It's up to 14 games now, spanning three months, 26 points and uncharted miles of elevation in Major League Soccer's hierarchy. But step down into the Portland Timbers' locker room, and the word isn't exactly springing from everyone's lips.
"I haven't heard one guy talk about the streak," said Club Cap'n Jack Jewsbury last week, after Portland knocked off table-topping FC Dallas in an afternoon thriller here.
Chainsaw-proximity aside, the Timbers may be the only ones not buzzing aloud.
PTFC enters this afternoon's tilt with Colorado a win away from reaching the top of the Western Conference standings. They've already summited a number of MLS Power Rankings, and even fantasy nerds are beginning to take notice of the Rose City's realness.
"This group has something special," Jewsbury said. "And I've been in a locker rooms in the course of my career."
As I wrote about in this week's print edition, there's also a certain level of coolly collected calmness that starts at the top. Portland's turnaround under first-year coach Caleb Porter has been nothing short of a culture change. A club that was repeatedly kicked in the gut around this time last year has been reformed into a deep, versatile, experienced and resilient bunch that's about as well-rounded as it gets, leading the league in goals while earning shutouts in four of six matches. While most point to the Timbers' attack (Porterball! Whatever that is!), Porter says his fellas are becoming a "very good" defensive team, to boot. Andrew Jean-Baptiste and newly acquired Pa Modou Kah are playing beyond their time together after being thrust into starting roles earlier this week. Both are big, athletic and physical to be certain, but Jean-Baptiste says their success comes more from having "no worries" about whoever slides in.
“We just all know how to play with each other, no matter who it is,” Jean-Baptiste said earlier this week. “It’s crazy how it works, we have so many guys going in and out on the backline and we still manage to put up shutouts. It’s impressive, not many teams can do that."
Can they do it again? We have grey skies over Goose Hollow, but the top of the points table is still within sight. So click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action, on and off the pitch.
You know a team is in good form when the importance of a game is bandied about like a Diego Valeri through-ball into the box. After all, nothing says "we're legit" more than being involved in what's expected to be a real dandy against the top team in the league.
Relevance, after all, is the highest form of flattery. Especially with six months left in the season.
"It's our biggest game to this point," said defender Michael Harrington, describing this afternoon's clash of two of best of West. At training yesterday, Cap'n Jack Jewsbury agreed. And when Capt. Will Johnson was asked about the importance of Portland's next 10 days, he answered with a pair of questions.
“Are we going to be fighting for first in the West?" he said. "Or are we back to clawing for a playoff spot?”
Today could be indicative, despite a number of notable absences on both sides. Portland is missing budding star Rodney Wallace (he's still kickin' it with the Costa Rican national team) but Donovan Ricketts and Ryan Johnson will be back. The Hoops will be without leading scorer Blas Perez and former Timber Kenny Cooper, the latter of which flew home this morning to attend to a "family emergency."
Still, head coach Schnellas Hyndman's club is as dangerous as its 28 points from 14 matches suggests. They had a nine-game unbeaten streak earlier this season and have TWO starters who roll with single names (Michel and Jackson). Legit. Portland, of course, is unbeaten in 12 matches—they haven't lost since MARCH, when Hugo Chavez's body was still warm (too soon?). Can the Timbers make it a baker's dozen?
It's a Chamber of Commerce-type day in Goose Hollow. If you're not already here, go ahead and click past the jump, and follow along as I deftly describe all the action—on and off the pitch.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies were the toast of the town two weeks back (along with a certain New Caledonian) after the pluck NASL squad upended the hated Sounders to knock loathsome Seattle out of the U.S. Open Cup early for the first time in five years.
But tonight, Ralph's Mob reacquaints itself with your Portland Timbers, eager to earn a Northwest sweep. The Rowdies' supporters group arrived in J-WF just after 6:30 p.m. and for a moment at least, their voices were louder than Timbers Army.
Yeah, that probably won't last.
Coming off a rather "meh" draw in which they yielded a pair of second-half goals, the Timbers look to give Tampa Bay the 'ol Wilmington treatment and advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a win tonight. The Timbers have longest unbeaten streak going in Major League Soccer (they haven't lost since MARCH) but kick off a four-game, 12-day stretch this evening. With Western Conference-leading Dallas heading into town on Saturday, Portland coach Caleb Porter will likely be mindful of his gents' legs. After all, as Capt. Will Johnson pointed out, "it's not humanly possible for a guy to play four games in 12 days, or so, at a high level."
So is it possible for Tampa Bay to pull off an upset tonight? The defending NASL champs are right in the middle of their league's table but are 4-1-1 on the road this season. Their chances may be as dreary as the weather in Goose Hollow tonight, but stranger things have certainly happened.
There are plenty of good seats available in The Jelly tonight, but if you're staying dry and sitting at home, click past that jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action on and off the pitch.
You can't NOT mention Cal FC in a Timbers U.S. Open Cup live blog, so I'll only do it once. There.
Of course, now that we're on the subject, if 2012's shock heard 'round Soccer City taught us one thing, it's that you can never count out an underdog—like, ever. Further proof, it would seem, arrives tonight from Wilmington, N.C., where a struggling USL Pro League team called the "Hammerheads" sits 11th in a 13-team league with losses in every road match and a bleak outlook one-third of a way through its season. Oh, and they're probably exhausted, to boot: Since playing eight days ago in Austin, players have flown back to Wilmington, then bussed 600+ miles to Orlando and Tampa Bay for weekend matches, then flown Monday from Tampa to Portland. They'll fly back for a match on Saturday night before taking on two of the top USL Pro teams on the road over the next two weeks. Phew.
So can these well-traveled Wilmingtonians give Timbers Army the most unimaginably terrible case of deja vu—like ever? I'll say the same thing I said about this time last year—"naaaaaaaaaah." As rocky as Portland appeared in late May of 2012, they look just as smooth in 2013. Unbeaten in 11 matches, the Timbers are second in the Western Conference and seem increasingly dangeronfident (*coined!) by the week. Sure, Portland's lineup tonight may not feature every regular, but another early exit from our nation's oldest footy tourney?
