Tuesday, November 8, 2011

University of Portland Pilot women

The Pilot women,  whose decades long standing as a Western powerhouse faced a difficult road this past season, were energized to receive an at-large slot in the NCAA tournament despite their won loss record.  And perhaps there's some justice in the selection as the young team may be hitting its stride.  

That being said,  I was saddened through the weeks to see that The Oregonian coverage of the Pilot season shrunk from 'front of the section with photo' coverage to inside bottom notes about the sad outcome of the most recent game with a single column inch.   This approach to journalism is discouraging.  Instead of a constant commentary on the challenges of the season and a respectful reportage,  our town's daily just let go and didn't cover the team.  I guess the theory is that if they're not winning all the folks who followed them lost interest.   Sad really.  The Pilots have a great program and an off year deserves as much coverage as any other.  Danielle Foxhoven and  Hailee DeYoung in goal shouldn't leave their college careers without acknowledgement of their achievements.  

If you think this is simply grousing,  I'd point out that The Oregonian's approach bears risks for our other soccer favorites,  the Timbers.   Will the paper decide that a bad season in the future deserves only marginal attention?  I don't see that happening with the Trailblazers or the Duck n Beaver sport programs.   But the ink this past season for the Pilots makes me wary.  

We'll see.  In the meantime,  the Lady Pilots have a chance to chew their way into a little more memorable place in the annals.  The NCAA has offered them the chance.  My guess is that the women from the Bluff will use it well.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Horsebrass Pub commemorates Don Younger, Beer, and Football

For those of you who had the opportunity to play in Horsebrass colors,  and to those who simply enjoyed the idea of drinking good beer from around the globe and watching a fixture on the satellite tv in the old days,   there's a chance to reminisce and recall those times when the Horsebrass and Don Younger were really the only place to go.

A celebration of all of the above takes place this week at the pub.   Sure hope our picture's still up there on the wall.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Portland Timbers. Last home game.

I wasn't able to be at the game Friday night.  Passed my tickets off to a friend who has been eager to see the team play but hasn't been able to get tickets.  I was at a family event and could only check into the stream occasionally. The course of the game was clear by the time I did.   And disappointing.   
That being said,  I was pleased to hear the 'never say die' chants from the Army behind the announcer's voice.  And the audience in full roar when a call went against us.  I'm hopeful that the team can pull out some more points in the last two games-- just for the record.   If they squeaked into the playoffs,  I'd be happy.
I've already gone out and renewed my seats for next year.   According to the paper over 90% of other fans have as well.   And that's great.  I have enjoyed this past season despite the low moments.  Have seen some great soccer.  Ajax?  And done it in good company in a great venue.   I have faith that the organization will keep working toward its vision of a championship team.   Many of the players this year appear to me to have excelent potential.  And with more time together and some 'hardening',  Iook forward to seeing them out there again.
I remember clearly the dark days when the NASL had folded and there was no local team to root for.  Even without going to the playoffs this is a much much better place to be. 
Thanks PTFC.   Thanks very much.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The candle flickers. out.

Tonight's match against the Red Bulls had all the characteristics of the slow motion bad dream.  New York goes up early on a squeaker of a shot that should have been covered.  Chara was a step confused, it looked like, giving Richards the tiny window to the back of the net---and again Portland is down a goal in the first half in an away game. Disheartening to say the least.  As if to salt the wounds, former Timbers or might have been Timbers are out on the field- Keel and McCarty- like ghosts from some other universe.   

Worst of all, the team hunkers down and plays scrappy.  And makes chances.   But who can oppose the gods when our best thundering attack with a brilliant pass out to the wing gives Kalif a look at the back corner.  He places the most beautiful shot he's made all season on a full run.  It goes over the keeper, drops,  and smacks the bar!  The rebound comes out.  Cooper's there.  He's poised.  He volleys the ball down into the turf-brilliant- and it bounces up toward the roof of the net.  Hits the bar again!  Chara tangles with NY defenders trying to get one more take at it.
But no.  "Ah, if only gray-eyed Athena would deign to love us again..."   Or words to that effect.

Still, the game is not over, and the Timbers survive attacks and make their own.  Surely they will perservere!  But once again, the die is cast and the numbers are less than lucky.  A shot from six yards out in our box is deflected on the left post by Kalif whose arms are pulled back and who turns with his chest to redirect the ball away.  The referee says that the glancing ball hit his right arm on the turn and gives a PK.  Distraught Timbers gesture to the jumbotron.  Kalif is horrified and protests.   For their troubles,  the youngster earns a red card.  The PK goes high into the net.  And dark shadows gather around the edges of the pitch.  

On a different field far away,  DC United is chopping RSL to mincemeat with a three goal advantage in the match.  For the Timbers this is grim news.  United has two games in hand on our crew at the start of the evening and two wins would vault them ahead.  And it appears that tonight they will pick up one.

