blog

Portland Timbers

10 July 11:58 am

Cette semaine, Olivier Tremblay, collaborateur à MLSsoccer.com, se joint à l’équipe pour une émission à écouter ici et au menu encore très riche :
- Nick De Santis, directeur sportif de Montréal, nous parle des coulisses du transfert d’Alessandro Nesta, notamment du fait qu’il n’est pas joueur désigné. Il évoque aussi les renforts que son club cherche encore.
- Notre invité Aurélien Collin révèle les secrets de l’excellent début de saison de Kansas City, fait part de ses attentes en vue du Match des étoiles (All-Star Game) contre Chelsea et évoque aussi de sa passion, la mode.
- On analyse le Onze Populaire de la MLS, choisi par le public, avec Christian Schaekels de Vision du Jeu. Comment Ben Olsen doit-il compléter ce groupe, en fonction des qualités des joueurs choisis, du style qu’il prône et des qualités de l’adversaire, Chelsea ?
- Décevant sur le terrain, Portland limoge son entraîneur John Spencer.
- L’accolade entre Zakuani et Mullan après Seattle - Colorado.
- Les trois buts marqués par Saborio en un quart d’heure.

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur iTunes.

09 July 3:38 pm

MLS W.O.R.K.S. and MLS corporate partner Continental Tire announced their commitment to educate the next generation of energy users during MLS Cup 2011 and are participating in Bonneville Environmental Foundation's (BEF) Solar 4R Schools program. A solar panel installation was awarded to KIPP Los Angeles Preparatory School--also the location of an environmentally friendly service project that culminated Greener Goals week and included players from MLS Cup 2011 champion LA Galaxy.

In addition, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Continental Tire launched the "How Green Are Your Goals?" campaign as a way to engage MLS fans to participate and support environmentally friendly efforts leading up to Earth Day. Fans were encouraged to visit the Greener Goals website to share stories of how they incorporate green efforts into their everyday lives.

Thanks to the incredible support from supporters and fans, the Portland Timbers are the MLS W.O.R.K.S./Continental Tire "How Green Are Your Goals?" contest winners. A deserving school in Portland will receive a $50,000 solar panel installation as part of an MLS W.O.R.K.S. Earth Day 2013 community service project.

Timbers fan Jeffrey Briley was named the "How Green Are Your Goals?" Sweepstakes Grand Prize winner and has won a trip to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park in Chester, PA, and a set of tires, courtesy of Continental Tire.

Congratulations to the Portland Timbers and Jeffrey Briley for your outstanding commitment to the environment.

 

For photos from the event at KIPP LA, visit the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Flickr page.

01 July 6:21 pm

There's like a 99 percent chance that, if you're reading this blog post, you also watched the 2012 European Championship final between Spain and Italy.

It was awesome. Even if you had no rooting interest (full disclosure: I'm a quarter Italian, but was pulling for Spain), it's hard not to get caught up when the stakes are that high and the quality of soccer on display matches it.

And it just kills me that CONCACAF and CONMEBOL can't figure out a way to get a "Copa Américas" up and running every four years, starting immediately after the Euros. What an incredible opportunity the two confederations are missing.

Hopefully someday, they'll figure it out.

Anyway, only one real observation this week...

Scoring keeps going up and up and up

You should be reading Andrew Wiebe's Opta Spotlight every week. This past week's edition was especially good. Click me!

OK, now that you've read it, you know that teams are passing more, passing more accurately, passing more aggressively, and as a result (we assume), scoring more. Before this week scoring was already up 12 percent over last season's pace. That will have gone up some more, since in Week 17's 10-game slate there were 34 total goals.

And it's not just a blip. Since the end of the international break, MLS clubs have produced 100 goals in 33 games (thanks to Greg Lalas for that little tidbit).

It's the reversal of a 10-year trend. Back in 2001 MLS averaged 3.28 goals per game; by 2010, that was down to 2.46. Here's the whole table:

2011 -- 2.58
2010 -- 2.46

2009 -- 2.54
2008 -- 2.81
2007 -- 2.66
2006 -- 2.62
2005 -- 2.87
2004 -- 2.61
2003 -- 2.89
2002 -- 3.01
2001 -- 3.28
2000 -- 3.19
1999 -- 2.86
1998 -- 3.57*
1997 -- 3.26
1996 -- 3.37

The key thing here isn't just that MLS have imported guys like Thierry Henry (one of the league's elite finishers) and David Beckham (one of the league's elite chance creators). The league's also kept guys like Dwayne De Rosario and Brad Davis, who've both had overseas interest; they've developed highly rated talents like Chris Pontius and Will Bruin, who've both been given plenty of time to figure out where the net is; and, of course, used the Reserve League to help build Chris Wondolowski, who's turning into one of MLS' all-time greats.

