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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The signing of a scarf: in defense of Boyd.

“What’s with the scarf?” he asked me. It didn’t seem like one of those questions people ask to just be polite or one of the ones asked with an eye to ridiculing the answer. It seemed like a question asked because he actually wanted a real answer.

“It’s a signifier, an identifier. It’s how we find other members of our tribe.” Yes, this is how I talk to people in real life. I use these words.

He smiled a smile that was somewhere between taking me at my word and thinking I was completely insane. The conversation moved on.

I’ve taken to collecting scarves (scarfs for the purists). I love the color and design and the symbolism of them. Most of them will never see a gameday.

My gameday scarf is a No Pity scarf, the signature scarf of the Timbers Army. A simple green and white bar scarf, it features the Army’s Rose and Crossed Axes design as well as the words No Pity. Where most NP scarves have simple black fringe, mine has green and black fringe from a special run about a year ago. It also bears the signature of the only Timber I’ve ever asked to sign anything: Kenny Cooper.

I tried to retire it when Kenny was traded to the Red Bulls. I was wearing it that day, in a drafty warehouse where I was working for a customs broker. It was folded neatly on my desk when the only other Timbers fan in the office sent me the email. “Did you hear? They traded Cooper.” I think my heart stopped for a moment.

I unfolded the scarf and wrapped it around my neck for what I thought would be the last time. I would start the new season fresh. I would wear a different scarf when my boys next played at Jeld-Wen.

And I did for a few games. But there’s something about that first scarf. It is always the most special one you will ever own.

So, sentimental me brought out the KFC scarf again. And tomorrow, I’ll add another signature to it.

Here’s where I launch into a rant I shouldn’t have to write.

That’s right, kids. I write in defense of Kris Boyd.

Boyd’s lazy. He’s fat. He’s old. He’s a has-been. He’s only in it for the money.

I’ve heard all of it. And all of it is ridiculous.

Boyd’s a poacher, a target striker. He lurks, he carves out space for himself where there really shouldn’t be space. He’s not a sprinter. He’s not a marathoner.

He’s the Timbers leading scorer. Aside from that, he offers leadership when our captain falters. He doesn’t shy away from confronting opposing players who’ve wronged us (let’s remember the “Montero Finger” for a moment, shall we?). He’s our fire. He’s our passion. He’s filled with the same frustration we all share.

Let’s think back to the times this year when he hasn’t started. Did we win those games? Did we even show up to those games?

Cubbie at The O, as part of The Incident a few weeks back, said that Boyd was expected to be some sort of savior for the Timbers. It’s a ridiculous statement because, at the time of Boyd’s signing, we didn’t need a savior. We needed a better midfield. The failing that sent Kenny to NYRB is the same failing we’re seeing now with Boyd. And the same idiots are yelling.

They screamed for Kenny’s head last year and this year, they’re calling Boyd lazy. I’m still learning the game, but the correlation here is obvious. Signing big name target strikers and not signing anyone who can feed them just brings heartache.

But but but what about tonight? What about all the chances Boyd had tonight? Why didn’t he score?

I don’t know. And yet I’m still writing, aren’t I?

After months of learning that he can’t rely on his team, he’s doing a lot of the same things Kenny did when he had this realization last year. He’s all over the place, he’s not always where he should be because he’s trying to create something from nothing. Again: Kenny did the same thing. The only differences are that Kenny ran faster and that I don’t remember ever seeing him drop into the left back position and look almost like he belonged there.

If I understand correctly, Boyd’s contract was for a year with an option for a second. I desperately want him to stay, but I don’t see why he would. The man who brought him here is gone. He sees the direction this is going with Gavin at the helm. He’d certainly be welcomed back with open arms at Ibrox.

But if he does stay? And if we manage to bring in the right guys to put in the midfield? Sigh. So long as Gavin stays, we know this won’t happen.

So, tomorrow, I’ll return to our ground. I’ll take my gameday scarf and I’ll ask him to sign it, knowing that if tradition holds, it means he’ll play somewhere else next year with great success.

