Thursday, December 22, 2005

Returning to the Rain

As odd as the people and overall lifestyle are down here in La La Land, it's hard to ignore the weather. Four days here - or any other warm and sunny place for that matter - and the return trip to Oregon can be kind of a downer. I guess we more than make up for it with humidity-free and bug-free summers.

Well, much to my disappointment, there were no real blog-worthy events today. I spent about two hours in a mall killing time before checking in at the airport and purchased a last-minute x-mas gift with some excess meal money. Travel and per diem in the Pac-10 are just a smidge better than the USL, as you can probably imagine.

Next week, the ATTR is off to Boulder, Colo., for a little skiing over New Year's. Until then, enjoy the Holiday weekend...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Silicone or Saline?

The ATTR has stood silent for too long, and since I'm back in travel mode and the Timbers have just signed their new coach/GM, what better time than now to get back on the blog?

Today's edition comes to you from warm and sunny Venice Beach, California, where quality people watching is off the charts. I'm down here with my other team - the Oregon Ducks - but the ATTR will never be about them. Even if I wanted too, I'm sure there would be some compliance issue, so best to avoid that altogether.

Anyway, I'll be on the road quite a bit from now until March, and will look to be a bit more prompt in updating this during the "hot stove" season.

Back to the beach... This is my first trip to the Governator's old stomping grounds and one of the first natives I saw along the boardwalk was a greased-up muscle dude in a stars and stripes speedo. He was just standing there posing with - I assume - the intention of impressing the many augmented ladies strolling by. There must be an abundance of people without traditional employment, because I was amazed by the amount of folks just hanging out on a Tuesday afternoon. I think the only people working in this town must be plastic surgeons. I went to high school in a beach town in Maine and my friends who worked down on the beach used to play a game called "babysitter or mother." Here in VB, that game has surely morphed into "silicone or saline."

Back in Portland, the Timbers announced the hiring of Chris Agnello as their new boss - a move that probably surprised a few of the locals. I figured out that I was out of the running when the press conference was called for a day that I was going to be out of town. That's probably for the best since the blog would have to get a lot blander if I was running the real show.

Well, I don't want to overdo it, this being the first post in ages. Got to save up some material for all that down time in the airport tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

There is something about air travel and airports that inspire blogging. Maybe, just maybe, that has something to do with the amount of "down" time not typically available during the average day at home or work.

This post originates from an Alaska Airlines jet on the tarmac in Portland, waiting to depart for San Jose. My other life, outside of the Timbers, is that of a college sports information director, which also requires quite a bit traveling, so there is a chance that Ax to the Road will have regular entries during the offseason if I find enough interesting things to relate.

For those loyal readers of ATTR, you may be curious to know that Wolfgang Puck's Tortilla Soup is now available in cans at your local supermarket. I have to say, while overpriced, it tastes just like the soup at Wolfie's O'Hare based restaurant.


The early morning travel is complete, having arrived in San Jose at 8:30 a.m. I'm at the HP Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks, and just peaked in on practice. The reason for this trip is Pac-10 Media Day, something that could have clearly taken place without my presence, but I'm not one to pass on complimentary beverages and lunch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cheers Jim and Bobby

A simple chime to signal an incoming e-mail. And while the news release that caused it wasn't entirely unexpected, it still set me back for a moment or two as I read the exit notice of a pair of "New" Timbers' originals in Jim Taylor and Bobby Howe. With Timber Collin Romer jumping ship to the Blazers a few weeks ago, the '06 club is definitely going to have a different feel.

For the five seasons I've been with the team, the constants have been JT, Bobby, athletic trainer Tony Guyette, Gavin, Benny, Winters and myself. I haven't talked to Tony yet, but by the time training camp rolls around next spring, the majority of that group could very well be history.

Bobby was easily the best interview of any coach I've had to work with throughout the course of my career. A broadcaster's dream, I could ask him one question and he'd give a three minute answer covering every thing I wanted to know. I think his departure will be good for his health and happiness in the long run. I've often wondered (this season in particular) what it must be like for someone of his soccer pedigree to suffer through USL First Division travel. I know a lot of people may have disagreed with some of his personnel decisions and tactic over the years, but I have no doubt that his tenure was good for the organization.

That holds true for JT as well, and I was happy to see that he will still be an advisor to the club in the future. Nowhere will you find a hipper GM in professional sports (with Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as the potential exception) than JT. The fact that he was able to withstand 126 different ownership groups in six years speaks volumes about his value to the team. But more importantly, who's going to burn me CD copies of the latest and greatest alt-rock albums? Jim, my iPod will never be the same.

If you're reading this post with a beverage near by, join me in toasting the two biggest Timbers' fans of us all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Controlling the Controllable

In an effort to protect the youthful eyes that view this blog, I'll refrain from actually typing the words that immediately come to mind following tonight's season-ending defeat to the dreaded Seattle Sounders. In case you're curious most of them contain four letters and one long one starts with M.

The day began pleasantly enough, with a brisk bus trip up I-5 led by our longtime coach captain on these jaunts northward, Vern. Now, on the ride home, Vern's night vision is causing us to drive by brail (riding the turtle bumps), making it virtually impossible to type. But back to the day...

As has been the case on many a trip in the First Division over the years, our hotel was much more mo than ho, but as we were only using it as a pregame napping pad, it's hard to complain too much.

Lunch turned into breakfast at Shari's with Timber Shonna and Timber Diane - Pancakes all around. Sports on T.V. and lounging followed, leading up to the eventual match. A pleasant enough Sunday - until five minutes into the game. That's when Garrett Marcum was whistled for a phantom foul after a Seattle player tripped over his own boot The result: A free kick that produced a Sounders' goal. A horrendous second yellow card on Aaran Lines after his clean tackle put Portland down a man for good, 27 minutes in, and the season was history.

Gavin was quoted in Sunday's Oregonian as saying, "We can control the controllable." A strange, but ultimately wise statement considering the referee's impact on the flow of the game.

