Is it too early to party?

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by sunshine 13 Comments


Monday the Timbers kept the thirsty among us glued to the internet as they announced several key moves every 15 minutes. It was so well planned that as they finalized their morning even the more skeptical among us followed the trail of pebbles to the water and we drank. It all seemed too good to be true—Kah was declined, Kalif was declined, Nat Borchers was introduced, another Colombian  who seems to have all the ingredients Kalif never possessed was brought in to add width, pace and power, and to top it all off Ricketts was replaced with a young, World Cup keeper.



It is promising to learn that the manager now understands that MLS quality defenders are needed to tighten the defensive areas that have been so lose in the past. The moves for Nat Borchers and Adam Larsen Kwarasey—say that name fast 5 times—round out the club’s search for a solid defensive corps that began when they brought in Liam Rdigewell.

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Live From Stumptown, It’s Monday

Posted on: December 8th, 2014 by john nyen 11 Comments


No alliteration here. We here at The Axe (and by we, I mean me) will keep a running update today of all the casulaties from the Timbers Monday "We need stability" trade announcements.

First Up:


8:00 AM


Fullback and Vince Neil coverband member Michael Harrington sent from the Timbers to Colorado for Al O'Cation Money, the least visible and most frustrating Timber who has been lost and re-acquired nearly 4000 times since 2011.


8:18 AM


Timbers Acquire  Ghanaian international goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey to  the team thus bringing to light the following scenarios


#1 A young promising international goalkeeper

#2 A young promising international goalkeeper from a league that is difficult to scout or see players perform

#3  A young promising international goalkeeper from a league that is difficult to scout or see players perform who played with at least two members of the team.

#4 A young promising international goalkeeper from a league that is difficult to scout or see players perform who played with at least two members of the team who is from two countries (Norway by way of Ghanian heritage) that the Timbers have used before in USL and MLS


If you are keeping track this is the center square of Gavin Wilkinson Bingo


Welcome Adam to the PTFC and someone start the Vespa for Andrew Weber.


8:28 AM




It sound like the purported transfer of millions of millions from somewhere in La Liga have not yet materialized. We will be keeping track of this rumored proposal as time ticks onward. Meanwhile, I transfer listed Kalif in FIFA 2012 again, for funsies.... yet I got three offers on Peter Lowry. Possibly for his twitter references. #SocialMediaGameOnPoint


 8:30 AM


Timbers sign Colombian forward/winger Diaron Aspirlla.


Aspirlla is 22 going on 23 and would appear to be taking the place of Steve "Seattle Sounders are my favorite team and I didn't play defense for them either" Zakuani.



Update: According to the press release from Timbers FC "Playing primarily as a right winger," which should cause everyone to unreasonably freak out about the future of Darlington Nagbe.


Clearly this "playing as a right winger" means that he will not be the replacement for Zakuani, but the whole "playing" thing should have tipped you off to that fact.




 8:38 AM


I just frantically called Real Madrid to verify any Kalif to them rumors, they responded with a "Who" and hung up. I then called Marca and planned a rumor about his potential while indicating that Pele said he was "The item of the future" without informing them that Pele was talking about a chicken sub from Subway.


 8:42 AM


We here at The Axe would like to remind you that Billy Beane is a nob and moneyball is reliant on your scouting and signing team being better than nearly every other team in the league at identifying value otherwise you end up with inconsistent years where talent doesn't perform like you expected. I'd also like to remind you of Kris Boyd, Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeremy Hall, Kosuke Kimura, and the backloaded contract to Pa Kah.*


*(Note: This is the opinion of one man only and should not be taken as a statement from The Axe in total)


8:45 AM


Timbers sign 33 going on 34 year old Nat Borchers. Borchers is apparently a clean shaven lad from somewhere in Ut-Ah.


All kidding aside, Borchers is insanely durable although his overall effectiveness was greatly reduced last season in the air and on the ground. It is worth noting that a 45 year old Borchers is still better than McKenzie, O'Rourke and Kah. Welcome Nat!


Borchers will hopefully have a one/two year career revival at PTFC ala Will Johnson.


Check out Borchers statistics for Games Played.



 8:52 AM







8:54 AM


I have been informed that Asprilla has two feet. Rumor is that he will be donating his left to Darlington Nagbe in return for some locally made gluten free chocolate and a tall bike.


8:57 AM


The Rumors of Kalif being traded for a 10 sided die are, apparently, false.

The Portland guild of Dungeons and Dragons supporters apparently could not be swayed by velvet capes and canes made of unobtanium.


9:00 AM


Well, nothing happened exactly at 9:00 so lets talk about how much better Borchers is than the other options the Timbers had last season. By an order of Magnitude, Borchers is the King Burrito to Kah's Acupulco's Gold.


 9:04 AM


Alvas Powell is still on the Timbers roster but now as a Timbers player. Hopefully this is the Alvas Powell of late 2014 and not the Alvas Powell of early 2014.


Still Powell has upside in bags, all supporters should just wish that his game experience and mental game were as strong as his legs and lungs, at times.


9:07 AM


I just emailed the tweed party for their take on the Kalif situation.

Honestly, it sounded like they were just having too much fun looking for vintage tall bikes and picnic blankets.


9:15 AM








9:16 AM


And we're back!


Timbers sign Brazilian defender Jeanderson Salvador Pereira. 


9:17 AM

Pereira appears to be a 23 year old left back



9:20 AM


Hyperbolic reaction of the day: Brazilians are FANTASTIC defensively.


Real Reaction: I've never heard of this player and I have no idea if he will be good or not, but hopefully he plays more games than Kerrea Gilbert.


9:25 AM


I just mainlined some Pop Rocks and yelled at a squirrel for not making the right pass.




9:26 AM


9:29 AM


Perhaps if Jeanderson's career doesn't pan out he can take up a position on Timbers in 30 with Gregor.


9:30 AM


It's time for that slow jam of notifying the players as they drop their kids off to school of them not returning to the team.


The Timbers declined the 2015 contract options on midfielders Kalif Alhassan and Steven Evans, and defenders Bryan Gallego and Pa Modou Kah. Alhassan is eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Additionally, the club announced that forward Jose Valencia was sold to Argentina’s Club Olimpo Bahía Blanca, while Evans has signed a contract with T2.

