Portland Timbers Win First MLS Road Game at Chicago Fire

A win is a win is a win.The Portland Timbers managed their first road win of the year in a most unconvincing fashion in Chicago over the weekend. A 1-0 nail-biter won with Captain Jack Jewsbury's penalty kick.The real hero of the match, however, was once again keeper Troy Perkins. He made three saves that would be considered remarkable in any league in the world—one of them might go down as the save of the year.More on that later.The soccer gods finally smiled on Portland, after nearly two months of having almost nothing but bad luck. The Timbers managed to lose games, and tie games that they should have won, in every conceivable fashion.They gave up a goal on a set piece to Colorado in the last 10 seconds of the game that gave Colorado the win.They committed a hand ball in the penalty area against New York in the last 20 seconds that resulted in a tie.They gave up two leads in the second half against Seattle that resulted in a tough loss at home against their bitter rivals.They played strong against Chivas and Kansas City, but still came away with a loss.Finally, a bit of good fortune smiled ...
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MLS: Portland Timbers Suffer Tough Loss to Sounders, Is Their Season Over?

The Seattle Sounders first visit to Portland stadium in the Timbers inaugural MLS season was one for the memory banks. Kicking off at 1 p.m. PST in front on a nationwide audience on ESPN, the stadium was filled to the brim. The North End, which houses the Timber's Army, was in its best form all season. As fireworks were being shot off during the national anthem, three massive banners filled up the entire north end stands. One, a giant picture of the King of Clubs card, was a brilliant piece of symbolism by the Timber's Army. Another unfurled to state, "Quality, not Quantity," a sly dig at Seattle fans who continually proclaim that their stadium fills up at around 36,000 while the Portland stadium tops out at just over 18,000. That said, the feeling in section was one of trepidation. To be honest, not too many people expected the Timbers to come away with a win. Yes, they were there to support their club, but the team has been so out of form, and the Sounders have been playing extremely strong, that not too many supporters expected a positive outcome. The first surprise came when the line-up was announced, and ...
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Portland Timbers: How They Can Beat the Seattle Sounders

In its inaugural season, the Portland-Seattle rivalry is already the best in the MLS, by a wide margin.The animosity between these two teams goes all the way back to their NASL days in the mid-seventies. There's also a natural, well, hatred between the two cities. Seattle is now known as a haven for mis-placed Californians and east coasters looking to cash in on Amazon and Microsoft stock (although Microsoft stock isn't what it once was).Portland, on the other hand, does everything to stick to its roots and not sell out. The city slogan, "Keep Portland Weird", is a perfect embodiment of that philosophy.Even the supporters of the two clubs are different. Sounder supporters tend to look like a bunch of geeks who got lost on their way to a Star Trek convention. Portland supporters look like they stumbled out of bar, got a tattoo, and then decided to go to a soccer game.So, when they meet for the second time this year, it's not just bragging rights on the line, it's a clash of two cultures.It's new-money materialism versus good, old fashioned bohemianism.In their first clash in Seattle, Portland, undoubtedly, got the better of the two with a tie on ...
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MLS: Where Does It Go from Here?

It only took 15 years for the brain-trust at MLS to figure out that the Pacific Northwest is the pulse of soccer in North America. As I stated in a previous article, Portland, Vancouver and Seattle are putting an excitement into the MLS that it's never really experienced before.It wasn't Freddie Adu, Landon Donovan, David Beckham or Thierry Henry that infused a surge of electricity throughout Major League Soccer—it's been done by rabid fans in the rainiest and grayest part of the country.The question is, what does the MLS do from here?Try as they might, Los Angeles and New York are not the answer to increasing revenue and fan attendance. Those are big-market cities, but the interest in both cities pales in comparison to interest in other sports.So, for those interested, here is a primer for how MLS can continue to increase interest throughout North America and the world.First, move the moribund franchises.Sorry Chicago, Chivas and New England, but you've got to move. You've had your chance, and failed miserably. It's embarrassing for all involved to continually watch empty stadiums with the lonely echo of one guy blowing a vezuvela in the background.Get into cities that will appreciate a professional ...
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MLS: Woes Continue for Portland Timbers

Losers of five of their last six games, with a tie to New York as the lone bright spot, the Portland Timbers are nursing a losing streak that is in danger of turning into a hemorrhaging gusher.For the second week in a row, they just played badly, against Sporting Kansas City. Giving up two easy goals in the first twenty minutes before losing 2-1. The lone bright spot was a goal by Darlington Nagbe in the 44th minute that might go down as the goal of the year. Absolutely brilliant strike in the top-left shelf after he juggled it twice on his right foot. That goal alone had Portland stadium rocking, after many of the crowd had actually started to boo the Timbers.Portland is unimaginative right now. They're playing scared on defense. They're not making creative or hard runs. They're not running at the defense.John Spencer, trying to infuse some life into the club, benched both Kenny Cooper and Jeremy Hall in favor of Eddie Johnson and Steve Purdy, respectively.With Seattle coming to down next weekend, this was a game the Timbers had to win to gain some kind of momentum going into their biggest match of the year. Instead, ...
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Portland Timbers Robbed by Overmatched New York Red Bulls

