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Remembering the past is always fun

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 7:46am
Cliff Pfenning
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When I ran across Dennis Murphy on Saturday at the Class 6A state basketball tournament, he lit up on a topic he knows very well, but doesn't get to talk about much anymore.

It's his first championship - one he earned in 38 years ago while coaching Little League softball.

I ran across that fact two years ago while doing some history research and finding that a team from Gresham had won the softball World Series in 1983. I worked on getting that team together for a 30-year anniversary, and there's some video of that up on http://www.youtube.com/oregonsportstv. Those ladies had a great time showing off photos from their experience three decades earlier.

Murphy's name popped up on the list of champions, and immediately hit me - is that the same Dennis Murphy who's the basketball coach at South Medford?

Murphy had a great time talking about the unique elements of that season as the South Medford band played in the background, in particular, that the team won the series in the only year softball actually played in Williamsport. Softball people will note that's a good thing as the field there is baseball oriented, not softball - there's grass in the infield.

Since then, Murphy has gone on to a distinguished

The best part of the interview was at the end, after filming, when he sat back down and and reflected on reflecting with a big smile - "that was fun."

Getting people to talk about their experiences is always fun for me, too.

And, hey, how about those hats?

Here's the video:

 

What's best for the Blazers?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 10:48pm
Derek Weber
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There's really three places the Blazers can finish up this season. I want to know what's the best spot for them.

1. Make a run at a playoff spot and get bounced in the first round. This would cause them to lose their first round draft pick to the Charlotte Bobcats to complete the Gerald Wallace trade, top 12 protected.

2. Finish just outside the playoffs in the 13-14 spot. Assuming they don't move up in the lotto they would lose their first round pick here as well.

3. Get bogged down by playing the NBA's toughest remaining schedule and fall into the bottom 12 teams in the league. They would keep their draft pick, since it's top 12 protected through 2015, unless a team in the 13-14 slot moves past them, highly unlikely.

So what's best for the team?  It really comes down to how the Blazers or you as fans value the draft pick. Making the playoffs sounds good, but with a very small chance of moving on is it really going to do much for you and you'd be giving up that draft pick?

The 13-14 spot might be the worst spot, no playoffs and no pick. However the Blazers will have to give up the pick as some point. Is this the year? Are there any impact players you want in the last stage of the lotto?

Perhaps you can get value for the pick if it's in the lotto.

Remember Neil Olshey, Blazers GM, has talked a lot about cap space this summer. If he doesn't feel that a draft pick would be much help I could seem him hoping to give it the Bobcats or getting rid of it another way. Any draft pick you have places a hold on available cap space come time to sign free agents.

So what do you think is the best scenario for the Blazers?

Return to the Jump Ball Era

Thu, 03/07/2013 - 11:07am
Cliff Pfenning
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In a year, I think Grant High would win its boys basketball playoff game against West Linn - with the exact same circumstances as played out Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. But, not beause the officiating would be different, or different calls were made. They'd win because of an extra year of experience for the team, and for coach Paul Kelly.

Kelly came away from the game extremely upset by the officials' call that created two free throws that West Linn senior Jarrod Howard calmly sank to push the Lions to a 51-50 lead with 3.6 seconds remaining in the pressure-filled game.

Grant threw an inbounds Hail Mary, which Howard caught and ran out the clock to move the Lions into the semifinals and a game against unbeaten Lake Oswego Friday.

Kelly had plenty of reason to be upset by the call that sent Howard to the line, a call you can watch on video at youtube.com/oregonsportstv. He's scrambling for the ball along with half the players on the court, but ends up at the free throw line. On the replay, you can see it's a decisive call on a very indecisive play. And, Grant got burned by the call.

In a year, though, that call won't be the decisive part of the game, because Kelly will have a year of head coaching experience to reflect on.

Grant played its way to a No. 1 seed in the playoffs in Kelly's first season. But, that's the regular season. The pressure of winning in January and February isn't anything like winning in March, and the final 20 seconds showed that.

Leading 50-49 after making a pair of free throws from a foul call, Grant forced a missed shot - by Howard - and senior Khayman Burton grabbed the rebound. But, he simply held onto the ball, and got tied up - by West Linn's Hayden Coppedge ... and Howard. Grant got possession on the jump ball. The ensuing inbounds play went badly, though. The inbounds pass got batted away ... by Howard ... and turned into a mad scramble in which Grant's Bryce Canda clearly got to the ball first and got tackled. When the whistle blew to end the play, though, West Linn got possession due to a jump ball being called - although it was not clearly signaled.

