Tag Archives: Timbers Army

Playoffs, Baby

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image: Timbers Army

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Derby Days

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, August 27: 1-1 Draw

Everybody has a story to tell about rivalry games. And last Sunday’s Portland TimbersSeattle Sounders match-up had it all: disputed calls and non-calls, cards, a penalty kick, a draw that felt like a win (or a draw that felt like a loss, depending on where you were standing in the stadium). But I’m going to leave the match recap to others. This is instead a personal story of Cascadia Cup games, for me and for my daughter.

My daughter (who I call MiniMe online to give her a LITTLE privacy) first started attending Timbers matches when her brothers played club soccer in 2004. Restless and bored, my then 4-year-old girl had to be bribed to stay in the half-empty stands with me on the west side: “If you let mommy watch the first half of this match, we’ll go up to the Fred Meyer bouncy house later, okay?”

Looking back on those early USL days, I would not have predicted that, when the team made the move to MLS in 2011, MiniMe would be the one who most wanted to attend away games, accompanying me to the first MLS Cascadia Cup away match in 2011 in Seattle.

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MiniMe and mom on their first Cascadia Cup away match in 2011 in Seattle

All of eleven years old, MiniMe rode up to Seattle with me on one of the supporter buses. She delighted in the entire affair–the spectacle of it all, the cold and the rain and the resulting “We don’t need no ponchos” songs in the stands, the extremely rude, potty-mouthed cheers that she could only laugh at as they rang throughout the section, Futty Danso’s stunning equalizer. She was hooked.

MiniMe was with me in 2011 when we opened BC Place to much fanfare. She came up with helpful tips to pass on to supporters (“Seat backs in front of you make excellent makeshift percussion instruments.” “Your away day program makes great confetti”). She was with me in Seattle in 2012 when we got our butts handed to us and when stadium security decided to ignore the prearranged security protocol and dump us out right in the midst of ECS faithful (MiniMe was calm and collected; her mother was situationally aware).

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A VERY underaged MiniMe on the left, celebrating the Cascadia Cup win in Vancouver in 2012

She was with me in Vancouver in 2012 when we reclaimed the Cascadia Cup, talking her way into the Railway Club to touch the Cup even though she was CLEARLY well underage (MiniMe to the door man: “Look at me. Who’s going to serve ME?”)

My daughter has accompanied me to every regular season Cascadia Cup match since 2011 except one, and that one was my fault (I was in Spain at the time in 2015). She’s in college now, but she makes a point of coming to each and every one. When she came home for the summer this year, she marked her wall calendar with every Timbers home match, and every Cascadia Cup away match. I confess that I live for those days, when we can still share the joy and the sorrow of the game together.

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Me and MiniMe in Vancouver, BC this year (don’t worry, she’s just having cranberry juice)

This past weekend, MiniMe went back up to college at Puget Sound on Friday, then rejoined me one last time for the season at CenturyLink. She saved me a seat while I did supporter stuff before the match, then we stood and chanted and sang together for the boys on the field.

At one point in the game, as often happens in a Cascadia Cup match, we had evened up the score, but I was still terribly nervous. Eventually my voice caught in my throat, and instead of singing the next chant I held my hands in front of my face as the final minutes ticked down, peering through my fingers at the field, terrified that our hated rivals would once again score the go-ahead goal, and holding my breath hoping that we would be able to hang on for the draw.

And then I glanced to my left, and saw that my daughter was doing exactly the same thing.

Some bonds run deep. For my daughter and me, those bonds run straight through Pacific Northwest soccer.

After the final whistle, we waited through the security hold together, dashed down the ramp with the rest of the Timbers Army faithful, and I hugged her goodbye as she sprinted off to catch the late bus back to college in Tacoma.

