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Oct 252013

mls 300x281 MLS Week 33 Preview


After 32 weeks of close games, major transfers, and the drama of all things Chivas USA there is still much to decide in the last week of the Major League Soccer season.  Although there is not one clear top team in MLS, there are plenty of quality MLS squads throughout the league which makes for a compelling two days of soccer this weekend.

So if you are at a match this weekend or watching one at home, here are a couple of storylines to follow:

#1 The Supporter’s Shield









Real Salt Lake







New York Red Bulls







Sporting Kansas City







Portland Timbers







Four teams are still in the running for the Supporters Shield, a trophy awarded at the end of each MLS Season to the team with the most points. The Supporters Shield is more than just a trophy, as it awards the team the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Should the Supporters Shield make the MLS Cup then they would also host the match. In MLS History, the team that won the Supporters Shield has gone on to win the MLS Cup 6 times (D.C. United- 1997 and 1999, the Kansas City Wizards- 2000, the Los Angeles Galaxy-2002 and 2011, and the Columbus Crew- 2008).

Real Salt Lake took the top spot Wednesday night after defeating Chivas USA 2-1. However, that was the last game of their season so they will have to play the waiting game.  The Red Bulls will face the Chicago Fire (Sunday 5pm UNi Mas) with the Fire still in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Red Bulls Forward Tim Cahill has been on a tear recently, scoring three goals in his past three matches and leading the Red Bulls to an undefeated record in the past 7 matches (5-0-2).

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City will travel to PPL Park and face the Philadelphia Union (Saturday 3pm NBC Sports Network).  SKC  comes into the match in good form having drawn points in 6 of their last matches (5-1-1).Their last loss actually was against the Philadelphia Union 1-0 in September. Union Forward Conor Casey notched in the decisive goal in the 38th minute. They did win their opening game against the Union at PPL Park 3-1, but the young Union team has grown since then and could still make it into the playoffs. Will get back to that later.

Despite being behind the other teams by two points, Portland looks like they have the best chance to take the Supporters Shield. With the other two teams playing opponents who are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix, neither New York nor Sporting Kansas City will have themselves an easy match. Portland, on the other hand, will be playing Chivas USA (Saturday 10:30 MLS Live) who will be without their starting goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and his magic ability to make sure Chivas never gets blown out.

Portland has also shown in the past few weeks that they are able to put teams away and earn points in “must-win”circumstances. In previous seasons, Portland has been known as the team with the awesome fanbase and cool mascot, but would break down at the end of the season. They could not win the difficult game, which is why they were unable to make the playoffs last season.  Coach Caleb Porter, Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and Midfielder Will Johnson have changed the identity of this team and made them a very difficult squad to plan against. Their poise and confidence was evident in the pair of 1-0 victories that they earned against the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders earlier in the month.

The 15 draws may be the deciding factor on whether or not the Timbers win the Supporters Shield. But they should get 3 easy points against Chivas, and if nothing else, gain the top spot in the Western Conference.

#2 Eastern Conference Chaos









Montreal Impact







Chicago Fire







New England Revolution







Houston Dynamo







Philadelphia Union








Although the bottleneck for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference was lessened last week when the New England Revolution eliminated the Columbus 3-2, there are still 5 teams playing for three spots. In addition to the previously mentioned Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union, the Houston Dynamo, Montreal Impact, and New England all still have a possibility of making the playoffs this weekend should results work in their favor.

The popular consensus seems to be that the Montreal Impact will defeat Toronto F.C. (Saturday 4pm Univision Deportes, MLS Live,) that the Houston Dynamo will defeat D.C. United (Sunday 1:30pm NBC Sports Network,) and that either the Chicago Fire or the New England Revolution will do enough to make it through.

Two things to keep in mind that is being lost in this narrative. One, Montreal has been terrible since July going 6-8-5. Toronto has already secured a draw in Montreal earlier this season and is coming off of two 1-0 losses against Philadelphia and Chicago where they showed they are still trying to win. Second, Houston needs one of the three teams above them to lose because they are so far behind in goals scored, which is the tie breaker should teams be level on points. For example, if both the New England Revolution and Dynamo win, then the Dynamo would need to make up a nine goal difference against D.C. United. D.C. United is terrible, but they are not bad (D.C. better not lost 9-0 because I am taking my nephew to his first game this weekend.) Houston has had great difficulty scoring this year when they need a goal, so they are really going to need Forward Will Bruin to step up and give them that push.

It should also be mentioned that the Crew may be very angry after the 3-2 result that was leveled against them last week by the Revolution. Referee Mark Geiger gave a rather interesting yellow card against the Crew which led to Revolution defender A.J. Soares goal in the 39th minute. I would suspect that the Crew would like to return the favor to New England from last week and knock them out of the playoff contention (4pm MLS Live.)

I think the Fire- Red Bulls match is a lot closer than many people seem to believe. Bear in mind that the Red Bulls have never won a major title in their entire history, and have quite a dubious track record in big games. The Fire have really hit their stride since they lost 3-0 Columbus in September and are a much different team than when they lost to the Red Bulls earlier in the season. They are currently on a 3 game unbeaten where they have outscored their opponents 9-0.  Perhaps New York can turn around their previous misfortunes, secure a playoff spot, and doom the Fire. But that seems like a tall task for a team that has only recently shown that they can consistently pull out quality performances.

#3 The Race for the Golden Boot is On







Mike Magee CHI




Marco di Vaio MON




Camilo Sanvezzo VAN





In addition to having so many teams still alive for the Supporters Shield and for playoff spots, there is a real battle being waged for the top goal scorer in MLS. The three-horse race between Montreal Forward Marco di Vaio, Chicago Fire Forward Mike Magee, and Vancouver Whitecaps Forward Camilo Sanvezzo has produced some truly amazing goals this season. Although I am not the biggest fan of saying the top goal scorer should always be the Most Valuable Player (Ricketts and Clint Irwin would have a few words about that,) it is true that all three of these players have kept their teams in contention because they were able to make miracles for their team.

I think Magee is going to end up taking the award. It is important to note that if there is a tie then the tiebreaker will be given to the player who has the most assists. Di Vaio almost never passes the ball and I can see Toronto F.C. pushing their defense up to draw him offsides which will limit his scoring opportunities. The Impact have also had difficulties scoring recently, going without a goal in 3 of their past four matches.

