Tag Archives: Diego Valeri

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

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A Tale of Two Halves for Portland

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, March 31: 2-2 Draw

It’s been a challenging start to the season for the Portland Timbers, with four games in a row on the road and only two points to show for it, but it’s fair to say we’re making progress (if “progress” is defined as moving from a 0-4 drubbing at the hands of a New York Red Bulls B squad to a 2-2 draw three weeks later against a winless Chicago Fire). But the squad is slowly, ever so slowly, showing signs of improvement.

I say this because I remember watching the Timbers-Red Bulls game and just wishing we hadn’t embarrassed ourselves so badly, whereas against Chicago I actually thought we had a shot at three points. So…progress, I guess.

The First Half

The first 45 minutes certainly started out in promising fashion. Sebastian Blanco, the team’s only scorer this year coming into the match, got involved again early, with brilliant movement downfield and an impressive hold-off-your-man-while-executing-a-360-spin-and-pass to Diego Valeri for the first score of the night at 6′. Last year the two Argentine teammates worked well together, and their teamwork was once again on display.

For a moment, it looked as though Blanco would make it 2-nil at the 35th minute, with a hard volley from the left, but Fire keeper Richard Sanchez made a fantastic save to keep the Fire to within one goal going into the half.

In the first half, the Timbers moved the ball well and their defense looked relatively composed. Larrys Mabiala and Marco Farfan were much improved over their performances earlier in the season. Zarek Valentin put in decent service, in spite of the howler he had dribbling the ball out of bounds (to his credit, he had a good sense of humor about it).

The offensive unit also looked to be on the front foot in the first half. There were lots of short, crisp passes and ball movement. In short, we started to see glimpses of what this team might be capable of putting together.

The Second Half

And then, there was the second half.

Was it the wind? Was it that we were playing with a lead? Was it Bastian Schweinsteiger? [Narrator’s voice: yes.]

Whatever it was, the second half saw the Timbers let Chicago back into the match not once, but twice. First, there was Schweinsteiger’s brilliant setup of Nemanja Nikolic for the equalizer at 50′:

The second time was after Blanco’s header (we’ll get to that in a minute), when Schweinsteiger set up the Fire’s Brandon Vincent with a beautiful long, arcing pass from the right for a downward header at 84′ that keeper Jake Gleeson simply couldn’t stop. I know that both Fire goals are credited to other people, but Basti essentially created both of them.

One of the reasons the scoreline was so frustrating was that there were, indeed, flashes of potential brilliance. In addition to Blanco’s volley and near-score in the first half, there was this thing of beauty:

Two things I particularly enjoyed about this score: (1) Andres Flores. Flores came to the Timbers from NASL’s New York Cosmos, where he played for current Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese. His cross into the box was lovely. (2) ArgenTiny (aka Blanco). He is listed at 5’7″ but that HAS to be in his cleats. He is not exactly the tallest target to send the ball to for a header, but he did a beautiful job taking advantage of the room he was given to head the ball in for the score.


  • Blanco aka ArgenTiny aka Chucky continues to be awesome. He has been involved in every single score the Timbers have made this season, and I am here for it. He showed his potential last year in his work with Valeri; I would not at all be surprised if this is a bit of a breakout year for him.
  • Fanendo Adi needs to find his groove. He is doing a decent job of holding up the ball but currently, it looks as though he is still unable to hit the broad side of a barn, which is problematic if you’re a striker; and good LORD Adi please stay onside. Oops, sorry, I said that in my outside voice. Frankly, I’d like to see Samuel Armenteros get more minutes; he looked dangerous, hungry, and capable in the preseason.
  • The back line is still a work in progress. As I mentioned, Mabiala looked better this game than he has earlier this season, and center back Bill Tuiloma also put in a good shift, but we are far from settled in the back. Erstwhile captain Liam Ridgewell has now been benched for two games in a row following the humiliating defeat to the Red Bulls. In our runup to the Cup win in 2015, we had two solid center backs in Ridgewell and Nat Borchers; we are still looking for that level of reliability in the back this year.
  • We have keeper issues. Jake Gleeson has his defenders and his detractors (I’m among the latter), but the hard truth is that between Gleeson and Jeff Attinella we have two keepers who are so-so at best. We’ll see if new keeper coach Guillermo “Memo” Valencia can work some magic, but I have to assume we are looking down the road for something a little more solid in the long term.

