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Timbers, MLS begin road back to business

Individual workouts are active at training facilities
Staff Report

The MLS season is still on hold with no return date in sight, but players were given the go-ahead by league officials to start working out on company land and they did Thursday.

With their training facility separated into zones, several Portland Timbers started workouts to return to game-day condition, and they were more than happy to get that return nod.

“It felt almost therapeutic to be back out there on the field ...,” Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse said, speaking to the media from his home via a Zoom video conference. "To get out there and see some of the other faces, as well, even if it’s from a distance. The bond felt closer today.”

“[T]o be in such safe conditions was really, really important to my mental health."

Players took rotating shifts on the Timbers’ field, with the pitch divided into personalized quadrants to endure social distancing. For sanitation purposes, players were responsible for maintaining their own equipment and gear, with daily wellness quizzes as well as temperature checks ensuring anyone exhibiting symptoms of the novel coronavirus did not have access to the grounds.

“We have been waiting for a long time to be able to come back to the facility, to be able to train,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “One thing that we definitely miss is having the players here, training in our field – being here, around, doing our job.”

“It’s amazing to be here …,” captain Diego Valeri said. “Obviously, it’s nice to start working out again on a field, with different kinds of spaces, even with social distances, watching our teammates training, too.”

Portland split its first two matches - both played at Providence Park, when the season was put on indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Herbert stays on West Coast

Oregon QB drafted 6th overall by Chargers
Staff Report

The winter of questions regarding Oregon senior Justin Herbert and his status among the NFL reached a level of solitude Thursday after he was selected sixth overall by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Herbert, who started for some or all of the past four seasons in Eugene, led the Ducks to the 2019 Pac-12 Conference title and Rose Bowl win, but had plenty of doubters heading into the draft. Those were left behind by a team that has not had to deal with the quarterback position for the past 14 years - the Phillip Rivers era, and Herbert was seen as the team's starter almost immediately.

He was the third quarterback selected after Louisiana State's Joe Burrows first to the Cincinnati Bengals and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa fifth to the Miami Dolphins.

The Draft was held in a virtual mode due to social distancing requirements caused by COVID-19.

Ohio State had players picked at No. 2 - defensive end Chase Young by the Washington Redskins, and No. 3 - cornerback Jeff Okudah by the Detroit Lions.

With the Chargers, Herbert will be inheriting a corps of stand-out receivers in Keenan AllenMike Williams and Hunter Henry. He also has a top-notch running back in Austin Ekeler, who recorded 993 receiving yards and caught eight touchdown passes last season.

The Chargers have reached the Super Bowl just once - 1994, when the team was quarterbacked by Oregon grad and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts.


Dreams and sports will always go together

Ranking the top sports movies
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

When I rank movies, regardless of the type of list, I use the same system to get the result - can or will I watch this movie again. This means picking up the movie at virtually any point and following it to the end. It’s a movie that even though I know what’a going to happen and can in most cases recite the dialogue as it happens, I’ve got an attachment because of the script and casting.

These are the movies that do that best in the sports category - none of which I saw in a theater, but on network television of as a VHS rental.

 

FIELD OF DREAMS, 1989

 

I didn’t see this film until reading the owners of one of the two fields used for production of the film had decided to grow corn again. The other field, of course, is a national landmark and might be the site of a regular season game this summer if the Majors are allowed to play. The performances of Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Amy Madigan and Ray Liotta showed off some fabulous casting. The story they weave through is wonderful fiction, the kind that might make you ... well, dream about the greatness of the game of baseball and how it can provide a hand in making personal amends in ones history with family.

 

ROCKY, 1976

 

Two pieces of greatness of this film are that Sylvester Stallone wrote it for himself to star in, and it’s the movie that gave the world the steadicam, created by one its production crew. Stallone’s script is more about the personal development of the characters than it is with boxing, which helped the film win the Academy Award for Best Movie. Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire, even Burt Young  grow from being nobodies to characters who an audience has an emotional attachment with that survives Rocky actually losing the big fight at the end. And, all those sequels - Rocky III almost made this list.

 

BULL DURHAM, 1988

 

One big question about this film is when do you share it with your son? Kids nowadays don’t seem to be able to laugh at the basic obsenity that makes this movie so memorable. Again (even though it was released a year before “Field of Dreams”), Costner is fabulous casting as “Crash” Davis, and Tim Robbins is memorable as the over-talented Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, both walking us through the highway of life at the lowest level of pro baseball. Maybe it’s more vibrant than the majors. Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy puts the film onto this list.  

