an impactful win…

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by sunshine 2 Comments

 

The Timbers pulled off another road win in the most typical of Timbers ways. They controlled possession, dominated the midfield, passed the Impact off the pitch, and gave up the first goal against the run of play. The narrative of this match was written well before the game began. Thankfully it turned out happy because after the 14 minute things felt like they were going to turn horribly wrong.

 

picture perfect positioning...

picture perfect positioning...

Going up against the worst team in MLS is never easy for a team like the Timbers—they have an uncanny knack of making life harder for themselves simply by stepping foot on a pitch. Winning a game against the worst team in MLS only gets harder when that team scores first. Until last night, Montreal has not lost a match at home after scoring the first goal. Hidden within that meaningless little statistic is found the heart of a wounded lion—I am certain of this. They may have only 14 points on the season thanks in no small part to the limited ability spread along their back line, but when given a lead they work hard to retain it (if only for a short time). The same cannot always be said about the Timbers.

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Things Are Looking Up

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by Magadh 1 Comment

 

ridgeI’ve been perusing the results of the friendlies between European teams (mostly from the EPL) and those from MLS. Obviously the one that jumps out is United’s 7-0 hammering of the L.A. Gals. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t experienced a pleasant bit of Schadenfreude when I read that. L.A. is constantly being thrown up as one of the flagship sides in the league, so it was nice to see than get dropped down a peg or three. But all gloating aside, you could look at that and wonder how much progress this league has really made.

 

 

Well, the answer is: a lot. Let’s be clear, the EPL is one of the top three leagues in the world and the talent level there is very, very high. Too, the Gals ran into a United side coming back from their most disappointing season in 20 years or so. This wasn’t your garden variety friendly. Van Gaal in the process of cutting away the dead wood, and pretty much everyone in a United shirt is out to prove that their wood isn’t dead. You could tell that they were bearing down in a way that a touring side will seldom do in a late summer friendly, and a number of United players had been at the World Cup, and thus a little closer to match fit than they might otherwise have been at this time of year. So while there is still a gulf in quality, I don’t think that this result is necessarily the kind of black eye for the league that some might think. But still I gloat.... Read More →

The New Order

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by Magadh 5 Comments

 

valeriJust a few little bits and bobs for today. We’re still in the process of getting ourselves sorted out after the World Cup. Oddly so, given our professed disinterest in the international game, but at lot of that (for me at least) has to do with my perpetual state of irritation at the disruptions of the club season for international matches. Truth to tell, I watched a lot of the World Cup, and quite enjoyed it. It would be dishonest of me not to admit that I get a great deal of joy at seeing a very overrated Brazil team receive their comeuppance from the Germans.

 

 

I suppose I might mention the following as well. sunshine and I are in the process of revising our publication patterns a bit. In part this is due to the fact that neither of our wives feel like they want to be married to the team as well as to us, to which I say fair enough. But also I think we both felt like the aggressive schedule that we’d committed ourselves to (1100 words every day and pretty much just the two of us doing it) had gotten to be a bit burdensome, but also was compelling us to publish columns that were not up to the appropriate standard. We pride ourselves on offering something a bit different than some other sites. Obviously, one point of comparison here is Stumptown Footy. I read SF a lot and I think it is a fabulous site. If I say that I (or we) want to be different than them it’s not out of disrespect for the quality of their product, but rather an expression of the feeling that they have their niche and fill it quite excellently.... Read More →

The Comeback Kids Strike Again

Posted on: July 19th, 2014 by Magadh 3 Comments

 

ridgeThere is a lot that could be said about the match with Colorado last night. I’ll put together a full post a little later on, but I thought that I would just mention that, aside from all of the other interesting stuff, it was simply one of the fastest paced matches that I have ever seen in this league. Both teams were well up for it and there were acres of space for play in midfield. Partly that had to do with the fact that our lads had pretty clearly been instructed to adopt a very attacking posture. We moved the ball around quite quickly last night, and that in itself was an improvement. It kept our play dynamic and engaged and forced Colorado’s forward and central players to cover a lot of ground as they had to get back to address our counterattacks.

