Tag Archives: Sheba Rawson

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.


  • 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.


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

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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