Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back home, but work to do

After what seemed like a hilariously early wakup call (more of a nap than a night's worth of sleep), we had a hassle-free travel day, and arrived back in the Rose City around 2 pm today. That advantage of the quick turnaround from last night's game is a lot of time today for the boys to relax and get their legs back ahead of tomorrow night's crucial 2nd leg.

Not much left to say last night outside of what was said on the postgame and what you all heard/saw. Again, sometime late tonight or before the tailgate tomorrow you'll be able to hear postmatch comments from Gavin Wilkinson, Bryan Jordan, and Tom Poltl on (just click on the audio news link).

Once again, here's my spectacuarly amateur travel photo gallery, courtesy of my cell phone.

In the van on the way over...Gavin on the wheel, Wicks on the radio, and Kostic on my lap.

I think it's Georgia state law that you can't go more than 5 minutes driving around without passing a Waffle House. I'm actually dissapointed that I didn't get the chance to pop into one. This was on the way to the stadium.

The Timbers making their way into RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium. That big white thing in the background is actually the dressing rooms; a set of big containers like you'd see on a cargo ship, but bigger and...nicer? Temporary of course, as they still build the stadium.

This was the vantage point I called the game from, on the councourse that's been build in anticpation of more stands. It reminded me of my days as a mediocre goalkeeper: once the ball went into the other half, I quickly lost perspective on relative distance, and there was a lot of guesswork on player IDs. But big thanks to the Silverbacks staff: when their wireless internet was having trouble pregame, they ran about 200 feet of ethernet cable for me to make sure we got on the air.

Hard to tell from the photo, but the black Silverbacks flag that flies over the stadium is at least the size of the rising sun flag the Timbers Army pulls out after goals.

Tailgaters! This was the biggest of the three parties that I could see in the parking lot nearest the stadium.

As the Timbers leave the pitch after the match just below me, they greet the family's worth of travelling fans. There was also a guy there who played with Gavin in New Zealand, at the same club Cameron Knowles was once with. Not often you run into Kiwis it's fair to say, so afterwards the rest of the team kept asking Cam about his "uncle".

Back at the hotel afterwards, where a giant stack of pizzas was there to greet us (uh, I mean, them....standing up and talking for 2 1/2 hours isn't exactly as deserving of food as playing a soccer game). Very muted response from the Timbers afterwards, largely because many knew they could play better, and all knew it was really only halftime.

So, Sunday it is then...we'll be on at 4:30 with the full team, and plenty of interviews and analysis as we go, from the best broadcast team in the USL First Division (not that I'm biased or anything...).


Friday, September 21, 2007

"It was a war out there"

Those were the words of Justin Thompson on the ride back to the hotel tonight.

It probably wasn't the performance the Timbers wanted tonight, but certainly the result. 1-1 heading home for the second leg is tremendous, especially considering all the great chances Atlanta had to make it 2.

I did some post game interviews, and those will be posted....eventually. Right now, it's 1:20 am here, and we're meeting in the lobby at 5:30 to go to the airport, so I'm going to bed. More to follow tomorrow...


Live from Silverbacks Park!

It took some work, but we're now online!

It took some amazing work by the Silverbacks staff, and a crazy long ethernet cable, but we're ready to go tonight. I've taken pregame pictures but I don't have time to post them until tonight.

Starting lineup (exactly as it's written on the sheet wink wink): Wicks; Thompson, Thompson, Knowles, Griffin; Kreamalmeyer, Gregor, Jordan, Poltl; Ambriz, Higgins.

We'll be on at 4:30 pacific time with our Toyota Pregame Show


Match Day...

...kind of underwhelming just now. I slept fine last night, didn't wake up with a burst of adrenaline, and I'm not bouncing off the walls right now. But I get the impression I'm the exception rather than the rule.

