Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Morning After

You have to love the 4:30 a.m. CT wakeup call. The good part about that is we should be back in the Pacific Northwest around 10:15 a.m. PT and have at least part of a weekend day to enjoy.

Plenty of mixed emotions following last night's draw. The guys were desperate for a win, but given the way the match unfolded with the early PK, etc., there was a level of relief in rallying to tie and more importantly preventing the Thunder from gaining three points.

The two Bryans - Jordan and Little - were key in the second half. Moving Jordan out wide and Taka Suzuki up top in the second half produced outstanding results. I won't be surprised if we see that on Thursday against the Sounders.

Until Thursday, cheers.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Starting 11

For tonight's match at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn.

GK Knighton
D Guante
D S. Thompson
D Knowles
D Griffin
M Poltl
M Oka
M Suzuki
M Olum
F Alvarez
F Jordan

Minnesota has allowed 25 goals on the year, so if ever there was a night to get the offense cranked up it's this one!

Minny to the Max

Back on the road here in Minnesota for tonight's tilt against the Thunder. As expected, no Shaun Higgins, Justin Thompson or Chris Brown in tow this trip as each serves a league-imposed suspension.

I'll have the lineups shortly.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heading Home

After a very disappointing effort in Charleston last night, the Timbers are headed home for what they hope will be a prosperous Thursday match on their home pitch against Carolina. One point from this past trip has really put the pressure on with the likes of Montreal and Rochester charging up the table in hot pursuit of a middle or better playoff spot.

It's hard to boil down the entire weekend to 90 seconds, but consider that the Ax Men were less than two minutes away from a shutout win and three points at Atlanta on Friday night but couldn't hold the fort. A win there and the trip would have been a solid success regardless of what happened the next night vs. the Battery.

The players held a meeting after last night's loss, evidently more than aware that it's up to them to turn things around. Patience from the coaching staff and front office is undoubtedly wearing thin, which will ultimately lead to major personnel changes - next year if not this - unless the current group responds.

Let's hope some home cookin' on Thirsty Thursday does the trick.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Live from Blackbaud Stadium

We made it to Charleston at 4:45 a.m. this morning on a straight shot from Atlanta. The Boys don't look too worse for wear, outside of Tim Karalexis, who's season is likely done for the year due to the knee injury he suffered early in last night's match.

Also questionable tonight is Miguel Guante, who took himself out in the first half vs. Atlanta with a sore hamstring. He is listed among the reserves, so in a pinch I've got to assume he is available. Playing the second of back-to-backs on the road is tough enough, then factor in a short bench and the task of facing the top team in USL-1 appears even tougher.

So, without further ado, here is tonight's starting 11 for the Ax Men:

D S. Thompson
D Knowles
D J. Thompson
D Griffin
M Dombrowski
M Poltl
M Higgins
M Brown
F Suzuki
F Olum

Until the broadcast, cheers!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Starting Lineup

Here's where the blog can actually be informative and break news: Tonight's starting 11 for the Portland Timbers

GK Knighton
D S. Thompson
D Knowles
D Karalexis
D Griffin
M Poltl
M Dombrowski
M Higgins
M Guante
F Brown
F Olum

Still waiting on Atlanta, but we know Bobo is out with an injury. Convenient, don't you think, after he's been torched by Bags twice this year.


Good thing tonight's match is an 8 p.m. ET kick, because at the moment the heat and humidity is off the charts. Maybe it was because I had a long workout in the hotel "fitness center" (very loose description), but I wanted to stop and rest halfway from the locker room to the "press box" (also a very generous term to describe the broadcast location here at the Silverbacks' grounds).

It's hard to know which Portland team will take the field tonight - the talented, efficient bunch who won here recently or the slow starting crew that fell at home to Puerto Rico. My money is on the former, now that Jamil Walker has had some time to acclimate and after Brad Knighton and the backline were so on form versus Tigres. Let's hope so, especially with another overnight bus trip on tap post-match.

I'm guessing there is a fairly elaborate strategy session and team talk taking place in the locker room since we arrived here at the stadium two hours before kickoff and well ahead of most Silverbacks' game personnel. Also, it's just too uncomfortable outside to spend too much time on the pitch. These conditions give a whole new meaning to the term "warm-up".

Until kickoff, cheers!

Back in the A-T-L

As I've eluded to before, if the USL first division was a movie, it would be Groundhog Day. How else can you explain consecutive road trips to the southeastern United States? If the flick is true to form, the Ax Men will lose the first game, travel overnight by bus to the next location and pull off an improbable victory tomorrow.