Recap away, y’all. Talk about Diego Valeri’s amazing season. Talk about the sublime space that Darlington Nagbe creates around him out of nothing. Talk about Roy Miller having his best game in a Timbers jersey. Talk about Jeff Attinella’s stops, or Vytautas Andriuškevičius’s crosses. What I will remember most is my daughter and I, side by side, hoping against hope, peering through our fingers at the boys on the pitch as they stared down our most hated rivals to the north, and endured.

I sure hope we get to do it again together a time or two this fall.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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Green and Gold Cup

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Well, folks, it’s Gold Cup time, and you know what that means:

That’s right, the Portland Timbers, along with most MLS teams, are on an international break. While we wait for, oh, I don’t know, half the team to recover from various injuries, what say we peek in at how current and former Timbers players are faring with their respective national squads?

Jamaica

Let’s start with the Reggae Boyz, whose roster includes two current players and one former alumnus. From the current Timbers squad: forward Darren Mattocks and right back Alvas Powell, the player who is the best at simultaneously dazzling and disappointing on defense, sometimes within a five second span. From the ranks of former Timbers: Jermaine Taylor, currently with Minnesota United. Taylor had a decent outing in Jamaica’s first Group C game on July 9th, playing a full 90 with 94% passing accuracy and eight steals. (Hmm, solid defending, good distribution. I wonder who could use that right now….)

Both current Timbers also saw plenty of action during this match, a revenge affair against upstart Curacao, who recently surprised Jamaica by handing them a defeat in the Caribbean Cup just a couple of weeks prior. Alvas Powell got the start, played for 83 minutes, and in classic “That’s So Powell” fashion he had a defensive stop and clearance at 68′, followed immediately by his giving away a corner kick. Alvas, Alvas, Alvas.

Mattocks came off the bench at 59′ but he made it count with this beautiful left-footed volley to score the second goal of the match:

Yes, I know the clip is in Spanish. The key word you’re listening for there is zurdazo. Nice work, Darren. Save some of that hot, sinister scoring for when you get back home, please.

Next up for the Reggae Boyz: Mexico on July 13th. Yikes.

Costa Rica

#RCTID faithful arguably had two players to pull for on the Ticos: aside from the bulldog central defender David Guzmán (yes, he is still my favorite signing this year), many Timbers supporters still have a soft spot for current NYCFC player Rodney Wallace, who signed with the Timbers in their inaugural season and played with us for five years before moving on. Both players have had excellent Gold Cup outings so far. Guzmán demonstrated the tenacity and precision that he has shown with the Timbers, getting ample opportunity to practice his corner kicks in the July 7th match v Honduras at Red Bull Arena. He did get a yellow at 85′, which is classic bulldog Guzmán.

Rodney Wallace also had an excellent game, starting for Costa Rica and going 71 minutes before being subbed. He also had the assist on the only score of the match:

Both Guzmán and Wallace had excellent outings as well when Costa Rica took on Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11th. Wallace played a full 90 in the 1-1 draw, and Guzmán had, guess what, another corner kick, this time one that led to Costa Rica’s only score in the match:

Guzmán subbed off at 61′, which is probably just as well because he already had a yellow from the previous game; and with the play he is giving Costa Rica they will want him on the field for as many matches as they can get him. But he wasn’t subbed off before this tremendous effort, a beautiful line drive just before the half that ALMOST put Costa Rica up 2-1 and that required Canada’s keeper to make a diving save:

United States

Finally, a word must be said about a beloved former player, “El Sueño” aka Jorge Villafaña, currently with Liga MX’s Santos Laguna as well as with the USMNT. I know I am not alone in rooting for Jorge; we miss his deadly crosses as well as his passion. In the July 8th game v Panama he played a full 90 and created a couple of good chances as a left back. As of this writing I have only seen highlights from the match against Martinique on the 12th, in which Villafaña didn’t play this time (which is probably just as well, given some of the defensive stats I see from the match. Oh, dear.)

Well, that’s all the Timbers Gold Cup news that’s fit to print so far. Keep those cards and letters coming! Reminder that the Timbers have their next MLS match at home on July 19th v Real Salt Lake. Want more Timbers-related Gold Cup news and notes, or something else Timbers-esque off the pitch? Hit me up in the comments below, or on Twitter.