The candle flickers.  Not that there is no chance.  But clearly we have not gotten a smidgeon of luck in this latest fray.  Perhaps in the off season,  we can do something to propitiate these cruel gods of chance.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Soccer isn't for the fainthearted. Keepers are always at risk

In this early match in the Erdivisie,   the match is stopped for a long break as PSV's keeper, Tyton, is carefully removed form the pitch after being struck in the head by his own defender in the first half.  Another reminder that futbol is a hazardous sport despite all the discussion of diving and histrionics.   The truth is that players put their bodies on the line with no protective gear in a high speed competition with limbs at risk.   It's somewhat astonishing that there are not more bodies laid low on the field when the pace and intensity of the game is considered.  I suspect everyone in the stadium, of both allegiances, willed Tyton to recover.   Footballers and football fans are not generally mean-spirited.
Goalkeeper injury scare. PSV v Ajax.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A red card?

Football has its moments of mystery.  One of the strangest in my recent viewing came during a friendly between Ghana and Brazil.   Not a bad match overall.  Two thirds of the way into the first half,   Daniel Opare,  the Ghanaian left back,  dribbled forward with the ball.  At the top left of the box,  he squeaked through two Brazilian players.  Stumbling, he lost the ball as another Brazilian slid through in a tackle  which caused him to stumble further.  He turned,  smiling with resignation,  and as he started walking back,  the referee ran toward him and showed him the red card.   The commentator on this clip says it was a foul on the sliding Brazilian but it sure didn't look that way to me.  Shows how tiny nuances in the game make all the difference in the world.  
Opare Red Card

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Holy Cow...Rodney Wallace is the hero for Costa Rica!

Okay I have been less than enthusiastic about Rodney Wallace on the Timbers' back line.  And I still think I'm right that he's not the man we need as outside defender. And I would be the first to admit that, as a defender,  he does get up there in the fray scoring goals.  But I am stunned to see that the US National team went down yesterday to Costa Rica on a goal headed in by Wallace in the second half.  In his first appearance for his country.  And I guess I'd have to just acknowledge that the guy did it well.  And good for him.   I hope that it perhaps will help him step up his play and his confidence ,  particularly if he stays with our home side.   One thing I love about the Game is that it's always full of surprises.  Atta Boy, Wallace!  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

US Men v Mexico- First step in the Klinsmann era

The US Men's national team looked as ragged as you might expect with a handful of recent callups and newcomers as they took on El Tri for the first time after a thrashing last year.  The first half of the match was a demonstration of the Mexican structure and discipline.  The US had few chances and paid a price when poorly delivered balls went off target even a little as the southerners pressed hard.  Mexico was not shy about expressing themselves physically.  And their plusses netted them a beautifully executed goal,  a rotating shot around the marking defender, in the first half.   That being said,  the US team pulled up its socks in the second half,  played scrappy, and made substitutions that began to break down the Mexican defense.  The US had the best of the opportunities in the last thirty minutes and began to look more confident on the lovely goal that tied the match.  Most exasperating were the increasingly chippy fouls by players in green as the tide of play swung against them.   The culminating insult, however, came as the US had a breakaway, ball under control and Rogers outstripping his opponents, only to be pulled down with a flagrantly obvious shirt and shoulder grab by Torrado as Rogers broke free.   What should have been a red was only a lemon yellow card on the ensuing call,  and the US lost its best but not only opportunity to take home a win.  When looked at overall,  the match signalled that there are many great US players who can be called up to the national side, and that the US will be dribbling toward international success if the team plays with joy and passion.  Tonight gave us sparks of both.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Portland Timbers wallop Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0

First off let's express the obvious.  The Timbers won a match 3-0 for the first time this season.  A resounding win.  The Timbers dimmed the stars of the class of the league, the vaunted Los Angeles Galaxy, and didn't look too stressed doing so.  The Timbers snapped the Galaxy's fourteen game streak of no losses.  Did I say resoundingly?The Rose City side proved thorny to the extreme for these cocky visitors.  I must cheer for Palmer and Chabala, whose solid presence at outside back has taken away all my anxiety about balls coming down the outside.  They were exemplary.  I must cheer for Coop who didn't get a goal  (there was one breakaway in the second half when he had the view and had muscled to the position but didn't take the shot) but who created much and made the visitors mark him hard all match.  Equally, cheers to Perlaza whose goal was excellent and earned.  And medals of valor to all the midfielders who scrapped their way into the game over and over.  Zizzo for his audacity and danger.  Chara for his energy and creative skills.  Brunnner and Horst on the back end. And Nagbe in the middle.  
All in all it was a reflection of what this team can do when they stop outthinking themselves.  When they recognize that they are as good as any team in the MLS when they hit their stride,  they'll be in the playoffs and scrapping toward the finals.   I loved tonight's match because they earned it.  I loved tonight's match because it should be a harbinger of a hot finish to the season.  We've got enough points that we can make our move.  Believe, Boys, believe.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Women's World Cup 2011

What a great game.  Two teams playing with heart.  No easy answers to unravel a win.  Just struggle.  And hard challenges.   I would have been happy had either team won.   I know that being so close and not making the mark must be heartbreaking for some of the Americans but they scrapped their way through an epic game.   And I watched Japan play the Germans and thought that they were animated, transcendant because of their desire to give their country something joyful when so much has been horrific.  The commentators described one of the Japanese players as having lost four of her friends in the tsunami.   That kind of experience would steel you to give everything you had to striking a light in response.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Eighteen games left in the season...what can be said?

