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.