The Portland Tribunue provides an update, including the first mention I've seen of players that won't make the trip. Brad Evans and Tyrone Marshall are out on National Team duty, Osvaldo Alonzo is banged up with an abdomen, and Steve Zakuani may or may not play, but knowing MLS teams, they keep a good depth of players, so there will be plenty of players available for the Flounder blue. We should also expect some players that haven't seen much action for the MLS side, but could really fill in during a "friendly game" like this. I suppose this means more of the LeDouche twins, and less of Keller perhaps.
Oregon Live also has a good write up of the match, including a story about Timbers coach/GM Gavin Wilkinson and his experience with the Timbers - Flounders rivalry. There have been a lot of bumps and bruises from these matches, and I wouldn't expect anything different from Wednesday's match. There's also some quotes from Zach Scott and one of the LeDouche twins, including more on why he's so disliked down here and one of the darker days in Timbers history. That is a day that I won't soon forget, and it definitely changed the relationship with the fans and the front office for the better, as the lines of communication opened and we now have a strong bond to help the team grow and thrive.
And right now, there's roughly 31 hours until game time, and I can't wait.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Odd Tidbits Before Wednesday's Match

I'll post all sorts of links about Wednesday for some light reading, especially things from up north.

Apparently, FC Puke Green will be known as FC Flounder Blue on Wednesday, as they are wearing all blue for Wednesday. Still no word on starters or key players making their way down, though, but apparently there are 400 confirmed Podites coming down. PGE Park is capping attendance at 16,000, so as of right now per Merritt Paulson, there are just over 2,000 tickets left. Paulson appeared on Strong at Night to pitch the game. It's good to see that many folks coming down for the fun.

But apparently, some of the members of FC Flounder Blue can't understand why they are so reviled in Portland. I suppose it's everything to do with Timbers Army fans being mistreated by the park security for many years, watching the players push the boundaries of fair play all the time with cheap shots, fake injuries, grabbing themselves in plain sight, and stepping on a Timber player's neck while he laid on the turf. Many of these things I've seen personally, and while they may not understand it, I understand it's what rivals do to their rival opponents to intimidate and try to gain a reaction. I can't tell you how many times they have come to PGE Park and made us wear different colors than our traditional green because they didn't have alternate kits available. It's gamesmanship, and while I wouldn't expect anything less from a rival, it makes me want our boys to destroy them Wednesday night. and Roger LeDouche may be a nice guy to his teammates, but he's classless to his opponents.

Even the MLS folks have picked up on the scale of this match. Seriously, if you are any type of sports fan and want to come see a rivalry game at its best, get to PGE Park and check out Wednesday's match. It will be epic, in a good or bad way. My instincts tell me it will be a good way for the Green and White...

Stadium Updates for June 29, Match Preview for Timbers - FC Flounders

There's been more talk of trying to revive the Memorial Coliseum as the site for the triple AAA baseball stadium here in Portland. The Oregonian did some more research into baseball sites in the Portland area, and the most popular sites were all listed with pros and cons. At least on the surface, the Portland Meadows site seems to have some advantages, having parking there and it's relatively close to transit, while Delta Park seems like the worst possible option. So you aren't going to allow park land to be taken for baseball, yet people in this town would advocate taking a popular amateur sports complex and putting a stadium there?

A guest opinion in the O talked about the situation in Baltimore with their Memorial Stadium, that soon lead to them building Camden Yards and the Ravens stadium in the area once the NFL returned. This led to some pointed comments from various sources, including Brian Libby, who has been the most vocal of the architectural preservationists. I get the significance of the Memorial Coliseum, but as I put in a response to comments that he made, I'd feel differently if there was a better site for baseball then there, I'd feel differently if the Trail Blazers had kept up on their promise to maintain the building, I'd feel differently if the MLS said the teams could share for a few years while we figured out a good site. But since none of those statements are true, and we've looked at all the reasons why PGE Park can't be shared by soccer and baseball and the cost of putting up a triple AAA ballpark is less than building a soccer stadium to MLS specifications, the course of action that is best for the city is to find a new home for baseball. But then again, logic hasn't been a big part of this stadium discussion, so why should I expect the facts to be considered otherwise.

Since I'm going to be very busy preparing for Wednesday, I thought I'd do the match preview for Timbers - FC Puke Green now.

Game Time: Timbers vs. FC Puke Green in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup, the premier American open soccer competition. It pits teams from various levels of US Soccer in a single elimination tournament. Portland beat the Kitsap Pumas and Sonoma County Sol to earn the right to face the Flounders, who are playing their first Open Cup match. The Timbers bid to host the match, and so it's here on Wednesday at PGE Park at 7 PM.
Broadcast: You can listen to the match at www.portlandtimbers.com, on the Game 95.5 (http://www.955thegame/) or watch the Timbers Senior match on Fox Sports Northwest (channel 34 in the Portland area) around the northwest.
Special Events: It's renewing a rivalry that has been around for years, but had it's final game in the USL last season when the Flounders visited the Timbers in August 2008. The Timbers and Flounders will meet again in 2011 when both teams will be part of MLS, unless they met in the Open Cup.
Overall History: The Timbers have 11 wins, 16 losses and 5 draws in their USL history against the Flounders. The Timbers are 7 - 7 - 3 at PGE Park against them, while sporting a 4 - 9 - 3 record in the Emerald City for various matches. The last meeting was August 2008, with the Flounders winning 1 to nil here, although the Timbers Army had a grand time, bringing a coffin with a whale into the park to mark the death of the USL Flounders.
Timbers Form: Still unbeaten in 12 league matches, a friendly and 2 Open Cup matches since losing their opener in Vancouver. They sit with 26 points at 7 - 1 - 5, and most recently, they beat Montreal at home 4 to nil on Sunday June 29th. The Timbers have a busy week with 4 matches this week (Wednesday, Thursday at home and Saturday in Minnesota).
Timber Player Updates: Ryan Pore, Tony McManus and Takuro Nishimura and Automann Jallow have been injured over the past few weeks, but they are all healthy and available for selection on Wednesday.
Timber Key Players: Mandjou Keita continues his hot streak, as he takes over the goal lead for the team with 6 goals, followed by Ryan Pore and Brian Farber with 3 goals, and then George Josten with 2. Josten leads the team with 4 assists, followed by David Hayes and Ryan Pore with 3 each. The forwards are now finding their shot, and putting shots on goal, which is great to see, but really the midfield is the engine for this team. Brian Farber, Johan Claesson and Keith Savage really held their form last night, and with Taka Suzuki, they have learned how to control the middle very well. The defense is doing well, with 6 goals given up, and only two real chances last night versus Montreal and the only Impact goal was waived off due to a player being offsides. We are certainly playing well right now, and after these home matches, we have our longest road stretch of the season in July before having the schedule balance out a bit.
Upcoming Timbers Matches: The Timbers play 7/2 in a friendly against Bayern Munich II and then head to the road to play Minnesota on 7/4, and then they have a bit of a break before heading to Austin to play there on July 11th, and then a long road trip to Miami to face the Blues for 2 matches on the 17th and 19th.
Flounder Form: They beat the Colorado Rapids 3 to nil this weekend, preceded by draws against DC United and FC Energy Drink the preceding weeks, and then the Flounders get a break until July 11th when Houston comes to visit Qwirst Field.
Impact Player Updates: Backup keeper Chris Eyelander has been struggling with a knee problem, so the team signed former FC Energy Drink keeper Terry Boss. At this point, we don't know if Keller or Boss will start for
Impact Key Players: I spent a few minutes on their site to get some stats, and trying to get the smell out. Fredy Montero leads the Flounders with 8 goals, followed by former Portland Pilot Nate Jaqua with 6 goals, while Montero has 6 assists and Jaqua has 5 assists, while former USL mid guy Sebastian Le Douche has 3 assists. Kasey Keller, another former Pilot and EPL keeper, has started 15 games in the pipes, and played really well for them in stretches. The FC Flounder defense has played well at times with Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, James Riley and Patrick Ianni really holding the fort well, as the Flounders don't give up a lot of goals. In most of their games, though, the question seems to be are they going to score enough to hold up the lead.
Key Notes: The Timbers have another long stretch of games coming up, so depth is the key, and as much as I love the chance to advance in the Open Cup, there is a key stretch of league matches coming up. However, most recently, Montreal rested some players in a competition against Toronto to prepare for a league match versus Vancouver, and they lost the competition match but got the league win anyway. There's plenty of new players on both squads that have never played in a Timbers - Flounders derby, but there are some holdovers that know what the game is like, so I would expect both sides to be charging up their troops.
Prediction: The Flounders have something to lose here, being the MLS side and the expectation is that they should win down here if they play their top players. But they are being coy about who is making the trip down, and who will be starting, so I would expect that they would have a side with many reserves and some starters sprinkled in. Portland, meanwhile, is going to use their depth and play their top side on Wednesday, knowing they have a match on Thursday that while should be a good test, has no meaning so they can play some reserves while they get ready for a tough road match on Saturday in Minnesota. The fans are keyed up, so I expect a big showing from both sides, and my hope is that there's no problems between supporters. I predict that it will be a hard fought match, and the Timbers magic at home remains with a tough, but well earned 2 to 1 victory. We always win 2 to 1!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Well, Soccer Sunday Had a Happy Ending Anyway.

