The Match

1:07pm – The gates are open at Jeld-Wen Field


It promises to be a special day for Timbers fans as two versions of the team face off against each other.

John Spencer returns to the place where it could’ve all gone so right what seems like so long ago. He takes charge of a team plucked from his time as head coach, while current head coach Caleb Porter will put out his XI.

The coaches met at a public “auction” for those players that significantly overlapped both regimes a few days ago, when it was decided by way of weighted ballot that Jack Jewsbury would play for Spencer’s team, while Darlington Nagbe would play for Porter, being a former protege of the young coach. That left Diego Chara’s status up in the air, but both sides came to an agreement that he would play one half for either team, beginning with Porter’s team.

We’re waiting of final confirmation of teams, but will update as soon we get it.

2:01pm


Club owner Merritt Paulson tactfully ducks the question of who he’ll be supporting. The atmosphere around the ground, building steadily, is positive. There are a few Scottish flags out there, wonder who they’ll be supporting today?

2:08pm- The teams are in


Porter’s XI – Ricketts; Harrington, Silvestre, Jean-Baptiste, Miller; W Johnson (c), Chara*; Nagbe, Valeri, Alhassan; R Johnson

Subs: Zemanski, Piquionne, Wallace

Spencer’s XI – Perkins; Smith, Brunner, Mosquera, Purdy; Alexander, Jewsbury, Palmer, Songo’o; Boyd, Cooper

Subs: Zizzo, Perlaza, Marcelin

2:12pm


Little surprise in Porter’s selection. Looks like a 4-2-3-1. It’ll be interesting to see how the change when they lose Chara at half-time.

Spencer’s team looks like a 4-4-2. Alexander’s inclusion possible thanks to a late deal to trade Wallace to Porter in exchange for Zizzo. Looks like Lovel Palmer will be given the man marking job on Valeri… That could be interesting.

2:56pm


Players leave the field. Even the old guys getting a good welcome back.

Spencer has the Timbers’ two top scorers in 2011 and 2012 in attack, so expect them to go direct and get them involved, but whether they can see enough of the ball to do anything is the big question. There’s not a lot of mobility in Jewsbury/Palmer in the middle.

1 min


The anthem has been sung, and “PT – FC” reverberates around the ground as Kenny Cooper and Kris Boyd get this extraordinary match underway.

6 mins


A cagey start so far, with Porter’s team dominating possession but finding it hard to penetrate the two banks of four that Spencer has set up with. Perhaps frustrated by lack of action near the box, Valeri wors a one-two with Nagbe, ghosting past a half-hearted Jewsbury challenge before unleashing a shot towards Perkins’ goal under pressure from Eric Brunner. The shot rises half a yard over the bar, with Perkins stranded.

9 mins


The pattern is set. Porter’s XI get the ball, build up patiently, but run out of space and time in the final third. Spencer’s XI are looking to get Boyd or Cooper in from a quick ball out of the back, with support from Songo’o or Nagbe. Neither having much joy in the final third so far.

12 mins


Drama! Harrington gets in down the left, released by a Will Johnson pass. Purdy is out of position, and Palmer, covering back, looks to foul Harrington right on the corner of the box. Harrington goes down, but the ball breaks to Nagbe, who takes a touch to steady himself before getting a shot off that is parried by Perkins, then cleared by Mosquera with Ryan Johnson poised to pounce.

Was it a penalty? It would’ve been mighty close. Caleb Porter doesn’t look pleased, but he should be – his team are in control here.

14 mins


Spencer’s team are having real trouble getting the ball going down the flanks. Alexander is drifting infield to compensate for the team’s lack of numbers in the middle, and Songo’o has been wasteful in possession so far. Boyd looks like he’s seen this before. Cooper is working hard, but is chasing shadows right now.

16 mins


A Perkins goal kick is returned by the head of Jean-Baptiste. Valeri and Palmer compete over the ball, with the Jamaican emerging in possession. He feeds it to Jewsbury and his diagonal pass into Boyd’s feet draws a clumsy foul from behind by Jean-Baptiste. Boyd’s down, could be hurt. Looks like an elbow on the back of the head.

18 mins


Boyd will continue, but is off the field for attention when Jewsbury takes the free kick. In all the confusion it seems Jean-Baptiste was booked. Jewsbury hits an inswinger to the back post, where it is met by Brunner. The ball thunders off the bar and over.

20 mins


Spencer’s team are starting to get some possession in the opposition half, but when Cooper tries to feed in Boyd, the pass is cut out by Silvestre. After some neat one and two touch passing, the ball finds it’s way to Alhassan on the left. He bamboozles Smith, leaving the Scot on the turf, before hooking a fantastic ball to the far post that drops between Ryan Johnson and Diego Valeri. Mosquera’s header falls right into the path of an onrushing Will Johnson, but he volleys it into the ground, and it bounces clear over the bar.

