Speaking from past experience, there are few adventures in sports that trump away days. When I think about all of the hours in my pre-professional blogging life spent on my feet with a song coming out of my mouth the best memories often center around stadiums that were not my club's home ground.
These golden moments don't just happen though as they require an incredible amount of coordination between the clubs, the supporters and (hopefully) a good travel agent. And, for the most part, they aren't the quick, 1-hour jaunts associated with some European leagues.
In a league that connects two coasts and spans two large countries the distance a supporter can travel for a match is more often than not extreme by world football standards. This excerpt from a recent article in The Guardian highlights this fact best:
"The average journey for North American fans is still one of the longest you would undertake in most other leagues; the bigger journeys are more expeditions than road trips; Portland Timbers fans going to New York is the same as going from London to Baghdad. LA Galaxy at Boston is longer than Tokyo to Manila.
The journey those Fire fans made to Toronto clocked in at 1,000 miles round trip, and that's their second closest game; in England, no-one can travel that far at all, and it's pushing the longest trip most European fans would have to make. Only fans in Russia can hold a candle in terms of the distances traveled to see a team play, and even there, the average distances tend to be exaggerated by a small number of teams in Siberia and the far-east."
Seriously, there are fans out there who are logging more air miles than Chelsey Sullenberger these days and I salute them for it. Special acknowledgment to those who travel to and from Canada to be with your team; anyone willing to brave both the TSA and customs for only a 33.3% chance at witnessing a win is alright in my book.
Admit it: You can’t stand noobs. They’re always just a little too quick to pull out the over-the-top display of enthusiasm for whatever it is they don’t know how to do.
This week’s episode of IFC sketch comedy show Portlandia highlights the problem with newbies when Peter and Nance, an eccentric, overly eco-conscious couple played by the show’s stars — Saturday Night Live mainstay Fred Armisen and indie rock veteran Carrie Brownstein (Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney) — go to their first Portland Timbers game with a flag they designed to show their support for the team.
Yes, it is as tragic and funny as you imagine.
“It’s funny and weird because I’m not usually a sports person and I don’t live in Portland but I love Portland,” Armisen said when reached via phone last week.
“One of the things I love about it is that it reminds me of England a little bit, and the fact that they like soccer there as much as they do just makes it seem that much more vaguely European. We had to get them in the show somehow.“
He’s not saying that the wild passion of JELD-WEN Field’s section 107 is a put-on, though.
“It’s not an affectation, they really do love it,” Armisen said. “When we first met the people from the Timbers Army we knew it was a very real thing.”
Brownstein, a Washington native who now lives in Portland, testified to the region’s well-documented fervor over football.
“When I was a kid I went to Sounders games in Seattle, where I grew up, and I played soccer. I think for everyone in the Pacific Northwest it’s the obligatory sport you play.”
Like the character she plays in the episode, which airs Feb. 24 at 10 pm ET, Brownstein has yet to see the Timbers in action.
“I haven’t been to a game [in Portland] yet, but when we shot the episode it made me want to go,“ she says. ”Portlanders are eager for communal experiences and the Timbers are perfect for that. “
“Also the singing is really great, even just at the shoot. It’s all pretty intriguing so I really want to go.”
Armisen and Brownstein aren’t the only comedy titans taken with what’s going on in JELD-WEN’s North End.
“[Saturday Night Live creator] Lorne Michaels read that article in The New York Times about them,” said Armisen, “It was funny because he was immediately fascinated by them.”
This week’s show won’t be the Portlandia debut for a few members of the TA though, as they were cast for the “Allergy Pride” sketch that aired earlier in the season.
“If you watch the parade, they’re the Soy Punks,” Armisen said. “They were perfect for it because they were so good at shouting and shouting angrily.”
Never in the history of humanity has a Canadian pensioner and the music of The Carpenters been deployed for such diabolical means. Leave it to Cascadia to find a way to make soft rock sinister. Bravo Vancouver, bravo.