Featured image courtesy: timbers.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

MLSFemale Survey Summary

Katie Sveinson - Survey Analyzer/mlsfemale
Survey Analyzer

By Katie Sveinson // @KatieSveinson

Recently, MLSFemale.com created a survey to better understand the experiences of MLS fans.

We found that the Portland Timbers had the most representation in the survey, with 23.3% respondents noting the Timbers as their MLS team. Second place went to the Seattle Sounders, followed by Sporting Kansas City. All 22 teams had fan representation in the survey.

Katie Sveinson - Survey Analyst/mlsfemaleOnly 40 out of 132 participants said they were not part of their teams’ supporters group. For those who were part of the supporter groups, the Timbers Army had the most members in the survey, as this group was listed most frequently. The Cauldron was the second most mentioned, and there were multiple individual responses such as Inferno, Ruckus, Resurgence, Sons of Ben, Third Rail, and Vancouver Southsiders to name a few.

Participants noted that they were most likely to attend 1-2 games per season (20.5%), with 17.6% going to 3-5 games. Interestingly, there were 12.1% who don’t normally attend games, compared to 7.5% who attend 25 games or more.

Katie Sveinson - Survey Analyst/mlsfemale

Additionally, 24.4% noted that they have been a fan of watching soccer for 20 years or more! Whereas 22.7% have been fans for 6-9 years and 18.5% have been fans for 10-14 years. There are lots of dedicated fans and some who are just starting their career as MLS fans. Furthermore, we found that 96.2% of respondents watch the US national soccer teams and 83.3% watch or follow European football in addition to their MLS team.

Katie Sveinson - Survey Analyst/mlsfemale

We asked the participants how they became fans of their MLS team. The most frequent response was based on geographical location. This included cheering for the local team, and overall proximity to their current location. Other responses included the influence of another individual, including friends, parents, and the players for that particular team. An honorable mention should also go out to the ‘atmosphere’, which was discussed numerous times as being an important role in continuing being a fan. 

Thanks to all those who participated! Make sure to be on the lookout for future surveys!

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @KatieSveinson

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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

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @shebainpdx

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Back in the Game

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Friday, June 2: 2-0 Win

I’ll readily admit to being both testy and trepidacious (read: grumpy and fearful) going into this match. Of course I was grumpy: WHOSE bright idea was it to schedule a Friday 8pm game? Yeah, I know that a later game means that people can probably more easily make it to the match in plenty of time, but holy cow that makes for a long day for some of us. And fearful? Yeah, sure I was.

We had a string of five ties or losses in a row. Not a good look heading into a stretch where we will be missing players on international duty AND getting in a couple of games before our Open Cup match (against Seattle Sounders again, naturally). And let’s be honest, the last time we played San Jose Earthquakes, we were, let’s just say, less than stellar (read: we got our butts handed to us).

On the other hand, our players are pretty much healthy, we were playing at home, and San Jose has not yet managed a win against us at Providence Park. I had my fingers crossed that we could continue THAT streak, at least.

Match Recap

Our lineup was close to the usual starting eleven, with a couple of predictable exceptions. With Darlington Nagbe away on international duty, Dairon Asprilla started in his place on the right wing. This would surely mean a change in the flow of the game: Dairon has pace and is an attacking threat, but he lacks Darlington’s ability to control the ball and make connections. Porter appears to be as tired of the “That’s So Alvas” show as I am, benching right back Alvas Powell again in favor of Zarek Valentin.

We certainly had our share of chances from start to finish. As early as 4′, Vytautas Andriuškevičius had a beautiful cross to Asprilla that gave him a legitimate chance to open the scoring; but his header hit the post and bounced out. Barely two minutes later, we had our second shot at the net, with Davíd Guzmán‘s corner kick finding Roy Miller for a header that was well struck and headed for a score but for a brilliant save by Earthquakes’ keeper David Bingham. Asprilla had another shot at goal around 21′, but he sent it skyward (in Portland, we might say he “Palmered” it; ask around).

