All posts by shebainpdx

MLS Cup Playoffs: Valeri Brace Gives Portland Timbers Victory

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Wednesday, 10/31, Portland Timbers at FC Dallas

Result: Timbers 2-1 Dallas

Coming off last Sunday’s 2-1 regular season defeat against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Portland Timbers found themselves in a do or die play-in game on Wednesday night vs. FC Dallas.

While coach Gio Savarese’s decision to bench almost all of the starters in Vancouver was painful for fans to watch (trust me, I was one of them), it looked like the right decision when fast-forwarded to Frisco Wednesday night. All of the veterans were back, rested, and ready, as opposed to Dallas’s squad, who played plenty of starters at higher altitude in their loss to the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City just a few days before.

This was a pretty stressful game (okay EXTREMELY stressful game) to watch as a supporter, aside from the obvious pressure resulting from it being either the gateway to the playoffs or the end of the team’s season. The Timbers got beat in nearly every stat (possession, time in the attacking half, time in the final third, completed crosses…) and spent about 40 minutes of the match down a man. In the end, though, the only stat that matters is the scoreline, and thankfully the Timbers came away with a massive win.

Match Recap

Sometimes when a team gets beaten in overall possession it isn’t really a big deal, because the team’s plan is to sit back, absorb pressure, force wide, keep the other team from doing anything dangerous, and bide your time for that chance at a counterattack. In those kinds of games, even when your team doesn’t have the ball as often, it doesn’t feel particularly dangerous or worrisome.

This didn’t quite feel like that sort of game. It’s true that Dallas has had recent scoring woes, and they had only six actual shots on target for the night, but they felt dangerous PLENTY of times. Maybe that’s because they had 22 shots on goal. If their finishing were a little bit better, this story might have had a completely different ending.

In the first half, it sometimes felt like Michael Barrios repeatedly punished left back Jorge Villafaña, attacking with ferocity and impunity. And at 12′ when Reto Ziegler received Santiago Mosquera’s free kick and headed the ball to Matt Hedges for a tap into the back of the net, it looked like the Timbers would have to claw their way back from behind.

Fortunately, video review showed that Hedges (and frankly Dominique Badji, if he had actually been involved in the play), were WAY ahead of anybody in a green jersey when the ball left Ziegler’s head. The goal was disallowed and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

The momentum shifted when Sebastian Blanco drew a foul in a dangerous spot, and Diego Valeri stepped up for the free kick. El Maestro did not disappoint, curling in a beauty for the score at 23′. Advantage: Timbers.

In the second half, Dallas continued to press, and they definitely had their chances. And unfortunately for Portland, Larrys Mabiala gave Dallas their biggest advantage of the night when he found himself out of position against Badji in the 57th minute. Unable to prevent Badji from continuing unimpeded to the goal, Mabiala reached in with his right arm, pulling Badji down. While it may have saved a goal, it earned Mabiala a straight red, giving Dallas a one-man advantage for the rest of the game.

Fortunately, the Timbers were able to pull off a minor miracle, scoring a second goal while a man down. Jeremy Ebobisse made a beautiful run at 71′, and in spite of having the keeper and two defenders in close proximity Ebobisse kept his head, coolly fielded a well-placed ball, knew that somebody would be coming and where he’d be, and dished the ball to Valeri, who found an open net waiting for him:

The game was far from over, of course. Dallas was desperate to get on the board, and with seven minutes of stoppage time, they finally found their chance. At about 90+4′, Mosquera managed to put a header into a dangerous spot, and Hedges banged it in for a goal:

Dallas continued a flurry of attempts, but in the end it wasn’t enough, and the Timbers came away with the win and the advancement to the Western Conference Semifinals.

Quick Takes

Build the statue already. Diego Valeri, already recognized as the league MVP last year, continues to come through in the clutch. You thought the 32-year-old was maybe finally showing signs of being mortal? Watch that free kick again. And while you’re at it, recognize that he is the first Timbers player to score a brace in MLS Cup playoffs.

Jeff! Jeff! Jeff! Jeff! If Valeri wasn’t your MVP for this match, maybe that’s because it was Jeff Attinella. Coming back to his second game following a separated shoulder injury, Jeff had five MASSIVE saves in Frisco, four of them in the second half and one of them in stoppage time. If Diego Valeri won this game, Attinella saved it.

Halftime adjustments. I mentioned earlier that Barrios was pummeling Villafaña on his side of the field in the first half. But whatever adjustments were made at the half, they seemed to be effective. Dallas maintained possession and continued their attack, but Villafaña’s defense improved, with 5/7 of his successful recoveries and 8/11 of his successful passes taking place in the second half. Barrios, in contrast, had most of his unsuccessful passes (8/11) in the second half. Kudos to Jorge for making the adjustment. By the second half, he looked more like the 2015 season player we know and love. Welcome back, Sueño.

Defense, defense, defense. When you’re down a man for a third of the game, your defense is critical. And a couple of players stepped up in a big way to preserve the lead and the win. Between them, Diego Chara and Liam Ridgewell had 15 clearances. 14 of them in the second half and 11 of them after the team went down a man. Of those 11, all but one were inside the 18, and all but one were directly in front of the goal. Chara and Ridgewell defended the goal tenaciously in spite of Mabiala’s booking. Honorable defensive mention also goes to Zarek Valentin, who aside from putting in another smart, solid shift, literally took it on the chin for the team, catching a free kick to the face. Ouch.

Looking Ahead

As of this writing, pending the outcome of the LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake play-in, the Timbers will host either Sporting KC or the Seattle Sounders on Sunday at a time still to be determined. Either opponent would be formidable, and with both Chara and Ridgewell having obtained a yellow card in the match, another yellow would have either player on the bench for the away leg, something the team can ill afford.

Here’s hoping the soccer gods are kind, that yellow cards for our key defenders remain in the center ref’s pocket, and that the boys put in a solid performance. See you all at home on Sunday.

Featured image: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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Playoffs, Baby

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx
Sunday, October 21: Providence Park 3-0 Win

While the Portland Timbers beat Real Salt Lake 4-1 back on October 6th, thanks to a brace from Sebastián Blanco and scores from Jeremy Ebobisse and Lucas Melano (!), this game was far from a foregone conclusion. RSL had just come off a decisive 4-1 victory of their own against the New England Revolution, and that was while missing several of their key players.

And as Timbers fans know, we have had a history of big showdowns against RSL with some less than satisfactory results (see, for example, the US Open Cup Semifinal or the Western Conference Finals series in 2013). RSL has had ample opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come through in big moments against the Timbers in the past, and this past Sunday they had every motivation to do it again: a win for RSL would guarantee them a playoff spot.

