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."