 

THE HUSTLER, 1962

 

Like Rocky, it’s a drama you get into because of the acting, primarily Paul Newman. Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott and Piper Laurie are great casting that carries you through more than two hours. The lengthy billiards scenes are so much different than the chase or fight scenes of modern action films in that they have dialogue that adds to the drama of the story. You wouldn’t think about getting up and buying a beer in a theater because the story keeps developing. And, it led to one of the great sequels for any movie - “The Color of Money,” three decades later. 

 

CADDYSHACK, 1980

 

I can laugh all the way through this movie because of how stupid it is, which pretty much makes the best comedies. There’s so many wonderfully dry comedic performances. Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and whoever played Danny (a very young Michael O’Keefe) move the story along one laugh at a time. In watching a very funny dockumentary on the film, you learn producers realized late in filming that Murray and Chase hadn’t appeared in the same scene, which led to Chase hitting a ball into Murray’s disheveled bungalow where he displays his development of varieties of marijuana that could become the “grass” of future golf courses. Kenny Loggins’ soundtrack got me to buy the album. 

Timbers, Pilots share a common denominator

Harry Merlo not only supported UP's program, he owned the Timbers
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Harry Merlo.

The name is recognized for the University of Portland's prized soccer field (how many fields actually have grass on them anymore?), and as a supporter of sporting events in the 80s by Oregonians family with the state's history.

But, most people don't know of his history with the Portland Timbers - as owner for three seasons through through the lumber company Lousiana Pacific, which he was president of for 22 years.

With the team ready to fold, Merlo came to the rescue in 1980 and provided plenty of cash and optimism - including the franchises indoor team - in rollicking days of the North American Soccer League.

Portland had already established itself as Soccer City, USA, in the stands, and Merlo sought to take advantage of that on the field through signing European players. But, it didn't take and the team finished above .500 in just one of those three seasons. With the team unprofitable at the close of the '82 season, Merlo looked for a buyer but none arrived. The team folded.

The three extra years, though, helped Soccer City, USA, long into the future, though, as many influential figures in the Rose City's soccer history arrived, or remained here from their home bases in Great Britain.

The story of Portland's soccer roots are covered in 

Oregonsports Journal

 

Women's hoop could use a Fire in Portland

With Oregon teams drawing big crowds, the WNBA seems a perfect fit
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

An election year is a good time to debate about women's issues.

Especially, when it's an Olympic year, too (that's always the General Election).

In the sports world, over here in Portland, women's sports actually have it pretty good these days, starting with the Portland Thorns. The Thorns, the ladies' side of the Portland Timbers franchise, regularly fill Providence Park, and can fill it up on some occasions.

The women's soccer team at the University of Portland still has one of the proudest histories in the nation, and also can fill up Merlo Field when the right opponent shows up. Investing in women's soccer was one of the great moves the school made in the '90s with coach Clive Charles.

But, it's basketball I'm looking at these days, and that's not a part of the landscape here. It was at one time, but not today. Maybe it's time for a looksy again.

The WNBA has been around since 1997, and had the Portland Fire along for the ride from 2000-02. Team owner Paul Allen, was having trouble with hid men's team staying under the Luxury Tax - and by a lot - and couldn't seem to afford to lose any money on the women's team and tossed it.

These days, the women's game is making a big comeback ... in Oregon. In Eugene and Corvallis to be exact, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't get support in Portland again, especially with the same name and logo involved - they both fit the city pretty good.

Attendance for women's basketball in Eugene actually outpaces the men's team, which happens often in Corvallis as well. It figures because both women's teams are ranked in the Top 12 and have been all season.

Oregon, the nation's preseason No. 1, is going bonkers at the gate with more than 10,000 fans per game. That's up from 4,255 just two seasons ago. Enter Sabrina Ionescu and friends, and the MAT has been rocking. The Ducks get 12,000-plus for games these days heading toward the NCAA Tournament and a run towards the school's first title in a TV sport since, before it was on TV.

The Beavers were 16th in the nation in attendance last season with more than 5,400 fans per game.

So, what's with Portland?

Portland's got all kinds of fans who want to build a baseball stadium to LURE a team to the Rose City. All the town needs for a WNBA team is an owner and a marketing team to corral a fan base.

The Fire would step right into a hot situation with Northwest rival Seattle involved with the Storm. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are in as well, so there's easy road trips to be had.