Defenders Rauwshan McKenzie and Danny O’Rourke are out of contract and have not been extended bona fide offers. Both players will be eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft.


9:32 AM


It happened? Where was Getafe?


9:33 AM


The Timbers finally announce Trencito's departure and dump the heaving beat of the dumpster fire of the Timbers defense in the 2014 season by dismantling O'Rourke, McKenzie, and Kah from the roster.


It is certainly sad to see that Gallego didn't pan out for the team as they expended a player (Kimura) and a draft pick to acquire the talent from Akron.


9:34 AM

Other than the list of protected players for the draft, many mysteries from the PTFC offseason have been illuminated. The interesting thing will be, as usual, to see if the elements selected can coalesce into something that resembles a team. The talent has been updated at the centerback position, but no one can honestly say what they expect from the new fullback acquisition or whether Kwarasey will be an upgrade at the goalkeeping position over Ricketts.


As usual, we wait for the games to be played in order to see how the defense comes together and how the team reacts. Hopefully the loss of Kah and McKenzie will themselves be an addition by subtraction.


10:00 AM


From initial views the team worked on things that it needed to fix from the 2014 season. It improved the CB position by acquisition and loss. It got younger with the GK position and traded a down season (Harrington) for an unknown. It appears to have a acquired a winger with quick feet who can play with both his left and right.


For all we know Jeanderson is Brazilian for Ryan Miller, but I'd rather go ahead with the Miller I don't know in 2015 than the Miller I do know.  At the very least, the Timbers attempted to work on the things that really hurt them in 2014, and that shows a reason for cautious optimism. Hopefully this is only the beginning of solidifying the lineup from the substitutes on up.


 11:34 AM


Here at The Axe, we like to explore the coincidences between things, and we did some digging.


Out of the four players acquired by the Timbers today, three of them had connections to the team through agent or direct player contact.


Nat Borchers: chose Portland after talking to Will Johnson

Adam Larsen Kwarasey: Agent for Kwarasey is the agent for Paul Addo, the left back that trialed with the Timbers in 2012. Addo was, as well, playing in Norway at that time. (oddly enough, he was with Odd Grenland, Nat Borcher's old team)

Jeanderson Salvador Pereira: Agent for Pereira is also the agent for James Marcelin and Kleberson.

Dairon Rivas: UNKNOWN


12:48 PM




Otherwise known as, "the MLS Protected lists approach". Today is the day for all things MLS player related and the cull of players gathered together hunger games style to feed the machine of transfer equity destined for the pristine playgrounds of Orlando (where they have amusement parks) and the Bronx (where they have baseball) arrives.


Thusly, toot the horn and begin the rabbling discourse of "Who, what, where" as we all take the trip down the rabbit hole of whatever MLS wants the front offices to do today.


There is no word, yet, if Jack Jewsbury will volunteeer for the sacrifice necessary to protect Liam Ridgewell from the stain that results on the soul of those who step out onto the field of Yankee stadium.


1:48 PM


Theoretically, we hear something in 12 minutes with regard to protected lists. At this point then there will be gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes, or not.


Either/Or.... we creep closer to that time.






2:00 PM


Predictably, the news isn't out.... yet.




In the mean time, try to imagine the whirling tornado of madness if Diego Valeri wasn't protected. I'm imagining that would be the worst case scenario for nearly every Timbers fan.


2:11 pm


Here's a picture of a hamster with a cape.



2:15 pm

Still Waiting for the MLS Protected lists.


2:20 pm



2:25 PM



2:30 PM


The new report from those concerned is that the protected lists will be out in about 30 minutes.


3:00 PM


Who Took the Over?!


3:34 PM


The list is out.


As follows.


Portland Timbers


Available Players
Alhassan, Kalif
Fernandez, Gaston
Jewsbury, Jack
Kah, Pa Modou
McKenzie, Rauwshan
O'Rourke, Danny
Paparatto, Norberto
Ricketts, Donovan
Villafana, Jorge
Fochive, George
Gallego, Bryan
Gleeson, Jake
Nanchoff, Michael
Peay, Taylor
Weber, Andrew


Protected Players
Adi, Fanendo
Borchers, Nat
Chara, Diego
Johnson, Will
Nagbe, Darlington
Powell, Alvas
Ridgewell, Liam
Urruti, Maximiliano
Valeri, Diego
Wallace, Rodney
Zemanski, Ben


Homegrown Players exempt from selection
Evans, Steven


Generation adidas Players exempt from selection
Tshuma, Ntokozo (Schillo)


3:37 PM


Johnson makes the protected list, while Villafana does not. As well, the currently negotiating with the team, Gaston Fernandez, is left unprotected.


There was an argument to be made that no one would select a 1.5 million dollar centerback, but the inverse of that argument is that Ridgewell has a competent sports agent who included a no-trade clause in his contract.


3:48 PM


Certainly the statement to be made from the Timbers front office is that they are fully comfortable with a Brazilian defender being the theoretical starting left full back for the team.


"In stating his bio the front office said:


"four appearances for Brazilian side Santa Rita in the 2014 Copa do Brasil, as the team reached the tournament’s Round of 16. Signing with Santa Rita in July 2014, Jeanderson started both legs of the third round as Santa Rita earned a 4-3 aggregate win over Santa Cruz to reach the Round of 16. "



Hold On:


Top of the league Serie A:

Team Home city Stadium Capacity
Atlético Mineiro Belo Horizonte Independência 23,018
Atlético Paranaense Curitiba Arena da Baixada 43,000
Bahia Salvador Fonte Nova 51,708
Botafogo Rio de Janeiro Maracanã 78,838
Chapecoense Chapecó Arena Condá 22,600
Corinthians São Paulo Arena Corinthians 48,234
Coritiba Curitiba Couto Pereira 40,310
Criciúma Criciúma Heriberto Hülse 19,300
Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte Mineirão 58,170
Figueirense Florianópolis Orlando Scarpelli 19,908
Flamengo Rio de Janeiro Maracanã 78,838
Fluminense Rio de Janeiro Maracanã 78,838
Goiás Goiânia Serra Dourada 50,049
Grêmio Porto Alegre Arena do Grêmio 55,662
Internacional Porto Alegre Beira-Rio 50,128
Palmeiras São Paulo Pacaembu 37,730
Santos Santos Vila Belmiro 16,798
São Paulo São Paulo Morumbi 67,052
Sport Recife Ilha do Retiro 35,020
Vitória Salvador Barradão 35,632

