The NBA's top shooter hits a nerve, and the NFL Draft gets a bump from Oregon
April 29, 2013 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal
It's been a while since Golden State made any waves in the NBA Playoffs, but they're doing it this year led by one of the league's top shooter, Stephy Curry.
Even some of the nation's curious fans are paying attention, something that gets explored on this episode of Sportsland, Oregon, recorded every Monday night at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.
In this week's episode, regular cast members Cliff Pfenning, Derek Weber and Marlon Thomas are joined by Nicole, a Portland native who follows the social drama of sports off the court, but has recently been drawn to Curry's magic on the court.
The NBA Playoffs are the main topic of conversation, along with the revelation of Jason Collins being the first active athlete in one of the four major sports: basketball, baseball, football and hockey, to come out as being gay. Will that damage his chances for signing with a team? What if he signed with the Blazers?
Also, the University of Oregon had two players drafted in the first round - Dion Jordan and Kyle Long, both of whom went in the top 20.
It's all in 55 minutes of entertaining conversation.
Mike "Stats" Donovan crunches the numbers on the past season
Nov. 8, 2012 / by Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com
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.
The Cascadia Cup remains in reach for Portland with a solid result in two weeks
Oct. 7, 2012
SEATTLE - Portland's grasp on the Cascadia Cup loosened Sunday with a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, but that only increased the drama for the series finale at Vancouver, B.C. Oct. 21.
Seattle's win gave it three points and a one-point lead in the annual fan-based competition between the three Northwest rivals from the NASL days.
Portland needs a win, which would be its first road victory of the season, to win the Cup.
The Timbers dropped to 7-16-9, 30 points with the loss.
Seattle, which was aided by an own goal from the Timbers, improved to 14-7-10, 52 points with the win before more than 66,000 fans.
Vancouver is 11-2-9, 42 points and holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. FC Dallas is at 38 pooints with two games remaining.
Following the Vancouver game, Portland finishes the season at home against San Jose, Oct. 27. The Earthquakes lead the West and are close to winning the Supporters Shield.
It's a time for tension to make the 2012 roster, but not everyone feels it
Sept. 28, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
With four games left on their schedule, the Portland Timbers are out of the MLS playoff hunt, but they still have plenty to play for starting with the Cascadia Cup.
The Timbers return to action Saturday night when they play host to DC United at Jeld-Wen Field at 7:30 p.m.
The two teams have played through very different seasons: DC (15-10-5, 50 points) is tied for third place in the Eastern Conference and has won its last three games, while the Timbers (7-15-8, 29 points) will be seeking their first win in nearly a month.
Portland last scored a W and collected three points in the overall standings on Aug. 31, with a 1-0 victory over Colorado.
While they haven't won since August, the Timbers have shown the kind of resilience that might make supporters hopeful for a significant turnaround next season, which is even showcased in the MLS Power Rankings. Tuesday, the Timbers were ranked No. 15 of the 19 teams, having escaped the bottom spot where they were located in August. DC, despite being in the playoff race, is ranked No. 11.
After Saturday, Portland closes the season at Seattle, Oct. 7, at Vancouver, Oct. 21, and at home against San Jose, Oct. 27.
The team's players head into Saturday's game with three themes: stay poised to win the Cascadia Cup (Seattle and Vancouver play Saturday), get a win, and expose themselves to the coaching staff as the offseason approaches. It's a different view for each player.
Portland's roster is filled with young players - 20 of the 32 players on the current roster are 25 or younger - and want to grab valuable playing time as the offseason approaches.
Jack Jewsbury, one of the team's most experienced players, said that while keeping an eye on maintaining a roster spot for next season is part of the stretch run, getting a win is the more valuable element and the energy the younger players have shown is helpful to that.
"It's a good thing to have those players that you can look at and say 'hey in a few years they going to be some of the best players in the league," he said, "but in this business it's also about right now, and what we've been doing as of late, the way we've been dominating games, is good to see."
David Horst, one of the team's older players at age 26, said the tension that might surround a team of younger players hasn't materialized.
"When you get too much tension on a team, guys start getting after each other a little bit, but I haven't seen much of that at all with this team," he said. "Despite out record, the team's had great chemistry. I've seen teams that when they have a season like we're having they fall apart completely, but our team hasn't.
"It's definitely a positive. A lot of guys have matured, their games have matured ... it makes every single one of us better for next year."
Assistant coach Sean McAuley said this week that the level of experience isn't going to be that much of a factor in determinining the lineup for Saturday.
"I don't care whose name is on the back of the shirt," he said, "I care about what's on the front of the shirt and that the guys we have on the field are giving their maximum effort so we can get the result we want."
Portland's Rodney Wallace strikes to salvage a 1-1 result with Seattle
Sept. 15, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
The Portland Timbers' drop on the Cascadia Cup loosened significantly for about 21 minutes Saturday before Rodney Wallace scored to salvage a 1-all draw with Seattle at Jeld-Wen Field.