“That’s not going to happen on our watch,” said coach Caleb Porter this week, noting while the team is encouraged by its trajectory, a lack of trophies in its MLS era still drives them. "So this is an opportunity to do just that and win a trophy. “
It'll take five wins, starting tonight. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves (just ask Seattle). Because nothing's guaranteed. Even road-weary minor league teams have a chance. Why else would you click past the jump for more?
Prior to the Timbers' season opener in March, team owner Merritt Paulson used a slightly modified version of a Timbers Army chant to ask the question on every fan's mind.
"We'll sing for you, Timbers," he tweeted on March 3. "Will you finish the fight?"
The answer appears to be a resounding "YES."
Portland once again proved it's not a team to be counted out on Saturday: The Timbers rallied twice to shock a large swath of soccer-loving British Columbia and earn a 2-2 draw against rival Vancouver, leveling the playing field in the race for the Cascadia Cup.
Down a goal and a man after a dubious straight-red-card sent Futty Danso to the locker room, Jose "Trencito" Valencia
caught chested down a Hail Mary pass from Will Johnson, calmly cut back and scored his first career MLS goal to kick Portland's unbeaten streak ahead to a historic 10 straight matches. An improbable result? Sure, but with these 2013 Timbers, improbability is slowly becoming more impossible to define.
“This team just seems to have that ‘never quit, refuse to lose’ [attitude]," said coach Caleb Porter postgame. "And you hope you can kind of harness it in a team.
"Some teams just never have it, but this team has it."
You simply couldn't say the same for the 2011 and 2012 Timbers. Road deficits seemed hopeless to overcome. Fans spent the final 15 minutes of matches searching for positives—moral victories to cling to. Now supporters spend that same time expecting something special to happen.
"You fight and you try because we’ve got a thousand fans that sit up in the stands who expect nothing less," said Johnson, who scored on a penalty kick in the 52nd to level the match. "We recognize we’ve got to fight even if it doesn’t look like there’s any chance and the task looks impossible."
Video highlights and official recap after the jump.
UPDATE: The Timbers dominated Chivas USA in every facet of the game to run away with a 3-0 victory on Sunday afternoon. Undefeated in nine straight, Portland sits all alone in second place in the Western Conference.
That's right, a team that only a mother could love last season is looking like a serious contender 11 games into its new era. And according to coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers are "just scratching the surface" on the possibilities.
"We're not where we want to be yet, which is what makes it scary," Porter said. "We can be even better."
Wallace—blossoming before our very eyes in the first-year coach's system—scored in the 34th minute of a first half owned by Portland. But they weren't done.
"As soon as came into the locker room, coach said it himself," said defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste. "He wanted two more goals."
And he got 'em. Diego Valeri scored in the 70th minute, and just for good measure (and perhaps because the Timbers aren't home again until June 15) Capt. Will Johnson netted another in stoppage time.
"We have a good group and we have good chemistry," Wallace said. "We're all flowing right now. The thing about this group is we like winning. It just shows on the field."
It was certainly a beautiful Mother-lovin' afternoon in Goose Hollow for Timbers fans. So put those flowers in a vase and click past the jump for FULL UNCUT video of Porter's postgame presser and more.
Are the Timbers...dare I say...legit?
UPDATE: Hmmm...maybe we table that discussion for next week, yeah? The Timbers thoroughly dominated The Revolution on Thursday night but couldn't quite find that final touch as the New England escaped The Jelly with a scoreless draw.
That's right, 90 minutes of soccer and no goals. Have at it, soccer haters. Done? OK, good, because Portland extended its franchise-best unbeaten streak to seven by out-shooting New England 22-12 and maintaining possession 67% of the match. They had nearly twice as many total passes (488-228) and won 55% of duels. Ah, but something was missing.
"Today was a good reminder that it's not just gonna happen," Timbers coach Caleb Porter said in his shortest (but most curt!) postgame presser of the season. "We certainly had enough chances to score the goal to win the game, but in the end you gotta credit their goalkeeper who made some great saves. I also felt a part of that was us not being as sharp as we could've been in the final third."
Capt. Will Johnson said the Timbers played well enough to win.
"You get a certain amount of chances at this level, and you have to put 'em away," Johnson said. "We could've focused a little more on the defensive side. At home, you gotta win your games. That's our mindset."
Click past the jump for so much more, including FULL VIDEO of Porter's postgame presser, more quotes from the locker room and minute-by-minute descriptions of all the action, on and off the pitch.
Three-thousand people packed the North End of Jeld-Wen Field this morning for one reason: Atticus Lane-Dupre wanted to play.
The eight-year-old learned he had cancer last fall. After missing his team's last soccer match of the season, Atticus hooked up with Make-A-Wish Oregon to put together a pick-up game between his side—The Green Machine—and your Portland Timbers. Word spread, and soon, signs were being painted, chants were being re-written, and for one day, loyalties of supporters considered the most rabid in North America were cut.
I walked west on Morrison at around 11:15 a.m. and saw a view that looked more like a late Saturday afternoon: A line of fans rounded the corner from Timbers Army's usual entrance clear to the east grandstand. Walking into the stadium felt like a typical gameday—music in the air, flags placed at the end of rows, chants randomly rising left and right, people milling about excitedly with colorful banners and signs in hand. Sure, I figured TA would be organized (these, after all, are the same folks who regularly gather on weekends to rebuild fields around town and force the Red Cross to bring in second shifts for blood donations) but clearly they'd prepared to pull out all the stops.
The team, too: "THE GREEN MACHINE" lit up the visitor's side of the scoreboard. The video screen was on, and as the team's familiar public address announcer read off the names of the kids, their pictures flashed amid chants of "GM-FC" (a play on the team's typical pre-game chant of "PT-FC" for "Portland Timbers Football Club." The teams walked out of the tunnel side-by-side and onto the pitch as they do during MLS matches. The national anthem even had a color guard.