Independence Day weekend is often marked at stadiums around the country with a fireworks display.  Tonight at Jeld-Wen Field,  the Portland Timbers appeared to have soggy fuses and little about the game against Sporting KC evoked anything resembling sparks.   True,  Darlington Nagbe's inaugural goal just before the close of the first half was stellar.  Well taken and wicked.  It's nice to see that he's got a shot because we haven't seen much evidence of it to date.
The greenclad crew left the field tonight with nothing to put on the tote board once again. In the world of standings and stats, though, the team is not even close to a crisis yet.  With eighteen points on sixteen matches,   the team is in the bottom half of the league standings overall but has a game or two in hand on several other 'slow starters'.   While we're not in a great place,  we're not quite ready to be turned out to the bone yard.  The playoffs include ten of the eighteen teams in the league; from that perspective we have time.
What's more perplexing, however, is to understand what's happening with this crew.  Reading the fan chat online,  there's no shortage of opinions but I don't read much that makes sense to me.  Tonight,  we gave up two early goals.  One goal sprang from a failed tackle just beyond the top of the box by Brunner which left the KC attacker free to shoot.   The second goal was the result of a lovely arced cross from our right corner which floated to a virtually unmarked KC player's head and in. It was a classic finish.   So criticizing defensive play is an easy route to take.  Much has been made about the Timbers' lack of snap early in games, and giving up two goals in twenty minutes falls into that bucket.  
What I don't quite get is that I think this team has the talent to come back from early adversity and win games.  They're not doing it and my question is why?  In particular,  tonight we were not playing one of the high scoring powerhouse teams in the league.  What to make of mediocre performances against so-so opponents?  I don't think it's personnel. 
In the last game against Dallas,  I would have to call out Perkins for misjudging or mishandling at least two of the goals we gave away.  Tonight he played a solid match so I can't point to the keeper slot as being a consistent weak spot.  Still, success in the hole is very much a mental exercise and even good goalies can get spooked.  
On the back line,  Dansu's return after his injury is heartening but he may not be quite as sharp as he was before.  Still,  he's been solid more than not.  And Brunner,  despite the misjudged tackle has been solid as well.   I would have rated Jeremy Hall solid at right back too but apparently the coaching staff didn't think so since they replaced him with Purdy.  Wallace on the left side would still be my candidate to replace.  He's been sloppy with his passing in midfield and has been beaten outside more frequently.   If the reason to keep him in is that he adds to the attack,  I'd note that it's left our flank open to quick counters.  Again in this last match,  Wallace in the attacking end was stuck without good coverage and a Sporting attacker had a free sixty yard run into our end.  
Apart from the specific players,  though,  I see the defense overall allowing a high number of balls into the goal box from both the wings and from around the arc.  Even if they get cleaned up,  the more time the ball is in that space,  the more likely there'll be a goal.  
At midfield I like Jewsbury and I like Chara.   I give them both high marks for their workrate.  But I think this is where we see one of the issues arise.  All four of our midfield starters, with AlHasan and Nagbe added in,  come from completely different styles of play.   With language issues added to the challenge,  I just think it's hard to imagine that these four players would have settled as team in four months.  And Chara hasn't been here even that long.   Perhaps because they are all good players and successful in the systems they're used to,  it may be harder to mold them into a unit.   If I were making the choices,  I think I would use Zizzo as the starter and make Nagbe the sub.  Not that the coaching staff can do anything about it,  but I'd like to see AlHasan get a little more protection from the officials;  he gets hit a lot.  And my read is that opponenets just want to make him wary so he can't use the flair he has.  In this last game,  the referee wagged his finger at players after some thuggery.  That's not enough. 
There are ten midfielders on the roster but I mostly like this group.
On the front line,  much public commentary has focused on Cooper's failure to score goals.   I don't see that as being the issue.   Cooper works hard.  He's wily and does interesting things with the ball.  He's fast for a big guy.  And he's stiffened up from some games earlier when he seemed to be upended every other touch at the ball.  I think part of Cooper's lack of scores stems from the way we're using him.  Perkins puts up a long ball,  Cooper positions himself and heads it.  And he does it darn well.  But it makes him often the player who's away from the danger zone where he can shoot.    Perlaza was brought on as the guy who had blistering speed and a ferocious shot.   I think his scoring has been limited because we haven't put him often enough in positions where he can use that speed.  
When we aren't lobbing a long ball up to Cooper,  our attack has,  commendably,  been patient.  We have a demonstrated a great ability in our own end to move the ball laterally,  keep our shape and look for openings.   My totally amateur observation, however, is that our players are too often visually blinkered:  they make the accurate and effective lateral pass but they miss the 'variation'  the 'look' upfield where the lateral motion has left an open lane in the defense in which a strong pass on the ground could be fed to a player like Perlaza.   More frequently,  I believe,  we end up  making the attack on a set of sideline passes which,  when successful, give us a cross from the corner.   It's not that these choices are mutually exclusive,  I think our players tend to have a harder time seeing and executing the opportunistic play into the slant.
I'm guessing that most opposing teams aren't going to worry about us too much if we want to play the ball laterally back and forth but largely in our own end.  In the game against Ajax  the Dutch team used excellent lateral play,  patience and ball control,   but the players off the ball created opportunities for a variety of thrusts into the attacking end.  We have the play between the boxes as they say.  We need to add the play at the ends.
So this is my long-winded way of saying I'm frustrated that the team isn't playing better.  I'm not ready to see a wholesale reshaping of the crew.   And I'm betting that their increased comfort levels with each other under fire will bring us a stronger end to the season.  I'm even willing to say I think we'll snag one of those ten playoffs slots.   