The Timbers look to finish up this grueling stretch of road games with a matchup on Sunday against Orlando City SC. Here’s hoping the upward trend continues, and the boys bring back three points. See you next weekend, everyone!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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MVP is Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

It is official: Diego Valeri is the 2017 recipient of MLS’s Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award.

An amazing combination of ruthless accuracy on the pitch and self-effacing modesty pretty much everywhere else, Portland Timbers’ midfielder and playmaker Diego Valeri is this year’s runaway selection for most valuable player by every measure and constituent group that has an actual vote. Players, clubs, and media folk all overwhelmingly declared Valeri their favorite.

Want to know how not close it was? He received over 45% of all player votes among the top eight MVP candidates. The second place vote-getter from players was a not-too-shabby guy you may have heard of, New York City FC’s David “El Guaje” Villa, whose player vote totals had him a distant second at a little more than 9.5%.

Those two dozen or so of us Timbers Army members who were fortunate enough to be present at the press conference/announcement at Adidas headquarters today knew that we were witness to a rare moment honoring an even rarer player and person. As supporters, we often cite “Team/Town/Timbers Army” as the three cornerstones that drive our passion. And here, in front of us, was a player who shattered team records in the regular season; who chose to wear a Timbers Army pin on his lapel during the press conference; and who then chose to spend the evening following the ceremony volunteering in the community. Team/Town/Timbers Army, indeed.

It is so much to take in at once: a breakout season in 2013 and MLS Newcomer of the Year; a devastating ACL injury at the end of the 2014 season; an amazing comeback and improbable 2015 MLS Cup run, punctuated by scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup history only 27 seconds into the match; an historic 2017 personal best season, with an MLS-record-setting streak of 9 consecutive games with goals scored;  a total of 21 goals and 11 assists in the regular season capped by the best regular season record in the Western Conference; and a club-record 58 goals across all eras (from NASL through USL and MLS).

Combine this unparalleled on-field success with the most humble, giving person off the pitch–it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s even more unbelievable when you realize that Valeri’s move to Portland wasn’t even the team’s original plan, and that it almost didn’t happen.

It is common knowledge locally, but for those who don’t follow Portland closely, you might not realize that Valeri was actually the club’s Plan B for a playmaker in the midfield. After an abysmal 2012 that included a mid-season coach firing and a “walk of shame” banner dutifully paraded by players after the last home game of a disappointing season, the Timbers were desperate to make big changes on the field in 2013.

They were looking for a creative midfielder, somebody who could produce scoring chances for himself and for his teammates, and they thought they had found one in USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud. Early rumors in the offseason had us signing Mix. It was so close to a done deal that, by the 13th of December or thereabouts, some of us discovered that the front office had even gone so far as to set up his player page on the team website, if one knew where to look. But within a week, the deal seemed to have evaporated, and suddenly we found ourselves scouring Argentine fan blogs in hopes of learning something more about some rumored midfielder whose nickname was basically Argentine for “Peach Fuzz.”

We’ll still never know for certain exactly why the Diskerud deal fell through. Some speculated there were issues in working with his agent/father. There were other indications that perhaps the sticking point was the curious nature of MLS, where a player technically signs with the single-entity league and not actually with the club for whom he plays. Maybe there was some other factor involved that we on the outside never discovered. Regardless, the non-deal with Mix set the stage for signing Valeri; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Portland metro area have been witness to his grace on the field, his ability to constantly think three passes ahead, his clear knowledge of where all of his teammates are and where they are likely to be next, his keen eye for that one corner of the net that will be hardest to guard in the next instant. We also know of his amazing heart, his gracious gifts of both time and memorabilia in the community.

Most of us could write 10,000 words about his generosity off the pitch and it would still fall short. The closest I can come to capturing his ethos on the field and in the world around him can be found on his wall at home, shown here with his daughter, Connie:

Work hard and be nice to people, indeed. Well done, Diego. You are our MVP. I don’t know what we did to deserve you, but we will always and forever be blessed that you came to Portland.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Drawing Fire

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Wednesday, July 5: 2-2 Draw

Last week I had an excellent opportunity to experience the sharp contrast between loving sports in general…and loving a team.

During my brief vacation over the last several days, I attended three separate sporting events in which I was not at all personally invested–an international soccer friendly, a local soccer charity match, and a major league baseball game. They were all fun, relaxing, entertaining affairs. Each time I chatted with friends, laughed at some plays, groaned good-naturedly at others, and passed a few pleasant hours not really caring about the outcome of the game.

And then I came back home for the Portland Timbers game on Wednesday night.