Things got interesting after the Earthquakes’ Darwin Cerén got two yellows in quick succession. His first yellow, on a late tackle/shove in the back to Guzmán at 35′, was an unnecessary move and an easy call. The second, a shoulder to Sebastian Blanco as they both went for the ball at 37′, was much less clear cut.  When I watched it live, it looked legitimate; on the replay I’d have to say that Blanco sold it well. (We talk about “professional fouls;” is there such a thing as a “professional sales job?”)

As an elementary school principal who deals with a fair amount of playground discipline, I also have to wonder if Cerén would have had that yellow called if he hadn’t just plowed into Guzmán from behind not two minutes earlier. In any case, that second yellow meant that San Jose would be down a man for the remainder of the match.

At stoppage in the first half, forward Fanendo Adi had a couple of chances to put it away when Blanco headed him the ball. Adi’s header hit the post and bounced out. Adi tried to make the rebound play, but his toe poke was unsuccessful. Bingham scooped it up and we were once again denied.

After the first half, I was pretty frustrated. We were up a man, we had MORE than our share of chances, but had nothing on the scoreboard:

Finally, in the second half, we had something to show for all of that offensive effort. At 50′ Valentin found space in the middle of the field, drove forward, and made a beautiful pass to El Maestro, Diego Valeri on the left. Valeri chested it, ran onto the ball, and drilled in a bank shot off the post and into the back of the net. WHEW.

We had another chance at 60′, when we had numbers on the counter. Asprilla and Blanco both had chances to put it away but didn’t manage the task. Adi AGAIN found the post instead of the back of the net at 94′. Fortunately for us, it was once again Valeri to the rescue, who followed up in the box (you know, like you’re SUPPOSED to do when a teammate takes a shot), cleaned up Adi’s near miss, and put the game away.

It was 2-0 at the death, and the final whistle blew. Thank goodness. Yes, my mood at the end of the second half was considerably better than it was at the end of the first half.

Hot Takes

Decent defense. Yes, I know we played a man up for over half the match; but even before that, keeper Jake Gleeson didn’t have a whole lot to do in front of our goal. Vytas continues to look sharp, protecting the left flank well and delivering crisp crosses. Miller and Liam Ridgewell handled the back well. Ridgewell was even more active than usual this game, pushing up when appropriate and still ably covering his territory.

And Valentin continued to make the case for more play time, making smart plays and contributing a key assist. While it’s clear that Powell has more pace and raw talent than Valentin, Powell’s decision making/giveaways were KILLING us on the right wing. I’m okay with Valentin in that spot, though I worry that a speed burner on his side of the field might make him pay dearly on a quick transition.

The post giveth, and the post taketh away. Yes, we know all about posts here in Portland. And Friday’s post action was nowhere near as dramatic as this. But it was still a pretty impressive collection: Asprilla with a post miss at 4′, Adi with a first half stoppage header post miss, Valeri with the post-and-in goal at 50′, Adi AGAIN hitting the post and missing in stoppage at the second half (with Valeri subsequently putting it away). Hopefully the posts are a bit kinder to us next weekend. Speaking of next weekend:

Our finishing continues to be worrisome. At the beginning of the season, looking at all of that firepower, I was pretty confident we would have a season of high-scoring games–and we did, for a time. But that certainly hasn’t been the case lately. And without Valeri’s finishing, we would still have walked away with only a point to show for our efforts, at home, against a team that was misfiring on offense even before they went a man down.

We have a lot of players who should have been able to put together a string of passes and finish. I love Valeri but he cannot be our only scoring threat. Not sure what the solution is, because Asprilla, Blanco, Adi et al seemed to be making good moves and getting plenty of chances. We just need to be able to count on lots of people being able to actually get the ball into the back of the net.