The boys are out for a jog just now near our hotel. I'm at a local Starbucks with the braintrust, who you see in the photo there. It's a rather mundane setting, I agree, but I think it captures that we're still over 8 hours from game time, and a trick is not to expend too much emotional energy too soon.
Sounds like the plan today is to just lay low and get ready. Once we get some food, I'm going to corner a few players and get some interviews for the pregame show. Certainly all of the guys named to the all-league teams yesterday.
It's overcast now in Atlanta, temperature probably around 65 or 70 degrees. Still a bit humid, but not that uncomfortable. By the time we reach 8 pm, I don't think the weather will play any factor in the game, unless we get some rain, of which there's a 20% chance. But it certainly won't be the hot, swealtering type stuff you fear when you come to the south.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oh, the A-T-L

How I miss the A-T-L... Not really, but there are worse road stops around the USL and the lodging at the Silverback Holiday Inn isn't too shabby. You can go ahead and eat in there John, the food isn't bad. But for lunch, I'd recommend the grocery store across the median. The deli makes top notch sandwiches for a fraction of USL per diem.

John's vantage point will likely be to the right of his third photo. A quality seat to watch Wicks make saves on Antoniuk for a half, and to see the Timbers look to score in the other. When play is at the opposite end, however, it gets tricky.

I'll never understand how anyone could build a new stadium for any sport without planning for some semblance of a press box. I guess Atlanta just became so used to zero press that it didn't even cross their minds to have a spot for media.

I hope to catch the end of the match as I'll be airborne for the entire first half on a charter flight from Eugene to San Jose. Satellite TV, steaks and Dove Bars is how I roll. Needless to say, it will leave your MD-80 and Boeing 737 in the dust. If ESPN only had USL-1 scores on their ticker, I'd be all set.

JT and Griffin definitely got the shaft, but I'd wager that a continued Timbers' run through the postseason will make that a moot point.


Apparantly I have an audience... the pressure's on to deliver.

First, a quick thought on the all league teams. Wicks was a shoe in for goalkeeper of the year and first team I think, and it's great he got that award. Same is true for Knowles, Gregor, and Scot. But I agree with some that it's a shame Justin Thompson and Leonard Griffin didn't get recognized. At the beginning of training today, Gavin called the team together and told them the news. But, he emphasized multiple times, it's not just about the individuals recognized: he stressed that no one player is above any other, and that they all share in these awards. He said the entire back four deserved the plaudits. And he also talked about how this was a sign of the increased respect the Timbers are recieving across the league, and just a year after finishing tied for last, which is amazing.

The team just had a short meeting downstairs where Gavin layed out the game plan. Obviously I won't mention anything specific, though I'll have more to say during the pregame show tomorrow night. The obvious part is that this is a different matchup than the Timbers had against Vancouver. While the Whitecaps play a reserved, defensive minded game, Atlanta scored more goals than any other team, and while they were in the top half of the standings in goals allowed, they let in almost twice as many as Portland. As a result, this first leg will be played differently than the Vancouver first leg. And I think they all know what a special home field advantage they have at PGE Park, which plays into the strategy.

LATE ADDITION: One funny story from the team meeting. We were all sitting in the conference room at 5 pm, minus two players. So, Gavin picks up the phone and dials their room. All I can hear is Gavin saying, "you realize we have a team meeting, right?...if you were here right now, you'd already be two minutes late..." and he slammed down the phone, more for effect than out of actual anger (it's hilarious to see the way he's constantly messing with players, part of the great team spirit they have). So, we wait, and wait. Marc Kostic comes down to sit in, but the two players still aren't here. Finally, at 10 after, Gavin is wondering aloud how long it takes to go down two flights of stairs. So, he says, "they are in room 412, right?" Thing of it is...that's the room Marc and I are in. So he was unwittingly yelling at Kostic, who was a bit confused why he couldn't be late, but didn't argue the point. Much laughter. And teasing of the two players who finally showed up a few minutes later.

