I carry two clubs in my heart.
One is arguably one of the most successful clubs ever to have played in the soccer world. A hundred and forty years of history, 54 league titles, 33 Scottish Cups, 27 Scottish League Cups. But that’s not why they’re my club. They’re my club because, despite being 4,500 miles away, they make sense to me.
The other club, my primary club, is here in my own city. And, despite the results on the pitch this year, they also make sense to me.
No. Wait. No, they don’t.
They make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
I love them, my Timbers. I love each and every single one of them. Even the idiots who bitch and moan on Twitter when we call them out for poor performances.
The ones I love the most are the ones who recognize when they’ve screwed up. The ones that come to us on Facebook and Twitter and in any other way they have available to them and apologize. Smith and Horst, and dear, dear Mosquera who has made a habit of telling us how pissed off he is after these ridiculous losses we’ve collectively experienced.
There has been much discussion since the beginning of the season about talent and fitness and whatever it is we think makes an athlete worthy to play for our badge and I’m still not sure what the right combination is. Whatever it is, we don’t have a lot of it.
We have a lot of really talented guys. We have a handful of guys who play with heart, even when they flat-out suck. We have guys who understand dedication to the badge and the expectation that comes with playing in front of the Timbers Army.
Stupidly, they’re not all the same guys. What we’ve got here is the Island of Misfit Toys. Mismatched, misused, broken, discouraged and sent off to fend for themselves with little-to-no appropriate guidance.
Now, if we had a coach that gave two shits, we might be in a much different place. But we don’t.
We had Spenny. Our beloved wee John Spencer. Something happened there I don’t understand. If Gavin is to be believed, we “overachieved” last season. If we did, the credit should go to John. He somehow managed to coach more from the players than Gavin, whose primary responsibility is to bring us the best possible players we can get, thought possible.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Gavin brought them here. Spenny coached them into overachievement mode. We fired Spenny.
Let’s go a little further, shall we?
The overachievement quote (yes, Gavin said it – it’s linked above) comes from the same set of quotes that includes such winners as:
“Players were a little bit complacent coming into their second year and they forgot what attributes it took for them to be successful…We’ve got technically gifted players. We’ve got young players with a lot of potential, but if you can’t work through adversity and if you can’t challenge yourself and raise your standard and set new goals week in and week out, we’re going to struggle.”
Set new goals? You have one goal: win.
“I would say that we lack some key characteristics to be successful right now.”
And, my personal favorite:
“As far as coaching, I coached as much as I can for right now.”
When Spenny was fired, we were four points out of playoff position. Four points. Yet we were close enough to the end of the world that we felt the need to remove the coach that made the previous season’s overachievement possible.
When Gavin issued the above I’m-done-coaching quote, he’d been at the helm for three matches.
Three. We’d lost all three. And then we lost a friendly. And then we lost another match. And then we drew. At home, in the fortress that is JWF.
I’m looking back over the schedule and the results and it barely even seems possible. We lost three before Gavin stopped coaching and then we didn’t win another match until the end of August. That’s nine games.
Obviously, Spenny was the problem.
Lost in the flurry of quotes in that article I linked a couple hundred words ago is the one where Gavin says he doesn’t think the playoffs are a possibility for this team this year. He said this, ladies and gentlemen, in July when there was plenty of time to put something together.
He’d given up. He’d given up and he dragged us all down with him in some sort of Kiwi death-spiral.
But then we won the Vancouver match. And a draw against Seattle at home kept us in the hunt for the only remaining piece of silverware we might be able to bring home.
All we had to do was go to Seattle and not screw up long enough to get a draw. But we didn’t. There’s no way we could have with the team Gavin fielded.
And here’s where the narrative starts to take divergent paths.
The first line out, before we were even back on the buses, was that Gavin had taken this match, a Cascadia Cup match in hostile territory in front of a traveling contingent of over 1,500 Timbers Army, as an opportunity to get a look at some players we don’t see play a lot.
What the holy hell. Then we should TOTALLY play Ricketts and Jewsbury. Because we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what they’re capable of. Especially with Ricketts coming back from an injury.
The second line out, released just hours ago (presumably after the interim ginger has already left the country), is that something got “lost in translation.”
I beg your pardon?
After CalFC and Spenny and Perkins and our failed playoff hopes, the importance of the Cascadia Cup was somehow lost in translation?
This, my friends, is precisely why I do not have a press credential. Had I been there to personally witness that little gem, I would have come unglued.
Like so many, I follow many of the players through social media (stalker!) and have been lucky enough to interact with a handful of them. I see what they have to say, I see what my friends and others are saying to them. It did not appear to me that the importance of that Cup was lost on ANY of them.
The only person the importance of the Cup seems to be lost on is Gavin.
From the players, I saw fire and passion and the desire to bring home that Cup not for themselves, but for us.
I wrote months ago that I look forward to a day when we will gather on a rainy day in December in Pioneer Courthouse Square to see our club raise the MLS Cup. I want this for them, not for myself.
I hadn’t considered the possibility that the players would want the opposite: to win this Cup for us and not for themselves. This realization was stunning to me in the days and hours before the Seattle match.
There is zero possibility that this was “lost in translation.”
More in a few hours after I’ve slept a bit….