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Porter speaks

Honestly, it’s like you guys have never seen Caleb Porter respond to questions before.

I’ve watched today’s post-training piece twice. Jamie Goldberg from The Oregonian posted it here if you haven’t seen it yet. If you haven’t, you should.

It’s got a bunch of people all wound up. Words I’ve seen used to describe Porter in that video today include the following:

Dick
Dickhead
Douche
Condescending

I’ve also seen people suggest that his snark (something that’s present on a regular basis) is due to some insecurity, that perhaps he’s finally found himself in the hot seat.

Nope. This is a guy that’s pretty comfortable where he is. This is a guy whose boss is happy with his performance.

I went back and read some of the things I’ve written about Porter since he landed in 2013. This is the one that still strikes a chord:

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.

If there is a hint of frustration when Porter speaks, I’d guess it’s because he’s still looking at that bowl of Grapenuts and wondering when the Beef Wellington’s going to arrive at the table.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Timbers

 

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I remember this feeling.

A loss, another loss. Closed practices. Rumors. Then the reality.

And then the ensuing fire. At the time, is was a feisty Scot striking out at a ridiculous suggestion. I read the accounts and I couldn’t stop smiling.

This time, the fire was less a blaze and more of a slow smolder, a building flame. Steady, but growing. And again, I’m left with this ridiculous grin.

Here. Go watch this.

Take a minute. Think it through. There’s a lot there to chew on.

Then go watch this.

We’re in the middle of a derby week that, to me anyway, hasn’t felt much like a derby week. With the concern over suspensions and injuries and whatever else might come up, I’ve had a hard time mustering the energy to get riled up.

Thankfully, Caleb Porter is on the job. For someone who professes a preference for keeping the highs low and the lows high, he seemed to go a little off-script today. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

Enough to take swings at MLS, PRO Referees and, tangentially, Jurgen Klinsmann, Clint Dempsey, and all of Seattle.

Bless his heart. I could not be happier. Someone please run an Ancestry.com search on him and tell me how far back the Scots are in his family tree.

Credit to Jamie Goldberg on those links. She does good work.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Timbers

 

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Everyone’s got an opinion.

It’s true. Everyone has an opinion and now you’re going to have mine.

At this point last year, I’d already declared victory. Two years ago, I was in a haze of expectation and blinded by a recently acquired love of an imported Scottish footballer. Three years ago, well, if you think I know nothing about soccer now, you should have seen me then.

So, our boys have two points over the first four matches of the 2014 campaign. This is not the end of the world. They’ve lost two on the road. Remember when they had that WHOLE SEASON wherein they won only one road match? I do. And I’m also quite certain that this particular group of players is not going to let that happen on their watch.

They’re not where they should be. They know that. They’re trying to fix it but, in the meantime, have been hit with a handful of injuries, have been hampered by a not-yet-fully-fit-no-matter-what-Porter-says Diego Valeri, and now have two of their most steadfast players on suspension for controversial red cards.

This is fun, isn’t it?

Let’s add a little bit more fuel to the fire: Darlington Nagbe came off at the half during Saturday’s match with a reported muscle strain. Let’s also add that Paparatto and Kah have repeatedly erred on the side of recklessness and Urruti just is not the forward we’re looking for.

DOOM AND GLOOM. THE SKY IS FALLING.

Seriously, come in off the ledge. It’s not that bad. They’ll fix it. They know they have to. And I know you all hate this by now, but we’re four games in to a 34-game season. If we’re a month down the road and the Timbers still haven’t logged a win, feel free to flip out then. Until then, maybe try some tai chi or something.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Timbers

 

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He’s a nice guy.

I came face to face with Caleb Porter three times over the last year. I came away each time confused, fascinated and slightly scared. 

The first was his introductory press conference. In a room full of people who didn’t yet know what to make of him, he took the reins of a club that had spiraled downward the season before and, in doing so, set the tone for what was to come. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. What would the dynamic be between Porter and Gavin Wilkinson? Would Porter be as soundbite worthy as Spenny had been? How would he handle the mess he’d gotten himself into?