You may have also seen the news recently that Brian Jordan is signed for two more years, joining an increasing list of players on multiyear contracts. That's maybe the most exciting thing about this season: it's not just about one year, but building for the future.

Still not sure what kind of technical situation we'll find at the stadium tomorrow night, so I don't know what the broadcast will sound like. But, if all goes to plan, we'll be on at 4:30 pacific time with another extended Toyota Pregame Show.


Final preperations...

First off, I forgot to put Matt Taylor's name on the travel roster last night in my sleepy state, but he is here.

Secondly, the team just returned to the hotel after an hour long training session at the Silverbacks stadium--well, at a training pitch next door anyway.

Here are a few pictures of what we've seen so far:

This is from the lobby of the hotel here, the Atlanta Silverbacks Grill and Tap. Kind of cool they have their own restaurant. I don't know how good it is, because I'm too superstitious to actually eat there...

From behind the goal, here's one side of the Silverbacks stadium. It's currently in phase one of construction, as they hope to add a big deck of seating on the other side, build up a press box, banquet areas, and build a fitness center just beyond what you're looking at now.

And here's the other side. From what I was able to deduce, my broadcast location will be at this level, in the corner. You can kind of see the interesting seat pattern...supposedly there is only one place where two seats of the same color sit side by side (and that was some kind of prank by the builder). The effect reminds me of the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro in Portugal, one of the stadiums from Euro 2004.

Here's the team at training today on one of the side fields. You can kind of see it to the right, but there's a bit rock outcropping that was cut away to make room for the field, and at it's highest point it creates a dramatic effect, much like the Estádio Municipal de Braga from Euro 2004 (I'm a nerd for stadiums...sue me).
Sounds like we'll spend the rest of the day laying low, maybe go see a movie. Tonight is a team meeting where we'll get a good scouting report of the Silverbacks, which I especially am looking forward to since statistics and biographical info can only tell you so much about an opponent.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hello from Atlanta...

...or at least some suburb.

It's currently 3 minutes before 2 am eastern time, and we're getting settled into our digs for the next few days. Pretty easy travel day today, and I can tell you that after another glorious American MD-80, I've never been so happy to see a Boeing 737 in my life than when we boarded our plane for Atlanta. We had actual audio programs coming out of the armrests, and clips from David Letterman on the TV screens! Good times...

Some of the boys and Gavin have gone out in search of food, but I'm packing it in for the night. They're having a training session at the Silverbacks stadium tomorrow midday, and then taking the rest of the day easy. And certainly Friday, with an 8 pm kickoff, will be a day of rest and metal relaxation.

Gavin briefly addressed the boys in the lobby, and drove home the point that there's plenty more work to be done, and they need to keep their focus. I think these guys know they're on the verge of something big, if they can take advantage.

Here is, from what I can remember off the top of my head, the travel roster:

GK: Wicks and Elfin.
Def: Thompsons S and J, Knowles, Griffin, Morrison
Mid: Poltl, Olum, Hague, Gregor, Lara, Higgins, Ready, Kreamalmeyer
For: Ambriz, Jordan, M Taylor
Hangers-on: Strong, Kostic

Not having Bagley available stands out, and is a shame. Dombrowski doens't appear to be quite back from his injury, but Hague is back with the team, and that's great to see. Hopefully I didn't forget anyone.

Okay, off to bed. I'll try to post something tomorrow during training, as that will hopefully be when we test to see just what kind of a broadcast we'll be giving you on Friday.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What a week this will be...

The excitement and the stress is starting to pick up. Don't get me wrong: I'm living my dream by going with the Timbers to Atlanta and calling their semifinal first leg...but that doesn't mean it's without difficulties. There are a lot of things and a lot of people that go into a broadcast, and they need to be publically thanked.

Firstly, Marc Kostic, the Timbers media relations maven, has been instrumental these past few weeks. He's the one responsible for talking with his counterpart at wherever we're going, and making sure we have all of our technical needs met to do a broadcast, which isn't easy. Especially when he's fielding daily nervous calls from me, freaking out about things not working.