Playing on national television, the Timbers were poised to claim the fan-based trophy with a win, but instead settled for a tie that keeps them atop the standings that involves games between Portland, Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Wallace scored off a corner kick from Jack Jewsbury in the 78th minute to counter a Freddy Montero goal for the Sounders in minute 57 of the hard-fought game played in intense sunlight. Midfielder Diego Chara, apparently dehydrated, left the game in the 86th minute, which caused the Timbers, who had used all three substitutes, to finiish the game with just 10 players.
One of Portland's substitutions involved starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who was injured early in the second half.
Portland has road games remaining at Seattle and Vancouver with a win in either giving the team the cup for the first time when all three teams have played at the same professional level. Seattle, though, can now claim a share of the Cup with a pair of wins, regardless of what the Timbers do in their road game with Vancouver.
The Timbers improved to 7-14-8, 29 points, while Seattle is 13-6-10, 49 points and sits in second place in the Western Conference.
A win might have given the Timbers a glimpse of fifth place and a playoff spot, but Saturday's result made that a fairy tale to a season of turmoil. Portland has six games remaining - all against teams bound for the playoffs, and four of them are on the road, where it has not won.
Portland returns to action Wednesday at San Jose, which leads the West, and then Saturday at Real Salt Lake, which is battling Seattle and the LA Galaxy for second in the West.
Portland handles Vancouver 2-1 in Cascadia Cup match-up
Aug. 25, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
The clouds of discontent that have covered the Portland Timbers franchise for the past six weeks finally cleared away Saturday night at the most opportune time and the team scored a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps before a sold-out crowd at Jeld-Wen Field.
Darlington Nagbe scored his third goal in three games and Franck Songo'o scored his first goal in an MLS game to snap an eight-game winless streak for Portland.
The victory is the first for the Timbers under interim coach Gavin Wilkinson, who added the role to his position as General Manager when the team fired coach John Spencer, July 9. The Timbers lost their next four games by a combined 12-3, including a 5-0 disaster at Dallas, July 21. But, recently, the team has become energized by a series of line-up adjustments that have included regualr time for forward Bright Dike, who replaced designated player Kris Boyd Saturday.
"It's a lot better than losing," Wilkinson said afterward. "We've been playing hard and have worked for this, so it's good to see we got the result we've been looking for."
Portland improved to 6-13-6, 24 points, with all of its wins coming on the home pitch. The team suits up again on Friday for a home game against Colorado, which sits one spot ahead in the Western Conference standings.
Saturday's win was even more important as it put the Timbers in the driver's seat within the Cascadia Cup. Portland is 2-0-1, seven points, with three games remaining in the fan-sponsored battle among Northwest rivals. The Timbers have three games remaining in the Cup, including a Sept. 15 home game with Seattle.
Nagbe's first-half goal continued a streak of positive results for the second-year player. His tally off assists from Jack Jewsbury and Eric Alexander in the 41st minute gave him six on the season, one behind Boyd.
After Vancouver tied the game in first-half extra time, Songo'o fired in a free kick at 55 minutes for the decisive goal.
Portland dominated much of the game, controlling possession for 53 percent of the 90 mintues and winning 57 percent of duels for the ball.
Vancouver dropped to 10-10-7, and remained at 37 points, which keeps it in the fifth and final playoff spot within the West.
The teams meet for the third and final time of the season in Vancouver, B.C., Oct. 20.
Portland returns home after promising road trip, but still searches for a win
Aug. 20, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
It's been five weeks and seven games since Portland Timbers management fired coach John Spencer as part of a move to reinvigorate the team for a second-half run at a playoff berth.
All they've achieved, though, is a run to the bottom of the MLS standings.
Since July 14, when Portland replaced Spencer with general manager Gavin Wilkinson on an interim basis, the Timbers are 0-5-2 and lead only Toronto FC among the 19 MLS teams. They've fallen to last in the Western Conference, and have no chance at reaching the playoffs.
What's more (or less) they're at the bottom of the MLS Power Rankings, a showcase of the respect the team has generated among the league's observers.
The team traded popular goalkeeper Troy Perkins, and designated player Kris Boyd seems to play with less inspiration every game.
Can get season get worse?
Can the season get better?
If there is a better half of the season awaiting, it'll have to start Saturday when the team plays host to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second meeting between the teams, and the third game within the Cascadia Cup, the fan-created trophy awarded to the team that scores the most points in games between Portland, Vancouver and Seattle.
With a draw against Vancouver, May 26, and a win over Seattle, June 24, the Timbers (5-13-6, 21 points) lead the chase for the Cup with two games remaining against each of the Northwest rivals.
Both Seattle (11-6-7, 40 points) and Vancouver (10-9-7, 37 points) appear headed for the playoffs, but claiming the Cascadia Cup would at least be salvaging something for the Timbers and their fans.
Taking the Cup from Seattle would be a first for Portland with all three franchises playing at the same professional level.
The recent two-game road trip to Toronto and New York produced four goals for Portland, the first time the team has scored twice on the road since it joined MLS last year.
