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Monthly Archives: January 2013

In the beginning….

Consider this my coming out party.

No, still not gay.

I am a supporter of the Portland Thorns FC. This is a club that hasn’t played a match yet, that doesn’t even have a full roster, hasn’t sold tickets. But I’m here. And some of my Timbers Army friends are here. And we’re being joined by a few folks we’ve never seen in the North End on a Timbers match day.

And, as we are still deep in Timbers offseason antics, people are shrieking about it on the interwebs.

“You must let it grow organically!”

“Why not use the knowledge and the infrastructure already in place?!”

“Where is the 107ist?!”

Oh, bother.

See, here’s the thing: I was pretty firmly planted on the “what’s gonna happen is gonna happen” side of things until tonight. I went to the first planning meeting for the Thorns supporters group out of curiosity and my sentimental desire to be there from the beginning. Whatever it becomes, I’ll want to be a part of it, but I was willing to let it “grow organically” as so many other folks are arguing it should.

Then I heard women speak with such passion about not just the Thorns, but about women’s professional soccer and the influence it had on their lives as young women. I heard men speak of the responsibility we have as supporters of a team entering the third iteration of a pro women’s league after the first two leagues folded.

And I changed my mind. We may not have time to grow as the Timbers Army did. And yes, I know there were times when no one was sure there’d be a team to support when the next season rolled around, but with the women’s league? If history is any indication, I’d guess we have two, maybe three years at the very outside to build enough support for this club that will financially justify its continued existence. And in that time, supporters groups in the other seven cities must do the same.

I have no idea what soccer support looks like in Rochester, but here,right now, it looks like a bunch of people yelling at each other on Twitter.

Everyone has an opinion. Anything new is wrong. This new group is *awful* because they’re trying to “force” supporters culture. You don’t want to support the Thorns or take part in the birth of the SG? Well, you might be a misogynist. Or not. Whatever.

Like I said, I was there because I wanted to be there from the beginning, to watch it come together. I wasn’t there for the birth of the Timbers Army so I can’t testify to what all went into the sausage-making then, but I’d guess that there were contentious times. I’d also guess that a lot of the folks shouting about the “forced” nature of this new group weren’t there at the beginning, either.

Again: whatever.

I met a 14-year old girl named Mo tonight. As far as I’m concerned, she and she alone is the founder of whatever this group becomes. She is our Nevets. You can all buy her a beer in about seven years.

She is why we were there. She’s a Timbers fan and was so excited by the prospect of a women’s team that she designed a scarf for the Thorns, hoping there would be a supporters group that would wear it. She read us words she’d written that were heartfelt and beautiful. She sat quietly in the midst of a bunch of crazy yelling, arguing, swearing people, and she smiled.

She’s the reason that we’re putting this thing together. She and every other young girl who is looking forward to seeing her favorite player take the pitch at Jeld-Wen.

So, you can mock and deride and bitch and moan and tell us we’re doing it wrong if that’s your thing. But I’m guessing Mo doesn’t care and I’m going to try to follow her example.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2013 in ThornsFC

 

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A simple wish

Fair warning: with regard to Boyd, I am not in any way capable of putting my thoughts together in any sort of comprehensive, cohesive fashion at this point. The words may come in a few days, or a few weeks, but right now it’s just too raw for me. I am, after all is said and done, not a soccer writer so much as an outlet of emotions and madness.

Instead what I can muster is this:

My wish is simple. My wish will eventually, should it come true, break my heart again, as it was broken a year ago with Kenny and twelve short hours ago with Kris.

My wish is that one of these new players, or a player not yet named, will catch my eye, that he will capture my imagination, that he will bring me a story to tell. In the end, I know this is a path that will lead me right back to where I am now, living under my little storm cloud, heartbroken.

Did you see what I did there? Right back? I may have finally, completely lost my mind.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Timbers

 

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Articulating my gloom

I know that absolutely none of you will believe me when I say that this weird, gloomy, dark-cloud feeling I’m currently experiencing has zero to do with Boyd’s impending departure, but it doesn’t. That’s an event I’ve been preparing for since July. Whatever this is, I’m not entirely sure what’s triggered it so, at the suggestion of some writerly fool on the Twitters who is currently posting some truly awful musical youtube videos in attempt to cheer me, I’m going to take a shot at writing through it.

