Tag Archives: Samuel Armenteros

How Sweet It Is: Timbers Beat Sounders Away

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Takes

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC

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Sam I Am: Timbers Make It Six in a Row

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 26: 2-3 Win

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

Me in February:

Me in March:

Me in April:

Me in May:

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

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

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

Quick Takes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 19: 2-1 Win

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

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

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

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

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

Match Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on: Cascante

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

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

Spotlight on: Armenteros

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

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

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

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

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

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

…to Ryan Pore in 2010:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: Timbers Army video

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Timbers Road Woes Continue

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

A few thoughts as we (FINALLY) head into our first home match of the season this Saturday. I want to look ahead to Saturday, but first, we need to take a look back.

Sigh.

I had a hard time writing this article because last Sunday’s Portland Timbers match against Orlando City SC was just SO PAINFUL, especially after the first 75 minutes or so showed such promise. I’ve decided that from now on I’m just going to use Phoebe’s philosophy when watching our away games.

Yep. Ahead 2-0 in the 75th minute, I can just turn the game off, right?

Wrong. Sigh.

We had a promising enough start. I was very happy to see Samuel Armenteros in the XI. He looked hungry and capable in preseason, and I’ve been waiting to see him get his chance. We still were without our erstwhile captain Liam Ridgewell, though this time it was apparently due to a knock in training as opposed to our appalling performance a few weeks back.

Between Ridgewell’s absence, Vytautas Andriuškevičius still getting back to fitness and Alvas Powell out injured, I was worried about our back line. I have to say they looked organized enough when we kept the line high, but when balls got inside our 18, it was a different story.

And then, of course, there was Baldomero Toledo. I have often compared his officiating to the actions of a bad substitute teacher, who lets everything slide until late in the day and then sends everyone to the office for things like tapping their pencils on their desks, so I readily admit that I am no fan of his handiwork.

But this particular brand of bad officiating was out of character for him. When  Mohamed El-Munir took down Sebastian Blanco in the box, not only did Toledo not call for a penalty kick; he awarded Blanco his second yellow card and was about to send him off. Fortunately, VAR helped him to see the error of his ways, and a penalty was awarded to the Timbers instead.

Diego Valeri coolly slotted it home, and we went into the half ahead 1-0. My thoughts at the time:

And then there was the second half. It also showed promise, as first Blanco and then Valeri hit woodwork, and then Bill Tuiloma opened his MLS account with a beautiful header fed by Valeri. Ahead 2-0 with less than 20 minutes to go. Time to turn off the movie now, right, Phoebe?

And then…

  • Chris Mueller scored.
  • Dom Dwyer drew a penalty that was much more in Toledo’s wheelhouse, a classic late-game call for minor contact.
  • And Dwyer went in for the kill with the go-ahead goal at 87′.

Takeaways

No excuses. Yes, we have a new coach. Yes, we have a new system. Yes, we had injured players. Yes, the officiating included some real howlers. Honestly, these are all beside the point. If you are ahead 2-0 with fewer than 20 minutes to go, you need to be able to close out the game. Period.

Still looking for consistency in the backWe have players with promise but we still don’t have a rock-solid back five. Both keepers are so-so. Our center backs include an older veteran who has struggled with injury over the last year, another older veteran of other leagues who has had uneven performance, and a younger player with much promise who still needs seasoning.

We also have fullbacks who come with strengths and challenges: Marco Farfan has speed and flashes of brilliance, but his youth and inexperience are also a factor. Vytas is still coming off an injury.

Alvas Powell, I’ve already written about a ton: tremendous potential to be simultaneously awesome and WTF. Zarek Valentin is a smart player and currently our Swiss army knife guy, playing pretty much wherever we need/ask in the back, but he lacks pace.  That back unit has to be SOLID if we are going to play the high line that Gio Savarese apparently wants.

The future has potential. I know these first five games have had grim finishes, but there is still hope. I really do like the look of our signings this year. I hope they find their footing, and quickly.

This Saturday marks the end of a LONG footy drought here in Portland. At long last, after months of offseason and away games during stadium construction, we will finally get to enter Providence Park once more; and I, for one, can’t wait.