Off the Pitch

Last week was heartbreaking for the city of Portland.

Two men were killed in a stabbing on a MAX train Friday when they tried to intervene as another man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim, including one wearing a hijab, police said.

A third passenger who tried to help was also stabbed, but is expected to survive, said Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

We ache for the slain and injured and for their familes; and team, town, Timbers Army alike were compelled to honor their memory and their bravery. Players wore black armbands for the game. The stadium held a moment of silence before the anthem. And the Timbers Army raised a special tifo remembering the names of the fallen: Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche; and survivor Micah Fletcher. The front banner is a line from a poem that Micah wrote while in the hospital recovering from his wounds:

We have seen both the worst and the best of humanity in stark relief. If I have learned anything from the Timbers Army, it is that even in the worst of times, the best of humanity can also break through. Here’s hoping we continue to find and build on what is best in each of us, on and off the pitch.

Featured image courtesy: Nicole Barker/Timbers Army

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Almost!

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Man, what to say about Sunday’s match….

After last weekend’s forgettable trouncing, I was really hoping for a rebound against Atlanta. We were at home against an expansion side, Diego Valeri was back in the lineup…it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation. Right?

We lined up in the familiar 4-2-3-1, with Jake Gleeson back in goal as he recovered from injury, but with a couple of changes from the usual setup. Sebastian Blanco took up the left wing spot for the still injured Darlington Nagbe, which put Dairon Asprilla out on the right wing; and Roy Miller took up the starting role next to Liam Ridgewell in the CB spot. I took that to mean that Caleb Porter is still figuring out how to put together a back line until we finally sign our mystery starting defender sometime this summer. I say “mystery starting defender” because, while we have supposedly signed an amazing center back from Turkey’s top flight, they still haven’t announced who it is. With the rumor mill in high gear, at least three different top quality CBs have been named in press reports as having definitely signed with us. At this rate, by midsummer we will have a starting XI made up entirely of Süper Lig center backs.

Match Recap

I’ll make the match recap brief, mostly because there isn’t a lot to say. Our right side was legit terrible, with Asprilla and Alvas Powell making less than stellar decisions. The “That’s So Powell” show was in full effect, with Alvas continuing to make reasonable defensive plays followed immediately by needless giveaways. Fanendo Adi wasn’t particularly sharp, either, reverting to his pre-2015 ways, floating offside too many times and not being particularly effective up top.

For my money, Valeri probably came back from his injury a week too early; he didn’t have his usual crisp play and wasn’t connecting with the ball or with other players as well as he usually does. That left Blanco to carry much of the offensive load, and while his work rate was impressive he didn’t have much to show for it. This lack of offensive firepower left Vytautas Andriuškevičius sitting far back, with little reason to push up/overlap.

Neither side had much to show for their efforts in the first half. Coming into the second half, in the 46th minute, Powell did what Powell does, making a defensive stop and then essentially passing it straight to the other team. After Powell’s misstep in the back, the ball was at the feet of Jeff Larentowicz, who quickly ensured that Julian Gressel was perfectly set up to take a touch at the top of the box and blast it past Gleeson for the score:

Our only answer came just a few minutes later, in the 50th minute. David Guzmán took a free kick from the right side, and Ridgewell headed it in unchallenged for the equalizer:

We ALMOST had the chance to pull ahead, thanks again to Guzmán in stoppage: 

The post giveth, and the post taketh away. We didn’t really deserve to win this one after our terrible possession and inability to close when it mattered, but dang, that would have been a SWEET stoppage time winner. We ended up with a 1-1 draw, a fair result given how we played.