My match summary is pretty much encapsulated as follows:

Passion for sports is a funny thing. It can exhilarate, devastate, and everything in between.  We had it all in full measure on Wednesday. We went ahead, fell behind, fought back to a draw, dominated play, worked desperately for the elusive go-ahead goal, thought we’d won at the death for a second, only to find that we hadn’t, and by the end of the match I was physically and mentally exhausted, just from watching.

It was taxing. It was frustrating. It was glorious.

Match Recap

It was always going to be a tough match. The Chicago Fire is having an excellent run of form, and we had just completed our fourth game in a row without a win (drawing Kansas City in a hard-fought match just a few days before). Our squad was so decimated that we literally couldn’t field a full eighteen, and most of the guys on the bench these days are pretty much T2 players.

With David Guzman, Alvas Powell and Darren Mattocks out on international duty and Diego Chara, Liam Ridgewell and Jack Barmby all out injured, we kept pretty much the same lineup as we’d had against Kansas City, with the exception of Zarek Valentin starting as right back, something he’s been doing more of lately. Darlington Nagbe played his second shift as a defensive midfielder. Chicago was also without Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger, so at least we had THAT going for us.

Both teams had a couple of near misses early on, with Chicago getting an early chance at about 6′ and with a near miss for us at 17′. Then a handball by Juninho gave us the chance to go ahead at 23′:

(Side note: before I get to the goal, can we just look up at that GIF again and appreciate HOW HIGH Dairon Asprilla can jump? Good LORD. Okay, back to the recap.)

Fanendo Adi lined up at the mark and coolly struck it right down the middle for the score. It wasn’t quite a panenka but it was still gorgeous:

It was the first penalty kick awarded against Chicago all season, and we made it count.

And then barely ten minutes later this happened:

That crazy long shot from Arturo Alvarez made it in as Jake Gleeson was holding for a touch from another Fire player that never came.

Meanwhile, not two minutes later Diego Valeri was busy making a case for Near Miss of the Year with this bicycle kick attempt:

It went wide of the goal but oh, what might have been.

In the second half, we were dominating in all of the stats that are supposed to matter: possession, shots, shots on target. And then this back breaker happened.

Alvarez and Brandon Vincent caught us out in the back and suddenly we were down 2-1, with a devastated, depleted squad. Would we be able to answer?

Yes. Emphatically.

The Portland Timbers posted this beautiful breakdown of the goal. Yes, it was a real team effort; but I want you to pay particular attention to Diego Valeri at the 1:00 mark.

Watch as he squares his shoulders, rotates his hips and torso to his left. EVERYTHING in his body language tells the defender that Valeri is going to send the ball to his left…and then he coolly taps the ball to his right, to a waiting Sebastian Blanco. I probably say this every other week about Valeri, but that was poetry.

The boys worked desperately for the go ahead goal, and for about three seconds during stoppage time, we thought we’d scored it, off this beautiful cross from Marco Farfan to Adi:

Unfortunately it was called back for Adi’s push-off, exhilaration turned quickly to frustration, and the game ended shortly thereafter in a 2-2 draw.

Holy cow, I got tired all over again just retelling that.

Hot Takes

  • Blanco’s work rate continues to be ridiculous in a good way. If he can get in sync with players other than Valeri (with whom he clearly connects well), we might just have something in the tank for the second half of the season.
  • Valentin continues to step up. He had his work cut out for him at right back, and he didn’t disappoint. When Powell gets back from international duty, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod at RB on a regular basis.
  • It was SO rewarding to see Ben Zemanski having a good game. His first touch might not be Nagbe-esque as a defensive midfielder, but he put in a solid effort, arguably his best since before the ACL tear that initially sidelined him a couple of years back.

Off the Pitch

We had a fascinating donation to add to the memorabilia in the Timbers Army fanladen: a joint Timbers Army/Chicago Section 8 scarf from the days before Portland was in MLS:

Check out this story from the Chicago Fire site for more on the back story of the Timbers Army/Section 8 alliance, a significant part of our history as well as our growth/development as an organization.

Thank goodness that crazy stretch is over; now both the boys and I can get a little rest and recuperation during Gold Cup action! And I even have (a little) spare time, since July is pretty much a school principal’s best shot at vacation moments. We’ll see you again when the boys host Real Salt Lake on July 19th.

In the meantime, Let me know if there’s something non-match related you’d like to hear about during the international break: follow-ups on our international players during Gold Cup? Background on our newest signing, centerback Larrys Mabiala? Local history/stories of Timbers Army, either past or present? Reviews of local Portland cideries? Hit me up in the comments, or on Twitter at shebainpdx. Til then, as always, #RCTID.