But wait, didn't the Timbers just beat Atlanta in Atlanta? Wouldn't it make more sense to assume victory tonight based on the Groundhog formula? Isn't Chris Bagley guaranteed to beat Matt Bobo for a goal? Maybe. Maybe not. It's a bit confusing, no?

One thing that differs from our last trip down here is the addition of Jamil Walker and a pair of new goalkeepers on the travel squad. And the absence of departed captain Andrew Gregor. Also, Tommy Poltl is back in the fold after his three-match banishment for a red card.

With added firepower possibly on the way, the key to this trip is to keep pace in the USL-1 table. A result tonight would assure that.

More later...


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Three Points!

The Timbers were not shut out of the win column in the month of June, rallying for a big 2-0 win against Atlanta, making this difficult, four-day whirlwind a success. Matt Bobo must have nightmares about Chris Bagley at this point.

We had a 4:30 a.m. lobby call today at the hotel and flew out of Atlanta at 7 a.m. ET. Now, its a two-hour layover in Salt Lake City. I attempted to stay on pacific time for this trip, so I didn't bother sleeping last night. Needless to say, I crashed out pretty well on the first leg today. Now that I think of it, since this trip began on Thursday I've had exactly one actual night of sleep. I know that goes for a lot of other guys too, which is totally jacked up when you think about it.

If this road trip had been a game show prize, the host would have described it as "you'll spend four days and one night in modest accommodations!" Good times indeed. The next roadie is back to Atlanta, so at least everyone should know what to expect.

The per diem experiment was a success. I have $5 and change remaining, with a little more than two hours to go. Without Gavin the coffee fairy, I couldn't have done it, but it feels like an accomplishment none the less. Now watch, our flight will be delayed. Hope I didn't jinx myself.

Until July, Cheers!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Night Live

In what feels like a Groundhog Day (the movie) cycle, here we are again less than an hour before the scheduled kickoff between the Timbers and Silverback in Atlanta.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Select nearby at about 6 a.m. this morning and I grabbed a couple hours of legitimate sleep before being roused by an old school telephone ring signaling that it was time to go pick up the rental vehicles. I swear this gig is taking years off my life, I can't figure out how the players are able to rebound on these kind of trips. I just talk!

The squad is warming up at the moment on a windy, but comfortable evening here in Dixie. The lineup is not set as there are a few guys banged up and Gavin needs to take a look at warmups to determine the final 11. I'd say Scot Thompson, Knowles and Griffin are in for sure, along with Burse and Higgins. Not sure how the rest of the lineup is going to shake out.

That's it for now. Cheers!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Carolina in my mind

Well it's 1:26 a.m. ET as we head on down the road from NC to Atlanta in a rather nice motor coach by USL standards. No leather, but it's got a nice smooth air suspension and not one but TWO drivers to get us on down to the land of peaches and sweet tea.

Spirits on the bus are pretty high, considering the frustration that everyone feels with regard to going without three points for what seems like an eternity. It was a solid overall effort tonight. Just lacking in legitimate scoring chances for the Timbers.

We're one movie in on the bus ride thus far, a New Zealand flick called Once We're Warriors. Well done, but a total downer of a flick to be sure. Next up, the exact opposite of the opener with a showing of Semi Pro.

Surprisingly, there's plenty of traffic here on Tobocco Road during the early morning hours. I think a truck driver was falling asleep beside us, but our driver was on his toes and fired off the horn to straighten him out.

If we make the A-T-L before daylight, I'll be shocked.

Match Musings - Game 15
  • Not impressed with the Railhawks, but they were good enough at home to get the result.
  • Disappointed to be below .500 at the midpoint, but this team has too much talent to go on like this much longer.
  • Too distracted by Semi Pro to finish this list.


Portland Starters

Live from WakeMed stadium here in Cary, N.C., Here is tonight's starting lineup for the visiting Portland Timbers. GK Burse, D Karalexis, D Knowles, D J. Thompson, D Griffin, M Dombrowski, M Guante, M Higgins, M Brown, F Taka, F Bagley. With Jordan and Gregor in reserve, the Ax Men have some bullets left on the bench if needed.

It's hot and muggy here at just after 7 p.m. ET and we've had our first raindrops. The forecast calls for possible thunder showers, and the way the clouds are shaping up at the moment that looks more likely than not.

Kickoff on Fox Soccer Channel is set for 8:07 p.m. If previous FSC matches are any indication, the audio webcast will be ahead of the video by a few seconds, so if you have to know something before seeing it yourself, you know where to go.


