Monday, December 20, 2010

Seeking the grail in Oregon Soccer History

I have been writing officially and unofficially about the history of the game in Oregon for a decade or so.  The story of soccer before the original arrival of the Portland Timbers and the subsequent ascendancy of University of Portland as a college soccer power is complicated and somewhat mysterious.   It's a detective story if you will.   Just after the turn of the Twentieth Century,  early adherents to "Association Football" played in the Portland area for a trophy which was donated by Judge Cameron,  a figure whose career has mixed characteristics.   The Cameron Cup, regardless, was the state championship trophy for many years.   As I researched the game,  I spent a fair amount of time trying to get a handle on what had happened to this fabled cup.   Without success.   It appeared to have faded into legend decades back.  And for me,  finding the Cameron Cup and figuring out what had become of it  acquired the status of 'quest'.  It was a 'grail quest' of sorts, likely doomed to endless frustration.

Imagine my amazement and excitement, then,  when I received a note that the Cameron Cup and another ancient trophy,  the Bennett Cup,  had turned up and were being returned to Oregon!    Not only that,  but there was a picture of the two included.   I was in hog heaven.  More needs to be done to trace the journey of these two trophies through the past half century.   Worth noting is that one of the early Cameron Cup winners one century ago is M.A.A.C. or the Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club now known as the MAC Club.   And one of the last holders of the Cup are Club Germania,  the German social club which still exists and carries its tradition proudly.

Somewhere in today's landscape of the game,  I hope there is a place to honor and explain the Cameron Cup and the earliest origins of soccer in Oregon.  Maybe an exhibit case with facts and images in the new Key Bank Club at the Portland Timbers stadium?   

We'll see.   In the meantime the Grail quest has turned out not to be like the quest for the Hunting Beast in the Once and Future King.  King Pellinore might be disappointed but almost any "Rose City Till I Die" fan should be extremely pleased.  Our lineage is ancient.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

El Classico-Barca v Real Madrid

What a great time to be alive!  I can stream the battle between the two giants of La Liga when I get home from work at my leisure.  Thank you ESPN3.   And the game is worth ten times the price of admission.  Barcelona balanced its controlled, soporific,  point to point play with brilliant little gems of attack.  The score mounted slowly but steadily.  One. Two. Three.....then a long break.  Then four.  And finally at the end, a fifth goal as the clock ticked off.  Real Madrid were less than gracious.  C. Ronaldo shoved Barcelona coach, Guardiola-Sala, thirty minutes in as the skipper held the ball for the throw-in.  After he'd given it to the Real star.  Petulant to say the least.  And at the end, sadly,  Messi was hacked down hard as he pulled away from another scrum with ball at his feet.  

All of that is an aside.  Barca showed brilliant team play and exactitude in dissecting the Real defense.  For every one of the five goals there were two attacking runs that could easily have turned their way into the net.  I know a lot of folks think Barca's feint, push, pull back, go wide, come in style is boring.  I think it shows amazing discipline.  More,  I think Barca's players across the board exhibit better field vision than any other team I've seen.  They look at the three choices presented them, and often take the least obvious.  Like chess players and magicians,  they realize that misdirection is often the shortest way to the back of the net.   

I was glad, truly glad that I got to see this match.  It was enchanting despite the petulance.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MLS don't care if you got the cool!

So tonight in LA the Seattle Sounders fairytale run ended.   Worse it was ended by the likes of Beckham and Donovan and all the darlings of the press.   After two shots at the Galaxy,  the Sounders couldn't even force the finale to pks.     I mean no disrespect but I watched the second match of this contest and wondered what it will mean to the Sounders phenomenon.  Seattle has had a charmed existence since it went up to to the big time.  Their marketing team turned soccer into the hottest thing in the Emerald City since the Space Needle went up.   And for the first runs around the track, it seemed like a magic carpet ride.   Seattle won the Lamar Hunt Cup and then repeated the feat, the first MLS team to do so.  They made the playoffs in their inaugural year and are making a second run this time around.   All that being said,  I wonder how deep the passion for soccer runs in 'the Sound'.    In their years in the USL the Sounders were drawing miniscule crowds so the audience of folks who can speak to the 'old days' when the team slugged it out in the NASL isn't that big.  And there's a whiff of faddism in the recent enthusiasm for the Sounders.  I'd be less than honest if I didn't note that the passion for the Portland Timbers ( Rose City Till I Die) wasn't ladled most heavily amongst younger audiences who could not have been part of the traditional audiences.   

But it's all good.  Portland Timbers are supercharging their side, probably the biggest investment to upgrade the team since Louisiana Pacific threw money in the kitty some thirty years ago.   John Spencer is a coach to be reckoned with.   And there's a smell of 'flounder' blood in the air that should incite lively participation from the 'street'.  

I like it.  I'll be sitting with me mates in Section 209 when the curtain opens.   Hey Timbers,  let's rock.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

USL Title goes to Puerto Rico

Yesterday my calendar chimed to remind me that it was the second leg of the USL D2 championship.  I knew from the paper that the Railhawks had dropped the first one to the Puerto Ricans 2-0.   I thought it might be exciting to see or follow the match.   Well,  it amazed me to find out that not only did it seem there was no coverage of the match,  it was hard to find out about the match at all.   Going to the USL website,  I found no obvious mention of the D2 championship at all.  Puerto Rico Islanders had an announcement and a streaming feed with the first game in the titles but nothing worked when the game started.   And the Railhawks,  even this morning,  only have a sidebar urging people to buy tickets.   The commentary for the game says there was a large crowd of "over five thousand people".   Whoa...that's exciting.  Anyway I guess the impending reconfiguration of the D2 league next year has left those involved less than motivated.  Not a good sign.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The End...for now

Tonight the Portland Timbers rallied at University of Portland's Merlo Field to attempt recovery from the ignominious first playoff game last week in Vancouver BC in which the Whitecaps, once again, rubbed mud in our team's face.  Portland, according to reports,  gave up two early goals and looked staggered for the rest of the game, mounting almost no credible response.   Tonight was different.  The Timbers came to play and finished the match with a 1-0 win which was not enough to erase game one's impact but at least restored some of their dignity.   The sad reality, though, was that Vancouver had to do next to nothing except stop Portland's attack which they did,  through means fair and foul.   

The best part of this evening,  however, was watching young Al Hasani,  our Ghanaian acquisition of a month ago,  on the field.   The kid is fast,  very skilled with his feet,  smart, disciplined and hard-working.   If our new Technico,  Gavin Wilkinson,  can recruit this kind of talent from the less heralded (and expensive) arenas of the game,  Timbers MLS could knock the socks off the league.  When I first heard about this acquisition,  I thought the youngster would not show until next year.  My mistake.  He was the most dynamic player on the field and that in itself was exciting.

So we're folding up the scarves in our household.  Ready to look forward and not mourn this season's good and grim moments.   Ever optimistic,  I'm with Stephen Gerrard on this subject.  "It doesn't matter who scores the goals as long as we win."   

Rose City 'til I die.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Mark of the Boot

The LA Galaxy squared off tonight against Chivas in the "Super Classico" crosstown match and sixty minutes in it was a 2-1 match Galaxy with the pace still not quite clear.  Buddle had cracked a beautiful first strike for the Galaxy followed by a bent Beckham blast on a free kick which gave the favored team a clear lead.   What struck me was watching former rookie Timber, Alan Gordon, playing against his former club, the Galaxy,  for Chivas.   Early in the second half Gordon went in for his third or fourth dangerous shot and Donovan Ricketts came out, feet up,  to gather the ball.  Gordon ended up on the ground,  with his jersey ripped and the clear crimson stripes of cleat marks on his chest.   Just another reminder that the game isn't for wimps.  Watching Gordon play I think it's sad he didn't get more time in Timber green.  He's got the chops of a striker. And Gordon gets his revenge scoring Chivas goal so far.  Oh...and Chivas would be more dangerous if they just didn't give the ball away so often.  Sorta like the Old Nicks.  If we could just avoid mistakes...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When you get to a certain age, there is no coming back.