Fortunately for Timbers supporters, though, Sunday was all Portland, as the Timbers kept a clean sheet through ninety minutes, scoring three of their own and securing their spot in the postseason.
Match Recap

The Timbers started off strong, with captain Diego Valeri having a chance at a goal the first minute of the match. Larrys Mabiala opened the scoring, beating Marcelo Silva off a Valeri set play in the 15th minute:

Kyle Beckerman seemed to show his age (I’ll confess, my match recap notes say “JFC, Beckerman looks old, like almost Bob Dylan old but with a teeny, tiny rattail”), but he managed to get a foul called against Diego Chara early on as the two tangled. Chara had his revenge in the 68th minute, leaving Beckerman completely in the dust:

The game was pretty much already in the bag when Blanco put in the third goal at the 87th minute:

3-0 was the score when the final whistle sounded, guaranteeing the Timbers a spot in the playoffs and ending Real Salt Lake’s season.
Quick Takes

Who’s our starting striker? This is a question that gets a different answer depending on when you’re asking. At the beginning of the year, it was clearly the now-departed Fanendo Adi, who, since his loan to the club in May 2014, had scored 54 goals for the Timbers and was one of the best strikers in club history. Nevertheless, gradually his star power with the club seemed to have faded in favor of newcomer Samuel Armenteros, and by July Adi was traded to USL side FC Cincinnati for allocation money.

Fast forward to fall, and the position now seems to be Jeremy Ebobisse’s to lose. In his last two starts, Ebobisse has had a goal and a couple of key assists, both in Blanco’s goal in the 73rd minute in Rio Tinto and in Chara’s goal on Sunday. For my money, Ebobisse is a smart player who plays well with our South American players, in particular frequently connecting and combining well with Valeri, Blanco, and Chara.

We first had the opportunity to see this potential in action against the Vancouver Whitecaps last year, when our decimated squad had so many injuries and call-ups that we brought up players signed to three day MLS contracts just to fill out the squad and we couldn’t even field a full 18. In his first MLS start for that match in July 2017, he notched a goal and an assist and worked extremely well with Valeri up front and in the middle. For my money, he’s earned the right to the spot.

Who’s in the starting lineup in Vancouver? It will be interesting to see who coach Gio Savarese decides to put in the XI on Sunday. On one hand, it is clear that the center back pairing of Liam Ridgewell and Mabiala has been the most effective this season. At the same time, Ridgewell has not been to nearly as many away games as he has home games this season, and it is possible to envision a scenario where Ridgewell is home, rested and ready for the play-in game which will take place sometime midweek.

There are few scenarios this weekend that have the Timbers finishing above 5th place, meaning that the play-in game is almost certainly going to be an away one; and given that the play-in is a one-game-only scenario (win or you’re done for the year), it is conceivable that the Timbers might rest some players in preparation for playoffs.

Does Armenteros get a run out this Sunday, saving Ebobisse for the postseason?

On the other hand, there is the possibility that the Timbers climb to fourth place in the standings. Let’s be honest, it is pretty unlikely. In addition to a Timbers victory, either Seattle Sounders would have to lose at home to the hapless San Jose Earthquakes or FC Dallas would have to drop their final game against the 11th place Colorado Rapids; but it is at least possible.

This might argue in favor of bringing out all of the starters, in hopes of the improbable fourth-place finish happening and the Timbers getting the chance to host that midweek play-in game. (Yes, technically there is the possibility of a third-place finish for the Timbers in the standings, but since it involves making up a ten point goal difference, among other things, let’s not bother with that scenario.)

Hey, how about that Steve Clark guy, huh? I know, folks were mercilessly, if good-naturedly, ribbing the Timbers’ recent acquisition, keeper Steve Clark online, because he was the guy on the wrong end of this historic play from the 2015 MLS Cup:

When he first joined, there were tons of posts online about “See if Dairon Asprilla will give up his jersey number 27″ or “Maybe we can get him to sign the 27-second ball in the fanladen, ha ha.” Well, Clark has embraced the team and the town, is genuinely happy to be here, works hard, and sometimes has saves like this:

While Jeff Attinella recovers from that separated shoulder, we have a more than capable backup on our hands who bailed us out more than once this match. Hats off, Steve. That was a world class save, point blank and somehow directed OVER the net and safely away. Glad you’re with us.
Off the pitch

Supporters Player of the Year (SPOTY) With ten goals and eleven assists on the season, it should not come as a surprise that the runaway winner of the Timbers’ 2018 Supporters Player of the Year was Sebastian Blanco. While the fortunes of the team waxed and waned over the year, Blanco remained a constant positive force, having a key role in nearly 40% of all goals scored by the club this season.

Congratulations, Chucky. We’re lucky we have you. Please stay away from pots of boiling water during the postseason.

Team, Town, Timbers Army Thanks to a very generous donation from a Timbers Army and 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST) member, we were able to invite a total of sixty local youth and family members to attend the regular season home closer, some of them for the first time ever. Most of the youth soccer players were past recipients of the generosity of 107IST members. Some, like Portland Public’s own Roosevelt High School soccer team, received uniforms, thanks to member dollars and revenue from merchandise designed and created by supporters to raise funds for 107IST work:

Others received scholarships to play in local soccer, for everything from rec league to regionally competitive teams and affiliates of the Timbers and Thorns, thanks to the generous work of the 107IST charitable organization, the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund (GCSF):

Learn more about the work of the 107IST here; read about the work of the GCSF here.

It felt great to have a home game after such a long break, but I certainly hope it isn’t our last one for the year. Let’s see where we stand after next weekend. Next stop: Vancouver away. See you there!

Featured image: Timbers Army

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Timbers unbeaten streak extends to 13

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, 7/21, Montreal at Portland
Result: 2-2 draw

On a warm night in Providence Park, the Portland Timbers came from behind against the Montreal Impact to draw 2-2, extending their regular season unbeaten streak to thirteen games and maintaining their playoff spot in the standings in the West. While we all would have wanted three points coming into this match, it’s not a bad result for a team playing their third game in seven days, with two of them on the road, in hot weather, against a formidable opponent earlier in the week.

Match recap

The first half, the Timbers certainly looked like a team that had played their hearts out more than once already in the last seven days. A little slower than usual and a little out of step, the team had some trouble putting passes together, especially in the middle of the pitch. A sloppy pass to Julio Cascante to the right of the box was particularly painful, as it lead directly to Montreal making a successful counter, with Saphir Taider finishing off the play to put Montreal ahead 0-1:

Despite coming out a little flat-footed, the Timbers were still able to answer back, as a scramble and slapped-out-rather-than-grabbed save by Montreal keeper Evan Bush gave Samuel Armenteros just the opportunity he needed to finish off and put the Timbers level again:

The elation in the crowd was short-lived, however, as a beautifully placed pass led to a second Montreal goal, this time from Matteo Mancosu not two minutes later, to put Montreal ahead 1-2:

From my vantage point on the west side, the pass happened so quickly that I wasn’t able to tell at the time if Mancosu was offside when the ball was released, but a quick review of the video after the match confirmed that, indeed, it was simply a perfectly timed ball past our defense. Definitely a tough moment, and one that could have deflated the team going into the half, especially after a long, difficult away week.