I was at the presser. I listened closely to what Coach Porter had to say, but I was sold on him long before he’d settled here. All the things I’ve been reading about him were confirmed by every word he said: he is straightforward, he is smart, he knows what he wants from his team and, of this I have no doubt whatsoever, he knows how to get it. He is driven, he is hungry.

This is a man who knows how to win. This is a man who will teach us how to win.

And if I hadn’t been sold on the idea of Coach Porter before that press conference, I absolutely was when he launched into the Boyd speech. Shocking, I know, but he was truthful and, again, straightforward. He didn’t pull punches, he laid it out very clearly and not just for Boyd, but for Darlington Nagbe as well: if you want to play here, you’re going to have to work for it.

Whoa.

I haven’t listened to the Canzano piece yet, or the Extratime Radio piece. I’ll get to those tomorrow. But, if folks on Twitter and the blogosphere are to believed, his words there were much of the same. Work hard, win more.

And yet, storm clouds.

I’ve had a couple people ask my opinion of Porter and I’ve related the above to each, but some are not as willing to accept him at face value as I am. I know what I saw, but I’m willing to let others form their own opinions.

What was the Boyd speech about, exactly? Personally, I don’t think it was entirely about Boyd. Yes, the big man needs to get his butt in gear if he wants it to leave the bench, but he knows that. While a fair number of our guys have been spending time lounging, playing Xbox or whatever it is they do, he’s been at Murray Park training with Kenny Miller and Rangers.

And some of you have pointed to Porter’s words about Boyd and said,”Motivation.” For what? Boyd knows he’ll need to be in top form if he has any hope of impressing Porter. He’s said it. This isn’t about motivation. This isn’t putting Boyd on notice.

This is putting everyone on notice. Everyone. From Boyd to Nagbe, from the veterans to the new guys who aren’t even in the Rose City yet.

This is putting Gavin on notice. And this might be the source of at least a few of these storm clouds I see gathering. But take it all with a grain of salt. I’ve most certainly been wrong before and I anticipate that I will be wrong again sometime in the future.

I know others have a different assessment of what happened there, but from where I was sitting, Gavin was not prepared for Porter to talk about Boyd. I wonder what his thoughts are about Porter continuing to talk about Boyd.

I’ve even had more than one person suggest to me that this is all part of some master plan, that Gavin’s still pulling the strings. I don’t buy it. But I wonder how long Gavin will be content to take second chair.

If I had to form my own conspiracy theory about the whole thing, I’d go back to Gavin’s statements following Seattle away, that the importance of the Cascadia Cup had been “lost in translation.” At the time, I thought he was placing blame on the players and not on the decision to play that combination of losiness. Yes, lose-i-ness.

And if I was in a very dark place, darker even than the one I currently inhabit under these storm clouds, I might think that, in light of the revelation that he and Caleb have been working in tandem on any and all decisions made since August, the ginger wasn’t diverting blame from himself to the players but was, instead, taking his first swing at Porter.

But, honestly, I’m not that crazy.

So, 750 words and a conspiracy theory later, I’m still unsure of the real source of my gloomy, stormy, raised-eyebrow, wondering-of-there’s-a-bomb-shelter-in-my-backyard feeling.

Crazy girl is crazy.

I’m told that it’s unhealthy to look back in longing to better times. Or times I thought were better. Whatever. I miss the anticipation I’ve felt the last couple years. I miss the hopefulness, though I see it in so many people around me. I’m just…I’m not there and I can’t quite figure out why.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Timbers

 

The Anti-Merritt

Heads up: this is a crosspost with SlideRulePass purely for my own archives. No need to read it here if you’ve already read it there.

Yes, I got into the press conference. No, I don’t know if they’ll ever let me in again. No, I’m not terribly worried about it. No, I won’t stop whining about not having an actual press credential. No, there was no spiced IPA.

Okay, here’s the nitty-gritty.