That's a great quote from former England and club manager, Brian Clough.   I just finished watching "The Damned United" which threads its way with an unflinching eye through Clough's career,  and I thought it was that rare treat,  a movie about the game which also is an extraordinary movie about the dynamics of a brilliant, flawed, larger than life personality.   The Caine Mutiny and Captain Queeg come to mind, for the latter.   I don't know if there is a film out there that depicts the game in its glorious and gritty reality to match this.   English football in the later part of the Twentieth Century was played by hard men and that shows in the period footage interspliced with the movie's narrative. And as historic footnotes, people like Alan Hinton played for Clough at Derby County. Clough's career spans the origins of the NASL.   I know this blog isn't your Shawn Levy movie review column!  But if you haven't seen the movie and you lived through those years,  rent it.   Or whatever it is you do to watch movies these days.   The stream at Netflix worked pretty darn well for this one.   

Oh...and that quote?  I just like it 'cause I'm an Old Nick and it fits.   Clough had a way with words. That was part of what made him memorable.   

One last thing.  I said I wasn't going to be covering the Timbers game by game.   But they knocked off Baltimore Crystal Palace this afternoon over on the east side of the country, 3-1.   All that's left of the last USL season is to spank the 'Caps next weekend at Swangard and then win the championship.   Go get 'em, boys!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Who's goin' to the Show? Poll on which Timbers will go to MLS

So my poll results are in, and there's some clarity in the trends.   Without any question the brightest star in the polling was Bright Dike, who earned top points to play MLS ball for the green team next year.   My take?  Dike is strong and smart but his vulnerability is being muscled by highly physical defenses.   The MLS thrives on highly physical defenses.   I'd say Dike is a contender but not a given.   Next on the list were Ryan Pore and Steve Cronin.   I have to agree with Cronin as a choice.  He's shown smarts and cool under pressure.  And he's had a broad range of experience.  All of that militates to a shot next year.  Pore is an easy "of course".   He's a quality player: passionate,  intelligent,  and a natural shooter.   I'd say the risk next year is that opposing defenders will just physically chip away at him.   MLS is like a prison farm---a hard row to hoe.  As opposed to the beauty of the game.  Also ranking up there in voter estimation is Ian Joy,  a defender who's had increasing impact on the Timbers' play this year.  His experience in MLS and in the Bundesliga make him a likely yes.  Not doing so well in our voting were Taki, Nimo, Keel,  and Ross Smith.    I can hypothesize about what voters might have thought in terms of their qualities but it would only be speculation.   Truth be told the 2011 Portland Timbers will likely sport a very new and different look,  regardless of current player performance,  because John Spencer will have his own vision of how to craft a team.   I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.  Hey?  Is Sebastien LeToux available?  If he's on our team he can't score against us!

Portland Timbers notch one more

 I can't help myself.   The Timbers played on the road in Puerto Rico and slapped the Islanders with a single goal win.   The chip shot by Kalif Alhassan followed a tough ninety minutes of play,  including an Alhassan shot just an instant earlier. The nineteen year old showed some stuff as an attacking midfielder.   My take is that the the Timbers are hoping he'll blossom into a Fredy Montero,  an unheralded youngster with great potential and years ahead of him.   I hope they're right.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The arrival of autumn

Last Saturday was the opening of Fall men's league.  It was a beautiful afternoon.   The field was groomed and green.  Our opponents were guys we've known and played against for years.  I feel lucky after thirty some years to be able to be stepping out on the field and playing.   

Last week also brought a change in my status.  I got a new job,  an exciting new job,  and so my choices about what I'm doing with my time are changing.   Through the summer I've kept up with posting on this blog frequently.  I've enjoyed it.  And found the challenge to write steadily worthwhile.   Because of my new reality, though,  I am not going to be posting commentary with the aim of staying up with contemporary events.   My original intent with Sodden Pitch was to extend people's access to material about the history of the game in Portland and Oregon.  I will,  as I have time,  continue to work on interviewing long time participants and posting their comments.  I will also continue to scan and publish materials from years past.   I hope readers with questions or comments will continue to chime in.

On that note,  I post this link to the Portland Timbers NASL Rosters for Jamie who was trying to identify who wore the number 00 back at the beginning of the team.  Jamie was correct that Mick Poole was the super keeper sporting that number.   

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spain v Argentina friendly.

There's no question that on a given day and a given pitch,  football is a game that can provide surprises.   And that was the emotion I felt on logging on to the international friendly between Spain and Argentina and discovering that Spain, with fifteen minutes left, was down 3-0.  I watched with puzzlement,  particularly as the Spaniards seemed to be playing with their typical measured pace and,  as I watched,  scored a nice goal.   So there was a sense of the surreal.   I guessed that the Argentines,  stinging after South Africa,  felt they had something to prove in front of their home fans.   I guessed as well that Spain rested some of their best players and perhaps arrived somewhat complacently.  And then, as I continued to watch,  the South Americans scored yet another goal making the final score 4-1.   Regardless of the reasons,  it is a stinging slap to Spain which has lost only two matches in recent years.   

Last evening I also saw that our crew,  the Timbers, have clinched a playoff spot in USL.  I've heard that playoff matches are likely to be held in Hillsboro Stadium.  If so, that's going to be an interesting logistics challenge.   The team's been pulling nearly 16,000 fans a game.   And the stadium only holds 7,000.   Maybe a few more with temporary seating.  But it will still be a challenge.   Perhaps they can put up big screen televisions downtown and let people watch as they did for the MLS unveiling during World Cup.   I plan on being at the games myself.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Have another cuppa?

The football landscape is such a rich environment for the soccer junkie.   If you can't do anything else, you can always find game somewhere out there in the world.   After spending an hour and a half on the grassy sward we call our practice field Wednesday night,  I was willing to resign myself to staying inside and streaming some soccer on screen.   The number of mosquitos per player at the practice made breathing difficult without sucking a few morsels down the windpipe.  
So I turned my attention to the opening round of qualifiers for Euro 2012 which are unfolding and can be screened,  mostly live, on ESPN3   On Thursday I was forced to stay close to the computer as I was scanning a large batch of images,  so I chimed into different parts of Spain clobbering Lichtenstein.   Where it was interesting to see Chevrolet turning on the ad boards in Lichtenstein's 6,000 something seat stadium.   I also checked out, for sentimental reasons,  Greece's tie with Georgia and Ireland's rough win over a scrappy Armenian team.  Where would Ireland be without Seamus "Shay" Given in the nets?   Regardless,  there's a fair amount of fun watching available there.  All free! 
I'm a longtime fan of the Lamar Hunt Cup,  even if the little guys rarely get far enough in the competition to qualify as a 'giant killers'.   The Seattle Sounders are back this year to defend their title in the cup and will be playing that all out in October.  The Sounders hope to repeat and join the ranks of MLS teams who have won more than one Open Cup. Up against the Columbus Crew, they're still going to be a ways away from the real champs,  teams that held the cup five times.  Bethlehem Steel,  back in the early part of the Twentieth Century, and Maccabi Los Angeles, who made their run half a century later starting in the Seventies,  achieved that status.  The modern team who's come closest is the Chicago Fire with four wins.  I'm still waiting for the day that another team of unknowns,  little guys,  a team with a 'natural' and a lotta heart can pluck that championship off the shelf and take it home.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

De Martin is the hero!