Featured image courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

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Who Are Those Guys?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, June 10: 2-0 Win

That’s what I imagine FC Dallas was asking after they were soundly defeated at Providence Park last Saturday. The Portland Timbers, already missing two players on international duty (Darlington Nagbe and David Guzmán), lost two more in the course of the match. The match finished with several players who weren’t regular starters, and two right-footed defensive midfielders at center back: and somehow the team didn’t just win, but won decisively.

The lineup was predictable. With Nagbe away with the USMNT, Dairon Asprilla once again got the start on the wing; and with Guzmán away for the Costa Rican national team journeyman Lawrence Olum filled in at defensive midfield behind Diego Chara. Alvas Powell is apparently still in the doghouse for his poor decision-making on the field, giving Zarek Valentin the start again at right back. The other eight starters were more or less the usual suspects.

Adi Bomaye

At first it appeared that Fanendo Adi’s finishing might still be jinxed. With a beautiful feed from Liam Ridgewell, Adi chested the ball and fired at 5′ but was stopped by Dallas’ Jesse Gonzalez, who sent it over the bar for a corner kick. Gonzalez stopped Adi again at 15′ after Diego Valeri sent the ball through to him for another shot. Finally, though, at 32′, Sebastian Blanco fed Adi on the left. Adi stayed on his feet and sent it to the center of the goal for a score, ending his goal drought:

When Adi DOES score in a match, he’s just as likely to score a second, and he didn’t disappoint, putting away a beautiful score at 72′ to add to his total of braces in MLS:

As beautiful as both Asprilla’s cross and Adi’s cool, calm, collected finish were, my favorite part of the goal was the guy who didn’t touch the ball: Diego Chara. Watch that play again. Chara’s dummy in front of the goal is fabulous, drawing the defender away from Adi and forcing Gonzalez to stay to his left to prevent Chara from the easy score, which leads to Gonzalez leaping desperately to his right in a vain attempt to stop Adi when he realizes that Chara doesn’t touch the ball. Gonzalez’s dive to the corner of the box leaves him on the ground and helpless as Adi calmly takes another touch and sends the ball home.

“Disallowed Goal of the Year”

It was glorious to come away with a convincing 2-0 win; but oh, what might have been. Take a look at Valeri’s beautiful work on an almost-goal that was ultimately ruled a handball:

Poetry. Sheer poetry. I agree with @totalmls’s assessment that this might very well be the disallowed goal of the year.

The Replacements

I also have to give a shout out to the guys in the lineup who haven’t been starters for most of the season. Dairon Asprilla put in a solid game. Besides the assist on the second goal, he was a scoring threat himself, nearly putting it in at 41′ and forcing Gonzalez to tip it over the bar for the save.

And Zarek Valentin–oh, my goodness, did he put in a night’s work. He had a brilliant clearance off the line at 22′ after Jake Gleeson initially had the save but the ball continued to roll toward the line:

Finally, a word for our defensive midfielders and center backs (who in this case were mostly the same people). After Ridgewell went down at about 25′, Olum slid back to the center back position and Amobi Okugo came in at defensive midfield. Then, when Roy Miller took a knock from a pileup with Maxi Urruti, he never completely recovered and had to leave the game at 61′, leaving Okugo to slide back to the other center back position and bringing in Ben Zemanski as the third player during the match to line up at defensive midfield. It was crazy: we started the game with two left-footed centerbacks in front of our goal and ended it with two right-footed defensive midfielders in their place.

And yet, amazingly, they pulled it off. With only six regular starters on the field for the last 30-plus minutes, they managed to hold down the fort, protecting the clean sheet and leaving Dallas to look at the lineup and wonder:


Off the Pitch

With Pride Week in full effect, the Timbers Army had a tremendous display of support for equality in the stands:

And in the community, we also had a great deal to be proud of. The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters (the supporters group for the Portland Thorns) marshalled a crew of volunteers and together completed two visitation rooms for foster children and their families at the DHS offices in Beaverton:

And, in a beautiful example of paying it forward, among the many volunteers were immigrants and refugees from IRCO’s Africa House. You may remember reading here earlier about the Timbers Army sponsoring IRCO teens at futsal back in March and April. Many of those same teens wanted to return the favor, and when they heard about the opportunity to volunteer for the foster care room makeover project, they jumped at the chance:

Finally, our match day drive was to help stock those foster care visitation rooms with supplies for kids:

Team. Town. Timbers Army. What a wonderful week, and a wonderful win. See you again after Tuesday’s Open Cup match!