Will this blog now be history? I hope not. It's been a fun exercise that has helped pass the time on the road. The offseason should provide ample to to retool and improve Ax to the Road for '06.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Booth Return on the Horizon

There aren't many things more annoying or irritating than a stale web page, so while I'm not physically on the road with the Timbers, I'm with them in spirit and can only imagine how many precious blogging opportunities a week in Virginia Beach would have produced.

With the seriousness of hurricane Katrina, it's probably best that I didn't waste energy on a humorous attempt at a blog originating from the Southeast. Especially now that we know there have been people stranded in flood waters for four days, deaths due to lack of medical supplies, horrific violence, etc. Is it really 2005 in the United States of America? Can our federal and state governments really not be sophisticated enough to execute rescue efforts in a major US city for four days? Planes crash into buildings filled with corporate Americans and action (as it most certainly should have) takes place immediately. A hurricane destroys an entire city and ravages people in three states, and it takes four days for the National Guard to arrive? Maybe those people we all think are nuts for building bomb shelters and bunkers in their back yards are the smart ones after all.

Not much of a Timbers' related post here, I know. Just had to vent...

On a happier note, my self-imposed exodus from the broadcast booth will end next Thursday at PGE Park. It's been rough having to miss this last stretch of games and I can't wait to get back on the mic as the Lads march toward a postseason berth.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mostly Cloudy with a Chance of Beer

Mostly Cloudy with a Chance of Beer
Originally uploaded by Slax.
Sign me up for the Dark Side. I'm not trading in my Timbers Army scarf and t-shirt, but the Thunder's support group, the Dark Clouds, are people after my own heart. Upon arrival at James Griffith stadium tonight, I was presented with a cooler containing a massive jug of Town Hall Gold, a local microbrew. Evidently, the blog's mention of sportswriters in Montreal drinking all of the Heines inspired the Clouds to make sure that didn't happen in the great state of Minnesota. What a surprise, and what a treat. Let me take a five second break from typing to have another pull of the Gold and toast the Dark Clouds. Ahhhhhhhh. When the plane takes off at 8:11 tomorrow morning, I will officially have left my heart in Minny-sotah. I ask the Army to send positive vibes to the Clouds for their quarterfinal Open Cup match at Kansas City coming up. Take the Wiz out of those wankers!

Despite the late goal tonight, this was an outstanding trip for the Boys in Green. This was a barometer match for Portland to determine if the wins against Seattle and Montreal were for real or just a fluke, and the survey said: Absolutely not a fluke.

The folks here at the Kelly Inn also appreciated this visit by the Timbers. The last team that stayed here - none other than Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids - urinated in the bar and threw up on the patio after being disgraced 4-1 by the Thunder. I say the Rapids should be relegated to the first division and Portland elevated to MLS.

The 5:15 a.m. wake-up call forces this entry to come to an end. Cheers!

The Green Wiggle

Warning: If you don't have young kids, you may have no idea how funny this is.

Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up. The Wiggles are here in St. Paul this weekend and some star struck guests at our hotel were convinced they were in the presence of the Aussie performers on Thursday night in the lounge. One of the guests finally went up to the table in question and asked if they were part of the group. According to the description given by the server who was telling the story to me (not knowing I was also with the Timbers), "they" were none other than Gavin Wilkinson and Bobby Howe. I nearly choked on my Nachos.

Match day is finally here and the lads are training at the moment. The bench will be very thin tonight with Gavin (suspended), Poltl (personal) and Thompson (Sunderland trial) all unavailable. The Timbers have been playing a 4-4-2 since the debacle in Kelowna, but will have to get very creative to employ that formation against the Thunder.

Friday, August 12, 2005

MOA Musings

Old Movie Props Put to Good Use
Originally uploaded by Slax.
If there were a professional mall walkers tour, the championship event would surely be held at Minnesota's Mall of America, where this blog originates from. I just finished circling all three levels and think I may need a hip replacement. My options for this off day were sitting at the hotel watching the PGA Championship or taking advantage of my possession of the keys to a 15-passenger van and hitting the road. Outside of some unintentional exercise, I'm not overly thrilled with my decision. This place - known to locals as the MOA - is massive and mall-like, and that's about it. There is an amusement park in the middle with multiple rides that will assist you with depositing your lunch directly back into the food court, but I guess I just expected more. Three Abercrombie & Finch stores and no Fashionable Male? C'mon. I must admit - I was tempted to get an Aqua Massage and have a few shots at The Oxygen Bar.

Yesterday was pretty uneventful. Our hotel lobby to hotel lobby trek was 10 hours, a time Lance Armstrong would have been pleased with on his bike. Adding to the Bad News Bears feel of this season's Timbers, our vehicles here in the Twin Cities consist of a Buick LaSabre sedan and Nissan SUV along with the previously mentioned beast of a Ford van - the worst handling rig I've ever had the pleasure to drive. I'm looking to purchase an orange jump suit so that fellow motorists will think I'm a prison work crew member on the lamb.

From the "important news that fans are actually interested in" department, the team trained this morning and the 14 players available for tomorrow's match all appear healthy and ready to go.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Soup Du Jour

Resident Soup Aficionado
Originally uploaded by Slax.
Oh, travel in the First Division always gets old. We were out of the hotel by 6:15 a.m. (Eastern) in order to catch an 8:40 a.m. flight to Chicago. About 20 minutes before our flight was to board, we noticed the gate next to ours was boarding for Minneapolis - a direct flight to Minneapolis on a different airline. A cruel joke as we have more than two hours to kill in the Chicago and most likely won't get the the hotel in St. Paul until 4 p.m. On the plus side, we've probably spent a total of a couple of days in O'Hare this season and know where all of the Starbucks are, hot to mention Wolfgang Puck's, today's lunch spot.

We opted for Wolfie's since Paul Conway had been talking non-stop about the tortilla soup he had there on Tuesday for the past two days. My lunch mates were Conway, Tony Guyette and the two hobbits, formerly known as Kiwis before the Lord of the Rings producers bought New Zealand. The soup was solid, but Puck's portions were in between a cup and a bowl, about three or four spoonfuls shy of total satisfaction.