Fortunately, though, the team came out for the second half with renewed focus and energy. Diego Valeri had a chance at 52′, and he finally sealed the deal at 65′:

I happened to be in the North End behind the goal for this one, and I had a great look at Valeri as his concentration and effort was laser-beam focused on seeing where and when that ball was coming down so he could head it into the back of the net. Seeing him putting 100% of his attention on directing that ball properly, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was going to score.

The Timbers could have pulled back and settled for the draw; but they continued to press the attack, looking for the go-ahead goal. Unfortunately, it never came, with the 2-2 result as the whistle blew.

Quick takes

Sam is a closer. The video from his 2016-2017 season is not an aberration: Armenteros is a finisher. When Bush let the ball go, Armenteros did not hesitate. He knew how to find the back of the net. He is dangerous if he is anywhere near the ball inside the 18. He is clearly both fiercely intelligent/situationally aware when he is near the goal, and he has the skill set to finish the job. I am more than okay with this. (And honestly any excuse I get to throw in a link to Armenteros highlight videos is also fine with me.)

Take your chances, wherever you find them. Sometimes, the night is yours because of flawless passing, harmonic team movement, and clinical strikes. And sometimes it is yours because somebody else screws up, and you take advantage. All four goals happened because players on the opposing team made mistakes, and the attacking team seized the opportunity they’d been given. Whether it is a bad pass by your opponent, defenders shading too high, or a keeper slapping and/or punching a ball and failing to clear it effectively, sometimes this game is about taking advantage of errors made by the other guy. Kudos to the Timbers for taking their moments when they presented themselves.

We have more than one Diego MVP on this team. I LOVE Diego Valeri, but holy cow, there is an argument to be made that the Most Valuable Player to THIS squad is Diego Chara, who missed this match due to yellow card accumulation. Do you know how many games we have won in the last three years when Chara is on the team but not in the lineup? Zero.


Since he signed with the club in early 2011, we’ve only won SEVEN games in all of that time without him in the lineup (eight if you count the play-in, which was technically a draw but of course had to be settled with some, er, memorable kicks from the mark). And since mid-July 2015, the team has gone 0-10-8 in his absence. We all know Chara is good, but his presence is critical to our success in the middle of the field. And (whispers) he is 32. I don’t want to think about the day, hopefully far, far off, when he hangs up his boots, but I’m sure the scouting staff has to be thinking about what the succession plan is. I certainly don’t envy them.

Off the pitch

For many Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters members, game day actually started pretty early. 26 of us participated in our first round of bystander intervention training. A combination of 107 Independent Supporters Trust board members, game day ops volunteers, and 107IST supporters spent 3 1/2 hours of their Saturday morning engaged in learning what we can do as bystanders to prevent, de-escalate, and intervene when the potential for verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse/violence is present:

Born out of a desire to continue to improve the culture in the stands and to be pro-active to make sure that the stadium is a place where we can all feel safe and welcome as we jump and clap and sing for victory, the training was an excellent opportunity for participants to add to our toolkit. We spent a lot of time talking about how to recognize the potential for trouble; the kinds of responses bystanders can undertake to intervene; and working through specific scenarios to get a little bit out of our comfort zones, to be better prepared to be proactive bystanders, taking care of our fellow humans. We had an overwhelmingly positive response and will be continuing to offer training in the future, with the next session to be held in August.

Next up: the Timbers take on the Houston Dynamo at home this Saturday. See you then!

Featured image: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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How Sweet It Is: Timbers Beat Sounders Away

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, June 30th: Seattle Sounders 2-3 Portland Timbers

If you aren’t from around here, you’re missing out.

The rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders teams and supporters spans several decades and at least three leagues, depending on how we rate that odd semi-pro indoor era between NASL and USL. For a sports fan, there are few events more anxiety-producing, fraught with alternating bouts of exhilaration and despair, than games against your team’s most hated opponents. And when it is an away match, the potential for agony and ecstasy in equal measure is second to none.

For me, the MLS era Seattle away matches have particularly special meaning, because since our first MLS Seattle away match I have always been fortunate enough to attend with my daughter (picture from 2011, our first Seattle away together):

“MiniMe” has grown up as a Timbers supporter. From the time she was five years old wandering around the half-empty west side stands during games, begging me to take her to the Fred Meyer family deck bouncy house, to the present, where she is a 19-year-old junior looking for ways to stream matches from her college town of Tacoma, Washington, her support for the Timbers is bred in the bone.

No matter what is happening in my daughter’s busy world, she will see to it that, if it is at all possible, she will attend Cascadia Cup away matches in Seattle and Vancouver. (She is headed to a semester abroad in Spain next January, but her primary focus for renewing her passport this year has been to ensure that she has it in hand in time for the away game against the Vancouver Whitecaps later this season.)

As a Timbers supporter and a mother, there is nothing like heading into the stands with my daughter to support the team we love, win, lose, or draw.

Of course, I also have to acknowledge that, more often than not, we come away from Century Link Stadium with fewer than three points to show for our team’s efforts. Most times, coming into these games, a tie feels like a win. We hugged each other, shivering in the rain, when Futty Danso’s header gave our boys the equalizer and the point in 2011. We consoled each other when a seemingly rudderless group on the pitch got their butts handed to them in that same stadium in 2012.

The EPIC playoff win in Seattle in 2013 was the exception rather than the rule. I knew ALL of this coming into Saturday’s match, so, despite both teams’ current runs of form, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was cautiously optimistic, but prepared for Seattle away to once again be Seattle away. As it turned out, of course, we were not to be disappointed.

Match Recap

What can I say? After a first-half battle that gave both keepers a workout but nothing on the board, the second half provided PLENTY of excitement. Larrys Mabiala got the first point with his brilliant, downward-driven header of a Diego Valeri corner. It bounced cleanly into the left side of the net for the score at 48′:

Three minutes later, Victor Rodriguez answered, with a diving header to equalize for the Sounders at 51′:

Six minutes after THAT, Samuel Armenteros had a beauty of a goal, reminiscent of his goal v LAFC, turning inside against his defender and sending a clean strike with his left foot into the back of the net. Advantage: Timbers:

Eleven minutes later, Chad Marshall marked the Sounders’ second header of the match, equalizing for Seattle at 68′:

Finally, six minutes later, Mabiala had his SECOND header of the match, neatly putting away Valeri’s corner kick by skying over Chad Marshall at 74′. As it turned out, this last goal was the winner, and the Timbers came away with their first regular season Seattle away win in MLS history:

Savoring that first regular season win at Century Link was amazing. Getting to share it with my daughter and my brother? Priceless.