So for me it comes down to Magee and Camilo. Both players have come up huge for their team this year, but with Magee playing against a Red Bulls team that have committed the fifth highest number of fouls in MLS (425) he should have more opportunities off of free kicks and penalties. Colorado has also only given up 15 goals on the road this season and will still be looking to climb up in the Western Conference playoff standings.


Oct 212013

So Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman spent a whopping two minutes talking about promotion and relegation the other night during the broadcast for an LA Galaxy-San Jose Earthquakes game. Naturally, there was plenty of reaction the next day. Proponents of the system argued for it and opponents argued against it. Insults were hurled, names were called.

Life goes on.

There are a lot of objections for why it can’t work. Some say Americans just don’t understand it. Some say it won’t accomplish anything. Then there’s the biggest objection of all: the teams that get relegated won’t survive. I don’t believe this is the case, at least not for every team in MLS. I have my reasons and I’m going to attempt to state them as clearly and as objectively as possible. I do support the cause after all.

The theory goes something like this: MLS Team X gets relegated, fans stop showing up, the team loses its cut of MLS’s “lucrative” TV deal, the owners run out of money, and the team is forced to fold because they can’t make enough money to keep the lights turned on. Let’s take this one step at a time.

Step 1: Fans Would Stop Showing Up

I do not believe every team in the league would see its attendance suddenly plummet 90% because they started playing in the NASL. Portland and Seattle in particular have extremely loyal fan bases. Would their fans also be the most distraught at the reality of being relegated? Absolutely. But their loyalty to their team is also the strongest and they would still be able to bring 10,000-15,000 fans through the gates for each NASL game.

Not every team would bring that many fans through the gates though. The two most viable relegation candidates over the past couple seasons have been Chivas USA and Toronto FC. The former has averaged roughly 8,200 fans per game this season while the latter is approximately 18,400 (Source: here). Chivas USA probably would see such a drop off as to render themselves financially unstable. But then again, nobody seems to think they should continue to exist in their current form. Without relegation, they continue to be propped up by the sweat of other fan bases.

Now let’s say Toronto’s attendance drops by 50%. That’s still roughly 9,000 fans per game in the second division where the average attendance is about 3,000-4,000. They can afford to stay just competitive enough to win their promotion back into MLS a year later. Are the fans upset? Sure. But it only takes one season to get promoted and win them back.

The overall average in MLS is approximately 18,500 so that argument for Toronto should work for most of the middle-of-the-road teams. Again, you just need enough fans to get you through one season. If your favorite team can’t even pull that off, then perhaps soccer is not as popular in your area as you’ve been led to believe. Perhaps the sport hasn’t grown nearly as much as we’re constantly told.

Step 2: The Team Loses Its Cut Of The MLS TV Deal

This is actually true, but let’s put into perspective just how much money this amounts to if the deal is split evenly among the 19 teams. The three year deal signed in August of 2011 is reportedly worth $10 million per year. That’s a total of $30 million for 19 teams. That comes out to $1.58 million per team. The salary cap is approximately $3 million. So before you take into consideration the amount of income made from attendance, a jersey sponsor, a stadium sponsor, etc you can pay for half of your roster if you’re coming in under the cap. Assuming your favorite team is smart and has ironclad sponsorship deals for the jersey and stadium, you’ve still got a steady source of income and you only need to bank on about 8,000-9,000 fans in attendance to help keep things afloat for one year.

But what about DP salaries? Someone has to pay those right even if they don’t count against the cap, right? True. Plenty of relegated teams all over the world deal with selling off their star players to make ends meet. MLS teams can man up and do the same. Not only that, but you can make a legitimate argument that the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls (your multi-DP powerhouses) will never be in danger of relegation. That’s how this whole thing works. You spend on good players, you win, and you don’t get relegated.

Now, MLS has struggled mightily against lower division teams in the past during the US Open Cup, but I think it’s fair to say that if an MLS team was forced to hold onto what would essentially amount to its reserve team, they would still have enough talent to compete for their spot back into MLS a year later.

And of course, all of this assumes you’re getting zero TV dollars from the NASL because they technically don’t have a TV deal. But if your team has been relegated, then that means there must be promotion as well. The Championship over in England’s second division has a TV deal with BeInSport to show their games regularly in the US. Why? Because at the end of the season, there are promotion spots on the line and there’s nothing like watching teams battle for those precious few spots. I truly believe within a year or two of implementing promotion/relegation, the NASL would be attractive enough to earn a national TV deal.

Step 3: The Owners Run Out Of Money And Can’t Afford To Keep The Lights On

This is the big one. This is the one everyone likes to harp on.

“But if the team gets relegated, the owners will stop making money! This is why we can’t have relegation! It’s too much risk!”

It is true there is a risk of losing money as a result of being relegated. I’ve addressed that concern for the most part in the first two “steps”. But would the teams lose so much that the owners run out of money? Let’s recap who some of the current owners in MLS are…

Seattle: Hollywood Producer Joe Roth (Majority), Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen (Minority)

LA Galaxy: Anschutz Entertainment Group (Majority of LA, 50% of Houston Dynamo)

New York Red Bulls: Red Bull GmbH (Red Bull Energy Drink)

Toronto FC: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Chivas USA: Jorge Vergara (Founder of Omnilife/Herbalife supplements and movie producer)

New England Revolution: Bob Kraft (Owner of the New England Patriots)

Portland Timbers: Merritt Paulson (Son of former Goldman Sachs CEO “Hank” Paulson)

FC Dallas: Hunt Sports Group (Owners of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Look closely at that group of people? Do these people/groups have their entire wealth tied up in an MLS team? No. They bought their respective teams with the change leftover from their actual sources of wealth and income. The same holds true for individual owners like new Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt, who, like most MLS owners, makes his fortune in venture capitalism.

None of these owners bought into MLS to make money. They bought into it because they wanted to buy something fun with the money they earned from the more profitable ventures they own and operate. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s very likely half the teams in MLS don’t actually turn a profit. That means some of these people/groups are losing money on their “investment” in their respective MLS teams. Yet the teams still exist and the players still collect their paychecks on time. That’s because they can dip into their other ventures for the money to sign the checks and keep the lights on. This is especially true for MLS owners who also own NFL teams. You don’t have to be a business major to see that someone like Bob Kraft could own nothing but the Patriots and the Revolution and still make enough from the former to keep the latter afloat for several years.