Aaran Lines spoke of his plans to pen the screenplay for the Scot Thompson story, and we hashed out a rough script. In Lines' movie, Thompson goes from the USL first division to the World Cup in less than a year's time. He ends up sticking with Sunderland (following his current trial that begins this weekend) and works his way on to the pitch for an English Premier League match. As an EPL player, he is immediately recruited by Bruce Arena to play on the U.S. National Team, where he helps lead the Yanks into the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Fortune, fame and a spice girl marriage follow, capping an improbable journey that begins (on screen) with an overnight, 10-hour bus ride following a 4-0 loss in Kelowna B.C., and ends on football's grandest stage. Scotty II, the sequel, will concentrate in the pitfalls of instant fame, a variety of scandals, infidelity, aging ungracefully, etc.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Big Win

Big Win
Originally uploaded by Slax.
As poor as the Timbers played for more than a month stretch entering late July, they have been just as impressive over the past two matches. Handing first-place Montreal its first home loss of 2005 was easily the highlight of the season to this point.

There was beer in the press box and I was planning on grabbing one for the road to celebrate, but the two newspaper writers had a collection of empties around their computers and had wiped out the entire supply before the final whistle. Had to settle for a brew in the room and will call it an early night with a 5:45 a.m. wakeup call in store for tomorrow. Until Minnesota, au revoir.

Live From Claude-Robillard

Roll 107 - 5
Originally uploaded by Slax.
The radio pregame show is in the air and while I play a taped interview with Bobby Howe, here is a shot from the pressbox. Great setup here in Montreal. Looks like the rain has let up as the match gets set to begin.

Lunch Hour Lounging in Montreal

Lunch Hour Lounging in Montreal
Originally uploaded by Slax.
I skipped out on going to training this morning, opting instead to cruise around town in the daylight. Montreal is right up there with Vancouver in a battle for coolest travel destination in the First Division (other than Portland, of course). Unfortunately, we are spending the two ensuing off days after tonight's match in St. Paul, Minn., rather than here. C'est la vie.

Looks like the Timbers will employ nearly the same lineup tonight as they did against Seattle. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if Gavin starts or plays significant minutes since he is suspended for Saturday's match at Minny (yellow/red card points). Fadi was heckled by a customs agent at the airport who said "you know (the Impact) have only lost one game, right?" One point would be sufficient against this team.

In case anyone is wondering about the random photos of the stuffed cat in the recent photos link, that is my daughter's toy that she asked me to take along. She calls him Puss in Boots, even though he is sans footwear, and I told her I'd e-mail her pictures of him from the trip. I got more than a few stares as I propped him up for a photo op on a busy sidewalk this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Red Light Chicken

Chillin' at the Holiday Inn
Originally uploaded by Slax.
My browser just crashed at the end of a post, so now I've got to try and recreate it. Ugh!

The executive staff and I went in search of a quality meal and passed by Chinatown and several adult oriented establishments just blocks from our hotel. There is definitely no shortage of activity on an Tuesday night in Montreal. We settled on a rotisserie place that had four kinds of chicken soup on the menu, not to mention every other chicken dish under the sun. I had - you guessed it - chicken. A hot chicken sandwich with gravy to be precise. We must have looked like total tourists, gawking at the signs and seedy shops, while the natives didn't even seem to notice on their way to clubs, restaurants, etc. More exploring is on tap for tomorrow, our last and only full day here in Quebec...

Swank Digs in Montreal

Door to door (PDX arrival to our hotel in Montreal) was just over 11.5 hours, but alas the Timbers are in French Canada for the first time. They must think highly of Ax to the Road here in Quebec, as I've been given what is essentially a one bedroom apartment complete with full kitchen, two TVs, etc. We've all seen the commercials, but who knew that the Holiday Inn Express would be this nice? Crazy.

It's nearly 10 p.m. local time, so this entry will be cut short as I go in search of a dining establishment on St. Catherine's St.

Not much to report from leg No. 1 of today's journey - PDX to Chicago O'Hare. I missed a golden opportunity to catch the trip's first unintentional comedy moment, when I discovered my camera batteries were dead. Lee Morrison was napping on the plane with a piece of paper dangling from his lip, which resembled a Lucy. I've since purchased new AAs here in the airport to make sure that won't happen again.

Back on Blog

And here we go again... Another road quest begins with the Boys in Green, with stops in Montreal and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Sadly or thankfully, depending on ones feelings with regard to these odd musings, this will be my final road trip of the season unless the Timbers qualify for the playoffs. A new job and two real estate closings in late August are preventing me from making the week-long trip through the Southeast later this month. Portland soccer afficianado Loren Wohlgemuth will be filling the headset in my absence. I was really looking forward to spending a week in Allen Iverson's hometown of Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach), but I guess I'll survive.

We're on American Airlines to Montreal this morning. So far, so slow. It took nearly 40 minutes to check in and now the flight is delayed for a half-hour. All this to climb on board an MD-80 jet, the same model that crashed into the Pacific Ocean a couple of years back because of a design flaw in the tail. Good times. We have a skeleton crew on this trek due to injuries, etc. There should be enough players for tomorrow's match, but if there is dead air on Saturday's broadcast, assume I've been activiated and playing at left back against Minnesota.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Oiling the Keyboard

Consider this a practice post as I try to prepare for the first true ATTR in nearly a month. I need to perform this and other various exercises, like trying to remember my passwords, what photo site I liked the best, yada yada yada. It will undoubtedly feel like I'm blogging for the very first time. Oh that faraway, magical night at a hotel in Rochester, N.Y....

I assume they have the internet in Montreal, but Quebec is a very unique place, so I wouldn't be entirely shocked if I struggle for conectivity. The entire provice is bilingual, but it was amazing to me upon my first visit to Montreal how many natives selectively forget how to speak English if you need directions, etc. I'm planning on putting my years of eighth and ninth grade French to good use: Je m'appelle Andy! Pouvez-vous me dire où je peux observer les bois de construction défaire votre équipe du football?

Jusqu'à mardi, adieu.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

This is What It's All About

Okay, so the Timbers are not on the road. But tonight's match vs. Sunderland has got to be worthy of a quick blog. A record 15,376 at the stadium, 0-0 draw for Portland against a team from the top soccer league in the world? A missed penalty kick was the only thing keeping the home side from exclaiming We Can. Great stuff. I've always understood how fortunate I am to be behind the mic for a professional sports team, and nights like this just hammer it home.