Monday, May 30, 2011

Portland Timbers v DC United

Okay. Weirdest game ever.  I posted the link from 'droppping timber' because at midnight, hours after this match ended I couldn't find any fan site that was commenting on today's tussle in present tense.   Lots of bravado written well in front of play...nothing after.

So I think the concern that the crew comes out not feeling the need to rip flesh and set the goals afire is a legitimate one.  We came out today with some very nice play but not enough heart.  

The game became a grudge match early on as the United players showed their willingness to batter our folk into submission...whether or not there was a call from the official.  Is this something related to Troy Perkins having been 'bought' ?  I don't know.    When the first goal came,  I'd say it wasn't Perkins who missed his assignment....the man coming in to deliver the flick on home was not well-marked.  It is what it is.  

Timbers had a good movement and much creativity on the field.  But my longtime friend and teammate, Mike, pointed out that we were putting high looping balls in when we had crosses and not lower trajectory, more dangerous balls.

So the half ended with us in a hole.   And the second half opened with several offensive forays from our crew that couldn't guite buy us some joy.  At which point, we had Kenny Cooper fouled in the box and an opportunity to even it all.   Teams often have someone who's the "go to" guy for pk's  but Kenny was ready to take the shot as blood compensation. He took the shot and it was blocked.
Consternation reigned!   But wait! The AR called the DC keeper for going off his line, so we had a redo..And Kenny again stepped up and the shot was blocked!  Consternation reigned.   Cooper didn't use his 90 mph shot but tried to do a finesse both times-not good.  But wait!   the AR said that the DC keeper had again gone off his line and so the PK was reset.  This time though, Jewsbury was the man to step up,  and Cooper, distraught,  was directed to move aside.  Number 13 buried the ball in the net as he should and the home crowd were energized. The score was even. 

Minutes later,  United were awarded a PK at the other end and without hesitation knocked it home to take back their lead.  In no other match that I can recall over thirty some years was there a double retake on a pk.    Crazy.

The game proceeded at a fast pace from there on.  The Timbers had many rushes but couldn't actually create shots on goal.  DC United engaged in steady thuggery and the flavor of the game slid toward the grim end of soccer.  Not much of the beautiful game.  

The question surfaces in reflection on the match as to whether a healthy Charlie Davies and Dex McCarty would have tipped the balance so that the Timbers were back on their heels early.  Hard to say but the reality was that, crazy or not,  the tote at the end didn't favor our guys.   

This has to be the most odd match I've ever seen.  The resets on PKs were just the surface of a strange day.  

Portland Timbers need to shake it off.  It's not important to have a legendary 'never defeated at home' record.   All that's important is to have a won loss record that takes the team to the next level: the playoffs.   

We'll see if they can do that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barcelona. No question

I got to my friend, Glenn's late in the match due to life commitments outside of football, but was not surprised to see the match tote at that point was 2-1.   Within minutes of my arrival,  David Villa place a lovely curling ball in the upper right corner of the net and made it 3-1.   Barca rarely seemed hurried or pressed as to what the next pass might be, whether it was a pass of six feet or a pass of forty yards.   United seemed grumpy.  The video showed a closeup of Sir Alex clenching and unclenching his fist.

A discussion ensued.  Most of us watching remembered the Spanish national team's astonishing run at the last World Cup.   How much does Barca align with the national team?   I was guessing that eight or more of the Catalan side were on the national team but a quick check tonight suggests that it's really only six.   And may have been a couple more back in the last go round. 

But I was struck when I looked at the roster for Spain that sixteen of the players on the national team are club players in Spain for Real, Villareal, or Barca.   What other country could say that?   Brazil has ten, for example. 

I became a Barca fan for entirely non-football reasons.   The club made the decision to make UNICEF their jersey sponsor and pay the children's agency for the privilege.   That was such a righteous choice and so different than the typical club state of mind that I wanted to support it.  Afterward I began to appreciate that the Barcelona style of play was also markedly different,  and totally fascinating to watch.   Like a cobra,  Barca's passes undulate around the field in no hurry until the opponent is frozen at which point they strike.    And then the reality also began to sink in that the Barca side was truly made up mostly of Spanish players,  again an unusual situation.  A dozen of the current starting roster hail from Spain and several are Catalan.  Man Utd can't make that claim.    Nor can many other teams.    Our own Portland Timbers celebrate when one or two players on the roster hail from Oregon.   