En nuestra última edición del podcast Tiro Libre tuvimos el placer de platicar con el volante colombiano de San Jose Earthquakes Tressor Moreno, quien jugó para la selección Colombia como #10 entre el 2000 y 2008. El volante aseguró que aún espera con tener un llamado al seleccionado nacional y esto me puso a pensar: ¿será Tressor el mejor mediocampista colombiano que tiene la MLS actualmente?
Después miré los nombres y me di cuenta que la respuesta no tan simple. En 2011, Diego Chara brilló con los Portland Timbers y es el único jugador colombiano en la MLS en haber sido llamado a la selección de su país en los últimos años. Joven, fuerte y preciso. Puede que él sea el mejor...
Pero, ¿y David Ferreira?
El ‘torito’ de FC Dallas fue, indudablemente, el mejor jugador de la MLS en 2010. Una dura lesión lo marginó de las canchas en 2011, pero se espera que regrese este año. Seguro que este señor jugador tiene que ser el mejor… yo ya ni se. Eso sin contar la maestría del emblemático ex capitán del Millonarios Rafael Robayo (ahora con Chicago Fire) o el también seleccionado colombiano Jaime Castrillón, proveniente del Independiente Medellín (ahora con Colorado Rapids).
La pregunta es fácil, pero la respuesta no: ¿Quién creen que es el mejor actualmente? Al final de la temporada 2012 veremos si la mayoría tuvo la razón.
Spotted in the hallways of the Home Depot Center ahead of the Timbers' preseason match vs. the LA Galaxy today: Portland head coach John Spencer with projected No. 1 NFL Draft pick Andrew Luck.
On the surface it may seem random but this certainly wasn't thier first meeting; Luck is the son of Oliver Luck, who was president of the Houston Dynamo while Spencer was an assistant there.
Photo courtesy of @TimbersFC.
En Nueva York, cuando toma el ‘Subway’, uno espera que en algún momento en el camino el tren se detenga y deje de correr. ¿Por qué? Porque ya estamos acostumbrados.
Sin embargo, en el caso del José Adolfo ‘El Trencito’ Valencia, todos quedamos sorprendidos de que este nunca saliera de la estación. Y es que el joven colombiano de 20 años se quedará estancado luego de que se diera a conocer estará fuera de las canchas entre 6 y 12 meses.
Sorprendidos quedamos todos, y cuando digo todos, es TODOS.
Sorprendidos en Colombia, donde ni el médico del Independiente Santa Fe (ex equipo de Valencia) sabía de la condición del jugador, según nos comentó Fabián Rozo del diario El Tiempo en el podcast Tiro Libre.
Sorprendidos los Portland Timbers, que anunciaron con bombos y platillos la llegada de su Jugador Franquicia Juvenil. Cuando el jugador ya había llegado al club, el club lo presentó a la afición y lo tuvieron en varios eventos, sin saber que horas después conocerían la verdad detrás de los problemas en los cartílagos de su rodilla derecha. Este video con la afición salió al aire después del primer día de entrenamientos del equipo:
Por último, ¿debería estar sorprendido el mismo Trencito? Puede que si. Siempre activo en Twitter, el joven delantero documentó varias entradas en la red social, y saltan a la vista unas en particular:
Un jugador dudoso de su estado físico no gritaría a los cuatro vientos (¿eso es lo que Twitter hace verdad?) que se hará exámenes médicos.
Lo único que queda es desearle al Trencito Valencia mucha suerte con la cirugía y una pronta recuperación y aplaudir a los Timbers por no rendirse y velar por su rehabilitación.
In the history of US youth soccer, there are three absolute stand-outs, guys who were so can't miss that they made coaches, teammates, scouts and – especially – agents giddy at what the future would hold.
First was Claudio Reyna, who turned down Barcelona to play at the University of Virginia in the early 1990s.
