Sunday, December 8, 2013

MLS Cup battle decided by wood

The MLS Cup on December 7th in Kansas City was marked by freezing temperatures and hot tempers as Sporting and RSL faced off.  The game was played with enough intensity to melt some of the ice on the field,  went through the two overtimes and then was decided in penalty kicks when RSL's Lovel Palmer took his kick and struck the crossbar at just the angle to take the ball down and away from the goal line.   Palmer, who made 34 appearances as a Portland Timber in 2011-12,  was a late entry in the match and almost kept the PK exchange alive.  

In my opinion,  the game was a close battle in most ways,  but the geometry of the goalpost played a greater than usual role in keeping RSL from the winner's circle.  At 29 minutes of play,  Robbie Findley , the former Oregon State star who bedeviled the Timbers this year,  took a shot when Sporting's keeper failed to clear the ball.  Only the post deflected the easy shot away and into Jimmy Neilsen's arms.   At 61 minutes, RSL's Beckerman took a shot that also hit the post and bounced away.   And in the seventy-second minute,  RSL's Morales hit the post on a shot Neilsen could not have stopped.   Any one of those three  shots would have taken away the overtime game and given RSL the win.   Sometimes the wood just doesn't like you.   

Two more notes about the match.   Former Timber, Lawrence Olum, played a significant role for the Sporting.   Olum played forty-four matches and scored six goals for the Timbers in 2007-8.   And former Portland goalkeeper, Josh Saunders,  appears on the RSL roster as a backup keeper.  Would you want to be backup to Nick Romando?  That's gotta be a hard position.   

For my money, the game should have been RSL's for several reasons,  not just the bad luck with frame.  The truth is that 'should have' doesn't show up anywhere in the glossary for futbol champions.   

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Timbers gather laurels with stalwart MLS season

Our guys fought their way to the Western Conference final this year.  Coming from the deep waters of the 2012 season anything better would have been a 'well done',  but streaking to the top as they did under Caleb Porter's amazing leadership went beyond that mark to reach legendary status. 
Porter's selection as coach of the year is one reflection of this truth.  Having Diego Valeri selected as newcomer of the year highlights one reason why.   But this is not a superstar phenomenon.   Will Johnson and Donovan Ricketts made the first 11 of the MLS All Stars and Ricketts could well be keeper of the year.
All of which whets our appetite for the season yet to come. You can imagine that every team in the league is looking at the Timbers' performances with an eye to breaking it down and taking away what our team accomplished this year.   And I imagine that we're girding ourselves to answer that challenge--whatever it might take. 
In this season of thanksgiving,  I am very grateful to have had the chance to see a Portland side play at the highest level of American futbol with such success.   I think the cinderella season of '75 was the last comparable run although we have had good success in years past in the lower divisions.
I assume this year's performance is no fluke.   I believe it's a foundational year for a franchise we'll watch with pride and joy. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Women's college soccer- Santa Clara v Virginia Tech

I tuned into the replay of this match to see what Santa Clara,  a standard rival of the women Pilots,  looked like on the field in the NCAA playoffs.   They weren't bad,  holding the Virginia Tech Hokies scoreless through to penalty kicks which Tech won for the right to advance to the final eight.   Most interesting to me was that Chugger Adair , a Portland Timbers' forward during the 2002 season was coaching Virginia.   Adair played twenty matches that year,  coming off a strong year with his previous club, but only scored two goals in the season.  As best I can tell,  he retired afterward,  so Portland was his last berth as a player.   I may be repeating myself,  but I am always interested to see the impact that the Portland Timbers past players, coaches, and others have on the game--it goes far beyond our small, wet corner of the known universe.   

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Portland Timbers:Belief Beyond Reason

Tonight was grim, a hard confrontation with truths we don't like.   The Timbers Army and great tifo and clever chants and a football organization that recreated itself in less than a year,  nearly the proverbial 'blink of an eye', are not enough to carry us through to the Promised Land in a quick march.  

The game tonight was instructive,  whether or not we wanted instruction.   Our crew played their hearts out,   weathered two goals being called back and kept pressing on, pressing on so as not to leave the pitch without making their mark.  

But in the end Robbie Findley's goal stood up to throttle Portland's attempt to come back from their 4-2 loss in Salt Lake.   It was bitter medicine for the Timbers who have demonstrated that they can scrap their way back from the shadowed edges of many games.  Tonight they were not able to put their magic to work.   They had more shots, great set ups, but not on frame.  They were able to assemble clever attacks, but they were also nearly undone by bad passes and RSL set pieces.  In the first ten minutes of the match,  RSL was clawing at our throats with free kicks.   This was  recognized as an issue to address, but we didn't minimize the challenge in the game.    

Portland Timbers 2013 was a championship run from left field---totally not predicted by the previous year's results.   The hard work of Caleb Porter and his entire team- top to bottom- has been transformational.   We can expect that next  year's season will run true as an arrow to the MLS Cup. The absolutely wonderful season we've been provided this year suggests that our club has a vision designed to take us to the summit.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Now this is a sodden pitch...