He handled it with brutal honestly. He said things I wasn’t prepared to hear. He all but turned my beloved (and somewhat moody) Scottish striker loose, much to the noticeable discomfort of GW, and grounded expectations by saying, flat out, he didn’t expect this to be a walk in the park. He put everyone on notice. By the time he stopped talking, I could scarcely breathe. 

I didn’t find myself that close to him again until October in Vancouver. 

We’d survived the summer, the Timbers had advanced through several rounds of USOC, and were on the verge of earning a playoff spot. But a last ditch effort to stay in the Cascadia Cup race had fallen short with the Timbers loss to the Caps just moments before.

I’d tagged along with one of the Vancouver-based ProstAmerika writers to hear what Martin Rennie had to say before joining a small group who had gathered around Porter outside the Portland locker room. 

He looked up when I joined the group and for a moment, we locked eyes. He has a spark, an intensity, a ferocity that I know that I’ve never seen in anyone else anywhere ever. Experiencing it up close is something akin to walking into a sliding glass door: it stuns you for a minute until you figure out what just happened. 

Standing on the sidewalk outside BC Place an hour later, I tried to recall anything he’d said and I couldn’t. None of it. I remembered every word Rennie had said, and most of what Will Johnson and Donovan Ricketts had told us in the locker room after, but not a single word Porter had said stayed with me. He’d scared them all away. 

The third time was just before the holidays, in a bar in NW Portland. He and members of the team’s coaching staff were there for a going away party and some friends and I were there for, well, beer. We kept our distance, for the most part, until he stopped us on the way out.

“Which one of you is the one who’s scared of me?” he asked my group as we were leaving. I raised my hand.

“You don’t have to be scared of me. I’m a nice guy.” 

 

I explained to him how I came to be scared of him – his intensity in Vancouver at the top of the list – and he shook his head. “No. I’m not scary. I just hate to lose.”

Good.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Timbers

 

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The streak is over: remembering.

A year ago, we lost a stupid game at Rio Tinto. A hat trick from Alvaro Saborio and a Diego Chara red card sealed our fate and, as we would know less than 48 hours later, the fate of wee John Spencer. In light of that, I’m thinking the Columbus loss doesn’t seem so bad.

A year ago, I wrote this thing. I was just starting to realize the doom and gloom that being a Timbers supporter could sometimes bring. Two days after that, we were without a coach, without a plan, and without any of the hope and expectation with which we’d begun the season.

A year ago, we had a week to gear up for a home match against the Galaxy, same as we do now. And I’m going to go ahead and call it: the result will be much, much different than last year’s result.

Let me insert here a short note for any Timbers who may read this: under no circumstances do I want to see any Robbie Keane cartwheel goal celebrations in the North End. Shut that shit down. I have no patience for it.

We’ll be without Kah this time around, as we were without Chara last year, due to the red card. And we’ll be without a national team player or two. But, unlike last year, I’m not concerned. If we’ve learned anything about this team, it’s that they will fill the spaces that need to be filled. They play with heart, something sorely lacking in last year’s squad.

Our unbeaten streak ended in Columbus at nineteen games. Meh. Remember: Salt Lake began last summer’s winless streak. From that point forward, we didn’t win a match until the end of August: nine games without a win. I can’t imagine this current team going into a tailspin like that. It won’t happen. Will Johnson will strangle someone with his bare hands before he would let that happen. And if he didn’t? Caleb Porter would step in and give the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” dad speech and it would be TERRIFYING.

More and more, I get the feeling that these guys know they play, above all else, for us. Win or lose, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Timbers 2013

 

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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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Unfinished business: a few more words about (and to) Kris Boyd

EDIT: This was posted on Slide Rule Pass in the middle of the night last night, before word came down that Kris Boyd may be out for the rest of the season with the injury sustained at San Jose. I am, as you might expect, devastated. Read if you want. Stop here if you already saw this on SRP. Cheers!

