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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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Lost in translation, part one

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.

And this:

“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….

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Timbers

 

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I don’t even…

Here’s another one where I start by telling you I don’t know where to start.

I woke up this morning inexplicably filled with love: love for my city, my club, my fellow TA.

And then I remembered Gavin.

I’ve had a headache ever since.

It wasn’t enough that we suffered through CalFC. This time, we got on buses, traveled 180 miles each way and were rewarded with what? Gavin’s try-outs for next season.

Hey, Gavin. That Cup means something to us. You disrespect us and the club by using what could have been the deciding match as a try-out for next season. This could have defined our season, could have salvaged what little hope we have left that we’re not the worst team out there run by the most incapable coaching staff available.

No, that’s not fair. This shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of the entire coaching staff. Just you, Gavin.

It was inexplicable, inexcusable to have fielded the team you did in Seattle. With Eric Alexander and Steven Smith on the bench? And, at this point, to play Ricketts over Bendik was asinine.

I mean, since we’re just doing try-outs for next season, right? Where were Richards and Kawulok and AJB and Renken and Rincon? If we’re just trying them out, where were the kids?

I’ll tell you where they were: not on the pitch. Most probably not even in Seattle.

What a line of horse-crap Gavin’s trying to feed us.

So, again, I’m going to say this:

I can’t believe we fired John Spencer. Those philosophical differences? Were they rooted in Spenny wanting to win and not being allowed to hold the reins long enough to steer us away from the cliff?

I don’t understand any of this.

I don’t think I’m alone.

And I don’t think it comes from admittedly knowing nothing about soccer. I know what I saw. I know what I wanted to see. They were not the same thing.

The #GWOut thing had kind of settled a bit. Somehow, I doubt that it’s going to stay settled if that Cup doesn’t get handed to us in Vancouver. Honestly, Gavin, if you don’t bring it back with you, just stay there.

I don’t ask for much. I want just two things: a line-up that doesn’t make me rage and that Cup. With Gavin at the helm, I doubt I’ll get either.

I’ll have more about the actual experience of #SeattleAway in a couple days. I’ll need a bit more time to process all of it.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 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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Mixed feelings

I support my boys in green. I stand with them. I sing for them. I wear a scarf in the dog days of summer. I drag a giant Scotland flag around with me to support my two surviving Scots.

I don’t tell you this to paint myself as some sort of superfan. I just love my club. I want to see them succeed. I want better for them than what’s happening this season.

Not for me. For them.

I’ve been ranting for a week straight now. Perkins to Montreal. Chabala to DC. Gavin being Gavin. John Strong and Timbers in 30 toeing the company line. That horrifying “interview” with Merritt. The Willamette Week interview with Troy Perkins that was far more telling than anything coming from the FO.

There’s this feeling I’m having a hard time describing. I have all these things I want to say and am struggling to put them into words.

People are talking about a boycott.

My head hurts. My heart hurts.

What does this boycott look like? Is it really a boycott if we all still show up at Jeld-Wen on gameday?

I’m currently landing pretty solidly in the concessions boycott camp. I cannot fathom not being in the stadium to cheer for my boys, but I can certainly do it without a beer and a hot dog. Money speaks.

We’re in the middle of discussing this on Twitter, as we have been for a week. “So, I’ll spend $20 to support the boys, but not $7.25 for a beer? I guess I don’t understand the logic,” a fellow RCTIDer tweets to me. Sigh.

I’m not sure I’m the one to explain it, but here goes.

I’m a season ticket holder. I see those tickets as an agreement with the team that I will be there, that I will show up and support them, win, lose or draw, in all weather, against any opponent.

An agreement with the team that I will support them.

This does not mean that I will offer my undying support for every ill-advised, poorly-timed, absolutely ludicrous decision made by the front office nor will I stand idly by as the FO attempts to spin the story to make those decisions look less ill-advised, poorly-timed and ludicrous.

Yes, I’ve contacted my ticket rep. At this point, I’m stunned that he even responds. I’m sure, when he opens his email in the morning and sees my name, there is a deep sigh as he reaches for his coffee. I know that ranting at him (venting to him?) isn’t going to change the course of the season. It isn’t going to unseat Gavin. It isn’t going to stop the ridiculous spin.

But we have to take any opportunity to express our frustration, don’t we?

How far are we willing to go?

My guy in the FO, when I asked him a month ago, said that the normal rules still apply. Distasteful and/or offensive displays might get you a talking-to. Yet the rumor is still circulating that any anti-Gavin display is going to earn you a ban.

Again, how far are we willing to go?

I’m trying to understand all of this. I’m trying to get a handle on how and what I feel.

It comes down to this: Gavin has got to go. If a GWOut t-shirt gets me hauled out of the North End, so be it. I’ll be with a hundred others in the same situation. If a GWOut two-stick gets others kicked out, they can stand with us on the sidewalk.

A moment (or several moments) of silence during the match? This is where we are divided.

What message does it send? What does it say to our boys?

It says we care.

It does not say we do not support them. Quite the contrary. It says we care enough to make a statement. It says we are united in our passion for this club.

Aside from that, through the magic of Twitter and Facebook, we have the ability to alert them to any protest ahead of time. A few words of explanation and I’m sure they’d understand.

But are we there yet?

Are we willing to stand silently, to hush those around us who may not understand, to spread the word beforehand not just among fellow supporters, but also to those members of the team who are most accessible to us? Are we willing to do this?

Some of us are. But collectively? I’m not so sure.

What will it take?

I’m not an organizer. I’m not normally a protestor. I’m barely a blogger.

But I’m ready for whatever happens. And something needs to happen.

I’ve been warned of the repercussions, the possibility of ejections and bans. I’ve been offered advice, as though I were going to step in and be the protest organizer. I’m not, but I’ll pass along the advice.

Stay sober. Stay serious. If it’s important enough for you to launch a formal protest, it’s important enough for you to keep your wits about you.

Have photographers present. You can’t swing a scarf in the North End without hitting a camera or a smartyphone, but those wielding them need know the whens and wheres in order to properly capture not just the protest, but whatever aftermath there may be.

If you’re ejected, go with dignity. We’ll meet you at BE afterward and Chris Cooper will probably buy you a beer. If you’re banned, shout about it long and loud to anyone who will listen. Social media is your friend. No one should be denied access to their club because they have expressed an opinion.

I sincerely doubt that it will come to this. Any sort of protest, organized or otherwise, should cause the FO some frustration but I would hope that, even in turbulent times such as these, an expression of opinion would not bring down the ban-hammer. But this is the same FO that sent out a survey about reserved seating in the North End and was shocked when the response was swift and harsh. They appear, at the moment, to be tone deaf.

As I am wont to do, I’ve talked to some of our TA elders about the current situation with the club. I keep hearing the same things over and over. We’ve been in some pretty crappy places before. We’ve had some difficult, wrenching seasons. The difference now is the scale of things. Bigger stage. More at stake. Many, many more people involved. This is a much harder ship to steer but we can hardly expect it to right itself now that it’s been taking on water for so long.

Again, I’m not an organizer. I can’t encourage you to participate in whatever protest happens. But I’ll keep you up to date if there seems to be a consensus on what that protest will be.

Make your own choice.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Timbers

 

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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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