Featured image courtesy: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid youtube

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It’s the Little Things

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, April 15: 0-1 Loss

Hard to watch, harder still to re-watch, and pretty much no fun to write about. Yay sports! All right, let’s do this, shall we?

Sporting Kansas City has a reputation for solid back line, and they defended well. They clogged up the middle effectively and stymied our offense. They won the possession battle. And when Jimmy Medranda was wide open on the transition at the 53rd minute (which reminds me: hey, Sebastian Blanco, why was Medranda so wide open there?), he tapped it back to a centrally located Dom Dwyer for the only score of the game.

Here’s the thing: I watched it live in the stadium, and while I was frustrated, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what we could/should have done differently to win the game. I walked away knowing that we got outplayed but I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would have made a difference. I still haven’t got it all figured out, but having rewatched the match a couple of times, I have at least identified a few small moments/keys that stood out:

Missed opportunities

Everybody knows that, except for an acrobatic save by Kansas City’s Tim Melia, we very nearly leveled the match with a BEAUTIFUL strike by Darlington Nagbe:

While it was a spectacular might-have-been, it wasn’t the only one. At the 32nd minute, the Timbers were in transition on the move, Diego Valeri was wide open and received a pass from Nagbe, and Blanco was headed down the left side, where he and Valeri…failed to connect. It was a missed opportunity in a game where the Timbers didn’t have many, and was emblematic of our side’s failure to string together passes when it counted.

Dom Dwyer is a pro

The Timbers Army loves to hate him (he has enjoyed his share of taunting the home support in the past), but he is good at what he does. This includes playing professionally for the call. Sometimes he drew actual fouls, as he did when he successfully blocked out Roy Miller with his, er, posterior in the 16th minute, leaving Miller having to come through him and foul him. Other times he drew phantom “fouls,” as in the 36th minute against Marco Farfan.  I know I’m partisan and I know Farfan struggled in this match, but I rewatched that play a dozen times and for the life of me I didn’t see anything resembling a Farfan foul. But Dwyer sold it, and sold it well.

Where was Adi?

Fanendo Adi has been a formidable presence up top, but he seemed to disappear for much of this game. Again, credit to Kansas City’s defense, in particular Ike Opara, for effectively shutting down Adi for much of the game. I’m sure the fact that the middle was defended so well made his job more difficult; but we will need Adi to be a threat at the top of the box if we’re going to get back to our winning ways.

Killing Astronauts

Speaking of Adi, he may have had trouble finding the back of the net, but he wasn’t the only one. At one time or another, players from both teams sent the ball sailing yards above the crossbar (I know that, besides Adi, Graham Zusi  and Roger Espinoza took turns sending the ball into the stratosphere. There may have been others; I lost track after awhile.)

We are rumored to be signing a center back from Turkey sometime midseason; in anticipation, I have been researching Turkish football. They have a few colorful soccer phrases worth keeping. One of my favorites is Astronotu öldürmek, which I’m told means to kill an astronaut. As Adi, Zusi, and Espinoza sent the ball over the goal and high up into the crowd, several metaphorical astronauts gave their lives in service to poorly placed shots that day.

Off the Pitch

Once again, the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters (the supporters group for the Portland Thorns) gave something extra off the pitch. Saturday’s match day drive was for socks for Janus Youth, serving homeless, runaway and at risk youth in the area (they are pretty much right next door to the fanladen). At both the Thorns and Timbers matches, we collected new socks for Janus Youth, with outstanding results:

In the post game comments, Porter noted that we need to take better advantage of set piece opportunities, and I can’t argue with that. But I hope we find a better solution to a physical, defensive lineup. If we don’t, we will have a long season ahead. Next up: Vancouver Whitecaps at home, and Cascadia Cup points on the line! See you on Saturday.

Featured image courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

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I’ve Seen This Movie

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Sunday, April 2: 1-1 Draw

Sunday was a beautiful evening for soccer in Portland. Another sold out crowd at Providence Park gathered in anticipation. Darlington Nagbe and David Guzmán were home from international duty. Marco Farfan, the local homegrown talent and Centennial High School senior, was going to get the start in front of family and friends. And scoring machines Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri would have the chance to test a New England Revolution team that could prove as dangerous on the counter as the Timbers. And for a time, we weren’t disappointed.