Tonight's scramble between the Timbers and the Islanders was nowhere near as fun to watch as the game earlier this week between the Timbers and CP Baltimore.   If I had to guess it's in part that our crew can't pull off the creative, diverse offense that makes them look good against the best teams in the division.  Puerto Rico is one of those teams and the game tonight looked evenhanded but not at all pretty.  Doug De Martin is the hero of the match in my opinion because it was his little piece of 'one on one' out in the left corner that led to his being free to make a sterling cross for Ryan Pore to put in the goal.   Pore gets much credit for being there on the receiving end, but De Martin's moves in the corner were worthy of the best players in La Liga or Serie A.   

The bottom line for our guys is whether they can hold the line and play staunch defense against four good teams on the road to bring home a playoff berth.  I wish them all the best.

Meanwhile, back in the stands.  The Army's territory looked like Day of the Triffids with the dangling stalks of thousands of sunflowers brought for the purpose of illuminating 'You are my Sunshine".   The stalks talks....

In our section of the world, disputes broke out between fans who wanted to sit in their seats and fans who thought that standing up at any opportune moment was good,  as for example for quaffing a beer or hiking one's crimson kilt upward around the tropic of corpulence.  The reality for selling mucho tickets to MLS is that never the twain should meet.  Standers should sign up to get their bona fides and report for duty in the Timbers' army.   Many fierce Timbers supporters who are not thirty years old should be able to find a seating area where standing through the game isn't mandatory to see something other than the tattoo on the back of the head of the goofball in front of them.   For friends of mine this isn't a 'choice' it's a reality for attending matches.   A little empathy here, Army folk?  But when all was said and done,  folks were enjoying the match.  And that's a good sign.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Soccer practice in modern times.

Tonight at the end of practice, one of my teammates said, in a helpful way, "you have a cloud of mosquitos flying around your head".    And he was right.  I did.   It's the beginning of September and we're swarmed by skeeters who are voracious and go for the eyes.  Never had this experience before.  But 'the game' requires sacrifice, blood sacrifice I guess. 
The FC77 crew has had a Wednesday night practice since sometime in the misty years of the 80s. For a long long time we practiced under the tennis court lights at Colonel Sumner Park on SE 20th and Belmont.  I remember being there when there was snow falling steadily and the boys were arguing about how much snow it would take to have to quit and go home.   We were practicing the night of the famous plane crash in far southeast Portland.  The odd thing is that the crash was on a Thursday night and not the night we normally practiced.  It was three days after Christmas and so it would have been possible we moved that night to Thursday because of holiday obligations.   I remember seeing the plane circling around in the East and then going very very low.   We didn't realize that it had crashed right then.  But we all were convinced something bad had happened out east.
Wednesday night practice moved from Colonel Sumner when the Big Dig started. One of the portals to the new stormwater and sewer retention system was in the middle of the field we used.   Even after the crews 'cleaned up' there were ankle breaking ruts in the surrounding ground. 
So we found Kenilworth Park after some searching.   And as the years have passed, that practice has become an anchor.   While it started with FC77 players and friends, in recent years we've had kids from Cuba,  kids from Romania, Tibetans and Southeast Asians,  odds and ends of players from the surrounding neighborhoods, and the core of old guys from the club.   
Soccer practice is actually one of the unspoken rewards of the game.   Guys and some girls who love to play, not necessarily speaking each others' languages, pull on their boots and side up 'dark or white' to knock the ball around together.   There is laughter.  There is trash talk.  There is good play and bad play,  but the ultimate reality is that the game we all love becomes the language we speak.
Practice is not just about game.  Practice is about being part of the incredible human race.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Timbers v Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace Baltimore arrived in Portland last Sunday night hoping to shake off the mental impact of a 0-5 shellacking by the Montreal Impact the previous weekend.  The Timbers not only showed no mercy but stepped up their game,  looking like the team Coach Gavin Wilkinson had been talking about all season.   The three goal shutout featuring a brace from Bright Dike and a solid finish from Ryan Pore was not only notable for the bottom line but also because it was the prettiest display of football the team has displayed.   Passing was crisp and particularly precise in slotting dangerous, short through balls in the box from a variety of directions.  Claesson's early intrusion in behind the defense and his lovely ball to Dike on top was only one example.  It was pretty to watch.   And it stands as the kind of game in which the excitement of creative interaction between the players on attack makes those moments almost as satisfying as the tallies in the net.
The Timbers got both in this match,  and it's perfect timing as they head toward the last home stand on the schedule Thursday night.   One other interesting note was that we had the first chance to see Kalif Alhassan,  the young player from Ghana.   He's got quick feet and looked poised in his first runout.
We'll hope this starts a run.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

Portland Timbers and Austin Aztex bluster to a draw.

The Portland Timbers ended up with a point last night at PGE Park in a tense match against the Aztex in a game that left folks in my section of the stands shaking their heads.   The Oregonian's match recap and the Timbers' own press release pointed to the strong play of several members of the team and the Timbers' dominance of the shot totals as evidence of the 'we was unlucky' flavor of the match.  Along with taking more shots,  our side defended well enough that Steve Cronin wasn't forced to make a single save in the match.   And thus the tie, on Bright Dike's crackerjack early shot,  seemed a decent outcome agains the team with the hottest offense in the league.

I'll give them all that.  And throw in that Mamadou Danso had an excellent game,  playing forward with skill and poise to set up the attack on a couple of occasions and saving a shot off the line that would have given Austin a go-ahead goal in the 63rd minute.  But that came just seven minutes after the Timbers gained a man advantage as Austin's Bernard was sent off after clipping an attacking Timber.   And looking at the Timber stats,  the team only outshot Austin by 4-2 in that half despite having the man advantage for over thirty minutes.  

What had people looking through their fingers with a certain anxiety was this.  When Austin went a man short,  their other ten players ramped up their game.  Austin controlled the ball for more minutes,  passed accurately,  and snookered attacks into the Portland box that had to be cleared, albeit by good defending rather than Cronin's goalkeeping.   And when Portland did have the ball?  The Timbers attack, with a man advantage,  seemed hurried and anxious when they had the option of using the free player to establish control over the game.  Poorly placed passes that ended up on the feet of Austin players and booming long balls were frequent.  It was a disappointing strategy.   And man to man,  Austin's players seemed a half step quicker, or at least more aggressive,  which kept them in the game.   And could have won it for them. 

As the clock ticked,  Austin indeed engaged in time-wasting tactics.  Shorthanded in an away game,  a tie would be a decent result for them.  But most significantly, Portland wasn't taking full advantage of the time it had. You can't score if you don't have the ball.  And our crew didn't have the ball as much as they should have considering the circumstances.   The newspaper quoted players as saying the game was "disappointing".   Yup.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jimmy Conway Testimonial Match

Tonight's match to honor Jimmy Conway and the years of contributions he's made as a player, coach, and mentor was fun to watch.   Like the best of soccer,  it's great to see a group of guys square off over a ball with nothing more at stake than jostle and panache and bragging rights for a slick move or two.  That was about the sum of the Testimonial match tonight.  Just a bunch of guys who love the game moving the ball around.  And Jimmy Conway out there, playing half and half for each side, completely in the game,  at home on the pitch,  happy in world whose boundaries and rules and joys and sorrows he has been familiar with all his life.   It was a pleasure to watch, with nothing monumental at stake except to honor a man's life. The game was lively as a good football friendly should be.  With a fair amount of good humor thrown in.   As for the 'main event'?  The Timbers match which followed will have to be recounted in the morning,  when I've had time to settle down.

"That's a red!" Oh wait....the game was a month ago.