West Linn's ensuing inbounds play ended in another mad scramble, but this one resulted in the key free throws.

What to make of all this?

Well, first, Grant had 3.6 seconds left after both free throws. That's plenty of time to get all the way to the basket for a lay-up or game-winning jump shot. The Hail Mary was the last call a more experienced team would make.

Moving backward, too, a better inbounds play with 13 seconds left would have resulted in free throws for Grant. Instead, it resulted in a turnover. Regardless of how questionable that call was, a more experienced team would have gotten that ball in without getting it batted away.

Even the rebound that turned into a jump ball could have been a rebound and pass to a nearby teammate, who would have drawn a foul.

Next year, the Generals would create a lot more chances to win (there's no guarantee, of course, they'd make any of those free throws they might have drawn).

As for the offiicials, the jump ball call brings up an idea to resolve a lot of mad scrambles. Use it more. When there's a scramble, a scrum, tackles being made, that would be a great time to just call the play dead and determine possession. In that case, neither team could score directly, one team would just get the ball and an inbounds pass. Complaining about a change in possession is a lot different than complaining about free throws that result from the same mad scramble. The call that resulted in Howard's free throws was right in line to be a jump ball call.

It's unfortunate Grant's eight seniors will probably reflect on their loss to West Linn with an official's call being a key element, but it's an opportunity for the program's future to grow from the experience and be better prepared to win the same game, even with the exact same officials.

 

 

 

New-look Timbers show off potential in opener

Sun, 03/03/2013 - 9:55pm
Mike Donovan
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New coach. New style. New players.

And at halftime, it appeared to be the same old Timbers. A leaky back line and some bad mistakes left the Timbers down 3-1 heading into the locker room after 45 minutes of action.

Losing at halftime is not a new position for the Timbers in the MLS. In fact, it was the 24th time the club has trailed at the break in 69 matches since its ascension to Major League Soccer. And in 19 of those games, Portland had been unable to fight its way back for a point. But this might not be the same Timbers as in previous years.

The second half was dominated by the home side, as they made up the two goal deficit with a superior playing style. Two-thirds possession and a 13-to-4 shot advantage in the second half was enough for Timbers to gain a point in their home opener.

It’s easy to say things have changed solely due to a new coach and new players, but what actually has changed from previous editions of the Timbers? Here are a two things that have definitely changed-

1. A dynamic playmaker
In his first league match, Diego Valeri was a revelation for the club. While Darlington Nagbe has shown flashes, the MLS Timbers have never had an attacking midfielder like Valeri. While his 51 turnovers was a lot, his constant array of attacking passes and his skill on the ball was magnificent. His first half goal was also a thing of beauty and made mincemeat out of former MLS defender of the Year Jamison Olave. If Valeri can keep playing at the level he did tonight, he will be the MLS Newcomer of the Year.

2. Constant pressure
"You just get the feeling the Portland Timbers have 14 players on the field right now."

That was the quote from ESPN announcer Taylor Twellman late in the second half of the match. And that is exactly the type of pressure that has rarely been seen from the Timbers before. While counterattacks were common, a sustained wave of pressure and passing was not. Portland had 496 successful passes Sunday night compared to New York’s 249. The majority of those passes were due to the outstanding nights by Diego Chara, Will Johnson, and Valeri. Their presence on the ball was exceptional.

The trouble with overanalyzing the opening match of the season is that there are still 33 games left in league play. In 2011, the Timbers were thrashed by the Rapids in the season opener and still contended for a playoff spot until the final week of the season. In 2012, Portland beat up a Philadelphia Union side and then put together a lackluster season.

That being said, overcoming a two-goal deficit for the first time in MLS (0-19-0 in 2011/2012) is definitely something to be looked at on a positive note.

 

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com. Follow him at:

www.twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan

 

The Goalkeeper kicks the ball to the leftback, who is 10 yards ahead of him to his left.

The leftback takes one small touch upfield and then taps a centering pass to a holding midfielder.  

That midfielder also takes one touch and returns a pass to the same area where the leftback was.

However, the leftback has started advancing upfield and his spot has been taken over by an outside midfielder.

After receiving the ball close to the sideline, the midfielder takes six dribbles while driving upfield towards the opponent’s goal.

In five seconds, he covers about 20 yards and then taps a pass to an attacking midfielder who had taken a run parallel to the dribbler.
The attacking midfielder lets the ball run towards the center of the pitch without taking a touch.

A defender tries to close down the space, but before he does, the attacking midfielder sends a pass through to a forward, who has snuck in between the two central defenders.  

The forward delivers a clinical finish with his left foot and gives the goalkeeper no chance of keeping the ball out of the net.