BJ back on board

The Timbers' attack got a big boost today with the addition of Brian Jordan, who is now officially on loan to the Boys in Green. Jordan joined the club last night, flying in from L.A. in time for tonight's Fox Soccer Channel match against Carolina.

Portland is due for an offensive surge as it is, so BJ back should only hasten that.

Ray Burse is due in today, which completes the travel party for this trip. (GK Burse, James; D S. Thompson, Knowles, J. Thompson, Karalexis; M Dombrowski, Gregor, Guante, Higgins, Lara, Little, Olum; F Jordan, Bagley, Taka, Brown

It's a steamy, sun-drenched day here in Durham, N.C. Hopefully the 8 p.m. ET start time will make the weather less of a factor for the visitors. This is a huge match from a standings standpoint, but also because how much can honestly be expected of the squad tomorrow in Atlanta?

The per diem experiment is still in full swing. Today's breakfast at the hotel, thought to be complimentary, turned out to be $12.61. Lunch - a stop at the grocery story - was $12.04, making Friday's total $24.65 thus far. That leaves $45.85 for the rest of the trip.

Until tonight. Cheers-

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Holding Pattern

We arrived on time here in Atlanta, but our flight to Raleigh/Durham - originally scheduled to depart at 9:21 ET has been pushed back to 11 p.m. So, what was already a two-hour layover will likely be four.

I can't complain too much, as this is the first real flight delay we've had this season. And it's not as if we were planning on partying on Tobacco Road tonight anyway. Tomorrow night is when the real fun starts. That's the 400-plus mile motor coach ride back here to Atlanta in a driving thunder storm.

The travel squad consists of the usual suspects, minus Tommy Poltl who has to sit out the next three games due to the red card he was issued against Atlanta at PGE Park two weeks back. Tommy will be missed. Lawrence Olum is back in the fold, which could prove beneficial for this rare back-to-back two-match set.

My personal goal for this trip is to survive solely on minor league per diem. This is in no way a slam at the Timbers organization as I completely understand the budget constraints the club is under and I'm sure most other USL-1 teams are in the same boat. But it's laughable to think you can survive out on the road, primarily in airports and hotels, on $30 per day. The total amount for this trip is $85, which I assume breaks down as $20, $30, $30 and $5 since we left today at 11:21 and return to PDX at 12-ish on Sunday.

This will not be an easy task, but these trips have essentially become a financial wash after gas, parking and meal expenses are factored in. I packed some food for the flight out here to get off on the right foot. Dinner here at the Hartsfield Airport - a fajita chicken salad and iced tea - cost $14.50 with tip, leaving $70.50 for the rest of the journey. Gavin bought me a coffee, saving at least $3, which puts me in decent shape heading into Friday.

Chirs Bagley would like me to pass along that his night has been excellent thus far (edited for viewing by all audiences).

While dated, here are the much delayed match musings from the last match.

Match Musings - Game 14
  • Just an incredible overall effort by the shorthanded Ax Men.
  • Poltl's red card was understandable, but Scott Thompson's ejection was a joke, costing the Timbers two points.
  • I could get used to TV duty. The FSN crew is top notch.

Here we go again

Back at PDX, awaiting yet another East Coast roadie. This time it's Carolina, followed by Atlanta with the longest overnight bus ride of the year included to boot. We are about to board, so this will have to be continued from the ATL airport.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time to Clense

It's been a good five days since the beatdown in B.C., so I feel able to blog about it with a clear head. The final score was certainly not entirely indicative of how it went down, but Vancouver's second-half performance was slightly better than Portland's first half, and at home that's good enough for a victory almost every time.

About that first 45 minutes. Portland really came out with purpose - something that has been lacking a bit at the start of matches this season. It was great to see a goal produced by a player (Scot Thompson) other than the usual suspects. But the second half was all Whitecaps, sparked by notorious Timber killers Jason Jordan and Alfredo Valente. Bottom line, the 'Caps made adjustments and Portland failed to.

Match Musings - Game 13

  • Swangard Stadium isn't the nicest USL-1 facility, but it's still the coolest setting in the league.
  • I'd bet money Martin Nash lists his last two goals against Portland in his all-time top five strikes. Retire already and join Stevie's entourage will you?
  • Burnaby, B.C. boasts the most expensive Subway restaurant in North America and don't even try to ask for pepperjack cheese.
With fear of stating the obvious, tonight's match against Atlanta is crucial. The Ax Men have got to secure three points on their home turf and break the seal covering the goals at PGE Park. It's been since April since a biscuit has been deposited in a home basket.

Oh, and as far as that U.S. Open Cup game against Hollywood United goes? I have no idea what you're talking about.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Back on point

Seems like old times.