Quick Takes

Whew. I’m tired all over again just typing that recap. A few quick notes now that I’ve had a couple of days to recover:

Depth? Oh my goodness yes. Let’s remember that, at the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure if we had the depth we needed to make it through tough stretches, whether the team faced injuries, busy weeks with Open Cup, etc. This match the team was successful without the likes of Sebastian Blanco, Fanendo Adi, David Guzman, and Liam Ridgewell, just to name a few players one might have assumed were automatic starters on the field at the start of the season. And of course Andy Polo will be back full time from international duty as well. Having this many quality players, and this many possible options for a variety of formations depending on the opposition, bodes well for the team’s chances headed into the second half of the season.

Valeri. ‘Nuf said. Diego Valeri was the hands-down favorite for MLS MVP last year in large part because of his scoring. When Adi went out for a stretch in 2017, Valeri did what the team needed him to do: score goals. Now that we have several scoring threats (including Mabiala!), Valeri continues to do whatever the team needs, which in this case is to feed other people. He had all three assists in the game, and continues to do whatever his team needs. The question is no longer if we build him a statue outside Providence Park: it is simply a question of when.

Armenteros is settling in nicely, thank you very much. You never know when fate will deal you a favorable hand. Diego Valeri, the best Plan B ever, is a Portland Timber in large part because our signing of Mix Diskerud fell through. Now, due to FIFA rules prohibiting his move to another team, we are fortunate enough to have landed a striker of Samuel Armenteros’ caliber on loan from Benevento. A formidable combination of speed, strength, a deadly left foot, and a striker’s hunger for the goal, Armenteros is quite the fortunate find for the club. Here’s hoping we get to keep him around for some time.

The Timbers are now unbeaten in twelve consecutive games including Open Cup matches. Next up: San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park on Saturday. See you then!

Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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A Matter of Pride and Its History

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It’s Pride Month.  Many teams in MLS and NWSL are officially celebrating with Pride Nights. Many supporters are engaging in #PrideRaiser campaigns to benefit local LGBTQ-friendly organizations (The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters both have campaigns to benefit Portland’s own OutsideIn). Individual players have also gotten involved in #PlayingForPride.

The Timbers’ own Zarek Valentin, for example, was already committed to a pledge of his own before a rash bet he made forced him to follow through on a promise to wear a Hayley Raso bow in his hair for a match, which turned into an upcoming second Pride fundraiser:

At the national team level, both the USMNT and USWNT are honoring Pride month, with rainbow numbers on their jerseys, just as they did in 2017. This past week, we learned that Jaelene Hinkle declined the opportunity to play for the national team last year because, as she put it, “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey.”

At the time, the press release announcing her withdrawal cited “personal reasons;” this week, she chose to share the reason for her withdrawal on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club.  This announcement, just a few days before the start of Pride month celebrations, was met with a less than friendly reception in Portland, where she was met with boos from the Portland stands and at least one snarky two stick:

And, of course, there are those who react to displays honoring Pride Month that folks just “stick to sports.”

Here’s the thing about “sticking to sports”– it should never come at the expense of standing up for human rights.

I completely understand devotion to religious ideals. I was reared American Baptist, went to church three times a week for eighteen years, had family Bible study every morning. But it is not lost on me that the American Baptists were initially the Northern Baptists, who split with the Southern Baptists in 1845 over the issue of using religious interpretations to justify slavery and racism.

Want an extreme example of using religion to treat your fellow human unjustly? Look no further than, for example, Southern Baptist pastor Thorton Stringfellow’s 1860 Cotton Is King, And Pro-Slavery Arguments:

Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command…the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself…It is only sober truth to say, that the institution of slavery has saved from the sword more lives, including their increase, than all the souls who now inhabit this globe. Under the gospel, it has brought within the range of gospel influence, millions of Ham’s descendant’s among ourselves, who but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin.

My point is not to run down Southern Baptists, or people of any particular religious belief. Throughout history, one can find similar examples, from many faiths. My point instead is to note the danger of using religion to justify inhumane treatment of others, of treating fellow humans as “less than.” I picked slavery as just one obvious example.

Unequal treatment under the law has happened and continues to happen throughout the world based on race, gender, and sexual identity, among other personal characteristics. In our own country, there have been statutes on the books for persons perceived to be wearing clothing not belonging to one’s gender, or for simply gathering in the same establishment together.

Fighting for the rights of LGBTQ to exist and to expect equal treatment under the law arguably came to a head in this country during the Stonewall Uprising in June of 1969, which is the reason Pride Month is historically celebrated in June in the US.

Do you think discrimination against LGBTQ folks isn’t still a problem?  Try engaging in a Pride parade in Turkey or Uganda. Think it isn’t a problem in the US any more? Note that, as of this 2012 Williams Institute study of agencies who serve the homeless in the US, 40% of the homeless youth they serve are LGBTQ youth.

The top two reasons cited for homelessness among this population: family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity; or being forced out of the home by parents who reject the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity. And then, of course, there are the victims of violence simply for being LGBTQ.

Let us also remember that much of the soccer world’s recent celebration of Pride Month has been in response to inhumanity. Less than a week after the Pulse nightclub massacre, US Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley donned a rainbow armband to show his support for the LGBTQ community. And in 2017, Orlando Soccer Stadium unveiled rainbow-hued seats honoring the 49 victims of the tragedy.

It is in this context that the mens’ and womens’ national teams have worn Pride jersey numbers. It is critical to remember that Pride jerseys, parades, and events are not simply to “celebrate” one’s sexuality. More importantly, they are to recognize that all people are worthy of respect, dignity, and basic human rights.

Sometimes some of us in the Timbers Army joke that soccer is our religion, complete with Providence Park as our “church,” games as “worship services,” and songs and chants as our “hymns.” And when it comes to freedom of expression, we’re very good at that in the stands as well, booing both silly and not-so-silly things that take place on the pitch. But I take religious freedom and human rights very seriously.

Sometimes one’s religious tenets forbid eating certain foods, or eating at certain times, or marrying outside the faith, or uncovering one’s hair, or shaving one’s beard, or any of a thousand individual choices. Thankfully, the Constitution protects our freedom of religion. Nobody should be forced to follow a particular state religion, or be denied the opportunity to worship as they choose.

At the same time, nobody’s religious beliefs can be used as an excuse for unequal treatment under the law, let alone to foster an atmosphere where hatred and violence against a class of individuals is somehow regarded as acceptable. Just as it is abhorrent to conceive of using religion as an excuse to allow slavery and racial discrimination to exist, so, too, it is abhorrent to use religion as justification for unequal treatment of LGBTQ persons.

Jaelene Hinkle has the absolute right to worship as she chooses, to profess her faith, and to refuse a national team callup for any reason. I hope that eventually she also learns the difference between religious observance and creating space in the larger world for hate and inequality to thrive.

I will boo the heck out of hate and inequality whenever I see it; and I will also boo when I see people creating the space that allows it to continue to exist.

