Timbers season just ran dry

Those last-minute goals were a soul-wrenching, playoff killer
By Cliff Pfenning,

The Portland Timbers had a pretty good run in 2020, for the crazy year it was. 

But, the MLS Cup playoffs ended in dramatically crummy style - a shootout loss.

It was just a minute away from a win, or even a couple inches in terms of how a ball rebounds of a post.

They worked out in favor of a scrappy FC Dallas team on a chilly, damp Sunday night.

Portland still ended up having won the mid-year MLS Challenge Cup and finished third in the Western Conference, good enough for a spot in the North America Champions League in 2021.


Winterhawks get back to action - sort of

Kishaun Gervais reps for team in NHL21 tournament
By Cliff Pfenning,

The Portland Winterhawks don't know if or when they'll be playing next on the ice, but they know one of them will be duking it out with the rest of North America for hockey supremacy in the Memorial eCup shortly.

All 60 junior hockey teams in Canada and the U.S. will be represented in a 64-team tournament using NHL21 to determine a winner. Portland is represented by Kishaun Gervais.

Gervais is in his second year with the team as a 5-foot-8 winger from Kamsack, Saskatoon. He had eight goals and nine assists in 31 games last season.

Portland led the WHL in wins and points when the season was abruptly halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020-21 season is set to begin Jan. 8, with all the Canadian teams playing amongst themselves and the five teams in the U.S. Division playing amongst themselves. But, none of the U.S. teams have announced a schedule, or whether they will actually play this upcoming season due to not having the ability for fans to attend.

The Hawks are also in the unique situation of still looking for an owner after previous owner, Canadian Bill Gallacher, put the team into bankruptcy and for sale once the pandemic arrived.



NBA Max Contracts are kind of insulting

Those giant contracts result in higher ticket prices
By Cliff Pfenning,

In the era of economic upheaval society is in across America, and across the globe, a constant theme continues to emerge on a daily basis - pro sports doesn't seem to be affected by lack of money.

On Sunday, the Utah Jazz reported it had signed dynamic 24-year-old Donovan Mitchell to a contract extension that would keep him in Salt Lake City for another five seasons. All they needed to do was give him the Rookie Max Extension of $163 million over those five seasons, which could balloon to $195 if he plays his way onto the All-NBA Team in one of the next three seasons.

If you read the headline again, it's potentially $195 million over five years. That's $39 million per season.

Even though there were no fans in the stands for the NBA Playoffs at the end of summer, the NBA apparently isn't having a problem with money. Mitchell isn't, of course, the only player getting a Max Contract, regardless of the economics of the day. And, regardless of the fact there may not be fans in the stands when games begin again for the 2020-21 season in late December.

So, how I read this news is no one in the NBA better be complaining about lack of money because of the pandemic's affect on society.

And, that goes for all the other pro leagues. In spite of all the troubles with money so much of the public is facing, pro sports can throw it around like Monopoly paper. 

Pro leagues are just going about their business as usual in terms of player signings, which they really have to according to their contracts with players unions. But the negotiations between those parties should get some publicity to show that even pro sports are dealing with economic stress, something a $195 million player signing does not indicate.

Pro sports teams are not poor, so they better not cry poverty, even when they're laying off significant portions of their administrative staffs in some cases.


Timbers head to offseason with loss

Dallas wins shootout to end Portland season
Staff Report

PORTLAND - The magical season the Portland Timbers had constructed for themselves came to a dramatic end Sunday night in a penalty-kick shootout with FC Dallas.

Just one minute away from a 1-0 win in regular time, gave up a goal and then lost the shootout 8-7 in the first round of the MLS Playoffs at Providence Park.

Portland won the MLS Challenge Cup in summer and seeded third in the Western Conference playoff bracket. The Timbers outshot Dallas 22-12, and had eight shots on target, but could only get the one goal.

Portland went ahead in the 82nd minute when Jorge Villafana took a crisp pass from Diego Valeri in the left side of the box and fired into the upper portion of the net.

FC Dallas equalized in the third minute of extra time when Ricardo Pepi, who entered in the 85th minute pounced on a loose ball near midfield and raced to the goal. His initial shot hit the right post, but it rebounded directly to him for the score.

The late goal was the fourth time this season the Timbers had given up a goal to tie a match in extra time.


What's PDX known for best?

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

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

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?



Is Herbert ROY material?

Chargers' rookie might be cornerstone of LA fanbase
By Cliff Pfenning,

Justin Herbert has not been the ticket to victory this season for the Los Angeles Chargers.

But, he certainly hasn't been boring.

Since taking over as starting quarterback in Week 2, the rookie out of Oregon has had the Chargers basically one play away from winning every weekend, even though all-but-one of the weekends has ended in a loss.

