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: - 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. - Match recap from the Offsides. - 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: - 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. - 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. - 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. - 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.

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