Now, do these rich men and women enjoy losing money on their MLS teams? Not at all. That’s why they set up MLS in its current closed, single entity format. If they’re going to lose money, they want help from their fellow millionaire/billionaire pals to recoup their losses. They can afford to take losses on their MLS teams, but why should they have to?

The point is they have the ability to, even if they don’t want to. They could easily see their MLS team get relegated to the NASL and start bleeding money. But most of them have enough to keep their current rosters intact for one season which, again, is all it takes to play your way back into the top if you’re good enough. If they choose not to do so and instantly decide to cut their losses they can sell their team to another wealthy person/group willing to buy the team on the cheap, invest just enough to play their way back into MLS in one season, and find themselves back in the black shortly.

Am I oversimplifying this? Yeah, I probably am. Does my theory work for every single soccer team in the US? No, it probably does not. But that doesn’t make it any less valid. Sports teams are backed by some of the wealthiest people/groups in the world. That’s how they’re able to exist. Then there’s teams like Nashville FC, who are simply owned by their most loyal fans. They’ll pay to see their team play no matter what division they’re in. We don’t need to worry about them either.

The implementation of promotion/relegation would open a whole new world for soccer in the United States. Promotion creates new investment opportunities for men and women looking to do something productive with their hard earned dollars. Relegation maintains the integrity of the competition being put on display before our eyes. It holds those same men and women accountable for the performance of their teams and their treatment of the local fans whose HARD earned money brings the sport to all corners of this vast, great nation of ours.

It is the key to realizing our dream of joining the ranks of the greatest soccer nations on Earth. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It can and, with a little luck and commitment from the right people, it will be done.


The Playoff Push

 Posted by on October 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm  Blogs/Media, MLS, United States
Oct 022013

MLS Cup 300x169 The Playoff Push

Robbie Keane’s face told the story. After heading in a Landon Donovan free kick in the 90th minute to put the Los Angeles Galaxy level with the Portland Timbers, his face went from incredible joy to sheer anguish as the referee raised his flag and called for an offsides on Keane. Keane looked disgusted, but he also looked slightly despondent. He knew how much that goal meant to the Galaxy and their season. The Galaxy had the chance to go level on points with the Timbers in the standings in the Western Conference. Instead, the club sees themselves four points behind the Timbers and only a point ahead of fifth-place Colorado and sixth-place Vancouver. On a weekend with so many exciting matches and so many different teams in playoff contention, Major League Soccer was able to show one of the true assets that it has over so many other soccer leagues: the playoff push.

One of the major criticisms that Major League Soccer receives from fans, ex-players, officials, and pundits is the supposedly awkward arrangement that it has between their regular season and the playoffs. Supposedly, the existence of the playoffs cheapens the regular season and devalues the merit of winning the supporter’s shield. Most experts in professional football will tell you that the best system is a single table system where each team plays every other team twice. Never mind that the United States is about 2-3 times as large as most European countries and has twice as many time zones. And never mind that that the English League Championship has a playoff system to determine who will be promoted to the Premier League. Or that the Champions League has a playoff system based off of seeding.  It is supposedly important that we implement this square peg of a “traditional” system into the round hole that is American geography. We have to be exactly like everyone else. Or at least the way the Europeans sometimes play.

Although it sounds tempting to once again follow the Europeans and do exactly everything that they do (sometimes,) let’s do some thinking outside of the traditional box of soccer. Although there are some flaws with the current Major League Soccer system (playing on international dates and too many international matches with foreign clubs come to mind,) the current playoff system does provide for tons of intrigue and can allow for many exciting games as the season winds down. If you look at this weekend’s slate of games, only one match did not include at least one team that has a shot at making the playoffs (Toronto- D.C. United.) In every other match, each team has a decent chance at winning a spot in their respective Conferences playoff spot.

Major League Soccer is just a very different league than many other professional leagues throughout the world, and that is not a bad thing. Variety is good. It makes things interesting and gives fans plenty to talk about. Although I wonder what a Premier playoff would look like, I do understand that the last few weeks of a Premier League season can be quite dramatic. It was like that two years ago, when Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero scored against Queen’s Park Rangers in the last game of the season to claim their first Premier League title while Manchester United was still on the pitch hoping a result in their match would keep them alive.

If the Europeans would like to have a single table system with no playoffs, then go ahead. But given the relative age of Major League Soccer and how most clubs outside of the Northwest are still growing their fanbases it makes more sense right now to have a playoff system. Our country loves playoffs and we love the drama that leads up to it, even if the team we support has no shot of winning it all. It is why the NCAA tournament so huge. People in this country want to believe that their club has a chance. They don’t want to be complacent with mid-table.  And it is good for the teams to use situations like the playoffs to build support for their team. It is good for a team like the New England Revolution who has not been a relevant team for 4-5 years to show their fans that they are respectable again because they have a shot at the playoffs.

Having this many teams with a chance for a playoff spot spurs interest in not only the players, but the fans as well. Due to the parity of the league, any team has the chance to knock off any other team at any venue. This why you were able to see the Philadelphia Union shock Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Friday night at Live Strong Park. It’s why the Columbus Crew was able to go down Dallas Park and eliminate their Pioneer Cup rivals F.C. Dallas. And it’s why a team like the Portland Timbers was able to step up in a rainy mess at Jeld-Wenn field in Portland and pull out an important 1-0 victory. In each of these matches, because other games were going on at the same time, you would see fans pulling out their iPhones to check updates on other games, to see where their teams would be in the standings, and to try and cheer their fellow fans up who feel like all hope is lost. As sad as it sounds, one of the true signs that I have seen all season of the attachment that has grown for Major League Soccer with the supporters was when Tim Cahill scored to even it up for the New York Red Bulls against the Seattle Sounder. There is nothing like seeing and hearing an arena of 50,000 supporters completely deflated.

I had the pleasure of watching last year’s slugfest between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew and seeing the playoff push firsthand. Both clubs were tied on points for the fifth and final playoff spot. In a match where the game was 2-1 throughout the majority of the match, members of the Barra Brava the D.C. United Supporters groups seemed to lose interest as it dawned on them that they would have to go to Bridgeview and get a result against the Chicago Fire. Fans were routinely checking their iPhones for the latest results from the Houston Dynamo match or waiting for any information from RFK Stadiums decrepit scoreboard. Although any fan would be happy with clinching a playoff spot anywhere, there is something special about doing it at home. United ended up scoring the tying goal in the 59th minute, which then led to Lewis Neal scoring a game-winning goal in the 91st minute to send D.C. United into the playoffs. Although the club has won three MLS titles, if you ask any member of Barra Brava what their favorite moment in D.C. United history is, I would imagine that Neal’s goal is up there.

