...so 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.