26 mins


The match has slowed down a bit. Porter’s team took the game by the scruff of the neck early on, but Spencer’s team have come battling back. They’re outworking Porter’s boys right now, disrupting their passing, but haven’t managed to get Boyd or Cooper involved enough.

29 mins


Chances have been few and far between. Porter’s boys have had a couple of sights st goal from distance, but Perkins hasn’t had to work. Boyd had a shot that was blocked by Jean-Baptiste.

30 mins – GOAL!


No sooner do I bemoan the lack of clear cut chances and then Diego Valeri conjures one out of nothing. The ball is chipped into him, with Palmer tight to his back. He holds Palmer off, and fends off the attentions of Jewsbury to lay the ball into the path of Nagbe. He drove past Palmer and rifled a low shot towards the far corner that was saved by Perkins, but the rebound went straight to Ryan Johnson, who reacts in time to push the ball over the line from ten yards. 1-0 to Porter’s Timbers.

32 mins


The goal has livened the place up a bit, and it’s no less than Porter’s team deserve. John Spencer is patrolling his technical area like a caged animal. He’s not happy with what he’s seeing, and no wonder. Despite having a spell on top, Porter’s boys have still had 64% of possession – and they’re outshooting their predecessors too. You have to fear for Spencer’s XI right now.

34 mins


2-0! No! But, it should’ve been 2-0. Ryan Johnson profited from a slip by Brunner to get through on goal and score low past Perkins, but it’s pulled back for offside. Replays suggest that Johnson was in line with Purdy when Jean-Baptiste had launched the ball forward.

38 mins


Some signs of life in Spencer’s team. Songo’o seems to have woken up, and he’s been giving Harrington a torrid time in the last five minutes or so. With a better delivery into the box, he could’ve got Spenny’s boys back into this, but his crossing has been poor so far.

42 mins


It’s all about Franck Songo’o right now. He turns Harrington inside-out, dumping him down before dropping a shoulder and going past Silvestre. His shot is blocked by Ricketts, but Jean-Baptiste clears the ball off him, the ball rebounding agonisingly wide of the post.

43 mins


Caleb Porter is the Timbers coach most looking forward to the break right now. His team are struggling to get their rhythm going, and Silvestre is almost caught out by Kenny Cooper when they tried to play it out from the back, but Jean-Baptiste was across to cover and clear the ball before Cooper could get it under control.

45 mins


Into injury time, there won’t be long, with both teams seemingly counting off time till the break. Spencer’s boys really picked up the pace after the let off with Johnson’s offside “goal” and pushed Porter’s team onto the backfoot.

45+3 mins – HALF TIME


The half-time whistle blows before Jack Jewsbury can take a free kick. It’s been a nervy affair. Both teams have had chances, but Porter’s have been more clear-cut, and they’ve taken one of them.

3:49pm


Given the way that Porter’s team were unable to really make their numerical supremacy in midfield count, they may use the enforced loss of Chara to change their shape a bit.

Spencer will mostly likely want to start the second half as they finished the first. Chara for Palmer seems the logical change, and may even give them that little extra drive in midfield that they need.

3:52pm


Rodney Wallace is out warming up. Looks like he’ll be replacing Diego Chara in Porter’s line-up. No word on who is out for Spencer’s.

3:57pm


The teams are returning to the field. Palmer is one of the first out for Spencer’s team.

3:58pm – SUBSTITUTIONS


Chara off, Wallace on (Porter’s XI)
Purdy off, Chara on (Spencer’s XI)

46 mins


Purdy sits out the second half. He did a decent job in the first half keeping Nagbe quiet, but didn’t offer much in attack to support Songo’o. Palmer slots in here, so we’ll see if he does any better. Chara and Jewsbury in the middle.

Porter’s XI look to be playing the same shape, with Wallace alongside Will Johnson.

49 mins


Darlington Nagbe picks the ball up right in front of the technical areas, and drives past Chara. He works a one-two with Valeri, and get the ball back on the edge of the box. With Palmer all over his back, he gets a shot off, which is saved, but goes down under Palmer. Is that a foul? The ref doesn’t think so, but Nagbe doesn’t look happy.

53 mins


A Jack Jewsbury free kick from the right is stopped from going out by a tenacious Steven Smith. The Scot curls a delicious ball into the area, but it’s too high for Boyd and Cooper’s attempt at a spectacular overhead kick puts the ball out for a throw-in. Cooper is claiming a push from Silvestre, to no avail.

56 mins – SUBSTITUTION


Alhassan off, Zemanski on

Porter makes his first unenforced change, putting on Zemanski to replace Alhassan, who has drifted out of the match in the second half.

