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Category Archives: ThornsFC

Are you having fun?

A bunch of different things have happened over the last few days in Soccerlandia. We’ve been arguing about scarves, we watched a team get parted out and, my personal favorite part of this week, Ted Westervelt called me “plastic.” Then he backtracked and called the Timbers plastic. Or something. I don’t even know.

A friend of mine, a friend I might not have made were it not for soccer, tweeted something disturbing a couple days ago. She suggested that becoming a supporter of a professional soccer team was perhaps the single worst decision she’d made in the last five years.

She doesn’t mean it. It’s just that some days are much, much more frustrating than others.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks considering the advice of someone I consider one of my “soccer elders.” It’s a question he asked me a couple years ago and has posed several times since: if it’s not fun anymore, why do it?

I’ll say this out in public, this thing that I’ve said to just a few people in private: parts of the last year in Soccerlandia have not been fun for me. Very little of that not-fun-feeling is actually tied to the game. It’s the crazy that surrounds it: the internet trolls and the my-support-is-bigger-than-yours folks and politics of supporters’ culture and and and…

Meh. Sometimes, I just want to watch the game. I want to go to the stadium or the local bar and have a beer and watch the game with my friends. That’s it.

I don’t want to argue pro/rel. I don’t want to worry that the management of the league (MLS, NWSL or otherwise) will eventually spell doom for my club (or anyone else’s). I don’t want to guess what the rules for allocation or expansion drafts are. I don’t want to wonder when the players who are playing for other teams overseas during the North American offseason are going to show up. I don’t care that Arsene thinks MLS is a retirement league, or that Jurgen’s way of doing things doesn’t mesh with what Don thinks. I don’t want to wonder if Craig Whyte’s been arrested or if Hope Solo’s trial is being set over again.

I just want to watch the game. I cannot wait for the offseason to be over.

In our earlier Twitter discussion, I asked Ted when the last time was that he actually enjoyed a game. He didn’t answer.

That makes me sad.

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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in ThornsFC, Timbers

 

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Snapshots

Today was another one of those days that, when I look back over it, is comprised of snapshots.

Sitting in the parking garage at 8:30 this morning, waiting for my phone to charge.

The concern at only finding a handful of people at the airport when I got there and the ensuing contentedness when we were joined by several dozen others.

The moment when one of the PDX security guards revealed her season ticket holder status. And then the moment when she had her picture taken with a returning Thorn.

The tears in the eyes of players when they saw us, waiting for them, despite their loss in Kansas City.

Leaving the airport while, presumably, Nadine was still hugging people and thanking them for coming.

The walk to the stadium with Nissa. Non-welcoming gestures toward the ECS buses.

A mimosa at Oscar Drake’s. A hug from steward Greg. Heidi flinching every time I moved. More hugs from Sunshine and Shecky and Chris and Kris and Nick and Cindy.

Singing for Special Olympics players. Gorgeous tifo.

Adi’s first goal. Passing the log slice up into the 200s. Resignation.

A few friends at a crappy Mexican restaurant. Something about too much lettuce and a margarita that was too tart. Delicate palates.

An Irish bar, a dram of whisky, laughing at the impossible-to-follow conversation between the Irishman and the Argentine. The warm, fuzzy feeing brought on by a shared distaste.

This was my Sunday in Soccer City, USA. We greeted our returning Thorns the morning after their playoff loss in Kansas City. We filled ProPark for the Timbers, only to watch them lose 4-2 to our most contentious rival.

The results of each game are momentary. It’s everything else that I hope to remember. Much love to all of you.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2014 in ThornsFC, Timbers

 

Not good enough

I keep going back to Vero Boquete in that presser after her first match in Portland. “It’s not good enough.”

And it isn’t. From either team.

The Thorns played to a 2-all draw at home yesterday afternoon. The first half was beautiful. Good pace, well-placed passes, and enough scrappy play to put two goals past Karina. With orders going into the second half to get that third goal and put the game away, they did pretty much the opposite.

The Timbers then played to a 2-all draw on the road at LA last night. They were scored on first, fought back, took the lead and then lost it to an own goal.

Not good enough.

We’ve spent the season – both seasons – hearing the same talking points from both coaches, all the stuff about keeping the lows high and the highs low, about motivation not being an issue, about this thing and that thing and never actually getting to the root of the problem.