The above passage is a breakdown of the second goal that the Portland Timbers scored during their 3-3 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes Sunday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

In their first two seasons in the MLS, the Portland Timbers have never scored a goal like the one they produced in the 27th minute of their home preseason opener. While there have been lovely counterattack goals (Danny Mwanga vs San Jose in 2012, Diego Chara vs Vancouver in 2011), Portland has not been known as a team that uses a full-length possession to score a goal.

In the past, the majority of Timbers run-of-play goals have been scored by A) producing a counterattack that surprises the defense and catches them out of position or

B) from a cross from the wing. Basically, the Timbers relied on the other team to make mistakes for a likely goal scoring opportunity to come up.
If last night’s goal is any indication, this is no longer the case. Caleb Porter’s style isn’t just about forcing defenders into mistakes, but it’s also about just playing superior soccer.

After one game in front of a home crowd, it is already obvious that Porter’s style is worlds away from the previous coaching strategies. He also has seemed to find players that fit the new style.

Diego Valeri, who was signed as designated player in the offseason, was a revelation in the midfield Sunday night. He has no problem taking on defenders and is extremely clever in his decision making when attacking. He can see angles that the majority of players are unable to see.

Other new additions made their names known with newly acquired Ryan Johnson collecting a hat trick on three very impressive finishes and fullbacks Michael Harrington and Ryan Miller providing a spark from the backline.

Players like Harrington, Valeri and Johnson were brought in because Porter and GM Gavin Wilkinson thought they would be able to fit the style that Porter wants to play. Most of the returning Timbers, however, might have to adjust their games to fit the new style.

Darlington Nagbe, who played under Porter at Akron, unsurprisingly seemed comfortable with his role last night, as evidenced by his streaking run and pass to Valeri on the second Timbers goal. For players like Kalif Alhassan and Danny Mwanga, the new style is one that they should be able to play. Alhassan, in particular, has the skill-set to play in tight spaces and make nice attacking passes.

It would be unreasonable to expect the Timbers to always produce the nice on-the-ball play they had on Sunday. But if they continue to play Porter’s style at a high level, many Timbers players should be able to produce successful seasons.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com. Follow him at:

www.twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan

 

 

Nov. 8, 2012

After the final Timbers game of the year, the Portland Mercury’s Brian Gjurgevich dubbed me “Timbers stat nerd of 2012.”  This is a quite an honor for me to be bestowed with, and I take the title very seriously.

Because of this, I wanted to take a second and share some of favorite, cool or simply bizarre stats that I came across during or after the 2012 season.  

Scoring droughts coming to an end
Despite scoring fewer goals in 2012 than 2011, quite a few Portland Timbers had long scoring droughts come to an end.

When Sal Zizzo put in the Timbers first goal in a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on August 15th, it was the first time Zizzo had ever scored a goal for a professional, non-reserve squad in a league match. Despite signing his first professional contract in July of 2007 with Hannover 96, the winger had only put the ball in the net in friendlies, cup matches or for reserve teams.

If it seemed like David Horst didn’t know how to react after heading the ball into the net against the Seattle Sounders on June 24, its probably because he hadn’t had much practice. After all, that goal was Horst’s first MLS goal despite being drafted in 2008 by Real Salt Lake. Injuries almost derailed Horst’s career but he has seemed to find a home in Portland.

Timbers midfielder Franck Songo’o ended the season in a more attacking role than he had in the beginning of the season. Yet when Songo’o scored his match-winning free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps on August 25, it was his first league goal since scoring on a header for Real Zaragoza on Valentine’s Day 2009 against UD Las Palmas. Songo’o’s last goal with his feet was scored on March 29, 2008 when he scored for Sheffield Wednesday.

Other Timbers to end scoreless streaks were Eric Brunner, who in his 80th MLS match scored a goal with one of his feet for the first time on May 20th, and Kalif Alhassan, who on opening night scored a goal on the US mainland for the first time in his three seasons for the Portland Timbers

Werewolves of Portland
One of the more interesting stats that developed through the season was the Timbers penchant for playing well in Portland when under a Full Moon. With wins over San Jose (Thunder Moon) and Colorado (Blue Moon) and draws with Columbus (Flower Moon) and DC United (Harvest Moon), the Timbers ran their record to 5-0-2 in their last seven home Full Moon games.

Five goals is a lot
On consecutive Saturdays in July, the Timbers gave up five goals to their opponents. First on July 14, in Gavin Wilkinson’s first game back as the Timbers head coach, Portland fell 5-3 to the defending champ LA Galaxy, then on July 21, the club was shut out 5-0 by FC Dallas. In the previous 335 games (their entire USL tenure and previous 51 games), the club had conceded five goals in a league match just once.

