Timbers move forward

Assertive 3-1 win over Dallas puts team closer to MLS final
Nov. 22, 2015

PORTLAND - The Portland Timbers received goals from defenders Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers, while midfielder Dairon Asprilla added a goal and an assist to power a 3-1 win against FC Dallas in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference Championship Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.

Taking a two-goal lead on aggregate, Portland will travel to face FC Dallas on Sunday, Nov. 29, in the decisive second leg at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas; kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. (Pacific) with a live national broadcast on ESPN.

After several close chances in the opening few minutes, including a shot inside 30 seconds by midfielder Lucas Melano that was saved by FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, Portland got on the scoreboard first as Ridgewell converted at the far left post off a corner kick in the 23rd minute for his first postseason goal for the Timbers. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe delivered the corner before Asprilla rose above the crowd to head the ball to Ridgewell at the far post for the go-ahead goal.

Asprilla doubled Portland’s advantage in the 53rd minute, intercepting a pass before firing a long-distance strike that hit the underside of the crossbar before settling in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

FC Dallas pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute as forward David Texeira converted a glacing shot from inside the penalty box off an assist from defender Je-Vaughn Watson.

Borchers helped Portland regain its two-goal lead in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, poking in a rebound off a Timbers corner kick. Following up the initial shot from defender Norberto Paparatto, Borchers was in position to convert the rebound following a save from Gonzalez.

The Timbers registered a 13-11 advantage in total shots, including a 7-5 edge in shots on goal during the match. Portland also maintained 54 percent of the possession and pushed its unbeaten run to seven straight games (5-0-2) since Oct. 14 during the regular season, including a mark of 2-0-2 during the postseason. Additionally, Portland improved its home record against FC Dallas to 5-0-2 overall in all competitions since 2011.

Blazers ready for LMA greeting

Aldridge pays his first visit to the Moda Center since signing with San Antonio
Nov. 11, 2015 / Stats LLC

Although LaMarcus Aldridge will go down as one of the great Portland Trail Blazers in history, his return to town could be acrimonious.

Aldridge will face his first NBA team for the first time Wednesday night when his San Antonio Spurs look to hand the Trail Blazers a third straight defeat.

The power forward spent the first nine seasons of his career with Portland. He’s second on the franchise’s all-time list in points (12,562), first in rebounds (5,434) and fourth in games (648).

Aldridge was generally a fan favorite with the Trail Blazers, though that may change after he signed a four-year contract worth $84.1 million with the Spurs this offseason as a free agent. The deal came one year after he vowed to local reporters he would sign an extension with Portland because he wanted to surpass Clyde Drexler as the club’s all-time top scorer and play his entire career with one team.

Instead, a persuasive pitch by Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich convinced Dallas native Aldridge to return to his home state and help San Antonio chase its fifth title in 14 seasons.

The transition hasn’t exactly been smooth, with Aldridge averaging 15.1 points after he averaged a career-high 23.4 last season for Portland.

His departure came in the same offseason the Trail Blazers (4-4) banked their future on Damian Lillard, who signed a five-year contract worth more than $120 million. Lillard is among the league’s leaders with a 27.5 scoring average, though he has found it difficult shouldering the scoring load without Aldridge.

Lillard has totaled 56 points and 18 assists in consecutive defeats entering this contest.

“I am not frustrated,” Lillard said. “As a competitor, after you lose a game, you sit there and you think about everything you could have done better as a team. You aren’t happy with it. But I’m happy with where we are as a team.”

The Blazers have one of the league’s top offenses, averaging 103.8 points and shooting 46.7 percent.

San Antonio (5-2) is shooting 48.8 percent after connecting at 52.9 percent in Monday’s 106-88 victory at Sacramento. Kawhi Leonard, who has made 20 of his last 29 shots, scored a team-high 24 points.

The Spurs showcased their depth by outscoring the Kings 34-19 in a fourth quarter in which Tim Duncan and Tony Parker did not play. Their bench scored 24 points in that period, with former Blazers guard Patty Mills compiling seven points, six assists and four steals.