Fratton Park in Portsmouth England was drenched recently during a match between Pompey and Wycombe Wanderers.  My wife's cousin is a Pompey fan and sent the link to this match.   Recalls for me the Timbers match some years back when PGE Park was the locus of a violent weather cell.   Thunder and lightning and torrential rain, though not enough to stop the match.

This phenomenon may seem like an adventure to some, but in the realm of football management,  it's a terrible problem. Grass pitches can't be maintained adequately during a fall-winter season with torrential rains. For our club, FC77 this became clear about three years ago when we had negotiated the use of a wonderful grass pitch in outer Southeast Portland.  The problem was that we had a very high (for a small non-profit) obligation to pay cash for use of the field.  Our calculation had been that the use by league teams would generate the revenue for the bulk of the field cost.   However torrential rains caused cancellation of many games and the equation no longer worked.   Extreme weather events such as the downpour in Portsmouth will kill the traditional field use in the fall and winter.

Futbol,  like everything else in the world,  is being affected dramatically by real life weather conditions.
As someone said in the comments from Fratton Park, "At least they kept the bar open".   Does this feel like the Titanic?   At least we can drink as the ship slips into the wash…..

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Portland Timbers- standing on solid ground

With last night's defeat of Chivas in LA,  the Portland Timbers are Western Division champions and the team which has ticked off many achievements as this season unfolded.  They have the fewest losses by a substantial margin at five.   They have the broadest crew of 'gunslingers'  as five players have seven or more goals. They have a goalkeeper in Mr. D Ricketts who has been like a shapeshifter ---regularly materializing in front of shots despite the laws of physics.    They have a defense which is centered in The Gambia but also has had heroic work early on from young players like Andrew Jean Baptiste and experienced players like Mikael Silvestre.  ("The Gambia" is so Oregon. Just like The Dalles).  Outside defense was a source of troubles a year ago.  This year Harrington and Jewsbury have given up very little and have created much.  They have a midfield which is intelligent,  skillful,  and unrelenting.    Will Johnson and Diego Chara are the Engines of Disruption and Cohesion both.   Like the two-faced gods in ancient cultural lore,  they both destroy opponents' attacks and seek the unfolding 'moment of joy' in which a pass arrives in the sweet spot of danger-to the opponent.    With the addition of Diego Valeri who epitomizes the ideal game,   the increasingly herculean contributions from Darlington Nagbe,  the physically hardened but joyful style of Kalif, and the insertions of Zizzo and Zemanski at the right moments,  the team has eaten up hours of time while plotting its next attack.   And there  is more praise to offer--Monsieur Fred,  Valencia, Kocic and the mercurial Urruti have all been contributors to a magic season earned with grit and hard work but also with a vision.  Porter's vision made real.   "We play as a team."  

The press coverage of the team has been massively improved since the early years when any mention of futbol was likely to be a truncated 4pt text addition to a page of 'really important sports'.  At the same time as this pic shows, the coverage has a long way to go.   Would a story on the Ducks football team misidentify a key player in a caption when the team was winning a Division Championship.   I think not.   And Diego deserves to be recognized--he works too hard not to be.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Long before there were Portland Timbers, footballers prowled fields in Portland

A recent blogpost from Michael Orr who has made Portland soccer history his specialty describes how "Association Football" was part of the city's sports scene 120 years ago.
More interesting is that the venue at the time was not that far from our own Jeld-Wen Field.
We honor the Portland Timbers' tradition which stretches back to the NASL debut in 1975 but 'the Game' has made its muddy-cleated mark on Bridgetown since there were four masted schooners anchoring along the Willamette.   The more we know,  the more we can own this game today.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Portland Timbers

Who would have said back in April that the MLS Western Division would web so tightly clustered that a sneeze from a particular player could put a team in or out of the playoffs. Who would have guessed back in April that the Portland Timbers, rebuilding after a disastrous campaign in 2012, would be aspiring against the Red Bulls to take the Supporters' Shield,  would have the fewest losses in the MLS, would be standing, albeit with precarious footing, atop the MLS West?   This has been a landmark season,  almost miraculous considering the odds.  Portland has been blessed with a visionary coach and a cadre of hard core believers,  guys young and old, who think that the system they are playing in makes sense and that they can be champions if they play together.

I am watching, week by week, with great happiness for them, with great pleasure for the ecstatic flow of play, and with great hope that for the first time since 1975,  the Portland Timbers, the boys in green, will be competing at the highest level in domestic soccer.  Their success this year will set a standard and raise expectations.   "Soccer City USA" should never be hollow shout with no resonance in the present.  

This year is a tribute to the past of the club.   More importantly, though, it's a shout about the future, where we're headed.   I'm looking forward to that journey.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't punch that horse. This isn't Blazing Saddles.