North End reigns supreme
The Timbers Army section has always inspired the hometown team and seemed to bring an extra edge to the club. But in its two MLS seasons, the Timbers have taken that appreciation to a new level by scoring a huge portion of its goals in front of the North End. In 2012, 16 out of the 24 goals scored by Portland at Jeld-Wen Field were scored heading towards the North End. Add that to the 21 of 30 scored in the North End in 2011 and that brings the percentage of goals scored in the North End to 68.5 percent.

In the 34 halves the MLS Timbers have played headed towards the North End, they have scored 37 goals. In the 102 halves played on the road or towards the South End, they have scored the exact same number. That translates to 1.09 goals every North End half and 0.36 goals per half played on the road or South End.

No way San Jose

The Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes have been playing each other since 1975. And, despite the Earthquakes having the best record in the MLS in 2012, San Jose struggled to beat the Timbers, again. Portland is undefeated in five MLS league matches with the Bay Area club (1-0-4) and hasn’t lost a league match against San Jose since May 26, 1982.

Where is my penalty kick?
In 2012, the Portland Timbers became the fourth team in MLS history not to be awarded a penalty kick during an entire MLS season, but the Timbers have a longer penalty kick drought to keep an eye on in the future. Portland’s last penalty kick goal was July 30, 2011 against Toronto FC. That means in the Timbers last 48 games, they have scored zero goals via the penalty kick. In those same 48 games, Timbers opponents have score 7 goals from the spot.

If you have any favorite stats of your own from the 2012 Timbers season, please tweet me at twitter.com/themikedonovan and have a wonderful offseason.

 

Sept 15, 2012

The next time the Timbers take on a Cascadia Cup rival in Portland, they will have a new coach and likely some new players on the pitch. Saturday’s 1-1 draw might have given the Timbers a glimpse of what their future looks like in 2013 and beyond.

In the future envisioned by Timbers management, and fans alike, the Timbers will constantly play big games for trophies in front of national TV audiences. While the 2012 season has been a disappointment in many ways, the chance to win the Cascadia Cup in front of a home crowd made it the biggest and most important game of the season.  

And, in the face of all that pressure, certain Timber players seemed to rise to the occasion. With no spots on the team guaranteed for next season, players played like their jobs were on the line, in addition to the Cup.

In his last two seasons with the Portland Timbers, Rodney Wallace has been criticized so much by Timbers fans that he might as well changed his name to “Much-Maligned Rodney Wallace.” Despite showing flashes going forward, Wallace has often been the scapegoat for his penchant for playing blind long balls out of the back.

But with Steven Smith suspended, Wallace was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in five matches. But that was in the midfield. Wallace hadn’t started at left back since the fifth game of the MLS season. Despite this, Wallace delivered his finest match of his Timbers career, turning the match into a video resume for incoming head coach Caleb Porter.

While his goal will get the headlines, it was his all-around play that will keep Wallace on the field for the Timbers. When coming forward, Wallace earned numerous corner kicks for Portland and completed 58 successful passes (to just 16 unsuccessful). On defense, he locked down his side of the pitch and had a key block of a Brad Evans cross in the 31st minute. Eddie Johnson had been left unmarked and would have had an open goal if not for Wallace’s key defensive stop.

It wasn’t just Wallace who played well on Saturday. Captain Jack Jewsbury played a nice game at holding midfield and his corner kicks completely turned the match around for Portland.

Jewsbury, who is two full years older than any other Timbers field player, is playing at a level that would certainly merit his inclusion on the team next season. If nothing else, he provides leadership and durability on the field.

Despite playing different positions, Jewsbury and Wallace provide more versatility than the majority of Portland’s current squad. Wallace is a self-described two-way player who has no problem playing close to either goal. Jewsbury on the other hand can play anywhere from right back to attacking midfield.

The match was also a key one for players like Bright Dike, Sal Zizzo, and Hanyer Mosquera to gain experience playing in such a large rivalry game. None of the three players had started against the Sounders in the MLS. While they might not have played their best games Saturday, the big game experience might come in handy, the next time they are faced with an important match.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com and he tweets at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan. Donovan, along with oregonsports.com publisher Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm.

 

SATURDAY'S CASCADIA CUP BY THE NUMBERS

Sept. 12, 2012

0- Times that the Portland Timbers have won the Cascadia Cup when Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland have all competed in the same league. The Cascadia Cup was formed in 2004 by the supporters group of the three clubs. With a win Saturday, the Timbers would clinch the 2012 Cascadia Cup.