I'm going to have a heart attack watching the Timbers.For the second time in two weeks, they played their best soccer of the season—only to lose their composure in stoppage time.Last week it was a heart-wrenching loss to Colorado on the last play in injury time. This time it was a handball in their box by Rodney Wallace that led to a PK for the New York Red Bulls, and a tie.The fact is that the Timbers outplayed what many consider to be the best team in the MLS.In the first half they went down 0-1 in the 4th minute. Thierry Henry worked with Dwayne De Rosario on a 1-2-3 that ended with Austin De Luz putting it in the net.Although down, the Timbers kept their composure and displayed something they'd been lacking all season - patience. They worked the ball in the backfield and waited for openings and lines to show up in the mid-field and forward runs. They didn't have a great look at goal in the first half, but they dominated possession and showed poise.In the second half, they flat-out exploded.In the 47th minute, Jack Jewsbury nailed a line drive into goal to tie it a 1-1. ...
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Portland Timbers Lose Heartbreaker to Colorado Rapids, 0-1

Mama told me there would be games like this.After two lackluster losses against the likes of Chivas USA and D.C. United, the Portland Timbers returned home on Saturday night to host the Colorado Rapids. Their form in recent games has been lackluster, to say the least. They have seemed resolved to play the long ball and completely ignored any kind of midfield play.On Saturday, they put in their best showing of the season.All night they worked the way around the midfield, finally allowing Diego Chara to make some plays and allowing Kalif Alhassan to finally make some of those breathtaking runs he displayed early in the season. The defense, midfield and forwards all worked together to put together numerous passes and opportunities.Man, oh man, did they have opportunities to score.Jorge Perlaza had two breakaways against the Colorado keeper and failed to find the mark both times. Kenny Cooper had a beautiful turn and strike in the box that was head for goal and somehow Matt Pickens, the Colorado keeper, managed to get a glove on it. It was a world-class save that should have gone in for a goal.Ryan Pore, last year's MVP of the UCL, came into the game ...
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Portland Timbers vs Chivas USA: Portland’s Poor Form Continues in 0-1 Loss

What to say about the recent form of the Portland Timbers?That it's no accident.There's a big, big secret that's not so big anymore. That is the midfield play, or lack thereof, of the Timbers. It's a weakness so glaring that it's simply affecting every facet of the team.The keeper, Troy Perkins, seemingly has no choice but to play the long ball every possession. The defense very rarely plays into to midfield, electing to try and kick it to the top two very lonely forwards—Perlaza and Cooper.On paper, at least, the Timbers should have a very stable midfield with Alhassan, Jewsbury, Nagbe and Chara (although Sal Zisso has been starting in place of Nagbe the last two games). The class of the midfield seems to be Jewsbury, who is outstanding at possession and set pieces, and Alhassan, a very nice playmaker with great pace.Nagbe did seem lost quite a few times and out of position, and it wasn't surprising that Zisso replaced him. Zisso did make some nice wing runs in the game against DC United.It's the play of Chara that has me concerned, and increasingly the play of Alhassan.Chara has, thus far, not earned his weight as their sole designated ...
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Brian Dunseth: Why I Don’t Watch MLS

I'm a soccer fanatic. A season-ticket holder to the Portland Timbers, I can't wait until they make their debut in MLS next year. Every Saturday—and Sunday—is spent watching the Premiership on FSC (to the consternation of my wife). I love the flow of the game, the strategy and the anticipation of the development of the play. I would like to show my allegiance to the American league by tuning in to watch MLS. There's just one problem. The likes of Brian Dunseth. Dunseth is a commentator for Fox Soccer Channel. He's an expert in the painfully obvious. His vocabulary might be 1,000 words. If Vin Scully is jazz, Brian Dunseth is elevator music. I don't watch MLS because the skill of the game is below the Premiership (though it most obviously is). I don't watch it because listening to Dunseth is more annoying than listening to a screaming 2-year-old. The executives at MLS still have't figured out their audience, or their product. The MLS just isn't a great product yet, and they need commentators who can sell the game. Tommy Smythe and Andy Gray are two examples of excellent British commentators. They can take a boring game and make it interesting simply with their analysis and banter. They provide ...
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Is Michael Ballack Going To Portland?

Michael Ballack was released today by Chelsea. He's officially a free agent. He could be perfect for the Portland Timbers for next season. Or, he could not. He's 34. He's coming off an injury. It's doubtful any of Europe's big clubs will want him. Ballack is a rock in the midfield. I'm a strong believer that any designated signees should play center midfield. It's where they can control the game, and guide the other players. He's somebody that has another two or three good seasons in his legs. He could probably use the added rest of not starting a season in September, but rather waiting for next March. But there are more political reasons the Timber ownership should look to sign a name such as Ballack to their roster. He would be a considerable jump up from Freddie Ljungberg, the major signing of their rivals in Seattle. In the event that Vancouver, also joining the MLS in 2011, signs a major name, Portland won't be the last man standing. There are, still, quite a bit of people in Portland who don't feel the MLS is a major league. They're upset that the Triple-A Portland Beavers baseball club is likely to leave town. Signing Michael Ballack will bring ...
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