First: that goal. Oh, my goodness. Valeri’s strike at the twelfth minute was one of the prettiest I’ve seen at Providence Park, and is surely already in the running for goal of the year:

Then: Marco Farfan. Absolute poetry. My seats are on the west side of the stadium, which means that when he is working as a fullback I get a great up close and personal look at the action for half of the match–and oh my GOODNESS. It was hard to remember that Farfan is still only 18 as I watched him repeatedly own Kei Kamara. Farfan won eight tackles in his home debut and put in a confident, competent performance, pushing up well and defending his territory brilliantly. If he didn’t finish his spring break homework I hope he can turn in a condensed match report for extra credit.

The Timbers were working the ball well that first half, maintaining confident possession and a one goal lead going into the half. And then…

You know that moment in a horror movie when everybody in the theater seems to know what’s about to happen, but for some reason the characters don’t? When you want to shout at the screen “No, that is NOT just the wind making that scraping noise!” “No, you should NOT all split up and head out separately into the woods!” “No, the bad guy is NOT dead and if you turn your back on him he WILL get up and brain you!”

That is pretty much how the second half felt.

All of us in the stadium could tell what was coming. We all KNEW that a one goal lead would not suffice. We KNEW that we needed to come back with intensity, that we needed to crash the box, that we needed to put in another goal to put the game away.

And instead we watched in gathering dread as the team seemingly started the half in second gear; as Sebastian Blanco missed chances wide; as we didn’t have numbers inside the box when we needed them…and as this happened:

Yep. Told you so, said pretty much everyone in the park. I TOLD you if you didn’t take care of business that the bad guy in that horror movie would get back up and brain ya.

I’m not sure where to lay the blame for this one. Yes, Jake Gleeson misplayed the ball. But if Roy Miller had done the defensive job required, the ball wouldn’t have been a threat in the first place. And if Nagbe had been trailing in the box more for second chances, we might have had a second or third goal, which would likely have iced the game even with the defensive lapse. And if we had used, say, Dairon Asprilla or Darren Mattocks, maybe they would have provided a late offensive spark that would have shifted the momentum in our favor.

Regardless of the reason, Lee Nguyen (who to be fair was not in fact a horror movie bad guy, just a talented player doing his job) leveled the score late in the match, and the Revs took a point in Portland.

Disappointing, to be sure, but yes, a point is better than none. And we are still ahead of our typical March/early April performance in MLS. But the firepower of this team has raised my expectations. One goal at home, especially with acknowledged weakness in the center back position, is not sufficient. I hope we score early and often next weekend, and that we don’t take the foot off the gas pedal in Philadelphia until the final whistle.

Off the Pitch

I got to meet an amazing young man this weekend. Dylan Mapston is a 12-year-old Timbers fan and goalkeeper who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. You can read more about Dylan here. Dylan’s two-year-old cousin, Cheyenne, lives in the Portland metro area and is undergoing treatment for a cancerous growth on her spine (more information and fundraiser here). Dylan has started an effort to raise awareness for children with cancer and to give back to those who are fighting this disease. Dylan and his father flew out to Portland for the Timbers and Thorns matches this weekend, collected teddy bears and toys donated at both matches, and delivered them to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital.

Soccer may be the thing that brings us together, but sometimes it inspires something much greater. It was a privilege to meet Dylan. I’m grateful for his inspiration and perspective, and for demonstrating the Team/Town/Timbers Army connection we know and love. I hope we meet again soon.

Featured image of Marco Farfan courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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Top of the Table

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, March 18: 4-2 Win

What’s that, you say? The Portland Timbers are 3-0 and top of the table after three weeks in March? How in the heck did THAT happen?

It has been a crazy start to the season, to say the least. In week two, we won on the road in Los Angeles. The last time a Timbers team pulled off a March road win, I was in high school. (In related news, I am old.) And last Saturday, we managed to defeat a strong Houston Dynamo squad that was having a fine March of their own. Fortunately, the boys came through when it counted.

The first two scores of the match, both on penalty kicks, came from handballs that were so hard to see in person that I had to re-watch the highlights later to know just what had happened. The first, coming at the 10th minute off a ball that deflected off the lifted elbow of DaMarcus Beasley, certainly didn’t look intentional, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

In any case, Diego Valeri confidently jogged up to the spot and drilled it high and center for the first score of the match. The second, at the 36th minute, was a handball that careened off Diego Chará’s arm as he lifted it up to cover his face during a Cubo Torres free kick. Hard to fault Chará for trying to keep his face from getting drilled, but if you’re going to call the first one you might as well call the second one, I suppose.