1- Amount of wins Gavin Wilkinson has as head coach of the Portland Timbers against the Seattle Sounders in league or US Open Cup play. His overall record is 1-6-2 and his only victory came in a 2-0 victory on April 26, 2008.  

2- The number of former Sounders who have scored for the Timbers against Seattle. Andrew Gregor and Darren Sawatzky both scored in the USL against their former clubs, while backup forward Mike Fucito could add his name to the list with a goal Sunday.

3- Away losses for the Sounders in 2012. Seattle has the fewest losses away from home this season of any MLS club. The Sounders also had the fewest away defeats of any MLS team in 2011.

4- National TV games that Kris Boyd has started in for the Timbers. In those four starts, he has four goals, all of which came at Jeld-Wen Field. Boyd has not started the last four games, but he has had a penchant to score goals in big games.

23- Games since neither Mike Chabala or Steven Smith started at left back for the Timbers. Chabala was traded to DC United on August 8, while Smith will be suspended for Saturday’s match due to yellow card accumulation. Rodney Wallace, Lovel Palmer, and Ian Hogg are among the candidates to start at left back for Portland on Saturday.

62- Fouls committed by Timbers midfielder Diego Chara. Chara leads the MLS in fouls and is just two away from his total of 64 last season, which also led the league.  Chara has only committed three fouls in his three previous appearances against Seattle.

2005- The last year Portland beat Seattle twice in the same season. The club’s 1-0 victory on August 7 gave the Timbers their second victory in a league match over their rival club.

$1,457,062.50- The difference in the amount of compensation Kris Boyd and Bright Dike will receive in 2012. Despite Boyd’s higher salary, Dike has started the last four games and scored two goals for Portland. That amount is more than the combined salaries of Seattle’s Freddy Montero, Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales and Osvaldo Alonso.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com and he tweets at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan. Donovan, along with oregonsports.com publisher Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm.

 

FIVE REASONS THE TIMBERS ARE STRUGGLING

May 15, 2012

It's two months into the Portland Timbers second MLS season and the first eight games have left much to be desired. Portland is currently last in the MLS’s Western Conference and is the only team in the West with fewer points (7) than games (8).

Here are five reasons why the Timbers have struggled, and how they might be able to turn their season around.

1. Injuries

Every team gets injured, but the Timbers have dealt with the injury bug early and often. This season has seen injuries at every position, from players that have never played in Portland (Jose Adolfo Valencia) to some of last year’s stalwarts (Futty Danso, Kalif Alhassan, Rodney Wallace, David Horst, etc). So far, the Timbers haven’t been able to catch a break.

There isn't much solution to staying injury-free other than making sure players aren’t rushed back too early and sustain more long-term damage.

2. Where is Nagbe?

While second-year player Darlington Nagbe showed glimpses of his immense talent last season, his rookie year was marred by injuries and a slow start to the year. This season, Nagbe has already bested his scoring mark from last season with three goals. All three goals came from when Nagbe was playing in the center of the field. Despite Nagbe’s success in the middle, he has started three games at outside midfielder.

Ten minutes into the Timbers match vs Real Salt Lake, John Spencer moved Nagbe off the wing and into an attacking center-mid role. All Nagbe did was score two first-rate goals and play his best soccer as a professional. Despite this, Nagbe hasn’t played in the central of the midfield since.The best solution would be to stick Nagbe underneath the strikers and let him create. This would also make it easier on either Jack Jewsbury or Lovel Palmer, as they are better when playing a holding midfield position.

3. The play of the backline

The Timbers ended the 2011 season with some very stout defensive performances and gave up just eight goals in their final ten matches. However, the beginning of 2012 bodes no resemblance to the end of 2011 having conceded 13 goals in the first eight matches. Consistently poor positioning, lack of marking near the end of matches, and ball-watching have led to numerous goals that could have been prevented.

While the fullback position has been justifiably criticized by media and fans alike, the centerbacks have also been at fault on multiple goals this year. Eric Brunner has shown outstanding leadership and has had to cover for poor play on the outside, but he has also not shown the domination in the aerial game that he had last season. The budding partnership between Brunner and Hanyer Mosquera looks promising, but only clean sheets will prove the pair’s worth.

4. Late game debacles

In all but one game this season, the Portland Timbers have entered the 75th minute with a tie or a lead. Despite this, Portland has only been able to get positive results in three of those seven matches. Portland has given up six goals in the final 15 minutes, which leads the league. One reason for the late-game struggles, seems to from needless late-game substitutions. On multiple occasions this season, a second half sub has been at fault for an opponent’s goal. One of those players, James Marcelin, was waived last week to make room for Steven Smith.