 

 

Given how much room was involved, I thought that Johnson and Chará did an exemplary job of tackling when they got the opportunity. To my eye we were, generally speaking, more solid at the back than we have been (at least in a lot of this season’s matches). We did give up another utterly preventable goal, but other than that we managed to keep a very aggressive Colorado side off the scoreboard for the rest of the match. It didn’t hurt that Deshorn Brown got hurt, but at this point it’s probably best not to quibble.... Read More →

as good as you get…

Posted on: July 14th, 2014 by sunshine 8 Comments

 

to avoid a deucebration, you must defend intelligently...

to avoid a deucebration, you must defend intelligently...

Last night the Timbers took on their Cascadia and bitter rivals for the second time in less than a week. The last time the Timbers played the Sounders in quick succession the results were much different. However, unlike this year’s version of the Timbers, the discipline and resolve of that team was never questioned. After putting up a good fight throughout most of the match, the Timbers character flaws were exposed and exploited.

 

With the exception of Chara, the Timbers line-up was largely unchanged from the earlier loss to the Sounders. As we all know, Chara was unavailable for yesterday’s Cascadia match for yellow-card accumulation, not for the deserved straight red for a rash and stupid challenge in the mid-week meeting between these two clubs. Justifiably, many were left concerned by his absence—he has been the engine and the combative thrust to the Timbers midfield for so long that to consider the team without him, especially against the Sounders, was unthinkable. Even more concerning was the return of Jewsbury to his original role as the holding midfielder. But any concern over the loss of Chara was soon put to bed—Jewsbury brought a balance and maturity to the midfield that, surprisingly, has been missing over the last 19 games. I am not suggesting that Jewsbury should retain that role as an answer to ongoing problems, but lessons can be learned.

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The Dead and the Living

Posted on: July 13th, 2014 by Magadh No Comments

 

Obviously the big news of the day is that the World Cup Final is today. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Germans (although this looks a bit odd now as I’ve just written it), but I think they’re going to have to get a bit lucky to win this match. Argentina is as talented as any international squad that I’ve ever seen. Granted, they didn’t play all that well against Holland and, quite frankly, they haven’t played up to their full potential at any point in the tournament. This is kind of frightening when you think about it, since they’ve played quite well at points. But they can play better (with or without DiMaria) and that’s the kind of thing that should worry Germany and their supporters.

 

 

Before getting down the real business of this post (i.e. our match with the Sounders this evening) I wanted to say something about what we all might have learned from Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil. This can be summed up in one short phrase: joga bonito is dead. There was a time when Brazil played the beautiful game. In the era of Pelé, Garrincha, and Gérson they moved the ball around and befuddled their opponents with consummate skill. But those days are long gone. This is, in part, due to the fact that Brazil simply doesn’t have the quality of talent that it used to. After Neymar their primary attackers (principally Fred and Willian) were pretty ordinary. But it’s also the case that the style of Brazilian football has changed. The Brazilian domestic league, which was always a rough and tumble affair, now often features matches with 40 to 50 fouls. Thus, it was not totally surprising that Brazil’s match with Colombia featured 52 fouls, as that is how these players come up learning the game (even if the best of them depart for Europe after a couple of good years at Palmeiras or Fluminense).... Read More →

The Pacific

Posted on: July 7th, 2014 by john nyen 1 Comment

 

We played by light, the three of us, until the light was no more.

 

In the distance, the glow of campfires dotted the loose sand that was untouched by the waves of the Pacific ocean as groups of people gathered about to enjoy a gorgeous sunset that dotted the beach with flecks of pink, orange and golden yellow.

 

My nephew and niece have grown up with soccer and the love of the game from their very beginnings. My nephew was born during a World Cup year and the sound of the 2002 tournament was his prenatal drum beat.  His father and I sat on a couch together, 12 years ago, as two young men watching a tournament sharing in the fun and the pain, as my sister slept in another room.  My niece is just getting used to a new team and in her devotion to training you see the complications with the future of women’s soccer and need for things like a viable Women’s professional soccer league.