Now is a perfect time for a local investor to look into this, and the league needs some new energy. It really needs some new energy for the 12 other teams. Average game attendance has fallen from 7,700 fans to 6,500 fans in just two years and things such as travelling conditions have been in the news beyond just simple salaries.

With Oregon's Ionescu figuring to be the top pick in the draft, the opportunity to begin a franchise may not be better, especially without the luxury tax on the men's team to hold it down.

 

Ionescu gets the top nod

Oregon senior goes first in WNBA Draft; Sabally, Hebard also first-round picks
Staff Report

Sabrina Ionescu hit the big-time Friday, as in New York City.

The University of Oregon senior and top college basketball player in the nation the past two years was selected No. 1 by the New York Liberty in the WNBA Draft on ESPN. The draft was held without attendees due to the COVID-19 sheltering guidelines.

Ionescu set numerous records at Oregon as well as the Pac-12, and is the only college player to finish her career with 2,000 combined points as well as 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

"I've been working for this for my entire basketball career and super excited to see that come to fruition,'' Ionescu said from her home in California. "I'm very humbled and excited for the opportunity.''

In an early sign of what is to come in terms of merchandising clout and popularity with Ionescu, her fans rushed to the team's website to snap up her new Liberty jersey, which sold out within an hour of her being drafted No. 1.

Later in the day, Ionescu and Nike announced they had reached a marketing deal for her to wear that companies shoes.

New York won the league's draft lottery in September, having the best odds from the four teams that did not reach the league playoffs. The WNBA Draft lottery uses combined team records from the two previous seasons as part of its equation. The Liberty was 17-51 the past two seasons.

Oregon truly hit the jackpot for draft picks as fellow Duck Sabrina Sabally was selected second by the Dallas Wings and Ruthy Hebard was taken eighth by the Chicago Sky.

The league's 12 teams drafted through three rounds.

Oregon State guard Mikayla Pivec was taken by the Atlanta Dream with the first pick of the third round.

The league schedule had been slated to start May 15, but that's on hold.

IONESCU GETS UNANIMOUS APPROVAL

Returning for her senior season worked out pretty good for Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu record-wise.

Ionescu capped an unprecedented college career by entering an exclusive club Monday, March 23.

Oregon’s star guard was the unanimous choice as The Associated Press women’s basketball player of the year, receiving all 30 votes from the national media panel that selects the Top 25 each week during the season.

Since the award was first given in 1995, the only other player to receive all the votes was Breanna Stewart of Connecticut (2016).

“That’s pretty crazy - someone I look up to and have a good relationship with,” Ionescu told the AP Monday. “To be in that class with her is an honor.”

Ionescu, who was only the eighth player to earn AP All-America honors three times, shattered the NCAA career triple-double mark and became the first player in college history to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

Ionescu averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds this season as well as having eight of her 26 career triple-doubles.

She helped the Ducks, who started the season ranked No. 1, win the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. The native of Walnut Creek, California, was honored as the conference’s most outstanding player of the tournament and regular season.

Oregon had a 31-2 record and was headed toward playing host to the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, as well as a likely spot in the Portland Regional set for the Moda Center when the season abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Thorns fans should get CBS action first

NWSL announces landmark media coverage deal
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The progress the U.S. Women's National Soccer team made last year in terms of gaining public attention and interest, turned into another source of legitimacy for any professional sports league - negotiated media coverage.

The NWSL announced a partnership with CBS and accompanying services to cover all of its games this season, beginning April 18 with the Washington Mystics playing host to the newly-renamed OL Reign of Seattle.

Washington finished third in the league in attendance last season at 6,105 fans per game. Portland led the league at 20,098 with Utah in second at 10,774.

Terms for the media deal were not announced other than it is for three years. CBS will broadcast the opener and then the championship game. CBS All-Access, CBS Sports and Twitch will televise or stream the remainder of the games.

The league secured a deal with Budweiser shortly after the US Women won the World Cup in summer for its other big deal prior to this season.

 

THORNS WORKING THEIR WAY BACK TO TOWN

The Portland Thorns are certain to be fully game ready when the league schedule opens.

That's even though their preseason workouts began only this week at Providence Park.

Half or the team regulars are on national team duty, or returning from overseas franchises as preparations for the season opener, April 18, are underway.

Among the players with the national team are forward Tobin Heath, midfielder Lindsey Horan, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and the team's biggest off-season acquisition defender Becky Sauerbrunn. They'll all be headed to Portland following today's final match of the SheBelieves Cup, set for Frisco, Texas against Japan.