And from the point of view in the stands,  I'd be much more excited to watch my team play if I were watching the best guys who actually have some identity with this part of the world.  Barca seems to meet that standard.  I hope they keep it up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back from England

Just back from a visit with relatives in Kent and Portsmouth.  The fans of Pompey are pretty intense and kindred souls to our Timbers Army.   As I understand it,  Portsmouth FC took 5000 fans by bus and train to an away match, I think it was at The Emirates.  Admittedly not quite as far as Seattle but still a good feat.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

About the ads...

Last year I was unemployed.  And scrambling around for any way to make a little money.  One of my good friends suggested I put ads on my blog and see what I could generate in revenue through writing about something I really cared for.   Something around eighteen months later I was on the verge of hitting ten bucks in revenue.  And I have to acknowledge to myself that I've never written about the game with any thought of how many pennies I can earn from having people click on ads.   To be honest,  I don't like writing for money.  I like writing for writing.  

It's in that spirit that I turned off the ads tonight.  Let me be the April Fool who can't make any moola from his work.  It's alright.  I am hopeful that maybe more readers will be inclined to chime in because they don't have to dodge so many 'opportunities' to buy something.

Thanks to all those folks who have dodged the detritus.  I appreciate your taking the time to visit.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Portland Timbers in March-Lions and Lambs

I've been biting my pen nib and not jumping in to comment on the "boys in green" as they have entered the MLS fray these past two weeks.  I was able to see some of the streamed early matches and watched the 'stream' last night from University of Portland from the warm and dry comfort of my own home.  I'd had a meeting and didn't even think of trying to go out to the peninsula. 
But with three games in hand, two of them in league play,  I'm beginning to feel that I can speak without seeming to be hasty in judgement.   And I have several observations that may be wrong but they reflect what I see.
1) Perlaza was written up as a forward with the moves and speed to burn defenders and be tres' dangerous.  I haven't seen that in the games.  And realize it may be because he's feeling a little tentative and not "fuerte".  But I don't see it. 
2) Rodney Wallace at left back isn't impressing me.  Last night in the Chivas match,  there were two instances in which the attacking forward not only beat him but turned him so he was out of the play.  He does get forward into the attack but I feel he's a weak link.
3) The midfield has its moments.  But there's no one who's the dominant 'field general' ala Beckenbauer.   And this team needs a general.
4) The team is playing with a man up from the end of the first half through the next forty five.  I didn't see them using their extra man to control play and make Chivas run themselves out.  At one point, there were four Chivas players collapsing on our player with the ball and he had no pass options.  Am I not doing the math correctly? 
5) Admittedly the defense was more solid last night,  but in two breakdowns,  Gleeson had to make extraordinary saves and that was when we were up a man.  Should not be happening.   
6) Al Hassan had at least three moments when he should have been at the far post because the ball coming down the right side came through and there was no Timber there to bat it in.   In the instance, he was ten yards shy of being dangerous.  I had the sense that perhaps he needs more seasoning to get the rhythm of this league.  We saw him at the end of the season against the Caps and he showed good moves and field sense.  Not sure what to say except 'time'.
7) Cooper was strong and aggressive.  I like it.  And he has a high velocity shot.  The assassins on opposing teams will be going after him for that reason.  Which means his partner upfront needs to take advantage and be the wily alternative.
8) A man up in the first half and we couldn't control the game.  That made me very frustrated.  Our crew looked anxious when they should have been confident.  They were playing well in many respects but also were first-timing bad balls and were not looking around,  slowing the pace,  and taking advantage of their extra man.

I'm looking forward to putting myself into our season tix section for the home opener.  I hope to see a crew that's gotten the bugs out.  I like these guys.  I want to see them play their best game. Confident.  And fun to watch.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

Judge George Cameron...an interesting figure in Portland History

This past weekend,  I took some time to look for Mr. J.H. Bennett in the recorded history of Portland and found very little.  There was a record suggesting that he was married on February 24, 1909 but little else.    A cold trail sadly,  obscured by dozens of references to other Bennetts of note.
Judge Cameron was a little more visible in the records. In 1906 two articles mentioned him and suggest his standing as a visible public figure.  In one,  the headline reads "Russian Nihilist Threatens Cameron" and in the other,  "Cameron Advocates Playgrounds for Children".   Can there be two more disparate notes?   I find myself eager to know more about both men.  I expect the good judge will prove the more interesting.
Thanks to Bruce Eaton for identifying J.H. Bennett as the progenitor of the eponymous cup amongst all the Bennetts seeking the public eye in the early decades of the 20th Century.  It was a good catch.  Now all we need is some detail. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CSI:Oregon's Cameron Cup examined