“I understand you can’t live and die off your shot, so if my shot is not falling I have to do other things,” said Mills, who missed 6 of 7 shots through three quarters. “I’m trying to become more of an all-around player.”

The Spurs’ reserves average 36.4 points compared to 23.8 per game from the Blazers’ backups.

San Antonio has dropped 11 of its last 13 regular-season visits to Portland, including eight of nine in which Duncan has played. The veteran has missed four of the Spurs’ last eight games at the Moda Center.

Portland may have an extra big man to throw at San Antonio’s frontcourt since rookie Cliff Alexander could make his debut after being out with a knee injury.

US ready for playoff revision

MLS needs to finish Americanization of global football
Nov. 11, 2015 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Does anyone remember the Miracle at Providence Park? It was just two weeks ago, but the MLS Playoffs have essentially buried the excitement of the Portland Timbers' shootout victory over Kansas City in the first round of the league playoffs.

Fans owe that to the global soccer version of playoffs, which allows for each team to play a home game.

It's used across the world, and in the U.S. At least for part of the playoffs. It's time for the U.S. to complete its revamping of the world's playoff structure and ditch the home-home system.

Just play of game each round, and get to the championship game, which could be played Sunday if the league wanted.

That's a U.S. playoff system - one game with the winner moving on. U.S. football uses it, and MLS does to, at least for the first round, and then the final. The conference semis and finals are the problem, with each team getting a home game in each round. All it truly does is extend the playoffs and make them less exciting.

Get to the championship game - that's the point of the playoffs, especially with all the inter-league and national team matches going on.

If the Timbers eventually do reach the MLS Cup, it'll be nearly six weeks after the win over Kansas City because of the home-home series, and a week off for national team play. From the start of the season til the Cup, the Timbers will have played nine months starting March 7. Not even baseball, which has a 162-game regular season, plays that long.

MLS already has a U.S. version of regular season play, which separates the league into two conferences rather than one full table. And, there's no relegation/promotion with the next level league. So, it's a U.S. version of soccer. The playoffs are the final step to Americanizing the global game, which the league needs to do to capture the excitement of games like Portland's win at Providence Park, Oct. 29, 2015.



Timbers score huge win

PK and solid defense net 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake
Oct. 14, 2015

Give those Portland Timbers credit when and where they deserve - especially in Utah.

Portland scored its second win of the season over Real Salt Lake, 1-0, Wednesday in MLS action, effectively knocking the host team from the playoff race for the first time in seven seasons.

A 54th-minute penalty kick by Fanendo Adi proved the decisive score, which moved the Timbers three points clear of San Jose in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff spot with two games remaining.

Portland plays at Los Angeles Sunday, and then closes out the regular season at home against Colorado, Oct. 25.

At 13-11-8, 47 points, Portland is tied with Seattle for fifth place in the West, and just four points shy of LA for second place.

San Jose has matches remaining against Sporting KC, and FC Dallas - both Western playoff teams entering the final week. Dallas leads the West with 54 points.

Portland's win, which followed a last-second win earlier in the summer, was its league-leading 13th shutout of the season.

RSL dropped to 11-13-8, 41 points.

Adi got the PK - his 13th goal of the season - off a foul earned by midseason acquisition Lucas Melano, who beat the RSL defense and was tackled at the edge of the 18-yard box by Jamison Olave. Officials conferred and then sent off Olave before the crowd of 19,457.

Portland finished with a 15-7 edge in shots, and 5-2 on goal.

Hawks slowly skate into season

Portland opens 2015-16 campaign with three losses
Oct. 4, 2015

After three straight losses to open the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season, it's hard to remember the last time the Portland Winterhawks didn't reach the playoffs much less reach the conference finals.

But, the season is only three games old.