One way to fix the problem is to make sure players understand their late game roles. Players such as Diego Chara have seemed to be unsure of what position they are meant to be playing in at the end of matches. Another problem, which might be harder to overcome, is changing the belief of the team at the end of the matches. It's hard to hold a lead when everything in your brain is telling you that you are going to concede a late goal. It might be easier for attacking players to continue their attacking ways instead of trying to overload the defensive half. In fact, Portland is one of just three MLS squads without a goal in the final 15 minutes of a match.

5. The Timbers just aren’t as good as their opponents

The 300-pound elephant staring the Timbers in the face is a scary one. Despite the acquisitions of Kris Boyd and Mosquera, Portland is simply not playing as well as it did in the second half of last season. It's completely possible that the majority of MLS teams have gotten better, while the Timbers have stayed the same or gotten worse.

Since opening night, only Nagbe and Boyd have scored goals. The midfield has provided little in the attack and hasn’t been able to close down on opponent midfielders away from the ball.

In almost every match, the opponents have gotten production from their bench, while the Timbers haven’t gotten much (other than Nagbe’s goal).

The lack of depth in the bench has been easy to see while teams such as Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and even expansion Montreal have had subs be key parts of goals. In-season acquisitions of Mike Fucito and Smith might provide some much-needed support for Portland, but it still waits to be seen if the Timbers face a “talent issue.”

One positive for the club is the season is only a quarter of the way through. However, if the Timbers can’t turn their early season woes around soon, it will be a long season at Jeld-Wen Field.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com and he tweets at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan. Donovan, along with oregonsports.com publisher Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm.

Oregon's season is saving the state's honor

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 12:01pm
Cliff Pfenning
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It's been a horrible year for college basketball at the NCAA Div. I level in Oregon.

Horrible is a bit of a harsh term, but a look at the conference records for the eight Div. I men's and women's programs shows there's only one of team with a winning mark. In fact, only the Oregon Ducks have more than five conference wins heading into this weekend's games.

Without the Ducks' 11-4 conference record, the state is 26-85 in conference games.

So, where's that leave the expectations for the fans of the four schools?

Are there any coaching changes that deserve at least a chat around a water cooler?

Here's a look at who's most likely to get a bit of conversation going in order of how it might come up:

1. Paul Westhead, Oregon women
If there's a change coming this off-season it's Westhead. Oregon is 50-67 in his fourth year there, but just 20-50 in conference play, and is going backwards in overall wins. This season, the Ducks are 4-24, 2-14, and lost all four games to in-state schools. When they played at the University of Portland in December, the team (along with the Pilots) attracted roughly 200 fans
Unless the team somehow plays its way to a conference tournament title, this will be the worst season in school history.

2. Craig  Robinson, Oregon State men
Robinson is 73-86 overall and 30-57 in conference play in his fifth year at the school. Those aren't numbers that scream for a coaching change, unless you're a fan who expects more. The Beavers were 21-15 last year, which showed off the progress under his guidance, but he has yet to post a winning record in conference play. This season's 3-12 record in Pac-12 play is what should get some discussion going.

3. Eric Reveno, Portland men
In his seventh season, Reveno has led the Pilots to a 96-124 record, and 42-47 mark in West Coast Conference play, so the program isn't begging for a change, unless, again, you expect more. Portland averaged 20 wins per season from 2008-11, but went just 7-24 last year. It's 11-19 this year and 4-11 in WCC action. A win or two in the conference tournament should quell discussion through another season, but no wins in Vegas leads to …

4. Tyler Geving, Portland State men
Geving has guided the Vikings to a moderate level of success, which included a 17-15 record last season. There's not an imminent need to push for a change in the Park Blocks, unless, again, you expect more. The team does not have any freshmen this season, which would be the biggest thing that attracts attention, and is just 8-16 overall. But last season's record and level of competitive play should allow room for at least one more season.

5. Scott Rueck, Oregon State women
In his third season, Rueck is 38-53 overall, but only 14-38 in conference play. He's still building the program with his own recruits, but 9-19, 3-13 this season is cause for some discussion. Are the Beavers going forward? He's still in year No. 3, and was conference Coach of the Year last season when the program went 9-9 in conference play, so there's not much of an imminent need to talk about his future as being somewhere else.