long wave UV examination of the
Bennett Cup.
The Bennett Cup is more
mysterious.  who was bennett?
Not too many months past, I wrote in astonished glee of the recovery of the Cameron Cup,  Oregon's oldest soccer artifact dating back one hundred years.   Judge George Cameron, scion of that Scottish clan's Portland branch, donated the cup as the trophy for competition in Association Football here in Portland.  For decades small plaques added to the cup's base recorded the outcomes of pitch battles between teams like Sellwood and Clan McLeay and Longview and MAAC.  At some point in the late 70s or early 80s,  the cup and the competition with which it had been associated disappeared and there was no clear trace of the story behind the judge's bequest nor behind what had happened with the cup itself.   
In late 2010, however,  Roger Hamilton, president of the State Adult Soccer Association and longtime player and supporter of the game,  received a phone call from Washington asking if he was interested in getting back two 'old trophies' which had been residing in attic storage up north.   Happily,  Roger took the time to go on a voyage of discover  to retrieve the cups.   Lo and behold,  one of them was the Cameron Cup.  The other was the Bennett Cup,  a trophy noted in newspaper articles from the early 30s but without clear understanding of which competition it was the prize.  

the cameron cup- a century of oregon soccer

To make a long story short,  I was privileged to accompany Roger to meet with Tom Fuller,  a professional conservator this week to have the two cups examined.   Conservators are the people in the museum world who do the CSI work,  looking at objects in great detail with many tools and sharp observational skills so as to decipher details about their composition, their stories, as well as what might be done to preserve their authentic character and extend their lives.   Fuller,  who donated his time while in town on a project for the Oregon Historical Society, looked both cups over in great detail and was able to suggest likely answers to basic questions about the evolution of the cups--such as whether the bases were originally attached or added later.  And noting that the small metal tags denoting which teams won the cup in which years had at some points been moved around the base,  possibly to make room for other additions.

Those small tags chronicle an Oregon soccer legacy which extends all the way back to at least 1910 when the cup was presented to what was, at the time,  the League in Portland.   Team names are engraved into those tags and into history as result. The most recent are from the 1960s.  One conclusion from our discussion tonight was to take the time to catalogue those names and try to create a timeline of champion soccer teams in our city during that century gone by.  Amateur teams that is.  The guys who put their boots on and went out in the winter mud to 'have a try'.   

The Bennett Cup is fascinating in a different way.  Its provenance isn't quite as clear though it shows up in team photos of league winner as far back as the beginning of the 30s.  And it's not clear what the competition was that earned the Bennett Cup.  The globe is inscribed "PSFA  Second Series" which one assumes means the "Portland Soccer Football Association" .  But does "second series" mean the second division?  Evidence suggests that there weren't enough teams playing for there to be two divisions.   I think it more likely that there were two legs to the season, and that the Cameron was given for the first and the Bennett for the second.  We also don't know at all who "Bennett" was.   Or when the trophy was created.    

I leave these mysteries for another day.  Enough that the Cameron and Bennett are back in safe hands and that we know for a certainty.  When you say "Rose City Til I Die." these days you are echoing a tradition in the game that goes back at least one hundred years.   I'd like to know whether the Seattle Sounders can claim a soccer tradition that has roots this deep.  

closeup of the cup. "Portland Association Football"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where do you go for news on the Cascadia Summit?

I have been encouraged by The Oregonian's coverage of the many unfolding facets of the Portland Timbers' nascent season in MLS.   But there are still occasional bumps in the road,  needless bumps.  The Timbers played a round robin tournament this past weekend--everyone knows that I imagine.  The teams included the Timbers' archrivals,  the Whitecaps and the Sounders.  Our crew stunned the Seattleites Friday night with a 2-0 loss.  And on Saturday,  tied the Caps in a game that was described in the paper as 'lackluster' at times.  Not to quibble,  that was still not bad news.  But the round robin didn't end there.  It finished with the Caps playing the Sounders on Sunday.   With a win and a tie,  the Timbers would be the winners of the tournament or at least tie for the lead.  And the close of the story would say something about the directions and relative readiness of the these three fierce competitors. 
So it was that I looked through the Monday morning sports section to find out what had happened. As far as I could tell,  not even the Sunday result was listed.  Maybe I'm an oddity but I suspect there were other people looking for a story on the close that round robin.  But I guess it wasn't considered worth covering since the Timbers weren't actually playing.  Which leads me to think that our local press still doesn't quite get how saturating the interest in all things Timber related can be,  even the outcomes of matches they don't play in.
If you click on the subject line for this post,  you can find out what happened at that Sunday game. As reported in the Winnipeg press.   Ironic.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Timbers acquire Jack Jewsbury...Midfielder

