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!