Well, the Timbers made me a happy fan, as they continued their hot streak and kept their unbeaten streak going up to 12 with a 4 to nil win over the Montreal Impact. It was a very nice day at PGE Park, with about 7000 fans taking in the sights and sounds, and it was a very good effort from the Timbers boys.

Allison provides a very good match report from the day's events, and I did get a few pictures and some videos of Keita's first goal and the goofy own goal. Well, I did get a good shot of my friend dublinx's arm for part of the goal, but trust me, there was an own goal in there. The specifics of the game were Timbers 4, Impact 0, and Mandjou Keita with 2 goals, George Josten with 2 assists, Brian Farber with a goal, and David Hayes with an assist, and Montreal with a goal that actually counts for us. Nice work.

  • The TIFO display was pretty nice at the beginning of the match, and I always look forward to singing a Monthy Python classic. Always look on the bright side of life, well, we haven't been beaten in 11 matches.
  • I'm always amazed at the Timbers Army, who can sing the Canadian anthem as well as anybody. We are a well educated group, and knowing these things keeps our heckling at a fairly intelligent level. It's hard to be clever when you are clueless.
  • Keita continues his hot streak with 2 more goals, which gives him 5 in the past 2 or 3 games. He is just on a tear, and having Josten up front seems to help him, as Josten will make some great shots, but he's also a rather unselfish passer as evidenced by 2 assists tonight. Sometimes, strikers have trouble being the passer and not the shooter, but Josten seems to be a very clever and unselfish players, and that's a really good quality to have with this group.
  • Can't say enough about the job the defense and Cronin did tonight, keeping a very hot Montreal team at bay for most of the match, keeping them off kilter. They generated a few good chances, and got one goal in that was called back, but Montreal didn't seem to have a flow to their game, and I think the defense helped with that.
  • Also, the midfield again played stellar. I can't say enough about Savage, Claesson and Farber, playing solidly, keeping the ball moving and really pushing the flow back and forth. Taka had another solid game in mid, and even Alex Nimo and Shawn Higgins came in and played well late. There were some late subs to keep the first team fresh for Wednesday.
  • Normally, Sunday night crowds are terrible for the Timbers, but they drew well tonight, with getting over 7000. The nice day helped, but I also think the Confederations Cup brought out some fans of soccer to see American players play, and also, there's a bit of buzz for Wednesday, and some folks wanted to see the Timbers first before then.
  • Wednesday is going to be insane, and the only thing I can hope for is more of the same, because not only do I want to win, but seriously, I want to see FC Flounder Green go down in flames on Wednesday.
Yes, folks, Wednesday night, it's Open Cup night with the Timbers facing off against FC Puke Green (aka Seattle Sounders FC) at 7 PM at PGE Park. I'll have a huge pre-match thing to talk about the match, but just know this as people will bear witness to the next chapter of the Portland - Seattle rivalry, and it will be epic!!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday...

What the fuck is going on with the world right now? I mean, we see Farrah Fawcett pass, then Michael Jackson on the same day, and today, word is out that the famous pitch man, Billy Mays, died for undisclosed reasons. I'm not one to normally obsess about celebrity, but in the past few days, we've seen a woman that many of the guys in my generation obsessed over because of her famous poster, we've lost a musician that really put out some of the defining music of the early generation of MTV, and now, one of the best pitch man out there. I wasn't much of a fan of Michael Jackson's music, but it's hard to ignore that his influence over music and early videos wasn't influential. His Thriller defined what music videos could be, and he put out amazing music for many years, until he completely melted down mentally. I can't imagine what demons were floating through his head, but I hope that he's finally at peace with it all. Fawcett on the other hand, fell to cancer, something that I know about very well and my hope that medical science can catch up to this rather vicious killer. And to Billy Mays, well, seriously, man, I watched your commercials with great joy as you sold crap that most people wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole with such enthusiasm and zeal that I almost wanted to buy it anyway. Well, and OxyClean does do a good job in the laundry. But I'm openly wondering if there isn't some sort of weird disturbance in the forces in the world that we have heard about this within a matter of days. I hope it's just coincidence.

EDIT - See it's strange enough that I even forgot about Ed McMahon earlier in the week, he of Tonight Show, StarSearch and Bloopers fame. He made a career out of making others look good
and then some hosting gigs. Seemed like a good guy, and was always laughing. Normally, I'd be concerned about anyone laughing that much, but not this guy. He always seemed to be having a good time.

Just got done watching the Federations Cup soccer match, and for one brilliant half of soccer, the US National Team looked like the best team in the world, putting in two goals and making Brazil look slow, pedestrian, and frustrated. But then reality set in, Brazil got a very nice goal early in the second half, and the soccer world righted itself a bit with Brazil getting two more goals to win 3 to 2. They are the best team in the world, having won 5 World Cups and multitudes of other competitions, but they slept walked through the first half of the match and it almost cost them dearly against an American team that was really playing on borrowed time a bit. The Americans got drilled early by Brazil and Italy in the opening rounds, but then improbably put 3 in against Egypt while they advanced to the next round because Brazil crushed Italy, then the US pulled off the craziest upset over the top ranked Spanish team 2 to nil on Wednesday that shocked the footy world. And for 45 brilliant minutes, it looked like lady luck was going to stay with the Americans, but then the green and yellow clad Brazilians got an early goal, and then just mercilessly chipped away at the American defense, and got the winning goal late off a set piece form the corner. I'm pleased for the moral victory and for playing well, but my hope is that American soccer can move past the moral victories and truly put together some meaningful wins to show the world that we can play on the level of everyone else.

The Timbers kick off in a few hours against Montreal, and I'll be there. Apparently, everyone on the team is now healthy, so McManus, Pore, Nishimura and Jallow are all available for selection tonight. I didn't realize Jallow was hurt, but apparently he has been, but now, we've got a full, healthy squad. And my hope that these guys will mesh with the others that have been playing well, and we keep the hot streak going again. It's going to be an amazing week of footy here in Portland this week, and I'll keep you all posted throughout the events. Enjoy the sun out there, and go Timbers!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Match Preview Vs. Montreal, and Recap of NBA Draft, Blazer Style