But I won’t bother trying to retire the KFC/KB scarf next year. I’ll wear it to every match and hope that I don’t have to have it signed by anyone else.

For the record, it still smells like goal-smoke. Goal-smoke from Boyd’s two goals against LAG.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Love is a battlefield

I love my Timbers. I do not just love them, I am in love with them.

Being in love is tough.

In sickness and in health, right? Through every triumph and tribulation. In torrential downpours and sweltering summer nights. Through the preseason and the offseason and the mid-season offseason.

Before, during and after CalFC, LAG and Dallas. Before, during and, looking to the future, after Gavin.

Through scoring droughts and and dodgy defending. Through threats of bans for dissension and reserved seating in the North End.

Through all of this.

As I write, less than seventeen hours from game time, the dread I was feeling earlier in the week is fading. Yeah, I said it. I was looking toward this game with dread.

I’ve been waiting all week for the next bit of bad news, waiting for some other ridiculous and/or terrible Timbers story to break. Instead, we had a quiet night Tuesday with Aston Villa and then radio silence.

Sure, there were a couple blips on the radar today: Eric Brunner back at practice after his most recent concussion and the possibility of seeing Trencito at training as early as September. And then we spent the rest of the day looking for Jake Gleeson at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

The sun will rise in a few hours here in Cascadia. The sun will rise and we will prepare ourselves for battle as we always do.

I want to see Boyd start. I expect to see Boyd start. Without him, the fire is lessened, the intensity lost. I want to see Alexander in the middle again. The wheels came off in Dallas, but I still think this is the best option for him. I’ll choose Smith over Chabala with apologies to Chewy. You show heart, Chewy, something I wish we saw more of from every player on the squad.

I’ll take Futty and Mosco and Horst and I’ll expect Horst to step up his game because I know he has it in him. It was about this time last year that I thought he really came into his own. I’m hoping for a repeat performance.

And here’s one I’ve never uttered aloud before: give me Rod Wallace. Painful to even see the words there, but there they are. Put him next to Franck.

And, to further illustrate the point that I should never be put in charge of choosing the starting eleven, put Dike and Richards up with Boyd.

Just this once, give Boyd the armband. That’s another thing you won’t hear me call for very often, but that’s where it should be right now: wrapped tightly around one of those inexplicably long-sleeved arms. We need his fire. We need his leadership. We need his experience. We need him to kick ass and not even bother to take names.

I’m leaving out players I want to see play. I would like to put fourteen, maybe sixteen guys out there. Zizzo and Fucito and Mwanga all deserve time. Can I play six forwards at once? This is just one of the myriad of reasons Gavin is the interim coach and I’m not.

Regardless of who starts, we will be there in full battle dress and in full voice. Win or lose, this is our team. We will not fail them. Ever.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Remembering the fun…

See ball. Kick ball.

Basics.

But they matter little if you lose sight of what came before, before you even learned that much.

Wait. There was something before that?

Yes. Fun. Before that, there was fun and only fun.

We saw a little of that tonight.

I know, I know. There are those for whom soccer is the entire world. Eat, sleep, breathe. I get that. (If you doubt that I do, try to have a conversation with me that doesn’t involve the Timbers or Gers. I’m adept at turning all subjects into soccer.) I especially get that when you add in the paycheck. Eat, sleep, breath, work. Pay your bills. Feed your family. It must become maddening to know that there was a time when you were what? Six? Seven? Younger? when it was just a game you played with your friends for fun.

But it is also an incredible gift. A gift and a burden. The hopes and expectations of thousands of people rest in you and in your ability to play a game you played as a child. When you fail, we all see it. When you fail, we all feel it.

Believe me, I’m not here to launch a pity party. Oh, those poor footballers. We put so much pressure on them to perform! It must be awful! So sad.

No. They know what they signed on for. After years and years of working toward a childhood dream, here they are.

And they aren’t having any fun.