It was before noon on a Wednesday, but for the next half-hour or so, it felt like one of those endless summer days when time didn't matter—y'know, like when you were a kid? Timbers Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe, Mikael Silvestre, Futty Danso, Jake Gleeson, Ryan Kawulok and Sebastián Rincón took on the Green Machine in shifts of four wearing grins that matched their opponents'. The Green Machine jumped to a 3-0 lead before the game eventually pulled even behind Rincón, who seemed to especially embrace the "faux-villain" role by scoring four goals and egging on the crowd of yes-I-said-3,000 people. On this day, Timbers Army was clearly backing The Green Machine, modifying every chant and mercilessly booing every bit of success the home team enjoyed. At a certain point, Johnson (who traded jerseys with Atticus postgame) received a red card and was shooed off the pitch by Portland coach Caleb Porter.
And with the match tied at nine, the ball somehow found its way to Atticus for last-minute breakaway. He dribbled toward The Green Machine's nemesis—Rincón—while the 6-foot-1, 175-pound pro waved his finger. Atticus shot, and wouldn't you know, the ball went through Rincón's legs and into the net.
Game-winner. Green smoke. Tetris. Is it dusty in here?
More after the jump from a too-heart-swelling-for-snark (so don't even try it, buster!) event, including video highlights and more on Atticus' day.
San Jose Earthquake fans don't yet have a legitimate stadium of their own to trash, so they've apparently taking to messing things up around here.
The Portland Police Bureau is looking for a contingent of Earthquake fans who—while headed to watch their team's defeat yesterday—decided to make a brief pit stop to wreck a Saab.
According to a news release, a 40-year-old Lake Oswegoan named James Decker was en route to yesterday's game in that Saab. But he either forgot or wasn't privy to what is apparently a rule: You don't taunt Earthquake fans on game day.
While waiting at a stop light on West Burnside, Decker spotted a group of rival fans headed to the game. Most of them had their faces obscured ominously by scarves. Decker taunted them anyway, telling police he "held up his Timbers scarf and yelled to the group," the release says.
A woman from the group ran over to try and snatch the scarf and, when Decker attempted to drive off, was knocked over.
From the release: "Decker told police that a group of 10 to 12 males then ran over to his car and jumped on the hood and smashed the windshield. Decker told police that one male punched him through the open car window. Decker told police that someone opened the passenger side door of his car and punched him also."
Police are asking for information on the suspect—the woman who rushed Decker is described as "Hispanic female in her 20s, 5'6" tall, heavy build"—and would love to see any pictures you might have taken.
UPDATE: The Timbers prevailed in yet another testy match, defeating San Jose 1-0 on Sunday night behind a timely a pregame text message, an on-field homophobic slur and a world-class bender from Capt. Will Johnson.
The fiery Canadian's 78th minute free-kick-goal came after Earthquake forward (and former Timber) Alan Gordon called Johnson a "fucking faggot" prior to being sent off the field for his second yellow card of the night. Johnson responded by throwing up three fingers—one for each of the games Gordon figures to be suspended by a league with little tolerance for such hateful garbage.
"I think it's probably better I don't comment on that," Johnson said to reporters post-match. "It's a very sensitive matter."
Gordon was escorted out of the locker room by team officials and didn't speak from the press. The Earthquakes, did, however, issue a statement on Gordon's behalf: "I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone who watched tonight’s match on NBC Sports Network. The language I used came during a heated moment and does not reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian community. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions."
That ugly moment marred an otherwise great night for Portland, which won consecutive matches for just the third time in MLS franchise history. Porter, who noted Johnson spent 20 minutes after practice on Thursday booming those bending free kicks, said he texted Johnson and told him he had a "weird feeling" his on-field captain would deliver the same come match-time.
"I said, 'Why don't you smack a free-kick-goal today?'" Porter said postgame. "So when he hit it, I couldn't believe it."
Believe this: With the win, the Timbers vaulted from eighth to third in the MLS Western Conference table—a full seven points ahead of winless Seattle (oh by the way). And for the second staright week, Portland won by standing its ground in a chippy home match.
"[San Jose has] got a group of guys that roll up their sleeves and fight," Porter said. "We have no problem with it. We'll fight, too. We're not going to back down."
Click past the jump for minute-by-minute HOT LIVE BLOG ACTION, plus full video of Porter's postgame presser. Go!
UPDATE!: The Timbers defeated a bunch of ruffians from Houston 2-0 behind a pair of goals from Ryan Johnson and despite an equal number of nasty injuries to key starters.
Midfield magician Diego Valeri and burly defender David Horst left the field in the first half under varying scary levels of others' power—a wobbly Valeri on the shoulder of a trainer after being elbowed in the cheek and Horst laid out on a stretcher after an ugly ankle/knee/leg twist. With two starters down for the count in the first 30 minutes, the all-out-alpha-dog-scrap predicted by Porter ensued between the Dynamo and Timbers, with the halftime whistle seemingly throwing a bucket of cold water on a match ready to roar past chippy.
With the rest of Portland's starters still in the locker room before the second half started, Johnson emerged from the North End and jogged onto the pitch. He stood almost statuesque in the midfield circle looking South toward the goal he'd soon be attacking for nearly two minutes, seemingly ready to go.
Ten minutes later, he'd be celebrating the first of his two goals, sticking his tongue out to taste the driving rain as he ran to celebrate.
"I'm always pretty eager to get out there and play," Johnson said in the locker room after scoring in the 55th and 73rd minute—his first career brace. "I got a bit of a dead-leg and just kind of wanted to get out there and see how it felt. It felt alright to keep on going, but it doesn't feel very good right now."