In addition to the excellent crowd, it may have been a record listenership on the internet tonight as well. I received e-mails during the match from South Korea (two), England (several), Scotland, Wales, Australia and Hong Kong, not to mention New Jersey, Texas and California. All told, an amazing night and one Portland should be extremely proud of.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cruel and Unusual

As if suffering through a 4-2 road loss at Seattle Friday night wasn't enough, we had to bus up to Chilliwack, B.C., hitting the pillow at 3 a.m. I had to be up by 9:45 for a radio interview on the Whitecaps' station, so those six-plus hours was likely the only quality rest I'll get until the bus rolls into Portland around 10 a.m. Sunday. Bus driver Bill will take us as far as the border tonight, where one of his fellow drivers will board the coach and haul us the rest of the way home. Can't wait for that ride!

My room at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn smells like bacon grease, and not in a good way. Time to get packed up and head down to Tim Horton's for a coffee for the road. We should arrive in Kelowna, B.C. around 3:30 p.m. in advance of the 7 p.m. showdown with the Whitecaps.


No luck fiinding a connection today, so this blog edition won't be very timely. We arrived in Kelowna and had an hour and 20 minutes to eat, sleep, etc. Most of us chose the dining route and Jim Taylor and I checked into a hotel room for all of five minutes to change clothes. This is easily the second toughest travel in the five years I've been associated with the Timbers. Number one (2003 season) was flying from El Paso to Milwaukee on the day of the match and driving straight from the airport to the field. That result wasn't pretty, I just hope it's a different story this time.


Well, that was wishful thinking, the result was actually worse at 4-0. Maybe I was overestimating the ability of a sleep-deprived team with 14 healthy field players to withstand horrific travel and two matches in 23 hours.

The bus arrived at our meeting place at the Delta Park Best Western at 7:30 a.m., capping arguably the most miserable road trip in modern Timbers' history. Looking on the bright side, that was the final trip of the regular season involving a bus, which severely limits the ability to conduct a timely blog (no place to get online, et al).

Friday, July 08, 2005

Killin' Time

If mall walking ever becomes an Olympic sport, watch out. The Portland Timbers will have a leg up on the competition in terms of training and preparation.

As is too often the case on these road trips when we have to take off right after an evening match, the team is forced out of their hotel early and has to kill time before heading to the stadium. In Seattle, that usually means a trip to the mall in Southcenter, which is where this blog entry is originating from. The other option is staying on the bus and watching Van Wilder for the 14,000th time. Today, I chose the mall, figuring I could spend time surfing the net and/or blogging. Looks like I will be able to do both as I found power and WIFI at the Nordstrom cafe.

Ax to the Road has officially hired its second employee, none other than Portland Timbers' general manager Jim Taylor. JT has agreed to be the official blogtographer of ATTR for a salary of one Starbucks Americano per road trip. Of course payment won't be possible until we get the accounting department up and running, but that hasn't phased him. He was so stoked to put his lens to the test this weekend that he forgot to pack socks for the trip and is currently shopping for some here at the mall. You can see some of his Day 1 handywork by clicking the recent photos link.

I really want to order a coffee, but the line here is nonstop and I'm waiting for an opening...

Timber Collin Romer, Portland's crack PR guy, is on this leg of our two-match trip. I may try him out for a little play-by-play on the radio broadcast tonight in the event that I ever go on injured reserve. He won't be going with us to Kelowna, B.C., as the Canadian authorities saw photos of him dancing in downtown Vancouver from the last trip and want to question him as to what his motivation was for attempting a "break off" against a Canadian guy.

Got my coffee and it's excellent.

Also along for the ride is my two-year old daughter's rubber duck, Ducky. He was a last minute addition as I was leaving the house yesterday, when she insisted that I take him and that he would enjoy going on a bus. So far, he has no complaints.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Live from Qwest Field

Time to dust off the trusty iBook keyboard, stretch out the fingers and get back in the blogger's seat. It seems like a year since the last Timbers' road trip - four home matches to be exact - and Ax to the Road needs an update in the worst way. The blogger's seat reference was actually a lie, as I'm standing at a table in the swanky club level of Qwest Field in Seattle, looking for a WIFI connection as the U.S. National Team is stumbling on the pitch outside to Cuba. Of course, just as I type that, Clint Dempsey scores to tie the match at 1-1, although it's a gift as he was well offside.

I'm hooked into the Seattle Seahawks wireless internet, so this blog should be up in no time. I feel like Tom Cruise's character in Mission Impossible. Well, that might be a bit over the top, but it's cool none the less. Tomorrow Land at Disneyland really missed the boat on what the future (now) would be like, eh?

We bussed up today to take in a pair of Gold Cup matches prior to Friday's showdown with the Seattle Sounders. Then it's on to Kelowna B.C., for a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, followed by an all-night bus ride of the 12-hour variety back to P-town on Sunday a.m. Hopefully, this whirlwind will generate a few points in the standings for the Boys in Green, as they need to put the last month of results squarely behind them.

A poor showing by Sam's Army tonight at Qwest. I think the Timbers' Army members in attendance out-number the alleged top support group in the U.S.A. The Starfire Soccer Complex - the site of tomorrow's match against the Sounders - will get to experience the TA first hand for the first time. Let's just hope there aren't any posers who decide to throw flares and then hide in bathrooms.

Cuba is now a man down. Things are looking up for the U.S., so I'd better get back out to the action.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dirty Dozen

Okay, okay. We can finally talk about it. It's been long enough since the 5-0 home debacle that I actually forgot (for a couple of minutes yesterday) who the team was that handed Portland its worst home loss in history. It really does feel like an eternity since that match, the obvious product of the 12-day break between games.

Over said eternity, the Timbers made some interesting and undoubtedly difficult roster moves, dropping Aaron Heinzen and S. Saunders. Both will be missed for the quality and unique people they are, if not for their abilities on the pitch. Heinzen's athleticism and Saunders' toughness could prove difficult to replace.