Peace/shalom/salaam alaikum/namaste.

Featured image: Timbers Army Flicker

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Sam I Am: Timbers Make It Six in a Row

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 26: 2-3 Win

Samuel Armenteros made the most of his start for the Portland Timbers at Commerce Park, capping a jaw-droppingly powerful first regular season strike from the previous week with a lovely brace this past Saturday, leading the Timbers to a 3-2 away victory over the hapless Colorado Rapids. I think it is fair to say that I have been looking forward to a moment like this for awhile:

Me in February:

Me in March:

Me in April:

Me in May:

This is hardly rocket science or hot takes or anything. If anybody has seen footage of Armenteros’ work with Heracles in 2016-2017, it is easy to see the combination of finishing quality, power, and finesse that Armenteros brings to the pitch:

And let’s all just take a moment to enjoy that BEAUTIFUL first goal from Saturday, complete with a back heel flick to HIMSELF to set up the goal:

Good LORD that was spectacular, and yes it was the second week in a row that Armenteros won MLS Goal of the Week honors.

Quick Takes

I won’t attempt too much of a match recap. Colorado is, to put it mildly, a team that is struggling mightily right now. And if we had been playing against a more capable opponent, they might have done a better job of capitalizing on both our costly errors and on the balance in possession and chances. But here are a few takeaways:

Blanco continues to be awesome. Sebastian Blanco is still as solid a player as ever. When the Timbers were struggling to find their way at the beginning of the season, with five away games and a new coaching staff to start the year, one player consistently performed, initially having a hand in every score in some fashion: Blanco.

That remained true on Saturday as well, with credit for assists on two of the three Timbers goals on the day (one by Armenteros and one by Diego “El Maestro” Valeri) and having significant involvement in the third. While I’m all for a balanced attack and spreading the scoring around, it helps to have somebody as reliably solid in the attack as Blanco.

Rookie mistakes. Poor Julio Cascante also had a hand in both scores for the team, if by “the team” you mean the Rapids. He accidentally deflected a cross from Edgar Castillo into the back of our own net, and then doubled down with a foul on the Rapids’ Dominique Badji that set up a stoppage time penalty awarded to Colorado. The 24-year-old defender stepped into the back line in place of defender Liam Ridgewell.

To Cascante’s credit, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be pressed into this level of service this quickly; and after last week’s early exit by Ridgewell following an injury, Cascante held down the fort admirably against a much more capable Los Angeles FC squad. But while youth often brings speed and agility, it can also bring inconsistency. Here’s hoping that Cascante finds his feet solidly under him this coming Saturday, and that Ridgewell also makes a speedy recovery.

DP = Designated Problem. Coach Gio Savarese has a great problem on his hands: Armenteros has clearly earned the start, but Fanendo Adi is one of three Designated Players on the team. It must be hard to have all of that money riding the bench. But it would be even harder to have Adi start, after the fantastic showing and current form that Armenteros has demonstrated. This could be a problem; or it could be an opportunity.

Recall what happened after an embarrassing loss earlier this season, where veteran player Liam Ridgewell was benched following a less-than-stellar performance that included what appeared to be a central defender checking over his shoulder then continuing simply to jog as he recovered in transition. Here’s what Savarese said at the time:

“I believe that teams have very important players, but those players need to have accountability and need to play as well and push themselves,” Savarese said. “And also everyone on the team needs to feel at every moment their effort in practice and hard work can be rewarded as well. That’s the only thing that will create a great mentality. If a player thinks they are almost a starter, he is going to push to play better and will perform better on the field. That’s the environment we have to create.”

Following a significant period of time on the bench, Ridgewell returned to the field with what looked like a renewed focus and sense of purpose, which he maintained up until the moment of his injury last week. Here’s hoping that when Savarese does give Armenteros the start on Saturday, he continues to demonstrate this philosophy with his players, including Adi, the rest of the week. If we have a healthy competition for starting spots up top, it might wind up making both players’ performance better. And if that means a healthy run up of goals and effort by them both, we all win.

Well, we have several games coming up in the next few days. Looks like you’ll get more than your fill of Sheba recaps. Next up: Los Angeles Galaxy comes to town on Saturday. See you then!

Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC

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Timbers Streak Continues with Five (5?!?) Wins

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 19: 2-1 Win

Two weekend games, two victories, capping a five-game winning streak this season for the Portland Timbers.

Though both games resulted in three points, they were in some ways polar opposites.

The previous weekend was the Portland Timbers’ hundredth game against the Seattle Sounders. It was a historic match against a storied rival, so it had PLENTY of emotion and buildup prior to the game. On the pitch, on the other hand, it was much more of a chess match. With the Sounders decimated by injuries and struggling to find their league form, both sides played strong, compact defense, carefully assessing opponents’ moves and hoping for the opportunity for a successful counterattack.

Saturday, in contrast, was the Timbers’ first regular season game against Los Angeles FC, a new team this year, so there wasn’t really much in the way of pre-match history and buildup. On the field, however, the Timbers were playing against a team with an arsenal of talented weapons and a strong record in their first season out of the gate.

What the match may have lacked in inter-team history, though, it more than made up for in on-field and in-the-stands drama, and a nod to some Timbers history.

Match Recap

The game started off rather inauspiciously, as starting center back and sometime captain Liam Ridgewell hit the deck in the third minute with a non-contact injury. You could tell right then that he knew he was done, as he pounded the ground in frustration. 24-year-old Costa Rican Julio Cascante found himself called upon to help to anchor the back line for the duration. Earlier in the season, journeyman defender Lawrence Olum might have been in the XVIII and gotten the call, but this time it was Cascante’s turn, and to his credit, he held down the fort well.

Forward Fanendo Adi had his first missed chance of the match at 9′ when a transition put him in position to put away the first goal of the game. Unfortunately, he failed to find his target and it clanged off the post. Adi’s only other really exciting moment came at 15′, when he twice actually touched the ref, apparently in an attempt to show center referee Drew Fischer what his opponent was doing to Adi with his elbow. Yikes, Adi. Please use your words.

After 21′, the Timbers had 5 fouls to LAFC’s zero, including a head-scratcher to Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala. I chanted “Diver! Diver!” along with the Timbers Army on Saturday, but I also carefully watched the replay the next day just to be sure, and for the life of me I still don’t know what the foul was. Maaaaaaybe he brushed a player with his left arm? Maybe? Anyway.

The rest of the first half’s excitement included Steven Beitashour‘s yellow for the elbow to Adi’s head; a Latif Blessing miss when Jeff Attinella came out of the goal at 30′; the softest yellow card ever on Diego Chara at 45′; and a first-half stoppage time scare when Cascante did a brilliant job saving a chance and preventing a few heart attacks.  Hey, Julio, welcome. Glad you’re here.