Both clubs are lacking leadership.

I love Will Johnson. I really do. He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, he’s not afraid of a challenge. But somehow, he’s just not himself this season. He gets caught in awkward situations and has acquired a hesitation when he finds the ball at his feet. Do I go this way? Do I go that way? Do I spin around in a circle?

And while he’s trying to figure out which direction to go, he’s not leading. It pains me to say it. He was the captain the Timbers needed in 2013. I’m not sure he’s the one they need in 2014.

With a new coach and a new direction, former captain Jack Jewsbury was asked to step back and it seemed a weight was lifted from his shoulders. Since giving up the armband, Jack has been dependable, focused and a reliable option when called on. I can’t help but wonder if a few games on the bench wouldn’t do something the same for Will.

I’m asking a similar question about Christine Sinclair. When the first roster additions were announced for the Thorns last year, it wasn’t Alex Morgan who got my attention, it was Christine Sinclair. I was thrilled when she was appointed captain but, with the team faltering, I don’t see her leadership on the field. I understand that she isn’t perhaps as demonstrative as others who’ve been charged with captaining their squads, and I get that she lives a dual life as the Canadian WNT captain, but she has not been as effective with the Thorns as she should be.

When watching the Thorns, I don’t see that passion, that fire from her that I expect from a captain who is trying to drive her side forward. I see it elsewhere on the field, but I don’t see it from her. With Paul Riley’s post-match comments yesterday about Sinc not starting because of issues with fatigue and a tightly-packed schedule over the next few weeks, maybe it’s time to move in a different direction.

Ugh.

It is, as was reiterated in a somewhat tipsy fashion to me last night by someone who has far greater knowledge than I, a simple thing to place blame on the coaching, but at a certain point, we have to look to the players to take things into their own hands. If you occupy that position of leadership on the field, you have to use it. It isn’t enough to drop “brain of a goldfish” in a post-match interview or to shrug and say the team has to work harder. You have to be the difference. You have to be the motivator. You have to be the captain both on and off the field.

Without changes, I won’t be surprised to see both teams miss out on the playoffs this year. I won’t be surprised because, though I love them deeply and despite having rosters that can and should get them there, they’re just not good enough.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in ThornsFC, Timbers

 

A few words on the commencement of the Thorns offseason

It was, by most accounts, a pretty amazing season. A first-year team with a first-year supporters group in a first-year league. We fielded a team, raised what might be the largest tifo ever produced for a women’s club team, and then we raised a trophy.

It wasn’t the smoothest ride for any of us, but we made it. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.

And here we are in the offseason and the first changes are being made to the roster. People are upset and disappointed and frustrated just days after our team brought home a championship.

It’s not easy to let players go. We learn to love them, they become a part of our lives, and then the time comes when we need to let them go. Whether by their choice or by the choice of the club, it’s part of the business of soccer.

I was in the attic of a warehouse-y building down by the train station on an epically cold January morning when a coworker emailed me about Kenny Cooper.

And I was in a Safeway parking lot in NE Portland when my phone blew up with the news about Eric Alexander.

Stevie Smith took to Twitter to announce his departure.

And, in the most painful way possible, the dismissal of Kris Boyd went on for months. Months of rumors and conjecture and heartburn and, for me at least, more than a few tears.

I’m as surprised as anyone about the announcement of Nikki Marshall’s departure. As many have said, the honeymoon is over. Now comes the hard part.

Folks are posting on the Thorns FC Facebook page, DEMANDING to know the reasons behind the decision to waive Nikki. One guy is threatening to cheer for FCKC if the Thorns “keep it up” though I’m not sure which “it” he’s referring to. One particularly eloquent person tweeted to the Thorns with this gem,”I’m done with your shit.”

Oh, honey. Welcome to sports as business.

We don’t know the reason Nikki was cut. Chances are we won’t ever know the full story. Demanding it from the front office via Facebook and Twitter are going to get you nowhere. And – this might seem harsh – when it comes right down to it, it’s none of our business.

But don’t give up now. Don’t be done with their shit. And, despite the abundance of good barbecue, don’t wander off to Kansas City. This is where you graduate from fan to supporter.

Chin up. I have no doubt that more changes are coming. Silly season is upon us.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in ThornsFC

 

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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