What likely felt just fine was Porter's first victory as an MLS coach, though the rain-soaked, Timbers-Army-scarfed skipper didn't show it in his post-game press conference. After beginning by telling the media he'd "been a little long-winded in these" Porter spoke for 9+ minutes about "fantastic" performances from sudden offensive focal point Darlington Nagbe, superb sub Kalif Alhassan and a blossoming-before-our-very-eyes Rodney Wallace. He talked about a team gaining confidence in itself and the system and a coach learning right along with a new cast of players. He praised Jack Jewsbury's "mature" play on the back line and Johnson's "workmanlike" pressure, while noting midfielders Will Johnson and Diego Chara are "starting to figure out how to play together."
It all adds up a word Porter's used a lot since arriving in Portland.
"It really looked like what we want our identity to be here with the Portland Timbers," Porter said.
So much more after the jump, including locker room thoughts/quotes, a minute-by-glorious-minute live-blog of the Timbers' first win of 2013 and full, unedited video of Porter's postgame press conference. Go!
Last Saturday, after the Timbers outplayed but ultimately fell at home to Montreal, Portland captain Will Johnson wasn't exactly eager to accentuate the positive.
"The moral victories around here," he said, "are getting a little old."
Starting next week, of course. Because one more moral victory couldn't hurt, right? Especially when rivalry is afoot. Or when a dramatic ending gobsmacks rival fans prepping for an all-out celebration. Or when one second in time flips the perception of a team's first derby from "dud" to "dandy." The Timbers drew 1-1 with Seattle on Saturday night, making their point just in time and stunning a crowd of 40,000+ going away. It was a tie, but felt like a win for the way it happened. For a team just beginning its journey toward gelling, pulling even with Seattle was more than a moral victory—it was a clear victory for morale.
"It gives us a lot of belief moving forward," said coach Caleb Porter. "This team has a lot of mettle. I’m most proud of our effort defensively. We dug deep."
Rodney Wallace, who subbed on in the 80th minute, said his focus coming in late was to try to make a difference. Check. After spotting Andrew Jean-Baptiste with the ball and an opportunity to cross, Wallace knew he was open and made sure to stay onside. Check again, and with one lofted ball into the box, Jean-Baptiste went from the defender culpable for Eddie Johnson's early goal to the heads-up passer behind an equalizer Wallace snuck past the Sounders and into Cascadia lore. He ran toward the largest swath of Timbers Army at CenturyLink stadium, pulled his shirt to his lips, kissed the Timbers' crest and pointed at the fans.
“It just shows that everybody’s tuned in," Wallace said. "Everybody is ready to compete, from the starting 11 to the guys that come in, the coaching staff, the training staff, everybody is on the same page. This year we want to be successful and points like this is what gets us there.”
Johnson called snatching a point in Seattle promising, positive and something that's taking the team in the right direction. Still, he said, three games in, there's plenty of work to be done. But rest easy, Portland—there's time: Without a match until March 30, Porter has nearly two weeks to tinker with a squad reverberating on a high note.
"We’re fighting ourselves," Johnson said. "We’re fighting a lot of adversity. We could easily be 0-3 right now. This group could be sitting on zero points, getting ready to blow this thing up. We never panicked, we never wavered."
The Timbers return to action next Saturday, March 30, at Colorado. They return home on April 6 against Houston.
Build a bonfire—Seattle is atop the minds of Timberland. The crown jewel of North American soccer rivalries kicks off at 5 p.m. today with the first salvo in a heated rivalry renewed for the 80th time. It's derby day in Cascadia. Let's go to press!
Cast those road-weary woes asunder, comrades. The Timbers have certainly stalled along their fair share of MLS journeys, but this new-look bunch is optimistic they can kick-start the season with three points away at the arch-rivals.
Portland and Seattle? Yeah, hate's the right word.
The attack looks fine and all, but...Portland needs to show improvement in an aspect of the game that hasn't exactly been the Timbers' calling card this young season. This guy knows what I'm talkin' about.
Will Seattle fall into a little lull after a big win over Mexican side Tigres on Tuesday? The Timbers shouldn't count on it, even if Sounders coach Sigi Schmid says it's only human nature for his team to let up a touch today.
Caleb Porter knows plenty about DeAndre Yedlin, and not just because the 19-year-old has been one of Seattle's best in the early going. Porter coached the Seattle native at Akron, along with midfielder Steve Zakuani, who described Portland's new coach as intense, headstrong, and a little chatty: “He would never, ever change his style. Never, ever. He believes in it so much. (In December 2011), a few of us were back at his house—we went to see him for a bit—and he spoke for three hours on his soccer philosophy, and he just wouldn’t stop. He’ll never change that style."
Portland looks more dangerous than last year, says Seattle supporters blog Sounders at Heart, which, in related news, sounds scared.
Trademark-up! MLS' offseason attempt to put a stamp on the Cascadia Cup is the silver elephant in the stadium this evening. After an offseason of lawyering up and careful conversation, Paul Kennedy of Soccer America says the whole issue boils down to trust: "It's an important test of how MLS handles the delicate balance of protecting its 'corporate' interests and nurturing the independent or alternative soccer culture that thrives in the Northwest."
Hey, nice timing there. Newly signed Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins' first match as a Sounder could be today.
How's your Caleb Porter impression coming along? Impress your friends by reading aloud from the transcripts of his Thursday media teleconference! You're welcome.
Need more time to get into the groove of the season? Not feeling so jacked about this one? Still getting adjusted to daylight savings? You're officially out of excuses.
I'll just leave this article about former Sounder Roger Levesque right here.
Know thy enemy. 5mTKO offers its weekly assessment of opponents' shortcomings, and it certainly lives up to the billing during rivalry week. You'll be bule if you miss it.
They'd much rather have six points, but after Donovan Ricketts won MLS Save of the Week 2 following Diego Valeri's Goal of the Week 1, Portland is atop of the table in online poll victories.
And speaking of Valeri, find out more about the Timbers' new Argentinian star in this profile. I don't care for the writer, but the psychedelic illustration of Valeri pretty much rules.