Although this weekend did not provide any playoff-clinching goals, there was no short of theatrics. The San Jose Earthquakes continued their Cinderella run by beating Chivas U.S.A. 1-0 on a goal by Forward Chris Wondlowski in the 87th minute (And yes, you even got to see Steven Lenhart get sent off.) Houston- New England played to a draw keeping both of their playoff hopes alive. Real Salt Lake, playing a mostly reserve team in preparation for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final with D.C. United, managed to shock Vancouver away from home and further tighten their lead on first-place in the Western Conference. Chicago blew a two goal lead to the Montreal Impact and nearly could have won the match had Mike Magee, one of the league’s leading candidates MVP, hit a penalty kick off of the crossbar dooming his team to a draw and possibly a 7th place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Even the D.C. United- Toronto F.C. match featured a beautiful volley by D.C. United forward Jared Jeffrey and even more amazing scissor kick goal by Toronto F.C. forward Daryl Russell. Whether you were watching a match at the park, the bar, NBC, or on whatever D.C. United is using for coverage now, you got to see two teams playing hard for nothing more than a spot on the team.

While no MLS match could feature players of the quality of the Premier League or any of the other top European leagues, each came with its own set of drama and flair. Having watched enough Premier League matches at the end of the season when players go at half pace and where things feel predetermined. I still remember being completely shocked last season when Queen’s Park Rangers were relegated and seeing the players laughing and feeling just terrible for their fans. Rather than seeing a team work hard and try to gut out a victory, they seemed like they did not care and were more interested in just collecting their paycheck. At least Chivas U.S.A., a club who may not exist next season, tried to keep up with the Earthquakes and put on a good show for their fans.

In the weeks ahead, the number of teams that are still eligible to make the playoffs will be trimmed. F.C. Dallas was knocked out this weekend and I would suspect that there will be a few more casualties this weekend. For some fans, the end of the season will just be another stepping stone towards the playoffs and hopefully towards an MLS Cup. For other fans, they will reflect upon missed opportunities in June and July, on injuries, and on player management. But until then if you are an MLS fan you should turn your television and watch the emotions  of October soccer.

Jun 182013
timbers dallas 27 300x200 Know Your MLS Teams: Portland Timbers

The Timbers Supporters Showing Their Allegiance in Portland

Founded: 1975. There have been four different incarnations of the Portland Timbers. The first team played in the North American Soccer League from 1975 to 1982. The second team played from 1985 to 1990 in various leagues on the West Coast. The third team played from 2001 to 2010 in the A-League, the USL First Division, and the American Professional Soccer League. The fourth team started play in 2007 Major League Soccer after owner Merritt Paulson bought the rights to the Timbers name.)

Where they Finished Last Season: 7-18-9- Eighth Place in the Western Conference.

Pedigree: 2012 Cascadia Cup Champion, Runners Up Soccer Bowl 1975 (NASL,) 2009 USL Western Division Champions, 2004 A-League Western Division Champions.

Rivals: Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps (Cascadia Cup)

Supporters: The Timbers Army

Head Coach: Caleb Porter (First Season.)

Top Returning Players: GK Donovan Ricketts, DEF Mamadou Danso, MF Diego Chara, DEF/MF Jack Jewsbury, MF Diego Valeri, MF Darlington Nagbe.

Key Additions: DEF Michael Harrington (Sporting Kansas City,) DEF Mikael Silvestre (SV Weder Bremen-Germany,) MF Diego Valeri (Club Atletico Lanus- on loan,) MF Will Johnson (Toronto F.C.,) MF Ben Zemanski (Chivas U.S.A.,) FWD Ryan Johnson (Toronto F.C.,) FWD Frederic Piqiuionne (West Ham United F.C.)

Key Departures: DEF Steve Purdy (Chivas U.S.A.,) DEF Eric Brunner (Houston Dynamo,) DEF Lovel Palmer (Real Salt Lake,) DEF Kosuke Kimura (New York Red Bulls,) MF Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls,) FWD Mike Fucito (San Jose Earthquakes,) FWD Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock F.C.) FWD Danny Mwanga (Colorado Rapids.)

Young Player to Watch: Darlington Nagbe


What is there not to like about the Portland Timbers? A team with a ravenous fanbase (their average attendance is 20,000 people per game,) and rivalries with the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps that date back to the 1970s the Portland Timbers have helped this league grow immensely in the past three years. In a league that has struggled to make regular season matches noteworthy, anytime you go to a Timber’s match you are in for a show.  The support that the Timbers Army shows to the players, even during the last two seasons, gives hope that American soccer can prosper in this country. Oh, and I am pretty sure Timber Joey, the Portland Timber’s mascot, can beat up any other mascot in professional sports.

No one can take anything away from what the Portland supporters have done off the field. But on the field the club has struggled in its first two years. It would seem that because was already this Portland Timbers structure existed before they entered the league that they were not an expansion team. The problem is that they were an expansion team, and with being an expansion team comes growing pains. Last season was very difficult for the Timbers. The club had the third worst record in the league last season , ahead of the disasters that are Toronto F.C. and Chivas U.S.A. The club also scored only 34 goals last season and allowed 56, which were both third worst in MLS behind the previously mentioned Toronto and Chivas. When your team cannot score and you cannot stop giving up goals, you will not win in any league.

This club may have had its growing pains the past two season, but seems to have gone past them. Unbeaten in their last matches, Portland currently sits in 3rd place in the Western Conference. Credit for this turnaround begins with the hiring of Caleb Porter as their Head Coach. The former coach of the Akron Zips, the U.S. college soccer team that won the 2010 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship, Porter has had a hand in developing some of the best young players in Major League Soccer. This list includes, among others, D.C. United Defender Perry Kitchen, Seattle Sounders Midfielder Steve Zakuani, Forward Darren Mattocks and current Portland Timbers midfielders Ben Zemanski and Darlington Nagbe. Porter may have had some difficulties coaching the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, losing to El Salvador and missing out on the 2012 Olympics. But he is still one of the top American coaches and may have needed some more experience coaching in MLS before moving to the National Team.

