It's that time of summer when it just feels right to grab the kids, ice down the cooler, pack the tent, and load up the car to hit the open road. For the Portland Timbers, their saga begins tonight in Vancouver against the Whitecaps at 7:30 p.m. The game is on the the inter-radios and internets as is customary along with their Twitter feed.
But to get in a little deeper, this road trip comes at a critical time for Portland. While they are fresh from an invigorating exhibition friendly against Manchester City and have enjoyed a four game unbeaten streak in league play, they have not had the best of luck while playing in Vancouver having posted a 1-14-2 record over the past decade. Moreover, the Whitecaps are on a ten game unbeaten streak of their own and sit in first place in the NASL Conference.
And it doesn't get any easier. Following tonight's match and a brief stopover here in Portland to rest, the Timbers play AC St. Louis, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Rochester Rhinos within an eight day span beginning on July 28. It is this kind of road trip that can make or break a season. Let us hope that their journey is epic, that they get into some shenanigans along the way, and that they learn something about themselves on their quest for fun. [Note: Vid's got NSFW language. Just sayin'.]
More Timbers related news about their coaching search after the jump.
The rumor mill has been wheeling away over who the new head coach of the the Timbers will be. Gavin Wilkinson, the current head coach, is remaining with the team but will move into the Technical Director role as the club moves into Major League Soccer for 2011. The word on the street is that former Houston Dynamo assistant coach John Spencer is the top candidate. To be clear, it is NOT Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame . . . though that would be pretty fascinating too.
Rather, this Spencer—a proud Scotsman—has played for Glasgow Rangers in Scotland as well as Chelsea in the EPL among others. He spent a few seasons playing in the MLS prior to joining the Houston staff which he helped lead to two MLS titles. As of last week, Spencer resigned from the Dynamo to "pursue other career interests."
He's considered one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league and, it would seem, a coup signing for the Timbers. The team did interview Spencer earlier this year and say they will make an announcement in early August. While some may believe an established coach for an expansion team is a wise move, I think that given the structure already in place with the Timbers, a "new" coach with a "new" team is an exciting prospect as the team and the coach can progress together and build an entirely unique system.
HOWEVER. I was super-secretly hoping that cigar-chomping, Che Guevara tattoo-sporting, all around miraculously-legendary Diego Maradona would find his Argentine national team contract not renewed and he'd somehow continue his fascinating journey to Stumptown. Insane, you say? Most definitely. But his left-wing political views—to say nothing of his zest for life and constant lineup changes—would play so well in "Little Beirut." Alas, he's on with the Argentines for another four years which is good because the longer he coaches—regardless of location—the more we all get to watch the fireworks.