Secondly, I need to thank my employers, NewsRadio 750 KXL in Portland, for not only letting me use their backup studio and some eqiupment for our broadcast last Friday in Vancouver (and potentially again this Friday), but also for letting me miss three days of work this week to travel with the Timbers, and doing it with understanding and good humor. As many of you can attest, it's not easy to come in on Monday morning and say, "I'm on an airplane Wednesday afternoon, see you later."

Most of my prep work on Atlanta is done, and I'll start previewing the matchup tomorrow. We're wheels up from PDX just before 3 tomorrow, with a brief stopover in Dallas on our way to Georgia. Much like the Carolina trip, it'll be another fun series of American MD-80 trips with no audio or video offerings, except the 737 we get from DFW to Atlanta tomorrow (for the four of you who, like me, find those kind of things interesting).

I'll post again from the airport tomorrow, and hopefully have a minipodcast for you by tomorrow night.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Quick update

What a night that was Sunday. One of the best Timbers atmosphere's I've seen, and one of the best performances I've seen, given the circumstances. But, now the Timbers have to focus on Atlanta, and a shot at reaching their first ever league championship game.

As I'm sure you've all seen, the first leg of the semifinal is in Atlanta Friday at 8 pm eastern, 5 pacific. I've been given the callup once again since Andy Mac has to work his other job (and I was able to twist the arm of my employers), and I'm incredibly excited to be getting the chance to call this very important game. The only downside is that we leave Wednesday, so it's a very quick turnaround, and there's not much time to get everything done. I'm making a roundtrip to Eugene tomorrow to pick up some gear, and I'm actually starting my prep work on the Silverbacks once I finish typing this.

My hope is that, in addition to doing the blog, I'll be able to put together some mini-podcasts for with daily thoughts from the players themselves. No guarantees. Speaking of the Timbers website, head over there in the next day or two to hear Andy's call of the goals from Sunday, as well as my postmatch interviews.

So, Friday night it is, 5 pm kickoff on the Portland Timbers Broadcast Network, and we'll have another giant Toyota Pregame Show, chockfull of interviews, previews and analysis. I'll give you a start time for that once I figure it out...


Friday, September 14, 2007

Heading Home

Game 1 of my triumvirate didn't go exactly as I had hoped. The Timbers fell 1-0 in Vancouver, succumbing to a messy 76th minute goal that knocked off several bodies before it was finally stuffed home on a two-footed slide by Jason Jordan. The good news is the match is essentially at halftime with the second half coming up in Portland on Sunday.

Adding to the misery was my Red Sox blowing a five-run lead to the Yankees in the 8th! Not a good sports night for yours truly.

The Timbers are upbeat and the bus ride back to the States doesn't have the typical pall of the 12 prior losses up here. The team nearly pulled off its objective and still feels in control.

The ride will still be long. I came prepared with a pillow and blanket, and will attempt to catch some pseudo sleep before completing the journey by car to Eugene. Now if I can convince my wife to prevent our two girls from jumping on me until at least 10 a.m. or so, I should be recharged enough to take on duties at the Oregon/Fresno State game.

It looks like our driver has directions for the return trip - something he did not have coming up to B.C. He only seemed to know that he was supposed to drive us to Canada and once here, we drove more than an hour out of the way.

If this is the last post of the night/morning, you'll know things either went smoothly or the bus blew up.

Cheers, eh!

Playoff Beard

Since NHL training camps are starting up - big news here in the Great White North, obviously - I got to thinking about playoff beards. For those who don't know, hockey players traditionally go sans bic from the start of the postseason until their teams get eliminated or win the Stanley Cup.

The Timbers' playoff quest begins tonight. In Canada of all places. Thus let the playoff beards (and fragmented sentences) commence!