Punching a horse seems to be a comic trope but isn't something football fans want to be remembered for.  I'm happy to say that Portland Timbers supporters have largely refrained from rowdyism, preferring to dis opponents with great Tifo.     Apparently that concept hasn't caught on in some of the ancient halls of futbol-- Newcastle for example.   Let us search for a lesson here.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Portland Timbers are rooted in Portland

The evidence that futbol has gotten more than a superficial grip on our little city on the Willamette is reinforced in the recent 9-13 issue of Street Roots, a Portland journal which is committed to classic newspaper standards woven together with a commitment to making the sale of the paper a mechanism for street people to earn money as opposed to asking for handouts.

The above-mentioned issue features a front page photo of David Horst ,Timbers' defender who was injured early in the season,  battling Landon Donovan. The Timbers have been energetic about connecting with community groups responding to many different needs, and Horst is apparently a great ambassador as he recovers from his injuries.

And that epitomizes a club, an organization, a group of men who are genuine and who actually care about the community where they live.

I honor that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Urruti makes his mark with a flying boot!

Let's call him "Max" because we want to be friends with him.   Maximiliano Urrutiis the most recent hero to join the "boys in green" and perhaps the most likely to evoke exuberance after his flying, extended foot goal against the Galaxy on a soggy Sunday last weekend.   The link suggests that this goal was not a fluke and that the twenty-two year old player has definite magic.    Be that true or not,  his goal Sunday was stunning.

On a corner kick from the attacking left side,   the crossing ball came in at an awkward height,  too low to easily head and too high to easily trap or flick on.  Urruti ran well past the near post, saw the ball coming and extended his right foot just enough to deflect the ball past a stunned Landon Donovan into the net.   It is difficult enough to deflect a crossing ball from the near post back to anywhere dangerous with one's head much less with an outflung boot while in full forward run.  But did just that.

In the video recap, he continues forward toward the fans and he is clearly exuberant as he should be.   In the stands,  I saw the goal and gasped as did thousands of others because the goal was so unexpected and 'bellissimo'.    Maradona or Messi would have been proud to have owned that touch.

But Max is a player with more than just the rare, spectacular touch in front of goal.  He was a Timbers' wolf hounding the Galaxy keeper through the game and forcing one bad clearing kick after another.   His speed and intensity pressuring the defense were clearly unsettling. And his vision of play and reflexes were on display when at 56 minutes in the game he gave a squirting pass outside to Rodney Wallace who forced the keeper to fly one-handed for the save.

As the season marches inexorably toward the playoffs,   the Timbers give evidence of paring away all the "win resistance" and focusing on the qualities of determination, patience, and creativity to make their point.   Max gave a tutorial on those qualities in the rain on Sunday.
And we march one step closer to our first playoff appearance.

Our blessings to the entire Timbers' crew.  You've given us some great moments this season.  Regardless of how it plays out,  we're proud to be part of a club which can be legendary.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Odds and Ends bobbing in the torrent...

This weekend has brought the first big Pacific storm to the city.  We will probably still be experiencing some gusting winds and rain squalls when the Timbers take on the Galaxy this afternoon.   I'm not sure whether there's any advantage either way  but it could add extra uncertainty to the run of the ball in a game that has many uncertainties.

Before I went to bed last night I looked at the MLS feed on Apple TV (a newly added source) which I've only watched on my computer before.   The game highlights look good on the big screen.   I was happy to see Bright Dike,  a guy I've always had good feelings about,  knock home a lovely goal for his new club, Toronto.   By contrast,  I watched Troy Perkins our former keeper get stripped of the ball on a just plain, boneheaded error,  and give up a goal.  And last,  Lovell Palmer, also a former Timber,   came streaking down the right side in his match to put a ball on the foot of his striker to help RSL get the winning goal over the Caps.  
There are definitely a lot of players out in the MLS who've worn our colors and are still considered good enough to play at this level.   I think it's a sign of the franchise envisioning a team that plays at the top of this level and building toward it.   

I like it.   See you all in Section 209!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Don't forget the games in hand.

I'm frustrated by the sports page commentary on the MLS season as we rush toward the playoffs. Articles headline the point totals of our crew against those of other teams as if they were a straightline calculation.   And the articles which follow chew through excess verbiage on which team has how many points.  The truth is the discussion isn't worth having unless it includes recognition of where each team stands in games played.   Without the factor of 'games in hand' or the difference in numbers of games played,  all the talk about points is just jawing.

My take right now on the Western division isn't aligned with what you'd read in the paper. Sounders, coming on strong late in the season are not only atop the Western Division but have two games in hand and 50 points.  With six games left they have a potential 18 more points.  Even if they lost two games,  they'd be at 62 points.  Real Salt Lake has four games left.  Winning all four would give them only 60 points.  The Galaxy,  at best,  can pick up 60 points as well in five games.  Colorado with four games left can pick up a max of 12 points to put them at 59 possible points.   Hard to imagine that Seattle would drop more than two games.   The new alignment of the MLS means they will play all of their remaining games against western competition except for a match against Red Bulls on the 29th.