Next was Landon Donovan, who won the Golden Ball at the 1999 U-17 Youth World Cup.
And then there was Charles Renken.
(No, Freddy Adu was not in this group. While considered a very good prospect, most serious scouts and managers didn't consider him to be "can't miss.")
Renken was as polished a prospect as they come. In the 2007 Nike Friendlies against Brazil, the midfielder – then just 14 – didn't dribble circles around the Samba Boys. He didn't explode out of the pack at a gallop, displaying a sprinter's turn of pace.
Instead he just feinted, the ball glued to his foot, and slipped a pass to a teammate. Time and again three yellow kits would close around him; time and again he'd slip Joe Gyau or Stefan Jerome through. Renken was possessed of an otherworldly ability to handle pressure, a sort of soccer aikido that you're either born with or not.
This was the American Xavi. Every team in the world wanted him, and wanted him badly.
Then he blew out his right knee in a training session. A year later, he did it again.
It's been three years since that second ACL injury, and now Renken has slipped quietly through the waiver wire to land with the Portland Timbers. 1899 Hoffenheim let him go for nothing, and 18 MLS teams passed on the chance to sign him on a free.
Does that mean he's broken beyond repair? That the Timbers ponied up for damaged goods, similar to how Chivas USA brought John O'Brien in for a cup of coffee in the 2006 season?
I don't know – no one really does, and no one really will until the kid has some time under his belt in the Rose City.
But we can hope. This isn't just for Timbers fans, or US fans; it's for soccer fans. Renken has the kind of talent that everyone can enjoy, the ability and preternatural gifts that make you think "This is why I love this game."
That's what we saw on the field four years ago against Brazil. If the soccer gods are kind, I'd love to see it again.
Kris Boyd doesn't know it yet but he has more than just MLS defenders he'll be contending with every weekend in the USA.
Portland's new designated player already has a minimum goal target he MUST hit in 2012 to even qualify as a moderately successful signing: nine.
That's the total that would surpass Kenny Cooper's production from last year in a Timbers jersey.
And make no mistake about it: By offloading Cooper on SuperDraft day and committing the big bucks to Boyd, the Timbers absolutely need Boyd to have the better season this year.
It will be the game-within-the-game to watch throughout 2012. Who is the more productive player in MLS? Boyd may not know who New York's Cooper is yet, but you have to figure Cooper, for one, will be checking Boyd's stat line every weekend.
They are very different players -- Boyd is considered a natural scorer while Cooper enjoys playing outside the box -- but in the end both will be judged by the ultimate measure of a striker's success: balls in the back of the net (and assists). And Boyd has the edge going into it purely based on his characteristics.
If the Scotsman does not bang them in for Portland, then it would likely point to wider personnel issues for the Timbers (do the wingers provide enough service? do the central midfielders have enough ideas?).
And in that scenario, the much-maligned Cooper would come out smelling like, well, roses.
Portland's inking of Scottish international Kris Boyd, a one-time finishing factory for Rangers, adds yet another name to the small, but growing, list of all-time scoring leaders now under the employ of a Major League Soccer club.
The Scotsman sticks out from the crowd though as his crown is for scoring within a domestic league; the other four names on the list hold their titles for scoring for their respective countries.
- Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy): the all-time scoring leader for the USMNT
- Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls): France's all-time scoring leader
- Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy): the all-time scoring leader for the Republic of Ireland national team
- Dwayne DeRosario (D.C. United): Canada's all-time scoring leader
- Kris Boyd (Portland Timbers): the Scottish Premier League's all-time scoring leader
Not bad company to be in, is it?
Boyd may not have the name recognition that the others have south of Hadrian's Wall but if he can bring his penchant for finishing to Portland you can guarantee that the Timbers faithful will not only know his name but also work it into a song or two...providing they can find something that rhymes with "Boyd" other than "void", "tabloids" and "Altoids".