A very big week is shaping up in Timbers land, with matches on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday. Since this is a long weekend, I'll put out my match preview today for Sunday.
The Offsides puts together a good preview, while the resurrected Oregon Live Timbers blog provides some updates about this weekend, courtesy of our good friend, Rick. I lamented when this blog went away, but our friend Bob went on to do other great things, and now he's back with Offsides, and the rest of us can provide our voice.
Game Time: There is a footy double header this weekend, with US versus Canada in both matches. The Timbers U-23 team play at 1 pm at PGE Park versus the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency, which is a fancy name for a development team. The senior Timbers take over at PGE Park with an early 5 pm kickoff versus the Montreal Impact.
Broadcast: You can listen to the match at www.portlandtimbers.com, or watch the Timbers Senior match on Fox Sports Northwest (channel 34 in the Portland area) around the northwest.
Special Events: The double header is a unique touch, but there is also a Timbers tailgate after the U-23 match in the parking lot behind the Cheerful Bullpen, and many of the U-23 players will be stopping by. The US Men's National Team also play earlier in the day in the finals of the Confederations Cup versus Brazil, marking the first time in a very long time that the USA is in the finals of a FIFA competition, so you could really be watching a lot of footy all day Sunday.
Overall History: The Timbers have a winning record against the Impact, winning 6 matches, losing 3 and drawing 2. Ironically, 2 of the losses are at home, with the Timbers having a 3 - 2 - 1 record here at PGE versus a 3 - 1 - 1 at Saputo Stadium. Montreal and Portland met on June 4th at PGE Park in a day where Portland was hit with major thunderstorms, and then Keith Savage hit with his own brand of thunder in getting the winning goal late in the match, as the Timbers won 1 to nil.
Timbers Form: Still unbeaten in 11 league matches, a friendly and 2 Open Cup matches since losing their opener in Vancouver. They sit with 23 points at 6 - 1 - 5, and most recently, they beat Minnesota at home 5 to 1 on Friday June 19th. The Timbers have had a bit of a break since their 4 matches in 12 days, and they start another tough stretch with 4 matches next week (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday at home and Saturday in Minnesota).
Timber Player Updates: Ryan Pore, Tony McManus and Takuro Nishimura are still dealing with injuries, but we would expect them back very soon. McManus and Pore have targeted this week for a return, while Nishimura has been practicing with the team, so I would expect him to be available for Sunday.
Timber Key Players: Mandjou Keita continues his hot streak, as he takes over the goal lead for the team with 4 goals, followed by Pore's 3 goals, and then George Josten and Brian Farber with 2 each. Farber leads the team with 3 assists, followed by David Hayes and Josten with 2 each. The forwards are now finding their shot, and putting shots on goal, which is great to see, but really the midfield is the engine for this team. Brian Farber, Johan Claesson and Keith Savage have extremely well in the middle by keeping thing stable and providing support in the front or back as needed, and Taka Suzuki has really found a home in the middle. The defense is doing well, with 6 goals given up, and really, the one goal they gave up against Minnesota was an odd bounce off a free kick, but one that Steve Cronin saves more than he would miss. We are certainly playing well right now, and after these home matches, we have our longest road stretch of the season in July before having the schedule balance out a bit.
Upcoming Timbers Matches: The Timbers play 7/1 versus FC Puke Green in a US Open Cup match, 7/2 in a friendly against Bayern Munich II and then head to the road to play Minnesota on 7/4, and then they have a bit of a break before heading to Austin to play there on July 11th.
Impact Form: Montreal got off to a very slow start, but have picked up their play rather nicely. They sit at 17 points in 11 games, with 5 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws, 14 goals scored and 10 given up. They played Toronto last Thursday in the Canadian Ultralite Cup, and lost 6 to 1, as the coaching staff played a few reserves and held players out for a league match versus Vancouver later in the week, thus giving Toronto the Cup win and a berth in other tournaments and eliminated Vancouver. There was some bad blood between the squads, but Montreal got the win over Vancovuer 2 to 1 on the 20th, and then beat Miami FC at home on Tuesday 1 to nil.
Impact Player Updates: No major injuries that I could find.
Impact Key Players: Roberto Brown Perea still leads the team with 3 goals, while Rocco Placentino has 5 assists to his credit. The Impact are scoring goals, something they struggled with early in the season, but now they seem to have found a form. Joey Gjertsen and Eduardo Sebrango are key players for the Impact, as Gjertsen is a wily midfield veteran, while Sebrango is usually the key striker for the squad, but he's been rather quiet so far. Matt Jordan returns in goal for the Thunder, although they have Srdjan Djekanovic as the backup, who is a crowd favorite for the Timbers Army.
Key Notes: The Timbers have another long stretch of games coming up, so depth is the key. Montreal probably feels like they let one get away the last time they were in PGE Park, as they played very well against the Timbers and gave up the late goal for the loss, but at points, they controlled the tempo and generated better offense. The only thing that kept the Timbers in the match in the first half was some great defense, Cronin's great work in goal, and a few really badly missed chances.
Prediction: The Timbers want to put this one away early, and I would expect 2 goals from them, while Montreal is held in check, so the Timbers win 2 to nil. While the Impact has been scoring, the Timbers defense has really been playing well, and the only Minnesota goal was off a set piece. Granted, Montreal is usually good with those, so there is slight cause for concern, but we will extend our streak to 12, and get ready for Wednesday.
Trail Blazer Draft Night: Granted, over the past few years, the Trail Blazers have really looked forward to this night because it meant something. From the record 6 trades that netted us Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to getting Greg Oden, we've made the draft night sort of a coming out party, so going into last night's draft, many fans were expecting something similar. But this is also a Trail Blazer team that is coming off a playoff berth and 4th seed in the West with one of the younger cores of players around, and so right now, you don't need to pull it apart, but rather tinker and compliment certain positions.
We went into the draft picking 24th in the first round, and with 4 second round picks, but a late trade to Dallas allowed us to move up to 22 and give up one of the second round picks. We pick Victor Claver, a young forward from Spain with 22, then got Jeff Pendergraph from Arizona State at 31, Dante Cunningham at 33 from Villanova and Patrick Mills at 55 from St. Mary's College. We did swap second round picks with Sacramento in a trade that sent disgruntled PG Sergio Rodriguez to the Kings, and got us Cunningham for us picking Jon Brockman from Washington.
I'm sad to see Sergio go, but I also know that he struggled to find a place in Portland, even with having his good friend Rudy Fernandez on the roster. Sergio wanted to play more up and down pace with flashy passes, while Nate McMillan prefers a more controlled approach. I wish him well, but in the draft picks, we get a very young forward who will play in Europe for 2 years at least, 2 young forwards who will battle to back up Aldridge, and a PG that really is the fastest guard I've seen that can shoot lights out with a very late pick. Mills is certainly shoot first as a PG, but that's what was asked of him by his college team. I can expect him to take a more disciplined approach in Portland, and if anyone can corrall this guy, it's Nate, plus you get to learn from a very good PG, Steve Blake. Plus, the Trail Blazers will retain the rights to Joel Freeland and Petri Kopponen, who will continue to play in Europe, while I expect that Channing Frye, Michael Ruffin, and Shavlik Randolph to be gone. That leaves you with:
PG - Steve Blake, Jarryd Bayless, Patrick Mills, Brandon Roy.
SG - Roy, Rudy Fernandez, Bayless
SF - Nick Batum, Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge, Jeff Pendergraph, Dante Cunningham, Outlaw
C - Greg Oden, Joel Pryzbilla
The rumours of free agency persist, as we look at help for the PG situation, and I would expect the team to find another experience forward/center type. The Oregon Live team did a good job of recapping the draft, while their columnist, John Canzano, says this was a big move to do very little and keep the long term focus to save some money. And that's really what we saw in this draft, picks that are great value and save the team money from the salary cap, so they can be a player in free agency on July 1st. Granted, it's not flashy like what we have seen in previous drafts from the Trail Blazers, but it was what we needed this year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

City Council Vote

So today, the Portland City Council discussed the official resolution to decouple the soccer and baseball plans. This bit of procedure means that both sports and their stadium issues could be deal with separately, rather than try to figure out all the specifics ahead of the September 1st deadline. This also allows Merritt Paulson to check out other sites for the baseball stadium in the area, such as Terminal 1 or Portland Meadows, and still meet the August 1st deadline.
And the vote was just completed with a 4 to 1 affirmative vote to allow decoupling, with Commissioners Leonard, Fish, Saltzman, and Mayor Adams voting yes, and Fritz voting no.
Interesting observations as I listened to the testimony:
  • The September 1st deadline was discussed as the deadline for the framework for the MLS stadium plan to be in place to turn PGE Park into a soccer specific stadium.
  • Part of the public testimony was a news story from KGW about FC Puke Green and their success. I even heard their minority owner, Adrian Hanauer, say great things about Portland and he wants to see us get MLS. They're still bitter rivals, but it's nice to hear them say nice things and their success does help our case.
  • The topic of a shared stadium did come up, asked by Commissioner Fish. Don Mazziotti, consultant for the Perrigrin group, mentioned that they did explore ideas for creating portable seating in PGE Park, but the biggest issue against it is the retaining wall along 18th Avenue. This wall also provides support for the MAX trains that go through the area, and any portable seating arrangements would adversely affect the retaining wall, which in turn also affects the MAX. MLS asks for their stadiums to have seating on both sides of the pitch, and so we couldn't just leave the footprint as is.
  • Portland State Football, which largely has been ignored in this discussion, was talked about at great length today. An upgraded PGE Park would allow them to schedule bigger games within their schedule, and explore the possibility of moving the program to Division 1 in another league if they desire. PSU benefits with having a new football field, and as much as colleges and their athletic programs are intertwined, this could help their bottom line.
  • The Timbers Army was talked about in glowing terms, for our work in the community for Habitat and Doernbechers, as well as mention of the new Timbers Army 2.0, which will do more work in the community while supporting our team. I heard both Commissioners Fish and Saltzman say they were impressed with what the TA does, and we're not the hooligans that they originally thought.

There's still much work to be done, as there is the $15 million dollar hole that needs to be filled in financing, and there is some hesitancy in using urban renewal dollars to pay for large portions of the change, but the plan allows those discussions to move forward while also looking at baseball separately and try to find a location that works for them in the immediate Portland area. When asked by Fish about baseball staying in Oregon, Mazziotti indicated that Paulson remains committed to the long term future of baseball here in the Portland area, and doesn't want to see the team leave. So for another day, there's more encouraging news, which is good for MLS, good for baseball and good for Portland.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Lesson in Politics - Part 2

Another lesson I should learn about with politics is never assume something is really dead and on the table until the obituary is done and set in stone. The ballpark idea gets another life and change in plan, courtesy of Randy Leonard, who is now asking the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to look for potential ballpark sites in the Portland area. While we've been told that Memorial Coliseum is a dead plan, it appears that by this action, Leonard admits that the Lents URAC vote probably wouldn't go in their favor, so let's find more alternatives in the area.