The Sunday after the debacle may have been Father's Day, but I half expected my two and a half year old daughter to skip past the happy dad's day greeting an ask me the same question a zillion other people did that day, i.e. What happened to the Timbers last night? The clinical answer would have been to say the worse home loss in team history, but mostly I opted for the glass half full response of as bad as the score was, it's only one game and the team is still in second place. Now if Montreal comes to PGE on Thursday and brings a whooping stick, I may have to adjust my sunny view.

All and all, this has been a rough month and July can't come soon enough. I'm starting to wonder if either Heinzen or Aaran Lines found a Tiki idol in Puerto Rico (like Greg Brady did in Hawaii) and failed to return it to some ancient cave. Think about it - Greg nearly drowned, Lines separated his shoulder and missed a key stretch, and Heinzen was sent packing. All three had been surfing off the coast of a former or current U.S. Territory. Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ax to the Road

The moment is upon us. It's time to give this blog an official name. The secret ballots have been collected and tabulated by international auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the winner is... Ax to the Road, submitted by Obi-Wan. My sincere thanks to everyone who submitted a suggestion. Booth Jockey Confidential, Soylent Green, etc. - great stuff. The grand prize will be delivered to the Bull Pen following Saturday's match against Rochester.

Speaking of home matches... It seems strange to suggest that a home win over Puerto Rico was huge, but based on how things have transpired lately, it was the closest thing to a "must win" this season. Great to see Hugo back on form, and Dizzy continues to establish himself as the hardest working target man in the league. Keep eating those burritos big man.

After the match I had a chance meeting with the granddaughter of Mr. Swangard, who's name is affixed to the home stadium of the dreaded Vancouver Whitecaps. She allegedly roots for the Timbers, but claims to have no power to lift the Swangard Curse, an evil spell that has limited Portland to one victory in 1,238 matches on British Columbian soil. For all I know, she could be a double agent and should be approached with extreme caution on match days.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Prematch Jitters

As if tonight's match doesn't have the potential to be nerve wracking enough, I'm loading up on caffeine at a Portland cafe. It just seems like the logical nouveau blogger thing to do, especially here in P-town. Plus, I wrote yesterday's post on a desktop computer, which didn't feel right, so I had to get back on the trusty iBook before it started feeling neglected.

I get the sense that the faithful Army members are anxiously awaiting tonight's contest. It took only until 12:20 p.m. for me to spot my first 107 shirt of the day downtown. After yesterday's quality burrito, I ventured back to Chipotle again this afternoon and saw a fella sporting the colors. Unfortunately, the line was so long that I never made it all the way through in time to introduce myself or give the obligatory two-handed ax chopping salute. Yesterday it was Scot and Diz, today the person behind me was an old friend from my days working for the Portland Pride/Pythons indoor team that I haven't seen in a few years. There is definitely some kind of weird soccer Field of Dreams thing going on at the Grill. "If you build it, they will come." Who knew that "it" was a burrito.

Well I planned on this session lasting longer, but the coffee at this joint is atrocious and their WIFI connection is on the fritz. First and last trip here. The new name will be up tomorrow in conjunction with some post match thoughts. Go Timbers!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Name Coming Soon

Three whole days without a post. If I wasn't exposed as an amateur blogger before, this is the clincher. Technically it is a travel-related digi-journal, but with no road trips in sight for nearly a month, I fear it may drift away into cyperspace never to be viewed again if I don't occasionally update it throughout the upcoming homestand.

The list of entries for the Name the Blog contest has been whittled down to five and submitted to a four-person panel for final voting. It's bound to be a tight race for the crown. Should the winning entry be unable to fulfill its duties, cause a horrific streak of bad luck and losing, or pose for revealing photographs in a non tasteful periodical, the second runner-up will elevated to the banner position. The winner will be announced by the end of the week.

Puerto Rico hits PGE Park tomorrow and the Timbers are more than ready to level the score. I just ran into Dizzy and Scot Thompson at the new Chipotle Grill near Portland State and they said practice has gone well this week. I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Hugo will resume his starting roll against the Islanders and the Boys in Green will score at least one goal in the first half.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

10,000 Miles in the Books

Shonna (L) and Diane: Team Players
Originally uploaded by Slax.
Oh the agony of it all.

The bus just pulled out from in front of Swangard Stadium, barely a half hour after the Timbers nearly pulled off the comeback of the season. Trailing 2-0 with 12 minutes to play, the boys scored twice, including an incredible strike from Edwin Miranda in stoppage time. The euphoria enveloping the bench area and section occupied by the Timbers' Army folks who made the drive up lasted all but 20 seconds as Vancouver took the kickoff down the field and scored to snatch back the win.

There is a collective feel of dumbfoundedness among the travel party, which numbers 25 for the ride home. Loyal staffers Shonna and Diane traveled by train and bus all day to make the match and are now forced to endure a six or seven hour drive back to Portland with an estimated time of arrival between 4 and 5 a.m. They almost didn't make it as their train had to make a sudden stop to avoid a possible collision that required an impromptu inspection of the train.

Leave it to Sam Reynolds to assume the role of team mom and lessen the angst. He just broke out a box of Chips A'Hoy cookies for the group and popped a Dave Chappelle DVD into the machine on the bus.

Great showing from the Army tonight. They greeted the team bus coming and going from the stadium, gestures sincerely appreciated by the squad.

Chappelle is cracking me up, making it impossible to continue this right now. Maybe more later...

We made it across the border without incident, although I was in panic mode for a few minutes while frantically searching for my passport. It ended up being in my suitcase underneath the bus. The customs officer that I had to show it to was very excited to learn I was born in New Jersey, citing that she hadn't seen a passport with that birthplace in a couple of years. Sounds like an exciting line of work she has chosen.

We stopped at a grocery store and loaded up on supplies for the endless journey down I-5. The last time we made this leg the bus blew a tire in Federal Way, adding another hour to the trek. Fingers are crossed that Vern's lucky vest will pull us through this time.

