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.