The second half, of course, had all the goals. First, there was Adi’s next big miss of the match at 50′. But then there was Cristhian Paredes, who had just turned all of 20 years old on Friday, with his first Portland Timbers goal on the cleanup:

Not to be outdone, Mexican national team player and LAFC forward Carlos Vela took advantage of a moment of space afforded him by the defense and put this beautifully curling, virtually unstoppable strike into the top left corner. Watching from the west side of the stadium, I knew the moment that it left his foot that it was going in:

Coming into this match, and knowing what a difficult opponent LAFC would be, I’ll be honest: I had already steeled myself for the possibility of a draw. But Samuel Armenteros had other ideas:

Good lord, what a heck of a way to open your regular season account, Sam. Well. Done.

After the LONGEST SIX MINUTES OF STOPPAGE TIME EVER (okay, maybe it just felt like that), the referee finally blew the whistle for full time, and the Timbers’ fifth win in a row was in the books.

Spotlight on: Cascante

When his number was called, I’d just like to point out that Julio Cascante was so sure he wasn’t going to play in the game that he didn’t even have his SOCKS on when he got word that he was going in. There was a mad scramble of staff assistance to get him suited up in a timely fashion. I’m pretty sure the only part of his uniform he was wearing prior to his call up was his shorts (thank goodness for THAT).

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I also believe his previous total regular season play prior to this game consisted of a grand total of three minutes. And he did a stellar job, keeping a stable back line for the most part against a potentially explosive offense, and a tremendous save in the first half. Well done, Julio. This bodes well for our defensive depth going forward.

Spotlight on: Armenteros

I’ve made no secret of my desire to see Samuel Armenteros get more minutes, both here and on Twitter:

He played extremely well during the preseason, with two goals, two assists, and a chip on his shoulder that showed he is hungry for goals. On Saturday he put it all together for an unforgettable goal, opening his regular season account for the Timbers in spectacular fashion:

What he probably didn’t know is that he also scored in historic fashion, during the singing of “You Are My Sunshine,” which Timber Jim was leading from the main capo stand:

For those who don’t know, the Timbers Army sings “You Are My Sunshine” at or about the 80th minute of every match, in honor of Timber Jim and in memory of his daughter:

Portland Timbers’ 80th minute melody: For Timber Jim, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ evolves toward happiness

We have had a few historic Sunshine Goals in the past, from Fadi Afash in 2004…

…to Ryan Pore in 2010:

Welcome to the Sunshine Club, Sam. Here’s to many, many more.

Quick Takes
El Maestro. Last year, when Adi was out with an injury, Diego Valeri carried the team on his back by donning the scoring mantle. This year, he’s doing it by work his *** off in the middle of the field. Even without the scores and assists, Valeri is everywhere, making the connecting pass, attempting the shot, doing whatever the team requires. Gracias, como siempre, Maestro.

El Matador. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Byron Alvarez, the Timbers’ all-time USL-era goal-scoring leader, for gracing us with his presence in the stands. I was fortunate to stand with him during the match, listen to his insights, and share his joy as both a player and a true Timbers-for-life-supporter. There is nothing like watching a game with a professional like Alvarez: I’m just taking in the game as an outsider and a fan, so he has insights and anecdotes most of us will never have.

He reminisced, for example, about his days playing for Bob Bradley when he had a brief stint with the MetroStars himself prior to his coming to Portland in 2003. Alvarez noted that, while Bradley was a very disciplined coach, he was also a good example for the players, often participating in the team drills himself. I usually learn more in five minutes of hanging out with El Matador during a game than I do in hours spent reading and studying.

Alvarez insists that the MLS Timbers have never lost when he is in the stadium to watch, so I’m pretty sure this means he needs to be in attendance for EVERY home game going forward. We need to make sure this happens, folks.

Team Goals. Once again, we have unsung heroes in our midst just waiting for their chance to step forward. On Saturday, we had two Timbers score their first regular season goals for the club: Cristhian Paredes and Samuel Armenteros.

It was AMAZING last year to witness El Maestro finally get the respect he is MORE than due as the league MVP, both for his goal-scoring streak and for his general awesomeness on and off the pitch. But I am very much a fan of spreading the love, both in the stands and on the pitch. Here’s to having our goals come from all over the squad this year. I know we have it in us.

Next week has “trap game” written all over it as we take on the last place Colorado Rapids in Commerce City. See you then!

Featured image courtesy: Timbers Army video

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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Timbers blank Sounders in historic matchup

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, May 13: 1-0 Win

What is best in life?

There are few things in life more satisfying than a win against the Seattle Sounders. And

  • a shutout
  • at home
  • against the Sounders
  • for the 100th matchup versus the Portland Timbers
  • on Mothers Day
  • accompanied by two of my children
  • surrounded by a passionate group of over 20,000 Timbers supporters

…okay, I will readily admit that this was PARTICULARLY satisfying.

Rivalry and history

In the run-up to the match, I had a jumble of feelings. Of COURSE, any game against the Sounders is huge. And this matchup was, by most counts, the Timbers’ 100th time to face the Sounders, in one league or another, in one form or another, since 1975.

The rivalry between our two teams is deep, long-standing, and very, very real. There are many videos that address the enmity between the two (Copa90 created a couple of excellent ones: take this one, for example). And this one from several years ago is one of my favorites. While the video’s primary focus is the Timbers Army, the backdrop is a home game against the Sounders, and the attitude and spirit in the stands for a rivalry match are captured brilliantly.

The fact that it was our 100th matchup was also not lost on anyone. The Portland Timbers released a brilliant mockumentary to commemorate the occasion:

The rivalry between the Timbers and Sounders dates back to the NASL era in the 1970s.

The Timbers and Sounders, along with the third Cascadia Beatle, the Vancouver Whitecaps, also have a supporter-created contest among the three teams: the Cascadia Cup.

Dating back to the USL era, the Cascadia Cup is created, owned, and managed by supporters. It is awarded to whichever Cascadia team wins the most points in head to head matches among the three teams (see this page for an explanation of the rules).

The Timbers are currently in possession of the Cascadia Cup, and I get the joy of showing it off to visitors to the Timbers Army fanladen (clubhouse) before every home game.

Out of balance

We relish every opportunity to cheer on our boys as they face off against their greatest rivals. At the same time, supporters on all sides of the Cascadia Cup are very disappointed with the league’s schedule this year. When a rivalry this deep, intense, and enduring exists, it is difficult for supporters like me to swallow a league schedule that intentionally unbalances a rivalry matchup.

As the number of teams in the league changes, the schedule must also change: but it is beyond disappointing that this year the league saw fit to create such an uneven schedule.

For many years, we will have to deal with the reality that some teams will have more home games than others in head to head matchups, which is challenging enough in a rivalry.

This year, however, not only do the Timbers, Sounders, and Whitecaps have an uneven number of home and away Cascadia matches among them: the three clubs don’t even face each other the same number of times during the regular season. This means that, for the first time in MLS history, a regular season Cascadia match will not count in the standings toward the Cascadia Cup.