I'm anxious to read the latest Name the Blog suggestions when I go online tomorrow. I've got an early favorite, but now that the prize has been solidified, I expect a surge in creativity in the coming days. As there won't be any travel in the near future, effectively rendering a travel blog dormant, the next update will be to name the NTB winning entry.

The Bus grew wings and flew us down the interstate in record time, pulling into the Best Western parking lot by Delta Park at 3:40 a.m. The lads will have two days of rest before resuming training in preparation for Thursday's home match vs. Puerto Rico. Be on the lookout for the contest winner in the coming days, but until then, cheers to all and thanks for reading this thing!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Fancy a jube?

With a full morning and afternoon in Vancouver, prior to tonight's match, the non-playing crew made the most of the downtime with another trip into downtown. Collin, JT, Aaran and I took the Skytrain in and expanded our dining horizons by visting a different earls (on Robson) for lunch. As you can probably tell by now, we can't get enough of this place when north of the border. From earls, we loaded up at Starbucks for a walk to Stanley Park, an impressive, sprawling park with lots of trails and paths that wind down to the water. Aaran befriended a chipmunk, an animal not found in his native New Zealand, and also provided the title of this post by offering each us some of his chewy candies in Kiwi speak.

We are about an hour away from departing for Swangard Stadium, the site of many past disappointments for the Boys in Green. Collin and I both have the feeling that Byron is going to break out against the 'Caps. Tune in to find out...

Mission Accomplished

Name the Blog Signed Napkin
Originally uploaded by Slax.
Thursday night in Vancouver was a success. It took less than five minutes to collect all of the signatures for the earls cocktail napkin that will be awarded to the winner of the Name the Blog contest.

Timber Collin Romer, the Portland PR guy, and General Jim Taylor are on this trip, so I ventured out with them to downtown Vancouver post dinner at earls. The real 'Couve is definitely a very cool city, if you've never been.

It's Friday morning, and we're heading back downtown for some coffee and lunch. This time, we're bringing Aaran Lines with us, as he is out for tonight's match with a shoulder strain.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Heading to the original 'Couve

After just one day of R&R at home, we are back out on the road to put the wraps on our nearly 10,000 mile four-match trip. Per our normal Vancouver routine, we are on a Raz bus with our regular Northwest coach captain Vern, an older chap well north of 60 who occasionally drives by Braille, utilizing the turtle bumps on I-5 to guide him. It's not as big of a deal this time of day, but it can become rather nerve wracking on late night/early morning rides back home.

Yesterday was the Timbers' monthly day to utilize the Nike Employee Store, so the lads are all geared up with new duds, shoes and eyewear. It's hard to beat a 49% discount, especially for most of the young guys scraping by on nothing but their USL First Division contracts. Hurley (now owned by Nike) seems to be the most popular stuff among the squad. I grabbed a pair of "The Producer" shades, definitely an impulse buy. I guess they are the kind of sunglasses you wear if you're a Hollywood exec. If we had stopped in Tacoma, I would have picked up a mullet wig and could have been all set for Halloween.

We made a pit stop just south of Tukwilla so the boys could stretch their legs and Vern could have a smoke. I assume that we will plow through to the border from here.

A couple hours later... We made it past the border without incident. One time last year, Vern pulled away before being authorized to leave and set off sirens and flashing lights while customs agents chased the bus on foot. The border crossings are always interesting when traveling with the green card crew and Fadi, who's passport is from a country our president included in the Axis of Evil.

The team is scheduled to have a training session after we check in at the hotel, and then it's off to earls for some outstanding Canadian cuisine.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chicago O'Hare

No postgame entry from last night. The match against P.R. - a 2-0 defeat - was hardly worth rehashing. Considering it was the third game in as many countries (okay Puerto Rico is practically the 51st state, but it has its own Olympic team and Ms. Universe contestant, so I'm granting them at least partial country status) over a four-day period, it was hardly a shocker. To give you perspective on how twisted and medieval this scheduling is, Aaran Lines, a 10-year pro, had never played back-to-back games in his life (let alone three in four days) before this trip and suffered a nasty shoulder injury for his efforts last night. All told, the Timbers garnered three points from this trip and actually moved up a spot in the standings to third, so no one among us is ready to push the panic button just yet.

The main excitement and entertainment yesterday took place prematch, when we all became extras in the latest installment of the Speed movie series, minus Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Our blue tuned-out school bus weaved its way through rush hour traffic with a police escort, driving in the breakdown lane, cutting off fellow motorists and nearly running over one of the Motorcycle cops in the process. It was awesome.

Much to my dismay, the blog's resident Cheerleading expert, Sam Reynolds, was in the locker room during the Islanders' dance team routine last night, so they will have to remain unranked. It's too bad, as I think they had a real shot at unseating the Rhinettes at the top of the table.

We are in the midst of an airport delay in Chicago, extending what was already scheduled to be a 12-hour travel stretch. Needless to say, the boys are looking forward to an off day tomorrow before resuming the road show on Thursday with a bus trip to Vancouver, B.C. I just polished off my 138th and final salad of the trip. I feel just like I did at the end of the Portland Marathon a few years back: I did it, and have no desire to ever do it again.

The big news bubbling out from PGE Park's executive wing is that this blog has been picked up for a second edition, starting on Thursday. As it's primary author, I think it needs a snappier name. Suggestions can be sent to Collin Romer or myself, and if your proposed moniker is chosen you'll win a cocktail napkin from earl's Restaurant in Burnaby, autographed by the Timbers.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Postallnet Internet Cafe, San Juan

My online withdrawal is over! After wandering for a half mile or so, I stumbled upon an "internet cafe" that is basically like a UPS Store with a couple tables and an espresso machine. After battling with the broadband modem at the hotel for too long, I'll take it. It's an overcast day here in San Juan, but the temperature is a tropical 80 degrees or so. This morning the squad went for a walk on the beach to stretch out, and a few of the boys waded into the warm waters for some brief body surfing, making me wish I hadn't worn cargo shorts. It took some work, but we talked most of the foreign guys into wearing their training shorts instead of speedos. The pace here is even slower than the West Coast, which takes some getting used to. That holds true for walking and restaurant service, but not for driving for some reason. San Juan is different than I expected - lots of luxury cars and clean streets for the most part. I guess I expected more of a third world feel.