58 mins


Yellow card for Songo’o. I’d almost forgotten he was on the field until he went diving recklessly in on Wallace. Wallace is fine, but Porter doesn’t look pleased with the Colombian at all.

59 mins


Porter’s XI continue to dominate possession (63%, stat fans). They’ve switched Wallace into the left forward role, with Nagbe going to the right and Zemanski in the middle with Johnson.

Chara and Jewsbury are doing well to choke the ball when it gets near the 18 yard line, but it’s leaving the two strikers ever more isolated.

60 mins


Valeri gets one on frame from 30 yards. He was looking to bend one into the far corner, but he didn’t get enough pace on it and it was easy for Perkins to get to.

64 mins – GOAL


Out of nowhere, we have an equaliser. Both teams seemed to be cancelling each other out when a loose pass by Valeri was pounced upon by Chara. He drove forward, riding the challenge of Zemanski before poking the ball in to Boyd. The Scot does well to get the ball out of his feet, and gets a shot off. The flight seems to catch Ricketts off guard and he fumbles what looked a relatively straight-forward save right into the path of Chara. It’s 1-1. and Chara’s got the goal.

67 mins


The goal seems to have stung Porter’s boys into life. The ball is moving noticeably faster along the ground, and they’re starting to push Spencer’s team back.

69 mins


Will Johnson should’ve made it 2-1. A Valeri free-kick wasn’t cleared by the defence, and in the melee the ball fell to Johnson on the six yard line, but he got his boot under the ball, and it looped up into the arms of Perkins.

71 mins – SUBSTITUTION


Cooper off, Perlaza on
Songo’o off, Zizzo on

73 mins


A decent shift by Cooper, though he didn’t manage to get a shot on target. Balanced surprisingly well with Boyd, but they were starved of the ball by Porter’s team. He gets a good ovation going off, and applauds the North End.

Songo’o had the spell before half-time, but has been very quiet otherwise.

75 mins


Perlaza had a chance to make it 2-1 for Spencer’s team, but he screwed his shot wide of the goal. Porter’s team had been caught up field when Jewsbury took a quick free kick. A long ball put in Boyd behind Silvestre, and the Scot laid it back for Perlaza on the penalty spot, but he fired wide with Jean-Baptiste closing him down.

78 mins


Porter’s team are getting a bit anxious on the ball. The final pass is being rushed, or overhit, and Silvestre looks to be feeling the pace out there.

80 mins – SUBSTITUTION


Boyd off, Marcelin on

Kris Boyd sees a shot from 25 yards blocked by Zemanski, and that’s his last kick of the ball as he’s withdrawn for James Marcelin.

81 mins


Both teams lining up in a 4-3-3, but Spencer’s team are much more towards the 4-5-1 end of the scale. Marcelin is stuck to Valeri like glue. Seems like Spencer is settling for the draw here.

83 mins – GOAL


Wallace and Harrington combine down the left, with Wallace outstripping Palmer to the byline. His cross is met by the head of Ryan Johnson, who had lost Mosquera, and Perkins is beaten. 2-1 to Porter’s XI.

84 mins


Spencer’s team almost equalise straight from the kick-off. Perlaza holds off Silvestre, and lays the ball into the path of Jewsbury, His first shot is blocked by Will Johnson, but he’s first to the loose ball, and manages to roll a pass into Alexander. His shot has Ricketts beaten, but it rolls just wide of the far post, with Harrington almost getting a touch on it for what would surely have been an own goal.

87 mins – GOAL


Another goal, and this time it’s game over. 3-1 to Porter’s team. A sequence of corners culminated in the fourth, swung over by Valeri. Perkins hesitates on coming for it and it drops perfectly onto the head of Silvestre, who makes no mistake. It’s been coming, but still, Spencer will think back to the Perlaza and Alexander chances and think of what may have been.

89 mins


Forty-one passes. I counted them all. Every one of Porter’s team touched the ball at least once. It began with Ricketts and ended with Ryan Johnson firing over from 20 yards. And that looks to be Johnson’s last action…

90 mins- SUBSTITUTION


R Johnson off, Piquionne on

90+2 mins


Two minutes into the minimum of three indicated for stoppages, and it’s almost 4-1, and what a goal it would’ve been. A careless backpass by Marcelin puts Perkins under pressure. The keeper’s hasty clearance dropped to Will Johnson in the centre circle. He took a touch and sent it arcing back towards goal from fully 50 yards. The ball dropped a couple of yards wide of the left hand post, and Johnson gets a consoling pat on the head from his opposite number, Jack Jewsbury.

90+4 mins – FULL TIME


The ref blows for full-time. Spencer and Porter exchange handshakes, jerseys are swapped on the field. Porter’s XI have won 3-1, and while that would be a fair result, it doesn’t tell the whole story of a match that could’ve gone very differently.