As you may have guessed, I’m not part of the “So what if we suck?” crowd. I understand the sentiment but maybe I’m too new to buy into it. Strike that. I am too new to buy into it. I still harbor a naive sentimentality, an optimism bordering on absolute insanity. I believe that my boys can win any game against any opponent.

And I’m utterly confused when they don’t.

The friendly with Aston Villa tonight came down to penalty kicks and the Timbers lost. Didn’t matter. No points were lost. It wasn’t the end of the world as we know it.

Here’s what mattered: we had fun. More importantly, our boys had fun. More of that, please.

It pains me to say it, but my optimism is starting to fade. Will we make the playoffs? I want to shout an emphatic “YES!” but the last couple weeks have left me deflated. I know I’m not alone.

A couple days ago, there was a quote from Gavin floating around, something about how he’d coached all he could and he’s just an interim coach and it’s really up to the boys to put themselves together.

Meh. Mumble, mumble, bullshit, mumble. Whatever, Gavin. If you’re not going to step in with words of wisdom, I will.

Boys, play with heart. Play for the badge. Play for your teammates. Play for the Rose City.

Most of all, play for fun. We’re all better off when you do.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Timbers

 

I’m not ready to talk about Gavin

I’m not ready to talk about Gavin. I’m not qualified to talk about Gavin. I don’t want to talk about Gavin.

And yet, here I am: talking about Gavin. I’ll keep this short.

I asked someone about him a few days ago, a long-time Timbers supporter whose opinion I respect. He’s been here since the beginning (yes, 1975) and has seen the club through some difficult times. He remembers Gavin the player and Gavin the USL manager. And he said this:

Gavin’s in his twelfth year with the club. He should be a legend, but he isn’t.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?

Gavin said some interesting (read:disturbing) things post-match. I can’t really criticize too much when he said there were guys out there who had quit. I’ve said the same over the last several months. Mostly, it just sounded like excuses to me. More damn excuses.

But the question posed on Twitter (you all know how I love Twitter) was this: after all these things Gavin’s said about his players, who among them really wants to play for him?

Well, guess what? They don’t just play for him.

They play for me. They play for us.

We love this team. We will continue to love this team. But we demand better than lackluster performances from a team we know is better than their record. And we demand that our manager answer for his own mistakes and make appropriate adjustments to ensure that they don’t become habits.

The rumor on Twitter is that any anti-Gavin tifo or statements will earn you a stadium ban. I don’t know if this is true but if it is, it will be just one more in a long line of poorly-considered decisions and I expect that the Timbers Army will rise up. We’ve been tested multiple times this season. I see no reason why this will be any different.

In the meantime, I still believe. Time is growing short for this team to turn a corner and make a full-on run into the playoffs. We beat Seattle, right? And San Jose? And SKC? I maintain that the possibility is still there. We just need to find and reclaim the spirit, the spark that will get us there.

Believe beyond reason. It is our calling.

“Love has a way of turning you inside out. Teasing you and leaving you anguished. And then, when it seems that hope and belief is all that’s left, love lifts you higher than ever before, allowing you to glimpse the dream. Never, ever give up. Believe beyond reason.”

That’s a little bit from Obi. Get used to seeing it. It’ll probably get dropped in here whenever I (think we) need a reminder.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Timbers

 

Spinning the story

So, the Timbers played yesterday. It wasn’t the worst game ever played but, left to our own devices, the internet-savvy masses that comprise a large percentage of Timbers support would have spent the whole day making it a much bigger loss than it actually was.

We should have spent the day discussing the disarray our back line is in. We should have wondered out loud (or onscreen, as it were) why our bazillion-dollar striker spent so much time in the midfield or why, at one point, it appeared that he was trying out for a gig at left back. We should have been talking about why our bazillion-dollar striker-midfielder-left back looked more like a captain than the guy wearing the armband. And what was that armband, anyway? Some generic black band with white block lettering? Where’s our armband?

If nothing else, we should have spent some time extolling the virtues of dropping Eric Alexander into the middle to see what he can do there.

But we didn’t.

