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I remember this feeling.

A loss, another loss. Closed practices. Rumors. Then the reality.

And then the ensuing fire. At the time, is was a feisty Scot striking out at a ridiculous suggestion. I read the accounts and I couldn’t stop smiling.

This time, the fire was less a blaze and more of a slow smolder, a building flame. Steady, but growing. And again, I’m left with this ridiculous grin.

Here. Go watch this.

Take a minute. Think it through. There’s a lot there to chew on.

Then go watch this.

We’re in the middle of a derby week that, to me anyway, hasn’t felt much like a derby week. With the concern over suspensions and injuries and whatever else might come up, I’ve had a hard time mustering the energy to get riled up.

Thankfully, Caleb Porter is on the job. For someone who professes a preference for keeping the highs low and the lows high, he seemed to go a little off-script today. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

Enough to take swings at MLS, PRO Referees and, tangentially, Jurgen Klinsmann, Clint Dempsey, and all of Seattle.

Bless his heart. I could not be happier. Someone please run an Ancestry.com search on him and tell me how far back the Scots are in his family tree.

Credit to Jamie Goldberg on those links. She does good work.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Timbers

 

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Everyone’s got an opinion.

It’s true. Everyone has an opinion and now you’re going to have mine.

At this point last year, I’d already declared victory. Two years ago, I was in a haze of expectation and blinded by a recently acquired love of an imported Scottish footballer. Three years ago, well, if you think I know nothing about soccer now, you should have seen me then.

So, our boys have two points over the first four matches of the 2014 campaign. This is not the end of the world. They’ve lost two on the road. Remember when they had that WHOLE SEASON wherein they won only one road match? I do. And I’m also quite certain that this particular group of players is not going to let that happen on their watch.

They’re not where they should be. They know that. They’re trying to fix it but, in the meantime, have been hit with a handful of injuries, have been hampered by a not-yet-fully-fit-no-matter-what-Porter-says Diego Valeri, and now have two of their most steadfast players on suspension for controversial red cards.

This is fun, isn’t it?

Let’s add a little bit more fuel to the fire: Darlington Nagbe came off at the half during Saturday’s match with a reported muscle strain. Let’s also add that Paparatto and Kah have repeatedly erred on the side of recklessness and Urruti just is not the forward we’re looking for.

DOOM AND GLOOM. THE SKY IS FALLING.

Seriously, come in off the ledge. It’s not that bad. They’ll fix it. They know they have to. And I know you all hate this by now, but we’re four games in to a 34-game season. If we’re a month down the road and the Timbers still haven’t logged a win, feel free to flip out then. Until then, maybe try some tai chi or something.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Timbers

 

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Calm down

A lot of people were right on the edge after the preseason.

Quite a few joined them after last week’s draw with Philly.

But, seriously, come back to stable ground, kids.

There have been lapses, both offensive and defensive, but we’ve seen one competitive match. One.

The Rose City Invitational was a nice warm up but let’s be honest: it was just that. A warm up.

I’m not here to make excuses. There’s really no need. Last weekend’s match against Philly was a decent performance but, listening to the players afterward, we all know they recognize it wasn’t good enough.

In the post-match presser, Caleb Porter said he hoped the last-minute La Gata goal would be the one that finally unlocked the Timbers potential to score. I’m pretty sure he’s right. And I’m also pretty sure that if they see two, three goals against Chicago, they can ride that momentum into Colorado on the 22nd.

Early points. That’s the important thing here. My one and only preseason prediction was that the Timbers will both win and lose more games this season than they did last season. In 2013, we saw four games pass before the Timbers notched that first win – IN APRIL. And we all felt those missing points late in the season when the possibility of the Supporters Shield was slowly slipping away.

More wins. We will need more wins if we want to see trophies raised.

And the team knows this. This is a team, while faltering on defense against set pieces, hasn’t seen a goal from the run of play yet this year, preseason included. That’s kind of a big deal. We can slight the faults of the new guys, and we can point to past mistakes of the veterans, but we still have to recognize that what we’ve got is nothing to sneeze at.

Chicago comes into this match having dropped points to Chivas last week. Chivas. They lost to Chivas. The Fire might not be the best team out there, but I’m guessing that loss might be motivational. What I’m not sure of is how far that motivation will carry a team with an injured Mike Magee and a potentially-starting Lovell Palmer.