The team motorcoach for the trip up I-5 is being driven by none other than Vern and his magic vest, it's raining and a mindless, crude comedy is playing on the DVD player (although not Van Wilder - very disappointing). In addition, former trainer and my former roomie Tony Guyette is on the trip in a cameo role. When we dine at Earls' tonight, it will truly feel like old times.

About last night. Not the best result by any stretch, but the chances Portland created in the second half were legit and if that keeps happening going forward, the goals will come. Minnesota, who I felt may have been a fluke side with their early success in 2008, is actually a decent team. Not great, but last night's draw felt better than the trio of ties the two teams played to in 2007.

Taka looked back on form, and should have had at least one assist if not more. Bryan Jordan occupied the team's top defender for the entire night and Jordan James made two game-saving stops in just his second start between the posts. All and all, an entertaining if not entirely fruitful match for the second-place (tie) Timbers.

Match Musings - Game 12
  • What's so wrong with a toe poke? For some reason, skilled soccer players always have to use their laces when shooting the ball when a simple toe poke could do the trick. Take Miguel Guante's miss of an apparent sitter in the second half, for instance. A D-League coed player scores that goal with a toe poke (or at least forces a save out of the 'keeper), but a pro fires it high over the crossbar and into the crowd from inside of 10 yards. To be fair to Guante, he appeared to slip on a field turf cutout, causing him to fall backward as he struck the ball. But I still think a toe poke leads to three points in that case. When goals are nearly impossible to come by, you need to try anything right?
  • The insertion of Shaun Higgins midway through the second half changed the match for the Timbers' benefit. Despite the O.C. lad's poor taste in feature films, he has been invaluable to the team so far in 2008 and that wasn't more evident than in last night's affair.
  • It's June, where is the freakin' sun? Maybe the reason the Timbers only score on the road these days is the fact that those games are played in temperatures above 60 degrees and often with this warm and glowing yellow/orange orb shining down from the sky. Seriously, I'm done with Oregon's eternal spring and I actually have ability to leave the state on multiple occassions during the drab months. I can't imagine what it must be like for the poor saps that are stuck here for the whole time. I know, I know, the second half of the year makes up for it, but things better turn around soon.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rochester Recap

Ugh. Sunday's match against Rochester was just one of those days. Nobody wants to be the first team to lose to a winless squad, but in this league it was inevitable that the Rhinos would finally break through at some point. The loss kind of took the luster off of the win in Montreal, which is funny because had the trip played out the other way around (lose first to Rochester, then win at Montreal), everyone would be fairly upbeat and content with a road split.

The Timbers really don't have an excuse for this one. Their first 11 should have been able to get the job done against a reeling and banged up Rhinos team. But that's why the games are played on the field and not on the chalkboard.

It's only 11 games into 30 and already each match feels like its taking on an even more significant role in how the season will ultimately play out. At this rate, Gavin Wilkinson hair may turn from ginger to grey before the end of August. Next up, Minnesota at home. Just another run of the mill must-win in the 2008 USL First Division!

Match Musings - Game 11
  • Defender Justin Thompson nearly had three goals in the match when you consider he put a header just over the bar and had a goal called back on a somewhat late offside flag against Taka Suzuki in the first half.
  • There is a reason the song is called "Green is the Color" and not "Red is the Color". The alternate kits looked sharp, but it seemed like they must haved weighed more than the normal strip.
  • The new Rhinos (different ownership, no longer "Raging") didn't blare music the entire match like their predecessors, which was refreshing.
  • Saw a trio of Timbers Army folk at Paetec Park. Well done.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Live From Paetec Park

The Timbers have begun their pregame warm-up here at Paetec Park in Rochester and they are wearing their alternate red kits for the first time in USL-1 play. They look sharp, although a bit Christmasy when paired with green track suit tops.

Here's the lineup for tonight...
GK: James
Def: S. Thompson, Knowles, J. Thompson, Griffin
Mid: Gregor, Poltl, Higgins
For: Brown, Bagley, Suzuki

The emergency goalkeeper in the event that James becomes injured is Brown, a role he was in during his days with Kansas City (MLS).

If you hadn't heard, Ray Burse made his 2008 first team debut with FC Dallas today and was on the short end of a 2-1 loss to Preston Burpo and the Colorado Rapids.

Check out the Timbers' audio broadcast today at

Readying for the Rhinos

We rolled into Rochester at 5:30 a.m. yesterday and it seems like we've been waiting around for days to face the no longer "Raging" Rhinos and finish up this trip.

