Come hell or high water.

The decision should have been made days ago. But it wasn’t.

A contingency plan should have been in place a week ago. But it wasn’t.

And now, Thursday, with the storm beginning to hit, we finally have an answer. But it’s not even close to ideal.

The North Carolina Courage was the dominant team in NWSL this season. That they have to travel across the continent for a playoff match is absurd, and that the decision was made this late has left everyone bruised.

Perhaps all other options have been explored, or perhaps the league just waited too long to make the call. Maybe it was NCC dragging its feet, holding out for home field advantage just a little too long, that finally forced the league to reschedule the NCC-Chicago Red Stars semifinal and move it to the other side of the country, out of the way of Hurricane Florence. And maybe Portland was the only “neutral” ground offering to host.

But it seemed no one was willing to take charge and make the call. Yesterday in a preview conference call, Chicago coach Rory Dames was unsure who would even be making the final decision as to when and where the match would be played. And this morning, NCC president Curt Johnson was on Twitter, suggesting that Dames “quit stirring the pot” and insisting “Drainage WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM” after Dames posted video of what appears to be a water-logged NCC pitch in July.

Nashville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Atlanta. I cannot imagine there were no reasonably-sized, out-of-harm’s-way stadiums available in the eastern United States.

Portland will never be a neutral venue for a team from North Carolina. To pretend otherwise is silly.

North Carolina fans are angry, as they should be. Their safety and the safety of the team they support was put at risk and those who may have been able to travel had the game been rescheduled days ago are unlikely to do so now. It sucks to see your advantage be eliminated. It shouldn’t have happened this way.



I’ll lay out all my biases. I’ve never been shy about them:

I do not believe a NWSL team should have been placed in North Carolina, a state to which many of my LGBTQ friends do not feel safe travelling. I am as frustrated now as I was when the move from Western New York was announced. That frustration is heightened by the fact that this NC team harbors a player who holds homophobic views. 


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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in NWSL


Point of no return

There’s a point before every away match when I realize that, even if I dropped everything, got in the car, and went directly to the airport, there’s no way I’d make it to wherever the game is in time to see first kick. The Point of No Return.

And there’s a point in every season where a team, and its fanbase, knows that all is lost. There will be no trophy, no titles, no glory.

Guys, we’re two games into the season. All is not lost. There’s not yet reason to burn the stadium down with a bonfire of kits and scarves built at 20th and Morrison.

We want more, we want better, we want to know players are playing for the badge, playing for us. I think they are, for the most part. I know this is a tired trope: Fans Want Players to Play Harder, continued on C4. But yesterday’s performances cast doubt on the dedication of a Timber or two.

If you’re not willing to defend, why are you a defender? If you’re not going to take the shot, why are you a forward? If you can’t move the ball, why are you on the field at all?

I’m seeing three key points from folks with regard to last night’s match:

Ridgewell, out of position, casually glancing over his shoulder at two runners, deciding not to make an effort to disrupt their momentum.

Gleeson, primarily just being Gleeson.

Savarese, new guy on a bigger stage, out of his depth.

I’m good with one of those being a cause for worry.

Gio Savarese will be fine. He’s finding his feet, figuring out what’s going to work at this level. It’s going to be bumpy, but he’s not the complete idiot a few folks might have you believe. He knows how to win, just maybe not yet with this squad. He’ll make the necessary adjustments. Just…give him a minute.

Jake Gleeson is Jake Gleeson. Remember when we used to joke about the Donovan Ricketts 70th minute nap? I feel like we get a lot of the same from Gleeson: a couple top-class saves per game, and a minor injury deep in the second half. He’ll be fine if we sort out the myriad of issues occurring in front of him. Or if we get Attinella back on the field. Or McIntosh. I’m fine with any of those options.

The third issue is the one that really sticks. Captain Ridgewell, out for a jog, out of position, the leader of the back line. It stands to reason that if the one directing is out of position, those following will be, too. And if he who is supposed to motivate fails to do so, well, there’s going to be a lack of motivation, a lack of urgency. I’m not entirely sure how to fix that, but I know where I’d start.