Relegation to the second league ends you up in Serie B:


Team Home city Stadium Capacity 2013 season
ABC Natal Frasqueirão 15,082 14th in Série B
América de Natal Natal Arena das Dunas 32,000 13th in Série B
América Mineiro Belo Horizonte Independência 23,000 9th in Série B
Atlético Goianiense Goiânia Serra Dourada 41,574 16th in Série B
Avaí Florianópolis Ressacada 17,537 10th in Série B
Boa Esporte Varginha Melão 15,471 11th in Série B
Bragantino Bragança Paulista Nabi Abi Chedid 17,022 12th in Série B
Ceará Fortaleza Castelão 67,037 7th in Série B
Icasa Juazeiro do Norte Romeirão 16,000 5th in Série B
Joinville Joinville Arena Joinville 22,400 6th in Série B
Luverdense Lucas do Rio Verde Passo das Emas Stadium 5,000 3rd in Série C
Náutico Recife Arena Pernambuco 46,000 20th in Série A
Oeste Itápolis Amaros 13,044 15th in Série B
Paraná Curitiba Vila Capanema 20,083 8th in Série B
Ponte Preta Campinas Moisés Lucarelli 20,970 19th in Série A
Portuguesa São Paulo Canindé 21,004 17th in Série A
Sampaio Corrêa São Luís Castelão 24,584 2nd in Série C
Santa Cruz Recife Arruda 60,044 1st in Série C
Vasco da Gama Rio de Janeiro São Januário 24,584 18th in Série A
Vila Nova Goiânia Serra Dourada 42,000 4th in Série C


Relegation from this ends you up in Serie C:



Relegation from this ends you up in Serie D:


Group A1 Atlético Acreano Genus[2] Princesa do Solimões Rio Branco Santos-AP São Raimundo-RR
Group A2 Guarany de Sobral Interporto Moto Club Remo Ríver-PI
Group A3 Baraúnas Campinense Central Coruripe Jacuipense
Group A4 Betim Confiança Globo FC Porto Vitória da Conquista
Group A5 Anapolina Brasiliense Estrela do Norte Itaporã[3] Villa Nova
Group A6 Goianésia Grêmio Barueri Luziânia Operário-MT Tombense
Group A7 Brasil de Pelotas Cabofriense Guarani de Palhoça Ituano Maringá
Group A8

See: Santa Rita aren't located in that Serie D as they didn't make it. They play in a local league called


Campeonato Alagoano


In which (as described by Wikipedia)


The Campeonato Alagoano is divided into three stages.

  • First stage: double round-robin, in which all teams play each other home-and-away games. The first place wins a spot on the third stage.
  • Second stage: home-and-away playoff with the top 4 teams of the first stage (1st place x 4th place, 2nd place x 3rd place).
  • Third stage: home-and-away playoff between the winner of the first stage and the second stage. If the same team wins both the first and second stages, it is declared the Campeonato Alagoano champion.

The worst two teams after the first stage are relegated to the second division.

In which we find the team

First Division

Second Division

  • Sport Clube Santo Antônio
  • Igreja Nova Futebol Clube
  • Sociedade Esportiva São Luiz
  • Associação Sportiva São Domingos
  • Sociedade Sportiva Sete de Setembro
  • Centro Sportivo Alagoano (CSA)

So to answer a question unasked.


Jeanderson Salvador Pereira appears to have come to the Timbers from the 5th division of Brazilian soccer.


4:26 PM

Here's the home stadium for Santa Rita

A thanks given

Posted on: November 28th, 2014 by john nyen 1 Comment


2014 was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times... but if the season were a character in the Dickens' masterpiece it would go to the guillotine primarily out of principle.


2012, bro.

Can anyone tell me where this defense came from?


However, it must be reminded that despite the lament of so many of us, we do the things we do about the Timbers because we care.


This central core ideal must be repeated. We analyze, complain, cheer, make banners, make flags, drive hundreds of miles, fly thousands of miles, spend our money and just tune in at odd times on the television because we care. When we write critical columns here (and Clive knows that we do) it isn't because we are so misanthropic that we must find fault in everything, it is simply because we care about the way in which the team plays.



The game is the attraction, despite all the trappings around it, and the game is a gift to all of us. It is in the game that we temporarily find our way out of a bad divorce, a mountain of debt, a bad week, or a frustrating job. The game is simultaneously incredibly difficult and monumentally simple. At the professional level, it is 22 people divided to 11 per team who can't touch the ball with their hands. Sure there are things like handball, offside and fouls that complicate matters. However, the game itself is so incredibly simple as to be confounding by that simplicity. Sometimes it becomes so easy to over analyze what happens in front of us that we create mountains of statistics to explain that someone ran from point A to point B with a ball and nothing happened.


The game remains something that you can play with just two people as well as with 22 people. You can play with balled up socks, barefoot in the street with no lighting.



You can play in nearly every climate at every level of income and every gender.



The game, itself, is the reason why we go to the stadium and cheer. The highs and the lows, the unbearable tension that ratchets up when a goal isn't scored, the nearly orgasmic release of energy that happens when a ball goes over a line and makes the net ripple.



And one of the great things about the game is that the love of it is something that we can pass down to those around us, whether new fans or old.


So when I explain to my daughter about all the things Portland Timbers, I will tell her about the Sunshine and Sunflower goals, the man that is Ryan Pore and the complex story of Fadi Afash. I will tell her of Timber Jim, You Are My Sunshine, David Horst playing until he was broken, Scot Thompson, and Clive Charles.


I will tell her of Diego Valeri and how he was one of the most amazing players to ever wear Timber green. I will tell her of how the hope of 2013 was eviscerated so completely in 2014 and lead all of us down a path of dark recollection. I will tell her about how the drums and trumpets made her kick in time before she was even born, and that the songs of her infancy were loudly belted out despite watching a team that was struggling.