4:57pm


A special log slice presentation in front of the North End sees each of the players presented with a slice of their own.

Porter will feel the 3-1 result reflects the extent of his team’s control while Spencer may feel that things could been so different with a bit of luck here or there. In the end, the better team won.

5:13pm – Goodnight


Thanks for joining us on this special occasion. Two teams faced off today, but there are only one Portland Timbers. Players will come and go; some will leave positive impressions, some won’t. They same is true for coaches, but not for fans or the club itself. They remain, if you pardon the pun, rooted so that whatever the season, whoever wears the shirts, they’ll be there.

John Spencer leads his team out of Jeld-Wen Field tonight, for the final time. Though some may return from time to time, their work is done.

Kits

Playing around with photoshop, and bored – it’s a long offseason, after all – I was messing around with some fantasy Timbers kits based off some existing designs and, with nothing else going on here, I thought I’d throw them up here for the hell of it. Enjoy, or not!

“Ghost” stripes

“Ghost” stripes (alternate)

Thin stripes

“The Golfer”

“The Golfer” (alternate)

Thin hoops

Viva Cascadia

Viva Cascadia (alternate)

Red Stripe

City of Portland

Tartan

“Ghost” hoops

Gradient

Cascadia Green

More kits this way.

What Now 2: Electric Boogaloo

Okay. I’ll admit it; I’ve always wanted to write a blog post with “Electric Boogaloo” in the title. I was young in the Eighties. Sorry.

Anyway.

So; here we are.

The Portland Timbers are coming off a pretty ragged season with a team in some disarray and no head coach. The next time we’ll see the Boys in Green on the pitch will be in the spring, when – we hope – the new coach Caleb Porter will have brought some calm and order to the House of Pane, shattered by poor results on the pitch and broken by hard feelings off the pitch between the most hardbitten supporters and the interim coach/long-term general manager Gavin Wilkinson.

There has been talk of a wholesale housecleaning.

But in my opinion that is all it is; talk.

Given the approach that this team management has taken in the past, and what we’ve seen on the pitch this season and last, I cannot believe that who we will see run out on the pitch next season will be all that much different, either in form or in function, from what we have seen up until now. We will not suddenly see a side full of crafty veterans leading enthusiastic youngsters, all bursting with soccer skills.

As we talked about in the preceding post, we are likely to see many players of fair-to-middling grade MLS abilities… but many of them will have one or more limitations, ranging from trivial to significant, in their skill-set. And we will see a smaller but significant group that is better skilled – when they are at their best – but prone to maddening reversals of fortune, drifting in and out of matches, or in and out of the roster as their touch ebbs and flows.

That’s who we seem to be, that’s who Gavin and Merritt seem to find to stuff the Boot Room with. So that’s what we need to work with. That’s how we need to go forward.

We’re not going to be Spain. Let’s abandon the notion that we will ever have the quality to play “Timber-taka”.

We’re not going to be Germany, or France, or even Holland.

So.

We need to be Finland.

You say; OK, smart guy – how can we win as Finland?

Here’s how;

1. Play smart, not hard. OK, yeah, play hard. BUT play smart, too.

I heard a lot of talk on the ‘Net about how the 2012 Timbers lacked “heart”. How they didn’t play “like they cared”. How the team would roll over and die like a possum on the interstate when things went wrong.

But when I watched the team I didn’t usually see that.

OK, Dallas away? Yeah, crap, I saw it then.

But what I usually saw was a team that was tossed out onto the pitch without a plan. Without a through understanding of their opponents. I saw a group that had been given some vague instructions on what their coach wanted them to do, probably some offhand suggestions on how to cope with the opponents’ strengths, and then told to go play and see what happens. Not surprisingly, when our opponents then went through us like a dose of salts the guys got frustrated and confused; they felt like they had been out-coached and couldn’t win – from the stands that looks a lot like jackin’ it. But in my opinion it was pure coaching laziness; an approach that says, we’re just gonna go out and kick the ball around and hope for the best.

If you’re Spain, or Germany, or San Jose… you can get away with that. You have such dominant skills – even if those skills are the skills of a Lenhart; deep-dyed evil flopping and thuggery – that you can impose them on your enemy.

The Timbers can’t. Finland, remember, the plucky little guy?

For teams like us, teams with a thin roster and limited skills, each match has to be approached as a new challenge. Every opponent is a new day, a new plan. The team; the tactical plan, the roster, the communications, the discipline, needs to be adjusted to every match – and then constantly assessed during the match to re-adjust to the opponent’s moves.

Gavin, as a coach, was flat-out awful at this. Spencer seemed to pick this up from him; his “tactics” never varied. His starting XI seemed to be “whoever played well last match”.