It's a multi-faceted approach to finding and cultivating talent, and the numbers say it's working.

* For those of you who don't remember 1998 for one reason or another ... yes, that season was as crazy as the numbers indicate. Go find some YouTube clips of that year's Galaxy squad — it'll be worth your time.

30 June 12:22 am

Just in time for the seven games on the MLS schedule that are available on MLS LIVE this weekend, our developers have launched two new features for the live match streaming service.

Multi-game: Users can now watch up to three games at once
Game Alerts: Users can now get notified on screen about other game events.
 
This is available immediately for both live and archived content. Which is important, because you probably don't already watch enough soccer.
 
Go to http://live.mlssoccer.com to sign up for MLS LIVE and watch all the best MLS action live.
 

 
We're pretty happy about it. Hopefully you are, too.
 
PS - We're also working on new features on the iPhone/iPad in the coming weeks. Patience.
26 June 1:26 pm

Comme chaque mardi, Coup Franc passe de l’écrit à l’oral. Notre émission hebdomadaire est disponible ici. Au menu :
- Le match au sommet entre New York et DC United (résumé vidéo ; le 2-1 par Barklage). Quelles sont les forces et les faiblesses de ces équipes, leur bon classement actuel reflète-t-il leur réelle valeur ?
- La découverte de la semaine, Antoine Hoppenot, est notre invité. Voyez ici son but, le penalty qu’il a provoqué et sa première grosse occasion. Nous faisons sa connaissance, il nous parle de la cinglante victoire de Philadelphie contre Kansas City (résumé complet) et des changements apportés par John Hackworth.
- Nos choix pour le Match des étoiles (All-Star Game). N’oubliez pas de voter !
- Le tifo de Portland contre Seattle.
- Hassoun Camara, qui en est à sa deuxième saison à Montréal, connaît-il bien le Québec ?

L'émission Coup Franc est désormais aussi disponible sur iTunes.

25 June 2:57 pm

Whoa.

Timbers Army brought the heat this weekend at JELD-WEN Field, adding another epic tifo to the growing list of massive displays that seem to serve as the precursors to Portland-Seattle matches. (See Portland's King of Clubs and Seattle's Decades of Dominance for example.)

As you can see above, the banner stretched across the entirety of the north end of the stadium, creating an absolutely stunning tribute to the city of Portland and its soccer past. The Timbers Army hit all the right notes with this effort: the Portland skyline, city and cascadia flags and Clive Charles right smack in the middle as a focal point. That's soccer art, for sure.

Sounders beat writer Jeremiah Oshan wraps it all up here with a little more detail.

I'll leave you with one more image from the match, which had no shortage of talking points.

24 June 9:41 pm

I just went 2/9 on my weekend picks. This was after going 2/6 midweek.

It’s not because I’m bad at picking games (though lord knows, I’m not good), but it’s because the parity in MLS is just that hard to get a handle on these days. This is a league where players like Branko Boskovic and Chris Rolfe come off the bench, where Danny Koevermans goes from misfiring back to deadeye, and where a nine-point week is enough to vault you back into the playoff race.

Turns out the Galaxy aren’t dead yet

Sorry, I know this is going to annoy a lot of you. It’s always fun to try to shovel dirt on the champs – doubly so when it’s a high-profile team.

But it turns out that was premature. LA just rattled off three straight wins, including two by shutout. It’s too early to say they’ve returned to their 2011 form, but it’s also clearly too late to take back all the nasty stuff we’ve said about them over the past couple of months.

One thing to bear in mind: David Beckham said it came down to being happy and loose in the locker room, and that it’s cleared up only in the past couple of weeks. So whatever it was that was eating away at LA’s commitment went away when Robbie Keane did. Will it return now that he has?

“Emergency Defender” proving a rock in Philly

Last week John Hackworth said that youngster Amobi Okugo would be playing in central defense for the time being as an emergency measure. If his first two games there are any indication, he may never get a chance to move back to the midfield.

Okugo is simply excellent when the game is being played in front of him, showing good anticipation and understanding of both when and how to play outlets to the midfield. He’s also big and strong enough (6-foot, 170 pounds) to bully around in the box when it comes down to that.

Most importantly, though, he’s just a better player when he doesn’t have to have 360 degree awareness. This isn’t unusual – d-mids tend to mature later than other players precisely because it’s such a complex position.

But Philly already have two veterans (Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez) for that spot, and are paper-thin in defense. And the US… well, we know all about the plethora of defensive-minded central midfielders available to Jurgen Klinsmann.