There was also a complete overhaul of their roster starting with their defense. Adding a player like Michael Harrington to a line that includes Pah Modou Kah, Mamadou Danso, and Jack Jewsbury, who alternates between Midfield and Defense has given them some stability and some veteran leadership which they sorely needed last season. So far this season, the club has only allowed 16 goals, which is the third lowest in the Western Conference. While Donovan Ricketts is back in goal, he seems to be in better form than last season. It will benefit the Timbers down the stretch that Jamaica is essentially out of World Cup Qualifying and will probably be looking for a younger keeper other than Ricketts to start.

Though an improved defense is one of the reasons why this team has made many strides in their third season, this team’s strength is still their midfield. I rarely make public pleas to U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but this time I will make an exception. Jurgen: please figure out some way to expedite Darlington Nagbe’s Citizenship process because he is the most talented in MLS and probably the United States outside of Michael Bradley. Nagbe is a citizen of Liberia, but has lived in the United States since he was 11. Soccer is in his blood: his father Joe Nagbe was the captain of Liberia and played in Europe for PAOK Thessaloniki F.C. and A.S. Monaco. He is an excellent distributor, can blow past defenders like the wind, and has a knack for make impossible shots look easy. Watch this goal on Saturday against F.C. Dallas and be amazed. He is also the recipient of the 2011 MLS Goal of the Year, which may be one of the best goals I have ever seen.

Whereas Nagbe has always been a talent, it seems that the additions Will Johnson and Diego Valeri have eased the pressure on the 22 year old. Diego Valeri has thrived on the outside passes that he has received from his defenders, forcing crosses into the box for the likes of Will Johnson and Nagbe. Valeri, who is on loan from Lanus in the Argentine First Division, has thrived in his partnership with Jewsbury on the right side. His distribution skills help open the field for the Timbers attack. He also has a knack for the goal, scoring 4 goals in 12 matches this season. Will Johnson has also been a major asset on the attack, scoring five goals this season.

The other player in the midfield worth mentioning is Diego Chara. The little Colombian (he is 5’7’) has one of the prettiest step over moves in the league. The only problem is that he needs to work on his finishing: during the F.C. Dallas match he had at least 3 golden opportunities to score and just could not finish his shots. What makes the Timbers midfield so dangerous is that they have so many weapons going forward, which makes them nearly impossible to defend against.

The one area that has done well so far this season, but could be an issue as the season goes on is at forward. So far this season, they have looked fantastic. They currently lead the league in goals with 25 tallies, 9 of which have come from starting forwards Ryan Johnson (5) and Rodney Wallace (4). With a team of midfielders that love to shoot, it leaves a lot of extra opportunities for their forwards if there are deflections or missed opportunities.

The problem is that it seems that the team is only two forwards deep. Frederic Piquionne is not the solution. While he has been a good influence on the attack by being able to push the ball on the left hand side and cross it into the center of the box, he still has not scored a goal yet this season. At 34, it does not seem like there is much left in him. He has 18 shots this season, but only four on goal and only four assists. He was not much better during his tenure with West Ham United F.C. either. “He wasn’t a success at West Ham,” says ESPN FC writer, host of the always entertaining ESPN F.C. podcast and noted West Ham United supporter Dan Mason.  “He originally signed from Portsmouth, where they suffered two relegations in two seasons. In the Championship he was rarely selected by [West Ham United F.C. coach Sam] Allardyce, who loaned him to Doncaster [Rovers.] He had almost a comic ability to arrive ever so slightly too late, or to only get a featherlight touch on the ball. A poor player.”

While they could replace him with one of their attacking midfielders, I am concerned that may disrupt the flow of their midfield which has been their source of their success this year. One player that may be a solution is by giving more minutes to Jose Adolfo Valencina. He has only played about 60 minutes this season, but I was impressed by his ability to control the ball in the May 18th match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. He was able to trap the ball off of his chest, gain possesion and fire an excellent shot that evened the game up. He may not need to be their starting forward, but he should be an serviceable option off of the bench or for the occasional spot start.

The turnaround this team has had in under a year is phenomenal. It finally seems that the enthusasim that is shown in the stands is met on the pitch by a team that can impose their will on offense, and play lockdown defense. If they can find a decent third striker and avoid any cataclysmic injuries, they will certainly make the playoffs. Beyond that, it could be difficult. Clubs like the Houston Dynamo and the Los Angeles Galaxy have poached teams in the past who fit Portland’s bill. The Timbers success will depend on their veteran midfielders and whether or not Nagbe can continue his breakout season in the playoffs.

Beer of Choice:  Green and Gold Kolsch, Widmer Beer Company

Normally I would not go with a beer that is sponsored by the team  but as a fan of Widmer beers and a supporter of all things Kolsch (Except Grolsch, which is as my brother would say “Gross”) I have to give this beer my full endorsement for all Timbers matches. First, the brewer Abraham Goldman Armstrong actually won a beer making competition that was sponsored by the team.  And the fellow gets to sell it during Timbers? While some teams may sell awful things like giant Bud Lights or Coronas (I am looking at you RFK Stadium,) it is good to see a team that understand what makes soccer great. German beers and chainsaws.

Feb 272013

mlscup celebration 2012 Major League Soccer to Kick Off 18th Season This Weekend
Major League Soccer’s 18th season begins this weekend – just 90 days after the LA Galaxy captured their second consecutive MLS Cup. Nine clubs have won the championship of the League that many call the most competitive, top-to-bottom, in the world. Returning MLS stars such as Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), and Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew) will join their teammates to take on exciting new young players like Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Rafael (D.C. United) and top SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution).

Again in 2013, the schedule will consist of 34 regular season games with the top 10 teams (five from each conference) advancing to the playoffs. An added emphasis on winning games has been instituted this season as the first tiebreaker among teams with equal points in 2013 will be Number of Wins, followed by Goals For.

Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls: Two First-Year Coaches Square Off Sunday on ESPN2
When the New York Red Bulls and new head coach Mike Petke face off against Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday, March 3rd (7:30pm ET, ESPN2), the two first-year coaches hope to begin their MLS careers with a positive result.

After the Timbers Army once again sing the national anthem to kick off the game, Red Bulls Designated Player Thierry Henry will have the share the spotlight as all eyes will be on the Timbers’ new DP signing, 26-year-old Argentinean midfielder Diego Valeri who is expected to be the centerpiece of the Portland attack this season.

