There's been some talk about this by Timbers fans:
Which is to say that somehow the lament of Newcastle fans reflects upon the Timbers. And I don't know about Newcastle's situation enough to tell you whether that banner is right, wrong or born out of the struggle that horrible ownership will force. However, I can honestly tell you one thing. I don't think it reflects upon the Timbers correctly. My personal opinion is that the Timbers do not struggle because of indifference, they struggle because of incompetence. That is, to say, that they do TRY however they are routinely just awful at trying.
This is an ownership and management team that gave John Spencer a two year contract extension with guaranteed money and then fired him just months later guaranteeing that the Scottish coach would spend the rest of his time in Portland being paid to do nothing for two years.
This is an ownership and management team that gave back loaded contracts to players like Pah Modou Kah that ballooned up after one season making him one of the highest paid non-dp players on the team. That high-price back loaded contract became a boat anchor around the team's neck. As well, it made the player impossible to trade. When the true form of Kah began to show, they had no way of getting rid of him and his price made it very difficult for him to be benched.
This is an ownership and management team that signed Kris Boyd (a poaching forward) to a mega DP contract and tried to use him as a target forward in a system that had no midfielder who could get him the ball. They then became so frustrated with him that they sat their 1.5 million dollars on the bench for the entirety of the rest of the season. He played 43 minutes in the final 11 games of 2012 and they were required to amnesty his contract in order to get him off the roster ensuring that Boyd was another player getting paid to not play on the Timbers. He somehow still lead the team in goals in 2012.
This is an ownership and management team that signed Kenny Cooper (another poaching forward) to a large contract and tried to use him as a target forward in a system that had no midfielder who could get him the ball. They then became frustrated, sat Cooper and got rid of him. In the perfect system for Cooper's ability (over at New York), he scored 18 goals the next season.
This is an ownership and management team that admitted it allowed the experimentation of a lineup on the road against Seattle in 2012 that resulted in the Timbers being embarrassed.
This is an ownership and management team that traded their 11th round draft pick to Houston that they acquired from Seattle in the 2011 MLS draft for allocation money, the same pick used by Houston Dynamo to select Will Bruin. The Timbers later selected Chris Taylor who is no longer with the club.
This is an ownership and management team that spent a good amount of the time in 2012 wooing Caleb Porter only to ensure that when they hired him, he didn't bring along any of his own staff or assistants. They surrounded him with the same continuation of USL staff that existed for John Spencer or an assistant that was hired before Porter arrived. They've only hired one new coaching staff personnel since Porter was hired, and he has a full time job coaching Timbers 2.
This is an ownership and management team that frequently played Russian roulette with fullbacks making sure that they have used at least 12 different players in 5 seasons at that position. (Hall, Palmer, Chabala, Kimura, Purdy, Smith, Miller, Harrington, Jewsbury, Ridgewell, Powell, Villafana)
This is an ownership and management team that had 6 months between Valeri's injury and the start of the 2015 season to try to figure something out that would at least be a stop gap and re-signed a player (Fernandez) who has spoken out in Spanish language news about his frustration with being played out of position and the minutes he has received. Fernandez in nearly every interview has said his best position is a withdrawn forward. He simply isn't an attacking midfielder. People say that players like Valeri aren't something an MLS team can stock up, but the truth of the matter is that the Timbers seemingly didn't even try. They forged ahead with their intent to play Fernandez out of position and rely on a player like Darlington Nagbe who has now continued his 2014 season into 2015 with 12 games with 0 goals and 2 assists. Regardless of the way in which Nagbe contributes on the field (and he does contribute in ways other than scoring and assisting), he has been utterly abysmal at contributing actual tangible numbers to the team, recently. Nagbe has had 44 league games since 2013 with a total of 1 goal and 9 assists. That's 1 goal every 3747 minutes or 1 assist every 416. Basically Nagbe will assist on a goal every 4 and a half games by current metrics. He has just 4 shots on goal in over 1000 minutes this season. Valeri has 3 in just 219 minutes and he came off injured in the most recent game. Nagbe is not a like for like or even comparable replacement for Valeri. Yet, there is absolutely no one better than Nagbe behind him on the bench for the Timbers. He has zero players who could challenge his starting spot, it is simply assured. This isn't to argue that the Timbers should get rid of Nagbe or that he isn't contributing in other ways. However, the Timbers simply have no better option available on the bench. Nat Borchers has scored more goals and taken nearly as many shots on goal (3) as Nagbe (4) this season.