Former Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins was a fan favorite in the Rose City before being unceremoniously swapped last season for current goalie Donovan Ricketts. He's still a tad touchy about the whole thing, and on Saturday night, Timbers Army was quick to show the 2011 Supporters Player of the Year there were no hard feelings coming from the North End.
During pregame warm-ups, the Army mistook Montreal backup Evan Bush (and his shaved head) for Perkins, and began chanting the latter's name. Oops. The actual Perkins then got a hearty cheer when lineups were announced and an even heartier boo when he took his time over the ball (read: stalled a bit) while Portland was scrambling to find a way to tie late during Saturday night's 2-1 loss. But it was after the game that TA's feelings for the ex truly surfaced, when just after the final whistle, Perkins immediately turned toward the Army had applauded them.
Again, the Army chanted: "PER-KINS, PER-KINS, PER-KINS." How nice, right? That old friends can re-connect?
Not every Timber thought so: Injured defender David Horst (another fan fave, it should be noted) took to Facebook and gave his candid assessment of the spontaneous love-fest, saying it was "frustrating" to see fans cheer for an opposing player right after their own team just ran their asses off for 90 minutes.
Timbers Army's Garrett Dittfurth responded later that evening, reminding the team that if they remember the name on the front of the jersey (Alaska Airlines? Oh, right, Portland Timbers!) the fans will remember the name on the back.
So whatdya think, Blogtown? Should TA have cheered Perkins or given him the cold shoulder? Let's put it to a poll!
It's pretty well established that disliking Canadians can be difficult.
You want to—especially tonight, when the Timbers welcome the Montreal Impact to The Jelly for a 7:30 kick—but it's no easy task. Canadians (or, more specifically to Quebec, Canadiens) are such a friendly sort; they season our steaks something fierce, they gave us Leonard Cohen, and just last week, they delivered Soccer City, USA the gift of a Seattle loss.
And they're tickled pink to be in the Rose City for the first time as an MLS side, having trained in Portland all week following their win at the CLink.
"Playing in front of good crowds like this one," said Montreal captain Davy Arnaud, "is always fun and easy to get up for."
So friendly! And, of course, familiar: Former PTFC keeper Troy Perkins returns to J-WF, still a bit bent about being unceremoniously shown the door and dubbed the wrong end of an "upgrade." Since the great goalie swap of Aug. 2012, it's clear each side has improved for the better—and what would've been a snoozer of a matchup a year ago is perhaps the most intriguing tilt of the MLS schedule this week.
*UPDATE!* Montreal's defense hunkered down and held off the Timbers 2-1, despite being walloped in nearly every offensive category.
"The moral victories around here are getting a little old—everybody realizes that," said Timbers captain Will Johnson after Portland out-shot (19-9) and out-possessed (63%-37%) the Impact but couldn't rally from a two-goal deficit. "We're starting slow. It's frustrating."
Montreal's Hassoun Camara bicycled his side to 1-0 lead in the 30th minute off a set piece, while Felipe Martins scored unmarked in the 60th minute following a long ball to fresh-off-the-bench sub Andres Romero. Portland got on the board in the 80th minute when Ryan Johnson ran into the end of a lovely Ben Zemanski cross, but former Timbers keeper Troy Perkins and the Montreal defense held firm to win their second road game to start the season.
"It's disappointing to dominate like we did and not get the result," said Timbers coach Caleb Porter. "Stats are stats, they don't always tell the story. In the end, we've got to get results."
Click past the jump for all your live-blog needs, along with FULL, UNCUT VIDEO of Porter's presser and more reaction from the locker room.
[INSERT FRENCH GREETING HERE] Here's a sentence that would've seemed laughable a few months ago: Tonight's 7:30 meeting between the Montreal Impact and Portland Timbers at J-WF may very well be the Major League Soccer's game of the week. Oui c'est vrai! Let's go to press!
Don't call for a comeback. The Timbers won't have to rally if they find their rhythm faster and avoid "silly mistakes," says PTFC coach Caleb Porter. That might mean an extra dose of early patience, says Paul Danzer of The Columbian, who suggests the Timbers settle down and settle in against the opportunistic Impact.
Troy Perkins runs into his ex for the first time tonight, as the scorned former Timbers keeper faces his former club/replacement Donovan Ricketts (awkward) in front of the Army that loved him so. Awwwkward. "The way I had to leave there was tough for me," Perkins told the AP. "One day, I get the phone call and the next day, I'm gone and I haven't been back since." Awwwwwwwkward.
After his jet-lagged debut had Timbers fans reaching for the Dramamine, seasoned defender Mikaël Silvestre is looking to keep the wings level following his first full week of training.
"You could feel on Sunday that [the Timbers] were going to at least equalize," said Montreal coach Mauro Biello, who was at Jeld-Wen Field last week for the Timbers fierce rally and draw with New York.
A clash of styles with a litany of intriguing match-ups awaits, says Kamal Hylton of Red Nation, who predicts a 2-1 Timbers win.
Red Bulls coach Mike Petke wasn't pleased with Porter's postgame comments last week about gifting goals and jamming the ball down New York's throats. Huh, can't imagine why. "If you want to do motivating," Petke said, "do it behind closed doors, don’t do it in the press." Yeah, I disagree.
Depth at right back will be a touch shallow for the next four weeks after Sal Zizzo underwent left knee surgery to fix up a torn meniscus.
Need even more words about soccer? Check back later tonight for some High-Pitched Live Blog Action! Awwwwwwwwwyeah.
Chants fill westbound MAX trains. The lines on a widened pitch are a fresh, bright white. Eight ropes hang from the roof of the North End.
We're LIVE at Jeld-Wen Field for an opening night of Major League Soccer that feels a bit like a "do-over" for the Portland Timbers. Reset, reboot, revamp—whichever way you slice it, a franchise is about to be reborn.