Just saw a little blurb that the ref from the World Cup final, Howard Webb,  says he should have sent off Nigel de Jong for the 'foot in chest' foul on Xabi Alonso.   Don't know what the details of his current statement were, but I'd say "good call".  Just late.   Of course that would have changed the entire course of the game.  Who knows?  Netherlands might have settled and not given up a goal.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Timbers announce Goldthwaite signing

Kevin Goldthwaite,  recently of the MLS New York Red Bulls,   was announced as the latest Portland Timber today.   The club noted that "Goldy" as they called him in New York would be ready to suit up for the team in a couple of weeks.  Read, in time for the playoffs, as there are five regular season games from September 2 through the beginning of October.   The release also noted that he had played for our green team on loan in 2005.   Most notable,  he has playoff experience with the Dynamo in 2006 and as Defender of the Year for the Red Bulls in 2008 when they took the Western Conference Championship.  That should come in handy because the team is certainly pointed toward playoff appearance.  Could Goldthwaite be tasked with shoring up the Timbers' defensive performance on set pieces in particular?  Wouldn't be surprised.  
On the site Big Apple Soccer an August 7th posting denies that Goldthwaite was let go to make room for Rafa Marquez,  a suspicion which might be forgiven since the Red Bulls acquisition was much-heralded and in the time frame.   In the strange framing of 'truth' that is the Internet,  Goldthwaite's Wikipedia listing has already been updated to show Portland as his current club.  It also asserts that the Red Bulls released him to make room for Marquez.   Not that we really care.  
As a twenty-seven year old with a solid MLS portfolio,  I'd suspect Goldthwaite may be around for more than just this season.  That is,  if he's healthy.   And if he can keep his cool.   Almost exactly one year ago,  Goldthwaite jeopardized the Red Bull's first win in fifteen matches with a swing at an opposing player which drew a straight red card.  
We like feisty here in Soccer City.  But we need smart feisty. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Portland Timbers v Minnesota Stars

I don't see myself as the blogger who does the comprehensive match reports.  Check out Allison's The Timber Mill for that.   But I do like to comment.   If you weren't able to stream the match, click on the link at the blog title to see the Minnesota Stars highlights.   Once again,  we owe this match to Bright Dike's athleticism and speed as he picks the pocket of the last Minnesota defender in the second half to steal the ball and earn a mano a mano run on Warren,  the Stars' keeper, who was forced to foul him to save the goal.  In steps Ryan Pore to knock the ensuing PK home.    It is odd to me that Pore, the league's leading scorer,  has taken home six of his goals on PKs.   Three of them, I believe, against the Stars!   Is this the face of the new soccer?  I hope not.   
On a soccer trivia note,  I kept wondering what the NSC was about in the Minnesota Stars' name. National Security Council?  Scary!  But it's apparently the National Sports Center which took a leading role in unfolding this team from the financially struggling Thunder.    Based on the attendance this weekend of fewer than 2,000 folks,  I'd say there are still issues here.   And it reminds me to wonder whether a league is viable if it has a half dozen solid teams who are doing wonderfully and well-loved in their communities while the ten other franchises are limping along like some barnstorming 1930's baseball teams.   I don't know the answer,  but I've seen too many "Rise and Fall of American Soccer" stories to take the question lightly.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A-free-ka calling! Timbers announce signing Ghanaian midfielder.

 In what may be the first move toward next year's MLS side,  the Timbers announced signing a nineteen year old, Kalif Alhassan from Liberty Professionals of the Ghanaian Premier League.  The youngster impressed technico futuro, Gavin Wilkinson, on his scouting tour this year.  Portland has a vibrant Ghanaian community.  Perhaps we can look forward to the Timbers inviting Obo Addy and his troupe to help open the festivities and welcome next year's African players.   I'm guessing Alhassan won't be the only one.  As a side note, Obo's son,  Alex,  was a red hot soccer player in his high school days,  at one point in the Eighties leading scorer in the local amateur league with something like 36 goals for one season.  Liberty Professionals is a relatively new club at fourteen. Their match reports  are colorful.  I like their enthusiasm too.  "Simply the Best" is a great slogan. Somehow I hear Tina Turner belting it out over the loudspeakers at matches.   Will be interesting to see what happens next as the winter brings us news of other signings. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

OASA, Timbers honor former Timber, Jimmy Conway-

As many of us have played with and against Jimmy over the years, I pass on this message from OASA.  

Jimmy Conway
Soccer fans, take note! The Oregon Adult Soccer Association and the Portland Timbers are joining with other local soccer organizations to honor former Timber player/captain/assistant coach Jimmy Conway with a Testimonial match.

After a great career in Irish soccer (including 20 games with the national team) and 12 years with Fulham and Manchester City in England , Jimmy spent 10 seasons with the Timbers as player and coach. He followed that with 16 years at Pacific University and Oregon State University and 28 years as Director of Coaching for the Oregon Youth Soccer Association. He additionally served as an "A" licensed coach for Region IV teams and the USSF national staff.

While Jimmy still plays against many of us on a weekly basis with his Pierre's teammates in over-50 competition in the Greater Portland Soccer District, he has had to resign from coaching due to a recent diagnosis of trauma-induced dementia. You can get more details on Jimmy's playing and coaching career, including his many years participating on OASA teams, at the OASA website: Jimmy Conway biography.

The Jimmy Conway Testimonial match is scheduled for Thursday, August 26, at PGE Park with kickoff at 5:00 p.m. The game will feature former Timbers players against an Oregon Select XI who Jimmy coached at the college and youth levels. The Testimonial match (an abbreviated 60 minutes) will be an exhibition match played prior to the Timber's 7:00 p.m. USSF Division-2 Pro League match against the Austin Aztex. Fans with tickets to the Timbers regular-season game on Aug. 26 may come in early to enjoy the Testimonial match; gates open at 4:30 p.m.

At halftime of the Portland-Austin game, the Timbers will present a special commendation to Jimmy and his family.

Tickets are as low as $12 (in advance) and can be purchased at the PGE Park box office, at all Ticketmaster locations, online at portland timbers or by phone at (800) 745-3000. Let's help the Timbers in their drive to the playoffs and pay tribute to Jimmy, who has meant so much to local soccer for more than 30 years. See you at PGEPark !

For those of you who not able to attend the testimonial match wishing to show your support for Jimmy, please consider making a contribution to the Alzheimer's Association, Oregon Chapter in Jimmy's name. All proceeds from the Jimmy Conway Testimonial will be donated to this designated charity at the request of the Conway family."

The Jimmy Conway Testimonial donation site may be reached at:

Jimmy Conway donation

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Timbers beat St. Louis despite humidity.

In PDX we were sweltering with a ninety six degree day but the humidity was only 18% according to my area weather station.  The wind out of the east made it seem less hot than it was.  In St. Louis, though,  the AC in the team's name would have better been "Air Conditioning" as the teams slogged it out in seventy five percent humidity.  Luckily the greenclads were fully staffed and able to make sufficient substitutions to keep up the pace. It weren't pretty, but Bright Dike's goal at the 37th minute was enough to bring home a win.  What more can I say?  I watched the stream which seemed to have sweltering film on the lens or maybe that was my bandwidth.  All around decent play,  smart control as the minutes ticked down.   A five minute glop of extra time was unwelcome but ultimately didn't make a difference.  "And so it goes", as Elliott Rosewater often observed as he made his way through the interior passages of Kurt Vonnegut's creative mind.  "And so it goes." At least this time the announcer knew that it was "dee-kay" as he acknowledged the goal.   And where were we playing that the chant was "Portland Tubers"?  I don't recall.  It all runs together.

Keita and Wayne Rooney's brother...