You can get quotes elsewhere. Try Stumptown Footy. The entire thing is posted on the net. Watch for yourself if you’ve got a spare 45 minutes. My notes are terrible. From me, you get something else.

You get me wanting desperately to fall in love with Caleb Porter. And you get me faltering.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked his honesty. I like his slow, careful speech pattern. I liked a lot of the things he had to say.

But a spark plug he ain’t. I don’t think we’ll be getting a clever Alaska Airlines commercial or any snarky soundbites out of him anytime soon.

I’ll trade that for a team that wins games. While Porter hit all the appropriate buzzwords (consistency and continuity and a half dozen others in the same vein), he also offered a starkly realistic view of where the Timbers are headed. And I didn’t like that view. I don’t like realism.

I’ve gotten so used to the rah-rah that Merritt gives us that I don’t really know how to react to Porter’s much more grounded approach to the coming season. It made me…sad. It made me feel lonely and grey and left me wishing for something other than what he’d given us. But he was right about everything. Everything.

Okay, one quote.

I’m realistic. I’m not naive. I don’t believe that we’re just going to throw the ball out and play beautiful soccer and automatically pass the ball around and beat the New York Red Bulls on March 3rd.

I know what he’s saying. I get where he’s coming from. I feel for him. I feel kind of like he’s been invited over for dinner, a really great dinner, and arrives to find a bowl of Grapenuts and a host who spends the entire evening apologizing for the mess.

I keep returning to the build up to last season. So much potential, so much expectation, so much anticipation. I didn’t get any of those same butterflies sitting in that room today.

That comes later, right? When Dike starts breaking people in the preseason, maybe? I don’t know.

I still remain semi-hopeful about the coming season, but without the excitement I’ve felt about the last two seasons. If all else fails (and after such a dreary introduction, I fully expect a fair few hashmarks in the fail column), I know that in a few weeks I’ll be back at JWF with my Timbers family and I won’t have to suffer alone.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Timbers

 

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Unprepared

I am unprepared to write about Boyd today. Today was meant to be a Caleb Porter-centric day but whoever that blonde woman who sat in front of me at the presser was, well, she shot that all to hell, didn’t she?

Oof.

Of course, unprepared is how I first started writing about Boyd, isn’t it? Yes. Well.

So, here’s the thing: I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m not in nearly as dire a state as you might think I would be after essentially being told face-to-face that my beloved Scottish striker is on his way out the door.

Mostly because I’m still not entirely sure he is.

Gavin. Oh, dear god, Gavin.

It pains me to say it, but Gavin and I have a disturbingly similar way of hiding our feelings: we just don’t. We react. We turn red (though he turns redder than I do thanks to his natural gingerosity). We blurt things out without thinking them through.

But that might be where the similarities end.

See, I’m still madly, deeply, inexplicably in love with my Timbers. Gavin? Watching him today, he seemed, at best, disillusioned.

Enough about him.

Is Boyd out?

Million and a half dollar Boyd? I doubt it.

We can go over this again if you’d like. Shut up. We’re going over this again.

As an extra-special, she’s-really-gone-off-a-cliff bonus, I shall present a concise history of The Cooper Effect in haiku:

Kenny Cooper signed.
No midfield to support him.
Kenny Cooper gone.

Kris Boyd, savior Scot.
They told us it was diff’rent.
Alas, wrong again.

Cooper with New York
Oh, Kenny with eighteen goals.
Service made it so.

Twenty Thirteen dawns.
Will Boyd be the next to go?
Wilkinson hates Scots.

Two years in a row
Timbers Golden Boot winner
is packing his bags.

I may or may not have completely lost my mind. I may be crazy, but I’m pretty sure I’m right when I say that no one in the room was surprised at Porter’s answer to the Boyd Conundrum with the possible exception of Gavin.

I’ve been preparing for Boyd’s inevitable departure since July. I was stunned, absolutely stunned when he was still here at the end of August. I was cautiously optimistic when he turned up at Rangers in the midst of our offseason, vowing to be in shape and ready to impress his new manager when January training camp starts up on the 21st. But still, even taking that cautious optimism into account, I do not expect to see him in the eleven by the time March 3 rolls around unless something absolutely bat-shit crazy happens.