Caleb Porter makes his MLS coaching debut while 13 new faces dot a roster built to thrive in his pass-happy, possession style. Designated Player Diego Valeri and veteran defender Mikael Silvestre make their league debuts, while new captain Will Johnson and fellow offseason additions Ryan Johnson and Michael Harrington give their first listen to Timbers Army. We know we'll hear from them, but what sort of team will the TA be cheering for?
Porter has talked plenty about creating a new identity for Soccer City, USA, one that echoes a certain song that's often heard reverberating across the stadium this time of year.
We’ll sing for you Timbers
‘Til you finish the fight
There’s a party in Portland
No one’s sleeping tonight
“We have a group of guys who aren’t going to quit this year,” Porter said. “If we’re not playing good soccer, we’re going to fight."
And I'm going to blog. Click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action, on and off the pitch.
Third time's the charm? The Timbers officially hit reset on the franchise at 4:30 this afternoon, as Portland hosts the club sponsored by Red Bull from New York to open its third Major League Soccer season. Opening day! Let's go to press!
He's practiced just twice as an official member of the team, but 35-year-old Portland defender (and Manchester United/Arsenal alum) Mikael Silvestre is taking a probable start and ongoing role as mentor in stride.
New coach, new captain: It'll be Capt. Will on the pitch and Cap'n Jack in the locker room as Johnson and Jewsbury tackle leadership duties in tandem this season.
Former Timbers Eric Alexander and Kosuke Kimura return to the Rose City, and the latter is encouraging his new 'mates to soak in the atmosphere and use it to their advantage.
Of course Timbers Army has its own beer, which, shockingly, is not a spiced IPA.
Timbers owner Merritt Paulson wants the 2013 season to be less about him, says Merritt Paulson in an intriguing profile of Merritt Paulson by Geoffrey C. Arnold of The O.
Get ready for a 2-2 draw tonight, says Chris Rifer of Timbers Army, who (spoiler alert!) looks into his "crystal log" to predict the result of every regular season game ahead.
Dept. of Housekeeping: The Timbers chose the services of French striker Frederic Piquionne over hometown kid Danny Mwanga, while officially parting ways with creative midfielder Franck Songo'o and defender(/franchise leader in community events attended) Chris Taylor.
Dept. of Know Your History: Roberto at 5mTKO dribbles down memory lane for some great moments of home openers past while dusting off an obligatory image of Pelé running onto the pitch in Portland because a New York team is in town.
Dept. of Shameless Self-Promotion: Check back at 4:30 p.m. for some High-Pitched Live Blog Action! Until then, feel free to watch this on repeat:
Searching for one chanting, cheering example that the world is a more tolerant place?
Look no further than the North End of Jeld-Wen Field this season, says HuffPost writer Steve Clare, who highlights Portland's own Timbers Army as just the sort of crowd that would accept an out athlete in professional team sports. Clare's Monday piece is an open letter of sorts to former US National Team star Robbie Rogers, who simultaneously came out and retired from professional soccer earlier this month. Clare hopes the 25-year-old Rogers returns to the game, confident that fans will focus more about his on-pitch play than off-field life. And he cites Portland's supporters as a group who'd be, well, supportive. One case in point? The rainbow flag that hangs from Sunday White's capo stand, which sports more colors than green and white.
"I am an out and proud lesbian in a committed relationship," White told Clare. "I bring that flag to every match because this is my home and I am proud of my community, family and support. I have only had positive responses from team, the town and the Timbers Army. If there are negative responses I would like to hear them. When there are negative comments on social media I am very active at educating that it is unacceptable."
It goes beyond social media. As Timbers Army's Andrew Brawley reminds
n00bs new fans who venture into the North End this season, there are rules for properly backing your team. The first?
Nothing racist/homophobic/sexist/etc. should come out of your mouth, fingers, whatever. We do not tolerate this AT ALL! The best way to not say anything racist/homophobic/sexist/etc. is to not be a racist, homophobe, sexist, etc. You will get tossed, and you won’t be welcome back. Ever.
The Timbers kick off their third MLS season against New York at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Caleb Porter had a fresh “NO PITY” scarf draped around his neck when he stepped into his postgame press conference following the Portland Timbers’ 1-1 draw with Stockholm’s AIK. As is the 38-year-old’s custom, three preseason home matches into his tenure as a professional coach, Porter didn’t wait for questions.
“Well,” he said, the slightest of grins breaking across his face. “I think we’re ready.”
With a lineup close to one that'll kick it during March 3’s Major League Soccer season opener, the Timbers’ attack looked increasingly dangerous on Saturday night while doubling up its Swedish guests on shots (22-11) and shots on goal (12-5). The scoreboard showed a tie, but it was Portland’s quick passing, movement away from the ball and touches galore that won the day. That, and what seems to be the new-look Timbers’ new-found ability to stay cool after conceding a goal.
“We're just not panicking,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe after AIK’s Henok Goitom sidestepped Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts’ aggressive challenge and converted from a thin angle in the 28th minute. “I like the way we're playing now. It's just more natural. You're doing what you know is right and what you feel is right.”
Nagbe and fellow midfielder Diego Valeri—a revelation thus far in a position of need for Portland—combined for nine shots, and the third-year player who shared a national title run with Porter at Akron assisted on Michael Harrington’s 75th minute equalizer.
“The attack's been great so far," Nagbe said. "Just tighten things up defensively a little bit, and we'll be good.”
Such tightening is sure to involve veteran newcomer and slated starter Mikael Silvestre (“We didn’t sign him to sit the bench,” Porter quipped), who’s awaiting visa clearance. With 2012 holdovers David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera injured, Porter threw rookie Dylan Tucker-Gangnes into the mix alongside second-year defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste a center back. Knowing the only thing at stake should AJ-B and DT-G experience growing pains in front of the announced J-WF crowd of 14,968 was an exhibition match, Porter saw opportunity for his young defenders to gain.