There were several long minutes in the first half where I was worried about our ability to withstand Houston’s counterattack, and their score to close out the first half was a perfect example of why. During first half stoppage, we got our clocks cleaned. Alvas Powell was WAY behind the play on the counter, probably a combination of playing so far up on offense and recovering from an injury; and Zarek Valentin, our third string fullback, was playing catch-up much of the half. The result was a quick Torres to Alberth Elis flick, followed by a beautiful and deadly pass from Elis to Romell Quioto for the easy score. If this was a sign of things to come, I didn’t like our chances in the second half.

But then, the second half came, and something was different. I don’t know what adjustments they made, but Valentin and Powell looked like they were hung out to dry a lot less often. In fact, Valentin redeemed himself in the 57th minute with a BEAUTIFUL left-footed cross from the corner, perfectly placed for Valeri to head into the back of the net, and suddenly we were tied again.

Smoke after a goal. We had a lot of those that night. (photo by Sheba Rawson)

Our third goal of the night was probably my favorite. David Guzmán is a beast, in every good way. I may call him Tenacious D for his work in the back (which by the way frees up Chará, thank you very much), but he also works incredibly hard on the offensive side of the ball. And he was rewarded for his efforts last night with what turned out to be the game winner in the 65th minute. With Beasley trying to clear the ball, Guzmán chested it perfectly to Nagbe, who returned the favor by making a ridiculously good spinning-as-he-hit-the-ground pass to Guzmán, who put it away, then kissed the crest following his first score in a Timbers uniform. Sebastian Blanco is definitely DP quality, but I really think in many ways Guzmán might be our most valuable signing of the season so far.

Fanendo Adi was kind of driving me nuts that night. (Okay, not kind of. He really was.) He managed to line up offside a few times, his footwork wasn’t the best, and he was looking gassed toward the end as he missed chance after chance. But just as I was turning to a friend and saying “WHY haven’t we subbed him out yet?” Adi did this at the 87th minute and put us ahead 4-2. Way to shut me up, Adi.

Hot takes

  • I don’t want to go on and on about it, so I’ll just say that Cubo Torres was being kind of a jerk.
  • Alvas Powell reminded me of first-year Powell, which meant moments of brilliance followed by moments of WTF? I do not wish to watch another season of the “That’s So Alvas” show. Hope we’ve seen the last of it for awhile.

  • Our back line still scares me, but Roy Miller wasn’t horrible. He and Guzmán have some playing history together and it shows.

  • We made adjustments at the half and they worked. More of this please.

  • Darlington Nagbe’s ball handling is so solid that I think he might have only had one errant pass the whole first half. I remember because when it happened it felt SO out of the ordinary. I hope he gets a chance to show some of that magic during the USMNT qualifiers this next weekend.

  • Jake Gleeson. Holy cow, son. You had some saves that first half. Nice work.

Other stuff

Prior to the match, the Timbers had a ceremony to honor Nat Borchers, retired center back and amazing human. Nat took the opportunity to salute the Timbers Army one last time and we tried to return the favor. Now Nat is taking up a new position, this time in the broadcast booth. We love you, Nat. Best of luck in this new chapter.

We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill (photo by Sheba Rawson)

This weekend also marked the Timbers’ Army’s participation in the Independent Supporters Council’s stand against racism.  The tifo display, We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill, spoke to the Timbers Army’s desire to continue to defend equality as a fundamental human right and to reject racial oppression. In addition to the display, the Timbers Army also sold both “Refugees Welcome” scarves and “Sanctuary” scarves, with proceeds going to charitable organizations who work with immigrants and refugees. And finally, we also held the first of many match day drives, this time collecting food for a local food pantry at Impact NW. Yes, we want to win the battle on the field; but we also want to win the battle for equality and dignity in the broader world.

Well, that was a most excellent weekend. Next stop: Columbus. Hopefully, we can manage to hold down the fort while Nagbe and Guzmán are away on international duty. See you next weekend.

Featured image, David Guzmán celebrates his first goal in a Timbers uniform courtesy: Portland Timbers

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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Portland Timbers vs Los Angeles Galaxy

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Sunday March 12

Week two, and time for our first road game of the regular season, this time against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Last week’s home opener/smackdown was delightful, but what did we have in store today? With an already thin back line plagued by injuries midweek, I wasn’t sure what we were going to see. Would the dazzling offense put on another show? Or would we continue our road woes of 2016?

The good.