Entering Sunday's game at Miami, the Chargers are 2-6 and in last place in the AFC West, having lost all three games against division opponents. Those losses, though, were by a combined total of nine points, including an overtime loss to defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

It's not hard to see Herbert as the top candidate for Rookie of the Year as he's averaging 330 yards per game with 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. 

Sunday's game pits Herbert against another rookie - Tua Tagovialoa, who has led the Dolphins to a pair of victories the past two weeks. Miami enters the game at 5-3, and in second place in the AFC East coming off a 34-31 win at Arizona. The Dolphins won the game with a 50-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, then survived a field-goal miss by the Cardinals.

So far, the Dolphins have been making plays to win, especially on defense, while the Chargers have not. Los Angeles has lost three times after leading by 14 points or more. The game will be carried by FOX at 1:05 p.m.

Herbert's top competition is likely Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who has had a similar season leading the Bengals to a 2-5-1 record. Burrow is averaging 300 yards per game with 11 touchdown passes against five interceptions. The Bengals have lost four games by one score or less, including their season-opener to the Chargers, who were quarterbacked by Tyrod Taylor. When Taylor suffered an injury just prior to the team's Week 2 game with Kansas City, Herbert stepped in and has not let go, inspite of the frustrating results.

Herbert's one win came over Jacksonville, 39-29, a game in which the Chargers led 16-0, fell behind 29-22, then rallied with 17 consecutive points.

With the second half of the season looming, another Oregon-based quarterback is getting a shot at making a name for himself - Jake Luton of Oregon State. Luton, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, very nearly led an improbable comeback Sunday against Houston only to have a two-point conversion go awry with 1:30 left in a 27-25 loss. Making his first start, Luton hit 26 of 38 passes with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a score - 13 yards for the potential tying points.

Jacksonville plays at Green Bay Sunday at 10 a.m. with the game set to be carried by FOX.



MLS sets Timbers home playoff date

Potland will host Dallas in two weekends, Nov. 22
Staff Report

With one trophy already in hand, the Portland Timbers will begin their search for a second Nov. 22, with a home match in the first round of the MLS Western Conference playoffs.

Portland will play host to FC Dallas at 7 p.m., at Providence Park. The team has not announced any plans to allow spectators within the stadium.

The two teams did not meet during the abbreviated regular season nor the MLS is Back Cup that played out in July and August in Orlando, Fla.

Portland won the summer tournament, and will be looking to return to the Cup finale for the third time, and second since winning in 2015. Portland fell to Atlanta, in Atlanta, in 2018.

Dallas has played for the MLS Cup once, but never won.

The Timbers enter having lost just once in their past six games, going 2-1-3 with two of the draws being against LAFC.

Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse both tallied nine goals for Portland during the 25-match season. Felipe Mora had seven goals and Yimmi Chara added four with eight assists. Valeri led the team with nine assists.


Timbers closeout with draw

Late goal pulls PDX 1-1 with LAFC, playoff next
By Cliff Pfenning,

And, now finally, the MLS Cup is on the line.

After the tournament-in-a-bubble, and collapsed regular season, the Portland Timbers can finally focus on the annual battle for the league championship, and they'll be part of it as the third seed in the Western Conference.

Portland closed out is regular season with a 1-1 draw in Los Angeles, netting the tying goal in the 90th minute to finish with an 11-6-6 record and 39 points. The point total tied with Sporting Kansas City and Seattle, but those teams had played fewer matches and had a higher point-per-game average, and were seeded first and second, respectively, for the upcoming playoffs that begin Nov. 20.

Jorge Villafana headed home Portland's goal to cap of the regular season, scoring for the first time in five years. The Timbers scored 46 goals in their 23 matches, topped only by LAFC with 47 goal in 22 matches. The two teams tied 1-1 just a month ago.

Portland will play at least one playoff game at Providence Park, starting with Dallas, which finished sixth.

The other Western match-ups are:

Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose

Seattle vs. LAFC

Minnesota vs. Colorado





Capitalism abounds! What's PDX due for next

Pandemic aside, Portland has opportunities for more pro teams
By Cliff Pfenning,

What’s the next expansion franchise in Portland?

The whole world might seem to have paused for the day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, but now that Election Day has passed, regardless of the vote-counting fallout, it’s time to look forward to the future of sports in Portland. In particular, the possibilities of an expansion franchise in one or more pro leagues. So, we’re taking a look at three possibilities and asking the public to vent its opinions on them: Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League or Women’s National Basketball Association.

Which one is most likely to reach Portland in the next decade?

It might seem a bit outlandish to consider this in the time of a pandemic when crowds aren’t even allowed in the state, but capitalism marches on regardless of the beat of public concerns. People with money will always be looking at ways to make more money, and Portland is a continually growing market with money for things like sporting events.