Tonight's lineup will be different than any other put forth by Gavin Wilkinson this season, but out of respect for the coaching staff, I'll leave the changes to your imagination for now. Needless to say, it's probably a safe bet that Taka will be back in the 11. It's also a safe bet that newcomer Benjamin Totori will not be available after suffering a knee injury in the second half in Montreal.

Totori will be examined by team doctors upon his return to Portland, so there is no timetable yet for his return.

The Timbers face a tough challenge tonight, especially considering they have never won in Rochester. Add to that the fact that the Rhinos are the only USL-1 team without a victory in 2008 and this is a real pressure cooker for the home side. I expect Rochester to come out firing early and if Portland can withstand the attack, they will be in good shape.

Until tonight. Cheers!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Halfway Home

I have to admit I may have been a tad over-the-top with my "Six Points or Bust" post, but now it's not looking so far fetched. Not only was it the Timbers first win in seven matches, but it came against a team that player-for-player may be the league's best. At least the best Portland has seen thus far in the 2008 campaign.

We've just wrapped up the second DVD of our overnight bus ride from Montreal to Rochester and its absolutely pouring and pitch black at the moment. Good thing there is no traffic at 3:21 a.m. in the event that we hydroplane and turn this giant hunk of steel into a spinning top.

If the bus driver is telling the truth, we should be rolling up at the roach motel in Rochester within the next 90 minutes. Not sure if French-Canadian time is the same as the rest of North America, but that seems a little ambitious based on our prior Northeastern nocturnal coach rides over the years.

Match Musings - Game 10
  • 16 points from 10 matches is a pace for 48 and a nifty seeding in the USL-1 playoffs.
  • Chris Brown is quietly establishing himself as the club's most dependable goal scorer since Alan Gordon wore the Green and White (with neon yellow accents).
  • My computer is dying and this will have to be continued from the hell hole that is Rochester's team hotel later today.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Six Points or Bust

Time to take the Ax out on the Road again, this time to Montreal and Rochester. After a 3:20 a.m. alarm, the drive from Eugene to PDX, a round trip in the parking lot shuttle to retrieve the phone from my car, and leg one of a three-plane journey, the ATTR is checking in from LAX at just after 10 a.m. PDT. From here it's on to Cleveland (Cleveland!), and finally the land of Sacre Bleu (not to mention LaBatt Blue).

I'm flying with assistant coach Rod Underwood as the original 20-man travel party had to be increased to 22 due to one-game suspensions to Gavin and Taka, leaving the least essential travelers on our own itinerary. I'll apologize now for any typos as the people watching here in lipstick city is top notch. Rod and I are due in close to 9 p.m. EDT, about an hour and a half after the rest of the crew.

Well, how about that homestand? Yikes. Friday's match against Vancouver was frustrating, but Monday's affair vs. Miami was utter disappointment. I think the league is at an all-time high in terms of quality, which makes results at home even more critical than in the past. The way I see it, the only way to completely erase the Timbers' lost Memorial Day weekend is to rip off two wins on this trip.

Match Musings - Game 8
  • If I have to answer one more question from fans, friends or family as to why the Timbers don't score any goals, I may stop speaking altogether.
  • Vancouver is good. Again.
  • That color analyst on FSN has a face for radio.
  • Overnight bus rides don't mean jack in terms of winning and losing. Good news for the upcoming game at Rochester.
Match Musings - Game 9
  • Penalty kicks in Miami are celebrated like game-winning goals in the World Cup.
  • Taka Suzuki is tired of getting kicked.
  • It doesn't matter how good your team is, a collective mental meltdown can doom the best of them.
  • Weekday afternoon games should be reserved for recess.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ax to the Tube

Let this post serve as a recap of Miami and a preview of Vancouver. Now that's a lazy blogger if I've ever read one.

Actually, since returning to the Northwest late Monday, I've spent the bulk of the week attempting to replace the hideous blue tile around my fireplace with slate. Ambitious for someone as unhandy as myself, but at least a decent excuse for avoiding the computer for a few days.

The PR/Miami roadie just had a weird vibe to it. The one-point, comeback draw against the Islanders felt like a win, while the one-point 0-0 affair versus Miami felt like one that got away. Still, to come away from what many believe to be the toughest road swing in the USL (I'd argue that Portland/Seattle/Vancouver is no picnic either) without a loss is a quality result.

On the other hand, the Miami draw is justifiably magnified when you consider that rival Vancouver comes to town on Saturday with Portland's seven-match unbeaten string in 2008 and 18-match home streak without a loss (regular season) on the line.