The atmosphere among the team is pretty relaxed. The win at Toronto definitely took some pressure off and re-energized everyone. No one is taking the Islanders lightly, but the general consensus is that Friday's match at Vancouver is the more important of the two remaining on this trip.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Best Western Hotel Pierre, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not sure when this entry will actually make it up on the web as I have a bum high-speed modem in my hotel room here in San Juan. I just spent the past half hour talking with tech support in Georgia trying to figure out the problem and the consensus was a bad modem. The two guys I spoke with, one Indian and one Irishman, were the nicest tech support people I've ever dealt with even though we made no progress. Worse case, I can wander the streets in the morning looking for a WI-FI connection.

We had a very long travel day today, leaving the hotel in Rochester at 8:00 a.m. and arriving at our hotel here in P.R. at 8:30 p.m. We were picked up in a suped-up blue school bus at the airport and driven very quickly and rather wildly to the hotel. The bus has no shocks and the driver used his horn at least 12 times. The horn thing is clearly cultural as I was honked at for being five yards from a car (on the sidewalk no less) turning into the grocery store across from the hotel.

The team's elder statesmen and I went out to a local restaurant for some authentic P.R. cuisine. Clean water is an issue here, so I had to get creative in order to keep the salad streak in tact, opting for plantains stuffed with chicken. We knew the place was going to be good by the fact that it had zero ambiance and was packed with locals. We had to wait nearly 20 minutes for a table late on a Sunday night, but it was worth it.

Tomorrow, I'm told, we'll have a police escort for the 45-minute ride to the stadium - common practice in most countries I've been to outside of the U.S. Training will consist of a walk down to the beach and some light running and stretching. There was plenty of speculation during the day about whether or not there will be a speedo sighting among the squad.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Shell Snack Shack, Toronto

Three points in the bank! The boys responded tonight with a big 1-0 victory over the winless Toronto Lynx. Just what the doctor ordered after opening the trip with a loss last night. Pizzas have been consumed by most of the squad and we're making a pit stop for hydration on the three-hour (or so) tour back to Rochester. It was a dominating performance, for the most part, despite the accusation by a guy in the press box that we had our "12th man on the field tonight... the official." Had I not been on the air, I would have told him that I didn't realize we were playing a swim team, with all the diving that was going on out there (budumpum).

On behalf of Dizzy, apologies to the FCC for some of the comments picked up by the effects mic tonight. If someone had randomly stumbled on the broadcast at one point, they may have thought they were listening to the Howard Stern show. While it would be flattering to find out Michael Powell listens to the Timbers on the net, I highly doubt he's a soccer fan.

The Toronto cheerleaders were not old enough to be included in Sam's Rankings (read the 11:49 a.m. entry for reference). With Michael Jackson's current legal woes all over the news, Sam quickly backtracked after briefly ranking them ahead of Minnesota.

Grabbed a diet cola and a granola bar (closest thing I could find to a salad at a gas station) at the Shell Snack Shack.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

We just completed a two-hour stop on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Evidently, this place is some kind of tourist attraction, complete with a wax museum, the Guinness Book of World Records exhibit (the giant Guinness sign got Finnegan and I excited for a split second until we realized exactly what it was), a casino, endless shops selling My Parents Went to Niagara Falls and All I Got was this Dumb T-Shirt t-shirts, and clowns making balloons. Definitely a very bizarre combination of natural beauty and cheezy glitz. Speaking of cheese, Aaron Heinzen had the cheesiest plate of chicken pasta I've ever seen at lunch. I went with - you guessed it - salad No. 5 in as many meals (augmented with some soup). I'm fairly certain I don't have OCD, but it's starting to provide me with a twisted form of amusement for myself on this long, strange trip. The bus is silent now as we roll on to Toronto, with everyone in game face mode and/or resting. I better fire up the iPod with some early Police to get myself ready for the radio broadcast. Nothing like a little Reggetta De Blanc to loosen up the vocal chords.

I-585, somewhere between Rochester and Buffalo

We are on the road to Toronto for the second game of this four-match trip from the fiery underworld, currently 36 miles from Niagara Falls. Finnegan from the Timbers Army is with us for the ride, and we've been rehashing last night's debacle for the first few miles of this leg. Everyone pretty much has the same take on what happened, which hopefully will translate into a different start to tonight's match against the Lynx, who drew with Montreal, 0-0, last night. The added pressure on the Timbers is the fact that Toronto has yet to win a match this season and no one wants to be the first to fall against them. Finnegan, rookie goalkeeper Sam Reynolds and I were discussing Josh Saunders' play in goal last night, and we were in agreement that his performance could not be faulted despite the result. Sam also noted that Rochester's cheerleaders - The Rhinettes - out performed the cheerleaders from Minnesota that we witnessed earlier in the year. Should this blog continue throughout the rest of the season, I'll ask Sam to provide updates on his rankings.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Rochester Rumblings

Day 2 of this wild journey is about to come to a close and the result of Match 1 was not good: 3-1 Rochester. The 16-match unbeaten streak (regular season) is and was history. The silver lining is that the Timbers got down by three goals early and didn't pack up and leave. They made sure the Rhinos stayed off the scoreboard for the final 56-plus minutes, while tallying a goal of their own. Better days lie ahead, but the streak had to end sometime, so why not on the road against a quality foe?

This blog thing - my first, if you've yet to read the earlier installments - is starting to encompass all of my down time. I find myself constantly thinking about how to spice it up, provide inside information, etc., without breaking the No. 1 rule of professional sports travel. You know, what happens in Vegas... But seriously, this group is solid with enough veterans to police any problematic behavior. Anyway, back to my original thought, I'm not reading or playing my guitar nearly as much as I normally do on the road, thanks to my newfound WI-FI abilities and blogging duties. The price of cyber-pseudo-fame is steep.