Dynamo vs. D.C. United: Eastern Conference Championship Rematch Saturday on NBC Sports Network
In a rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship, D.C. United travel to BBVA Compass Stadium to square off against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, March 2nd (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). Houston has not lost at home since they started playing in the stadium in 2012, currently riding a 25-game regular season home unbeaten streak.

D.C. captain Dwayne De Rosario will return to Houston after missing United’s 3-1 Conference Final (first leg) loss due to injury last season. A two time MLS Cup champion with Houston (2006, 2007), De Ro and D.C. hope to stop the dynamic attack of Dynamo veteran Brad Davis and third-year player Will Bruin in their season opener.


MLS Week One Schedule
Saturday, March 2
**all times ET
 Where to Watch
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC
Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United
NBC Sports Network
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
MLS Live
Chivas USA vs. Columbus Crew
MLS Live
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Montreal Impact
MLS Live
Sunday, March 3
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire
Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake
MLS Live
Sep 302012

The Portland Timbers (7-15-9, 30 pts) scrambled back from a dodgy penalty kick call thanks to a classy Bright Dike equalizer in the 80th minute to draw DC United (15-10-6, 51pts) 1-1 in a Saturday night sellout at Jeld Wen Field in Portland.

Three thoughts on the match…

* Clear PK or not?

In my opinion assistant referee Kermit Quisenberry blew it. Is it any surprise that there was a questionable call (or two or three) in an MLS match? The ball may have nicked the underside of David Horst’s arm/armpit, but it sure doesn’t look like the direction changed. Even if it does, I don’t know how Quisenberry can clearly be 100% sure of it. I will see this though, if Horst doesn’t jump like he’s trying to do his best Nic Tatum impression, I’m not sure that call even happens.

Watch the video above and be as objective as you possibly can. Do you think it’s a clear penalty? Watch the DC United players. Only Perry Kitchen even reacts to the non-call. To me, I just don’t see how an assistant referee in real time can be absolutely sure that ball hits Horst.

Regardless of the call, the point is, as some of us discussed on Twitter this morning, you need to create your own bit of luck in this league because the referees are simply a wildcard that you can’t control. The Timbers clearly don’t do enough of that.

Look at it this way. The San Jose Earthquakes had yet another come-from-behind goal to get a draw against FC Dallas. Again, it came from a late goal by Steven Lenhart. Are the Earthquakes simply lucky? Maybe, to a certain extent, but they create that luck by throwing everything they have into the final third to get that goal.

Moral to the story? The Timbers need to be more proactive on the pitch. Until that blown call, the Timbers were pretty much lifeless out there. For the first time ever, I nodded off for a few minutes here and there during the first half. Part of it was that I’ve been solo with my three year old since Friday, so I’ve basically been up at the crack of dawn. But part of it was there was a distinct lack of energy out there. It shouldn’t take a blown call to get a team pissed off and motivated.

Here’s what captain Jack Jewsbury had to say about the team’s play after the DC United goal:

“I thought our reaction after that was very good from the group. We continued to press, press and press until Bright [Dike] got the goal, and then had a few more chances. To not put our heads down and continue to fight was good tonight.”

Sorry, that’s all well and good, but it’s too little, too late. That emotion and reaction needs to happen the minute the team walks onto the pitch.

* Some Bright Dike stats…
Games Played: 9
Games Started: 6
Minutes Played: 641
Goals: 4
Shots: 22
Shots on Goal: 7
Game Winning Goals: 1 (tied for team lead)
Goals/90 minutes: 0.56 (leads team)
Scoring %: 18.2 %

Compare those with other players (Timbers and other random goalscorers in MLS):
- Kris Boyd: 1893 minutes, 7 goals (63 shots & 28 shots on goal), 1 game winning goal, goals/90 minutes = 0.33, scoring % = 11.1
- Alan Gordon: 1230 minutes, 13 goals (42 shots & 25 shots on goal), 4 game winning goals, goals/90 minutes = 0.95, scoring % = 31.0
- Steven Lenhart: 1379 minutes, 10 goals (56 shots & 30 shots on goal), 2 game winning goals, goals/90 minutes = 0.65, scoring % = 17.9
- CJ Sapong: 1940 minutes, 7 goals (51 shots & 20 shots on goal), 4 game winning goals, goals/90 minutes = 0.32, scoring % = 13.7
- Kenny Cooper: 2251 minutes, 16 goals (78 shots & 43 shots on goal), 6 game winning goals, goals/90 minutes = 0.64, scoring % = 20.5

I’m not sure this tells much of anything since statistics in soccer can be pretty ambiguous, but it tells me that Dike has earned a spot on this team. Remember, he’s played less than 750 minutes in his brief MLS career. I think he’s shown some improvement in many of the games he’s played and at the very least, can be a valuable 3rd striker who can come off the bench and provide some energy and goals. I get that Dike has his flaws (suspect 1st touch and shooting accuracy namely), but I’d hate to see the Timbers give up on him and get rid of him. I saw Columbus fans tweeting last night how they regretted losing Dike. For a team finding goals difficult to come by, I think losing Dike would be a mistake.

* A Cascadia Cup update

Here’s a look at the latest Cascadia Cup standings

cascadiacupstandings1 Three thoughts on the Portland Timbers 1 1 draw against DC United

Yesterday’s 0-0 draw between Seattle and Vancouver kept the Timbers in the driver’s seat for the Cascadia Cup. The draw eliminated Vancouver from any chance for the Cup but they can still play spoiler, especially if Seattle gets 3 points next Saturday against Portland.

Essentially, the Timbers win the Cup if they draw or win against Seattle. Because they have a game in hand, the Timbers could still win the Cup if they lose against Seattle, but they would need a win against Vancouver.


Sep 292012

NBC Sports Network gives the MLS 36 treatment to Timbers star Darlington Nagbe. Watch the premier on Sept. 29 at 4:30 pm PT.

MLS 36 is a documentary-style show that follows select MLS stars for 36 hours leading up to a match. MLS 36 followed Nagbe leading up to Portland’s Aug. 25 match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Nagbe scored in a third straight match to help the Timbers to a 2-1 win over Whitecaps FC, and MLS 36 captured the emotional win for both the club and Nagbe.

Previous episodes of MLS 36 have featured San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario and Seattle’s Fredy Montero.