My gut says that after ample time to train this week (Wed.-Fri.) and a chance to play at home after three straight on the road, the Timbers will come out blazing in this Cascadia Cup fixture. It also says USL-1 meal money leaves it hungry and sad.

The fact that the Whitecaps play at home against Seattle the night before doesn't hurt either.

I'll be switching broadcast mediums for Saturday's affair, heading over to the television side to serve as the analyst alongside Brian Davis on FSN. John Strong and Aaron Heinzen will handle the webcast side of things, and I'll likely be able to join them for the postgame show.

Match Musings - Game 7
  • The weather at kickoff made Friday's match in P.R. feel like Portland in April.
  • Former FC Blue and current Timber Miguel Guante is a bit of a media star in South Florida.
  • Cameron Knowles and Justin Thompson, when in sync and on their respective games, can shut down any forwards in North America.
  • I didn't see any Timbers supporters in either Miami or Puerto Rico. What gives?
  • No offense to Timber Joey Webber, but the Miami FC Angels were a little easier on the eyes.
  • That said, the Angels made up about one-tenth of the crowd at Tropical Park.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quality Comeback

Friday's result on the Island of Enchantment was solid. Not just coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2, but also the fact that the Timbers had never taken a single point in three previous trips to Bayamon, P.R. and had been outscored 6-1 in those losses.

We made it to Miami on Saturday afternoon and the Ax to the Road took in the sights on Southbeach last night. A very unique place to say the least.

Match Musings - Game 6
  • Bryan Little is going to cause some serious heartburn on opposing benches this year if he plays like he did on Friday.
  • The local media covering the match have never heard of the universal "no cheering in the press box" rule.
  • The Islanders will have more wins than losses at home the rest of the year.
  • I don't like casinos and they don't like me. That has nothing to do with the match, I know, but had to be stated.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Checking in from P.R.

After a pair of flights sandwiched around an hour in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, we arrived in Puerto Rico late Thursday. We made pretty good time for a 4,000-mile trek, clocking in at 13.5 hours from my driveway in Eugene to the runway in San Juan. Of course after collecting our luggage and the normal wait at the rental car agency, it was about 10:30 p.m. local time before we formally arrived at the hotel. The digs are nice here at the Sheraton in Old San Juan. I may just have to go up to the rooftop pool that overlooks the bay in order to catch a wireless signal strong enough to post this entry.

Cruised around Old San Juan this afternoon and saw the sights. I'm sure the team has been laying low most of the day as it's hot and muggy outside. The 8 p.m. kickoff should help the Timbers more than the Islanders from a comfort standpoint.

Everyone appears healthy and ready to go. Notables not on the travel squad for this trip are Neil Dombrowski and Arsene Oka, but otherwise the regulars are in tact.

From a broadcaster's standpoint, I'll be engineering the webcast on my own tonight for the first time this season, so be prepared for a hiccup or two. My uberproducer John Strong has a real job now, which means he can no longer volunteer his mixing talents on most of the away matches.

Until the match...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here We Go Again

It had been so long since a 4 a.m. wakeup call for the drive up to PDX that I didn't even mind it all that much this morning. Must be the initial road trip of the season excitement! Yes, today marks the first true Portland Timbers roadie of the 2008 season, and it just happens to be the longest - from a distance standpoint - as well. Our weekend whirlwind will take us through San Juan (P.R.) and Miami with layover stops in DFW.

I fancy myself a hardened road veteran at this stage, after a dozen or so years of traveling for soccer, but the first trip of the year (Seattle via motorcoach doesn't count) always seems to get the juices flowing. Hopefully, that translates from a blogging standpoint as well.

With everyone dressed in Timbers garb, it's only a matter of time before we all start getting the "What kind of team are you guys, anyway" questions from passers by. My stock answer in the past has been "dodgeball", but I think it's time for something new. Competitive cheerleading has a nice ring to it.

To be truthful, the folks in Portland are more tuned in these days than they used to be and generally know who the Timbers are, but the minute we leave PDX we may as well be a stunt hang gliding troupe from Arkansas. And don't even get me started on how painful it is to try and describe what the USL first division is to people.

The traveling squad has all arrived here at gate C9, so we'll be on our way soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

So Long Seattle

Hard to believe that Saturday's match may have been the Timbers' final trip to Qwest field as a USL-1 side. In one sense, it's sad to see the northern section of the I-5 rivalry go on hiatus. On the other hand, not much good has ever taken place for Portland in the Emerald City.