The last time this happened was during the USL era when it was more common for teams to fold mid-season and for league schedules to change in medias resBased on the unanimous decision of the Cascadia Cup Council, while last Sunday’s match will, of course, count in MLS league standings, the result will not count toward the awarding of the Cascadia Cup this year.

The Timbers Army made their feelings about the unbalanced schedule clear in this three-stick display:

And on the occasion of the 100th matchup of the Timbers and Sounders, that outcome is, to put it mildly, unfortunate.

All right, enough prelude…on to the match!

Match Recap

With a decimated lineup, the Sounders used a formation designed to absorb pressure, shut down work through the middle, and hope for an opportunity on the counter-attack, an approach that worked well for them midweek against Toronto FC. In this case, the Sounders deployed a 5-4-1 with Clint Dempsey as the lone striker. With the injuries the Sounders have suffered, they didn’t have a whole lot of other options, and with Dempsey as the lone striker up top, they weren’t really set up to go on the attack either.

The Timbers went with the same 4-3-2-1 lineup they used to full effect against the San Jose Earthquakes. On a hot day with both sides playing conservatively, it wouldn’t have been at all surprising if the match had ended in a draw; but this was a Timbers-Sounders match, so anything could happen.

While our rivals to the north weren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, they were also doing a decent job on defense. For most of the game, the Sounders made it difficult for the Timbers to find opportunities. They had a few chances, in particular, this shot by Diego Valeri that was thwarted with a brilliant challenge by Sounders defender Gustav Svensson:

The Timbers had another chance to score, this time from Andy Polo, stopped by Sounders keeper Stefan Frei:

Ultimately, though, the Timbers were finally able to break through, thanks to the vision of Samuel Armenteros, a late-game substitute for forward Fanendo Adi. Armenteros did a brilliant job of threading the needle with this pass to Sebastian Blanco, who slotted it home for the only goal of the match:

Quick Takes

Blanco continues to step up. Between offseason roster changes and a year’s experience to get accustomed to MLS, Blanco has taken on a bigger offensive role this year, with 5 goals and an assist so far this season. He did the job for the Timbers again on Sunday, putting it into the back of the net for the win.

Blanco’s celebration after scoring the goal included briefly donning a Chucky mask, a move that seemed no doubt bizarre to casual onlookers, but it has a simple explanation. Blanco’s nickname among his friends in Argentina is Chucky, presumably because he is tiny and FIERCE. (His bio says he is 5’6″ but I’m sure that is only in cleats and after some carefully applied hair gel.)  Vamos, Chucky. I’m sure your offensive ability already frightens opposing teams, even without the mask.

Still no clear front-runner at strikerFanendo Adi is still our starting striker, and while he isn’t terrible, he still hasn’t done anything, in particular, to stand out this season. I was glad to see Samuel Armenteros get to the field a little bit earlier this game, subbing in for Adi at 77′.

Both strikers still had some okay plays and some head-scratching moments on Sunday, but ultimately this is a game of results. Take a look again at this pass and tell me Armenteros doesn’t deserve more time in the lineup:

Swiss army knife fullback continues to shine. Right back (and most recently left back) Zarek Valentin is having a good run. He has always had good field sense and soccer intelligence, but his lack of speed has sometimes meant another player starting in his stead.

But with injuries to the squad, most notably with Vytautas Andriuškevičius on the sidelines, Zarek has often taken on a starting role on either side of the defensive line and has done so admirably. As long as he isn’t facing a frightening speed burner on the wings, I like what he contributes to the defense.

Speaking of defense. Hey, guys, the Timbers just recorded their third shutout in a row. The last time they did that George W. Bush was President. No, really. While it is true that two of these shutouts came against less than stellar opponents, it is also worth noting that they coincide with the return of Jeff Attinella and Liam Ridgewell to the starting lineup. Just saying.

What a wonderful way to end the weekend…for some of us.

See you all next Saturday, when the Timbers face Los Angeles FC at home in Portland.

Featured image courtesy: Shawn Levy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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Portland Timbers never say die

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 5: 0-1 Win

For the first time since the move out of Buck Shaw, the Portland Timbers defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at Avaya Stadium on Saturday, putting Portland on the good foot heading into next weekend and hopefully reclaiming once and for all any reference to the Goonies by our neighbors to the south. It was an evenly contested match, but Diego “El Maestro” Valeri had the last word, bending a beautiful free kick into the top right corner of the net at the 88th minute, sending the Timbers Army away fans home happy, and bringing back three points for the boys in green (okay, technically, the kits were white, but you know what I mean).


The Timbers went into this game in a 4-3-2-1 formation, with a lineup much like the one that proved successful against Minnesota United. After a dominant performance against New York City FCJeff Attinella was back in the starting spot in goal and Liam Ridgewell was once again in the starting XI; but other than that the lineup looked pretty much like the one that we saw in our home opener against the Loons.

The first 15-20 minutes the Timbers looked to have the game well in hand, with most of the possession and with Alvas Powell tearing up and down the right sideline like he owned the place. At the outset, it was almost a three-man backfield as Alvas time and again charged forward with pace and control.

It wasn’t until about 25′ when the Earthquakes’ Nick Lima hit a cross that turned out to be more like a shot on goal, that the momentum seemed to shift. Fanendo Adi had a couple of decent chances, but between his 8′ shot off the post, his 11′ mishandling of a pass from Valeri in front of the goal, his miss at 22′, it just wasn’t his night.

In the second half, both teams had their share of chances. Danny Hoesen made Attinella work hard to keep a clean sheet, and Valerie Qazaishvili had a couple of beauties blocked as well. In the end, though, it was Diego Valeri’s free-kick a couple of minutes before stoppage time that made the difference, and the Portland Timbers continued their slow climb out of the cellar in the West:

Quick Takes

Spotlight on Paredes. Once again, midfielder Cristhian Paredes continues to impress me. Take a look at his distribution yesterday:

Screenshot 2018-05-06 at 6.42.49 PM

See all of those green arrows? Those are successful passes and crosses. See how many unsuccessful passes/crosses he had all game? ThreeDavid Guzman has some very healthy competition for that deep midfield pairing with Diego Chara. Frankly, if Paredes keeps it up, that other D-mid starting spot might just belong to him, regardless of when Guzman is healthy again.

Powell continues to demonstrate maturity and poise (what?!?). I already mentioned that Powell looked like he owned the right side of the field in the opening quarter of the game. I am also impressed that he is managing to keep his head. In a game where no fewer than five Timbers received yellow cards, it is noteworthy that none of the yellow card recipients was named Alvas. Keep up the good work, young man.