We can’t win that way.

Merritt is going to have to give Porter the resources to do an extensive scouting and preparation for each match next season and the next on ad infinitum. And Porter will have to be constantly assessing both our team and our opponents to find the most advantageous matchups he can find. And then use his substitutions to counter their counters.

It will be nerve-wracking. It won’t always work. But I believe that it can work better than the past two season’s lassiez faire approach.

2. Play disciplined: you aren’t the dinosaur, you’re the small mammal that eats their eggs.

The 2012 Timbers were among the least tactically disciplined – and sophisticated – teams I have watched outside Vancouver away this past October and several U-12 sides in North Portland.

It showed in all aspects of our play. It showed in our backline the most; our repeated inability to catch attackers offsides, in our failure to mark and cover each other, in our backline/keeper communications. But it also showed in attack, in our inability to put together strings of attacking passes, or an attack that didn’t consistently breakdown inside the 18. It showed in out wasteful finishing, and our failure to get repeated chances on goal from an attacking series.

It even showed in something as simple as our throw-ins. I can’t be sure, but I’d think that we had the poorest ratio of throws to possession-from-throws of any team in MLS. We were just terrible at throw-ins.

Oh – and corners and free kicks! Gah! We were so good at that in 2011! The hallmark of a team that is dangerous from set-pieces is that the team will place the free kick where it wants to, and the players will get to the ball before the defenders. We took a huge step backwards there; our set-piece discipline was terrible in 2012.

See the theme here? We were either careless or wasteful on the pitch, and it cost us.

Overtalented teams can be wasteful. There will always be another chance, another shot, another corner.

Finland – sorry, the Timbers – can’t afford to be wasteful. They can’t afford to be careless. That shot has GOT to be on frame. That corner has GOT to be on a Timber’s head. Because it might be the one chance you get all half, or even all match. You HAVE to make it count.

Teams with good but limited skills can succeed with on-field discipline; hell, look at the entire history of Italian international football.

If Coach Porter can succeed in instilling that sort of discipline in this team, I think we should see some real improvement on the pitch in 2013.

3. Quantity has a quality of its own, but it’s a lot better and more fun to have quality instead

In my opinion, infusing more intelligence and discipline in our coaching and our play can take this group of players – or someone like them – further in 2013 that we have come so far.

But the problem is that to go further, we STILL have pieces that aren’t there.

Remember; the Soviets won in the end. Pluck, smarts, and discipline can only take you so far.

We still need someone who can create from the center of the midfield; someone who can provide service, start attacks, and provide a threat that will negate the current problem that if you take away the flanks the Timbers cannot generate attack.

We still need a right fullback who can be relied upon to shut down that wing.

We need Coach Porter to recognize this, and to insist that the team move the heavens and the earth to find and bring those players here.

———–

So here’s what I think is our bottom line:

We need a coach who understands the game, and how individual players, groups, and tactics can be tweaked to get the most out of that game. If I understand this correctly, Caleb Porter appears to be such a coach.

We need a group of players willing to be coached in such a way, and willing to adapt their game to take advantage of their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and work together to do that. We will see whether our players will be such a team.

But – to me most important – we need an owner and a general manager that understands that this is how a team like Portland moves forward.

I’m not sure whether Merritt and Gavin are such a management.

But we’ll see, won’t we?

————–

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put 2012 behind us and warm up the songs for 2013. RCTID- Onward, Rose City!

Stay present

Derby week.

I kind of hate derby week.

I especially hate this one.

There is so much going on. So much vitriol (yes, I totally stole that word from Merritt), so much derision, so much… expectation. The hopes of an entire season rest in this one match.

And I won’t be there.

I’ve struggled with this all week. And I think I’m making the right choice. I know I’m making the right choice. A friend, one of my oldest friends, needs some support and I’m choosing her over the derby. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to be in two places at once but, alas, I’m mortal and I’m needed elsewhere.

“You need to be present where you are.” These are the words one of our elders gives to me when I tell him I won’t be at the match. Be present where you are.

And I give them to you with a few more words: unity, togetherness, family. Those, too, are his words.

So be present in the moment. Remember for me every minute of the match, from two hours before to an hour after. Be present and remember.

Be together. Be united. Be strong and loud and proud and confident. Be an Army. Be the Army that raises this club. Again.

The world will try to tell you that soccer (or football or fitba or whatever you choose to call it) games are won on the pitch and not in the stands but I will tell you otherwise. You impact this game. You influence these players. You can change the run of play. You’ve done it before. You will do it again.

Do it for me. Bring me three points and the Cascadia Cup.


You can read more from Kristen at her blog.