***

If you’re following along, if you care at all, I’ve been doing slightly more journalistically-styled match previews over at Prost Amerika. They’re awful, but they have what information I can glean from the interwebs about each upcoming match. And, hopefully, I’ll get better at them if Prost keeps letting me write them. And if I get better at them, maybe I’ll be writing more stuff over there. Don’t get your hopes up.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2014 in Timbers

 

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On the eve of the 2014 MLS season

It was the shortest offseason many of us have known. We left Jeld-Wen Field in late November, P-T-F-C still ringing in our ears, and were huddled around our computers when our Timbers took the field in Arizona for their first preseason match just ten weeks later.

Jeld-Wen is now Providence Park. Our team has been revamped, players have come and gone. We gathered briefly, and somewhat quietly, for the preseason tournament at our ground, but it wasn’t what we needed.

What we need is less than 24 hours away: a gathering of our tribe, our congregation, our family in our spiritual home, our cathedral. This time, it’s real.

It all starts here.

Our flags have been repaired. Our tifo (OF WHICH WE DO NOT SPEAK) has been painted. We are primed. Ready.

The building sense of anticipation, expectation is palpable. The players are resolute. They will win this. They will do it for us. And we will be there for them, to cheer them on, to lift them up should they falter, to celebrate their successes.

This season will not be easy in any sense. We’re already off to a rocky start with this morning’s announcement of a lockout of PSRA referees. We whine and complain about the quality of the officiating in our league, but we’re faced with the possibility of watching even sketchier officiating over the coming weeks as PRO and PSRA negotiate.

Thankfully, we have Will Johnson. I’m sure he won’t mind stepping in to advise the officials if their calls are askew.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/video/2013/09/07/yellow-will-johnson-counts-8-yards-and-booked-dissent#ooid=V0djdiZTr1L7AwPUJuyZDpqJBfgPa2dv

Beyond the referee situation, and despite this flying in the face of popular opinion, I think the Timbers might struggle to gain momentum. I don’t have any facts to back this up so don’t yell at me. The issues we saw in preseason (the Papa own goal, a couple of defensive lapses) are likely fixed by now. I can’t imagine Caleb Porter hasn’t taken the time to address them.

I just have this feeling. It’s less about the team and more about the huge expectations I have for them. There is such promise, such hope. How can they possibly live up to it? The only answer: win EVERYTHING.

Let’s do this thing.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Timbers

 

He’s a nice guy.

I came face to face with Caleb Porter three times over the last year. I came away each time confused, fascinated and slightly scared. 

The first was his introductory press conference. In a room full of people who didn’t yet know what to make of him, he took the reins of a club that had spiraled downward the season before and, in doing so, set the tone for what was to come. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. What would the dynamic be between Porter and Gavin Wilkinson? Would Porter be as soundbite worthy as Spenny had been? How would he handle the mess he’d gotten himself into?

He handled it with brutal honestly. He said things I wasn’t prepared to hear. He all but turned my beloved (and somewhat moody) Scottish striker loose, much to the noticeable discomfort of GW, and grounded expectations by saying, flat out, he didn’t expect this to be a walk in the park. He put everyone on notice. By the time he stopped talking, I could scarcely breathe. 

I didn’t find myself that close to him again until October in Vancouver. 

We’d survived the summer, the Timbers had advanced through several rounds of USOC, and were on the verge of earning a playoff spot. But a last ditch effort to stay in the Cascadia Cup race had fallen short with the Timbers loss to the Caps just moments before.

I’d tagged along with one of the Vancouver-based ProstAmerika writers to hear what Martin Rennie had to say before joining a small group who had gathered around Porter outside the Portland locker room. 

He looked up when I joined the group and for a moment, we locked eyes. He has a spark, an intensity, a ferocity that I know that I’ve never seen in anyone else anywhere ever. Experiencing it up close is something akin to walking into a sliding glass door: it stuns you for a minute until you figure out what just happened. 

Standing on the sidewalk outside BC Place an hour later, I tried to recall anything he’d said and I couldn’t. None of it. I remembered every word Rennie had said, and most of what Will Johnson and Donovan Ricketts had told us in the locker room after, but not a single word Porter had said stayed with me. He’d scared them all away. 

The third time was just before the holidays, in a bar in NW Portland. He and members of the team’s coaching staff were there for a going away party and some friends and I were there for, well, beer. We kept our distance, for the most part, until he stopped us on the way out.

“Which one of you is the one who’s scared of me?” he asked my group as we were leaving. I raised my hand.

“You don’t have to be scared of me. I’m a nice guy.” 

 

I explained to him how I came to be scared of him – his intensity in Vancouver at the top of the list – and he shook his head. “No. I’m not scary. I just hate to lose.”