Timbers' PR man Marc Kostic is on board. I'm not entirely sure if Timber Brad Nicholson shaves yet, so technically that puts him in as well. As for the players, Matt Taylor is looking pretty scruffy, but that's nothing new. Could be a playoff beard or just an oversight on his part, so I'll have to ask him.

Prematch today is business as usual. This team is very workmanlike on game day, so nothing really to report until we arrive at Swangard Stadium. Our pregame show will begin around 6:25 tonight - lots of interviews, etc. - so be sure to tune in early.


P.S. Earl's didn't disappoint last night.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Football Times Three

I-5N Mile 122 -- And so it begins. My wild weekend of three "football" games in three days across two countries. Sure, it's just Canada's province of British Columbia - not exactly a transatlantic voyage from Eugene, Ore. - but it sounds more "extreme" that way and the kids these days are all about X-Games' vernacular.

Friday, I'll be calling the United Soccer Leagues (not a typo - no apostrophe) First Division quarterfinal playoff match between the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Following the match, it's back down the I-5 via motor coach to Portland, where I'll jump in my car at approx. 4:30 a.m. and drive to Eugene to work at Saturday's college football game between the University of Oregon and Fresno State. On Sunday, back up to P-Town for Game 2 of Timbers vs. 'Caps.

Why, you ask? Super-Fan? Masochist? Can't get enough travel by bus? I've been wrestling with this question myself. Obviously, my loyalty to the Timbers after six years hasn't wavered, and while it's a tad bit inconvenient to leave my full-time job in the 48-hours leading up to a big home football game, it's not as if I don't already work far too many hours for a salary bordering on laughable (that's my choice, I know). I guess the bottom line is its postseason play for one team and the chance at a 3-0 start with a better future Bowl game with each passing victory for the other.

Plus, 38 is the new 28, which should give me enough energy to pull it off without pulling a hammy or cerebellum in the process.

Our travel today is in an MTR bus, the same G-Ride UO teams use on the west coast and a huge improvement over past companies the Timbers' have dealt with in the past. Faux leather, flat screen monitors, and so far a driver who doesn't drive by brail.

Assuming we make it past the border patrol without incident, we should be sitting comfortably at Earl's in Burnaby by Happy Hour.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Well, that sucked...

...not neccessarily the match, mind you, though that wasn't great either.

Let me extend apologies to all of you who tried to listen tonight. We just couldn't stay on for more than 15 minutes at a time, due to an internet connection that kept dying. This was through no fault of the Whitecaps; they were all spectacuarly accomodating and sympathetic. The Internet there is apparantly run by the city of Burnaby, and they always have problems. But, I can assure you that I'm working RIGHT NOW to make sure we have uninteruppted coverage of the first leg playoff match on Friday. Andy Mac will be there, as will Aaron Heinzen. I'm hoping to be there to add in live interviews from the field, but that depends on our technical situation. Either way, our Toyota pregame show will start Friday at a special time of 6:30, so you'll get half an hour of interviews and analysis before the Timbers start their playoff run.

More to come during the week. One funny story to share with you from the road: I drove up with Aaron Heinzen today, who's a big Seahawks fan. We listened to the first half of the game on the drive up, but never heard a final. So, sitting in line at the border on the way back, we saw two guys heading back to Canada wearing Seahawk jerseys. So, Aaron rolls down his window and yells across the 50 yard gap to get a result. 20-6 Seattle, they yell back. Lots of confused onlookers. Gotta love the bond of sports fans. And Go Broncos.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

First of all...

...GO DUCKS!!!

That's first.

Second, let's take a look at Sunday's matchup from the Timbers perspective.

We saw last week in their 1-0 against Carolina that Portland isn't interested in coasting into the playoffs. There's still plenty to play for: both the shot to finish top of the standings, and the Timbers would love to avoid trips to Puerto Rico, Miami, or Carolina in the first round of the playoffs (though playing the Whitecaps in the first round of the playoffs has its own downside). I don't, unfortunatly, have any updates on the injuries to Andrew Gregor, Neil Dombrowski, or Shaun Higgins, though there's no way I'd risk any of them (especially Gregor) tomorrow if they weren't completely fit.