So that brings me to my own hometown crew. The Timbers have five matches left for a potential capture of 15 points. I rate the odds good that the Timbers can take all three of their home games and at least nail the final match against Chivas.  That would give them 58 points.  Good enough to be in the final four.   However,  it's not a given that 58 points are enough. The table is very very tight.  I'm holding my breath and counting.  No question that we are in a strong position but there's no room for missteps.


Monday, September 9, 2013

A New Era for Old Boys in Portland

This weekend marked the opening of a new chapter for amateur men's soccer in the  Portland Metro area.   The Greater Portland Soccer District untracked its first ever season including an O58 Men's Division.   One challenging reality for men's soccer in the region has been that the guys who started playing in the 70s or even earlier were finding that the challenge of playing against younger guys,  sometimes twenty years younger,  was not a good equation.   

The men's league has several notable players who are in their 70s.   Lajos Balogh is an excellent example but not the only one.   The league is committed to making it possible for players to participate in the game at levels appropriate to their skills and abilities,  and so the inaugural O58 season is marks a positive note in that era.   

Years ago a similar situation arose when the older teams in the league began feeling the pressure from playing against guys in their thirties.   Under the staunch and reasoned leadership of Ivan Ivanov, the league moved to create an O50s division.   The founding teams back then were Mixed Bag, Royals, Masterbooters, Jimmy O's, Rodders, Old Nicks, and Gresham East.  Sadly,  Ivan suffered serious health issues and was not able to continue as a leader in the league.  

Today, though,  is a day for celebration.   Cities around the country have strong O60s and older divisions playing.  The fact that GPSD is now hosting a division moving in that direction is a great step forward for hundreds of 'ould boys' who don't want to give up the game but also don't want to be crippled from playing against much younger players.

In commemoration of that fact,  here are a small sampling of pics.
 Goalkeepers in the O58 can take it take a long time to run down that field.

 FC77 Old Nicks played the opening match against Pierres.  Perennial rivals and good friends.
 The Maple Tree Bier Stube has been a very popular feature of Ould Boys soccer in Portland.  Thanks to Workhorse Midfielder and  Bier Meister, Glenn Fithian-Barrett,  the taps always flow.
The second match of opening day featured Masterbooters v Highland Stillhouse old boys.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tumbled up in Utah!

The Timbers match against Real this past week was dismal...hard to experience even through the medium of radio while on the road.   And yet it wasn't a surprise in its unfolding.  Real had its A team available and they've been the grittiest side in the western division this MLS season.   Portland on the other hand exposed its only weakness in that injury and disciplinary decisions limited the available roster.   The Timbers out of the gate this year made a seeming madcap rush to brilliance by playing a new, disciplined style of possession soccer.   Just past the halfway point of the season,   we can see that no matter the talent of the youngsters and newcomers on the field,  the Timbers' style isn't easy to step into in an instant and requires a delicate balance of solid, experienced players with talented, journeymen players eager to adapt but not always able to deliver consistent play.  

The match against RSL?   I think we had an obvious challenge with no seasoned back among our final four.   I think we continue to be hurt by the absence of Will Johnson though we were greatly helped by Chara's return.   I think we had too few choices organizing the play through midfield- Valeri's departure was a tragedy.   The overarching truth is that the team stepped up to compensate for the missing starters.   Al Hassan and Nagbe for example.  But it became a Himalayan journey once we were down a man.   

If I have any challenge to what I see happening,  I'd say that Kah needs to turn down the jets on his game presence--volatile behavior on the pitch almost always is a fatal flaw.   And is rarely helpful.   

So the weakness of the Timbers right now is their depth at each position.    I was watching the match between 'Spurs and Dynamo Tblisi and one of the observations the commentators made was that Spurs have 'quality depth at every position'.   Note to the wise,  Portland Timbers are still building to that status.   Until then,  we need to support their efforts--scoring when a man down--and urge the creation of  a solid, confident machine on the field.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seattle Grinds the Timbers

Sunday night's match Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders was not a blowout or demonstration of the superiority of one team over the other; it was a grind.  Hard and steady sending the ball through the rough field intent on planting seed. And both teams were hard at it.  Fierce in going at each other's goals.   Watching the match was so edgy that I couldn't sit in my mother's family room, but had to stand.   And my mother,  86 and trying to eat her dinner,  was continually distracted by the battle.  "why did he knock that player down?"  and then the realization that it was expediency and a gritty face-off between two excellent sides. "Oh," she'd say, "he had to stop him."  

The goal that won it was a serious disappointment.   After all,  our boys had managed to send beautiful leading passes through the Sounders' defense and onto the feet of our fleet and nimble forwards but to no avail.  Seattle's keeper read each attack and dammed our effort.  Ryan Johnson tumbling over the keeper in a one on one rush early on.   To give credit to our opponents,  they too put dangerous balls into our area,  befuddling even Ricketts the master keeper,  and leaving the outcome of the attack as loose as a toss of dice from a cup.

In my book, though,  the game was not all about Clint Dempsey, the fancy fella back from England.  The game was not about a letdown of our attack, for we were hounds to the hunt throughout the game and Valeri, Nagbe, Johnson, Wallace, and others were dangerous if not quite precise enough to take home the points.