“I thought they grew up,” Porter said. “I've been seeing this team respond positively when their backs are against the wall. That leaves me with a great feeling moving forward. They're playing with a lot of swagger, a lot of confidence and a lot of mental toughness.”
Will Johnson, another veteran newcomer to a midfield already patrolled by the craftily stingy Diego Chara, said building fluidity on both sides of the ball will take time. There will be some games Portland gets it right, he said, and others where Timbers Army will leave disappointed. But the Canadian national teamer who wore the Captain’s armband on Saturday (and noted it’d be a “great honor” and “massive responsibility” should he wear be chosen to don it next week or beyond) said the team is in the right frame of mind as the the third-year franchise prepares to hit the reset button on its MLS experience.
“This group's got charisma, it's got character,” Johnson said. “It's a winning group. And when we finally get this thing sharp, it'll be fun.”
As Porter wraps up his press conference, bounding into the hallway and razzing a reporter about a headline choice, it’s clear he’s already having fun. I ask him how he likes his new scarf—given to him and other new players by Timbers Army as the team left the pitch. He can't help but gush a bit.
“I love them all, man, I love those guys,” Porter says, his voice dipping a bit. “Honestly, I want to win for them. I want to win for them so bad.”
Click past the jump for full video of Porter's postgame presser, along with the official recap and notes from the preseason finale.
We're almost there. But first, the marquee match of the preseason is set for 5(ish) tonight, when your Portland Timbers host Swedish side AIK to close out an offseason of change in Soccer City. New coach Caleb Porter said he'd put his best foot forward in tonight's finale, with a group similar to what we'll see when Portland officially kicks off its third Major League Soccer campaign on March 3. But before you scarf yourself—let's go to press!
Remember Sunday's starters against San Jose? Expect a similar crew, says Stacy Neve of Stumptown Footy, with the possible addition of former USSF Timber Futty Danso filling in for the banged up Hanyer Mosquera.
As former Jeff High star Danny Mwanga struggles to fit in as a "'tweener" in Porter's sytem, The Trib's Stephen Alexander reports the former No. 1 overall pick is taking a politically correct line on his difficulty earning playing time.
The Timbers leading scorer in 2012—Kris Boyd—is on the verge of returning to former club Kilmarnock in a move The Scottish Sun is calling "sensational." But not all Killie fans are thrilled by reuniting with a 29-year-old striker coming off a "hugely disappointing" stint in Stumptown, says The Scottish Express.
It's been quite an overhaul for the Timbers roster this offseason, as the club's depth chart has morphed around Porter's vision. Timbers Army's Chris Rifer says Porter's midfield makeover could create a "defensive nightmare" for opponents, but the team's own D is still hardly the stuff of dreams.
Portland bolstered its backline this week with the addition of veteran defender (and rum aficionado) Mikael Silvestre, a French World Cupper and Manchester United stalwart who trialed with PTFC in Arizona. They also nabbed another one of 68 (that's a rough estimation) players with Akron ties former Zips coach Porter tapped in the offseason, midfielder and dangerous free kicker Michael Nanchoff.
The Army will honor legendary mascot Timber Jim during a pregame presentation on the main capo stand.
Check back Sunday for a full recap and uncut video of Porter's postgame presser. Until then, a bit more from our Swedish visitors:
If you manage to get Timbers, Sounders and Whitecaps supporters to agree, you must be doing something right. Or, y'know, something terribly wrong.
On the same day the Timbers announced a major addition to their midfield, a slow-boiling disagreement between Major League Soccer and the folks who created the Cascadia Cup finally runneth over.
Members of Timbers Army, Seattle's Emerald City Supporters and the Vancouver Southsiders—who collectively created the Cup in 2004 to commemorate the top team in the Northwest each year—recently joined forces to buck an attempt by MLS to trademark "Cascadia Cup." As Prost Amerika reported on Sunday, the league attempted to register the term in Canada, raising the ire of fans who'd dreamed up the trophy before their teams' MLS eras even kicked off—when all three clubs played in the United Soccer League.
Today the TA, ECS and Southsiders' new joint entity—the Cascadia Cup Council—announced they'd filed a trademark registration application of their own here in the States.
"The three supporters groups have jointly used the Cascadia Cup mark for many years and have been the rightful owners of the mark," said a CCC press release. "Not only does the Cascadia Cup Council believe they rightfully own the trademark to Cascadia Cup but they also are of the belief they are the appropriate entity to protect the mark from third parties that are unaffiliated with the supporters groups in the Pacific Northwest."
MLS responded, saying it understands supporters' concerns and would meet with them in the near future. They insisted their trademark try was merely meant to put the league "in a position to protect the brand from exploitation by parties unaffiliated with the League and its supporters."
However that all shakes out, the Timbers' Cascadia Cup hopes for 2013 were certainly boosted today by the official addition of playmaking Designated Player Diego Valeri. (Yup, that's my segue) The 26-year-old attacking midfielder comes to Portland on loan from top-flight Argentinian side Club Atletico Lanus, where he's played nine seasons. Valeri has also picked up three Argentinian national team caps and played professionally in Portugal and Spain.
“We expect he will be one of the better playmakers in the league," said Timbers coach Caleb Porter. "But more importantly Diego fits our identity and his play should boost production to help the club win games."
In a Q&A posted on the Timbers' web site, Valeri had nice things to say about his new home:
What are your initial impressions of Portland as a city?
DV: Amazing. So beautiful. Today, I had my physical exams and we traveled all around the city. It is amazing. All the forests! It’s beautiful.
More on Valeri after the jump.
If the Cascadia Cup is to stay in Portland, the Timbers will need to leave Vancouver and Seattle with a few more points this season.
Major League Soccer released the Timbers' 2013 schedule, and with it, a home field disadvantage for Portland's supporters to retain the one thing that brought them joy in 2012.