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Posted by on March 11, 2018 in Timbers


October 2, 2017

There’s…a lot going on. So much so that I’m wondering if writing these is worth the energy it expends. But I told a few of you I would, so here I am.

It’s the First Monday of October, the day the Supreme Court convenes for this session. Normally, I’d have a quick rundown of what the court might be hearing (and I’d make an attempt at a writ of certiorari joke) and we would touch on the importance of the judicial branch of our government.

But up is down and right is wrong and it feels like none of that matters. The Supreme Court is just too big for me to comprehend at the moment.

What’s that quote? “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’m just trusting in that right now.


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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in October 2017


October 1, 2017

I was shocked to realize this morning that it’s been five years since I did a full slate of October Thoughts. Five years.

In that time, I’ve written about soccer and little else. What a ride it’s been: a World Cup Final, three NWSL Finals, an MLS Cup final, CCL, the US Open Cup, and more than a few ill-advised road trips.

But somewhere, a little over a year ago, I basically stopped writing. A few words here or there, but nothing more. Maybe a little depression, more than a little frustration, and a complete forgetfulness about why I starting writing in the first place left me with no words to say.

Things started creeping up on me a few weeks ago. October things. If you’re not an October Person, this might not make any sense to you. And that’s okay. Theoretically, I know there are February People out there somewhere. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they’re out there. Maybe they’re ashamed of all the pink and red and heart-shaped things. Whatever. Everybody has their thing, and it seems a significant number of people are predisposed to October things.

Homemade applesauce, stuff that’s bat-silhouette-shaped, things that smell of pumpkin spice. October things.

It started in the mid-’90s, when I was circling Lake Michigan in a blue Ford Econoline van with a handful of friends. We spent a lot of time in Wisconsin which, in my humble opinion, is quintessentially October at least three months out of the year. Stunning fall color, sharply-steepled churches on hilltops (seriously, Google image search “Wisconsin church” and you get every picture-perfect October church imaginable), and tons and tons of small town harvest fests and whatnot.

We started making a list of our October Thoughts for the Day, things we could wax poetic about during the month of October, things that make October…October.

If you’re an October Person, you likely have a list of these things tucked away, even if it isn’t written on paper. It’s a little file in the back of your mind filled with sights and scents and sounds that elicit a specific response.

A lot of my October Thoughts were formed in childhood and memories of that time are triggered by a thousand different things. I think it’s probably the same for most October People.

So, as we wander deeper into October, I’d invite you to look back to your childhood, back to a time before everything got so complicated, back to when a white sheet was nothing more sinister than a ghost costume.

Remember the magic. That’s your assignment for the entirety of October.


Little voices

A few weeks back, I woke up with a little girl in my head. Not really a voice I could hear so much as a dream that had faded to barely a whisper.

I knew her, this little girl I’ve never met nor ever seen. I knew her.

I was barely awake and, as is usual, I reached for my phone. It was already buzzing in my hand with a text from a friend excited to tell me about a podcast he’d just listened to. It had been about a state hospital in a town near where he’d grown up. The little girl had been in a state hospital, but not the one he needed to tell me about via text message at 6:30 in the morning.

I turned the lights on, stumbled into the bathroom, and turned the radio on in time to hear a story on OPB about the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. “You’re kidding with this, right?” I’m certain I said the words out loud.

Every family has a few stories that are rarely if ever told: scandals or embarassments swept under the rug or boxed up neatly and stored away on the shelf in the hall closet behind hatboxes no one ever opens.

I hesitate to put this little girl in that category, but she was definitely a story we did not tell.

Born into our family in 1946, she was a beautiful child with a terrible malady, a disability that meant she might not live through the night, might not live through the week, would certainly never live to adulthood. I don’t know that her mother ever saw her as it was believed to be kinder to whisk her off to a residential hospital to live out the remainder of her life.