The game was instead about the absence of Will Johnson and Diego Chara in the midfield.  For the first part of the season Johnson's canny play and Chara's non-stop energy have been disruptions to every team we've met.   Their absence was noticed.   Al Hassan played an excellent game I believe, giving his best to the defensive effort.   And Cap't Jack did as well.  But there was not the synergy in the middle that marked our efforts in the first half of the season.

The only other dissonance for me was the play of Kah on the back line.  He risked the game with histrionic reactions to the referee.  His tackle, drawing a yellow card, was not representative of the Timbers' style of play and added to the 'take no prisoners' tone of the match.   No team has won a championship through 'angry' play to my knowledge.   I hope that he can temper his behavior.  

We will be in the playoffs. I have confidence in that.  But whether we can progress in the playoffs depends on whether we can keep the core team healthy and whether we can maintain our poise.

Monday, July 15, 2013

In honor of Jimmy Conway, support the Alzheimer's walk on Sept 8th.

Dear Friends of Jimmy Conway:

It’s been a while since I was last in contact and I thought it would be a good idea to provide you with a brief update on Jimmy’s situation. After an extended period of seeking appropriate treatment for Jimmy he is, currently, in a local hospital. His disease requires extensive supervision, a constant assessment of his medications and his responses to them. Noeleen and her family are able to visit with Jimmy daily.  

I have taken the opportunity to visit with Jimmy, along with Noeleen, on a couple of occasions and while it is difficult to see Jimmy in his current condition, it is good to know that he is in good hands.

I still attend Timbers games and there’s not a single game passes without someone asking about Jimmy. He did so much for Portland Timbers and the fans love him dearly, as do countless others within this state who have benefitted from his work in the soccer community. We are still receiving notes of support from many of Jimmy’s fans at Fulham and ‘Bohs’ (Bohemians, Dublin) too.  

We will continue to walk as a mark of respect for Jimmy at the annual ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s’ which, this year, will take place on Sunday, September 8th at ‘Portland International Raceway’. We have re-formed our team from last year and will be participating as ‘Friends of Jimmy Conway’.

Here is a link to the official website. Using this link you can register for the walk (while there are no registration fees – pre-event registration is recommended) and/or make a small donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. Again, our team is called ‘Friends of Jimmy Conway’. Last year we raised more than $5,000 and I’d like to think we can do similarly this year. If you are able to please consider a small donation to an Association who are intent on serving those who suffer from a wide range of conditions under the ‘dementia’ umbrella and to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

I will provide a few updates by email but I’ll primarily use our ‘Fans of Jimmy Conway’ Facebook page for more regular updates before and after the event. Here is the link to our Facebook page: Please feel free to add your notes of support for Jimmy and Noeleen.

Our team will consist of family and friends of Jimmy and Noeleen. Unfortunately, Jimmy will not be able to walk with us and Noeleen’s schedule will be dictated by Jimmy’s needs. We anticipate hosting representatives from all of the local soccer organizations Jimmy, and Noeleen, have served over the years and look forward to seeing you there. 

Thanks for your support.


Mick Hoban
Friends of Jimmy Conway

503-297-0844 (work)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Lamar Hunt Cup- 2013

I have always loved the US Open Cup.  The idea of a cup competition which any team can enter,  any team can tumble the giants,  any team can aspire to reach beyond their normal fields of play is the stuff of legends.   Add to that the fact that the Cup is the oldest competition of its kind in the States,  and it says volumes about the place of football---yes, that football--in American sports history.  

So I am unusually charged up to have my hometown crew,  the Portland Timbers RCTID, claw their way back from a 0-1 deficit to Dallas to finish the quarterfinal match 3-2 with a gutsy and relentless battle for the win.   That puts the Timbers in a semifinal match against RSL,   also by chance their closest rival in the League table,  to go forward to the Open Cup championship.

This excites me.   It excites me beyond winning the MLS Championship.  Because the Open Cup Champions are inscribed on a long list of hallowed teams who,  through their love of football,  made the game an American game long before it hit the mainstream.   And carving their names into that list will, in my opinion,  be there long after individuals leagues and teams have been forgotten.   Being on that list would cement Portland's claim to be 'Soccer City USA',  a place where a sport which had no roots became a central part of the community's self-identity.  

The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.   Soccer.  Football.   Legends.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who the heck is Ali Daie?

I read the news this week that Abby Wambach had passed Mia Hamm as the all time goal scorer in international women's soccer.   My attention was caught though by this statement embedded in the article  "the record for men's international soccer is 109 goals, held by Ali Daie of Iran."    What?   I was dumbfounded.   The leading international men's goal scorer is a guy from Iran?  A guy I've never heard of?  

I was particularly intrigued because Daie is from Iran, a country seen in so many ways as being at odds with the rest of the world.   And yet here was a football hero who was not just a national phenome but was in fact on FIFA's steering committee.