Match Musings - Game 5
  • Outside of a blown chance by Seattle early in the first half, the Timbers had a better first half showing than their previous match vs. Rochester. It's still very encouraging that Portland is unbeaten on the year, yet has failed to put together a complete game to date.
  • One goal against through five matches is outstanding; Five goals for through those same five is pedestrian.
  • Seattle's home opener will go down as its highest attendance of the season thanks to a huge contingent of Timbers' supporters and the fact that the Sounders will move to Starfire soccer complex for the rest of their league tests.
  • Is is just me or does anyone else have a hard time believing the MLS version of the Sounders will draw big crowds on a consistent basis? Sounders FC has sold nearly 15,000 season ticket deposits (at $50 bucks a pop), but why don't those people ever go to see the current version?
  • Power to the people. Thanks to all that tuned in on Saturday for making the webcast the highest rated regular season match in the history of the Portland Timbers Broadcast Network. Hope to have you along in Puerto Rico and Miami this weekend.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tomorrow's News Today

It's already Sunday down under, which is when soon-to-be Timber Benjamin Totori will play his final match in New Zealand before heading to Stump Town. You can read all about it in today's, er, Sunday's NZ Herald.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hitting the Road

After a four-match homestand to begin the 2008 season, the Ax will officially hit the road on Saturday via an afternoon bus ride to Seattle. The roadies to the Emerald City are barely road trips at all, considering there isn't any significant down time to explore. The most exciting thing to ever happen on a Seattle road trip - outside of beating the Sounders - was the bus blowing a tire. This is a big early-season match for both sides and the Timbers will have a better grasp of how they truly stack up with their nemesis after this one.

Match Musings - Game 4
  • Rochester is decent once again. I think that 0-2-0 start, including a loss vs. Minnesota, distorted expectations of what kind of Rhinos' club would show up at PGE Park last night. They will be in the postseason mix when it's all said and done.
  • Taka Suzuki is not on holiday. He's a 30-something World Cup veteran playing thousands of miles from home in a country not known for his sport of choice, but unlike others who have fit that bill over the years, Suzuki goes all-out, all of the time. He is a joy to watch and will soon have a Portland Timbers bobblehead likeness.
  • 10 points from four matches. Portland's best start ever and the best has yet to come. Several players have yet to distinguish themselves and with the arrival of Oka and Totori on the way, their won't be any need for Gavin Wilkinson to stand pat and rest on the squad's early success. I can't wait to see this team after 15 games.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


If I have one complaint about the USL's goal-of-the-week award, it's that they don't prominently display it on the front page of the USL website. So if you're like me, and couldn't find it right away, click on this link.

The latest GOTWA belongs to Portland's own Takayuki Suzuki - shocker, I know. The video clip incorporates both the USLlive angle and the endzone angle that has received thousands of hits on youtube. For those wondering about the hack announcer yelling "Tabasaki," that's a term dug up via google that allegedly means goal in Japanese.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sagare Back in the USL

Former Timber Jake Sagare is back in the USL after a year hiatus. The former left winger, who last played professionally with the Seattle Sounders in 2006, has signed with the Yakima Reds of the PDL. My guess is that he absolutely tears it up at that level and gets a late season call from a USL-1 squad in need.

It's a little late, but...

Match Musings - Game 3
  • Takayuki Suzuki's goal was one of the sickest strikes I've ever witnessed in person. Did I really read somewhere during the preseason that he was more of a set-up man? Rubbish.
  • Cups full of cash could take passing out of the game completely. Both goal scorers against Seattle were given a cup filled with cash that was collected throughout the Timbers Army. The cup went through the stands and when a goal was scored, the amount in the cup was earmarked for the player who bagged it. Now at this level, it's great for players to get extra dough anyway they can. But if you were leading a 2 v. 1 break and knew there was cash on the line, would you pass or shoot? If I'm the trailer making a back post run, I'd be yelling "I'll split it with you!"
  • Three games, 9 points, on pace for 90.

Monday, April 28, 2008


If you haven't seen Taka Suzuki's goal from Saturday against Seattle, check out this angle shot from inside of the Timbers Army. Can you say 1 v. 4 plus the keeper? Ri-freakin'-diculous.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Early Season Drama

Ah yes, Portland v. Seattle. Always a grinding, physical, gut-wrenching battle, and one that may be coming to a close here in 2008. Will the fact that these two rivals will no longer be in the same league after this year make the final season's matches even more intense? Hard to say, but some things are certain: Andrew Gregor will get kicked, Hugo Alcaraz will get kicked and yellow cards will fly around like confetti.