This is an ownership and management team that signed Steve Zakuani (a player that was so incredibly injured that his walking and running motion was forever changed, and this information was very public and very announced) as a replacement for an injured Rodney Wallace only to watch Zakuani's poor play and retirement at the end of 2014.
This is an ownership and management team that prioritized an attempt at the playoffs in order to somehow "salvage" the 2014 season over a pivotal game in the CONCACAF Champions League. They did this despite the fact that the playoff spot was far from guaranteed as it did not depend on the Timbers winning, but rather on their rival Vancouver losing or drawing enough games to make the Timbers end of season run relevant. A quick word on this, the CONCACAF game wasn't even "WIN AND YOU ARE IN" it was "DONT LOSE BY MORE THAN ONE GOAL AND YOU ARE IN" That's how bad this situation was mismanaged. The Timbers didn't even have to win to progress, they just had to not suck. They trotted out Danny O'Rourke and a B squad lineup that was destroyed in Honduras. The Timbers management did this for a number of reasons. They did this because the average sports fan cares more about the playoffs than the CONCACAF Champions league. They did this because their idea of depth was to sign an unsigned player who had already trialed for multiple clubs and been turned down. They did this simply because the ownership group did zero work on the defense before 2014 and was forced into a decision for depth. However, they also likely did this because the owner, Merritt Paulson, went out on a limb earlier in the year guaranteeing the playoffs.
That isn't to say that every single move they have made has been poor, but the fact is that the Diego Valeri's are not going to be able to fix the team all the time when the decisions that come down from the top are constantly creating problems. Even the Valeri story is one of massive luck. The Timbers acquired him because Valeri was carjacked at gun point in Argentina. Wilkinson is on record as saying that the Timbers didn't believe they could get him. Then, Valeri gets carjacked and asks his agent to get him out of Argentina. Suddenly the Timbers were able to sign him.
The further that the Timbers move from 2013, the more it appears that 1 season out of 5 in Major League soccer was a combination of luck and perfect timing. The norm of the Timbers, it appears, is to be a struggling middle to lower table team who attempts to struggle to make the playoffs, struggles in the US Open Cup and every once in a blue moon gets the stars aligned for a great league run.
And that is just the five seasons in Major League Soccer, This ownership and management team has been the same for 9 seasons now.
The greatest thing that this ownership group ever did was to convince everyone that the USL never existed, because it is a lot easier to give a passing grade to 4 years of mediocrity and 1 great season than 9 seasons with only one regular season USL Commissioner's Cup (2009) to show for it.
I'm very certain that someone can construct a positive response refuting all of this based on the narrative of community involvement and charity work. Likely they will also point out the extreme unlucky circumstances of losing Johnson, then Valeri, then Zemanski. However, the real issue is not just 2015, but 2011, 2012, and 2014 where the team played poorly and the excuses piled up. They will also likely point at a core group of talented players and say that they just need to get back to full health. However, based upon the moves in the past, can you trust that the Timbers of the last 9 years will make the right choice for next season? Maybe. Maybe if the right players aren't injured, the team gets a few signings that pan out, maybe if Nagbe discovers his talent, maybe if ... maybe if... maybe if... maybe if... maybe if... The mantra of 2014, and the seeming mantra of 2015. Luck and circumstance is a really hard thing for a fan to depend upon.
It says something that the team has spent more money in 2015 than 2011 but received less in return (the 2011 team had more points by 12 games than the current Timbers team) because spending money is only as good as the players you spend it on. Everyone would love to see the Timbers splash the cash for a great player, but spending 1 million on a player that is a bad fit (like Boyd) is as unhelpful as spending 100k on a player like Zakuani.
This is all Hindsight FC, sure. However, without studying the past how can one judge what will happen in the future? Fans should not require a team to be perfect at all times. Everyone makes mistakes. I wanted the team to sign Adi after he scored a boatload of goals on his loan spell. That was clearly a mistake. However, a team should be held responsible by the fans for the poor decisions that they make. Hell, a team should be held responsible and kept accountable by ownership of the team for the poor decisions that are made and not continue to make excuses about every possible scenario that arises. There is almost no basis for the ownership and management team to deserve the trust of the fanbase simply because they really haven't done anything, yet.
Just a reminder, Caleb Porter was given a five year extension at the end of 2013.
FYI: Merritt Paulson followed up 9 years of mediocrity by rewarding Gavin Wilkinson with the keys to three teams.
As always, go Timbers and I hope the guys come out and destroy DC United on Wednesday.