Miodfielder Christine Sinclair is away with the Canadian national team, and defender Ellie Carpenter is with the Australian national team.

That leaves Meghan Klingenberg and Katherine Reynolds as the top veterans in camp - both returning for their fifth season with the franchise, which is headed for its eighth season in the eight-year-old league.

Portland will be seeking its third league title in the nine-team league.

 

Blazers gain some momentum

A 121-105 win over Phoenix leads right to key Memphis contest
Staff Report

The NBA playoffs might not be so far off after all for the Portland Trail Blazers.

After a 121-105 win over Phoenix at the Moda Center Tuesday night, the team moved up a full game in its race to catch Memphis for the eighth playoff spot with the Grizzlies losing at home to Orlando Tuesday.

The win/loss moved Portland to within 3.5 games of Memphis, and the Grizzlies will be in town Thursday. A win would pull te Blazers to within 2.5 games with 15 games left in the regular season. And the Blazers will still have three home games in a row following Thursday's game.

Damial Lillard led the Blazers with 25 points, and C.J. McCollum and Trevor Ariza added 22 points each as the team snapped a two-game losing streak.

The win avenged a 127-117 loss in Phoenix Friday night in which 6-foot-10 forward Aaron Baynes hit a Suns team record nine three-point shots. Baynes made just one of seven three-pointers Tuesday and finished with seven points and two rebounds. Devin Booker led the Suns with 29 points.

Portland improved to 29-37 with its third win in its last five games.

Phoenix dropped to 26-39.

 

 

The Blazers season of headaches gets worse

SPORTSLAND: Bad timing for a homestand or is it?
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

In one of the most frustrating seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans, it's hard to think of a way for things to get more frustrating. And, yet they are about to get that way.

And, it's really bad timing, too - at the start of a homestand.

Portland plays its second game of a six-game homestand tonight against the Phoenix Suns with the issue of the coronavirus hanging right over the Moda Center. The prospect of 20,000 fans/citizens congregating in one place while an international pandemic works its way through every part of the world, seemingly one nation, one state, one town at a time. And, Portland appears right in the line of being next, since the virus has already shut down one school in Lake Oswego for a couple days.

Washington has lost nearly a dozen residents to the virus, and it shut down the Northwest Athletic Conference basketball tournament this weekend in Everett, Wash.

Stadiums are being closed, events shuttered or cancelled/postponed across America. The San Jose Sharks of the NHL might play games before no fans at all. 

And, the Winterhawks are going to get stung by this dilemma, too, as they have a home game on Saturday.

Daily, we follow the world trying to control the spread of the virus by keeping people apart.

And, yet, it's ... so easy to just want to let it pass by - all that concern about thed dangers of bringing people together when you're an organization that survives on bringing people together because that's the source of your revenue.

No crowd, no money.

The Portland Timbers squeezed through this dilemma in the last 10 days with the first two games of their season and don't play at again Providence Park until the end of the month. The Blazers, though, have tonight and four more home games in what should have been a key point of their playoff drive - the way they looked at it when building the schedule in the offseason.

Now, that homestand is a big "what are we going to do?"

High school's final three state basketball tournaments are this weekend, but they are poised to squeeze through this dilemma by just hoping the state-by-state, town-by-town spread doesn't reach Portland or Corvallis or Forest Grove before Sunday.

All the event organizers are saying the same thing: "we're watching the situation, and will act accordingly." That's really all they can do until civic leaders tell them what to do, and they are definitely in touch with those leaders telling them be really sure what you tell us.

So, here's the real dilemma for those leaders, and one I have myself. How really dangerous is this virus, and is it so dangerous we have to cancel events?

The basic answer is yes it is enough to cancel an event like tonight's game with the Suns, or the state hoop tournaments this weekend due to the potential for the spread of the virus. We're reasoning about public health and the best way to keep the virus from spreading is to keep people apart at the start of the pandemic. Cancel or postpone stuff through this weekend, and that might stop it from spreading dramatically through Portland and the many parts of the state entirely. Let's just be extra cautious is likely right on the desk of Portland's City Council right now.

But, that's the really, really cautious way to address this issue - the spread of the virus. But, how much of our daily lives do we really have to change due to what just seems to be the flu, and not even close to the flu by the measurements available? Is the public just overreacting due to the media's need for drama?

The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, and there's a shot that's available to keep many more people from dying. The coronavirus? It might be infecting people by the thousands weekly, but the number of deaths is still not even close to 100. Tens of thousands of people infected, but only a couple dozen have died. 