[post_ender]

The Masters of the Universe

The Actors:

Jeld-Wen Field as Castle Greyskull

Merritt Paulson as He-Man/Prince Adam

Eric Wynalda as Skeletor

The Setting:

Thy social media beknowst as yon “Twitter”

“He comes, ensconced in flame and seeking the eternal mysteries of the inside of the fortress. It gives some kind of aura of power; it draws him, and calls to anyone who craves the power that resides within that fortress.”

Wait… Hold on a bit…… Too fantastical

“He comes, upon a fire breathing steed, bent upon destruction and the sanctity of his breed.”

Wait… Hold on a bit……Too Dragonforce

“Verily, prithee rest yon eyes upon fingers such as I bite my thumb at thee..”

Wait… Hold on a bit…… Too Shakespeare

This is a play; it is a one stage act, a plot of absurdity hashed out in modern terms with a level of pathos that would intrigue the Greeks. When did this all start? Where did this all start? Is the power of Castle Greyskull so striking that Eric Wynalda cannot resist the temptation?

Let’s recap quickly for those that don’t remember their adolescence or were born after “The Real World” started to air. Depending on which adaptation you follow, Prince Adam (otherwise known as He-MAN) son of King Randor and Queen Marlena (former rulers of the land of Eternia) lives in Castle Greyskull. This castle gives He-Man most of his supernatural abilities and physical powers. He-Man’s enemy is the ever mysterious Skeletor, described as both a “Demon from another dimension” and as well “Prince Adam’s uncle”. Skeletor is hell bent upon obtaining the power within Castle Greyskull for himself. Thus is set up a movie, cartoon series, merchandising line and comic book series with spin offs and discussions galore.

By the way… Dolph Lundgren at one point was involved…. Ask your parents about him.

Your mileage and investment in this particular story may vary and your comparisons (maybe to you the roles are reversed) may vary, but let’s be clear here. This internet conflict between Paulson and Wynalda, whether manufactured or not, has been entertaining as can be.

Paulson and Wynalda both share a bit too many characteristics to let things go and both tend to troll each other with baited words and sharpened comments. Much like He-Man and Skeletor were potentially related based upon which comic book you actually read or which morning TV show you remember.

By the by, the above comparison just made my head explode in a way that may render me incapable of finishing.

But, of course, I carry on for you loyal reader…

The Scene: Twitter

The Thrust: Needing a Job

The Parry: Interview?

Eric Wynalda – “For those who have been speculating- no was the answer in Portland – rumor stops here- no from them- not from me good luck @MerrittPaulson”

In the wilderness of Port-land, a lone man stepped to the parapets of Castle Jeld-Wen and yelled… BY THE POWER OF JELD-WEN (WINDOWS AND DOORS)!!!

Merritt Paulson – “Eric – how can “no” be an answer if you have never even had a conversation let alone an interview? I’m confused here”

The year: 2012

The Date: September 6th

The Thrust: A simple troll’s bait

Eric Wynalda – “Is it just me or does Caleb Porter resemble Lane Kiffin at USC? Lotta similarities there. Or maybe Merritt Paulson reminds me of Al Davis?”

Merritt Paulson – “Should I be worried that Eric Wynalda is obsessed with me? I have had one stalker ex-girlfriend but Eric is crazier than her. #nutjob”

Eric Wynalda – “@MerrittPaulson go ahead a file a restraining order- 972 miles should do. love what you’re doing up there- just stay up there- good luck”

Merritt Paulson – “I feel dirty even dignifying the guy. That’s it from me, Eric. Tweet away and enjoy the attention”

Certainly most of this war of attrition comes from the ability of both participants to love royally trolling the crap out of each other. Much also comes from the ability of both to think quickly and use sharpened words to attempt to injure/entertain each other.

The Scene: Détente

The Emphasis: You didn’t expect this?

The Reason: Just remember that things aren’t always what they appear

Merrit Paulson – “@Wynalda11 nice win last night. see you guys wed.”

Eric Wynalda – “@MerrittPaulson can’t wait. Bringing my son, who is 3, I always tell him “this is what soccer games are supposed to look like” gonna be fun”

This is the interesting give and take between the two, the hate and love, the round and round. Sometimes the banter resembles that of a brotherly rivalry, and sometimes the banter resembles that of a bunch of pissy kids who threw their toys of the room.

The Deal: Oh Valencia….

The Skinny: From Hell’s heart I stab at thee (or at least over a decaf skinny latte)

Eric Wynalda – “Can somebody explain to me how a kid who never practiced once needs surgery, out for a year? uh, medical? Valencia in Portland,”

Merritt Paulson – “I will explain it to you if you can learn to read before tweeting first. Seriously, you are a frickin twitter trainwreck.”