Everyone I've talked to, including Gavin and Benny, who I dined with tonight, is disappointed with tonight's result, but have already gotten past it. If I was a gambling man, I'd bet big money on Paul Conway making his Timbers' debut in Toronto, and maybe a return to the 4-4-2. We shall see. On the way up North, we are stopping at Niagara Falls to stretch and see the sights. Heinzen was disappointed to find out they don't rent barrels, and going over the Falls in any kind of vessel is discouraged.

Still in Upstate New York

It's a beautiful sunny day here in upstate New York with temps in the mid to upper 70s. My room overlooks the Genesee River, which sounds appealing, but the dirty water has a constant flow of obscure debris moving along a swift current lessening the effect. The Genesee makes the Willamette (the downtown Portland stretch) look like the Gulf of Mexico.

The team trained this morning at 10:30, working out for about 45 minutes. The highlight came when we first arrived at the practice facility. A landscaping crew had gotten its front loader Bobcat stuck in a sea of bark dust and about six players (in full practice gear) took it upon themselves to push the thing out. Team athletic trainer Tony Guyette had a look of horror on his face while the good deed was in progress, but everyone made it through without injury. The driver, a New Yorker who made it clear he didn't think much of soccer in the overall sports spectrum, was grateful and just shook his head muttering "G-- d--m soccer team" which got plenty of laughs from the boys.

I just had my third salad in as many meals, dating back to yesterday. This one - with fried chicken - was by far the best of the leafy trio. Subconsciously, I've probably been inspired by the hefty fella on yesterday's flight into Rochester. The team is now in preparation mode, eating and sleeping before our 5:45 departure for Frontier Field.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clarion Hotel in Rochester

The dude next to me never did touch his salad. Maybe he wanted to bring it home to his family as some kind of evidence that he knew what vegetables were. We arrived, safe and sound. As is typical the night before a match, everyone is laying low, relaxing and recovering from the early wake-up and day-long travel. Training is set for 10 a.m. and after that we will know the status of a couple of banged up players, which could impact the type of system Bobby decides to implement against the Rhinos. There was a baseball game tonight at the field, so we won't know until the morning whether or not training at the pitch will be an option. The best I can figure, only Benny, Gavin and Winters have played here before as members of the Timbers, a 1-0 OT loss on Aug. 5, 2001. I won the post-match bowling competition that night between Benny, Gavin, Matt Napoleon and myself, holding off a late charge by Gavin - a very unorthodox bowler - to take the title.

For those TA members in our midst, I received cyber-word tonight that Finnegan is among us in Rochester and will be at the match tomorrow as well as Sunday in Toronto. I'm planning on having him on at halftime if he can make it past security and into the press box.

Until tomorrow...

High above Lake Michigan

Our second flight is finally in the air after about an hour delay. On top of the delay, the plane (a Canadair Regional Jet) has no air conditioning and we were forced to sit in what essentially was
a giant sweat box on the ground for half an hour. Added to that was the fact that I'm sitting next to a rather portly chap, who is taking up 1.5 of the two seats here in Row 3. He does have a salad stuffed into the seat pocket, so at least he's trying. It's finally starting to cool down, but it's going to be hard to resist the temptation to order a cold one. Check that - impossible. Said cold one has been ordered.

We had a rather uneventful layover in Chicago's O'Hare airport. Lots of overpriced sandwiches and water consumed by the squad. I went with a BBQ chicken salad from Wolfgang Puck's restaurant. Not bad, but hardly gourmet cuisine. I was looking forward to using my new wireless card during the down time, but we were stuck in one of the old terminals, thus no WI-FI. PDX has spoiled me with its vast assortment of coffee, microbrews and free WI-FI, making it hard to adapt out here in Middle America.

Battery is dying... Cold one delivered - gratis thanks to the delay. More later...

36,000 feet, somewhere in the Midwest

Well, here goes nothing. While I consider myself ahead of the technology curve for the most part, this is my first attempt at a blog, and based on the current turbulence we are experiencing on a United flight to Chicago, it could very well be my last! The captain has just asked the flight attendants to take their seats - not a good sign.

We have just embarked on what will be our longest road trip of the season: Four matches; three countries; eight days; roughly 10,000 miles. Without my iPod and laptop, I'm not sure I could stay sane, and even with those creature comforts (I rank the iPod neck and neck with Tivo/DVR as the greatest inventions of the 21st century) this is bound to be a rather grueling trek. Which is why this is a perfect time to start a blog. There are bound to be plenty of trials and tribulations among the 21 members of the Timbers' traveling party. At least that is my hope, or this could end up being as painful to read as an issue of the Limbaugh Letter.

At the moment, we are headed to Rochester, N.Y., which will be our home base for the next three nights. The team plays the Raging Rhinos on Friday night and the Toronto Lynx on Saturday. We'll bus back and forth between upstate New York and Toronto. Everyone is already bemoaning the late-night drive back to Rochester on Saturday night (early Sunday a.m.) following the Toronto match, but it really does make the most sense to not switch hotels, go through double customs on the leg to Puerto Rico, etc. Ah, such is life in the First Division.

It seems all of our seats are in the back four rows of this A319 aircraft. The middle seat passengers on my side of the plane are Scott Benedetti, Aaran Lines, Josh Saunders and Gavin Wilkinson. Our other wedged in travelers are Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar, Aaron Heinzen and Lee Morrison - poor blokes as the two Kiwis might say. One of those New Zealanders - Lines - is between Bobby Howe and myself (window). His trip is off to a rough start as the batteries in his cd player started leaking acid before we left the tarmac at PDX, so he is sans tunes and didn't bring a book. Reminds me of the time my iPod ran out of juice two minutes into a 40-minute MAX ride to Hillsboro, an experience so traumatic, I haven't taken public transit since.

Diehards are undoubtedly curious as to who the 18 players are on the trip, so without further ado, in addition to our middle seaters, the group also includes: Byron Alvarez, Edwin Miranda, Paul Conway, Shawn Saunders, Sean Higgins, Tom Poltl, Sam Reynolds, Scot Thompson, Fadi Afash, Dizzy Antoniuk and Brian Winters. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say 17 of them will see playing time over the next few days. The lone exception being Sam, but you never know.

That's all for now. I can feel the carpal tunnel setting in due to this cramped typing position.