Is it Saturday yet? #RCTID

Featured image courtesy: @ProvidencePark_

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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Is it March 4th yet?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

After a LONG break, the Portland Timbers are finally opening their regular season this weekend against the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 4th. We’ve said goodbye to beloved players and staff and welcomed new faces in the interim. Let’s take a look at some of the comings and goings as we get ready for Sunday.

Out

  • Darren Mattocks
  • Darlington Nagbe
  • Amobi Okugo
  • Ben Zemanski

Sure, we’ll miss that second string Swiss army knife of a player that Z-man was, and we’ll (maybe) miss watching for flashes of the brilliant national team play that Mattocks had on display for the Reggae Boyz; but by far the player we’ll miss the most is Nagbe. He might have occasionally frustrated a few folks with his tendency to take the safe pass in the final third rather than going for the jugular; but Nagbe, more than anyone, long helped to cover for other player’s shortcomings with his amazing ability to retain possession of the ball under intense pressure and to find the open man.

With us since the beginning of the MLS era (thanks to Vancouver Whitecaps‘s mystifying first pick that left him available for us at second pick), we will sorely miss Darlington Nagbe on the field. I dread the very real possibility that we only too late realize how much he was the glue that held things together, that connected the backs to the midfield and the midfield to the forwards. I understand why we let him go, but MAN it is going to hurt when he helps Atlanta United tear up the field this year.

In

Not including our draft picks, most of whom will be fighting for time on either the first squad or T2, as of this writing, we’ve acquired the following players during the offseason:

  • Samuel Armenteros, Forward (TAM, loan with purchase option)
  • Julio Cascante, Center Back (TAM, signed via transfer)
  • Andres Flores, Midfielder (signed from NASL/Cosmos)
  • Modou Jadama, Defender (signed from USL/Tulsa Roughnecks)
  • Foster Langsdorf, Forward (Homegrown) (Stanford)
  • Cristhian Paredes, Defensive Midfielder (TAM, loan with purchase option)
  • Andy Polo, Winger (TAM, loan with purchase option)
  • Eryk Williamson, Midfielder (traded GAM & TAM to DCU)

It will be interesting to see which of the new players manages to win starting spots. Cascante definitely has the attitude of a man willing to fight hard for his shot at the XI, and I’m still not sure whether Polo or Dairon Asprilla makes the starting lineup as a winger. By far the player who intrigues me the most here is Armenteros (fun fact, his full name is actually Kristiano Samuel Armenteros Nunez Mendoza Janssen, I am not making this up and I am officially requesting a John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt chant for him).

Armenteros has played most of his professional career in Eredivisie, where he lit up the field with 21 goals in 31 appearances for Heracles Almelo in 2016-2017. Moving to Benevento in Serie A, Armenteros struggled on a team that was fighting relegation, and because he had played in a game with the second squad for his old team while regaining fitness, under FIFA rules he was not allowed to make a move to another club with the same approximate start and end dates in a single season.

This thwarted his desire to move to FC Utrecht (side note: if that team sounds familiar to Portland soccer fans, it should: local hero and USMNT player Rubio Rubin played there from 2014-2017). Fortunately for Timbers fans, though, our season does not parallel that of most of Europe, so Utrecht’s loss is our gain, and we wound up getting to pick up Armenteros on a loan with the option to purchase.

I watched some of the preseason action, and of all of the new players, I’m most excited to see Armenteros on the pitch. Maybe it’s because the rest of the team truly is in preseason form, whereas Armenteros is coming from league play and is already match fit and razor sharp. Maybe it’s because he was on the bench for a while on a team fighting relegation and has something to prove, to himself and to the rest of us. Whatever it is, Armenteros looks like a man on a mission when he is on the field, and that mission is apparently to score goals, which he did several times during the preseason tournament in Arizona:

It will be interesting to see who gets the start, and in what formation, up top. Fanendo Adi is the presumed starting forward in a 4-2-3-1; but he was still in preseason striker form in Arizona (read: he would have had difficulty hitting the broad side of a barn). Maybe the better move is to have both Adi and Armenteros in a 4-4-2? I guess we’ll find out.

Word on Giovanni Savarese is that he isn’t afraid to make substitutions or tactical changes on the fly to suit conditions on the field, and he did change formations mid-game in preseason matches. Still, those were preseason scrimmages. The real test comes this Sunday, and I, for one, can’t wait.

What are you most looking forward to, and dreading this season? Hit me up in the comments below or on Twitter. #RCTID

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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