Progress without success for Timbers

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:

Saturday, Vancouver at Portland, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15, Seattle at Portland, 12:30 p.m.

Oct. 7, Portland at Seattle, 6 p.m.

Oct. 21, Portland at Vancouver, B.C., 6 p.m.





Where's the GW Express headed?

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.


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Timbers continue road struggles

Dallas adds to Portland's misery with 5-0 win
July 21, 2012

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.


Not like it wasn't on the runway

Mon, 07/09/2012 - 3:27pm
Cliff Pfenning
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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.


Another must-win greets Timbers, fans

Portland gets a visit from league-leading San Jose Tuesday
July 1, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Don't call it a comeback, unless there is a comeback - which is where the Portland Timbers seem to be again with their season.

Following a disastrous, 3-0 loss at Colorado, Portland returns to the friendly confines of Jeld-Wen Field to face San Jose Tuesday night, with San Jose entering the stadium as the top team in Major League Soccer.

Portland is 4-7-4, 16 points, and has scored 14 goals this season. San Jose is 11-3-3, 36 points, has scored 35 goals, and is coming off a 4-3 win over the LA Galaxy that's being touted as one of the league's best-ever matches.

Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Portland has faced a must-win scenario before, and performed beautifully. On April 21, the Timbers played host to Kansas City, then ranked No. 1 in the league, just a week after a disastrous 3-1 loss at Los Angeles and won 1-0 - only their second win of the season at the time.

Then, on June 24, Portland hammered Seattle 2-1, a week after an uninspiring 1-0 loss at Los Angeles.

At 16 points, the Timbers are eighth in the Western Conference, ahead of just FC Dallas. But, they're just three points behind Chivas USA and six points behind fifth-place Colorado, and have a game in hand over every team in the West.

And, Portland is 4-2-2 at home and enters the game at 2-1-2 in its last five contests. San Jose is 4-1-0 over the same span.


It's all caps for post-Cal FC Timbers

Portland has five players doing international duty during two-week layoff
June 5, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It's been nearly a week since the Portland Timbers helped establish a new level of success ... for adult amatuer soccer teams by losing 1-0 to Cal FC in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday.

But, that's in the past for the Timbers and their fans. Up next is a two-week layover before the team visits Los Angeles for a game with the Galaxy.

Portland had one of its most successful months since it joined Major League Soccer last year by winning once and earning a draw in three other matches to go unbeaten in May - the team's first unbeaten month in MLS action.

Although, the joy was short-lived, the Timbers used the month to rally back into the thick of the tightly-knit Western Conference at 3-5-4, 13 points. Portland is tied with FC Dallas for seventh place.

The Galaxy, last season's league champion, is last in the West at 3-8-2, 11 points.

The teams play June 17 at the Home Depot Center.

While the Timbers won't play until then, five of their players are in action with national teams, including several World Cup qualifiers.

Jake Gleeson (New Zealand), Futty Danso (Gambia), Steve Purdy (El Salvador), Lovel Palmer (Jamaica) and Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica) are all with their national teams. Wallace and Purdy will face one another during a World Cup qualifier June 8.

This topics and more will be part of Tuesday's "No Pity City" webcast, live from the Bulldog Tavern in West Portland at 8:30 p.m. The webcast can be seen on this page or join the UStream page and chat online with co-hosts Cliff Pfenning and Mike Donovan.







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Timbers can't net a goal, but still score

Portland battles Houston to a 0-0 draw on the road
May 15, 2012

The drought continues for the Portland Timbers, but at least it didn't turn into a loss Tuesday night in Houston.

Despite failing to score for the fourth-straight game, the Timbers held Houston without a goal and drew 0-0 in MLS action, a result that earned the team a point in the league standings.

Goalkeeper Troy Perkins made a pair of dramatic saves in Houston's first night game at BBVA Compass Stadium, which opened for play Saturday.

Portland improved to 2-5-3, 9 points, while Houston improved to3-3-3, 12 points.

The draw was impressive not only because it came on the road, but because so many statistics were slanted toward the Dynamo. Houston fired off 18 shots, nine more than the Timbers, and seven required a save by Perkins. Houston had 486 passes in the game, 160 more than Portland, and 82 percent were completed against 67 percent for the Timbers.

The point pulled the Timbers within three points of Dallas, which has played to more games.

Portland next plays host to Chicago, Sunday at 4 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field.

