What's PDX known for best?

What do sports fans mention first? Soccer or basketball?
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

When drivers for Uber or Lyft pick passengers up at the airport and describe Portland on the way to a downtown hotel, the many nicknames for the city easily glide off the pallet - Rose City, Bridgetown, Bridge City, Stumptown among the top ones.

And, Portland has two very distinct monikers for sports: Rip City and Soccer City. Or is it Soccer City and Rip City?

That's the Sports Jury question for this week, which you can vote for on the front page of oregonsports.com.

Portland has an equally fanatic fanbase for both basketball and soccer, but which one would come up first as in if there were an election and every resident could only vote for one? Ultimately the outcome might be 50.1 - 49.9 percent. One of the names would need to come first. What do Portlanders know Portland best for?

Is it Rip City? Portland got the nickname in 1977 during the NBA Title run, when radio play-by-play commentator Bill Schonely came up with it to highlight the key moments of the stirring season. Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross, Dave Twardzik - they were Red Hot and Rollin' in the Rip City. Portland began a sellout streak at Memorial Coliseum that engrained 12,666 - a full house - in everyone's mind.

Portland is Rip City.

By 1977, though, Portland had already developed the nickname Soccer City from its inaugural season in the North American Soccer League due to the large, loud crowds that took over Civic Stadium for Timbers games. When the team actually outperformed its expansion expectations and reached the playoffs, not only did the Timbers win, they set attendance records twice on the way to Soccer Bowl '75.

The team and league folded less that a decade later, but the rebirth of the franchise in 2001 and it's move to Major League Soccer in 2011, have come with a fanatacism the rest of the nation has watched and admired as the way to support an American team with European flavour.

Portland is Soccer City, USA.

But with just one vote, which one gets it?



Women's sports are on the verge of something big

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 6:45am
Cliff Pfenning
Cliff Pfenning's picture
Last seen: 8 hours 44 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

I've been a fan of women's sports for a long time. Of women's college sports and girls high school competition.

My interest probably goes back to following the UO women's basketball team in the mid-80s, and when I really think about it is somewhat attached to McArthur Court - just going there was such a pleasure and all I needed was a reason to go. The school had a men's and women's team, and my voice had a little more impact in those games with fewer fans, so ... heck, it was a team to follow.

High school sports comes from covering Mt. Hood Conference volleyball matches for The Oregonian in the late '90s when Gresham, Barlow and Central Catholic could attract crowds of 800 fans at least for their rivalry matches, and maket a gym come alive. Covering the University of Portland women's soccer team in 2001 and onward was crowds of 3,000 and more for most matches, especially during the Pilots first title season, 2002.

I've covered the high school cheerleading finals at Memorial Coliseum for most of the last decade. Want to see some energy at an event - that's it.

So, it's good to see women's pro soccer get something of momentum going this season after the U.S. National team's win in the World Cup last summer. Portland sports fans have done more than their part in getting the National Women's Soccer League onto the map by averaging more than 20,000 fans per game last year - more than 15 of the 24 Major League Soccer teams in 2019.

The first match in the NWSL Challenge Cup Saturday attracted the largest audience for a women's pro soccer in television history due to it being televised by CBS and not a cable network. HAving the league's two most successful teams - the Thorns and North Carolina Courage might of had something to do with that.

And yet, the NWSL, and women's sports with it, is still being treated as a second or even third-class option for sports coverage, and CBS is doing its part to show that off. The network has done a great job of bumping up the level of respect for the NWSL, but if it really wanted to get some more results out of its investment in the league, it could easily do more. Just put more matches on its main channel and pay more attention on its online site. 

And, the NWSL would do well to make this happen as well as respond to what it's actually doing for the future. The league got a significant bump in exposure when Kansas City moved to Salt Lake City last year, and that team finished second in attendance at more than 10,000 fans per match. And it has an expansion team set for Louisville next year. It's got a bunch of new marketing partners and a bunch of players who've almost defied public scrutiny by playing in the current tournament, even after one of the nine teams bailed in the week of the first match.

The nation is looking at the MLS and NBA, which are set to restart this month, and wondering if the men's teams have the strength to start, and yet the women's league is going full steam ahead.

The NWSL and CBS should be just thrashing the public sports community with these stories, and yet it doesn't - almost like it's playing into the role it has established as being lucky to still be around after eight years.





Portland throws a party

The soccer world takes in the Rose City, and more on this episode
August 6, 2014

Portland showed off big-time Wednesday night, with the world of soccer playing attention to Soccer City, USA. And, the Major League Soccer All-Stars did their part to represent the nation's league with a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich at Providence Park.

The joy in Portland and some thoughts on the soccer community were key elements of the 14th episode of Sportsland, Oregon, recorded this week from the Pit Stop in Southwest Portland.

Cast members Cliff Pfenning and Derek Weber, moved to the record crowd at Sunday's NWSL game, then to how soccer challenges basketball and the Trail Blazers for the top sport in the city.

The NFL, Major League Baseball, Ducks and Beavers and even Roofball talk takes up the rest of the podcast.


LA still rules the Rose Garden

The Lakers might not be headed anywhere, but we still want to see them
July 15, 2013 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Dwight Howard?

It's good that he's gone from the Los Angeles Lakers line-up.

Kobe Bryant?

He'll be back.

The Los Angeles Lakers?

They're a No. 7 seed in the Western Conference at best next season. But, they're still a hot ticket because of the rivalry built up with the Blazers, which is the sentiment of the cast of Sportsland, Oregon from the 17th Episode, recorded Monday night at Blitz Pearl in downtown Portland.

Marlon Thomas, Michael Chamberlain and host Cliff Pfenning all put the Lakers on their four-pack of teams they'd want to see next season, which made them the only team to receive four votes. Miami? The two-time defending league champs only got one vote. Other teams with two votes were the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets. Even Oklahoma City got just one vote.

Making the Lakers' tickets even more valuable is that the cast expects the Blazers to be competitive with LA for a playoff spot next season.

On the soccer pitch, the cast reflects on the Timbers' 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy and how important it was to the franchise.

Major League baseball, the British Open, Wimbledon and ... paying your taxes all highlight the episode.


The magic of Steph Curry

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.


Time for the Aggregate on the 2012 Timbers

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.

Timbers lose big, begin prep for Vancouver

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.


Highlighting the Timbers' stretch run

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."





Timbers keep control of Cascadia with draw

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.




Finally! Timbers get a post-Spencer victory

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.

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