Geoffrey Arnold,  the Big O's sometime soccer writer,  posted at Oregon Live that last year's scoring star,  Keita,  has been missing from Timbers' activities including match days and has been placed on personal leave.  A commentator suggested that the start of Ramadan,  earlier this year than last, might have something to do with this.  And I like the possibility because it suggests a complex and spiritual man struggling to balance his faith and his public life.  What is sad to me is that the current version of the Portland Timbers are more or less ciphers to their fans.   We know something about their vitals,  where they came from,  occasional publicist reviews,  but not much about the real people on and off the field.   Wherever Mandjou goes,  I wish him well.  He did a good job up front last year.  Hard to say what the season at Salgaocar in Goa was like from this distance.  Their club crest shows them to be relatively young club at fifty-four.  They are in Goa which, if I recall correctly was the Portuguese colony on the Subcontinent.  Somewhat different than the rest of India I believe.

Arnold also has a piece noting that Wayne Rooney's brother spent some time in Portland so the Timbers' coaching staff could take a look at him.  He is on something of a tour apparently, having just come down from a similar visit with the Sounders.   If nothing else,  his name is buying him a nice tour of the Pacific Northwest,  never something to sneeze at.  Hope he at least had time to go out to Vista House and see Multnomah Falls.  Reminds me, is there any family resemblance between Wayne and that other Rooney?  Mickey?  Not so much I guess.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Portland Timbers see stars.....

The Juneuary weather that has been plaguing our August so far seemed to have lifted as crowds bustled their way around the sidewalks outside PGE Park last night.  It was actually warm for a change.  And despite the uncertain results of the team's recent three game road trip,  the crowds were larger.   People with tickets in hand fell into serpentine lines around the displays of giveaway items and groups waiting for the rest of their party.   The sharp-faced scalper shouting "I need tickets" wasn't attracting much in the way of curiousity on this night.   There was no question that enthusiasm for being part of the Timbers' bandwagon was continuing.   
Inside, as usual the crowd continued to flow in a cascade of colors anchored by green even as the National Anthem finished and the players took to the field.  Seats were filling all around the circumference to the top of the second level,  above which the seats had been sheeted off. 
The game was a rumble from the start.  Portland looked eager to make their mark early.  And Minnesota seemed equally eager to deny them.   The Stars succeeded in putting their bid into the back of the net about halfway through the first period with two men running on the right,  free as the crossing pass came in.    As the last sands drifted into the bottom of the glass though,  Bright Dike showed the stuff that made him an attractive forward earlier in the season.  He'd been getting knocked about since early in the game.   At this last instant though,  the ball was crossed to him as he struggled to run on with defenders bracing him.  I believe he had a defender's arm across his chest as he took the ball,  brought it down and placed it with accuracy instead of force just to the keeper's right.  It was an awesome and hard-won goal.   Dike celebrated by doing double flips as he ran toward the stands.  That made the end of the half more palatable,  and things seemed to be going the Timbers' way for a change as they ramped up their attacking play in the second half.  They finally had an attack similar to the run Minnesota had scored on in the first half; Pore and Dike making a run toward the box on the right side,  with the ball.  Minnesota's defense first swept Dike in a clear foul and then swept Pore in the box.   The fouls earned a PK and a yellow card for the Stars' Tarley.  And Pore gave a poised demonstration of how to take a PK to put the team up by one.  
Within an instant of the restart however, Ian Joy put Portland on the defensive when he made a hard tackle and drew a red.  Whether the red was deserved or not,  in a moment so close to the Minnesota fouls and resulting score it isn't hard to imagine that the ref saw it as retaliation.  If my memory serves,  he'd already had the 'no more of that'  conversation with Joy about something else in the first half.   So when the team sucked it up playing good pressure defense with twenty some minutes to hold on,  all 15,000 fans must have felt we had a chance even a man down.   The Stars, however, scored on a pretty cross and header off a corner.  Which is one place that the man difference shouldn't have affected things.   While I can't go back and check my 'stats book' since I don't have one,  I think we've given up a high percentage of goals on set pieces this year.  What the solution is I don't know.   
Bottom line is it was a shame to give away a win when the momentum was going our way.  A shame.   
Other odd thoughts.  I really like Dike's performance and hope this helps his confidence out there.  I watched the match against Rochester on the stream and I thought he was clearly being physically outmuscled by the defenders which took away his effectiveness.   Last night,  he was playing strong.   Also odd to me was that the Rochester commentators didn't know his name is pronounced Dee-Kay.   They called him Dike all night.  
The appearance late in the game of Dutch newcomer, Ibad Muhamadu,  was greeted with a great cheer.   It took me a minute to remember who he was.   He didn't have much time to show his skills,  but what is clear is that he's fast.  Very fast on the first few steps.   Hope to see more of him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Never a day goes by when there's not something to say about the game

Wow!  Here it is August 10th and in the rush of "important things to do" like help pull off a baby shower for fifty or so close personal friends of daughter I haven't had time to post exciting and not so exciting soccer news.   
This morning the Timbers' organization shot out an email inviting me to respond quickly and get to attend the press conference tomorrow at which John Spencer will be presented as the Timbers' first MLS coach.  I sent a reply that I was sorry I wasn't able to be there regardless and was glad that all my earlier posts about Spencer's similarities to John Bain would not be in vain.  
And the Timbers also had much to crow about with the undefeated run of the PDL U23 team from start to championship in twenty matches.  I wasn't able to attend any of those games because of the important, aforementioned family activities,  but I was able to give away my tickets to friends.
They went and really enjoyed the development team's performances.   In fact,  I got a report back that the youngsters were "better than the real Timbers".   Ouch!   Although I have to say after watching the last match on stream,  it weren't pretty.
And in more development team news,  the US tonight put themselves out for a drubbing by the Brazilians who clearly felt that they had much to prove after going home early from South Africa.  The South Americans clearly wanted to show that they knew how to move the ball around with small-side passing and to play something like the beautiful game without resorting to bulling their way to victory.   There was a little of the "argy bargy" in the game,   but Brazil was assertive, organized,  and effective.   The new kid,  Neymar,   scored a pretty goal and showed he could turn just about anyone on the US team.    The US had a brace of chances but was not really effective after the first forty minutes had passed.   American forwards,  Buddle and Altidore and Findley didn't have much impact.  It was young Bradley who had a goal called back on offside and the newcomer, Gomez, who put a great header into the mashup and almost tallied.   Findley just had a birthday last week but apparently no one bought him a present.     What was good was that Coach Bradley did put a fair number of newcomers in play and gave a look to the future.   Whether Bradley himself will be directing that future isn't clear.   But it's good to get the kids out there.  
So...back to the U23 Developmental team championship here this weekend.   If I were tied into the news feed from MLS or USSF I would know this better,  but I wonder how the young talents throughout the development league get a look from the national coaching staff.   There aren't enough slots in the MLS to show off all the young players coming up who might be the next Landon or Dempsey.  I know.  I know....   There's the national development teams too.   I just think it's tough in a country as big and geographically distributed as the US for the selection process to cover all the bases.   
Speaking of MLS,  my inquiry to the league last week has met so far with silence....
Oh...and congratulations to the Eastside United boys for their National Title too!  First time since 1994 when FC Portland sent a team to triumph.   
Like I said...lots to talk about.  Not enough time.   Gotta go!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sean Ingersoll and friends go for 'highest soccer match in Oregon'

Taking Soccer to new heights in the Oregon Cascades    This blog entry--scroll down for the video--is a testimony to how Oregonians feel about their footy.  Anywhere anytime!   The mad manager of FC77 Rangers gives us the full story at The Offside.   