Leonard is committed to trying to find a suitable place in Portland, and I think there are some places that might work pretty well. Delta Park will not because it's a very busy park for the city, but it's known that Portland Meadows might be up for sale because the owners are bankrupt, and you have a large area there with parking that is near transit. Terminal 1 in the NW Portland area has been rumoured for a while as well, and while I don't know much about the site, apparently, I've heard it's a giant parcel of land. This also allows other exploration for cities in the area to step up and pitch their idea to Paulson, such as Vancouver, WA or Hillsboro, OR, both cities that have large areas of land available and have at least been rumoured to be interested. The Oregon Live story includes some more information, including the sites that will be reviewed and the fact that the Lents URAC was cancelling the vote for this week on the baseball idea.

The other big development today is that Sam Adams won't be charged by Oregon's Attorney General for misconduct in his personal life, by having sexual contact with another man who may or may not have been of legal age. The circumstances behind the relationship became public right after Adams took office, and while he's remained in his role and been assisting with many city projects, the whole situation has been a dark cloud to say the least. Apparently, the information provided by Beau Breedlove has some inconsistencies, there isn't much corroborating evidence to support some claims, and so the only thing that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is that Adams lied about the relationship particulars. While it's not a complete exoneration, what it does do is clear the legal avenue relating to criminal charges. There is still an ongoing recall effort that will start up in a few weeks, but at this point, Adams is still in office. Since he's been a huge proponent of MLS, this really strengthens things for soccer fans by having another supporter in the City Council.

So apparently, the idea isn't anywhere near dead, it's taking another strange turn. Politics have nothing on soap operas, apparently, and we'll keep you posted on things from here. Apparently, Wednesday is when the City Council discusses the MLS proposal and the actual decoupling of it from the overall baseball idea.

Lessons In Politics

I've been excited and frustrated by the entire MLS - Triple AAA stadium process, and nothing emphasized that more that my morning yesterday. Girl and I went to her father's house for a breakfast gathering, and he asked us about the whole effort because he wasn't quite up to date with things, and so we talked about it with him for almost an hour. It was amazing to hear the assumptions he'd reached through some of the incomplete information that had been shared in the media, but he also had some thoughts about how people were thinking that I hadn't necessarily considered.

I get that people might be scared about putting so much money into one project, and since my last post, things have gotten even more interesting in the world of Lents. Merritt Paulson has walked away from Lents, stating he doesn't want to build a stadium in an area that doesn't want it there. However, Randy Leonard, one of the city commissioners wants Paulson to wait and allow the Lents URAC (Urban Renewal Advisory Committee) to meet and vote on the idea, otherwise he is not willing to support soccer, while Dan Saltzman and Sam Adams are comfortable with the process and still want to discuss the stadium issue on Wednesday. Since the decoupling has occurred last week, soccer and baseball plans are being talked about separately, but we do know that plans for MLS must be in place by September 1st to secure the expansion team, which includes stadium plans to renovate PGE Park and other team specifics. Rumours have been floating about that Montreal is trying to secure the bid for the team if the Portland bid implodes, although I'm not convinced that's a very likely if.

Politics today is a rather nasty business, as you have to navigate some rather choppy waters to get anything done and try to remain sane in the process. Nothing seems tougher than trying to build a consensus amongst people that often times don't see eye to eye, and don't see the point of yielding in any way from their idea. I've watched passively on the debate to rename a street for Cesar Chavez, which makes the MLS situation seem tame in comparison. You have a group that wants this so badly because they feel Chavez needs to be honored, and they don't want to compromise by having a bridge or park named after him, while many of us, myself included, just can't understand why there isn't a way to compromise on the issue. I respect Chavez quite a bit, and understand his legacy, but I fail to understand his contribution to Portland so that a street should be named for him. Granted, it doesn't help things when the last renamed streets, Rosa Parks, MLK and Naito Parkway, were renamed without following the letter of the law when it comes to the process.

It's tough to build consensus with inconsistency, but at the same time, interests and topics change quite often, and I admire anyone that wants to get into public service and try to navigate this mess. You have to gage things as much as possible while hearing from a constituency that often times isn't informed or only sees one side of an issue and can't see the long term side of an idea. You have the anti-tax zealots, people who hate development, people who love development and can't understand why we can't just let business do what they want, the environmentalists who want everything protected, people who want kids protected under any costs, and sports fans that want the city to help them secure funds for stadiums or teams. Voters don't often spend time learning about issues as much as they should, but in all fairness, it's hard to find a nugget of truth in a saturated media that often times doesn't care about reporting truth but what will bring ratings or notoriety to their channel.

But at the same time, anyone in politics has to understand the game, and as Oregon Live's columnist Anna Griffin points out, we expect them to make the tough choices and represent our needs, no matter how fractured they might be. It's how things work around here, and that's why strong leadership is important, especially in a town like we have here where power is split between five commissioners that run various bureaus around town. Portland is unique in the sense that during the rally at Lents on Thursday, Commissioner Nick Fish was there to support the opponents as the commissioner of parks while Leonard was there in support of the plan, putting commissioners on both sides of the debate. And both sides of the argument can point to the fact that their side was represented by elected officials, which while it might be frustrating to someone like me who wants the stadium, I appreciate the fact that all sides can feel like their voice is being heard by someone with influence.

But where I get frustrated in this situation is simply that as someone who watches processes, I expect that our leaders will be strong in their conviction yet have an ability to find consensus and make tough decisions, even in the face of criticism. And that's the failing that I'm seeing of our city council right now. I appreciate the job they do, and understand that they need to follow their voice, but at the same time, it's important to work together and find ways to make the city work as smoothly as possible. Instead of bending to small interest groups or a vocal minority, it's important to stick with a plan if it makes sense for the city, and honestly, the original stadium plan to put the baseball park in the Memorial Coliseum site was the best idea out there, and it's frustrating to me to see that abandoned by a small group of architects and the Trail Blazers' influence. While I'm confident that things will find a way to work out, what I fear is that this process has exposed the dysfunction and chaos that often happen in city government. I find that I'm much more engaged in local issues, which is a good by-product if we are really looking for positives here.

I wish that politics wasn't such a messy game and that discussions could be done in a much more above board manner, and that decisions could be made quickly and efficiently. But like many good things, it makes the end result that much more satisfying, and after talking with girl's father, he seemed to understand what we were doing, and didn't seem to object nearly as much. I wished I could do this with many of the opponents of the stadium, but I suppose it's just one step or one person at a time, because that's how the city that works really works.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Incredible Night - Minnesota Vs. Timbers, and Grand Opening of Sports Complex

It was an incredible night last night at PGE Park, although Mother Nature was trying to do her best to change up the festivities. The last home match for the Timbers against Montreal, the heavens opened up with a crazy amount of rain, wind, and other assorted craziness, so yesterday being a Timbers match at PGE Park, the rains had to come and visit again, dropping over an inch of rain on parts of the metro area around 2 to 3 pm. Things seemed to be smoother, though, as traffic on most of the busy streets was moving along OK. I wasn't going to miss this match, and with it being an 8 PM kickoff, I left our house at about 6 PM to get down there in time. The drive down had a few crazy rain moments, but by 6:30 PM, I was parked in NW Portland and walking to the Bitter End Pub to give a ticket to my friend S3K and see some folks before lining up for the match.

It was also teddy bear toss night for Doernbechers', so people had lined up with bags and bags of bears ready for chucking, but the team also had bears that they were giving out as door prizes for people to throw. I got into my seat just after 7 pm, and waited for the remaining Row N folks to show up to cheer. And we had a lot to cheer about.

I can't remember the last time we got 5 goals, it's been a while I'm sure. We had a lot of scoring chances, and on this night, we took advantage of them. We also got great defensive play from the backline, and Steve Cronin played very well and steady, even with letting in a goal in the first half. The guys picked him up, and got 3 goals in the second half, aided by 3 Minnesota red cards. Yes, Minnesota had 3 players ejected from the match, one for a rather late challenge in the box that lead to goal 3, a red for throwing a punch at Alex Nimo, and a final red for an absolutely horrendous challenge after goal number 5 that didn't need to happen. I can't blame Minnesota for being frustrated, they were being run around the pitch all night by a Portland team that didn't seem to show any ill effects from having played on Tuesday in California after being on the road all the past weekend. The Timbers looked fresh, confident, and on their game, and it probably helped when George Josten notched a goal in the 4th minute to start the bear throwing chaos.

Goals for the night - Josten, Suzuki, Hayes (PK), Keita and S. Thompson. Josten's goal was a nice give and go from a great pass from Farber, while Suzuki got a great angle from the wide side of the box to get the second goal. Hayes knocked in the PK after Minnesota's first red card, while Keita got his goal during a bit of a scrum near the box. Scot took a great pass from Hayes off a corner and knocked it in for number 5.