All the Diegos. People say “box to box” all of the time like they know what it means. I have only been closely following this sport since maybe 2003 and I hear that term thrown around a lot. Today Diego Chara put on a box-to-box clinic at StubHub Center. The last time Chara’s head was involved with a score, also in Carson, it inspired this wonderfully unique tribute video by the Tokyo contingent of the Timbers Army, Tokyo Yosaku. This time, Chara started the run behind his own six and sprinted downfield. As Sebastian Blanco made a long, beautifully chipped aerial pass, Chara barely broke stride as he headed the ball expertly to Diego Valeri on the left, who graciously squared it back to Chara for the score. I could watch this perfect sequence all day. Way to go, Diegos.

Sebastian Blanco. He is indeed All That. That dude is EVERYwhere. When the ball was banging around in the box early on, it was Blanco that cleared it off the line. He hustles back on D, and is just as quick to capitalize on the counter (see “All The Diegos” score above, for example). Maybe it’s just me; he still looks like he mostly connects best with Valeri. When he learns what it takes to feed everyone in the front, I like our chances.

Reaction save. I have a soft spot for Jake Gleeson ever since his magical unbeaten season with the U23 Timbers; but I have always wondered if he would be able to live up to his potential. And I will readily admit that I was not delighted to lose Adam Kwarasey. But Jake did well to keep a clean sheet on the road this match, especially with that reaction save in the 94th minute. It is hardly fair to judge him on a performance behind a back line held together with mostly chewing gum and baling wire, but he did the job today.

Marco Farfan. The Centennial HS senior had his debut MLS start today, and he did not disappoint. He largely owned the sideline in front of him. The bar where I watched the match started serious conversations about what the Timbers Army should get Farfan as a graduation present. This response on Twitter was my favorite.

The bad.

The game plan. All right, I Know Nothing About Soccer, but goodness sakes, what was that game plan today? Even my cats knew going into this match that we were stronger up top and in the middle, and weaker in the back, where we had Alvas Powell at fullback; two new starters (Roy Miller & Marco Farfan); and Lawrence Olum in the center, who is an acknowledged placeholder for “Awesome Centerback We Are Totally Bringing In During The Summer Transfer Window, I Promise.”

So. When we go up 1-0 and we are also miraculously up a man, do we play to our strengths in the middle and up top? No. For some reason we mysteriously sit back, leaning on the acknowledged weakest part of our lineup, for the better part of the match. I cannot remember the last time I was more nervous and full of dread when we were ahead and up a man. Somebody can maybe explain to me in the comments why, instead of pressing when were were up in points and people, and had the clear advantage in the center of the field, we seemed to be parking the bus, especially when the back line was less of a bus and more of a Yugo.

The ugly.

The red card. I’ll say it. Jelle Van Damme should not have been sent off. I don’t think David Guzmán was simulating, he was genuinely injured, but it had nothing to do with Van Damme. I watched that play a dozen times, and while he was late to the tackle, I really don’t think it warranted a card. Yes, he was hard done by referee Baldomero Toledo, but Van Damme should only have been sitting on a yellow for (legitimate but still cardable) dissent for the first call. I shudder to think what the game would have looked like with Guzman out and Van Damme still in the game. I think Toledo got the call wrong, though as we all know what goes around comes around.

Speaking of Toledo: I hate it when refs become the focus in any match. And, while I have complaints about him, Toledo’s early red to Van Damme actually seemed a bit out of character. I sometimes compare Toledo to that substitute teacher who is terrible at classroom management, who lets everything go to heck in a handbasket until about 1pm, then suddenly starts sending everybody to the office for ticky tack stuff like tapping their pencils on their desks.

My Toledo complaint is usually that he fails to establish control of the match early, then makes up for it with Oprah-like card awards late in the game. This match was kind of the reverse of that pattern. Still a bad call IMO, but as a Timbers partisan it is hard for me to be sympathetic (especially because it was Van Damme). Nonetheless, it was the wrong call.

Other stuff.

The 225+ Timbers Army away traveled well. The Southland Irregulars are a large and active branch of Timbers Army away support, and they did an excellent job. In addition to setting up the prefunk and bringing the noise in the stands during the match, they worked with the LA Galaxy front office to organize a Books and Boots drive to benefit local kids. Props, Southland Irregulars. Way to represent.

Ugly wins are still wins, and somehow we still sit at the top of the table with that road win monkey off our backs. I’ll take it. Next stop: Houston at home. See you all Saturday.

Featured image courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017