Following a chippy 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City this past Sunday night, the Portland Timbers are taking the point and the fight for a playoffs spot back home to Providence Park.
In a night full of trading cards and goals – Sebastian Blanco notched the opening goal in the 29th minute. However, Krisztián Nemeth cut the celebrations after finding the equalizer just moments later.
Then chaos ensued.
A brief altercation broke out in the 35th minute after Felipe Gutierrez and Brian Rodriguez collided on the sidelines that ultimately led to both Rodriguez and Roger Espinoza receiving red cards and were ejected from the match.
Head Coach Giovanni Savarese disagreed with the decision telling media during the postmatch conference:
“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”
Savarese said of Clark’s performance: “He’s done fairly well. We said from the beginning he is an important player. [And] that’s why we put him in. We felt very content to have two goalkeepers like Jeff [Attinella] and [Steve] Clark – that we knew what they’re going to give us. And we’re very content [he would] step up to help us out. I think he made some good saves.”
Sporting KC immediately regained the lead in the 46th minute after Daniel Salloi hit home the rebound scoring his first goal of the season.
In the 85th minute, a penalty was awarded to the Timbers after Ilie Sanchez tackles Jeremy Ebobisse in the penalty area. Darien Asprilla converts the goal leveling the match and giving the Timbers a hard-fought point on the road.
Although everything went their way score-wise across the league with a loss from both FC Dallas and San Jose Earthquakes, it all comes down to Decision Day.
But maybe luck will be on Portland’s side as the Earthquakes are currently on a five-game losing streak and are a point below the line. As well, losing defender Tommy Thompson to a red card during their previous match against the Seattle Sounders.
The Timbers will look to clinch a playoffs spot at home when they face the Earthquakes on Sunday, October 6.
“It’s a must win. That’s all it is,” said Zarek Valentin.
Sitting above the playoffs line in seventh place with 43 points, the Portland Timbers continue the battle of the west. Despite falling to D.C. United this past weekend; Steve Clark is turning Providence Park into the House of Horrors.
Timbers’ veteran goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was sidelined due to a season-ending injury this July. And Clark has stepped up in a big by posting 1710 minutes, five shutouts, 66 saves, and currently holds a 79.5% save percentage, thus far.
Prior to assuming starting goalkeeper duties, Clark was included in the starting lineup for five of fifteen league matches and appeared in the 2019 campaign of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Mason, Michigan native is no stranger to the shuffle. On August 17, 2018, the five-year MLS veteran was waived by D.C. United while in the midst of his second season with the club. Following the Timbers’ announcement that they had picked up the veteran keeper on waivers – he went on to start eight games for the 2018 campaign.
His quick reflexes have kept the Timbers out of dangerous situations. And Clark is having a little fun with it – occasionally wearing a Michael Myers mask from the classic slasher franchise Halloween; during the Timbers’ traditional slab celebration ceremony to celebrate shutout.
“Providence Park is going to be a house of horrors this summer,” Clark said during the July 28 postgame conference. “It’s going to be a tough place to come. That’s kind of what I’m saying. This is a bunch of monsters out here.”
Fellow teammate Sebastian Blanco is joining in the fun donning a Chucky mask from cult classic Child’s Play. The Argentinian midfielder began the tradition in May of 2018 to celebrate his game-winning goal against the Seattle Sounders.
Outside of the MLS, Clark has played for Hønefoss BK and AC Horsens, respectively – crediting these experiences for his development as a player, even encouraging players to “move abroad and challenge themselves.”
With playoffs starting in a few weeks, its hard to ignore that Clark was once a three-year starter for Columbus Crew SC from 2014-16, where the 33-year-old keeper ironically played against his current club during the 2015 MLS Cup; losing 2-1. Fast forward to now, Steve said of his time in Columbus:
“My time in Columbus was a long time ago now. But it was a good time for me as player. Now being with the Timbers – life has really come full circle and I’m really enjoying myself now. Portland is a beautiful place to live and a great club to play for.”
The Timbers will continue their search for the final playoff push in a midweek fixture when they host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, September 18.
Sporting Kansas City earns a scoreless draw against Portland Timbers for leg one of the Western Conference Finals at Providence Park on Sunday night. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and the rest of the top-seeded team shutout Portland in front of a sold-out crowd.
Despite ending in a draw, this match had no shortage of drama. Tim Melia was immediately called into action just a few seconds after the whistle blew – arguably setting the tone of the game. Melia would go on to record six saves, a clean sheet, and a first postseason shutout. Including, the final save that would decide the faith of the game.
Is the curse of the post finally broken? Maybe. In the sixth minute, Timber’s defender Jorge Villafana sends a low ball towards the ball only to see his effort bounce off the post that helped Portland win the knock round match in 2015.
Portland was forced to make an early sub in the 18th minute when Bill Tuilmoa replaced Larrys Mabiala. However, the early substitution did not slow Portland down as they continued to press Sporting KC’s defense. Fortunately, with the fast reactions from Melia, Zusi, and Besler, they were able to take Sporting KC into the half scoreless under pressure.
Sporting KC appeared to have adjusted from a choppy first half when Johnny Russell gets a great first touch after the restart. However, he sees his chance fly over the bar. Russell again would create more opportunities throughout the second half but fail to capitalize on his chances.
Russell was not the only one who almost opened the scoring. Ten minutes after Russell’s first attempt, Seth Sinovic struck in a 20-yard volley going straight into Jeff Attinella‘s arms – marking his first save of the night.
Portland came close to taking the lead in the 70th minute after David Guzman was able to get past Melia after Liam Ridgewell’s header came off the post, following a scramble in the box. However, Guzman’s goal was called offsides, giving Sporting KC a sign of relief. Still scoreless with less than 20 minutes of regular time, both sides pursued.
Timbers think they finally have the break through they need but the goal is called back after a late offside call. pic.twitter.com/Syrjl7ErXq
Manager Peter Vermes made an out-of-character decision to sub in Yohan Croizet for Russell in the last minute of stoppage time. Croizet’s addition did not make much of a difference as they ended the first leg in a scoreless draw.
Sporting KC will now host the Portland Timbers for leg two of the Western Conference Final on Thursday, November 29.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
I just can’t stop watching this footrace between Chara and Beckerman. The angle doesn’t do Beckerman any favors, but still: Mercy me. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/5xq9TWOgB2
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 beJeremy 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):
Diego plays for the Saints Soccer Academy in Portland. He wears number 8, just like his hero, @DiegoDv8. Generous donors to @107ist and the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund have supported Saints Soccer players, allowing them to play rec soccer in PDX. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/uv5gmkzEvQ
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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′:
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:
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:
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 intwelve consecutive games including Open Cup matches. Next up: San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park on Saturday. See you then!
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:
I’ll be playing for pride this month and donating:
10$ an appearance
10$ a win
10$ a clean sheet
10$ a goal/ assist
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 Bradleydonned a rainbow armband to show his support for the LGBTQ community. And in 2017, Orlando Soccer Stadiumunveiled 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.
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:
I think Adi will start but I wish Armenteros would.
I would rather see Armenteros, to be honest. I was just noting that he held up well even though he cannot currently hit the broad side of a barn with any accuracy and my GOD could he please stop getting caught offside (that is the lazy part I assume)
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.
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!
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 wasa 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.
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:
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:
Can we sub in Armenteros like ten minutes ago pls #RCTID
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:
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!