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!