Here’s the logic behind the three:


Portland has been in the Triple A business before for decades, but it’s been more than a decade since Merritt Paulson bailed on the Beavers and focused on the Timbers, selling the baseball team at the same time as getting the soccer franchise to the Major League Soccer level. As Portland can brand itself as Soccer City, USA, and sell out Providence Park for every game - even the women’s team, the Thorns, can sell out the stadium - it seems like a good move.

But, Portland dreamers won’t give up on baseball, and have a plan for a stadium mapped out by the Portland Diamond Project. The stadium would be located just North of the Fremont Bridge, and potentially be a cornerstone for new development in what is now an industrial area.

But, getting a team to the Rose City would require MLB to expand, or a franchise to move, and neither seems like a sure bet in the near future. The Oakland A’s might be the best option, playing in an aged stadium before small crowds, but the owners do not seem interested in any movement like the football Raiders just accomplished. If the A’s were to move, they might follow the Raiders to Las Vegas, anyway.

Still, Portland can promote it gets less rain during the season than Detroit or Minneapolis, which have open-air stadiums. And, the city has a natural rival in Seattle just three hours North, and is already on the map with the Blazers and Timbers/Thorns and Nike.

Rumors of MLB expansion flow through social media consistently, but getting a stadium built would be a major task, one Paulson can reflect on as a disaster having gotten one lined up for Beaverton and then replacing the Memorial Coliseum only to get significant negative public response.


Portland has a long history of hockey support, from the Buckaroos of the 1960s and ‘70s to the Winterhawks of the past four decades. 

The Hawks, who divide their home schedule between the Coliseum and Moda Center, are annually in the top five for attendance in the Western Hockey League.

There are a pair of key factors working against the NHL in Portland: the league has already expanded to 32 teams with the addition of Seattle, set to begin play in 2021, and there is no ownership group that has publicly expressed interest in bringing team here. 

Having Seattle available as a natural rival is a plus for any team thinking about relocating, and that would likely be the Phoenix-based Arizona Coyotes, who have lost money for now decades, having gone bankrupt in 2009. But, after numerous sales, the team still is housed in Phoenix, and the league seems devoted to keep it there.


Portland would seem like a great spot for the WNBA to expand as it has experience in the league, an arena to play in, and women’s sports are on a definite upswing through the NWSL and even the WNBA itself. Basically, all the team would need is an owner.

Finding an owner during the pandemic might be a challenge, especially in light of the hardcore restrictions placed on public arenas keeping crowds not only down, but non-existent. The league has long been viewed as a money-loser, but recent info shows otherwise. In fact, the league players association demanded a bigger cut of league revenue in the past year, and got it, moving from somewhere near 25 percent of the estimated $60 million brought in by its 13 teams, to close to 50 percent.

Portland has a solid support base for the NWSL Thorns, averaging more than 20,000 fans per game in 2019. And, the college programs in Eugene and Corvallis were among the top 10 in average attendance from among Div. I schools in 2019-20.

The NWSL is something of a bellweather for making this team happen, as it is expanding to Louisville and the Los Angeles in the next two years - the LA franchise being financed by a group of female actors. With France’s OL Olympique having purchased the team in Seattle last year, there’s an international feel being developed within the league.

A group of actors might very well view Portland as another city to make gains for women’s sports, and basketball can use it. Portland is a great spot for that expansion. Not only are there women's sports fans, but basketball specifically, too. Portland just earned a regional in 2024 for the NCAA Tournament, as well as first- and second-round games in 2026. And, the Moda Center was set to hold part of the 2020 tournament as well. When the crowds for the University of Oregon and Oregon State are factored in - and they're top 10 nationally - and, hech, the hoop teams themselves being annually in national rankings, women's basketball would seem a natural for Portland.

But, any prospective team would require the support of the NBA team in that city - the Trail Blazers - as the NBA owns half of the WNBA. Portland once had that support with the Fire, who played from 2000-02, and were successful enough that when Paul Allen looked to either sell or disband the team in 2002, he had buyers awaiting in former Blazers great Clyde Drexler and local business tycoon Terry Emmert. But the deal fell apart and the Fire folded.

The Allen family continues to own the Blazers and WNBA market, and virtually no rumors exist about any expansion for the league.



Timbers head for Decision Day with LA in mind

After 1-0 loss to Colorado, LAFC might be first-round opponent
By Cliff Pfenning,

After a 1-0 loss at home to Colorado Wednesday, the Portland Timbers had little to gain from looking back at an uninspired effort at Providence Park, but everything to look forward to with Sunday's match at LAFC as it might very well be the opponent in the quarterfinals of the Major League Soccer playoffs. P

ortland dropped to second behind Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference standing with the loss, and are just a whisper ahead of Seattle, with each having one match remaining.

Los Angeles sits in sixth.

There certainly are plenty of pathways LAFC could remain there and the Timbers could wind up third, which would put the two teams up against one another in the first round. P

ortland plays at LAFC Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

The eight playoff teams in the Western Conference have played their way into the expanded playoffs, with four being left out.

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