And I will tell her that "Believe Beyond Reason" is reserved for what happens on the field not in the front office, and that being critical, passionate, serious as well as silly and self deprecating about the things that you care about is something worthy of praise.


We are all lucky that we are able to pass along the stories that we have experienced and been told onto another generation of fan, whether to children or just to new individuals who have come to love the Timbers. We are all lucky, in Portland, that we stand in the same location as our fore-bearers and that we have a stadium and team with history that is palpable every time you go through the ivy covered entrances. It is important that this sharing of history and tradition happens, that those who came before educate, illuminate and invigorate those to come. This team is more than a club, it is a line of history that extends beyond the simple bounds of the current ownership, management and team. This club belongs to the fans even as the stewards change over the years and decades to come.



And we can all be thankful that we have our families, whether related by blood, by love, by circumstance or by a club that means more than we can appropriately, succinctly, and logically explain, at times.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you are, and find the good, heartfelt, personal things that make this day special.


Happy Thanksgiving, one and all, from all of us at The Axe, and thank you for taking your time to read the things about which we feel so passionate



2014 Postmortem: Part 3

Posted on: November 17th, 2014 by john nyen 1 Comment


Continuing our look back at the 2014 Timbers season we move onto topic,


#3 The Timbers were exposed defensively against better teams at the fullback position leading to unpredictable and poor play at the back.


The 2013 Timbers certainly didn’t have the same issues at fullback that they did at centerback during the 2013 season. While the combination of Rodney Wallace covering over Michael Harrington on the left ended up with Harrington and Wallace getting national team call ups, the right side of the defense was a bit less reliable with the veteran central midfielder Jack Jewsbury frequently used.


Talk to the Hand.

Talk to the Hand.

Teams began to pick on the side covered by Jewsbury using players with speed to match up against him with decent results from a play perspective. While Jewsbury compensated against the speed of the opposition with positioning; this methodology of defending often pushed him back forcing the team into a one sided offensive attack that was manifested, far too often, with the ball being forced down the left side of the offense.


While Jewsbury did an admirable job, considering that this is not his natural position and considering that he was 31 going on 32, the long term viewpoint of his contribution at that position was not of a permanent move. Jewsbury is not a speed player, he is a thinking player, and while he attempted to out-position players defensively, teams in the league very clearly started targeting his side of the field as the one to attack because of his athletic culpability.


"Into the MIXER" - Every announcer

As noted above, Rodney Wallace and Michael Harrington, in 2013, seemed to have a pretty dynamic partnership on the left. However, as a matter of the way in which he was tasked to play as well as his own style, Harrington frequently had the ability to get caught up field in transition and Wallace would be required to back up Harrington’s offensive forays. This all fell apart in 2014, when Harrington’s dashes up field were frequently not covered defensively due to Wallace being out injured for the first half of the season and this lack of defensive effort by the players on the field exposed the centerbacks and goalkeeper of the Timbers on build up play and counter attack opportunities.


The purchase of Steve Zakuani and the attempt of the Timbers to cover the left with defensively liable players like Gaston Fernandez placed more emphasis on Harrington to be defensively sound and his inconsistency with being defensively sound made the Timbers pay for pushing their fullbacks into the attack. Harrington was eventually replaced in the lineup on the left side by new acquisition Jorge Villafana on May 24th 2014 in a win against Red Bull New York.  Villafana started 8 straight games before sitting out six games for seemingly a variety of reasons which started with an injury and then morphed into the excuse of "the hot hand” a methodology that Porter seemed to employ religiously in 2014.


Villafana also benefited from having Rodney Wallace starting above him in the formation as he started all but 3 of the games in which Wallace started in 2014. It certainly could be argued that the lack of Wallace in the lineup has something to do with the seeming decline of Harrington’s play at left back in 2014, of course perhaps Harrington was always going to regress to the mean. However, Villafana seemingly solidified his grasp on the left back position by the end of the 2014 season providing defensive cover and occasionally a superb delivery from that position. He was, for 2014, one of the few positive upgrades over the course of the season.


As for the right back position, the season was a mixed one with Harrington, Jack Jewsbury, and Alvas Powell tried out at that position with Powell the heir apparent by seasons end. Powell is the proverbial gem stone not polished, at this point in his career. He easily had one of the worst moments on the field in 2014 with a horrendous red card tackle against Columbus. After this game, Powell was sent to Sacramento Republic on loan.



Powell missed 14 straight regular season games due to his loan and came back into the MLS lineup on August 30th, 2014 in a win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. It certainly appeared that Powell’s time with Sacramento gave him more game time that the player needs,as he appeared to be more settled at his position. However, it remains to be seen if the sometimes irrational and wild swings of the early season 7 games or the seemingly more stable late season 8 games will define the Alvas Powell of the future.


As it stands, the Timbers have Harrington and Jewsbury as the backups for the left and the right with the 20 year old Powell starting at the right back position and given that they still do not officially own the Powell’s rights, it remains to be seen if he continues playing with the Timbers or not. As well, Taylor Peay showed well in his limited appearances during the US Open Cup and the pre-season. Peay is an interesting option who will hopefully receive more playing time either during the pre-season or during the regular season with Timbers 2. It must be said that while Powell shows both maddening inconsistencies and interesting play, that he has yet to show that he can maintain any level of consistency over the course of an entire season. Timbers fans can only hope that if he shows a massive level of progression in 2015, that the progression happens in a Timbers uniform.


Of course here is where we stop and set the gentle reminder that the expansion draft is coming up. It is entirely possible that Jewsbury and Harrington will both be left unprotected. This of course doesn't mean that either would be selected, but it certainly feels like the Timbers will be again acquiring new talent to bolster the fullback position on the team in 2015.


In the end, the Timbers suffered at the fullback position during the 2014 season on both the right and the left before finding some measure of defensive solidarity late in the season.


While the fullbacks and the issues with them don't, in my opinion, define the 2014 season; the continuing issues in finding a stable back four partnership does define every season in Major League Soccer for the Timbers. The Timbers going forward can argue that they have some pieces to build with at the fullback position, however they must be careful entrusting their lineup to merely serviceable players given the huge inconsistencies shown by this same group over the course of the last season or two.