***

I’ve been writing this for days now. I’ve only just decided to start over. Bear with me. I’m going to write fast and see if I can get the words out before they become too much of a mess. Apologies in advance.

I’ve been a little haunted since the reserves match Sunday. It was a fun game and, after Saturday (when I missed the derby to attend a memorial service), it felt…healing. It felt like going home after a long, drawn-out absence.

I never thought I’d see Kris Boyd play in a reserves match, but there we were. And he looked good. He was active and engaged and, within the first ten minutes of the match, had an assist and a goal.

And then it felt like the end.

Did we just see Kris Boyd’s last goal as a Timber?

My heart hurts to think about it.

After several games on the bench, limited minutes and a view from the sidelines of a derby match, last night’s injury against San Jose has set me on edge. Maybe that was it. Maybe that reserve match goal really was Kris Boyd’s last wearing our club’s badge.

A couple days ago, another member of the Timbers Bloggers Battalion posed this question: if I could bring back only five players next year, who would they be? I warned him that my picks would be entirely emotion-driven.

Eric Alexander, of course, because I know he can do more. Diego Chara for the effort he puts in every time he suits up for us. David Horst for the sheer fact that I want to see him beat the crap out of the OTHER Eddie Johnson sometime in the near future. Mike Fucito because I can’t help loving that little hobbit.

And, it will come as no surprise, Kris Boyd.

Boyd makes the list not just because of my ridiculous fan-crush, but because I think he has some unfinished business here.

If we go back to the Cubbie incident, we remember that Cubbie tried to paint him as the failed savior of the Timbers 2012 season and the reason John Spencer was fired. Lame.

But, watching Boyd struggle since then, it seems he took it to heart. He’s had flashes, momentary glimpses of the player he should be, but those have been few, separated by long instances of Gavin-imposed exile.

So, what happens now? The season is coming to a close, the playoffs are beyond our reach. Boyd’s one-plus-one contract is weighing on my mind.

Will he stay? Does he want to stay? Does incoming manager Caleb Porter want him to stay?

I want him to stay. I want him to succeed. I’m a sucker for a romantic comeback story and the scene is set for one here.

Here’s the thing: I loved Kenny Cooper. I will always keep a special place in my heart for Kenny. Soft-spoken, polite, misused Kenny Cooper.

And now, I wait to see what happens to Kenny’s replacement. Kenny, let’s remember, is currently among the league’s leading scorers. For another club that figured out how he works.

Here’s to hoping that we get a second chance at figuring out how Kris Boyd works. If anyone from the Timbers coaching staff needs me to point them in the right direction on this one, I’ve got a fair few Youtube videos I can point out.

So, here, because I feel I need to, a few words not *about* Kris, but to him.

Stay. If the choice is yours to make, I hope you choose to stay. The Portland chapter of your story is still being written. Don’t leave in the middle. Stay and become a legend, not just a footnote in our history.

I was there at the press conference when you were introduced to the Timbers faithful. I was there for your first goal at Jeld-Wen. I stood with you, shoulder to shoulder, at midfield during a season ticket holder event and looked up into the North End and I imagined a day in the future when I would tell my kids about this guy, this legendary Scottish striker that, by some odd turn of luck, ended up here in Portland.

I hope that, after I tell them about your rocky first year, I will be able to tell them about your triumphant comeback in your second year here, when you lead the league in scoring and lead our club deep into the playoffs.

Help me tell that story, Kris.

Give me a story to tell.

***

Since I’ve had a couple people ask today, the stupid scarf got handed off to my ticket rep on Monday. He’s assured me he will stalk Boyd until it gets signed. Above and beyond the call of duty. Seriously.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Is this where I put the rant?

Oh, where to start?

Okay, so season ticket prices are not going up next year. That’s fantastic. Rather, it’s to be expected.