Key Observations:
  • Gavin really did a great job of substituting last night, bringing in Danso at the half, then Nimo, McLauglin and Poltl late for some fresh legs. I did like how Steven Keel played in the first half at points, but he also had a couple of tough touches that really caused some dicey moments in back.
  • I don't fault Cronin for the goal he let in. It was after a questionable foul, and he did catch the free kick but it bounced a bit funny and it spun in. But, he was very decisive on his lines, and made some quality saves, plus his goal kicks were spot on all night.
  • Johan Claesson has really become a great playmaker in the middle, and he got a lot of great help from Taka Suzuki last night. Between Farber, Suzuki and Claesson, they controlled the midfield quite nicely all night, and never really let Minnesota get any offense going while they literally had their choice of offensive options most of the night. Minnesota really didn't offer much defensive resistance, and we took advantage of it all night.
  • The rest of the team looked a little flat and tired in the first half, but played with a lot of urgency in the second half. Apparently, Gavin lit into them pretty good at the half, and the results showed per the O-Live match report.
  • I really didn't see how the official couldn't award red on the three different challenges that caused Minnesota to lose players. The first takedown was a pretty obvious call in the box, while Nimo was hit by 3 different players before he finally hit back. I don't mind him getting a yellow in that spot at all, you have to defend yourself. I've seen one red card, and yes even two, but never three red cards leaving Minnesota playing 11 versus 8 while already down 4 goals.
  • Nick Platter was left on an island most of the night, and he tried to do his best to keep things civilized, but even he couldn't stop the bleeding.
  • I can imagine the Thunder won't forget this game one bit, and have a bit of revenge on their mind for July 4th in their place.
Links for match information:

Allison's great match report from Soccer City USA, along with pictures.

I got some pictures myself that I posted to Flickr, and I got some video of the PK and Keita's goal (thanks Timberista for catching that update, I thought it was goal 5, but it's goal 4), along with a few other shots. The video quality is Ok, but I got some great noise from the TA, who was in good form last night.

The Oregon Live match report, with some decent information and rather useless comments.

I didn't get much chance to celebrate the win late, though. I had to be up early, for I was volunteering at Gradin Sports Park in Gresham for their grand opening. My company got a request from the city for volunteers to help with the grand opening, and the Timbers would be practicing and offering a clinic later in the day, so I said why not? My company pays us to volunteer, but at the same point, what's not to like about seeing the boys a day after their big win. So, yes, I couldn't go to the TIFO party, but I had a good reason.

The U-23 and first team were both there to work out, and they seemed awfully embarrased when me and my mother in law clapped and cheered for them as they ran by doing warmups. I got a chance to chat with Gavin a few times, plus Timber Joey and Lucky Beaver also showed up, while I also got to say hi to Scot and said nice goal. He said thanks, but it was luck, and I said, no, it was 5!! After the practice, many of the players stayed around to talk to fans, sign cards, and then offer help in a clinic for the kids, which I thought was great. The boys had a spring in their step and didn't seem to have any ill effects from the exceptionally physical match from the previous night.

Professional athletes get lambasted for being out of touch, making too much money or thinking too highly of themselves, and then I get to see this up close and personal. These guys were personable, charming, and I even got to see Taka with two infants and who I believe was his wife or girlfriend in one of my pictures, plus Timber Joey working the crowd. They love their job, and love what they do, and nothing was more evident in that than watching them interact with the kids during the clinic. I'm really glad that I saw another side of them outside of on the pitch during the match, because what I saw today was pure class, giving of themselves to help the community and give something back to the soccer community as a whole. Well done, boys. I do have a few pictures from the event that you can all peruse.

To all the dads out there, have a great Fathers Day, and to everyone else, RCTID!!! We're up to 11 league matches without a loss and counting!!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lents Gets Their Wish - UPDATE!!

Merritt Paulson has decided to withdraw the plan to put a triple AAA ballpark in Lents, per this letter to the City Council and the Lents URAC. What this means is:

  • The Timbers front office will focus efforts on getting the details done for MLS in time for the 2011 MLS Season, including securing financing to update PGE Park for MLS.
  • The Beavers' future is cloudy at best, but probably not as bad as people might make it out to be. What this means is that the original agreement to get the Beavers a new stadium within Portland would not occur by the September 1st deadline that has been set to secure financing to update PGE Park for soccer.
  • Merritt Paulson is committed to do everything he can to keep the Beavers local, but this now means that they can look at other sites within the local Portland - Vancouver WA area. The only sites that have been reviewed officially were the Memorial Coliseum and Lents Park, and now at this point, the rumored sites are Terminal 3, OMSI area, Vancouver or Beaverton. Other people mention sites like Delta Park, Portland Meadows, or the Greyhound Park in Wood Village, but those sites haven't been mentioned officially just by people on blog entries.
  • Baseball has been here for over 40 years, and I'm not 100 percent about what this means for the future for the Beavers, but we've had baseball leave PGE Park on 4 different occasions, and so losing it again may be a reality again. This also opens up the possibility that other cities might jump to see if they can buy the Beavers from Paulson and move them when the lease is up in 2010.
  • The Memorial Coliseum is still the best stadium site, but it will not be revisited, and Lents Park won't be reconsidered either. Right now, it appears that there might be baseball fans in the area, but they haven't stepped up enough to make their feelings noted.
  • The City Council needs to step up and make some decisions soon, and next week, there will be a discussion of the MLS deal for PGE Park only on Wednesday during their regular meeting. We'll here more about the whole baseball issue as this plays out.
  • In the past 4 decades, Portland has only built two major stadiums within the area within that time, the Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Garden. The Memorial Coliseum was built with minimal investment, and the Rose Garden was paid for mostly by private money from Paul Allen. The history of this city supporting stadium building has been poor at best, and there is nothing to think that it will change.
So Lents gets what they want and the URD money stays where it is, where it's sat for 11 years without minimal projects, and baseball people are having less of a leg to stand on as the attendance numbers don't seem to support Portland as a baseball area while the Timbers put up better numbers. The debate will rage on, and while the Beavers have over 100 years of history, it appears the days of baseball here might be numbered unless something dramatic happens.

Right now, I'm going to put this on the back burner and focus tonight on the Timbers - Thunder because the lads need our support tonight. As much as I'm interested in this, I'm tired of this city and some of our leaders who can't show enough leadership to make a decision and stick with it and instead we now have the possibility of baseball leaving town over the whole mess.

The boys at 955 The Game are talking about it right now, with Wheels and Strong saying the baseball plan to MC was a good idea, while Vance and Allen are upset about the chance of baseball leaving. If you get a chance to podcast it, it's a fascinating listen as it essentially boils the arguments down to what we've all been talking about for the past year.

Game Day Vs. Minnesota and Way to Stay Classy, Lents

It's game day!!! The Timbers face their rivals to the east from the land of lakes, the Minnesota Thunder!!

http://www.oregonlive.com/timbers/index.ssf/2009/06/game_day_minnesota_thunder_at.html - The O previews the game, but let's recap some specifics:

Game Time: 8 pm at PGE Park. It's a late start because of the broadcast.
Broadcast: You can listen to the match at www.portlandtimbers.com, or watch in on Fox Soccer Channel, channel 401 in the Portland area if you have digital cable.
Special Night: It's Teddy Bear Toss night, where teddy bears go flying after the first Timbers goal. Last year, it was bears ahoy after an early goal, and it's always a fun night to see things landing on the pitch for a good reason. Timber Joey also has a birthday celebration tonight at Barracuda after the match.
Overall History: The Timbers have a winning record against the Thunder with a 10 - 5 - 11 record in 26 meetings throughout the years. At home, the Timbers are 5 - 3 - 5, while on the road, they are 5 - 2 - 6 versus the Thunder.
Timbers Form: Still unbeaten in 10 league matches, a friendly and 2 Open Cup matches since losing their opener in Vancouver. They sit with 20 points at 5 - 1 - 5, and most recently, drew on the road in Carolina last Thursday 0 - 0 and in Charleston on Saturday 1 - 1. They beat Sonoma County on Tuesday 3 to 0 to advance in the Open Cup.
Timber Player Updates: At this point, we know Ryan Pore, Tony McManus and Takuro Nishimura have been dealing with injuries and visa issues. Pore and McManus have targeted the Montreal match on 6/28 for their possible return or at the very least the 7/1 Open Cup match vs. FC Puke Green. No word on Nishimura so far, but I'd like to see him return soon. Everyone else appears to be healthy and ready to play.
Timber Key Players: Mandjou Keita is on a tear lately, with 3 league goals to tie Ryan Pore for the team lead in goals, and Keita got 2 goals on Tuesday in the Open Cup match. He's playing very well lately, and his partner up front, George Josten, has also played well, getting a goal in the Open Cup match as well. Brian Farber continues his stellar play, leading the team with 2 assists, but Johan Claesson and Keith Savage have also played well in the middle by keeping thing stable and providing support in the front or back as needed. The defense continues their stellar play, giving up only 5 goals on the season so far, and Steve Cronin making some rather incredible saves and heady keeper moves. Can't say enough about the job Keel, Hayes, Scot, Cam and Danso have done in back. One guy I've been impressed with lately is Taka Suzuki, who seems to have found a place in the midfield, showing some creativity and flair that have been missing lately. He has made some nice plays and is showing some hustle, and it's good to see him showing some skills.
Upcoming Timbers Matches: They get a break for a bit, not playing again until June 28th versus Montreal, but then play 7/1 versus FC Puke Green, 7/2 in a friendly against Bayern Munich II and then head to the road to play Minnesota on 7/4
Thunder Form: Courtesy of their website, the Thunder got their first win of the 2009 USL campaign on Sunday 6/14 versus Carolina at home 2 to nil. They also beat the Chicago Fire PDL team 4 to nil in the Open Cup to advance to a meeting with the Kansas City WIzards on 6/30 at home, and their next league match in the USL after tonight is the 27th when they host Rochester. They currently sit in last place in the USL Division 1 with 7 points and a 1 - 5 - 4 record in 10 games played.
Thunder Player Updates: Per their website, the team has been playing better lately, but got off to a really rough start. They have two injuries to Kevin Friedland and Rich Costanzo, as Friedland has hamstring issues and Costanzo has a dislocated elbow. Everyone else is healthy.
Thunder Key Players: The Thunder have 3 players with 2 goals each, Brian Cvilikas, Leonel Saint-Preux, and Ricardo Sanchez, while Sanchez has 3 assists to lead the team. Long time Thunder player Melvin Tarley returns to the Rose City, along with a former Timber, Lawrence Olum, who has a goal and assist. Olum was a midfielder for the Timbers last season, and was a fan favorite with his high energy runs. Nick Platter returns as the long time Thunder net minder, a veteran of many Timber - Thunder matches.
Key Notes: Former Thunder player and coach Amos McGee is now coach with the Timbers, so he faces his old side tonight. McGee resigned from the team last year, and was replaced by Manny Lagos, who is still coach of the Thunder. The Thunder are playing a bit better after their rough start, but the Timbers are on a roll right now, not having a loss since April and they are getting a lot of contributions across the pitch.
Prediction: As much as I'd like to rely on the records here, I don't think this game will be as easy as people might think. Minnesota is a scrappy team, and they traditionally play smart soccer by trying to control the midfield and make short passes to their attacking forwards. But, the Timbers are playing very well lately, and tonight gives them a chance to keep the streak going before a much needed break after a rough road trip. I expect 3 goals from the Timbers, and the Thunder get 1 to keep it interesting, but in the end, it will be a Timbers win and they'll be bears flying all over the place.

Last night, the Lents URAC held a public open house to talk about the stadium deal for the Beavers, although some of the anticipation of the night was pulled out of the air with the earlier announcement that the soccer and baseball stadium efforts had been decoupled, and would proceed separately from each other. The baseball opponents held a rally, and when the actual meeting started up, Merritt Paulson spoke to the crowd and was greeted by jeers and boos. Apparently, Randy Leonard suffered a similar fate last night, and there was a report of something thrown at him by someone in the crowd. Also, Nick Fish, the city's self professed biggest soccer fan was there to tell the opponents he supports their efforts and won't let the city take away Lents Park.

The whole stadium thing has reached epic proportions of ineptitude, and I can pin a lot of blame on the architects and the Trail Blazers for killing the MC idea, but I can't think of any reason why people need to get so worked up that they throw things at city leaders or purposefully boo people who are there just trying to make their position known. I get that this is a passionate issue and people are entitled to their opinions, but have we all just lost whatever decorum or respect we have for each other that we have to turn public meetings into a spectacle.

I get that many of people in Lents don't like this idea, but by acting this way, you do nothing more than perpetuate the stereotypes that many residents outside the area hold of Lents - crime filled, working class, uneducated. I hold out hope that public debate and discourse can always occur in a civilized manner, but then I read about these kind of reminders of why that will never happen. It's too bad, because this will mean that some other part of the city will get a very nice ball park to enjoy and help their area while MLS comes to Portland and revitalized the area around PGE Park, and Lents will be known as the area with the big Walmart. Nice calling card there, but hey, if it's what you all want, the rest of us won't stand in your way.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

De-Coupling the Stadium Issue

Many of us read Steve Duin's take on the recent stadium issue with Lents last night, and it hit the papers this morning:


Duin is pretty middle of the road on most issues, but I did find his take hard to deal with on a couple of different issues. Like the Memorial Coliseum deal, it appeared that there was little interest in doing anything commercial in Lents until suddenly it was discovered that the Lents area had a pot of urban renewal dollars that they haven't used for some time and there was an area that seemed to work for baseball. Memorial Coliseum might make sense for the ballpark, but you'd have to come up with the money in a private-public mix that ended up making the deal more complicated until the architects started screaming the the MC is a treasure and the Trail Blazers decided they didn't want competition in their back yard. Lents made sense because of a $45 million dollars or so that was ear marked for development in the area for urban renewal, and try as they might, Lents hasn't been able to attract much in terms of bringing big business or other anchor pieces to the area. They've tried but nothing has materialized, and there doesn't seem to be any good ideas right now to attract anything new there at this moment.

The baseball plan wouldn't destroy Lents Park, but build a stadium over the old dilapidated Walker Stadium and add some parking, but apparently there are traffic and parking concerns which would need to be addressed. But the soccer fields are apparently near traffic and are considered by soccer folks to be very dangerous (apparently, someone got hit on a bike during a match there while TA folks were playing on the field) and the fields themselves are in bad shape. I get that people use the park, but the plan here would only use a small portion of it. But apparently, the plan is full of madness, not only with Duin's words but the various comments noted.

What I don't get is that for such a progressive city, we seem to be afraid of making tough decisions which will keep our progressive stance. So we overspent on a tram to OHSU, it was a mistake that people noted because of a lack of oversight, yet some citizens refer to this project as a reason why we need to slow down with progress. Gee, Paul Allen built the Rose Garden so why can't someone just build a soccer park? Allen had the money, and if he had waited for the city to help with the process, the Trail Blazers probably would still be playing in the MC or would be playing elsewhere right now. We're in such a desire to keep Portland weird and in some ways progressive, it almost paralyzes the decision making process because we want our decisions to be risk free and bullet proof. Life doesn't work that way, but for some stupid reason, the leadership in this town doesn't seem to want to make a decision.

I just got late word from the Mayor's Twitter account (http://twitter.com/MayorSamAdams) that the decision makes want to de-couple MLS and the baseball situation, thus allowing each decision to be made independently. While it does mean that there are less moving parts to the proposal and people can look at the merits of each sport individually, what it does mean is that someone needs to keep the overall picture in view. It's been mentioned that MLS would want a Portland team in a stadium where the soccer team controls the scheduling and revenue streams, and while they'd prefer the MLS team to be the single tenant, they are willing to share if it makes sense. PGE Park is entirely too big of a stadium for triple AAA baseball, and they need to find a stadium location that works for selling season tickets and giving everyone a chance to watch games. Very few people buy season tickets for the Beavers, knowing that in a 19,000 seat ballpark, the chances of being shut out of tickets is pretty nil unless you are wanting to watch the 4th of July ballgame. There's a market for each team, and we need to find a way to make it work. I hope that this tactic really means that there will be honest and constructive conversation about the plan, rather than just another excuse for a small minority to trash the idea of the city getting into stadiums instead of helping schools and potholes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bring On the Flounders, Stadium Vote Coming Soon?

Flash back to a fine August evening back in PGE Park during the 2008 season, and the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers met for the last time as rivals within the USL during the regular season. With the Sounders moving up to MLS for the 2009, this would be the last time the two teams were slated to meet each other officially, although there was an outside chance the teams could have met in the playoffs. After that, the only time they would meet again would be if there was a US Open Cup match, an agreed upon exhibition game or if the Timbers were moved up to MLS at some future point.

We now know that the Timbers will be joining FC XBox in MLS in 2011 after Portland was awarded an expansion team, so the once bitter rivals have a two year hiatus from meeting each other until that point unless the US Open Cup put the rivals in the same bracket. And sure enough, it was learned that after the bracket was announced in June of this year that the Timbers were in the same bracket, but had to win twice versus Kitsap and Sonoma County to set up this match, and a few days ago, it was announced that if Portland won in Sonoma, they would host FC Puke Green here.