6. Sherri Murrell, Portland State women
In season No. 6, Murrell is 109-75, and 58-39, which puts her alongside Oregon's Dana Altman as the coaches with winning records for their career at their current school. The Vikings have had annual success, although this season they're just 11-5, 5-12. Another year like this will get a little blood boiling, although a return to previous success might actually get some larger schools looking her way.

7. Dana Altman, Oregon men
In year No. 3, the Ducks are 22-6, 11-4 under Altman and have become a Top 25 program. Oregon expects a winner, and he's producing. Now, they just need to get somewhere in the NCAA Tournament, but that's the kind of discussion you want.

8. Jim Sollars, Portland women
In year No. 27, Sollars is pretty-much untouchable as coach on The Bluff. The Pilots are an annually tough team, although just 11-17, 4-12 this year. Overall, Portland is 374-412 under Sollars, and 164-202 in WCC play, but heading for three decades at the helm should have fans talking about frustration with players, not the head coach. Unless, again, you expect more.









Are the Olympics asking for competition?

Wed, 02/13/2013 - 3:59pm
Cliff Pfenning
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Talk about coming from out of left field.

The International Olympic Committee took the first step toward cutting wrestling out of the line-up for Summer Games starting in 2020, a move that was absolutely stunning to read about - just the headline - on Tuesday.

Wrestling may have been one of the original sports the Olympics were created around, but the modern keepers of the Games looked past that and voted to take it out regardless of its standing as a much-loved international sport.

The leaders of the sport at the international level, FILA, didn't seem to do much to stop it either, according to what's been written online.

The sport isn't going to stop being contested on the international level - there's going to be World Championships every year, but it's just not going to have the specific appeal it gets every four years. The IOC Executive Board, with its move, seemed to totally miss it's role in assisting non-TV-oriented sports with their popularity every four years.

Take soccer for example. Soccer has its own world celebration - every four years, too - called the World Cup. Soccer as a sport, has professionals worldwide and does just fine without the Olympics.

Basketball has pro leagues across the world and does just fine as a sport without the Olympics. Since professionals have been allowed in, it's essentially another opportunity to watch the All-Star game. Those sports, though, are television-oriented, money generating, so they're always going to be part of the Games. Wrestling, while it nearly sold out all of its tickets in London - more than 120,000 - during its run for Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions, is not a highly revenue-generating sport on television, so it was on the block along with other sports such as the Modern Pentathlon and field hockey.

The Modern Pentathlon - is there anyone in Oregon who trains for that? Field Hockey - are there any teams in Oregon?

Wrestlng gets to show itself off every four years, much like figure skating or ski jumping do in the Winter Games. There are competitions yearly with World Championships, but the Olympics are the biggest thing in the wrestling world. The IOC looked right past that.

The sport is achieving great success in Oregon, and is growing more than any other sport - roughly 9 percent a year. Only girls cross country (7 percent) and girls track and field (6 percent) are growing among the state's high school sports. Baseball (13 percent) and softball (17 percent) are experiencing the biggest decline. Baseball and Softball are looking to join the Olympics roster in 2020.

For wrestling supporters in Oregon, who've seen programs get dropped at schools throughout the state to where there are just a handful left, it's another snub by the executive level, even though within the state it's highly successful. Oregon State is among the nation's top dual meet teams and is annually ranked in the top 25, while Clackamas Community College has won a national title recently. Half of OSU's team is from Oregon, something none of the other teams at the school can promote.

So, where's the reversal here?

Perhaps wrestling as a sport needs to create its own World Cup, a tournament conducted every four years and held in countries where there's significant interest and revenue available for such an event. The best way to get wrestling back into the Olympics is to have the IOC ask for the sport to come back, and that's going to take some effort at the top level of the sport, something it didn't seem to get recently.

There's a number of online petitions that have sprung up already, urging the U.S. Government for one to take some political action. The first thing the U.S. wrestling establishment should do is lobby to replace the executive level of the international governing body, which seems to have allowed the sport to get taken down without much of a fight, and that's not the way its competitors are raised to address competition.

2013 Roofball World Championship

Mon, 02/11/2013 - 8:59am
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We’re one week out from the 15th annual Roofball World Championship.

The World Championship is the first and largest event of the Roofball season. The simplest explanation of Roofball is: a sport where a player throws a football at a target located on a roof.

Now on to the preview. On February 17th 24 players will compete for the 15th annual World Championship. The WCs should see a full 24 player field with many of the usual suspects. Adam Willis, Buddy Emmons and myself have 4 Roofball titles each. While Casey Campbell will bring his 6 wins with him, oh yeah and try to defend his title.