There are, however, precious few young central defenders who’ve impressed on a game-to-game basis. Okugo’s off to a good start in that regard. Let’s hope he stays there, and we see a bit of him in the red, white and blue this January.

Why not build more Gordons?

Alan Gordon didn’t just become a good soccer player overnight. He’s always had a great passing eye, a good understanding of where to be in build-up play and a willingness to stick his nose in. Even if he’s not a 90-minute player, he’s still valuable. The past two months – and past two games especially – have been proof enough of that.

The thing is, though, that Gordon (and his teammate Steven Lenhart) were built by years of practice and occasional game time. Each of them took several years to get up to speed, and now the Quakes are reaping the rewards of both LA’s and Columbus’ hard work.

Which begs the question: Why don’t more teams take on young guys like Gordon and Lenhart then groom them for that specific role? While combing through MLS rosters, the only ones I’ve seen who are really, truly doing that are Columbus (with Tom Heinemann and Aaron Schoenfeld), Houston (Cam Weaver and Colin Rolfe) and New England (Blake Brettschneider).

None of these guys are truly ready right now – though Brettschneider is close, and Heinemann would have gotten there this season if not for his injury – but in two years, all of these guys can be looked at as Gordon or Lenhart-types.

Or, if you want to go with the original model: Brian Ching-types.

So yeah, putting a guy like that – a true center forward – out there may not be what Vicente del Bosque would do. But no MLS team is going to have Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Fabregas and Busquets to call on. If you’re not Spain, chances are you’ll need a target.

I’d want my team already hard at work making one.

21 June 10:57 am

This weekend, MLS will dial up the passion. It's time for some rivalry rancor, as Portland-Seattle (Sunday, 5 pm ET, ESPN) and New York-D.C. (Sunday, 7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network) take center stage.

Not only will the fans of the clubs be whipped into a frenzy, but the soccer culturati in the Rose City and in the Emerald City will be buzzing around to get their hands on these special-edition promo posters.

Portland

 

Sea​ttle

14 June 2:55 pm

Habrán perdido 2-1 ante México, pero la pasión de la gente de El Salvador hacia sus jugadores es admirable, especialmente hacia el defensa de los Portland Timbers, Steve Purdy.

El espigado salvadoreño-estadounidense tuvo una gran actuación ante los jugadores aztecas, logrando cumplir la difícil misión de marcar a Giovani Dos Santos y Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. La afición cuscatleca se hizo notar en Twitter, donde una y otra vez elogiaron el trabajo del jugador de los Timbers.

Estos son algunos de los mejores tweets:

A sus 27 años, Purdy se encuentra jugando su segunda temporada con los Timbers y aunque ha tenido tiempo limitado en el campo (3 partidos como titular), dejó demostrado ante México que es lo que El Salvador justamente necesita para afrontar las difíciles eliminatorias mundialistas.

06 June 6:50 pm

Manchester United.

That’s the match – back in July 2010 – that many MLS observers still hang on to when it comes to reminding themselves of the promise of former Philadelphia Union striker Danny Mwanga.

But the magical days in a Union shirt for the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick have been few and far between in the last two seasons.

Mwanga’s last goal for Philadelphia in MLS play? It came nearly a year ago (June 25, 2011).

The 20-year-old has been on the field for 61 league matches over three seasons and found the back of the net in just 11 of those games.

One reason for the limited production is injuries. Plenty of them. Rarely will you find a third-year player who has missed matches due to the same variety of injuries: hip, right knee, groin, hamstring, shoulder and a case of sore ribs after falling on them in practice earlier this season.  

If Mwanga’s durability to withstand the physical rigors of MLS is a concern, his lack of production without Sebastien Le Toux is downright alarming. Of his 12 goals in his MLS career, nine came off assists from Le Toux. The other three were unassisted.

In MLS you have to be tough and you have to be ready to adjust to any situation and any player. That’s why the Union are better off with the experienced Jorge Perlaza.

The Timbers highlighted Perlaza's speed when they acquired him at the start of last season and we’ve seen signs of how much of a factor it can be. But not in the goal-scoring department. Six goals in 32 starts – none this year – is nothing to write home about.

However, put Perlaza’s production into perspective: The Timbers are a team that don’t score many goals in general, whether Perlaza is there or not. In fact, only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Timbers this year. It was the exact same story at the end of last year.

Does Mwanga have more upside? Sure. He also brings good hold-up ability and the potential to playmake and create his own opportunities. But that’s also what Darlington Nagbe was expected to bring at the second forward position.

Mwanga’s integration into Portland’s system and his impact on Nagbe’s position will be fascinating to watch. It may not prove as seamless, however, as Perlaza who has the traits to be the perfect partner for hard-working compatriot Lionard Pajoy in the Union attack.