The Timbers took care of business last night, beating Sonoma County 3 to nil in California, as Mandjou Keita notched two goals and an assist in leading the team to the win. Keita has been on fire lately, notching a goal late in the Charleston match to draw that game level, and he gets two more last night while keeper Steve Cronin and the defense kept the Sol attack at bay. The Flounders - Timbers match will be at PGE Park on Wednesday, July 1st at 7 PM and the winner advances to the next round. So, the old USL rivals meet in the Open Cup as a tuneup for the eventually matchup that will be forthcoming in 2011. It should be an epic night, and I'd advise anyone that is remotely interested in getting tickets to get them know through the PGE Park box office, Portland Timbers ticket sales, or through Ticketmaster. After talking with my ticket rep today, the great Dan Zusman, sales have been really brisk already and the tickets aren't officially on sale to the general public yet. Also, knowing the rivalry between the supporter groups, the Timbers Army and the ECS (I call them the POD), there will be some crazy TIFO displays and some bantering on message boards between these groups. I hope there is no significant trouble between the groups, but at the same point, some good natured ribbing is anticipated. The Timbers next home match is Friday versus Minnesota at 8 PM at PGE Park, which should be a good time, and I'll have a match preview and recap for you later this week.

The Offsides has a good match preview and recap for your perusal:

http://timbers.theoffside.com/team-news/portland-timbers-face-sonoma-county-sol-in-us-open-cup.html - a great match preview, including some history of the Sonoma County Sol, and the fact that both teams came into the match on very hot win streaks.

http://timbers.theoffside.com/match-reports/us-open-cup-portland-timbers-defeat-sonoma-county-sol-advance-to-face-seattle.html - Match recap from the Offsides.

http://portlandtimbers.com/newsroom/headlines/index.html?article_id=1250 - Official Match recap, courtesy of the Portland Timbers

Stadium Updates - Apparently, the Lents URAC (the Urban Renewal Action Committee) will be holding an open house on Thursday to hear discussion of the plan to put a triple AAA baseball stadium in the north corner of Lents Park, so that the Portland Beavers could move out there to make way for PGE Park to be refurbished for MLS. The plan is to hear from both sides, give groups the chance to talk about the plan, and it is anticipated that the URAC might actually vote on the proposal that night. Two of Portland's city commissioners, Dan Saltzman and Randy Leonard, have indicated that their support for the park is conditional based on their vote, so if they approve the idea, they'll vote for the proposal.

The Oregonian has continued to be busy on the topic, providing a front page article about the residents of the area and what they are thinking about the ballpark, and they are as divided as some other groups about the idea:


Some folks see the ballpark as a benefit, and could spur other development or draw people in that wouldn't otherwise visit the area, while others have concerns about the amount of money being used for the stadium or giving up part of a somewhat popular Portland park for a professional baseball team. A few other folks have weighed in on the idea, including John Mulvey, who lives in the area, and Tracy Francis, who was part of the Goose Hollow neighborhood association when PGE Park was being refurbished:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/06/lents_the_false_choice_between.html - Mulvey isn't convinced the stadium is such a good idea, presenting it as a false choice. And while I see some of his concerns, my issue is that it's really something that we have to make a decision on, because the future of the Timbers and Beavers does hang in the balance. If we do nothing, we risk losing the teams to other cities or in the case of the Timbers, risk having the costs go skyrocketing because of no regional rivalries.

http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/2009/06/lents_park_stadium_project.html - Lematlents is concerned about a lack of public process in the whole stadium situation, and honestly, I don't know what else the city could do about getting people involved. There have been public meetings, presentations, studies done, mailings sent, and discussions in various media sites, and yet there are some that still think this is an idea that is just being thrown at us without any discourse. I love that Portland wants to have their process honored, and I think there's something to having people talk about options and not make rash decisions. The problem is that at some point, you have to make a decision and stick with it, rather than just keep talking until the decision becomes obvious or the opportunity passes you by. That trait is called leadership, and right now, I'm frustrated at some of the leadership in this process who really are struggling to make a decision and stick with it.

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/06/what_goose_hollow_would_advise.html - Tracy's post, which talks from the voice of experience, and as being a resident of the area when PGE Park was being built, I would agree with her that PGE Park has been a very good tenant to the area, and they've done a lot to help the area. However, I do take some offense to her assessment of Steve Janik's comments (the MLS commissioner has said the teams can't share PGE Park, so that's all you need to know) and the only part of the process that has been like a runaway train is the seemingly non stop opinions that are relying on limited information to try and prove a point against this idea.

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/06/bridges_vs_the_stadiums_a_port.html - Steve Novick weighs in and talks about the difference of the Columbia Bridge process versus the stadiums, and why they are being treated differently. It's actually an intelligent question, even if I don't agree with his conclusion. Building a newer bridge between Washington and Oregon makes sense, and I wouldn't mind it being artistically pleasing, but for my money, I'm a sports fan and to me, building a stadium for the Beavers is a good investment in my mind. I'm troubled that some people that call themselves progressives are still struggling with that concept.

Finally, in an unrelated topic about baseball, we found out today that Sammy Sosa cheated. Wow, what a big surprise that the two main guys in the home run derby were both juiced up on some form of drugs, and that the results might have been chemically enhanced. I'm not surprised at all, and honestly, I find myself caring less and less about baseball because of it. Instead of being honest about the issues of drugs, baseball has played a game of deceit and deception about how rampant drugs are in their sport. I agree that baseball shouldn't be on an island in that respect, but it's hard not to point blame at them when even some of the big stars of baseball's current generation have been caught with drugs.

I get that most of the drugs weren't actually against the rules at that point, but at this point, it's just become boring and tiresome, and this discussion only gets amplified when we start talking about Hall of Fame players and statistics comparisons, things that happen in baseball all the time. Until the baseball world can come to a conclusion about how to deal with the situation, this problem just won't go away. My solution to the problem is simply this, if you broke the rules of the game to either influence the outcome of the games, be it gambling, drugs or whatever, you shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame and I can't seriously consider that person as a true great baseball player. But I'm just one opinion, and right now, I would just like baseball to step up and make a decision rather than this stupidly slow piece meal process of dealing with things as they come along.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

US Open Cup Match - Timbers Vs. Sol

The Timbers are about ready to kick off versus the Sonoma County Sol in the US Open Cup down in Sonoma, CA. The winner gets to face FC Puke Green in the next round either on June 30th or July 1st. It could be possible that two old USL rivals will get to meet up before Portland jumps to MLS in 2011.

You can track the match at www.twitter.com/TimbersFC, where the team's front office will be providing updates. Come on Timbers!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stadium Updates - Apparently There's Another New (Old) Idea

So in vacationing in Bend and feverishly getting back to town in time for the TAFC match on Sunday night, I missed out on reading an editorial or two on the whole Lents stadium issue. One of the Oregonian editors, David Sarasohn, floats an idea that had been discussed earlier in the whole MLS - Triple AAA stadium issue, why can't the Timbers and Beavers share a park? Another colleague at the O, Arts critic Barry Johnson echoes the sentiment in his time, and at least considering the idea of a shared stadium.

The points against it were covered in the comments, but I'll try and summarize them. One, the MLS commissioner Don Garber has indicated that MLS wants to have their teams in stadiums where the MLS team controls the revenue and scheduling dates. For those MLS clubs that share stadiums currently with other sports, it's a temporary situation (Kansas City, where they are building a new stadium), or the team owner happens to be the owner of the stadium and the footprint makes sense (New York, Seattle, New England) for soccer and another sport. DC United did share a stadium with baseball for a while, but their old stadium, JFK Stadium, could be converted between the sports relatively easily. All other MLS teams have a stadium that they control scheduling and revenues, and you even have one stadium that has two tenants, Home Depot Center in Los Angeles (the Galaxy and Chivas USA). I don't think MLS is adverse to a team sharing a stadium temporarily, but at least permanently, they've been against it.

Baseball and soccer have different field needs, as baseball requires a more quarter circle, pie shaped design with cutouts or dirt around the bases, home plate and the pitchers mound. Soccer and football both share a rectangular field design, so it makes sense you could have teams share fields with that. Because PGE Park has a short left field area, it's not ideal for baseball, and trucking in temporary bleachers for a home stand could be significantly expensive, not to mention the time it takes to convert a stadium from baseball to soccer. Right now, home plate is left exposed for Timbers matches because it is too costly to cover it and it takes right now up to 24 hours to convert from sport to sport there. Add in bleacher movement, which would hurt the turf, and if you had international competitions you'd need grass, and the cost and time goes up a lot.