Daie was recruited by no less a footballer than Beckenbauer and played professionally in Germany though it seems his national team appearances were sometimes a conflict with his club commitments.

For comparison, the other top men's scorers are not necessarily the most obvious names. Following Daie is Ferenc Puskas, the brilliant Hungarian striker, who tallied nearly a goal per game for eighty five appearances, sixty some fewer than Daie's.

The tally board is worth looking over.  In part because the most effective strikers aren't necessarily household names.   Pele is merely the fifth on the list- his appearances being fewer than some other strikers.

Far down the column is the USA's homegrown champion,  Landon Donovan with forty nine goals in 144 appearances.

Worth thinking about,  this question of footballers and the satistics we all crave about their performances.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Midseason I have to be impressed by the Portland Timbers

I watched the last ten minutes of the Timbers' away match tonight v the LA Galaxy and decided I had to doff my hat to the work that Caleb Porter and each and every one of the players on the team have done this year.   The possession-based,  clinical style of play that Porter has espoused has made a clear difference in the poise of a group of players who were mercurial in the past,   sometimes hot and sometimes cold.   Tonight's fourteenth contest without a loss nailed that difference.   The Timbers continued to march like a machine through the minutes--no panic,  no hurry,  no goals against.   

We stand at the midway point of a long season,  and I am sure there will be grim moments ahead. Despite that,  I want to say 'thank you' to the club--as individuals who have made the commitment to work to a common purpose,   no hysterics,  and to be confident that on a given night,  their approach to the game is enough.   


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So much futbol to comment on...

I just turned off the replay of the exhibition match between Chelsea and Man City in St. Louis, one of the oldest and staunchest hotbeds of soccer in the US.   What a crazy but entertaining match for the audience of 46,000?  Did I get that number right?  Regardless it was a lot o' folks.   And Man City coming back from a three goal deficit to win 4-3 can't be dismissed as exciting.

Turn back the clock to Saturday afternoon when the Portland Timbers took on DC United in DC and came home with to notches on their gunbelts, a 2-0 win in a hardscrabble match.  Who would have imagined that this shift in outcomes was possible with so many of the same players as we've fielded in previous years.   I am so impressed with the impact that the coaching change has made.    And it's wonderful to see the players who've worked so hard and had so little to show for it in 2012 be rewarded for their efforts this year.   Makes me happy.

I am particularly happy to see Rodney Wallace explode into a ferocious and deadly scorer.  I have said in the past that I was not a fan of Wallace on the back line when he started.  And even moved to midfield,  I was nervous.  But his role in this year's team as an attacking wing is thrilling to watch.   I see hunger and determination and poise under pressure and character.   Rodney, I am glad that the Timbers have found the right role for you.  

On a different theme,  the Galaxy's butchery of the Sounders was not fun to see.  It speaks to the fact that the Galaxy are a well-oiled machine regardless of whether they have a British supastar.   I was sad that the front end of the match report was about Robbie Rogers' return and not about the match itself.  I think it's sad that Rogers and other professional athletes still have to make this the first issue people talk about instead of their performance on the field.
The Sounders seem to have lost their way,  an observation that gives me little consolation since I know they will look to claw their way back to credibility over us.   At the same time, I'd like to see the PNW Cascadia teams and San Jose--the old guard-- be the strongest and grittiest part of the MLS.    We spent decades in the stands willing various versions of our teams to hold on because one day 'the game was going to be successful'.   And here it is.  And here we are.   And the scars from getting here mean we should always aspire to live up to that legacy. 

Signing off for now!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Can it really be? Portland Timbers hunker down and grab a road win!

I tuned in late tonight to the Timbers' away match against Sporting KC.  By the time I had found the channel,  the team was already in a 0-1 hole.   And the oppressive, dark feeling of being down in a well with the water rising  surfaced back in the corner of my mind.   But I truly want the good to prevail,  and so I found myself jumping up and down on the couch,  heart pounding,  and trying to respond to my relatives who share the game around the state via text message.  Yes!! It was mostly all Yes!!

I am wary of defining 'turning corners'  until years after the event.  I am wary of wanting to have a scary great team creating legends until the legends are already carved in stone.  I am wary of hoping too much from a simple football match.  All that being said,  I was enchanted by this game.   The players showed courage,  energy, poise.   They were hungry.  They were creative.   They were fierce.   And nothing seemed likely to stop them.   

When Futty went down---I exhaled a string of expletives.  How many times has that happened?  Just when we hit our stride we're hamstrung by the hobbling of a key player.  And Futty's injury was not a small loss in a team that looked much as a winning team should look.  

Despite that,  we took home a win.   We saw what was possible.  We sent a tremor,  I hope, through the ranks of the storied teams of MLS.   PTFC.   It's gonna be the brand you see streaming by you.

I can't wait for the next match.