Eric Wynalda, as many of you know, is the talking head pundit of the two, allowed to roundly expound his own information to the minor masses who tune into Fox Soccer. Incidentally, at one point, Wynalda actually used to play soccer professionally. At this point, you would be hard pressed to find many people under the age of 30 who actually remember Eric suiting up next to his teammates for Club or Country. The man has simply replaced his legacy of playing with a legacy of punditry and outspoken statements.

In the end, Paulson has what every owner in MLS has that Wynalda desperately wants… That is… the Keys to Castle Greyskull.

In other words, Merritt Paulson has the ability to grant Eric Wynalda a job as a coach/general manager in Major League Soccer. The fact that Merrit Paulson or any other owner hasn’t “seen the light” and caved to Eric Wynalda’s resume is seen as an affront to that which will work.

What potentially roils Paulson is the ability of Wynalda to hoist the victory of a Wynalda-coached Cal FC team over Paulson’s own Portland Timbers in the US Open Cup. It doesn’t matter that the Timbers had a ridiculous amount of shots and even a penalty kick with which to seal the game, in the end knock out tournament soccer is a game of who won and who lost. On that night, Wynalda won, and Skeletor pranced victorious around the grounds of Castle Greyskull rattling his sword at the seat of He-Man.

Yet this back and forth will probably continue as both parties simultaneously proclaim that they will stop and then cannot resist testing that dagger once more.

The coaching carousel will turn ever more in Major League Soccer and the collective owners of MLS teams will summon their courage and shout “BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL” and Eric Wynalda will sit in his chair silently whispering “The power… will … be…… MINE!”


John Nyen writes for The Shin Guardian (it’s not as weird as this) and he has a twitter (it can be).

[post_ender]

The Sims

A little over a month has passed since John Spencer was let go by Portland Timbers, and still there is no head coach formally in place, though it seems an announcement will be made sooner rather than later on who will fill that role. It seems that the recent moves the club has made – trading out Mike Chabala and bringing in young Kiwi left back Ian Hogg – have been with the future head coaches guidance, or at least his assent.

Still, as long as there is no-one in place, speculation will continue. Stumptown had an article on the 10 possibilities for the role, and still it continues as Eric Wynalda’s ever tweet is scrutinised for any hidden message that shows he is Portland-bound is what must be the worst Da Vinci Code knock-off yet.

For a little change of pace, and filling the time before we can get back to talking about football again when the Timbers face Toronto tomorrow, I thought I’d use the armchair manager’s favourite tool, Football Manager 2012, to assess who is the best man for the job. I should point out that cos of the stupid way MLS works in the FM games, it’s a year behind, so essentially it’s the 2011 season (sorry Impact fans) with some of the 2012 roster – Boyd is in, yet Smith and Songo’o aren’t. But still, it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do with my time.

So without further ado, here are how 10 Realistic And Not-So-Realistic Candidates got on.

1. Gavin Wilkinson

Most Timbers fans’ worst nightmare as the “club icon” (seriously, he is according to the game – it’s not an exact science, bro) decides that he is the best man for the job after all.

All things being equal, they don’t have a terrible season. A somewhat respectable 6th place is achieved, but on the way Wilkinson does guide his team to Cascadia Cup glory, albeit on goal difference. Knocked out at the first stage of the US Open Cup by Philadelphia, it’s very much not a season that’ll linger long in the memory.

Interestingly (or not), 10 of the other 17 MLS head coaches lost their jobs during the season – more than in any other game. The Wilkinson Effect?

2. No Manager

It was left to the game to appoint a new manager and it obliged by giving the job to… Henning Berg, the ex-Blackburn and Manchester United defender. The big Norwegian guided the Timbers to 4th in the West, but lost out in the play-off semi-finals to New York.

The team fell at the first hurdle in the US Open Cup again, and despite beating the Sounders in Seattle (thanks to an improbable winner from Lovel Palmer), it the customers from the north who celebrate winning the Cascadia Cup.

3. Sean McAuley

McAuley gets the promotion to the top job and led the team to another 6th place finish, with no US Open Cup run to speak off. Vancouver waltzed off with the Cascadia Cup.

It was an odd season for Kris Boyd. McAuley didn’t seem to trust the big Scot as Boyd found it hard to pin down a starting spot. In 23 matches, Boyd got 8 goals while Nagbe matched that tally with only 4 starts and 14 sub appearances. What was odd about Boyd’s season was half his goal haul came in one match, and it was a match that would probably ensure Boyd and McAuley would, despite having a marginally worse season than Wilkinson, forever have a place in the hearts of the Timbers Army.

4. Steve Nicol

The former New England manager brings experience to the job, and that experience manifested itself in a stingy defence and even stingier attack. With 35 goals scored in the whole season, it wouldn’t surprise to learn there were 6 goalless draws. Thrills and spills aplenty.