After a 3-1 loss Friday, the Hawks are a full 0-3-0-0, 0 points in the US Division, but eight of the 10 teams in the conference qualify for the playoffs, so a long season of progress followed by a late-season run are the keys to a successful season.

And, Portland plays its next four games at home, either at Memorial Coliseum or the Rose Garden beginning Friday against Spokane.

Portland's run of WHL Finals appearances ended at four last season when the Hawks lost to Kelowna in the conference final. The team has reached the conference final for an unprecedented five straight years.

The last time the team missed the playoffs was in 2008-09 when the team won just 19 games - a year after winning just 11.



Timbers pull off huge win

Adi scores to lead Portland to 2-1 road victory at Columbus
Sept. 26, 2015 / MLS Media

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fanendo Adi bested Kei Kamara in a battle of physical target men as the Portland Timbers earned a 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC in front of a packed house in Columbus.

Adi’s two goals were enough to best Columbus, who missed multiple chances to equalize after Kamara’s league-leading 22nd goal of the season.

A match that promised to be entertaining delivered in the first half with a back-and-forth affair. Playmakers from both squads had chances early on, as the likes of Kamara, Ethan Fnlay, Diego Valeri, and Darlington Nagbe all created danger in the opening minutes.

Crew SC escaped a very early deficit when a sliding Wil Trapp tackle brought Nagbe down in the Columbus box. Nagbe looked stunned to not hear a whistle, but referee Silviu Petrescu waved play on.

In the 27th minute, Waylon Francis lofted a perfect cross for Kamara, who put an open header over the bar. Just a minute later, Portland capitalized.

With a piece of magic, Nagbe scooped a pass between Crew SC defenders, finding a streaking Adi, who powered a shot past a helpless Steve Clark for the match opener.

The league’s leading scorer had a bit of brilliance of his own, as Kamara pulled Columbus level just before the half with a perfectly placed header into the bottom corner from a corner kick.

The strike gave Kamara 22 goals in 2014, just five away from the league’s all-time mark and four away from the most in Crew SC history. It also raised the amount of MLS clubs he has scored against to 21, as he now has goals against each of the current active teams and the now-defunct Chivas USA.

After halftime, during which Columbus celebrated the unveiling of the top moments in club history with celebrity guests like Brian McBride and Brad Freidel, Portland wasted little time regaining the lead.

As fullback Harrison Afful streaked down, a Portland break isolated Michael Parkhurst on Rodney Wallace. The center back couldn’t keep up, and the winger slid a cross to Adi, who calmly placed the point-blank shot in the opposite corner in the 50th minute for the winner.

Crew SC looked to have equalized in the 64th minute through Ethan Finlay, but the goal was disallowed much to the frustration and anger of the hosts.

The much-needed three points for the Timbers (12-10-8) buoyed the club’s playoff chances, bringing them to 44 points on the season, four ahead of seventh-placed San Jose. They next host Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 3.

Timbers right in playoff hunt

After a home draw with KC, Portland remains among to six in the West
Sept. 10, 2015 /

PORTLAND - With a 0-0 draw against Sporting Kansas City Wednesday, the Portland Timbers remained tied for fifth place in the Western Conference and within striking distance of the league's top record.

They just need to score some goals for that to happen.

Portland continued its season-long struggle to score with the outcome, which combined aggressive offense with determined defense. The Timbers outshot the visitors 18-8 on the night and had eight on target, but KC goalkeeper Tim Melia had a career-high seven saves in the match with one shot being stopped by a defender. Portland finished with an 8-2 edge in shots on goal with much of the offense being sparked by midfielder Diego Valeri.

Overall, the Timbers improved to 11-9-8, 41 points, entering a game Sept. 20 at Providence Park against the New York Red Bulls, who lead the East with 45 points and 45 goals.

Portland is last amongst the 12 current playoff teams in both conferenses, with just 29 in 28 games. The other 11 teams have each scored at least 34 goals. Only one team: the Colorado Rapids; have scored fewer goals - 26. The Rapids are last in the West.