Dangerous plays

There were a couple of dangerous plays in this match that bear discussion. At 11′, Asprilla took a big swing, connecting with a ball to send it up the right sideline, and unintentionally blasted it straight at the oncoming Yamil Asad’s  head. This happened pretty much right in front of me, and I can tell you that Asad went down like a tree:

Asad was examined by both Portland and Atlanta doctors and was allowed back into the game, but it was clear that Portland’s doctor was less than okay with the decision, as he continued animated discussion with the Atlanta staff and with the fourth official. Never mind competitive advantage; I just hope Asad is okay and that MLS is taking concussion protocols seriously.

The second concerning play was a full on scissor tackle by Carlos Carmona in the 35th minute:

I HATE seeing potentially leg-breaking plays like that. Blanco could easily have taken a season-ending injury there. I hope the discipline committee issues a retroactive red for the tackle. There is no room for those kinds of moves in the beautiful game.

Hot takes

I’m pretty sure that Valeri was playing hurt the entire match. No doubt Valeri felt some responsibility to get back on the pitch as the playmaker and spiritual leader of the team, especially after last week’s trouncing at the hands of San Jose, but I think his spirit was more willing than his body was able. Aside from looking to be a step slow and a bit off his game, he wasn’t taking many of the set play kicks that would normally be his, ceding that duty to the capable Guzmán.

Speaking of Guzmán, he continues to be my favorite signing this season. His defense is solid and his transition game is strong. Without his work, that match could have been REALLY ugly.

Speaking of ugly, how about our possession game, eh? Listen, I don’t ever want to hear anybody complain about Darlington Nagbe’s shooting and scoring numbers ever again. We have gone two weeks without him on the field and our possession game is levels of magnitude worse.  Heal quickly, Darlington. We miss your magic touch and your ability to keep the ball and pass accurately under tremendous pressure.

Off the pitch

Once again, I am proud to be a member of the Timbers Army and its nonprofit engine, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST). Thanks to Valeri’s generous donation of two signed log slices for a raffle, we were able to raise enough money to sponsor Street Soccer USA to the tune of $5,000, supporting their efforts to bring a team of Portland homeless and at risk youth to the Street Soccer tournament in Philadelphia this June. We are grateful to Valeri for his support, and to everyone who chipped in to make this sponsorship possible:

Next up, the boys travel to Montreal to take on the Impact on Saturday. Here’s hoping we’re healthy. See you next weekend!

Featured image of Fanendo Adi courtesy: @TimbersFC

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A Fair Result

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, April 29:  2-2 Draw

It is amazing the number of emotions you can go through in the course of watching a single match. Elation, disappointment, frustration, satisfaction, all within the course of ninety minutes (plus stoppage). That was pretty much the story of this game, which ended with what a dispassionate observer would have to call a fair result in a 2-2 draw in Frisco. And yes, if you had asked me before the game, “Hey, Sheba how would you feel about coming away with a draw?” knowing that we were missing our star player; playing against a team that hadn’t yet been defeated in the league; and against a team that hadn’t yet dropped any points at home, I certainly would have been satisfied.

And yet…

I know. FC Dallas is a powerful team. The weather (lightning delay followed by wind gusts and bouts of downpours) made for a game that was less finesse and more brute force. And yes, we were without star Diego Valeri, sidelined with a hip injury. In the cold light of the next day I can certainly accept the draw. But dang, a win would have been a phenomenal exclamation point instead of a full stop.

Ah well, on with the recap.

The biggest changes to Saturday’s lineup included Sebastian Blanco moving into the number ten spot with Valeri’s absence; and Dairon Asprilla lining up to the right in Blanco’s normal spot. Fanendo Adi was back in his usual spot up top, and Jeff Attinella took his second stint in goal for the injured Jake Gleeson. While OF COURSE I’d rather have Valeri on the field, I was pretty confident that Blanco would be quite capable of taking his spot, since he has played in that position many times before for Lanus and San Lorenzo. And I appreciated having Asprilla’s pace on the wing. (I did worry a bit about Vytautas Andriuškevičius‘s speed in the back against Dallas, but his experience and crossing ability made him the right choice as our left back.)