I'm not the most well-connected Timbers fan in PDX by any means.  I have had friends tell me, though, that word on the street is that the club has been working hard on getting a playmaking midfielder,  a Beckenbauerish person ( I know that's real old timey and Beckenbauer is most remembered as a sweeper) who has great field vision and can create opportunity.   I also have heard a lot of comment that 'the mystery midfielder' they wanted isn't to be had.   I don't know if any of that's true or not.
However,  I was struck by today's news that the Timbers had come back from a tussle with Sportif KC back in the heartland and are suddenly the new possessors of Jack Jewsbury,  a midfielder who has been a solid part of the KC franchise.   Jewsbury is probably not the 'mystery midfielder' the team was working to acquire but I'd say he reflects an unspoken reality for our guys.  
Jewsbury is the guy with the pedigree of eight successful years in the MLS wars who can settle the team,  deliver the assist in the attack, and whose mettle is unquestioned on the defensive edge.  Jewsbury's just about to turn thirty so he's old enough to be the player younger guys look to as the season turns tough.  And his callups for the national side give him additional field cred.
I'm guessing as the club's wise men look around the roster,  they're seeing the need for the anchor, the rock solid player,  who can look everyone in the eye in a half-time dressing room during a hard-pressed match,  a guy who can say "settle down boys.  We can do this."   
Jewsbury might just be that guy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Charlie Davies and all

Was happy to see that Charlie Davies is back in the DC United side after the year and a half recovery from his auto accident.  While I wouldn't want to say I'd like to see him get by any of our defenders as the season opens,  I hope he's fully recovered and not lost the magic that made him a compelling player for the US National side.  We could use some more 'oomph' there.

On a completely unrelated note,  my friend and teammate, Mark, sent me a snippet of Zach Dundas who apparently will be writing for "The Run of Play".  He's got an engaging writing style and speaks for many of us who were soccer outcasts during the long lean years.  I look forward to reading more of his comments.  Even better he's from Portland.  And lord knows we need more soccer writers from PDX.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another season. Another gray day in February. Decades pass.

The game goes on.  And those of us privileged to step out on the field treasure these moments.  We know they don't go on forever.  
This past Saturday FC77 Old Nicks faced off for the first time ever against our brothers, FC77 Newcastle for an actual match.   The spirit was jolly.  The play was a little rusty it being the first game of Winter Season. But it was excellent. 
The end result was a loss for my boys, Old Nicks, on a last minute strike by Dean Jones,  talented striker that he is. Otherwise it was an even contest and a good reason to lift a few pints at the legendary mobile Bierstube de Fithian Barrett. We are blessed.  There are few men who get to experience these full moments so long in our lives.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I'm thinking that I'd better start figuring out how to pronounce Umony since the Ugandan player has rated mention in both of the Timbers first warmup matches.  Rumor has it he's got the touch despite not being the biggest guy on the field.   Knocking one in against the Galaxy isn't a bad feat.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dike injured? Hard way to start.

Sad to read that Bright Dike snapped his Achilles just minutes into the weekend's exhibition match. His brawny style and ability to fake defenders and come out of a scrum with a shot were all great fun to watch last year.  And sterling as far as the team's effectiveness went.  
I winced when I read the story.  I'm an old man and I've been nursing a sensitive Achilles for a fair while myself.  All my mates give me the lecture about not risking a tear because it's a long recovery and no fun in the meantime.  Gives me pause when I read that this fit young guy who's actually an athlete was afflicted.  
I'm hoping that they find it's a partial tear and his recovery will be swift.  I am going to enjoy seeing the interesting cast of other forwards the Timbers have assembled.  But I'd like to see Dike back sooner rather than later.  

Dike injured? Hard way to start.

Sad to read that Bright Dike snapped his Achilles just minutes into the weekend's exhibition match. His brawny style and ability to fake defenders and come out of a scrum with a shot were all great fun to watch last year.  And sterling as far as the team's effectiveness went.  
I winced when I read the story.  I'm an old man and I've been nursing a sensitive Achilles for a fair while myself.  All my mates give me the lecture about not risking a tear because it's a long recovery and no fun in the meantime.  Gives me pause when I read that this fit young guy who's actually an athlete was afflicted.  
I'm hoping that they find it's a partial tear and his recovery will be swift.  I am going to enjoy seeing the interesting cast of other forwards the Timbers have assembled.  But I'd like to see Dike back sooner rather than later.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don Younger-In Memoriam

Long ago in Portland there was little in the way of beer,  little in the way of cool districts,  no McMenamins or other brewpubs, and very very little sympathy for or interest in that sport called soccer.   What there was, however, was a place called The Horsebrass Pub on SE Belmont street.  A place which evoked every imaginable sensation that would warm the hearts of an Anglophile.   Don Younger,  independent and single-minded publican,  had managed to create something magic with his pub.   
Sadly, I read the news today oh boy,  and part of it was the announcement that Don had passed on.  Which made me sad for both his passing and the loss of his friends and family but also for the loss of a time in Portland that is unlikely to be repeated.  Rightly,  Younger is honored and mourned for the nurturing and support he provided to people in the nascent brewing industry.  And for his quirky but authentic approach to the Horsebrass, a Portland institution.
What might go unsaid in other settings though is that Don was one of the people who helped the birth of broad interest in soccer in our city.   The pub sponsored teams,  the best known of which  I believe was Rangers.   On the east wall just near the dart boards,  a framed photo still hangs of the Old Nicks Horsebrass team which rang up some metal in the 80s.   I don't know whether Don liked the game itself all that much or saw it as an essential outcropping of the pub life which he was working to create.  Regardless,  he gave it his support.   I remember well going to the Horsebrass on a weekend morning with family to have a good English breakfast and to watch a tape or limited access broadcast of the FA Cup final on the telly.    
Those are good and genuine memories.  I was lucky to be part of it all.   And I'm sad today that Don is no longer with us.  But I hope his memory will be part of our stories for years to come.