My honest belief is that one can look at the past signings that the Timbers acquired at the fullback position as an indication of the level of import that the Timbers place on the position. As such, I would expect the team to make some moves with existing players and attempt to fill the roster out at that position with a 100k or less level player for 2015.

Chabala, Mike hall_140x200 Miller, Ryan I Purdy, Steve Smith, Steven Timbers.KimuraMug.LP002Palmer, Lovel_0 (1)


2014 Postmortem: Part 2

Posted on: November 6th, 2014 by john nyen 7 Comments


Continuing the postmortem of the 2014 season we move on to what I consider the main issue that the Timbers had in 2014, the Defense.


#2 The Timbers were exposed defensively against better teams at the centerback position leading to unpredictable and poor play at the back.


The 2013 season ended because of the two centerbacks of the Timbers: Full Stop.


Exhibit 1:



Exhibit 2:


Exhibit 3:


Futty Danso and Jack Jewsbury goal allowed (more on Jack Jewsbury and the fullbacks later)




With three of the four goals in the first leg of the playoffs, the centerbacks directly either lost their defensive marker or simply had poor plays to allow chances on goal. This wasn't an isolated incident as the entire game Salt Lake had chances only to see a number of them parried away by Donovan Ricketts.


This kind of play is indicative of the games played against the top level teams in MLS by this duo of Pa Modou Kah and Futty Danso, who despite their record forged at the tail end of 2013 were exposed repeatedly by an excellent Real Salt Lake team setting the blueprint for how teams played in 2014 against the Timbers.


The front office and coaching staff’s offseason tweaks for 2014 were to send off Andrew Jean-Baptiste (a frequently used, yet temperamental centerback for the Timbers) and acquire Norberto Papparato from Argentina while not re-signing Mikael Silvestre after his rehabilitation from ACL surgery.

The front office hope was that Paparatto would pair well with Pa Modou Kah and offer stability at a position that has frequently vexed the Timbers.


While the Danso/Kah partnership reaped rewards at the end of the season in 2013 it was really a result of excellent defensive shielding play by the midfield and some magnificent saves by Donovan Ricketts, who had a career year.


The Paparrato/Kah partnership didn’t even get a chance to get off the ground as Kah was substituted out with a hamstring injury in the first half of the first game of the season. Kah didn’t make it back til the 3/22/14 game against Colorado by which point Paparatto didn’t even make the 18 (groin injury) after giving up a goal by way of a penalty kick for a shove in the back in the game previously. During the first 8 games of the 2014 season, the Timbers were subject to repeated mistakes at the center back position which repeatedly cost them points.


Whether it was Paparatto giving up a goal by way of a penalty kick against Chicago,



Futty and Jewsbury letting Deshorn Brown slip by them in Colorado that resulted in Donovan Ricketts completely boneheaded kung fu kick red card or Kah and Futty missing their man in the Colorado game which resulted in Webber giving up a penalty kick, the center back position ineptness defined the Timbers season in 2014.

Paparatto started two more games (a loss against Dallas and a home debacle against Seattle) after coming back from injury after the Colorado game and was then left on the bench for seven straight games before coming into the team as a substitute during a road win in New York.


There is an often used phrase in Major League Soccer that it often takes imports from South America a long time to adapt to the league and despite Diego Valeri’s immediate impact this appears to be true when it comes to Paparatto.


Whether it was the rotating partnership that he endured with Pa Kah, Futty Danso or any other warm body put back there to work with him or the change in style of the game or the culutural change that comes from moving to the United States, learning a new language and trying to settle, it really took the arrival of another centerback from England to bring out the best in Paparatto.


After four months of inconsistent play at the core defensive positions on the field, the Timbers signed Liam Ridgewell on June 25th 2014.  The addition of Ridgewell was an attempt to shore up the problems that arose in 2014 with injuries and inconsistent play.  The Englishman trained for a month with the team before making his starting appearance with the team against Colorado in a 2-1 win on July 18th 2014.



Prior to Ridgewell’s first appearance the Timbers were 4-6-9 (W-L-D) on 21 points after 19 games and coming off a four game streak without a win having dropped games to Seattle and Kansas City and drawing Dallas and Los Angeles. The team was second from the bottom of the west and 5 points below a playoff position. Ridgewell started his first Timbers game next to journeyman Danny O’Rourke who was signed May 27th 2014 with the Timbers attempting to create depth and solidifying their lineup.


It must be said that the root of all the troubles during the 2014 season was the complete lack of ability that the Timbers had at the defensive positions. Whether through injury, poor play or poor partnerships, the Timbers centerback position was a revolving door of fecklessness.


No Timbers centerback played more than 2000 minutes for the Timbers with Pa Kah the highest minute getter, grabbing 1749 minutes during the regular season. The Timbers rotated through Kah (1749), Ridgewell (1350), Paparatto (1049), O’Rourke (975), Futty Danso (866), and Rauwshan McKenzie (496) with the rapidity of a roadrunner on speed. Despite setting a club record in MLS for goals scored (61), the team also allowed 51 goals on the season, just 5 fewer goals than they allowed during the calamitous 2012 season.


If the root of the problems in 2014 come from the defense, than the mother of all of the issues was germinated directly from the 2013 offseason where the team attempted to improve the defense by switching out one player and relying on depth that was porous at best.


We must have a small word about the acquisition of Danny O'Rourke, as well. Brought in to provide depth, O'Rourke shuffled around the back line of the Timbers somehow knocking out 975 minutes after it started to become clear that Porter was taking the approach of "Who hasn't screwed up, raise your hand" with the back line. O'Rourke started the season unaffiliated with any team in MLS, attempted a trial with Toronto and Seattle before waiting for the Timbers to offer him a stellar $55k salary. O'Rourke's acquisition allowed the Timbers to then almost immediately shift Futty Danso's "massive" $85k salary to Montreal for a 2015 draft pick. While Danso was not particularly sterling in 2014, the Timbers decided to cut 33k, pick up a player who was just doing some wind sprints for fun, pick up a draft pick that may or may not pan out and eventually start O'Rourke in the decisive game of the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions league, which the Timbers lost. For the front office sake, one hopes that the 2nd pick in 2015 ends up more like Darlington Nagbe and less like every one of the other draft picks that the Timbers have acquired so far.


Chinstraps are OVER.