Match Musings - Game 2
  • The Thunder did not commit a single foul in the second half. They are either the softest team in the history of soccer or the man with the whistle was dozing on and off.
  • Timber Joey needs a bit more practice cutting slabs off the victory log. Sean Higgins' slice was so thick he was struggling to get a handle on it.
  • Pilots love PGE Park. Newcomers Chris Brown and Miguel Guante are playing like they're at home or something.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spread the Love

Match Musings - Game 1

  • It was a fitting end to Timber Jim's reign as Portland's number one soccer ambassador - a home victory in the 2008 season opener at PGE Park. Jim's message to the crowd of nearly 11,000 following a halftime ceremony in his honor was fitting as well: Spread the love.
  • The new turf looked amazing and resulted in about 100 fewer throw-ins than in previous home games.
  • The video of PR's assistant (I assume) coach running onto the pitch and swiping the ball off the foot of Gregor was hilarious.
  • John Strong's on-air observation that Cameron Knowles and Tom Poltl resembled Dr. Evil and Mini Me with their freshly shaved domes.
  • You have to love team owner/president Merritt Paulson's passion. Neck wrapped in a Timbers scarf, pacing the sidelines, totally immersed in the action. After a gaggle of absentee senior execs in the past (either physically or mentally from a soccer standpoint), the sports gods have delivered the ultimate owner for Soccer City USA.
  • A near record listenership last night for a regular season home match audio broadcast. Thanks for tuning in! As always, you can find the free audio stream at
  • If you didn't hear it last night or are a Muse fan, check out our broadcast open.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The back line is here.

During last season's remarkable run from the basement to the top of the USL-1 table, a common statement was spoken with a tinge of relief every time the team gathered in the early morning hours at PDX for one of our many pain inducing travel days: "The back line is here." Not that other players absent or in attendance were less important, but the general sentiment among the staff was once the four starting defenders were present and accounted for, we could breath easier.

With this week's signing of left back Leonard Griffin, the back line is officially here for 2008. Very good news.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Exhibition Wrap

The Ax Men wrapped up their exhibition season last night at the University of Portland, drawing the host Pilots 1-1. The ATTR couldn't make the match, but for recaps and the like, you're better off visiting blogs such as The Offside.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Timber Jim in the Merc

When the announcement came down a while back that Timber Jim was hanging up his chainsaw in 2008, I felt surprised and saddened at the thought of home matches without him. But to be honest, I kind of socked that nugget of info into a small nook of the memory banks and didn't summon it again until now. Now, in a little more than a week, Timber Jim's reign on the victory log will officially come to a close and it's definitely starting to sink in.

Check out the details of Jim's farewell in this rare sports-related story in the Portland Mercury.

My hope is Jim continues to wear his normal garb and bang his drum while he takes in matches as a "fan."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Love for USL-1

I can't say I had ever heard of Anne Ramzy before yesterday, but chances are good that we were within 100 meters or so of each other during one of the many trips to the Bay last season. Now for the second time in two days, her byline shows up on ESPN soccernet with a USL-1 prediction list.

Can this attention continue? Let's hope so, but let's also hope she is wrong with her pick of the Sounders as the class of the division.

Ray Reviews

The Timbers brass officially announced that goalkeeper Ray Burse has been acquired on loan from FC Dallas on Monday. He reminds me a bit of Beckham's new teammate Josh Wicks from an athleticism standpoint, but my main concern is whether or not he replaces the Wicks "comedy" factor at training and on the road.

If you're not familiar with the 6-1 Kentucky native and alum of The Ohio State University, check out his save-reel highlights on MLSnet.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Suzuki Tops ESPN List

So the "World Wide Leader in Sports" doesn't cover USL-1 (or soccer in general, for that matter) on a regular basis, but when they do it's somewhat cool to see the words Portland Timbers etched on their website.'s annual preview has hit the web and who's the top player to watch? Why it's Takayuki Suzuki, of course.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Right Around The Corner

The arrival of 2008 has come and gone, and low and behold, we're already in double-digits in the month of January. That means that three months from now the Ax Men will be busy with final preparations for the '08 USL-1 campaign.

I've had the good fortune to glance a sneak peek at the upcoming schedule, and without divulging any specific details, it's outstanding from both a fan's perspective and competitive standpoint. We all know that the Timbers are always challenged when it comes to scheduling due to the fact that they share the pitch with the Portland Beavers (who have 50-plus more home dates to fill than the Boys in Green), but Gavin Wilkinson must have gone to the mat with more than one fellow GM to cobble this gem together. And remember, it was likely even more difficult considering the addition of two more regular season matches.

I don't know yet what frequency the Ax will hit the Road this year, but stay tuned.