A Thrill of Recognition

Okay it's a small thing, but I was reading the Timbers Notebook this past week and saw the small print notice announcing the division alignments in the coming MLS season.   In the West I noted that competitors included our boys, the Portland Timbers,  Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and the San Jose Earthquake.   All of them teams who struggled for the title back in the 70s NASL.  Brings back memories of an extraordinary time when most of us were just discovering soccer.  Who would have thought that we'd be gearing up thirty some years later to go to battle under the same banners and wearing the same colors (sorta).  As I say,  I felt a thrill.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Portland Timbers Ink!

My great frustration over the years that soccer has become more popular in our city has been the dearth of coverage by The Oregonian when good and interesting stories have been available to cover.   I can see that the tide has turned in the past week or two as the sports page has frequently had updates on the Timbers' recruiting, drafting, speculating, and training.   All of which is to say that Portlanders who follow The Game have at least a reason to check the sports page.   And Portlanders who haven't yet followed The Game might be persuaded to take a little interest as the stories unfold.   And I applaud The Oregonian's Editorial staff for giving some greater priority to the effort.  
In the mists of the 70s past, local media covered the Timbers with gushing enthusiasm because they had a fantastic and unexpected run to prominence in the old NASL.   And Portlanders,  much to everyone's surprise,  took the team into their hearts even if they did have funny accents, or perhaps because they did.  Maybe it was an early example of why Portland could be 'weird'.  
I am hopeful that Portland's print media continue the decent and insightful coverage of the Timbers and of the game in general two years from now,  regardless of where our crew fall in the table.   The sport has labored for acceptance as something more than an oddity for a half century almost.   Write about it. And write about it well.  Soccer deserves it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unraveling the mystery "These Lads Really Know How to Kick It Around"

The Oregonian Sport Section, sometime in the latter part of 1935,  featured a picture of the Sellwood soccer team, arms folded and smiling confidently, in a parklike setting.   At their feet were ranged two trophies and a ball.  Until this week,  I couldn't venture an opinion about those trophies.  Today I can say with certainty that the Cameron Cup,  Oregon's oldest known soccer artifact, sits on the left at the feet of T. Watson and the Bennett Cup, a second ancient icon of our game, sits at the feet of R. Watson.  The crew from Sellwood,  including the ever-affable Hugh Templeton, were getting ready to face off against German Sports at Sellwood Park. 

The match had been called off at the half four weeks earlier when one of the German players, Gus Moessner, had died during the game.  The German Sports were ahead by two goals when the match had been stopped, but Sellwood was confident after having beaten the Germans three times in league play.   

At stake in the match was the Oregon State Cup annual fixture.   

Most notable to me, though, was the presence of those two trophies, icons of our state's soccer heritage going back almost to the turn of the Twentieth Century. The Cameron Cup, only recovered in the last few weeks after being out of sight for decades,  symbolizes our sport's earliest competitions.   And to see these photos recalls many threads of continuity between past and present.

Earlier today,  I had an exhilarating phone conversation with a descendant of Judge Cameron,  who created the Cameron Cup at the beginning of the 20th Century.  She is eager to share family history about the Judge and also about her ancestors who played for Portland's Scottish sides ninety or so years ago.  

So more is to come. Like the unfolding of a Chinese puzzle the unraveling of history no one remembered provides opportunities to recognize that we are part of a grand and long tradition.  

John Rooney is reported to have signed with MLS and is available.

John Rooney's name is either a blessing or a curse, I suspect.  On different days.   He's the mercurial Wayne's brother and is either not quite the talent his brother is reputed to be, or is a talent in his own right but is beset by unrealistic expectations because of his brother, or his brother is not quite the talent he's cracked up to be and so John's shortcomings are really not that big a deal.   Regardless, the youngster with the big name has been in the Pacific NW training and visiting teams like the Sounders and the Timbers since last fall.   This past week there was a small piece in the paper.  (It's almost always a small piece in the paper.) that John has signed for MLS and will be available.

As a member of the Ould Guard of Portland Timbers supporters,  I find myself wondering about the calculations which might go on in the strategy room of the PTFC leadership.  If the young Rooney has any talent at all and can play decently at this level,  with the special seasoning of some 'heart',  would he be a marquee draw out of curiousity as much as anything else?  If he has no talent at all,  it's hard to believe the team would bother with him.   Gavin Wilkinson comes across as a very practical man, not unsympathetic,  but not given to flights of fancy with the club's money and limited roster slots.  Not to mention the rest of the leadership. All give evidence of a very carefully calculated decisionmaking process. And I applaud them for that.

Wil be interesting to see where the youngster lands.   Regardless,  it's got to be a hard road getting respect when your brother's Wayne Rooney.