I wrote yesterday about the weight of history against the Timbers, but there's more. If Portland can get a win or a draw tomorrow, they'd win the season series with Vancouver for the first time since 1980, when they won both matches (the closest in the modern era was a 3-3 record in 2003). Also, with a win or a draw, that would mean the Timbers earned three consecutive results versus Vancouver in one season, and that hasn't happened since the NASL Timbers first season in 1975, when they won all three games.

So what's the key to beating the Whitecaps? We've already seen this year they play a defensive, posession style, and like to slowly build pressure before striking. The Timbers suceeded by holding the ball, knocking around, but also by being aggressive and moving quickly in the attacking third. Portland can't afford to hold onto the ball near the box; the Whitecaps swarm and take it away. I'll be looking for Portland's wide players, and especially Leonard Griffin and Scot Thompson coming forward, to get aggressive and send dangerous balls into the box. The Timbers need to heap on pressure, and not be shy to pull the trigger when they've got a look at goal. Defensively, make sure Martin Nash doesn't get time on the ball in the attacking half (a responsibility that might fall to Tom Poltl), and don't sit back too much and let Vancouver dictate the pace of the game.

This Portland team is built to grind out 1-0 results on the road with solid defense and opprotunistic attackers. The longer grass at Swanguard Stadium might neutralize the speed of Bryan Jordan and Matt Taylor (like it always did to Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and Byron Alvarez), so look for Chris Bagley (if fully healthy) to step up and create problems with his size and skill. But, same as we preached in their first matchup this year, the Timbers have to keep their heads if Vancouver gets up a goal, and not fold like so many of their predecessors have done in the bucolic setting of Burnaby, British Columbia.

That's all from me until tomorrow. Remember, our Toyota pregame show goes live at 3:45 pm, and as always we'll be available on AOL Instant Messanger with the screen name "timbersradio".


Editorial Note

Didn't realize we were doing dueling bloggers this weekend...but I wanted to clear up a rumor that has been floating around the message board:

I (John) will indeed be up in Vancouver to call the Timbers game. I'm just not travelling with the team because of work commitments, and a desire to see my relatives in Seattle. So don't worry, we'll be on the air at 3:45 Sunday live from British Columbia.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Checking in from the road...

It's not a Timbers' trip, but as I'm taking to the road on a sports-related jaunt, I may as well check in. This is Andy, in case you were wondering - not professional blogger John Strong.

Today's travel takes the other half of the ATTR to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the American footballer Oregon Ducks will battle Appalachian State's whipping boys, the Michigan Wolverines. It was a charter flight from Eugene to Detroit, which took less than four hours, or less than half the time of a typical PTFC roadie to Minnesota!

I realized this morning, before the flight that I actually lived in Ann Arbor for about a year when I was around 3 or 4. My most vivid memories of that time was watching home movies with grandparents and great grandparents visiting, and always finishing last when the preschool teachers made my class run outside. Riveting stuff here, I know. Just thinking out loud.

By all accounts, the afore mentioned JS is a good luck charm for the Boys in Green. Nice work JS - on the broadcast and as a human rabbit's foot. And the blog! It's never been better. After visiting Earl's tomorrow in Vancouver, John, you will truly be complete as member of the team. And you will start looking for work in British Columbia to relocate there permanently!

Should there be any items of interest during this 27-hour round-trip to the eastern time zone, I'll attempt to pass them along.


One last battle...

...before the real war starts.

The Timbers are just over 48 hours away from their regular season finale against the Vancouver Whitecaps. No introduction needed for a rivalry game like this, but I'll do one anyway.