Although the tirp produced no wins, the offense and some inspired play from across the line-up seem to show the Timbers aren't ready to simply roll up and wait for the season to conclude, although they really only have four meaningful games remaining on their schedule:
With the season falling apart, Timbers fans look closer at Wilkinson
July 31, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
When the Portland Timbers announced John Spencer had been released as head coach July 9, it was a turning point in the season having just passed the halfway point in the 34-game schedule.
The Timbers were winning, but not enough to please management and Spencer, who hadn't guided his team to a win on the road all season, got the boot.
Four games into the second half of the season, Spencer's record as coach is looking pretty good as the Timbers have lost all four of their MLS games since since then and scored just three goals - all in their entertaining 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Jeld-Wen Field. The team followed that up with a 1-0 loss at Chivas USA, a disastrous 5-0 loss at FC Dallas and a 1-0 home loss to Chivas USA on Saturday, giving rise to the thought the team's chances of reaching the MLS playoffs is over.
Portland, 5-12-4, 19 points, is last in the Western Conference heading into home Sunday's game with Dallas, 5-11-7, 22 points. Game time is 4 p.m.
The stretch has plenty of vocal fans looking directly at the team's general manager and interim coach, Gavin Wilkinson, as a direct cause for the team's failures this season.
Wilkinson's performance will be a key point to Tuesday night's episode of No Pity City, recorded live at 8:30 p.m. from the Bulldog Tavern in Southwest Portland.
DALLAS, Texas - Firing John Spencer doesn't seem to have affected the Portland Timbers' performance in road games. It's actually made it worse.
Coming off a tough, 1-0 loss to Chivas USA Wednesday, the Timbers suffered what might be their worst loss since joining Major League Soccer a year ago with a 5-0 decision at FC Dallas Saturday night.
The home team, which the Timbers replaced at the bottome of the MLS Power Rankings earlier in the week, got an own goal from the Timbers and goals from four different players to up its season scoring total from 20 to 25. The win also boosted FC Dallas to within one point of sixth place in the Western Conference. Dallas hadn't won at home in seven games and hadn't scored more than two goals in a game all season.
Portland, using a starting line-up that had forward Kris Boyd and midfielder Jack Jewsbury on the bench, suffered its fourth straight defeat and kept the team without a road win. Portland hasn't scored on the road since April 14 and has lost its last four road games by a combined 12-0.
The Timbers return home a friendly with Aston Villa of the English Premier League Tuesday night.
It certainly hasn't been a boring first half of the season for the Portland Timbers, and got more unboring Monday when the team fired coach John Spencer.
Relieved of his duties, or removed, or however nicely you want to put it.
The Timbers were a team struggling to put any kind of consistency together, and the constant highs and lows possibly caused by frequent line-up changes made the decision not one that was hard to see coming.
The road losses had to be a factor as did that one, disheartening loss to Cal FC in the US Open Cup, which hits its semifinal stage this week.
If only Kris Boyd had converted that penalty kick in that game.
I'm one of the people saddened by the news. I liked Spencer. And, the team played well at home, which is ideally what you want out of a team. And, it played well against quality opponents - they were at their best against the league's best, twice beating the No. 1 team in the league at Jeld-Wen Field. The team scored in front of the Timbers Army, and wasn't that far away from being a playoff team, either - just four points from fifth place.
But, the road. Man, those road games were painful to watch. Saturday's game at Real Salt Lake was one of the most painful, especially the final 30 minutes when the Timbers got absolutely thrashed. The game brought up plenty of questions. Why wasn't Boyd in the starting line-up? Why was Kosuke Kimura, brought in only Thursday in a trade, in the starting line-up? Why put so much attention on the team's defense, when it seemed to play so much better with some offense taking pressure off the defense - as any team does?
Spencer had exactly one-and-a-half seasons to build the Timbers into something of a playoff contender, especially as more than half the league qualifies for the playoffs. Didn't happen, even though the standings show the team is just four points behind the fifth-place Los Angeles Galaxy and has played two fewer games. The Timbers play the Galaxy Saturday, too.
Despite the struggles of the team, Spencer seemed to have earned the rest of the season to get the team into the top five based on its strong play at home (5-2-2, 17 points) and record (4-2-1) against the best teams in the league - games that have almost all been played in Portland.
Owner Merritt Paulson handled the press conference Monday and made mention of a philosophical difference between coach and management, and he's the final decision maker. At least he was on hand to make the official announcement. However you look at this decision, you knew were it came from. Paulson has done a great job of being visible and representing the franchise in a manner not a lot of fans get - in any of the major leagues. He at least seems to have a clue to where he wants the Timbers to go, which is something the Trail Blazers do not seem to have.
So, general manager Gavin Wilkinson is in as interim coach. At least he has some coaching experience, and successful coaching experience. A couple decades ago, there were plenty of teams that had coaches who were also general managers in professional leagues.
Thanks for the entertainment, coach Spencer. Now, let's see how the Timbers can continue to make the season more entertaining - by beating Los Angeles Saturday for starters.