That’s right: expected. You make this grand statement that your team is going to make the playoffs in its second MLS year, things get all crazy, you fire your coach, ship your keeper to Canada and call your season ticket holders morons, idiots and, most distastefully, customers. Yes, we idiots and morons would have paid the higher ticket price, but you need the goodwill. This is probably the best choice you’ve made in a good long while.

However, that does not solve the problems here.

I’m no longer sure what solves the problems here.

A new coach goes a long way. The right coach.

Somebody said to me on Twitter a while back that they thought Gavin was just fine as the Timbers coach since the players “didn’t seem to mind him.”

I don’t want someone they don’t seem to mind. I want someone they will crawl through flaming broken glass for.

Is Caleb Porter that guy?

I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that the current problem still exists.

Caleb Porter’s reputation is as a coach who can develop young talent, something we have an abundance of. Bringing him in and staying with our current raise-them-from-puppies course means we’re not playoff bound for a year? Two years? Longer? Sure, he took a championship at Akron pretty quickly after arriving there but MLS is a much, much different animal.

Maybe he can do it. I’d like to see him try. But I must admit that any opinion I have of him at this point is based solely on what I’m reading and hearing from others. I’m skeptical of pretty much everything that comes from the FO or Portland’s traditional media, but it was a tweet from Ian Joy that put me in Porter’s corner:

Caleb Porter. Young, exciting coach but he needs 2 be given the full reigns GW & @MerrittPaulson need 2 stand aside & let him work his magic

That says it all, doesn’t it? Here’s this young coach facing a pretty incredible opportunity. He could come in and save the team from itself. He might be the spark that ignites possibility anew. WE’RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE!

But with Gavin Wilkinson still employed by the club, this team will not be Porter’s team unless he’s willing to stand up to Gavin. And, as has been documented elsewhere, those who stand up to Gavin are not long associated with this club.

Here’s where the #GWin folks start yelling at me again. I get it. We won one game. ONE GAME since Gavin took over.

One game does not change the pattern of insanity that has been laid out this season. No, I’m not saying Gavin is insane. Insane I could understand. Whatever it is that Gavin’s doing is something I most decidedly don’t understand.

Did I see journo-tweets earlier suggesting that Perkins was traded after consulting with a coaching candidate who had not yet signed a contract with us? Who had not even been presented a contract to review? Really? That seems…bush league. Who does that?

So, guess what, #GWin folks? The #GWout folks will still be here, loud and proud, because we believe that Gavin’s departure is in the best interest of the club in the long run. This is not new. This is not bandwagon. This is something that has been brewing for a very, very long time. One win, even a Cascadia Cup match win, does not change things.

In order for Caleb Porter (or whoever finally takes the gig) to be a successful coach of our beloved Portland Timbers, Gavin must go.

And here’s where we get to #TAout, a hashtag that appeared briefly Saturday night after the match.

Let’s remember that lots of stuff happened Saturday night. Nearly all of it made me incredibly proud to be a part of this organization. Prematch, the Timbers Army presented a check to Cody Goldberg for Harper’s Playground in the amount of $47k. Incredible.

Then, without any sort of cue I was aware of other than Gavin’s arrival on the field, a flurry of GWout two-sticks and banners went up. Not the dozen Canzano saw. Rather, many dozens. This is by no means a fringe movement anymore, if it ever was. Don’t be surprised to see more at the next match. This isn’t going away.

And then they came down and we cheered our players.

And the tifo. I cannot imagine the number of hours folks put in on this one. Thousands of flags (not just plastic sheeting as we’ve used before – actual flags on poles) in the colors of the Cascadian Doug went up after the anthem along with the profile of the Douglas Fir itself, as tall as the stadium. Stunning.

So, here’s the thing, #TAout folks: without the TA, you don’t have tifo of that magnitude. You don’t have a ridiculous amount of money raised to support a playground for kids with disabilities. You don’t have capos. You probably don’t even have the Timbers.

So, to sum up:

#TAout? No.

#GWin? No.

#GWout? Yes.

Caleb Porter? Yes.

Season ticket pricing freeze? Yes.

Now, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Timbers

 

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