Monday, August 2, 2010

A new spin- homeless soccer tournament creates opportunities

I heard a news story today recounting the journey of a soccer team made up of people recovering from homelessness to a national tournament.  The team,  the Portland Torrent,  felt the trip was a success.   I thought this was yet another example of the way the game can change people's lives.

The MLS Designated player

I notice in this morning's news that Freddie Ljungberg played his first match as a Chicago Fire player following his trade from the Sounders.   And apparently contributed thirty minutes of play without giving anything away.   As I read the articles talking about the deal with the Sounders,  I began to wonder at what point a "designated player" loses that standing and no longer qualifies to fall outside the salary constraints?  A
player like Ljungberg at 33 is at some point going to fall into a different category.   No disrespect intended but there are a limited number of these 'designated' slots and so who those folks are becomes a marketplace discussion I would think.   I sniffed around the MLS website but didn't find anything that clarified the answer,  so I shot an email off to them asking for a clarification.   Stay tuned for answers.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Speaking of John Bain

The other day I was noting that John Bain provided a possible model from the Timbers' past for why John Spencer might be a good choice as the team's first MLS coach.   In 1989 the Portland Timbers' franchise launched its Western Soccer League campaign with Bain as the head coach.  Underwritten by local businessman Art Dixon the team was looking forward to a strong run against opponents like the Seattle Storm and the San Francisco Blackhawks.   Part of coach Bain's enthusiasm was that a new star of American soccer,  the young Kasey Keller would be in the nets for the team following a successful run with the US U20 team and his career at University of Portland.  Bain called Keller the best goalkeeper in the US. Prescient!  Dave Nicholas,  whose coaching career at Jesuit High School has been stellar,  was the assistant coach for the team.  And a bevy of Pilot and Warner Pacific stars provided the underpinnings for the team.  Bain's appearance wearing his iconic #6 on the cover reflected his stature in the eyes of the community and of those wanting to bring the team back to prominence.   
The Western Soccer League had evolved from the Western Soccer Alliance which started in 1985 with San Jose, Seattle, Portland and Victoria fielding teams in a 'challenge series'.  One of the fundamentals that marked WSL was that American soccer would not succeed until it was built on a foundation of American players.   Bain,  Ignacio Baez (of Timbers and Cascade Surge fame) Paul Goldsbrough from Blackburn England and Rob Baarts from BC were the only players not from the US on the squad.  
Interestingly,  Bain was featured as well on the cover of the match program for the Portland Timbers match against West Bromwich Albion eight years earlier in 1981.   

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And you thought you knew soccer....

According to a piece on the ever-evolving rules of the game by Neil Reynolds and published some decades back,  "In 1895 legislation was introduced limiting posts and crossbars to five inches in width.  The previous season, Middlesbrough had set a new record low of only two goals conceded at home because their posts were over three feet wide!"   Exclamation point mine.   Could be much more dangerous around the goal box as well if there's that much wood to hit.   Who woulda thunkit? 

Timbers v AC St. Louis match streaming live

Once again it is apparently possible to stream the Portland Timbers match tonight via the opponents webstream. Game starts shortly after 5PM our time,  so it's conveniently early.   The only bad thing of course is that it is unfolding almost head on head against the MLS All Star match against Man United.   What to do?  What to do?
I think I can probably stream one on my laptop and the other on my desktop....that might work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

John Spencer? Hard working. Scotsman. Leader. Familiar profile

The speculation that John Spencer will come on board as the Timbers first MLS coach cites his passionate, hard-working style and notes his Scottish roots starting with Rangers and going out after a short run at Motherwell back around the Millennium.  Before his stint in Houston,  Spencer put in time with the Colorado Rapids as a player.  He had notable moments such as an Independence Day hat trick against DC United,  the first in Rapids history.   Today's newspaper profile asserts that he's noted for fierce loyalty to his players-- gesturing his disagreement to fans who were taunting Brian Ching.    
A Spenceresque profile might suggest that he'd be a great success here.   Back in the late Seventies,  John Bain came to the NASL Timbers from Bristol Rovers and never looked back.  A smart attacking midfielder,  Bain clocked forty-five goals and-fifty five assists in his outdoor career in Soccer City USA.   He played in 148 matches for our side and was a fan favorite.   When the outdoor Timbers suspended play in '82,  Bain ended up floating around the country for outdoor and then indoor teams.  However,  he returned to Portland as the player coach of the WSL Timbers which was launched on the foundations laid by FC Portland---a story for another day.  The revival didn't last long but Bain's stint in Portland continued for one more round with the indoor Portland Pride.  
My recollection of Bain, besides his origins,  is that he evidenced many of the qualities being highlighted for Spencer.   Bain was a smart player who was dynamic and hardworking on the field. He had a nose for goal.   He motivated his teammates.   I recall the crowd and the play on the field all ratcheting up a notch when Bain leapt out of the box and entered the fray.  He was intense and focussed about the game.   And he'd seen enough of it in enough settings that he wasn't fazed by the competition.   Bain never played for his national team,  but he had great poise.   Spencer's experience not only includes national side appearances abut a stint in Hong Kong.  To the extent that Spencer shares Bainlike qualities,  I think he's a strong pick.
One side note occurs to me.   Spencer's impatience with the negative behavior of the fans in Houston is likely to be in evidence here in Puddle City if the North Enders chew on members of the team.  While rare, it has happened.   And I doubt Spencer would take it lightly.   
Truth be told?  I like that.   

Monday, July 26, 2010

US U20 Women lose to Nigeria

The curse of the penalty kicks strikes again.   The US Women's U20 side playing in Augsburg Germany was eliminated in a shootout loss to Nigeria after playing to a 1-1 tie in 120 minutes.  The U20 US team has never been eliminated before,  so this was a shocker.   Not to take a thing away from the Nigerian team,  which played hard, fast and strong,  but the penalty shootout was a puzzler.  The US keeper,  Henninger,  was forced to face the second Nigerian shooter three times.  The first two she stopped,  but,  obviously frustrated,  she missed the third shot.   The end was sealed when LeRoux,  the US sharpshooter, missed her kick.  Once again it's a hard hard way to end what was an attractive struggle between two well-matched teams.   

Two players from Portland, Kendall Johnson of UP and Courtney Verloo of Stanford were on the US roster.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What will happen next with Les Bleus?

Laurent Blanc,  the new skipper of France's national team has benched all twenty-three of the players who stood up for France at World Cup.   It may seem to be a sweeping gesture but not much more.   On the other hand,   I predict that France will begin taking a look at a new generation of talent coming up.   And return to the fray like 'le coq sportif' should.   Will be interesting.


I streamed the match between Philadelphia Union and United yesterday afternoon.   Though United wasn't at full strength neither was the Union.  Despite that it was an interesting game to watch.  Certainly the Americans played with passion and intensity.   And the 1-0 result could have been reversed.   I thought that Danny Mwanga,  out of Congo by way of OSU,  showed quality for a first year player.  He worked to set up several smart through balls to running teammates from the twenty five yard range and his strength on the ball,  persistence,  and field vision affirm that he's got potential beyond just physical ability.   Will be interesting to see how his career unfolds.  Maybe Sir Alex will decide to give him a look.Publish Post

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Portland Timbers break the jinx! Beat 'Caps 2-1 at Swangard.

Tonight the Portland Timbers clawed their way out of Hades and ended the Sisyphusean struggle to kick a ball uphill into the opposing goal at Swangard one more time than the Vancouver Whitecaps could.   It took a perfectly placed,  pinpoint, penalty kick from Ryan Pore and a missile from the backline's Mamadou Danso to bring it home,  but the Timbers did it.  They really did it.   

As expected the match was a slugfest.  Ryan Smith went off with a forehead wound gushing blood in the first half.   Stewart,  attacking midfielder for the 'Caps was carried off on a stretcher.  It weren't no cakewalk and that's a fact.   