As well, there is the fact that the Timbers lost assistant coach Amos Magee to DC United and replaced many of his tasks with long time USL Timbers defender Cameron Knowles. Certainly the downturn in result from the defensive perspective asks the question of all members of the Timbers from the front office to the players to the coaching staff. The appointment of Knowles seems to exist within the methodology of the Timbers staff to promote from within rather than searching for experienced coaching staff outside the Timbers family.


2013 First place to 2014 First place: The Conference Connection #FistBump

While the issue with the Timbers was seemingly the result of many of the players return to the mean, the issue really is that the front office and coaching staff was forced to react during the middle of the season as their offseason plans simply did not pan out. While Paparatto played much better with a competent centerback partner during the late stages of 2014, the team philosophy of standing pat with all their players and acquiring one during the offseason simply did not work.


By the end of the 2014 season, not one single player that started the first game of the season on the Timbers back line started the final game of the season.



The current Timbers centerback options at the end of the 2014 season are:








Given the issues seen during the last season, I would expect that the Timbers would make moves during the 2014 offseason to shore up the position by not keeping McKenzie, O’Rourke or Kah. They need to acquire another CB pickup to challenge Paparatto for the second starting CB position and find bench players that can competently play when called upon in need. Kah’s salary is simply too expensive to expect him to sit on the bench and he has not shown to be a player that excels in Caleb Porter’s system that requires defenders to play with a technical ability and be able to snuff out danger from the counter attacks that teams frequently use against the Timbers.


So far, it appears that the midseason acquisition of Liam Ridgewell has been a positive one for the Timbers and his partnership with Paparatto brought the best out of the Argentine defender. However, it remains to be seen if the defenders can provide a long term pairing that allows the Timbers to succeed.


With regards to Ridgewell, he appears to be a player that the Timbers can utilize going forward, but it must be recalled that he has shown the ability to switch off defensively as he did during two of the three goals that Olimpia scored in the final game of the CONCACAF Champion’s league in Honduras. I would think that all fans of the Timbers would like to see a full season with a stable centerback partnership before we start anointing Ridgewell as the savior of the Timbers defense.


In short, the 2014 offseason is now as important to 2015 as the 2013 offseason was important to 2014. The 2013 offseason may have yielded negatives for the Timbers in defense but they have the chance to correct those issues by adequately addressing the issues from 2014 by focusing on improving the options available at center back.



Your A$$ Or A Hole In The Ground

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 by john nyen 5 Comments


Things you can find, Things you can touch, Things you might see differently while drunk, Things that you may not know the difference between....


Things an owner would say

Let's stick with things that you can find for right now, before shifting into "Do you know the difference between?"


More specifically, here we talk about player acquisition and development. Appropriately done, player acquisition is the lifeblood of a team. Inappropriately done with high contracts and poor player fit,  it will hamstring a club for years.


Here's the ALL-TIME PORTLAND TIMBERS MLS PLAYERS list organized by position with notations as to whether they are still with the team and statistical total summary.


We will do it like this:


Player Name (alphabetically) - Current Status with Timbers - Where they are now


Adi - Timbers Player
Boyd - Not With Team - Rangers FC
Cooper - Not With Team - Seattle Sounders
Dike - Not With Team - Toronto FC
Fucito - Not With Team - San Jose Earthquakes
Eddie Johnson - Not With Team - Retired
Ryan Johnson - Not With Team - Henan Jianye (China)
Mwanga - Not With Team - NY Cosmos on loan from Colorado Rapids
Perlaza - Not With Team - Millionaires
Piquionne - Not With Team - US Creteil (Ligue 2)
Richards - Not With Team - Not with any team (physical rehabilitation)
Umony - Not With Team - Not with any team -
Urruti - Timbers Player
Valencia - Not With Team (despite what you may read) - Rosario Central


TOTALS: 14 players - 2 with team - 2 not playing any professional soccer - 1 retired- 63 goals scored 

Note: Despite what the Timbers website might say, Darlington Nagbe and Gaston Fernandez very infrequently play as a true forward and therefore are included as midfielders. As well, Valencia is NOT with the team and Tshuma was on loan, which means that the Timbers had only 2 forwards for the second half of the 2014 season.


Alexander - Not With Team - Red Bull New York
Alhassan - Timbers Player
Braun - Not With Team - San Antonio Scorpions
Chará - Timbers Player
Fernández - Timbers Player
Jewsbury - Timbers Player
Will Johnson - Timbers Player
Lowry - Not With Team - Retired/Assistant Coach with St Mary's College
Marcelin - Not With Team - Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Moffat - Not With Team - FC Dallas
Nagbe - Timbers Player
Nanchoff - Timbers Player
Pore - Not With Team - Retired
Ring - Not With Team - Indy Eleven
Songo'o - Not With Team - PAS Giannina
Valeri - Timbers Player
Wallace - Timbers Player
Zakuani - Not With Team - Retired
Zemanski - Timbers Player
Zizzo - Not With Team - Sporting Kansas City


TOTALS:  18 players - 10 with team - 3 retired - 99 goals - 121 assists


Brunner - Not With Team - Houston Dynamo
Chabala - Not With Team - Not playing professional soccer
Danso - Not With Team - Motreal Impact
Goldthwaite - Not With Team - Retired
Hall - Not With Team - Wilmington Hammerheads on loan from Toronto FC
Harrington - Timbers Player
Horst - Not With Team - Houston Dynamo
Jean-Baptiste - Not With Team -Chivas USA AKA Dispersal Draft Player
Kah - Timbers Player
Kimura - Not With Team - Red Bull New York
McKenzie - Timbers Player
Miller - Not With Team - Retired
Mosquera - Not With Team - Aguilas Doradas
O'Rourke - Timbers Player
Palmer - Not With Team - Chicago Fire
Paparatto - Timbers Player
Powell - Timbers Player (on loan from Portmore United)
Purdy - Not With Team - Retired
Ridgewell - Timbers Player
Silvestre - Not With Team - Chennaiyin FC
Smith - Not With Team - Rangers FC
Villafaña - Timbers Player


TOTALS: 22 players - 8 with team -  2 retired - 1 not playing any professional soccer