As much as I'm not a fan of the President and how he talks or what he says because of ... so many reasons, he outlined what a lot of people probably did or have come to think during his press conference that interruped Galen Rupp winning the U.S. Marathon Trial, Feb. 29. If you're healthy, you're probably not going to die, but just get flu-like symptoms for a couple weeks, and then it'll be over.

Most of the people who have died were in failing health anyway, so this just sped up that process. Can you imagine a public leader even intimating that? And, yet, he did. But, it does seem to be the reality. Healthy people are dying in the U.S. seemingly at a rate of - it's hard to put a rate on it. By comparison, handfuls of people die everyday from auto accidents, but highways are not closed due to that. NBA games are not cancelled because of the flu, because people who think they have the flu generally just stay home. The coronavirus is different as far as we know because you probably won't know you've got it until several days after you get it, but then it's going to turn into ... the flu.

And when you've got the flu, you stay home, watch TV, eat a bunch of Ramen noodles, drink a bunch of water and get better.

If I had tickets for the Blazers tonight, I wouldn't have a problem attending, although for the next four games that might change to some degree because the virus might have infected people in this part of the world by then.

I'm actually more concerned about the state high school basketball tournaments scheduled for this weekend because there's going to be so many young people involved - those who've had less time to build up their immune system - on and off the court. So there's more potential for ... whatever the coronavirus is ... to infect them and spread to others.

And, yet, I'd hate to see those tournaments cancelled because of what could easily be termed media overreation due to a need for the drama that media needs to develop on an hourly basis so people with watch and read. What we seem to have here is the flu - or even diet flu - with a different name. Is that enough to cancel what is the conclusion of a glorious period in the lives of so many student/athletes of their playing careers, which might end up with a trophy or a ferocious celebration and cutting down of a net? It's definitely a lasting memory however it plays out and that's a good thing for education. That's an interesting call to make for tournament organizers. Civic officials. School officials.

Health officials have already said it's likely going to be 18 months before an antidote for this virus is readily available. There is, though, a shot for the flu that exists and it still doesn't work on everyone. I've never gotten a flu shot and don't plan to, either, because I think it's more likely to make me sick than not getting it. That's probably how I would react to a coronavirus shot - I'd pass.

And, that's how it works for my family, too - wife and two kids. We get sick all the time, but think it's more related to just cold weather, and lack of sleep that causes it. Or a desire not to go to school. Then, there's sleep, TV, ramen, water and back to business as usual. We probably get it from someone else, too, but that's just daily life, just like driving a car or riding a bike. There's always potential for danger. 

It would take a lot more bad news on infections and/or deaths to think we should be treating the coronavirus as being worse than the flu or anywhere near the Black Plague. Or even worse than an AR-15. But, I'm not dealing with worst-case scenario for tens of thousands of people. So, good luck with those upcoming decisions. I know how I'd react, but I also don't get a flu shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timbers rebound with defense

An early score leads to 1-0 win over Nashville
Staff Report

Completely different game, completely different result - that's what the Portland Timbers gave their fans Sunday at Providence Park.

A week after dominating possession against Minnesota in a 3-1 loss to open the Major League Soccer season, the Timbers got an early goal and essentially played defense for three-fourths of the match. But, it ended 1-0 in favor of the home team against expansion Nashville.

Diego Valeri scored a highlight-reel goal in the 12th minute and the Timbers held Nashville to just four shots on goal, sending the visitors to their second loss in as many games.

Portland managed just two shots on goal and finished with no corner kicks, while Nashville had nine. The opener featured just two corner kicks for the host team.

The Timbers had a 57-43 edge in possession in their opener, but trailed 52-48 against Nashville.

Portland was charged with three yellow cards, including midfielder Diego Chara, who will miss Sunday's game at New England due to also picking one up against Minnesota.

And, yet, the win was the important part, moving the team to seventh in the 13-team Western Conference.

"Sometimes these games are not pretty," Portland coach Giovanni Savarese told media afterward. "The important thing for us was to make sure that we got a win to get three points."

Valeri's goal came after the visitors were unable to clear possession farther than the edge of the 18-yard box and Andy Polo found Portland's top scorer and he fired a shot from the left side to the top right of the goal for his second score of the season.

"I was so happy about it," Valeri told media. "You always want to see the ball in the net."

Valeri, with a penalty kick in the opener, has both of Portland's scores this season.

New England is 0-1-1, one point.

 

 

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