Pore's penalty came on the heels of a takedown in the box on a breakaway and the sending off of Janicki at the 65th minute.   At that point Vancouver led on a solid goal from Khalfan which accelerated the Timbers' efforts to get one back.   Pore showed his quality with a poised shot.

Dansu's goal was perfectly executed in the face of chaos as the Timbers attacking ball bounced out to Danso's foot right on the eighteen yard line and he placed it, unhesitatingly, into the goal.  

Question to the peanut gallery.  Is it my imagination or are defenses being so successful shutting down forwards that midfielders are ending up being the dangermen in this league?  Or in any league?  I haven't seen any stats but certainly Pore and Stewart fill that card.  Bright Dike worked like a madman to get free and get a shot.  And made good layoffs when he couldn't get the ball away.  But he was marked as hard as a Chicago gangster on the road to Joliet.   So maybe this is the new reality in the Game.  Midfielders will be the new supa-stahs.  Can somebody run the stat machine and spit out some statistics?  Oh...and don't forget to include play in Uruguay.  
Bottom line?  Timbers hit the road with a win and a confidence builder against a quality rival.  I like it! 

Live match cast of Timbers v Whitecaps

Well if you look at the Timbers' site you won't find anything except the listing for the radio broadcast out of our market.   But as is often the case,  you can go to the opponents' website and find the link for whitecaps v timbers live.    I'm hopeful that the jinx can be broken and we can send the 'Caps packing for a change up there.   'Bout time for the cannons to get untracked on our side.
Defense can only do so much.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Afterthoughts on Timbers v Man City

It was only after we'd been back from tournament a day that I got to read the Big O article in advance of the Timbers' friendly against City on Saturday night.   There was much discussion of the benefit and confidence building from playing up against a team of EPL standing.   

I am reminded, though, of frequent comments in the press about how mental the Game is and how teams can get themselves in a scoring slump from too much anxiety or have similar problems at the other end.   That led me to wonder, as the season is about half done,  what the effect of a 3-0 game will be in furthering the goal scoring efforts as the Timbers head off on a four game road trip. 

Hope for the best of course.  But I do have to wonder.  The Man City website write-up was politely respectful but brief about the home team's performance in the game.  Eminently English.   

Monday, July 19, 2010

Timbers v Manchester City

I was up in Snohomish at the KlaHaYa Soccer Tournament this weekend with a caravan of my Mojos friends,  so this report on the Man City match comes courtesy of my longtime teammate, Mark. 

"One of the early pleasures was the venue.  It was a really beautiful evening in Portland.  Merlo Field was immaculate as a playing surface. At one point Alison and I were at the railing at field's edge, about six feet above the surface. Alison asked whether it was real grass; it looked that unreally perfect.

If one followed the EPL, there were plenty of name players: Patrick Viera, Craig Bellemy, Emmanual Adebayor, Wayne Bridge, Jo, Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Joleon Lescott. Notably missing: Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Sean Wright Phillips, Rocque Santa Cruz, Shay Given. I never saw the head coach, Roberto Mancini.

First game impression was that the Timbers could do the mechanics of soccer play almost as well as Man City. Ultimate impression: that the huge difference between the teams is that in the crucial moments the MC players are far more lethal in the final third. That maddening profligacy in front of goal that the Timbers have shown us all season was there last night. The MC players were insanely quick in passing/running movement as they got into the penalty area.

The first goal was a kind of cheap bundling in via Stephan Ireland's gluteus maximus. The second goal by Adebayor was an unstoppable glancing header where he leaped above everyone else. (He's tall and surprisingly lacking in bulk in person.) The third goal by Jo was a terrific, precisely placed worm burner, just inside the near post from 20 yards out.

For the Timbers: Dike played well, but at this level there were guys that could muscle him off the ball. Danso did an excellent job sweeping in the back. Pore was average. Josten had a good chance but was invisible most of the time. Nimo played very well; not intimidated at all. Taka was great and had two really good efforts on goal in the 2nd half. Scot Thompson did his usual overlaps to good effect.

Both teams steadily substituted through the match. Both sides had their best sides out on the pitch for the first half. Unfortunately, their second team was a lot better than ours during the last 45 minutes. At one point from about the 65th minute on, we had our complete worthless trifecta out there: Quavas Kirk, James Marcelin and Mandjou Kieta.  Marcelin only passed laterally or to the rear - big surprise. He doesn't have a creative bone in his body. Kieta looked no better than a decent amateur rec player out there.

Impressions: It was like going to an English 4rd Div match in, say, Bournemouth. People could actually shout friendly, rude stuff to the players and sometimes they would good-naturedly respond (Bellemy did, at least). Without fouling, the MC defenders were more physical and very quick to slide tackle. (There were no cards.) Probably 200 people in MC colors. Their club had fans doing the whole USA tour along with the team. Defender Micah Richards looked like the Incredible Hulk in a MC kit. The dude is muscular!

The TA was not as vocal as at PGE Park. Partly due to the different configuration of Merlo where they were in a wide, very shallow setup behind the west goal.

I did take some snaps and a little video. It was fun. Thanks again for the ticket; Alison enjoyed the spectacle."

Friday, July 16, 2010

The dangers of blogging and catchy titles.

I have been guilty of the worst of errors,  lazy thinking.  My last post about the "men's league" ignored the reality that there are many leagues in the Portland area whose primary players are male, as well as the fact that the league I've mostly played in,  GPSD,  is not a "men's league" by any formal designation.  There have been instances when we've played against opponents who had women in their side.  The properly corrective missive below arrived from Jevan at the Oregon Adult Soccer Association.   It's worth a read.  


I love your latest blog post “Local Men's League Championships- yesterday and today.” Well all except the headline and the opening sentence.

It’s true that at one point GPSD was the only affiliated “men’s” league in the Portland area, but I don’t think (even just including the history from the merging of Rose City and Portland leagues in GPSD) that it’s ever been THE men’s soccer league in the Portland area. Back in the old days GPSD even affiliated separately as Rose City and Portland leagues until (I think) the late 80’s or early 90’s, so the “District” was in fact, two leagues, neither of which could lay claim to be THE league.

Old-timers often refer to GPSD as “the men’s league” and NUWS as “the Women’s league”, I cringe each and every time I hear either of those things – we have more or less eradicated those terms at least at the OASA Board level.

From OASA’s perspective, we don’t even have Men’s leagues, women’s leagues, etc. We affiliate a soccer league and they are free to offer whatever soccer they wish. OPSL affiliated as a break off from GPSD, so initially they offered Men’s premier division, but they have added women’s, over 30, 6-a-side, and are talking about other things. I could cite other examples.

I’d even argue that GPSD is not a men’s league (the league has no gender restriction), but rather an open soccer league populated primarily by men.

NUWS has some claim to being A women’s league since they do have a gender rule (In Oregon we have not yet had the gender identity issues that California soccer has had, but that’s another story), but they certainly are not THE Women’s league, not even the affiliated Portland area women’s league.

Without counting the many Portland area unaffiliated leagues that have men’s play (I know of four large ones), I stuck this on letterhead so I had a list to refer to, the Portland area affiliated leagues that offer men’s play are Eastside United, George Beck, GPSD, Legacy, OPSL & OSCL.

GPSD THE Men’s league? Not now, probably not ever.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Local Men's League Championships- yesterday and today.

In the earlier days of the Men's soccer league,  say from the late Seventies when the Portland Park Bureau stimulated a growth spurt  until about a dozen years ago,  there was one playing season.  It started in the fall and trudged deep into the mucky month of December at times.
The season was split with a break over the holidays,  and recommenced after the first of the year.   As you can see from the accompanying cover of the 1994 Championship program,  that led to the championship games being held in the spring following a season of about eighteen games. 