Vancouver has had a weird season. Defending league champs, they extended their unbeaten run to 16 games early in the season, until a 1-0 home loss to Carolina on May 25. Before that game, they were 5-0-2 to start the year. Including that game, the Whitecaps went 2-6-5 through the end of July. By that time, which is also the roster freeze, the Whitecaps had brought in 5 new players, and sent 3 away in trades, including last year's USL First Division MVP, Joey Gjertson.

What's even more bizarre has been the goalkeeper carousel the Whitecaps have been riding this year. Josh Wicks, as you might know, was their backup last year, before coming to Portland and setting the world on fire. Oh, how Vancouver must rue losing him now...last year's starter, Tony Caig, was their No. 1 until June 20, when he abruptly left to go home to England (interesting story on what he's doing'll have to tune in Sunday to hear it though). His backup, the Serbian "Serge" Djekanovic, was sent to Toronto FC in the first week of the season. The man listed as No. 3 to start the year, local boy Tyler Baldcock, apparantly vanished, because he never made an appearance. The Whitecaps brought in former Toronto Lynx netminder Richard Goddard at the start of the year, then signed football vagabond Lutz Pfannnenstiel on July 3rd. Just two weeks ago, they signed Harrisburg City's (USL-2 winners) Matt Nelson on loan, and he played last week against Minnesota. If I had to guess, I'd say he starts tonight versus Atlanta, but who knows.

That being said, this team is still the defending league champs. They have 7 players on their roster with 5 or more years of experience just with this team. By comparison, the longest tenured Timber (outside of Gavin Wilkinson, of course), is Lee Morrison (thanks Diane!), who's in his 5th year with the team. Also worth noting is this: since 2001, the Timbers are 1-11-1 at Burnaby's Swanguard Stadium, with 9 goals scored and 25 against. The Whitecaps gorgeous forest-lined stadium has been a house of horrors for the Timbers.

Can they buck the trend of history? Can Portland win their second Commisioner's Cup as regular season champions? Will they be back in Burnaby four days later for the first leg of the playoffs? These questions and more answered Sunday afternoon, starting with our Toyota pregame show at 3:45 pm, live at

Saturday night I'll preview the match from the Timbers perspective.

Editorial note: I'm not travelling with the team this weekend; I'm instead using the trip to spend time with some relatives in Seattle either side of the game. But, I'll be driving up Sunday with Aaron Heinzen, so you'll be able to enjoy his expert analysis during the broadcast.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Home again, home again...

...deedley dee. Or something like that.

Sorry it took so long to wrap up the weekend. Didn't have time last night or this morning for a post, and there was no internet to be had at RDU or DFW.

Great win. That game had 0-0 written all over it until Bryan Jordan somehow (and there's still debate as to how) turned in Luke Kreamalmeyer's cross. But, as Gavin Wilkinson said, when you make those kinds of runs, and play in those kinds of balls, good things happen. Speaking of which, check in the coming days to hear Gavin, Jordan, and Tom Poltl give their post-match thoughts.

The team was understandibly in a good mood last night. These guys know that it's the team in first place at the end of September, not the beginning, that goes down in the history books....but I get the impression finishing the regular season at the top would be huge for them. Especially given who would be second. I think the thing that stands out most for me from this trip, and from the celebrations last night, is the spirit of this team. They all really like each other. They look out for each other. It's a group of friends, not just a group of soccer players. Gavin said it's probably the tightest team he's been a part of. And I think Gavin gets a lot of credit: not only did he bring in a group of high character guys, but (while he can become "The Coach" when needed) he's one of the boys as well, which is something I don't think you could say for Angello or Howe. Really just a fun group to be around, and it made for some great memories for me.

Here's a spectacuarly brief photo essay, courtesty of my cell-phone's camera:

The Timbers inspect the SAS Stadium pitch before the game.

Gavin Wilkinson agonizes over who to start in defense against Carolina.

This was the view from the "crow's nest" of the press box. It's all you can ask for as a broadcaster: near the center, up high, but close enough to the field that it's easy to tell who is doing what. Certainly one of the best broadcast locations in the league.