Bendik - Not With Team - Toronto FC
Brown - Not With Team - Retired
Gleeson - Timbers Player
Kocic - Not With Team - Retired
Perkins - Not With Team - Montreal Impact
Ricketts - Timbers Player
Weber - Timbers Player


TOTALS: 7 players - 3 players still with team - 2 retired


Evans - Timbers Player
Fehr - Not With Team - SC Sagamihara
Fochive - Timbers Player
Gallego - Timbers Player
HOGG- Not With Team - Metro AFC
Kawulok - Not With Team - No Team
Long - Not With Team - Seattle Sounders
Lopez - Not With Team - Sacramento Republic
Peay - Timbers Player
Renken - Not With Team - Arizona United
Rincón - Not With Team (ON LOAN) - Tigre
Taylor - Not With Team - No team
Thompson - Not With Team - No team
Tucker-Gangnes - Not With Team - Retired
Tshuma - Timbers Player


TOTALS: 15 players - 5 with team - 3 not playing any professional soccer - 1 retired





76 different players - 28 still with the team - 9 retired - 6 not playing any professional soccer 


Both the defense and forward position are a wasteland of jettisoned contracts over the last four years. The defense only retained 8 players for four positions moving 14 to other teams. Meanwhile the forward position only has two players left (unless you count rookie Tshuma) having moved 12 to other teams/destinations. These numbers reflect those players who played at least one minute in the MLS regular season, for obvious reasons.


The best value for the Timbers has clearly been in the midfield which has scored a whopping 99 of the 189 goals scored by the Timbers over the last 4 seasons.


Given that the Timbers have had a poor defense for 3 of the 4 seasons that they have played in MLS, this continuing acquisition/divestment of players in that category is hardly surprising.  The worry is that after four years, the Timbers haven't, yet, found consistency in the back line. As well, I would anticipate that there will be more losses either from contract negotiations, expansion draft, or players not making the cut to the back line numbers in 2015.


The midfield numbers could, as well, see some change in the 2014 offseason with some players getting older and more likely to not be protected in the expansion draft as well as others retiring.


These names and numbers will be important to track, going forward as a measure of the front office success in acquiring talent and putting them in a position to succeed.


48 players lost over 4 seasons is an average of 12 per season. That means that for better or worse, the Timbers have turned over nearly half of their available lineup every season with virtually the same results, excepting one season (2013).


But wait.


In 2012, the same year they fired him, the Timbers front office gave a 3 year extension to John Spencer.


Before we start throwing around that this is a big deal that the Timbers add/remove that many players from their 30 every year, lets look at some things.


Is that a big deal? Does anyone know? I mean, I'd like to know if that makes a difference. It seems like something that could make a difference. It seems that every year I hear that roster stability is the key to success but I'd rather have the numbers to back that information up than relying on hearsay.


Well, here's the information...


Here's some of the player acquisition numbers over the past 4 seasons for a number of teams. First we have the best and worst teams for the past 4 seasons. (I picked 4 seasons because that is how long PTFC have been in the league)



Seattle - 1st in MLS - 19 players acquired 17 players let go

Montreal - 19th in MLS - 16 players acquired 14 players let go



Red Bull New York - 1st in MLS - 21 players acquired 20 players let go

DC United - 19th in MLS - 14 players acquired 12 players let go



San Jose - 1st in MLS - 7 players acquired 4 players let go

Toronto FC - 19th in MLS - 16 players acquired 18 players let go



LA Galaxy - 1st in MLS - 14 players acquired 10 players let go

Vancouver - 18th in MLS - Expansion team, all players technically new/let go


So if anything, one can say that somehow the team that won the Supporters Shield in 2014 and in 2012 had dramatically different methods of player acquisition.


Seattle picked up 19 players and four of those brand new players were in the top 10 of total minutes for the team in the same year they were acquired. Five of the 19 had over 1000 minutes and Kenny Cooper was only 11 minutes away from joining that party.


San Jose picked up 7 players and two of them had meaningful minutes for the team with only one player of those two making the top 10 in total minutes on the team.



Ok, but you you might say that most of those numbers seemingly defy any kind of pattern and to that I will say, well... yeah.


For example, a comparison in number of acquisitions, number of minutes played for the best and the worst team in the league in 2014.


Player name: Minutes -- Salary as reported by MLS players union (these are not exact numbers)


Seattle 2014 acquired player numbers:

Frei : 3060 -- $150,000
Marshall : 2790 -- $286,666.67
Cooper : 989 -- $265.625
Kovar : 25 -- 48,700
Okoli : 19 -- 48,750
Barrett : 867 -- 85,000
Bowen : 60 -- 70,000
Anibaba : 1283 -- 159,620
Lowe : 0 -- 68,500
Pappa : 1931 -- 75,000
Ockford : 0 -- 36,504
Pineda : 2233 -- 80,000
Azira : 606 -- 51,147.54
Weaver: 31 -- 49004.00
Parsemain : 0 -- 54,486.81
Long : 0 -- 36504.00
Apam : 0 -- 60,000

TOTAL MONEY SPENT = 1.62 million


and then we have


Montreal 2014 acquired player numbers:

Miller : 1646 -- 68,500
Gonzalez : 80 -- 50,000
Pearce : 1822 -- 100,000
McInerney : 1804 -- 294,166.67
Nakajima-Farran : 540 -- 110,000
Danso : 231 -- 87,500
Larrea : 428 -- 48,500
Krol : 961 -- 153,000
Piatti : 450 -- 387,500
Gagnon-Lapare : -- 40,504
Duka : 1023 -- 190,000
Jackson-Hamel : 132 -- 36,504
Soriola: 0 -- 120,000
Beland-Goyette : 15 -- 36,504
Bissue: 0 -- 48,500

 TOTAL MONEY SPENT - 1.7 million (this is cap hit as Piatti costs more due to his DP status)


So based on this small sample size the key  isn't exactly "spending more money" than the other folks (although having the resources to do so certainly helps). I mean none of us regular folks are privy to the actual numbers paid to the players but we can simply estimate based on the numbers the players union releases.


Ok, so what other pieces of information do we have.

How about player acquisition numbers for some of the teams that either won MLS cup over the years and/or perennially made the playoffs?