I can't think back on those years without a shout out to the memory of Ted Zyelinske who was the dynamo behind much of men's league soccer in Portland.   It was largely due to Ted's efforts that there were soccer programs for the championships.  Each team got its picture and record included.   Not only that but the championship games were played at PGE Park...then called Civic Stadium.  I remember how vast the old, artificial turf field seemed in the couple of times I had the honor of being out there.  (Our team had a talented forward by the name of Alex Addy who scored a record 36 goals in one season.  The rest of us just tried to get him the ball.)  And there was no friction to speak of,  so the ball would shoot off into the distance.   Ted was a tireless promoter of the local men's game.  He was cheerful,  knew everyone,  sold ideas and advertising and sponsorships.   A Brazilian by birth,  Ted's playing days were ended early by an injury but as a result,  his efforts made the local game an excellent experience.  Sadly,  he died in 1995 at the age of 59, suffering a heart attack while visiting family in Brazil.

In more recent years,  the heavy demand for field use by a variety of other sports like lacrosse and ultimate frisbee coupled with the massive growth of youth soccer led to changes in how the men's league unfolded.   No longer did the season run into December nor start in January.  No more games with snow encrusting the ground or a layer of water over ice. ( In this picture,  Brian Porter of SJO Irregulars battles for the ball in a 1978 match.)
Instead,  there are now 2.5 seasons.  The League sponsors a short season in January on artificial turf fields.  The primary league season consists of ten games starting in September and ending before Thanksgiving.   And a secondary,  Spring-Summer season unrolls with ten games between April and July.   That season has just ended,  and I'm sad to say that no FC77 Club team made it to the top of the heap yet,  though our Over40 First Division team,  FC77 PBR has a showdown coming up next week.   There are playoff matches over several divisions with the results being posted on the GPSD website.   

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vicente del Bosque- Conductor de la orquestra de Espana. World Cup

"And when you have order talent presents itself better."   I saw this quote from del Bosque,  the manager of the Spanish national team, last week.  In my mind that sums up the team's play.  Yesterday's game was fine with me though there were a few moments that had me gnashing my teeth.   I would have been happy regardless of the outcome.  But was happy Spain won.  And that Iniesta was clearly onside on the replay.   A disputed goal would have been horrible.  Back to del Bosque.  His Wikipedia biography says he was born in December of 1950.  He's a year younger than I am.  Amazing.

I haven't heard anyone else comment on this, but if my calculation is correct the World Cup has changed continents, Europe and South America,  in alternate series ever since 1962 following Brazil's back-to-back wins.  That is until this Copa when Europe won in succession to Europe.   Of course, this presupposes that England is willing to be part of Europe.  Otherwise it's only a forty year pattern and not near a half century.   I don't know that this has any significance,  unless it's part of a conspiracy by the powers behind FIFA to make certain no one feels left out.  Naw, that didn't make sense even when I said it.   

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Portland Oregon: more than a century of soccer traditions

Yesterday I happened across a copy of the Portland Mercury folded open to an article entitled "Who Cares About Soccer?" with a subtitle purporting to present information about "Portland Soccer: Where it is, where it began, and where it's going?"   Reading it over I give credit to the writer for coming up with some solid general background on the early years of the game in the US,  the generic 'ethnic teams' in the early part of the Twentieth Century story,  and then the Portland Timbers and their impact on the local game.  Entwined with that was the story about Title IX and its legal enfranchisement of girls' sport on a footing equal to that of boys which then led to an explosion of youth soccer because the equipment costs were low and lots of players were involved.  My personal version of that was the Custer Bulldogs, a team formed for seventh graders at St. Clare's school in southwest who had no soccer program.  One of the other big selling points for youth soccer at the time was the a particular size or physique wasn't really necessary.  Kids of all size and differing skills could succeed.   And the quality of volunteer coaching was a complete match.
But back to the core of what I felt reading the Mercury article.   Soccer's staying power or legitimacy in Portland or anywhere else in the US isn't an issue.  Isn't even worth discussing.  

Soccer has been played in Portland for at least 110 years based on what we know.  The earliest records unearthed show Portland Municipal Judge Cameron donating a cup that bore his name for the State Championship apparently won in 1902 and 1903 by the “Winged A's” of the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC). Which gives special irony to the Timbers' present digs in the shadow of today's MAC Club. The game in Portland has always included an international connection as well. The Portland champions, Peninsula, opened the 1920 season with an exhibition against English sailors from the British freighter, M. de Larinaga, which was loading flour at the Harbor Wall.  The Cameron Cup was still being awarded to teams as the late as the 1930s as best I can tell. 
Judge Cameron and his somewhat shady standing in Portland is available for those who are interested.  
The general unfolding of soccer in Portland through the Twenties and the Thirties did indeed parallel what was happening on the East Coast with the formation of the ASL and big corporate underwriting.  Slate just featured this interesting article on the subject.  But it seemed to have little effect on the West Coast. The east was a long and very expensive trip away.  And the east coast teams probably were dismissive of frontiersmen who happened to play.    The game in Portland continued to be centered around athletic clubs like the MAC Club and Portland Cricket Club, the ethnic associations but also educational institutions like the state's colleges. And then there were teams with names like Oceanic of less apparent origin.  Germania,  Clan McLeay,  and the Sellwood Soccer club were notable and found their way regularly into the newspapers.  And the play was regional.  Every year there was  competition throughout the Pacific Northwest for a regional cup. 
It was in the late Twenties and the Thirties that Hugh Templeton and his brother starred for Sellwood and other select teams.   On the field with them were other names more familiar to Portland history like Tom Moyer.  Hugh was proud of the club he belonged to and of their achievements.  And he and his family kept records of those days, a scrapbook which provides an invaluable window into soccer in Portland.   

On May 12th, 1934 a letter was sent to Hugh from H. J. Pallont (I believe that is correct)  reading, "You have been selected on the list of players to represent Oregon in the Canadian Soccer Championship game to be played at the Stadium on Wednesday June 13th,  kickoff 3PM."
The letter continues with details of player meetings, training quarters, and with an invitation to Templeton and his wife to attend a dance and social hosted by the Canadian Legion.   

One of the most compelling items in the scrapbook to me is a photo of the Sellwood Soccer Team in their striped jerseys posing as the Champions of the Rose City League in 1931-32.  The inscription reads that in addition to being champions, they are winners of the Meier & Frank and Burnett Cups, and runners up for the Oregon State Cup.   Two cup trophies and an inscribed plaque with laurel leaves are in the grassy foreground.   Prizes of local soccer history long gone missing, I suspect.   ( Another reason for soccer enthusiasts to work with the Oregon Historical Society to create an archive of soccer's history, curated by professionals, for future generations.)
There are four men in the picture who are wearing suits.  And who appear to be older by a fair bit.   The crew in uniform,  including their keeper in a white shirt in front, total thirteen.  None of your modern squads carrying a roster of eighteen.   

In that photo,  they smile out at us from eighty years past, young men now likely all departed.  They have a look that anyone who's played the game knows: satisfaction and confidence.  Not cocky.  Squinting slightly in the sunlight.  Glad of their wins and achievements,  but more,  glad that they had the chance to lace on their boots and play.   And glad they will get to go again.   

Coming-  The effect of WW II on the game. Rebirth in the postwar years.  Keepers of the flame.  Lost treasures:what happened to the Cameron Cup?   Heroes of soccer in the old days and not so long ago.  Jim Gorsek.  Ted 
Zyelinske,  Club Germania, Andy Clark.  And more. Because the Game is and always will be true PDX.