Here’s a brief clip of Nagbe’s appearance on MLS 36:

Sep 232012

The Portland Timbers (7-15-8, 29 points) couldn’t stop Real Salt Lake’s (15-11-4, 49 points) set piece offense as Javier Morales had a hand (one goal and one assist) in both goals to keep the Timbers winless on the road. After a poor first half display, the Timbers outplayed their opponent in the second half thanks to a spark off the bench from Bright Dike, whose goal in the 61st minute made it 2-1. Dike almost got the equalizer late but his header off of another beautiful Sal Zizzo cross clanged off the crossbar. Real Salt Lake closed out the match in style, keeping possession for almost the entire three minutes of stoppage time.

Three quick thoughts on the match:

1.) The Timbers defensive awareness is incredibly poor.

How many times have we seen a silly foul in the final third lead to a set piece goal for the Timbers opponents? At some point in the offseason, I’m going to attempt to answer that very question by viewing all the Timbers matches from this season. The Timbers once again gift-wrapped two goals for their opponent with a dumb foul in the final third and stupid mistakes in set piece defense. The first goal was a direct result of an error by the defensive wall. For the second, Javier Morales’ set piece goal was an absolute beauty, but the Timbers should be aware and know that if you commit a foul so deep in the final third, he’s capable of doing that every time he steps up to take a direct free kick. Once again an opponent was able to use the Timbers match as a springboard for ending their own struggles as goals for RSL have been difficult to come by from anyone other than the injured Alvaro Saborio.

2.) 2-20-10.

That’s the Timbers record on the road in MLS. There’s no way owner Merritt Paulson can sugarcoat that is there? I’m also a bit baffled by some of the post-match quotes from Gavin Wilkinson:

* “We are maturing as a team. The last time we were here we lost 3-0 and I don’t think we even had a shot. I think the performance tonight was a lot, lot better.”

* “I would like to do a little more in the final third. I think that comes with maturity. I think the possession stance of this team has changed dramatically from what they were. We look a lot more comfortable with the ball, but results are what it takes.”

I highlighted the words above because if that’s becoming the benchmark for success for this team rather than points, that’s a problem.

My question: if the other 18 teams in MLS had a similar streak would their coach and general manager survive such futility and still have a job?

3.) Some positives.

Franck Songo’o and Sal Zizzo had fantastic matches again for the Timbers and truly justify their starts and increased playing time. Bright Dike got his third goal of the season and was a fantastic spark off the bench. I’ve always fancied Dike coming off the bench for that exact reason and even if he’s not starting, I think Dike can be a positive contributor for the Timbers if used in that manner.

That’s it for now. Once I get to view the match again, I’ll have some more. I also hope to have a post up this week about Kris Boyd. Check out the match stats and highlights below.

Match stats:

Portland Timbers (7-15-8, 29pts) at Real Salt Lake (15-11-4, 49pts)
Sept. 22, 2012 – Rio Tinto Stadium

Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Timbers 0 1 1
Real Salt Lake 2 0 2

Scoring Summary
RSL: Espindola (Morales), 14
RSL: Morales, 36
POR: Dike (Zizzo), 61

Misconduct Summary
RSL: Olave (Caution), 81

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Bendik, D Kimura (Alexander, 67), D Mosquera, D Horst, D Smith (Dike, 46), M Nagbe, M Jewsbury ©, M Wallace, F Zizzo, F Mwanga, F Songo’o (Alhassan, 82)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Angevine, D Brunner, D Danso, F Fucito

TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Dike, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Dike, Wallace, 2); FOULS: 8 (Jewsbury, 3); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 3

RSL: GK Rimando, D Beltran, D Olave, D Borchers, D Wingert, M Beckerman ©, M Grabavoy, M Johnson, M Morales (Gil, 90+2), F Espindola (Alvarez, 83), F Araujo (Bonfigli, 67)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Reynish, D Schuler, M Steele, F Mansally

TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Espindola, 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Espindola, 4); FOULS: 9 (Johnson, 3); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 4

Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Corey Parker, Jason Cullum
4th Official: Allen Chapman
Attendance: 20,524
Time of Game: 1:49
Weather: Sunny, 86 degrees

Match Highlights:

Sep 222012

timbersRSLrecords 300x171 Timbers still looking for their first road win against Real Salt LakeThe Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29 points) hit the road again on Saturday, this time heading to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah to take on Real Salt Lake (14-11-4, 46 points) at 5 p.m. PST.

Some quick thoughts on today’s match:

* Is today the day for the Timbers?

On Wednesday night, the Timbers put in one of their best road performances in their brief MLS history against the San Jose Earthquakes. While it was disappointing to come away with only 1 point after having a 2-0 lead, it was still a strong effort against one of the hottest teams in MLS. Still, the Timbers road record stands at an abysmal 0-10-4 with only 8 goals scored in those matches.

Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, is struggling. Just 1-4-1 in their last 6 MLS matches, injuries to Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler and now Alvaro Saborio (a game-time decision due to a sprained shoulder) have contributed greatly to Real Salt Lakes’ struggles the past few months.

* Which team will be impacted more by their missing injured players?

The Timbers have several key players out with injuries: Donovan Ricketts, Diego Chara and now Kris Boyd, who is likely to miss the rest of the season with a groin injury. Timbers interim coach Gavin Wilkinson changed Wednesday’s lineup and formation as a result and will likely keep the same for Real Salt Lake match.

For Real Salt Lake, their struggles truly began when Jamison Olave was forced to miss action due to hamstring and other injuries. With Olave out, Real Salt Lake is simply not the same team, registering a 2-6-3 record. With the possibility that leading scorer, Alvaro Saborio (his 14 goals is second only to Chris Wondolowski in MLS), will likely have to sit due to pain from his shoulder strain injury, goals could be hard to come by. The Timbers will breathe a sigh of relief if Saborio sits out. Saborio scored a hat trick in his last match against Portland, which incidentally was John Spencer’s last match as Timbers manager.

* Probable Timbers lineup: 

GK: Joe Bendik

DEF: Steven Smith, David Horst, Hanyer Mosquera, Lovel Palmer

MF: Franck Songo’o, Rodney Wallace, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe

FW: Bright Dike, Danny Mwanga

* Prediction:

Rio Tinto Stadium, while not the usual stronghold it has been in past seasons, is still a difficult place to play and RSL is 10-4-1 on the season. RSL’s playoff chances are pretty secure regardless of the result today. With no chance for the playoffs, many of the Timbers players are definitely playing for their jobs and a place in next year’s squad under new coach Caleb Porter.  I don’t see the Timbers getting three points today, but I am hoping that some Timbers desperation combined with RSL’s injury woes help the Timbers overachieve for a draw.