Because we weren’t angry enough before, what with the fired coach and controversial interim coach/gm and the wristbands and the seat-savers and the effing spiced IPA that just. won’t. go. away. Because of all these things added together and multiplied by a masterful PR stroke by the Timbers front office this morning, we lost the plot.

The email went out from the FO a little before 10 this morning, closely followed by a call to arms from the 107ist. For those out of the area (or just out of the loop), the 107ist is the organizational arm of the Timbers Army, supporters of the Portland Timbers and widely regarded as a model for supporters groups everywhere. You wanna be Timbers Army? You already are. But if you want something done, you go to the 107ist.

The Timbers front office, it appears, is gauging interest in changing the North End of Jeld-Wen Field, currently filled almost entirely by general admission seating, to some sort of reserved-GA hybrid with the possibility of a price differential between the upper and lower bowls. This comes not quite a year after they expanded general admission seating in the North End to accommodate the growing desire for tickets.

I don’t get it.

I understand that folks have complained about the long lines and the land-grab when the gates first open. I still don’t get it.

What I do get is this: without general admission in the North End, the Timbers Army wouldn’t have grown into what it is today. With 2,300+ paid members of the 107ist, 5,500 scarf-swinging crazies in the North End and, by my estimate, with more than 19,000 Timbers Army No Pity scarves sold over the years (and many of us in possession of more than one), there may be as many as 8-10,000 people who identify as Timbers Army. Let’s keep in mind that Jeld-Wen Field currently sells out at a touch above 21,000.

Hmm. Perhaps instead of talking about changing general admission seating into more reserved seating, we should be talking about further expanding GA.

No, actually, we shouldn’t. We should be talking about the team.

I don’t often stand up and yell about things the front office does. It was, after all, a partnership between the Army and the FO that got us to this place. And it should be that partnership that carries us through when the on-field product is lacking.

I see things like what’s happened with The Fort or Teddy Montoya’s lifetime ban in Colorado and I’m grateful for what we have. But with the fight over general admission seating heating up here, I’m reminded that the lack of GA has been stifling for Vancouver.

I had reserved seats last season in a faraway land called 221. The weather was lovely there though some of the neighbors were sketchy (case in point: Asshat McDoucheypants in 220, but that’s a story for another time). When the time came, we moved into the North End to take our places among our own. While I’ve considered moving out of the North End to accommodate a lingering back injury, the thought of leaving my TA family is much more painful than anything even the best health insurance would cover. And the idea that my beloved Del Boca Vista might be split if we’re prioritized by STH number is, simply, unbearable.

So, I’ve filled out the survey the FO sent me this morning. I’ve emailed my ticket rep who, bless him, is probably being bombarded by people like me. I’m writing this thing, this uneven, poorly thought out thing, that I will toss out into the inter-world. I’m doing my best to be part of the discussion without escalating the problem.

What happens now?

As of this moment, we’ve had twelve hours of the Timbers Army on high alert. The story as I know it, as told through Twitter posts from both sides, is this: the FO is looking for a change. The 107ist didn’t want the survey to go out as this is a non-negotiable piece of the TA’s identity and, if the FO isn’t intending to change the status quo, the survey would be unnecessary. The survey (incredibly biased toward making this change happen, by the way) went out and the TA is shooting back.

From accounts I’ve heard, the FO has been surprised by the pushback they’ve received thus far. They’ve spoken to the 107ist board. They were warned. Perhaps they’ve forgotten MLS2PDX. The TA is adept at mobilizing when necessary.

If you haven’t made your voice heard, now is the time to do it. Keep up the pressure. Be civil, but let them know that this is the exact wrong point at which to pick a fight with the Timbers Army.

(503) 553-5400
ticketservices@portlandtimbers.com

I was going to end here by calling on the FO to let this thing go. Tell us it was a silly idea and there really isn’t any sort of plan in the works to assign us seats and charge us more to sit in the 100s than in the 200s in the North End.

But then Merritt started posting on Twitter again. Dammit, Merritt. I’m tired.

More tomorrow. Probably.

Or maybe we’ll go back to talking about the Timbers.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Go get ’em!