Good.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Timbers

 

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From Matthew, otherwise known to the Twitter faithfull as @PDXWilly:

I remember the moment well. Earlier that day, I was absolutely gutted to learn I’d be off on a business trip for the Timbers’ first home playoff game. Being an event that gets me incredibly excited just to think about, I was now going to be stuck in Texas, not only unable to attend the match in person, but quite possibly not be able to find a bar willing to put the game on. I’d miss it entirely. Gutted I say. Gutted.

Then twitter lit up. We’d play leg 2 of this series on Thursday the 7th instead. Flights were changed, plans were made. Arriving an hour before the gates opened, I’d drive straight from the airport to take up my position at the 107ist table, and my wife would meet up with me for an amazing Timbers-filled evening.

The only problem with this plan was Etta, our little drooly 5-month old daughter- the one born with a smile sure to cost me a pony one day-goes to bed at 7. A couple of calls yielded pay dirt. Leslie would put her to bed, and a sitter would come and hang out while she went to the game.

The plan was on.

On Sunday morning I woke up, kissed my daughter goodbye, and headed to the airport. Waiting for a delayed flight, I started going through videos on the Timbers website, enjoying a look back at what has truely been a remarkable season, played by remarkable atheletes, and watched by remarkable supporters.

Watching one-by-one took an hour or so, and then I came across one by Portland’s attacking midfielder, Diego Valeri.

You may or may not know this, but he comes from a place that’s incredibly violent when it comes to sport. You know, the kind of place that would kill Mozart for chiming in with an E sharp when it really should be a B minor.

Seriously? He could have gone almost anywhere. England. Spain. Mars.

That’s right. Motherfucking Mars. He’s that good.

He didn’t.

He chose our little outpost in the middle of nowhere..Our home of a sitcom that was boring before boring was cool. That’s right. Portland. Why?

His kid.

That’s right. The love he has for his child has made him take his craft to a foreign outpost of support in a country not known for valuing his talent..sure, partially out of safety, but really, mostly out of pure love. Oh we’ve returned it. And he’s returned it back. Rinse…and repeat.

Turns out he’s given me something else. Something intangible: a dose of perspective. Deciding to think over the flight to Seattle, and my awaiting connection.

I had my decision made by the time I crossed the Columbia, and altered Thursday’s plan a little.

I land at 5pm.

I’ll get home in time to watch my daughter splash around in her bath, dry her off, feed her one last bottle for the evening, sing her a lullabye, put her to bed…

…and then settle in to watch Diego and company advance his teammates, supporters, city, and state to the next round of the playoffs.

The choice is easy really.

So I’ve got a couple of tickets in my hand, and thought maybe we could do some good for them; hell, the perspective this team has managed to give me is worth 20fold the value of the tickets. Maybe? Just maybe? We can do some good with them.

To that end of this rambling post, I donated my tickets to the Army, who will raffle them away tonight at 9pm. So go throw 5 bucks at it if you will; who knows, the cash we raise might just bring us a new Diego, hopefully one with the same perspective as the current one.

RCTID

The link to the raffle page on TimbersArmy.org can be found here: http://timbersarmy.org/playoff-tickets-raffle

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Laughter and faith

Martin Luther was a rebel. A rabble rouser. A bit of a hoolie. He got mad and took a stand and nailed his words to the doors of a church.

And he said some smart stuff.

I’ve been stressed out for the last couple weeks. First with the Chivas nightmares and now with the looming prospect of marching into Centurylink with 1,200 of my friends to watch the Timbers’ first MLS-era playoff match.

It’s a match that has created basically the perfect storm of emotion and sentimentality and heartburn for me and so many people around me. This means everything.

We’re an emotional bunch whether we individually admit to it or not.

I watched the Chivas match last week with people I didn’t know well, people who gave me a bit of a confused, bemused look when I tried to explain to them why I needed to go to the stadium after the game instead of going bowling with them. I stumbled over my words. How do you explain something like that?

You don’t. You just go. You live by following your heart.

And I was happy to find someone at the stadium when I got there, someone who understood a bit of my rambling crazy. For that, and for so many more of you who’ve listened to me or read these onscreen words as I’ve babbled nearly incoherently about love and passion and community and, occasionally, soccer, I am now and will forever be grateful.

Believe beyond reason. We say this over and over. But now, we’re believing within reason.

Which brings me back to Martin Luther.

“You have as much laughter,” Luther said,”As you have faith.”

I’ve been nervous to this point. Nervous and apprehensive and overly-sensitive. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens will happen.

I know my club can win. I know they have the right combination of skill and strength and desire. I have faith in them.

And with that, let the laughter begin. Let the stress and the apprehension fade to nothing and be replaced with song and love and laughter.

Onward, Rose City.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Timbers 2013

 

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