LA Galaxy
2014 -- IN 9 OUT 10
2013 -- IN 8 OUT 12
2012 -- IN 9  OUT 13
2011 -- IN 14  OUT 10


Sporting Kansas City
2014 -- IN 10  OUT 10
2013 -- IN 11  OUT 11
2012 -- IN 12  OUT 12
2011 -- IN 15  OUT 12


Real Salt Lake
2014 -- IN 7 OUT 9
2013 -- IN 13 OUT 9
2012 -- IN 9 OUT 5
2011 -- IN 9  OUT 6


Seattle Sounders
2014 -- IN 19 OUT 17
2013 -- IN 13 OUT 15
2012 -- IN 16 OUT 17
2011 -- IN 10 OUT 7


LA won the cup in two straight years by signing the most and one of the least amount of players over five years, while the year that KC won MLS cup was one of the lower acquisition years the team had in the last four seasons.


Final Thought:


There appears to be no evidence in the past 4 seasons with information from many of the clubs in MLS that turning over your roster is necessarily a bad thing. The issue is, as always, that good acquisitions will make your team better and bad acquisitions will make your team worse. The same could be said about keeping poor talent on your roster or overpaying for mediocre talent. If this is done repeatedly then the issue becomes the fact that the people in charge don't know what they are doing.


I say that again, if there is a problem in acquiring talent and making it mesh this is a front office and coaching staff problem. There is seemingly no problem with amassing talent, only the wrong talent and the wrong coach/system. SEE: Real Madrid with the right manager versus Real Madrid with the wrong manager.


There is, sadly, a gulf of talent between (for example) Rauwshan McKenzie and Nat Borchers. There is also a gap of about 188,143 in pay.  This is, however, not a direct comparison. The problem comes from the issue that Borchers played 2856 for Salt Lake in defense where the highest minutes winner for the Timbers defense in 2014 was now deposed left back/right back Michael Harrington with 1749.


Basically the highest minute getting defensive player for the Timbers in 2014 played half the minutes that Nat Borchers played for Real Salt Lake. By the end of the season, the Timbers defensive minutes were upside down with Harrington and Kah being the highest two players getting minutes with Jorge Villafana sneaking in there to break up a sandwich between "timbers players that don't start with the highest minutes" with Jack Jewsbury right behind him.


It seems that the Timbers issue is not exactly all about stability and more about having players playing that aren't starting level quality. When the players regress to the mean, the Timbers then either search for a replacement after the fact or rotate through other players til they get a result and then they stick with that player.  Perhaps Harrington's performance in 2014 wouldn't be so stilted if he had a better defensive player over him than Steve Zakuani, Kalif Alhassan and Gaston Fernandez. After all, when the Timbers played at their best in the last four seasons (2013) their leaders in minutes were their starting LB, their starting GK, their starting midfielders, and their starting RB (along with a CB they subsequently traded). So as you can see there is an argument to be made that stability is good, but stability is only good if the players are, also, good. Giving Pa Modou Kah 3465 minutes over two years with hugely varied results is probably an indication that you haven't found a stable back line with reliable players, yet. As well, paying him $245,000 to sit on the bench in a salary capped league is, to be very honest, very close to insanity.


Smart ownership has a way of signing good talent, turning over the roster, getting rid of problem players and working with the coaching staff to finesse the roster to perfection. Poor ownership is reactionary and sign with limited success leading to fluctuations in talent level and results.

An elegy of sorts…

Posted on: October 30th, 2014 by sunshine 23 Comments


Yesterday, Steve Zakuani announced on his website that he was retiring from professional football because his body could no longer handle the strain and pain. It is hard to not feel bad for the man—a career cut short by a reckless challenge and a series of recurrent injuries attributable to that initial injury. And it is that sentiment that will kill any efforts towards objectivity. But do try to be real.


Evaluating Zakuani’s contributions to the Timbers 2014 season is a rather simple calculus. First, thanks to those recurrent injuries, he could no longer run. Without that speed he was simply average. Without that speed he was predictable. Without that speed he was hopeless. If you watched any one of his games you too would be convinced that he never once stepped foot in Arsenal’s academy system. His contributions to the offense were one goal in the Champions League and three regular season assists and that was all. Such a lack of productivity from a man who once led collegiate scoring with 20 goals in a single season would have been forgivable had he devoted even an inkling of a “give-a-fuck” to his defensive duties. But even that was outside his skill set.


The reality is that after one year with the Timbers he will be remembered as a nice guy. Despite the fact he is an ex-Sounder, being a nice guy could well be enough to persuade some of you to speak glowingly of his time with the club. But do not kid yourselves, he was an empty kit. I will not echo the sentiments of the Timbers apologists and revisionist historians by suggesting Steve Zakuani’s announced retirement will have any effect on the club other than releasing a cool $150K for other, better players. And hopefully his exit will trigger the exit of several other players, who contributed similarly to the mediocrity that tricked us all into an uncomfortable, post-season optimism. If so, we might actually realize the potential of this club.


This off-season is going to be a test of the technical director’s mettle and the coach’s vision. But haven’t we seen that combination already? Following the Timbers exit from the 2013 playoffs, they failed to adequately address the defensive frailties exposed by Real Salt Lake, opting to stick with two USL caliber central defenders and an untested Argentine. It was that same combination of mettle and vision which made the mensa-like decision to select Zakuani in the re-entry draft.


It has been a knock on the modern game that loyalty no longer exists in football. While loyalty to players who once helped build your name and career is admirable, it is equally stupid. Porter’s loyalty to Zakuani is understandable—he scored goals for the Zips and brought Akron a national championship. But that player died in Colorado, when Brian Mullan made this tackle:



Look, the Timbers had to bring in someone who knew the system and could potentially fit in seamlessly while Rodney Wallace recuperated from his ACL injury. But if this is the type of acquisition we can expect from Wilkinson and Porter when they must replace injured starters then we should be very concerned to see who they determine is an adequate replacement for Diego Valeri. That is the main point of this article, not to condemn Zakuani to the annals of another useless Timbers player, but to suggest that his deficiencies highlight the club’s deficiencies in need assessment and replacement. The Timbers were one point away from making the playoffs with a healthy Diego Valeri; imagine where they will be without him. If the Timbers make a similar acquisition for Diego Valeri's replacement we can already prepare the second line for 2015’s funeral.