Other competitors include:

Steve Stupey – 2009 US Open Champ

Dale Bernhardt – 2011 RFA Cup Champ

Beth Willis – 11 Woman’s Champ

Rob Saliski – Three third place finishes

Amy Determan – Two time woman champion

If you’re interested in learning more check out www.roofball.org where you can leanr about the rules, players and records. Interested in showing up watching or possibly playing? Email president@roofball.org.

Super duper bowl

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 4:17pm
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Here we are the last game of the season, the Super Bowl. I’ll forgo the conversation about the coaches, did you know they’re brothers!?!??!? What do football games come down too? Running the ball, time of possession, turnovers? Sure all of those items are great a predicting winners, but we’re talking about scoring, you don’t score you don’t win.

Which team has the better chance of scoring? The 49ers. They have a good RB, a QB that can pass and run, WR’s and TE’s who can catch and run oh wait…am I talking about San Francisco or Baltimore? Let’s see Rice, Flacco (say what you want 8TDs and 0INTs in the playoffs), Boldin, Smith, Pitta… yeah I must be writing about the Ravens. Wait what? Gore, Kaepernick, Crabtree, Davis… Ah crap.

Ok, so defense wins championships as they say. Who has the better D, who can keep the other team from scoring? Easy, the Ravens right, they’re a perennial top D team. What’s that you say? I’m living in the past, the Ravens are old and can’t slow down anyone? If you say so I swear they held the Pats to 13 points at home last game, oh well, the 49ers it is! Wait, they were down 17-0 last game and gave up 31 points in one playoff game already? Hmm that doesn’t sound dominate either.

Ok well, how about the coaches! Did you know their brothers?

Either way this should be a good one. I’m stoked. My money’s on the 49ers. I think they have the better team overall and seem to keep it together no matter the situation. Look for Vernon Davis to have a big day, but not as big as Kaepernick, your MVP.

It's the era of specialization

Sat, 01/26/2013 - 12:19am
Cliff Pfenning
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Ah, the simpler days of the sports media world. Where did they go?

In this week’s cover feature, coaches of club teams reflect on the state of sports and athletes who play them and it’s not what it used to be. At least in time commitment.

High school kids might put in the same amount of time in practice and games as they used to during a season 10 and 20 years ago, they just don’t play as many sports anymore.

Three-sport athletes are far more rare because they are almost required to focus on one sport if they expect to earn some financial assistance from a college, whether it’s a scholarship or some tuition assistance.

If you want to be good enough to get noticed, you have to be special by focusing on one sport.

It works that way in the media world as well, and has writers of traditional media making the same comments about their profession. It was better the old way, when one publication was able to cover a wide variety of topics for a large audience. Competition wasn’t lacking, but the mix of print, radio and television survived from the advent of TV following World War II right on into the 21st century.

Today, the media world changes almost daily, which is part of social progress. Any sport or activity can get special attention if it has someone to provide it. Usually for free.

The consistent specialization, though, especially in blog form, has  continually sapped the ability of established media to keep tabs on larger issues affecting its community. Those issues would turn into features, the kind that involve some research and a bit of time to write.

Writers of today probably spend more time working their craft, but so much of it involves tweeting and blogging, and doesn’t get delivered to a larger audience, only the specialized one that follows their work through Facebook or Twitter.

That’s the challenge we’re tackling, attracting an audience to a collection of stories and features from a variety of specialized topics, something newspapers do, at least did back when there were still three-sport athletes.

Helfrich has a big hire in replacing himself

Sun, 01/20/2013 - 11:42pm
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Now that the University of Oregon has officially signed Mark Helfrich to replace Chip Kelly, the Ducks' cast of thousands can work on the next question for its program - who will replace Helfrich.

While the head coaching position was almost a guarantee that the Ducks would move Helfrich up, the offensive coordinator position is likely to attract many more times the interest as a hire because of its history. Oregon's offensive coordinator almost always moves up to head coach.

Mike Bellotti was offensive coordinator from 1989 to '94, the moved up when Rich Brooks moved to the NFL following taking the Ducks to the 1995 Rose Bowl. Dirk Koetter was the OC two years - '96-97, and then took off to become head coach at Boise State. Chip Kelly was offensive coordinator prior to following Bellotti in 2009.

Whoever lands as offensive coordinator is almost guaranteed to be sought as a head coach in a relatively short time based on the history of the Oregon program and the talent they'll take over. Not to mention Helfrich will be assisting the position.

And, best of all, the Ducks have an extremely competent defense led by Nick Alliotti, who's been there since 1999, giving the offense a big hand in not needing to blow a team out. Not that that's been a problem under Kelly and then Helfrich.

 

 

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