 

They passed the ball between each other and then rolled it across the expanse of sand to my left side as I collected the ball and shifted it out to my dominant right foot.

 

The light of the setting sun cascaded over the wet sand as the methodic thump of the ball punctuated through the sound of the rolling waves.  The cold Pacific Ocean soothed the pain that came from an aching instep after firing the ball down the sand with my bare feet as though I was leading her into a great scoring opportunity.

 

Earlier, we sat on the couch together during the heat of the day as the surf rolled outside and the players from Costa Rica and the Netherlands played their hearts out in Brazil. I talked to my nephew about anything that had to do with the game.

 

“I play myself on the Timbers” he said, holding his head slightly askew as Robben deftly pushed the ball and his body past a Costa Rica defender.

--

What game? The one you play on your tablet?

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“No that one is a different soccer game. I play whatever team they give me there. I play with FIFA on my X-Box 360 and I’m on the Timbers in that game, I made myself a character.”

--

Extra time rolled into a penalty shootout and I looked at my nephew as his stare flickered between the tablet in his hand and the screen on the wall. I realized later that he was playing as Argentina, virtually, while the game was going on.

 

Someone once said that kids are shameless front runners and that their love is easily manipulated by those athletes that are winners and popular at the time, and that appears to be the case in many situations. When I asked him his favorite player he said, “Probably Messi. I like Messi a lot”.

 

However, their sole love of a club team was manipulated by me as I gave them a Timbers Army scarf when they were very young and we, together, have never let go of that bond that we share.

 

Earlier, at the beach, a tiny child played in a tide pool with the Albiceleste draped about his shoulders and the tiniest Messi #10 you will ever see. We walked around him as his dad strolled by wearing his own Argentina kit and the proud look of a man who just watched his team qualify for the next round of the World Cup. In the distance, another child walked down to the beach with an England training top clad around his shoulders.

 

These kids are the mirrors to a culture of father and mother to son and daughter. They exude of the love of the game because we pass that love onto them, and in the love of the game and passing of traditions the game grows, as it does everywhere. This love passed between generations is immeasurably important, more than any advertising campaign or publicity the world over.

 

With the lights low and the setting sun silhouetting us against the rolling surf, the ball played in and out of the wet sand as the tide came in. My nephew practiced jumping up and receiving the ball in the air as he watched Messi perform earlier. My niece took the ball in stride with her bare feet and passed it back to her brother asking him, “Does it hurt when you pass the ball?”

 

He flicked a pass over my head as I charged into the surf, collecting the ball and sending it back into play with a touch of my left foot. As they shouted and played and danced in the distance, I was a boy of 10 again. I charged around the beach making plays, making mistakes, connecting with passes and trying stupid things.

 

Yet, I was also watching as a proud uncle as the kids experienced the true joy of the game in the pure poor simplicity that a ball, two kids, and an endless expanse of sand can bring.

 

This moment reflected those moments from 24 hours earlier when, against the backdrop of exploding fireworks and campfire smoke, we passed the ball around out on the beach with only the narrow beam of a flashlight showing where we were and where the ball was.

 

It is in these moments that we see the endless opportunity and pure joy of the game. It is in these moments that match fixing, bad defense, terrible owners, and poor sportsmanship rolls off our shoulders and we return to the truth that the game simply takes a ball and willing players.

 

The simplicity of the game, the simplicity of the action makes this game. It is the fact that every gender and every class of person can play. It is the fact that with the ball at your feet and the sand, grass, concrete, or turf underneath you that the world untangles from the mess that we construct around us into the simple act of kicking the ball to your young niece and nephew as they run and chase and believe that they are the greats of the world.

 

When the time came to leave, with hours left to go, his mother said to him…

 

“What do you want to do with your uncle before you leave? Do you want to go play mini golf?”

 

And he replied

 

“Ok, we can play mini golf, but then we can go to the beach, we can go to the beach and play soccer again, that’s what I want to do before he leaves.”

SoccerBeach