Portland Timbers claw out a victory in KC

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Timbers fan assaulted before San Jose match

San Jose Hooligans?   The match against the Quakes on Sunday night was a rough one to no one's surprise.  I was a little taken aback that it was Alan Gordon, the former Timber, who ended up being the goat in the game,  but his elbow into Silvestre's face was just as clear as the one a week earlier which took out Valeri.  But then San Jose has always played a physical style in recent years.  What did catch me by surprise was the story of an attack on a Timbers' fan in his car driving to the match.   I've generally been impressed with the ability of the competing fan groups to be vocal rivals without devolving into more physical and thuggish competition,  particularly when there's so much beer involved.   This is the first time in recent years I recall hearing of a scuffle like this in PDX.  It certainly isn't a good sign for Timbers' Army members going south for the return leg next week.   And it seems strange to me in other ways.  The culture and demographics that have been connected to hooliganism since ancient Rome could certainly be found in modern American cities as well.  But are the young counter cultural and hipster fans who make up a chunk of the faces at Jeld-Wen cut from that cloth?   Alienated and angry?  There must be a few in any large group,  but I'm surprised that there might be enough to travel to a distant city and assault a local fan on a public street.  Or perhaps the rise of football here in the states, with its mythology of fan violence, is an attractor to people who would have been American sport fans torching cars in their city after winning a championship in something.   Another phenomenon I don't quite get. 

We'll see.  In the meantime, I'd really like to see the kabosh put on violence where it can be identified and stopped: on the pitch. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Potpuorri de Futbol! While waiting for our boys' next match.

I've been a little frustrated because of constraints on my personal time on the field the last several weeks. I'm sure that will all change now that the O50's Spring Season has started.

We're off this weekend because so many of the guys--on all our league teams--are up in Victoria at the Bill Drew Memorial Tournament  playing under the Mojos' banner.  I'm jealous 'cause we're not there,  but I'm also hopeful that those who went have a great run on the field and come back with no injuries.  Mar and I enjoyed being there but it wasn't possible this year.   

So I'm satisfying myself with streaming football off the web.   And isn't it great to live in a time when you can do that?   Holy cow!   

What did I 'dip into' and sample this past few days?    Well perhaps the most satisfying bit was the derby between City and United which City won.  Again.  I enjoyed seeing it. 
I happened to tune into the Mexican League match between Cruz Azul and Tijuana which the Blues won crushingly with four unanswered goals.  I haven't looked at the table for the league but I enjoyed seeing such fine goals.  The fourth goal was a gem---excellent communication from the top of the box to Xavier Orozco and a crisp shot from a difficult angle.   Made me wonder whether Orozco's available for a loan.
Last off,  I saw that the Thorns, RCTIFD's new women's side tied 1-1 in the first ever match in that league with Christine Sinclair being forced to finish a pk to make the table.   I hope that their 'come from behind beginning' doesn't mean too know we're gettin' this vibe in PDX.   

That's it.  See you in the stands!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Portland Timbers- Justice Juice and Jolts

No call foul in the box at 3:56 seconds into this highlight reel of the Timbers v Montreal, a one goal game at the end.   It's hard to argue against the view that the defender #11pushed Ryan Miller in the back of the head taking him down as he streaked toward goal on a beautiful feed from Valeri.  This isn't the first nor the last time in the Timbers' MLS history that what seem clear fouls in the box get a pass from the official.  This one was particularly painful though.

A week later in Seattle,  the Timbers gave up an unfortunate goal early and couldn't pull it back until the 90th minute when Rodney Wallace headed the tying goal home.   I'm not a big fan of Rodney Wallace as a defender but he showed a moment of real class with his header home here.  It reminded me of his goal against the US in an international friendly some years back,  winning the game for his native Costa Rica.   I think the strike in Seattle this past week was at least as memorable for his career stats.   Bringing home a point from the match in the Emerald City was an achievement equal to stealing the Ring from Gollum.

So what am I thinking about this new Timbers' dynasty three games into the season.  I like the confident,  crisp passing and possession style.  It's pretty to watch and it makes sense.  The weakness is that it doesn't pay when the team's down two goals and sands are running down the hourglass.   I like the personnel and have the sense that the potential for the team is greater looking forward.   That's a good place to be at the start of the season.

Fingers crossed and no major injuries.  You'll find me riveted to my seat in Section 209 for the forseeable future.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Now this is passion for the game.

 Jeff Wallach,  soccer player, Mojo, and sportswriter recently published this piece on Lajos Balogh, another one of the old guys who are not ready to give up playing soccer.  Lajos is an extraordinary guy,  an accomplished violinist and orchestra conductor among other things.   
Many of the guys on my team remember back--perhaps fifteen years-- when we played a match against Masterbooters,   Lajos' club team.   After the game was over,  Lajos came around to our side of the field and offered us streussel ( I believe I've got that right).   The pastry was delicious and we thanked him and asked if he'd baked it himself.  His reply caught us by surprise.    "My mother baked it."   Since he was in his seventies at the time,  we thought what an astonishing thing it was that he was not only out on the pitch with us but that his mom was still baking for his teammates.   Legendary.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Errata...a tsunami of errata