Their USL Live crew was on the other side of the deck. Nice guys, and helpful. But boo those of you who listen to them instead of us.

They don't call it the "crow's nest" for nothing. That's the very steep staircase you must ascend from the main press room to get up there. Not fun to do with a bunch of gear. But that's the only thing I can complain about: even their press box food was excellent (sandwiches and wraps, not just pizza!).

Hard to see, but that's the SAS Stadium scoreboard proclaming the final talley. And you can see the multitudes departing with their heads held low. Okay, maybe that's a tad melodramatic...

Here's the barbecue sauce stain I deposited on my shirt before we left Raleigh. Which meant I spent the rest of the day walking around with a giant "hey, look at me, I'm an idiot!" sign on my chest. Not good times.
"Are you guys a sports team or something? Do you play basketball?....Soccer huh? Do you play against David Beckham?" Timbers players kill time in the Dallas airport before the final leg of our trip home. In case you're curious, Gavin is throwing a penny at someone. And here's some advice: never oppose Gavin Wilkinson in any kind of competition or game, regardless of what it is. Ever.
That's all for this weekend. I'll check back in Thursday or so, once I start preparing for the Timbers season finale against Vancouver.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


First, the match is actually going to start closer to 7:45 eastern, pushed back for some pregame awards and such. As a result, our Toyota pregame show will start at 4:20 pacific time, instead of 4:15.

Second, I won't take you through the madness I just went through to get everything working, but the short version is it took 15 minutes, involved a ground loop of some type, a nasty hum, and a solution that I don't understand, but that I also don't question.

Here are the starters for Portland: Wicks; J Thompson, Griffin, Knowles, S Thompson; Poltl, Olum, Kreamalmeyer, Hague; Bagley, M Taylor. Bench: Elfvin, Lara, Morrison, Ambriz, Jordan, Ready, T Taylor.

All of the area football teams were at home today (Duke, UNC, NC State), so they're not expecting a huge crowd, but there still seem like plenty of people here already.

See you in....12 minutes.


Match Day!

I'm really starting to get fired up. I think part of that is because college football is back, and I'm a HUGE college football fan. That's one of the (only) perks about being on the east coast: College Gameday starts at 10 am, not 7, so I actually get to watch it. Bryan Jordan's Beavers won, as did Troy Ready's Huskies, so let's see if my Ducks can get it done in a few hours (I'll get to watch the first half over the internet before we leave for the stadium).

The boys have dispersed to their rooms to relax until we head out about 5:30 ET. They went for a jog earlier, while Gavin and I went to check out SAS Soccer Park, site of tonight's game. I forgot to take pictures, which is a shame, because that place is nice! The stadium itself is in the middle of a complex of fields, all of which are grass, and all of which are in great condition. The stadium is about 7,000 seats, with small stands on three sides, and a nice press box/office/suites complex on one sideline. The field itself is grass, Gavin describing it as one of the nicest the Timbers have seen this year. It's cut short, so it will play quicker and a little more like the PGE Park surface than, say, the cow pasture that is Swanguard Stadium. It's also big: Gavin estimated it at 120 yards by 80, which is about as big as you'll ever find. Hopefully the Timbers wide players will use that size to their advantage tonight.

As for the game, Carolina tends to play a more compact, defensive style game. However, they need 3 points tonight, so at some point they'll have to open it up and attack more. That might come at the start, that might come in the 80th minute, but the Timbers will have to withstand it and try to nick a goal of their own.

I think we'll leave it at that until closer to game time. Our broadcast should sound better than usual tonight: I'll be originating the webcast on-site this evening, as opposed to doing it over the phone like we normally do. And I tested everything out at the stadium, so hopefully it will all work (never a guarantee when you're doing a webcast). Remember to tune in at 4:15 pacific time for our Toyota pregame show, which will include a more detailed preview of the match, as well as Gavin Wilkinson's thoughts.

Until then...