Armenteros is a savvy player. Take another look at that free kick by Valeri that ultimately proved to be the game-winner. Let’s note, first of all, that Samuel Armenteros was the one who got the foul at the hands of Anibal Godoy. While it is true that this wasn’t the worst offense I’ve ever seen called for a foul, Godoy MORE than had it coming to him, as he had already built up a reputation with the referee by repeatedly plowing into players from behind, finally earning a yellow card after about the fifth offense. Armenteros wisely made the contact evident to officials and earned a free kick in a dangerous spot.

Then there was the free kick itself. Both Shea Salinas and Magnus Eriksson are initially tight on Armenteros, presumably because of the threat he may pose on cleaning up any deflected shot. Take a look at what Armenteros does with them in the wall here:

Armenteros turns from striker threat to offensive lineman, using some impressive blocking to clear a wide space in the wall for Valeri, should he need to use it. As it turned out, of course, Valeri curled the ball high and tight in the corner; but Armenteros was ready to ease the path for him, just in case.

I would love to see Armenteros get significant minutes so that he can find on-field rhythm with Valeri and Sebastian Blanco; it has to be hard to do when you only have a few minutes at the end of a game to sort it out. Adi may be working hard, but I don’t see that much production from him yet this year. We have healthy competition for starting spots in a few roles; I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of that mentality at the striker spot.

The only injury of note the team seems to have suffered was at Zarek Valentin‘s expense, apparently from overexuberant goal celebration with teammates (no, really). Fortunately, he was able to get back into the game in the final minutes while sporting a hefty bandage. He seems to be on the mend:

Next week, the Timbers are back home to face our hated rivals, the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, May 13th.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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MLS 101: First Team Roster Rules

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

I’ve been a Portland Timbers supporter for about fourteen years, but I’ve only been writing about them since 2017. And, like any career educator, I figure if I’m going to write about something I need to do my homework.

As I learn more about the league, I’m doing my best to get up to speed with everything from roster rules to international slots to homegrown status to TAM, GAM, and more. There are some aspects of MLS that are incredibly difficult to get a handle on. Some pieces of information are easier to find than others, and even when information is publicly available it is often not clearly spelled out and/or it is not easy to find in one place.

I am still at the beginning stages of information gathering and synthesis. I look forward to learning more and am happy to share my journey with you all in the meantime. Today, we’ll answer the question: Who gets to be on my team? What are the roster rules?

Roster basics

How many players are on a team? You’d think that would be a straightforward question, but it turns out the answer is “it depends.” If you’re an MLS club, you can have up to 30 people on your first team roster, but only under certain conditions. (And no, I’m not counting Atlanta United’s roster of 31, since that includes “Atlanta United Fans” as their 31st player.) Here’s how it works.

Senior roster: 20

Spots 1-20 on the roster are the senior roster spots. The salary for these 20 players counts against the club’s salary cap (this year that’s $4,035,000). The minimum salary for players on the senior roster is $67,500.

Supplemental Roster: up to 4

The supplemental roster can have up to 4 players. Those 4 players do not count against the club’s salary cap. Supplemental roster players can include:

  • Minimum salary players
  • Generation Adidas Players
  • Designated Players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft
  • Homegrown Players earning more than the senior minimum salary

Reserve Roster: 4-6

The reserve roster can have 4 players, or as many as 6 players if at least two of them are Homegrown Players. Reserve players have to be 24 or younger by year of birth during the league year. Their base salary is the reserve minimum salary (this year that is $54,500) unless they are Homegrown Players, in which case their salary can be more. So, if you have enough homegrown players, if you can stash at least two of them on the reserve roster, your official first team roster can have up to 30 players.

More roster rules: international spots and homegrown spots

This year, there are 184 international roster spots divided among the 23 clubs, which is 8 spots per club. International spots are tradable, and not just for the current year so some teams may have more than 8 international spots being used any given year.

If you’re a Canadian team, your domestic players are either Canadian citizens, or U.S. citizens or permanent residents (i.e. they have U.S. green cards); or they’ve been granted refugee or asylum status, or they are Homegrown Internationals (internationals who played for a qualifying academy team).

As previously noted, you can also stash homegrown players on the supplemental or reserve roster; but if you have a homegrown player on your supplemental or reserve roster and you move him up to the senior roster during the season, you can’t move him back down unless he is on a minimum salary.


So, why doesn’t my first team have a full squad?

There are many reasons that the first team might not be using all 30 slots. It might be that they don’t have enough homegrown players to fill out the supplemental roster, or that they’d run afoul of the salary cap by adding another player, or that the player they want would require an international slot and the team doesn’t have any more at the moment.

The size of the roster can also be impacted by whether or not the first team has a USL affiliate, and where that USL affiliate is located.

USL Affiliates

In 2013, USL and MLS reached an agreement that allowed MLS teams to have second/reserve teams in USL. These USL second teams allow MLS teams to cast a wider net and sign a larger group of players than are allowed under MLS roster rules (maximum of 30 players).

As of this writing, most MLS teams have USL teams (only Columbus, New England, and Orlando City don’t have USL teams). MLS teams can use USL as a training ground for future MLS players, promoting the best of their USL players to their first teams, using the league’s USL Priority Player rule (priority rights to up to three players from USL affiliate).

Depending on how we count LAFC’s affiliate (I mean, Irvine isn’t that far from Los Angeles, but it isn’t exactly right next door either), about half of the USL affiliates are geographically close to their MLS parent teams, sometimes training and/or playing in the same facility.

Here is where I can see the tremendous advantage of having your USL affiliate geographically close to you: you don’t have to make official declarations of loans to USL teams for all of the players playing on your USL squad; it can happen on a week-to-week basis. In the case of the Timbers, for example, this has meant that first team players like Diego Chara and Vytautas Andriuškevičius can easily play for a game or two on the USL side as they recovered from injury and returned to match fitness, all while having access to first team trainers and facilities.

Conversely, players who are officially on the first team’s supplemental roster can still get regular playing time on the second squad, while being ready at a moment’s notice for a late call-up if the roster is thin on any given week (as happened to our squad last year v. the Vancouver Whitecaps).

If your USL affiliate isn’t geographically close to you, on the other hand, you pretty much have to decide when somebody is officially loaned out to USL. I assume that this is why, for example, the Colorado Rapids list only 24 active players on their MLS first team, with six players loaned out to USL sides.

The Rapids’ USL affiliate is the Charlotte Independence, which is over 1,500 miles away from the Rapids’ training facility. Charlotte Independence has 26 on its USL roster. In contrast, the Timbers have 29 active players on their MLS first team, with only 16 players listed on the Timbers 2 USL roster.

If you want to know more about who is officially on your team’s first squad, check out the roster page at the MLS website. It breaks down each team into senior, supplemental, and reserve rosters, as well as noting whether a player is a homegrown player, a designated player, or a player taking up an international roster slot, as well as players out on loan and players with season-ending injuries.

Those are the roster basics as I understand them. If you have questions or feedback, please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or hit me up on twitter at shebainpdx. Next time the Timbers have a bye, we’ll take a look at the rules for international roster spots.


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