I am still haunted by his goal in the reserves match in September. Is that his last goal as a Timber? maybe? Possibly? Probably?

When the question was posed at the presser, I was not surprised by the way Porter answered, but that he answered at all. And after days of reading and rereading and analyzing his previous quotes about not really being married to a particular style of play but, rather, tailoring his strategy to match the talents of his players, this was an abrupt about-face. I read it as “I’m willing to work with what we’ve got – except for that one guy.”

And yes, for this I am blaming Gavin. When Porter answered the question, it looked as though he’d strayed far from the script that had been written for him. And when Gavin was asked and declined to answer whether or not he was shopping Boyd, what he didn’t say said more than any statement he could have made.

He’s shopping Boyd. He has been for six months. But, as has been widely discussed, Boyd’s salary is a deterrent to any club that might be interested.

What doesn’t make sense here is the addition of Johnson and Harrington, there’s the possibility that we finally have the service that both Kenny and Kris needed to be successful here. I look forward to the day when what we do here makes any sort of sense.

So, there it is. Even as I’ve steeled myself to losing my Scottish striker, I’m still not willing to let go of the possibility that this chapter is not yet closed. Tread softly around me the next couple weeks. I will, undoubtedly, be a complete mess.

I’m looking at you, David and Tom. Shhhh.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Timbers

 

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Okay, so this one’s a little weird.

On the eve of our official introduction to Caleb Porter, I’m thinking about Sigi Schmid.

Trust me, no one is more dismayed by this than I am.

But here’s the thing: Sigi gets it. He’s a good coach, sure, but there’s more than that. There’s the showmanship, the trash talk, the (dare I say it) carefully-timed outbursts and the one thing about the Sounders organization of which I am jealous.

Sigi plays to the fanbase.

So, there it is. I want that.

I get the impression that Coach Porter may not be the smartass that Spenny was and that’s okay. As much as I miss the banter, I’d rather the new Timbers manager focused on the on-field result rather than the off-field insult if I have to choose between the two.

So, why is Sigi stuck in my head today?

Sigi wears the scarf. Their scarf.

While we’ve spent the last several months with our club being coached by a guy who could probably not care less about us, that nasty little fishing village to the north was coached by a guy who wears the scarf of his club’s largest supporters group.

I don’t expect good Mr. Porter to sport the TA scarf. I don’t expect him to come to our tailgates. I don’t expect him to troll with us on Twitter.

I just hope for a better relationship with him than the one we’ve been (not really) enjoying with his predecessor.

Welcome to Portland, Coach Porter.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Timbers

 

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Gossip, rumors and innuendo

What’s this new guy’s name? Diego Diskerud? Inigo Montoya? Johnny John Johnson? Something like that?

And he got on a plane from Nairobi today via Middle-earth to come to Portland to finalize the details of his seven year loan to the Timbers where he will play right back, left back and center attacking mid to the tune of $45k per year or $1.7mil per year or a used Toyota Camry, a couple of deflated beach balls and a bag of Swedish fish?

Oh, he’s not coming? Where did you hear that? Oh, his mom’s gardener’s neighbor’s dry cleaner posted something on Reddit in Portuguese?

Of course. I thought so.

You people and your gossip and your rumors and your innuendo are wearing me out. We’ve cycled through them all at least twice at this point. Stuff that was whispered in early November is resurfacing and recirculating and, quite frankly, it’s making me dizzy and mean.

I’ll admit it. I fell into the Mix Diskerud trap. I started learning Norwegian, started looking up recipes for krumkake and lefse, briefly considered the purchase of a flag to drag around with me for the entirety of the upcoming season.

I’m not doing that anymore. I’m saving my sanity by, very simply, waiting to see who’s in town on the 19th and who shows up at the field on the 21st. And, even then, I’m not going to be too attached to players until we’re through to the preseason tourney at JWF. There’s plenty of time in that first month for Dike to, well, Dike people.

And then? Game on.

Unless, of course, someone starts a rumor about a German defender tomorrow. Then I’ll be looking at flags again and pounding out schnitzel.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Timbers