I get that PGE Park has been the home of Womens World Cup and held many fine baseball games there, but with the Womens World Cup, they didn't have baseball on the schedule to conflict, sod was laid down and could stay down for a while, and the park thrived. Soccer and baseball do well there now, but the problems are mounting. The Timbers are one of two West Coast teams in USL division 1, and if Vancouver leaves and MLS falls through, the Timbers would be the only USL D1 team on the West Coast with their closets rivals in Minneapolis or Austin, TX. The Beavers are fine in the PCL, but with their lease coming up in 2010, rumors exist of cities wanting to entertain the thought of moving the team there. Tucson lost their triple AAA team to Reno this past year, and it's not uncommon to see minor league teams move a lot. The current Beavers team is the fifth baseball team to play there in its history.

Getting separate stadiums would give another facility that could be used to host other events, such as international soccer events, baseball tournaments, and other gatherings. Right now, PGE Park is booked most of the time, but having a similar facility in the area could give other groups a reason to come to Portland for their event.

This whole issue in my mind is simply people in Portland wanting to do it their own way within the process we hold dear. We have a truly unique city with lots of charm and fun things to do, and it draws people from all over to move here. We're quirky, we love brew pubs, we have lots of different events and interests here, a sometimes thriving arts area, lots of clubs around, and plenty of public institutions and fun neighborhoods. We have a great place here and it attracts all sorts of transplants to move here, even if long time residents complain about the influx of new residents. When you do things right, it draws attention, so people come here because they want to, but as with any growth questions, you have to ask tough questions about controlling development and managing the future so the city isn't completely fucked. Seattle may be a fun and quirky place, but you have to drive everywhere to get anywhere, and the traffic restricts a lot of movement, and so we want to avoid such problems.

And so now, faced with a choice of wanting to make serious investments and suggestions for the future, we want to slow down the process because it might harm the charm of our area. I think it's wanting to rely on the charm of the past and the quirkiness of our area to make people realize what we have here, but whatever you do, spend the money on the visit and then leave please. If we want anything good to happen here, it's either that the idea was so obvious it was a no brainer decision or we rely on the effort and money of others to do it. We want an NBA class arena, just let Paul Allen build it because he will, never mind that he declared bankruptcy and put the team on the market as well.

The stadium plan has gone around and around, and right now, I'm wanting someone to step up and say this is the plan, and while we'll hear thoughts about the idea, this is our top project and we're going to make it happen. All the preponderance of talking is doing is pulling up ideas that have no merit or were originally shot down but people still cling to the thought it might work now. I expect leadership from the people in charge here, and so I'm imploring them to just step up and make the call. Do you want to be a top class city with the potential of bringing events to town or do you want to hope and rely on our charm to draw people to come here by itself. MLS isn't just a Portland issue, it's an Oregon issue, as evidenced by people in Bend shouting pro Timbers stuff at us all weekend, and people asking about the team living 3 hours away. Pro soccer has the chance to be big here, and we need people with power to realize it and make the long term plan happen, despite the noise from others who want to bring the past to the table because it makes sense in their mind. Let's stop the talking, and let's make this idea a reality.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

The Row N crew took in a road trip this weekend to Bend, Oregon, and spent most of our weekend hanging out at the Old St. Francis Hotel near downtown. We've had a history of gathering on occasion outside of Timbers matches to mostly eat, drink and just hang out, which sometimes we don't get to do a lot during the busy summers. The tradition started actually with my 40th birthday out at Edgefield in January 2 years ago, and has continued with our regular Thanksgiving weekend meet up at Edgefield combined with a spring/summer gathering that has ranged from camping on the coast to our road trip this past weekend.

I love the Row N folks, as they are some of the best folks you could even meet, and it was great to hang out with them and take in the sights from the road. Oregon has some great sights to see, and I'd only been to Bend once a few years ago participating in the Pole, Pedal, Paddle competition, so it was great to get back there. The guest list was comprised of Hornman, Fish Eye, Bubbles/girl, Regina, S3K, Dublinx and myself, not a huge list, but a hearty group.

Highlights of the weekend by night:

Friday - We checked in about 3 pm to the hotel, as Dublinx rode with me and girl. Our room was a king size bed with two bathtubs, two showers, and a bathroom stall. The bath area was as big as the room, which was nice. The drive over was pretty good, taking about 3 hours, and the only drive highlight was being tailgated the whole way by a white sedan with California license plates. An old friend, armybrewer, had taken over the brewing at the pub, so we were able to get a quick brew tour from him. Since Regina was coming in later and S3K had arrived, it was time to eat and drink. Hornman and Fish Eye were staying at another hotel in the area, but were scared by the absolute scary side of the Dunes Hotel, so they joined us later and there was an extra room to stay on site. We played pool, drank, and when Regina came, we wandered to Deschutes Pub for food and gluten free beer, which rocked. Dessert was back at St. Francis, which was good, and we all retired to our rooms very late.

Saturday - We went to Alpenglow Cafe for breakfast early, ate a nice breakfast, then wandered back to the hotel. Fish eye, Hornman and girl stayed at the hotel while a group of us took the Deschutes Brewery tour, which was fascinating. After the tour, a few hearty souls took a hike at the park while some of us returned to eat and drink. The Timbers match was at 4:30, so we all huddled into girl and I's room with the laptop, and watched a thrilling 1 - all draw. Ok, the match was boring at points, but getting a point was good, and the USL Live feed didn't suck. The rains came after the match, so we stayed close to the hotel, ate and drank until late. S3K's cousin came to visit later and hang out.

Sunday - We ate a hearty breakfast, and then wandered back home. S3K, dublinx and I had a TAFC match later in the day that we made it to in time to play. We played the full 90, and the result wasn't very good for us, but we held our own at points.


Old St. Francis is a beautiful old Catholic school that the McMenamin's brothers turned into a hotel, pub and theatre. They are famous for refurbishing properties, and they did a great job with this place. It was quiet, the rooms were great, and the staff absolutely took care of us, even asking us about the game result after they figured out we were soccer fans and there was a match viewing on Saturday. Can't say enough great things about them, although the only complaint is that your tortilla chips have some wheat in them, so please don't tell us they are wheat free.

Deschutes Pub was a blast, and we got great service, and drank gluten free beer. The pub, for being packed, served us promptly, and our server even took a group photo. Even the breakfast on Saturday and Sunday were good, leading me to think that Bend has great restaurants. The atmosphere was great, and we even got some comments about our Timbers gear, and a few folks saying "Go Timbers"

There are a lot of inside jokes and comments I could publish, but it wouldn't be nearly as funny as it was in the moment, but overall, thanks to the Row N folks that could attend, as it was fun, and thank you to Bend for putting on your good side for us to see this weekend. And for those of you that missed out, well, better luck on our next big trip coming soon. And for those of you going, some pictures for viewing.

Timbers thoughts - After the tough match on Tuesday in Kitsap, the Timbers traveled to the Carolinas for a Thursday tilt in Cary versus the RailHawks and then off to Charleston to face the Battery. The team was facing a tough stretch of games, but the depth and talent should make things competitive.

Thursday Vs. RailHawks - We watched at the Cheerful BullPen, and the game was indeed at a practice field, but the pitch seemed OK. Steve Cronin faced a few shots, and Suzuki had a few moments of goodness, but overall, the Timbers had a momentum advantage until a RailHawk was sent off for a tough challenge, and then the Timbers really struggled being a man up. No real good chances in the second half, but getting a scoreless draw meant no loss and one point for the trouble. Not a bad result.

Saturday Vs. Battery - The Timbers had never played well here, but they got off to a great start generating chances all over the pitch and causing the Battery defense some concerns. The first half was a back and forth affair, as after Portland's strong start, each side traded runs and good shot chances. The first half ended scoreless, and it was that way until Charleston took advantage of a defensive lapse and went up 1 to nil. Portland substituted some players, and leveled the score when Keita headed up a Hayes corner kick. The Timbers got more late chances, but in the end, the defenses held, and Portland earned another point with a 1 all draw.

Thoughts - I can't complain about no losses on the trip and points from each game, although it would have been nice to get at least one win. But our points streak from wins and draws pushes to 10 matches without a loss, and my hope is to keep it going. Defense and Cronin are very strong, as Cronin made some great late saves vs. Charleston. Midfield is still playing well, and Suzuki has played very well there the past few matches, as he is helping to create chances. Keita keeps up the hot scoring streak, and the team rolls on.

Other Notes:

The St. Johns Pub had standing room only for Sunday's match, and a few special Timbers guests. Wish we could have been there, but Bend took care of us. Nice to see the fans showing up for viewings, and watch your email for more information about upcoming road matches.

Next Timbers match is Tuesday in Sonoma County in the next round of the Open Cup. If the Timbers win, they host FC Puke Green on June 30th in PGE Park in the next round. Next league game is Friday night versus Minnesota at PGE with a special late kickoff of 8 PM, as the match is on Fox Soccer Channel.