He did managed to guide the team to a 4th place finish, before losing the play-off semi to, yes, New York and he at least won a match in the US Open Cup (just one, though) but all in all it was pretty dull fare though Alhassan would probably disagree as Nicol was the only coach to give him any significant game time.

5. Caleb Porter

Porter is lured away from University of Akron to take the Timbers job and, damn, he’s pretty good. It’s another 4th place finish, but he made it all the way to the conference final where the Timbers lost 4-2 to Columbus – the game falling apart when Jewsbury gave up an og to make it 0-2.

He coasted to a Cascadia Cup win with the best match being the Timbers victory at JELD-WEN against Seattle when late goals from Boyd, Palmer (?!) and Nagbe overturned a 2-0 Seattle lead.

Porter also gave the fans something to cheer about in the US Open Cup, putting the team into the 3rd Round proper where it all came to an end in typical Timbers fashion – defeat to a lower league club.

Out on penalties, with Boyd missing one. GCA would be having a field day with that. If it any consolation, Wilmington did go on to beaT Seattle 2-1 in the semi-final before being thumped by LA in the final.

6. Neil Emblen

The man who took charge of New Zealand at the Olympic Games is lured to Portland by promises of professional football and more Kiwis than you can shake a stick at.

It’s all a bit of damp squib in the end as the Timbers limp to another 6th place finish, winning a couple of matches in the US Open Cup and failing to beat wither Seattle or Vancouver as the Whitecaps take the Cascadia Cup. Had they not lost their last three matches they could’ve finished 4th, but it wasn’t to be with a 4-1 defeat to RSL really capping the season off.

7. Piotr Novak

The ex-Union bon viveur takes over in Portland to wild celebrations and impromptu street parties. Buoyed by such enthusiasm, the team surge to a 3rd place finish, racking up 17 league wins. The key being a defence as stingy as it was under Nicol, but with the ability to score goals now and then as well.

Nothing much to write home about in the US Open Cup, but he does give the fans a Cascadia Cup triumph to celebrate. It all falls apart in the post-season as 30 crazy minutes in the playoff semi 2nd leg against Chivas sees the team ship 3 goals and lose any chance of progressing.

For the first time there is some trade action as Novak brought in Marcelo Saragosa from DC United in August. And then didn’t play him.

8. Bobby Williamson

The ex-Kilmarnock manager leaves his post in Uganda. True to his “if fans want entertainment they should go to the cinema” philosophy, he serves up a lot of draws and not many goals.

Despite this, his team finishes in 4th place, losing out in the playoffs to LA Galaxy. However, he takes the Timbers all the way to the quarter finals of the US Open Cup before losing to Columbus.

His best moment was probably a come-from-behind win in Seattle, with the winner coming in the 88th minute from Sal Zizzo. Zizzo’s was traded to DC shortly after in exchange for Chris Korb and Austin da Luz as the winger never really fit in with his 5-3-2 formation.

He won the Cascadia Cup but, and this is as good a reason for him never coaching the Timbers, Seattle won the MLS Cup.

9. Marcelo Bielsa

Builder-confronting tactical genius Bielsa rocks up in Portland just to add to the weird quotient a bit.

El Loco never really seems to settle in MLS though. His 4-3-3 formation, with Boyd leading the attack, never really gets going and the team draw 16 of their games. However, he sorts out the defence is quick order – only 28 goals conceded and Troy Perkins (remember him?) leads the league in clean sheets.

So, despite the high hopes, it ends with a 5th place finish (and customary play-off semi loss to New York), a single win the US Open Cup and the Whitecaps taking the Cascadia Cup.

10. John Spencer

Merritt Paulson hits 88mph in his DeLorean and Spencer is restored to the top job. Where he absolutely slays it.

A 3rd place finish, with the highest points total of all follows a quarter final run in the US Open Cup. Boyd was on fire, scoring 17 times in 34 matches and Cameron Knowles was fired, in March.

A play-off semi final with RSL went all the way to penalties where the Timbers eventually lost out, 13-12. Mike Chabala missed the final penalty.

The downside was a Sounders double in the US Open Cup and Cascadia Cup. Oh, and Spencer traded Brunner to New York.

[table “2” not found /]

So, what to conclude from this? Well, it’s just a bit of fun. I actually ran an 11th season, with Pep Guardiola in charge. He was sacked in July after a run of six straight defeats, so clearly it’s not to be taken seriously.

As a nerd, it was fun to run through the different scenarios and see who came out on top. Lovel Palmer is ridiculously overrated in that game and became a star in every season while Nagbe and Alhassan struggled for games. I don’t know who does the stats for the Timbers in the game, but they really need to step up their game for FM 2013!

So, anyway, clearly we should’ve stuck with Spencer all along! Who knew?