The game got off to a late start, a fifteen-minute-or-so weather delay that apparently meant no national anthem performed by the hosts. In a class move, the traveling Timbers Army (including the TA regional supporter group Lone Star Brigade) stepped up and sang it for them after the kick.

In the first fifteen minutes or so of play, Dallas did not look as sharp as their record would indicate. Miscommunication and errant passes resulted in a couple of near misses for the Timbers early on. And while the Timbers were not exactly sharp on the ball themselves, Dallas did not look particularly threatening in the first half, either.

I’m not sure why Adi was completely unmarked on the first goal, but um cool, thanks, Dallas. He played it beautifully nonetheless, heading in a free kick from David Guzmán in the 30th minute. Guzman placed a high, curving ball from well behind the 18 on the right, arcing it perfectly for an advancing Adi to head it into the back of the net for the score:

Apparently this irritated an assistant on the Dallas bench enough that he managed to get himself ejected (we have an odd history of this happening with the Dallas assistant coaching staff, by the way).

Dallas equalized for the first time in the 61st minute by former Timber Maximiliano Urruti (we still miss you, Maxi!), with a brilliant, unstoppable ball from the top of the 18 on the right to the top left corner of the goal. Ouch.

And then Blanco got to open his account, scoring a lovely team goal coming off an Alvas Powell overlap. Blanco collected Powell’s pass to the center, took a touch, and coolly fired it home for his first MLS goal:

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last score of the game. Darlington Nagbe  was uncharacteristically a step behind his man on defense (I suspect he was already injured at that point), Powell slipped in front of the goal, and suddenly Tesho Akindele had tied it all up for Dallas. In the end 2-2 was a fair result, but oh, what might have been.

Random hot takes

Where are Dallas supporters? It saddened me to see so many empty seats at the Dallas match. I know it is in Frisco, but Dallas has a talented team that is fun to watch (when they aren’t scoring on us, that is). Not sure what the solution is, but dang, Dallas, you have an exceptional squad. Hope the locals show up for you in the future.

Jeff Attinella, you have my attention. You had a couple of tremendous saves in a game that could easily have been a loss without your solid play. What a quality addition to the team.

Fanendo Adi was more than worthy out there. He took one for the team–eight for the team, actually, in fouls suffered, and with the goal and assist I’d say he put in a solid day’s work.

The Timbers Army continues to travel well. As we have done in every away game so far this season, the Timbers Army traveling supporters have arrived in large numbers, selling out every seat allocated to us in the away supporters’ section, with more of the same to come (we’ve already sold out our away allocation in San Jose, with a long waiting list of folks hoping to join in the fun). Keep it up, Rose City faithful, and TA regional supporters groups around the country.

Despite only taking a point on the road, the Timbers remain atop the Western Conference. Next stop, San Jose next Saturday. See you then!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Are You Not Entertained?

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Cascadia Cup–Rivals and Brethren

Saturday, April 22: 2-1 Win

Any game against Vancouver Whitecaps takes on special significance. We have been rivals since long before our MLS days. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have songs and chants specifically designed to taunt each other that we sing only during Cascadia Cup matches. We have a supporter-created trophy (that predates our arrivals in MLS) that is awarded to the Cascadia team who wins the most points among us in the regular season. We even have a traditional song sung at the end of every match that has its origins in USL Portland-Vancouver days. The rivalry is real.

At the same time, off the pitch, we know that we have kindred spirits in our Cascadian brethren to the north. We recognize the turmoil and hardship created by changes in our country’s travel policies, changes which have some Canadian supporters unable and/or unwilling to cross the border to attend a match. Some worried about their ability to cross; others, in solidarity with supporters who may not travel, also elected to stay home, some for the first time ever for an MLS Cascadia Cup match.

We know how difficult this decision was, and the Timbers Army wanted to show their support for our rival supporters to the north, painting a front banner with a message of optimism from the Peace Arch at the US-Canada border crossing we both often pass through for matches against each other:

Now, about the match….