The Timbers remained last in the league in first-half goals with just seven.

San Jose sits just two points behind both Portland and Kansas City with 39 points.

Vancouver leads the league with 48 points with six games remaining.


Timbers get regular-season playoff preview

Portland's plays a series of matches against solid opponents
August 24, 2015

With eight games left in the regular season, the Potland Timbers are far from having wrapped up a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But, they're on that path and have an exciting final two months of matches that should help them to a run at the MLS title if it's going to happen.

That run starts Sunday with a game at Cascadia Cup rival Seattle.

The remainder of the regular season includes a match against league-leading Los Angeles, one against the New York Red Bulls (No. 3 in the latest MLS Power Rankings), two against Kansas City (No. 4), and one against Toronto (No. 6).

Portland enters the week at No. 7 in the rankings - produced by, and in fourth place in the West with a record of 11 wins, eight losses and seven draws. With 40 points, the Timbers are five points ahead of seventh-place San Jose and only six points behind the Galaxy.

The game at Los Angeles figures to be a huge playoff update as the last game in Los Angeles produced a 5-0 disaster on June 24.

The Timbers enter Sunday's match having no chance to reclaim the Cascadia Cup as a win would only tie them with Vancouver, which has a win and two draws in its three games against Portland. A win Sunday would keep the Sounders from claiming the Cup.

Sunday's game is set to be televised on ESPN at 2 p.m.






Can the Blazers run with it?

Some fast-action offense might be the answer for upcoming season
Augst 18, 2015 / Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Amid the fun of home runs and Mid-Summer Classic that is baseball, the NBA sort of sneaks in all the free agent signings/unsignings and the Portland Trail Blazers are playing their role in all of it.

But, not too heavily.

Three of their starters left via FA and they traded the fourth leaving a whole line-up of changes ahead. That's the key element of this week's Sportsland, Oregon episode, recorded at Pour Sports sports bar in Southeast Portland.

The team has it's marquee player back - point guard Damian Lillard, and signed for the next six years. But, the rest of the starting line-up is a mystery with some likely options. Gerald Henderson at shooting guard. Al-Farouq Aminu at small forward. Mason Plumlee at center? Meyers Leonard as Kevin Love power forward/outside shooting specialist?

The team's tempo might be the key to the season, and not putting too much pressure on winning.

Then it's off to golf, soccer, some college football talk, and good community causes. All recorded at Pour Sports in Southeast Portland.




The World (Cup) catches Thorns game

With U.S. stars watching, Portland drops 1-0 decision in New Jersey
July 12, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Squaring off against Sky Blue FC for the second time in a nine-day span, Portland Thorns FC could not overcome an early second-half goal in a 1-0 road loss in front of 3,014 fans on Saturday evening at Yurcak Field.

  The two teams combined to create a handful of chances in the opening 45 minutes until forward Sam Kerr, making her Sky Blue FC debut on Saturday, finished a header in the penalty box off a cross from Maya Hayes in the 52nd minute to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

Portland (3-4-4, 13 pts) held a 7-5 edge in shots in the second half, but couldn't put in the equalizer against the team it beat 2-1 the previous week.

Forward Ayo looked dangerous early in the second half, firing a shot just over the crossbar after receiving a pass from midfielder Mana Shim in the opening minute. Reigning NWSL Player of the Week Sinead Farrelly made a back-post run on a free kick from midfielder Allie Long in the 65th minute, connecting with a header from point-blank range, but Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron stood her ground to make the save.

With the win, Sky Blue FC improved its record to 2-6-4 (10 pts) overall this season.

Leading the Portland attack, Ayo finished the match with four shots, including a final header late in second-half stoppage time off a cross from forward Hanna Terry. Ayo found enough space inside the box to put a looping header on frame, but at the last moment Cameron leaped to tip the attempt over the crossbar.

Next up, Thorns FC return to the Rose City for a home match against Cascadia-rival Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday, July 22, at Providence Park.

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