I’m told my grandmother would visit her, this beautiful child, at the hospital where she lived. It was feared that if the little girl were brought home to live, and she died due to the complicated nature of her illness, her caregivers might be charged with a mercy killing. She lived just over two years.

So, after waking with her in my mind, and with the morning’s other nudges pressing on me, I started making inquiries: first to the editor of the local newspaper in the town where she’d been born, then to the state hospital system in California, and last to the cemetery where some of her closest relatives rest.

The newspaper editor was kind, pointing me to an online archive hosted through the county library. I pored over pages of old newsprint, neatly scanned into the website and fairly easily searchable with key words, but found no sign of the little girl.

The state hospital contacted me to direct me elsewhere, explaining that what I was looking for was not within the services they provided. I’m not entirely convinced this is correct, as even a basic study of hospitals (and asylums, and poor farms) from the early part of the 20th century shows many services overlapped in state-run facilities.

The cemetery director was more conclusive. “We have her,” the email said. The director agreed to take a walk out to her plot the next morning to see if a marker had been placed for her. There is no marker.

I woke up May 15 with her in my head. Three days later, I’d know the place of her interment (or, possibly, inurnment), the date of her death (July of 1948), and her birthday.

May 14, 1946.


I don’t know what I’ll do with the assortment of info I found while looking for her, or what I’ll do to fill the holes where so much is missing. I might just wait for the next voice.

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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Uncategorized


How we start to fix it.

He’s the one that talks me in off the ledge. I never expect it, but the text will always come when something happens that brings me low.

“How you holding up, kiddo?”

I’m a mess, I tell him. The world weighs on me. How do I gather the strength necessary to fight back, to protect my friends, to even get out of bed in the morning? How? The clouds are heavy.

His kid is a year and a half old now. A beautiful child with a smile to light the world.

“How do you raise a kid in the midst of this?” I ask.

“You read him Where the Wild Things Are and Owl Moon. You hug him. You kiss him. You teach him to be kind and thoughtful. You pray for him to follow through on the lessons you provide.”

That’s just the beginning.

Teach your children tolerance, teach them compassion, teach them justice. Read them fairy tales, let them believe in dragons, and unicorns, and werewolves. Let them find magic in the world.

Teach them to look out for the kids who are alone, who may be scared. Teach them to befriend those kids. Teach them to stand up for those kids.

As they get older, encourage them to be curious. Teach them that learning and knowledge are both their greatest weapons and their biggest responsibilities.

Travel with them. Show them the world is larger than their backyard.

And this one is hard: teach them, simultaneously, that while they may be the center of your world, they are not the center of the entire world.

A lot of us are learning hard lessons right now. Let’s make sure our kids are prepared for the world we’ve shaped. We’re going to need them to help us fix it.

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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


Getting in cars with strangers

Soccer has changed me.

I know it’s bordering on cliche to say something like that. Oh, this thing changed me. Changed my life. Changed how I view the world and its other inhabitants. Changed inherently the way I live my life.

But here I am, getting in cars with strangers, sometimes in cities with which I am unfamiliar, sometimes in countries of which I am not a citizen. I go places I never expected to go, with people I didn’t know just a short time ago, and I do things I didn’t think I could.

Because soccer changed me and it changed my world.

And I’m not alone.

So many of us have these stories. We came to this place, to be among these people, our soccer family, when something was missing from our lives. We found home, family, acceptance of our quirks, and a welcome like we’d not ever experienced before.

With this one shared interest, we gain an entire world.

We get in cars with strangers, we break bread with them, we travel across the country with them. And we are better for it.

I don’t remember what my life was before, but I remember my world being so much smaller. A weekend trip to Vancouver, or Houston, or Columbus, would have had me in a months-long planning frenzy. Now, those trips are spontaneous (or nearly so) and often result in incredible, though unanticipated experiences: a Meditteranean buffet in Texas, a latenight drive through the university district in Vancouver, a mad dash from Detroit to Columbus in December.

You people are full of magic. I’m so glad I’m along for the ride.

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Posted by on October 23, 2016 in Random soccer-related