My dog has been pacing for the last fifteen minutes. Back and forth, up into the kitchen, down the hall, back to me. He’ll stand and look at me for a minute, a look I can only classify as “forlorn.” And then he’s off again. Round and round he goes.

I just told him the Timbers match tomorrow is at 1 p.m. He is deeply, deeply disturbed by this.

I didn’t think he’d react this way when I told him. He doesn’t usually watch the games. Honestly, I think he might be a Blazer fan. But, as he is unable to speak English, I don’t know for sure.

The more disturbed he is about the whole thing, the more troubled I become.

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I’ll DVR it and stay off the net for a few hours when I should be working anyway.

But really. Who am I kidding? I’m going to be completely worthless until I know the outcome.

It’s that important.

Maybe it didn’t seem like it would be that important when MLS put out the schedule so long ago. One game in the middle of the season played at a time when a great number of Timbers supporters will have to follow Twitter updates or sneak a livestream onto their work computers. Meh.

But this could very well be pivotal for the Timbers. Every game is a must-win, but this? The first road game post-Spenny? After whatever it was that happened on Saturday?

My dog is still pacing. I just set my DVR.

I posted on Twitter/Facebook yesterday about my attempt to explain why Saturday’s loss wasn’t the fault of Timbers keeper Troy Perkins. It’s a difficult concept for some. He’s the goalie, right? It’s his whole job to make sure the ball doesn’t go in, right? Right?

Well, sure, but it isn’t really that simple.

What I like most about this team is that they are incredibly accessible. So, when I posted about trying to explain that Troy was not entirely at fault, a response came directly from one of the players, a defender, who simply said this:

It was not his fault at all. We let him down.

I have never loved a player more than I did the minute I saw that post. This. This is just one of the many reasons I love this club so deeply, so madly.

And this is why I will be a basketcase for most of tomorrow afternoon.

As I said in the Boyd post last week, I expected the next chapter of the Timbers story to be written by Kris Boyd. Then he went out, got us two goals and was named Man of the Match. I’m not sure he’s done writing yet.

What I’ll be looking for (when I finally get to watch the much-delayed match) is a defense with something to prove. They know they screwed up and at least one of them has owned up to it in what I would consider a very personal way. Heart of a lion, that one. Sometime soon, I’m sure I’ll be writing about something spectacular he’s done.

So, if you’re reading this, Unnamed Timbers Defender, go get ’em. You’re welcome at Sunday night dinner anytime.

Edit: Clearly, I wrote this last night so get off my case already about the match being today. Sheesh.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Wait. What?

I have absolutely no idea what just happened.

The numbers keep playing in my head: 81% pass completion, 61% possession, 200 more passes than the opposing team. Three goals at home, including a brace from Boyd (I’m totally claiming credit for that, by the way).

And we still lost. Isn’t that something?

There were some fine performances on the pitch tonight. And there were some real stinkers. But I’ll leave that to the experts to break down for you.

Here’s what I saw:

I saw Kosuke Kimura. I saw him come to Jeld-Wen, ready to play. I saw, through misty eyes, his salute to team and TA when he came to the North End pre-match, pounding the badge on his chest. I will never, ever forget that.

I saw a changed team. I saw a team that dominated and took an early lead. I saw a team who let that lead slip away but, instead of giving up, dug in and did everything within their power to get it back.

In the end, their efforts were not rewarded. It was just a weird, weird game.

People are, as expected, having a pretty good go at Gavin. I get it. But I’m not there yet.

If the changes I saw take hold – stronger offense, more heart, perseverance in the face of great adversity – then we’re in for a really fun ride, indeed. And then there’s this: Gavin was a defender. I can’t imagine he’ll let what happened tonight slide.

So, I came out of a 5-3 home defeat not upset, not disappointed (as I just told someone on Twitter, I think this week has sucked all the disappoint out of me), but hopeful.

Hopeful and ready for what’s to come.

Except Kenny Miller to Vancouver. I wasn’t ready for that at all.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Timbers

 

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