Darlington Nagbe

I have typed and deleted five different paragraphs on Nagbe, each with a different take. Unbelievably beautiful touches on the ball. Absolutely one of the nicest humans off the pitch, a role model. Inspirational coming-of-age story,  from leaving war-torn Liberia as an infant to finding citizenship and success on the pitch in the U.S. Frustratingly unselfish on the pitch, leading to far fewer goals than you’d expect of a player of his caliber and to questions about whether he will ever reach his true potential.

And then we have moments like this.

All of the frustration I feel when he takes the extra pass wide instead of going into the box himself, or when he sends it safely back to the fullback instead of through to his midfield–all of it evaporates in a moment like this.  In the 18th minute, David Guzmán gave Nagbe the ball in the middle of the pitch. Nagbe coolly evaded first Matías Laba and then Kendall Waston, working away from them wide to the right, then somehow kept his balance while firing a rocket from beyond the 18 that tagged the underside of the crossbar and found its way home for the first score of the match. The goal uplifted the spirits of the team and the crowd. We all felt the shift in momentum.

And, even more special, Nagbe clearly felt it too. He is so often an unassuming, selfless, NICE guy, that his goal celebration marked something different for Nagbe. More of THIS, please.

A Change of Pace

We had a lot of changes in the lineup for this one. Fanendo Adi was serving a one game suspension for a tangle up in the match the week before, so he was out. Sebastian Blanco was recovering from a tweak earlier in the week so he was on the bench. Vytautas Andriuškevičius was healthy and back in the lineup, as was returning captain and center back Liam Ridgewell. And Jake Gleeson, suffering from a hip flexor injury, was replaced by able backup Jeff Attinella, acquired in the offseason from Real Salt Lake via Minnesota United. (Thanks, by the way, RSL; from Ian Joy to Will Johnson to Nat Borchers, you always send us excellent players.)

But the biggest changes to our look this game were probably Adi’s and Blanco’s replacements, Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla. Mattocks and Asprilla are both speed burners, and provided some blistering pace up front. It’s not necessarily a lineup I would want week after week, but I do appreciate that our depth allows for such strong replacements in the starting XI. And it was particularly sweet to see Mattocks score what would eventually be the game winner against his old squad, in a beautiful team goal involving Guzmán, Nagbe, and Diego Valeri:

Get well soon, Maestro

Ridgewell may be the captain, but the heart and soul of the team is midfielder Diego Valeri. And when Valeri was stretchered off late in the match we all held our breath. It was a tremendous relief to see him standing in the locker room after the match taking questions from interviewers. Get well soon, Maestro; the world is a brighter place when you’re on the field.

Random Hot Takes

Alvas Powell: I am tired of the “That’s So Powell” show. He is clearly fast and talented. He loves to overlap on the wing and he is usually quite capable of locking down the defense in the right corner. But I am done with his poor decision making. Classic Powell: win a difficult possession battle in the corner, save the day, then pass it directly to the other team. And Christian Bolaños, a veteran midfielder with over 70 appearances for the Costa Rican national team, most definitely had Powell’s number. He caught Powell out of position several times, most notably in the 52nd minute and again in the 60th, and both times Powell fouled him as a result. Costly mistakes, the second of which resulted in the penalty kick that got Vancouver on the board.

Fredy Montero is still very good at soccer. As a Timbers fan I am already predisposed to dislike him, but I can admit that Fredy is very good at what he does. He is a poacher, floating up top, biding his time, almost turning invisible, then seizing his moment. I do not look forward to playing him again…and again, this year.

The game lasts 90 minutes, guys. Once again, we had the game firmly in hand in the first half, but instead of putting it away we limped to the finish. While that may work against a weak Vancouver squad at Providence Park, it most definitely will not be enough for the likes of FC Dallas. I sincerely hope we figure out how to finish out as strong as we start before Saturday.

Next week, we’re on the road in Dallas. See you there!

Featured image courtesy: b.fssta.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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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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