I don't aspire to be the prissy arbiter of everyone else's grammar and language.   I make mistakes intentional and unintentional.   But at the same time,  I find myself bedazzled and not in a good way by the wrongness of print and online media---as in just plain 'what were you thinking?' stupid. Today's Oregonian picked up the feed on MLS matches last night.  And the headline for the San Jose v RSL match is scrambled exactly wrong. And seems silly when the article is read and says the opposite.  Why?  I don't know but the incidence of errors in print media seems to me to be accelerating rapidly.  Two years ago I would decry occasional typos in which spell check had obviously been the arbiter of correctness and had failed.
So here we are today with a headline that is goofy and wrong.   Thank God it's the sports page.   Imagine if this was about the election of a president!   And the wrong person was being announced as the winner.   We need to do better than this on all fronts.  Writing it right is the job of journalists.   And this doesn't make the cut.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Timbers Jam Back and tie Red Bulls in Opener

The new Portland Timbers rolled out their best eleven this late afternoon to start the season against the New York Red Bulls, arguably the MLS' most storied side with a clutch of big names like Henri. 

Portland had its own celebrity players though.  Mikael Sylvestre, who'd put in his years with Man U at the top of the game,  was heralded as a spine stiffener for the Timbers' backline and was selected for the starting eleven, though he'd barely just arrived here.  Less famous but still notable was Diego Valeri, midfielder from Argentina who'd seen time on the country's national team.

The game started out with all the hoopla and frenzy expected at PGE Park. 
And for the first few minutes it wasn't a bad match up.   But then a scramble in goal led to Sylvestre playing a dangerous ball back at Ricketts in goal---maybe three or four yards,-- instead of clearing it out to the side.   And Ricketts, despite the fact it was played back under control reached down to grab it--admittedly with little time to think-- but lost control so that the ball bounced to NY who said 'thank you ' and put it in.    Not long after,  Sylvestre was galloping back with an attacker at his side.   Sylvestre at one step misread his mark's move and the man was free and suddenly the Timbers were two goals down.   

Character flared in our side though.  Valeri showed why he was highly regarded running through with a pass and controlling it under pressure to put it in and notch one for our side.  Before the half was over, though,  NY got a clear shot and slammed a third goal under the bar so that the halftime score was 1-3.   The team hadn't played badly but they'd been punished for each mistake.   

At the half,  among other things,  the field crew were out again with hoses and spraying down the field.  At every game where this happens,  people ask.  "What are they doing?  That's not grass is it?"   At one game last year we read a video feed that said it was about the aesthetics of the field or something.   What I want to know if why is it that it is always our players who are slipping and sliding out there?   The opposing teams don't seem to have anywhere as much problem as our guys.  Can't we get the right shoes?  Or not spray the field? Or something?

The second half was a sign that this is truly a different side than it has been so far in MLS.   The team stuck with their possession style of play.  They showed poise and patience.   And they were rewarded with two excellent goals and essentially put New York back on its heels.   A tie tonight was glorious because it was a come from behind and don't give up effort.  It was against a quality team.   It was done with genuine teamwork.  

So who did I like?   I thought Harrington was a force attacking effectively over on our left attacking flank.  I thought Khalif,  Chara,  and our new captain,  Mr. Johnson,  were strong.  I thought Ryan Johson, our target man, was in the game all the way and made a difference.  I thought Valeri showed his excellence--thoughtful through balls that dissected the defense.  I thought the kid, Jean Baptiste, was very solid--saving at least one goal with an extended boot.   

Even if nothing else ever results from this match,  it was a great evening of football and a display of character that promises good stuff for the season to come.    Thanks Timbers.   I can't wait to see more.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The African Cup- short comments

I have checked in to the Africa Cup of Nations a couple of times this week.  I am intrigued by the steadily growing caliber of play on this rapidly evolving continent.   Tonight I scanned the cup final between Nigeria and a country no one has heard of, Burkina Faso,  and thought it was a good measure.   The play was spotty as might be the case always with national teams who don't train together often.   But it was an engaging final.   Burkina Faso played with unexpected poise and challenged more than once.  

Through it all, though, I found myself captured by the notes of the strangely alien cavalry charge trumpet call blaring in the background.   The world has embraced the trappings of our dubious culture--the Wave, the cavalry charge, the chants rooted in rock n roll.   For good or bad, we recognize each other's shouts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Muttering in January

I have not posted for weeks.  My mother-in-law,  a magical Greek woman, died just as the holidays began.  And other challenges commanded my attention.   Life,  the real life that exists away from football,  rolls along unconcerned about my desire to make a comment on this player or that team or an incident in the Serie A.   And so I am silent.  

Tonight I have a moment away from those realities and I must express myself.   I am very sorry to see Franck Songo'o part ways with the Timbers.   I liked what I thought was his potential, truncated by a different philosophy.   Little did I know.   I am hopeful that the new Porter system will actually use our forwards effectively as opposed to situating them up top but not providing the service to make their presence worthwhile.

I think it may be a bad thing that the team knocked out three goals against the Rapids today.  Hubris is a danger for us.  Let me never mind.