Pre-Match Stats:

REFEREE: Kevin Stott. AR1 (bench): Corey Parker; AR2 (opposite): Jason Cullum; 4th: Allen Chapman
MLS Career: 229 games; FC/gm: 25.6; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 59; pens: 48


REAL SALT LAKE – OUT: GK Lalo Fernandez (R wrist fracture); DF Kwame Watson-Siriboe (R adductor strain); PROBABLE: DF Jamison Olave (L hamstring strain); DF Chris Schuler (L foot bone bruise); DF Kenny Mansally (L knee MCL sprain) … PORTLAND TIMBERS – OUT: MF Diego Chara (L adductor strain); GK Donovan Ricketts (L shoulder separation); DF Chris Taylor (R hip surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Jake Gleeson (R hand contusion); PROBABLE: MF Freddie Braun (abdominal strain); DF Andrew Jean-Baptiste (L hamstring strain)



SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: RSL: Fabian Espindola, Javier Morales, Jamison Olave, Alvaro Saborio … POR: Jack Jewsbury
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: RSL: Will Johnson, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Jonny Steele … POR: Kris Boyd, Hanyer Mosquera, Lovel Palmer, Kosuke Kimura, Diego Chara, Steven Smith, Franck Songo’o

Sep 202012

In my preview for last night’s match, I gave the Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29 pts) no chance whatsoever to come away with points against the San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6, 57 pts). Yet despite my pessimism and thanks to Danny Mwanga’s brace, the Timbers had a 2-0 lead after 62 minutes. While the headlines will praise another San Jose comeback (thanks to Chris Wondolowski’s brace), I can’t help think Gavin Wilkinson deserves a big assist for the part he played in the Earthquakes’ comeback. I’ll expand on this thought and more below in my takeaways from last night’s match:

* Danny Mwanga

Mwanga finally got the start last night, something I’ve been clamoring about for two months now. Apparently the reason Mwanga hasn’t been playing much has to do with his lack of confidence (see quote below):

“He was, for various reasons, very short on confidence coming out of Philadelphia, but he has worked hard in training and preformed very, very well off the bench the last few games. He deserved to start tonight, and his second goal was fantastic. He is a good finisher and he showed that tonight.”

Take that quote how you will, but for me, this seems to be Wilkinson’s way of giving himself a pass for having one of the teams most talented players sitting on the bench for the better part of two months.

Regardless of my bitterness about the quote, I’m happy to see Mwanga on the pitch and hope to see him start for the rest of the season.

* Joe Bendik

Bendik’s previous two appearances of the season were a result of injuries to mid-game injuries to Troy Perkins and Donovan Ricketts. I thought Bendik played very well in his very first MLS start. He made some excellent saves, was aggressive to react to balls in the box, showed some fire and heart on the pitch and his distribution was very good. He’s getting a shot to play due to Ricketts’ separated shoulder.

Just as a quick caveat, when Ricketts spent most of 2011 injured, it paved the way for Josh Saunders to take over as the Galaxy keeper. Ricketts became expendable after that. I’m not saying that is what is going to happen here, but I do look forward to seeing how Bendik takes advantage of this opportunity.

* Franck Songo’o

Here’s what Gavin Wilkinson had to say about Songo’o:

“Frank has really started to take on a leadership role and I am really happy with him. He controls the ball and tempo of the game well and is technically gifted. It’s a matter of keeping him fit and healthy and continuing to develop him. But again, he has done very well the last few games.”

Credit where credit is due. Wilkinson is spot on about Songo’o's form and leadership over the last several months and now that fans are seeing how a fit and healthy Songo’o plays, I think we can all agree he has been a good signing. It’s early still, but if Songo’o continues playing strong and showing improvement, this may play out as one of Wilkinson’s best MLS signings so far.

* 2nd Half Tactics

If there was a tipping point in last night’s match it was in the 62nd minute after Mwanga made it 2-0. Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop, who in a mid-match interview talked about resting Chris Wondolowski tonight, brought in Wondolowski (in the 58th minute) and Alan Gordon (in the 63rd minute).

So while Yallop made changes to proactively influence the match in the Earthquakes favor, Wilkinson did essentially nothing. The match was screaming for an adjustment (I was hoping to see an Eric Alexander substitution), but instead the Timbers bunkered down in the hope to go for 27 plus minutes unscathed.

We’ve all seen this story before right? The Timbers simply don’t have the quality players to bunker down for that long, especially against a team with as much offensive firepower as the Earthquakes.

For a very thorough look at why this is simply the wrong tactical move, please give Kevin Alexander’s post (aptly named “Bunked Off”) a read over at Slide Rule Pass.


Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29pts) at San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6, 57pts)
Sept. 19, 2012 – Buck Shaw Stadium

Goals by Half                 1          2          F
Portland Timbers            1          1          2
San Jose Earthquakes   0          2          2

Scoring Summary
POR: Mwanga (Wallace), 45
POR: Mwanga (Songo’o), 62
SJ: Wondolowski (Lenhart, Gordon), 73
SJ: Wondolowski, 90+2

Misconduct Summary
SJ: Corrales (Caution), 38
POR: Smith (Caution), 54
SJ: Cronin (Caution), 68
POR: Songo’o (Caution), 71

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Bendik, D Palmer (Kimura, 83), D Mosquera, D Horst, D Smith, M Nagbe, M Jewsbury ©, M Wallace, M Songo’o, F Boyd (Dike, 18), F Mwanga (Brunner, 85)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Angevine, M Alexander, M Alhassan, F Fucito

TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Mwanga, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Mwanga, 2); FOULS: 14 (Songo’o, 7); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 7 (Bendik, 5)

SJ: GK Busch, D Beitashour, D Bernardez, D Opara, D Morrow, M Ballouchy (Wondolowski, 58), M Cronin, M Baca (Gordon, 63), M Corrales ©, F Dawkins, F Lenhart

Substitutes Not Used: GK Bingham, D Hernandez, D Zayner, M Ring, M Stephenson

TOTAL SHOTS: 23 (Corrales, Dawkins, Wondolowski, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Wondolowski, 4); FOULS: 13 (Morrow, 5); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 0

Referee: Armando Villareal
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Chris Strickland
4th Official: Yadar Reyes
Attendance: 9,877
Time of Game: 1:55
 Clear, 61 degrees