Portland is away on four of six Cascadia dates in 2013, invading Seattle on March 16 and Aug. 25 and visiting Vancouver on May 18 and Oct. 6. That puts the Timbers—who won the Cup last year behind eight points in four home tilts—decidedly in the passenger seat for a repeat. In total, MLS slated 34 matches for PTFC—17 home and 13 nationally televised—between the season opener March 3 vs. New York and the season finale at Chivas USA on Oct. 26.
Holy Halloween, it's a haul—and one of the longest seasons in professional team sports (35 weeks!) stacked atop a North America's worth of travel make the rigors of MLS unique to any league. At his introductory presser on Tuesday, newly unveiled coach Caleb Porter emphasized that experience helps along the journey, which is why his biggest offseason moves have been adding MLS vets like Michael Harrington, Will Johnson and Ryan Johnson.
Ah, but did the schedule deliver any literally-on-paper advantages for Portland? Indeed, the Timbers are set up for a potential late-season playoff push, with no travel east of Salt Lake City after July 20 and five of their final eight MLS matches at home. This would be a good time to mention that a) The whole "Home vs. Road" thing matters because Portland was 1-12-4 away from J-WF last season, and b) That shit doesn't matter at all because there are moves to be made, matches to be played and identities to be built. In any case, Porter said he'll look to establish more consistency in Portland's gameplan, no matter whose pitch is involved.
"When you're adopting a completely different philosophy home and away, I personally don't think that's the right thing to do," he said. "Because you're sending mixed messages to your players. At home you're confident and playing to win, and on the road you're nervous [and] you're tentative. Maybe some of that played into the lack of road success [in 2012]. Perhaps."
Full schedule here. Portland hosts Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver on Aug. 3 and Seattle on Oct. 13. Individual game tickets go on sale Feb. 18.
Caleb Porter is more than a man with a plan—he's a builder with a blueprint.
So go the hopes of the Portland Timbers, who unveiled their new head coach in a morning press conference that introduced the serious and often-reflective Porter, 37, to Soccer City USA four weeks after his arrival in town. One of the most accomplished college coaches in the country, Porter offered this vision of a club that can now officially be called his:
"It's about winning," said Porter, who leaned forward and adjusted his scarf with a slight smile after being introduced by General Manager Gavin Wilkinson. "The most successful teams have continuity, a formula they follow, and a clear identity.
"We'll have a clear formula that we'll follow, and ultimately, every decision we make will be based on the way we're going to be playing."
That new way to play, Porter hinted, involves controlling the ball and dominating possession, and his style—labeled "aesthetically pleasing" by some, he #humblebragged—will require the right players. And no, that doesn't appear to include striker Kris Boyd, who Porter said "will have a hard time playing the way we want to play." Quick to note Boyd could fit nicely elsewhere, Porter went on to describe his system's ideal striker as "a bit more pacey, athletic, powerful..." Yes, that sounds a bit more like Bright Dike, who emerged as a starting forward late last season and whose stock has continued to rise in the offseason. Of course, any system on any pitch could find a use for seemingly emerging superstar and former Akron Zip Darlington Nagbe, a soon-to-be-third-year pro Porter said he expected bigger things from in 2013.
"I know what makes [Nagbe] tick and what buttons to push," Porter said. "My understanding of him and my ability to maybe manage and motivate him the right way will hopefully help—there's a trust there."
And trust me, there's much more after the jump. Go!
When Major League Soccer's transfer window opened Monday morning, the Timbers showed they were eager to jump.
Results of the flurry of telegraphed, then-trickled-out activity for Soccer City, USA? Three new players, five (maybe six?) farewells and various sums of allocation money exchanging hands. For those keeping score at home (just me?)—five press releases between noon and 3:35 p.m. Here's how it all went down:
—At high noon, the Timbers announced they'd swapped defender Kosuke Kimura and a second-round 2013 draft pick for homegrown rights to New York defender Bryan Gallego. Portland drops an earnest, but wildly inconsistent defender for a youngster who's already familiar with incoming coach Caleb Porter. And it's on...
—At 12:51, the Timbers said they'd acquired six-year vet Michael Harrington, who PTFC GM Gavin Wilkinson called "versatile" and "expected to fight for a starting position.” No pressure, though.
—At 1:20, the Timbers sent center-back Eric Brunner to back-to-back-MLS-Cup-runner-up Houston for an untold sum of allocation money. The owner of the Rose City's best celebration face—dogged by injuries/a concussion this season—said to fans, "it has been a pleasure playing for you." Timbers Army responded by simultaneously making this face.
—At 1:30, the Timbers announced they'd declined contract options on two players whose 2012s were highlighted more by their international play than games in green—Jamaican Lovel Palmer and El Salvadoran Steve Purdy. Say what you want about their quality (or the former's Bridgetown-burning via Twitter), but Palmer was never (ever) afraid to shoot and Purdy, I still contend, would be handy with a scythe in the event of the zombie apocalypse.
—At 1:51, Portland defender Steven Smith tweeted the Scottish equivalent of "bon voyage," thanking Timbers fans he called "by far the best in MLS." OK, Steven, you too.
—At 2:57, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson lamented the Michael Corleone-like elimination of the Timbers' fullback corp, twalling it "one of the worst parts" of his job.
—At 3:35, the deal of the day: The Timbers announced they'd acquired Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson—a 25-year-old Canadian international who reached career highs in goals and assists last season. Wilkinson said Johnson "brings a winning mentality that we feel will be very important to our culture," but perhaps more important to Timbers fans was an exuberant endorsement from beloved former captain Ian Joy, which is akin to Teddy Kennedy endorsing then-Sen. Obama back in '08 (when Johnson was winning MLS Goal of the Year honors).
So what did we learn today? For one, it's clear Porter wants a new defense, and like much of Portland, he's recognized the need starts at fullback. Smith came on strong at the end of the season, and Costa Rican national/probably-better-suited-for-midfield Rodney Wallace is reportedly on a deadline to reach a deal. But there's little doubt a defensive unit many fans were forced to watch through their fingers at times last season will be a group to keep an eye in early 2013.
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