Don't call it an upset

There's still fight in the Portland Timbers with KC headed to town
April 18, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The four-game losing streak, three-games of losing a lead, and the league's top team headed for town on Saturday haven't dampened the spirit of the Portland Timbers.

At least not in goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

Perkins, one of the team's most experienced players having first played in Major League Soccer in 1994, has been peppered with shots and has yet to post a shutout a year after posting nine in 29 games. Last season, Perkins gave up fewer than 1.5 goals per game in 29 outings, but this year is on a pace for nearly two goals per game - 11 in six games.

Sporting KC, which plays tonight in Vancouver, B.C., is headed to Portland having outscored opponents 9-1 in six wins, including Saturday's 1-0 win over Western Confernence leader Real Salt Lake.

Portland lost at Los Angeles 3-1, having given up a one-goal lead for the third straight game.

Perkins said Tuesday that Kansas City should expect to go home as no longer unbeaten.

"I wouldn't call it an upset," Perkins said. "I love being the underdog, but for someone to come in and say this would be an upset is (wrong).

"I don't like people talking bad about us. For me, just coming out to win is all I want to do."

Portland heads into the game at 1-4-1, 4 points, and at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.



And The Year Goes On

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 6:19pm
Carlos Molina
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Last seen: 8 years 29 weeks ago
Joined: 2010-08-13

It’s a weird time of the sports year in Portland.  The Blazers have five games left and nothing really to play for, so much so it looks like they’re shutting down some key guys.  The Beavers and Ducks just opened up spring practice, but there’s nothing really to follow there.  Sure the diehards want to see how some of the new signees that manage to get there early do, or who’s going to fill in at any positions vacated by guys leaving for the draft or graduating.  In reality, there are no scores, and there’s no news to really follow, and so much can and will change between now and when the season opens that people really only follow it to have something to follow. 

College baseball is underway, and the WHL playoffs are underway, but the fanbases for these are much more limited.  And then of course there are the Timbers, but they don’t have the built in excitement of an inaugural season to carry the interest of the casual fan.  Couple that with their struggles this year, and even the excitement of early season soccer and the Army’s antics aren’t enough to maintain interest or make it enjoyable to be a Portland sports fan.

But never fear, the Sportsland, Oregon crew can find sports stories from across the country to make things interesting.  From the NBA playoff picture developing, to the NHL playoffs providing their usual excitement and even more fights than ever, there’s plenty to follow in the world of sports.  And of course, don’t forget early season baseball.  All that and more on this week’s episode of Sportsland, Oregon.

Lead doesn't stand up again for Timbers

Portland finally scores first, but Chivas USA rallies in the second half for 2-1 win
April 7, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Heading into something of a must-win Saturday night, the Portland Timbers got the result they were looking for - for about 20 minutes.

Forward Kris Boyd put home his second goal of the season in the 16th minute, to not only make good on his record as a goal scorer, but also break the trend of the Timbers falling behind.

After that, though, Chivas USA, one of the league's lowly teams, dominated the match and left Jeld-Wen Field with a 2-1 win, handing the Timbers their third straight loss, and second consecutive loss at home.

"We just seemed to play nervous," Portland coach John Spencer said afterward. "Even when we went up 1-0, we still seemed nervous. We just didn't have enough guys standing up and doing what they need to do as professionals to win. That's very disappointing."

The Timbers dropped to 1-3-1, 4 points and play at the defending league champion LA Galaxy (1-3-0, 3 points) on Saturday in a battle to escape the Western Conference cellar.

Portland entered Saturday's game having lost to Real Salt Lake 3-2 last week, giving up two goals in the final 3 minutes of official time. RSL leads the West at 5-1-0, 15 points, having lost only to Chivas USA.

Boyd's goal came after Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy crashed into a teammate while trying to pull down a long pass and the ball landed in front of Boyd for an easy follow to the goal. The goal was the team's first first-half goal of the season and first time it had led 1-0.

But, Chivas began to rally thereafter, and effectively took Portland apart in the second half after Ryan Smith entered at midfield at the start of the second half. He delivered the pass to teammate Alejandro Moreno, who beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins to tie the game at 48 minutes. The goal was only the team's second of the season, the first having come during a 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake.

Chivas scored the winner off another assist by Smith, who found Nick LaBrocca with cross that he finished in the 82nd minute, a goal that stunned the Timbers crowd.

Chivas earned three yellow cards during the match, including one on Smith for a foul and one on James Riley for time wasting in the 89th minute. The cards didn't stop the team from improving to 2-3-0, 6 points.

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