It's your Timbers guide to 2012

How will each Portland player stack up?
March 8, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

With the Major League Soccer season opener just four days away, oregonsports.com’s Mike Donovan decides to preview every player on this year’s Timbers squad.

But, instead of going on and on about a player strengths and weaknesses, he has decided to use just 17 syllables for each Timber.

That’s right, a guide to the 2012 Portland Timbers using only haikus.

Bikes, food carts, microbrews and haikus. Soccer coverage styled for Soccer City, USA.

And now, the 2012 Timbers:

Eric Alexander
Capped in ‘11
Looks to crack starting lineup
Will play left or right?

Kalif Alhassan
No goals last season
What a pure talent he is
Now tries on defense!

Joe Bendik
Stuck behind Troy, Jake
Decade younger than Adin
See him in Reserves

Kris Boyd
Highest paid player
Scores goals, lots and lots of goals
Lots of name puns, too!

Freddie Braun
Quite a smart player
Former U-23 stud
Now just a reserve

Eric Brunner
A tough defender
Became a leader last year
Wins fights in the air

Mike Chabala

An instant legend
Shocked LA with his right foot
Good enough on D?

Diego Chara
Constant Energy
Led league in fouls last season
Key piece of the team

Futty Danso
From The Gambia
His broken foot means time off
Skinny but will fight

Bright Dike
Best name in Portland
Hulking beast can score some goals
How is his fitness?

Jake Gleeson

Ladies love cool Jake
Earned his back-up promotion
Lots of potential

David Horst
Can grow a great 'stache
Solid play from center back
Now has a bad hip

Andrew Jean-Baptiste
What a specimen
Young and raw, but looks the part
Will he see the field?

Jack Jewsbury
He is Captain Jack
Beloved by all his teammates
Rock in the midfield

Eddie Johnson

Grew up at ManU
Now he’s the English Twellman
Without all the goals

Ryan Kawulok
He went to UP
Right back just got signed last week
Depth for the future

James Marcelin
Lock down games with James
Tough as nails as holding mid
Call him the Closer

Hanyer Mosquera

Will start right away
Follows Jorge and Chara
Can he find success?

Darlington Nagbe
Best skills on the team?
MLS Goal of the Year
What’s his position?

Lovel Palmer
Likes to have a go
Despite playing at the back
Lone right back option?

Troy Perkins
Starting goalkeeper
One of the best in the league
Crucial part of team

Jorge Perlaza
A speedy striker
Who only scores goals at home
Consistent starter?

Steve Purdy
Once was the future
Plays more for country than club
Provides depth, I guess

Charles Renken
Cost nothing for him
First MLS Zambian
Just 18 years old

Brent Richards
First home grown Timber
Best player in PDL
Will play sparingly

Sebastian Rincon
Not signed to a deal
Look for club to lock him down
Born in ’94!

Franck Songo’o
Developed abroad
Could have a breakout season
Will he start Day One?

Chris Taylor
Reserves and friendlies
Are where you will see Taylor
Actual left back

Jose Adolfo Valencia

Was a big signing
Got hurt before he showed up
Might see him next year

Rodney Wallace
Timbers fan scapegoat
But scored against Tim Howard
Has fashion sense too

Sal Zizzo
Zig-Zag Sal Zizzo
Dribbles through with his head down
But injury prone

Feel free to post a haiku of your own by logging in using a Facebook account, or submit one at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan

Boyd heads Timbers toward season on high note

The Scottish striker scores in just seven minutes in final preseason game
March 4, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

At the press conference to introduce Kris Boyd to Portland, Boyd said he had come to Portland to score goals. And seven minutes into is first game at Jeld-Wen Field, he delivered on his promise.

Boyd’s early goal held up as the Portland Timbers defeated AIK of Sweden, 1-0, in the Timbers preseason finale Sunday. The win gave the Timbers five points for the three-match tournament and tie them with the San Jose Earthquakes, who defeated Chivas USA, 5-0 earlier in the day.

“They brought me here to score goals, and I’m happy I was able to get one in today,” Boyd said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a lot more.”

After two draws in the tournament, the Timbers came out determined to get a win in front of the home fans. Boyd’s dream start was the result of a nice ball by Rodney Wallace to switch fields and a great cross by Jorge Perlaza from the right side.

Boyd headed in the Colombian’s cross and sent Jeld-Wen into a frenzy.

Portland Coach John Spencer went with a regular season approach for the game, starting his best 11 available and only listing seven substitutes despite being allowed four more. And, the coach was rewarded as his offense constantly pressured AIK’s backline and goalkeeper Ivan Turina.

Outside midfielders Kalif Alhassan and Wallace both had nice games and continuously provided passes to cutters. Alhassan wrapped up an assertive week as he battles for a starting position.

Wallace, who played for his native Costa Rica on Wednesday in Wales, was constantly attacking the backline of the visitors from Stockholm, and showed he might merit some playing time on the wing.

In addition to getting the assist on the goal, Perlaza used his quickness throughout the match to create openings for himself and his teammates.

Other starters who showed well were Brunner, who looked confident and comfortable as usual as the Timbers defensive anchor, and Perkins, who went through the preseason with conceding just two goals, one of which was an own goal.

My men of the match were Wallace, Perlaza, and Boyd for the reasons listed above. With his match today, Perlaza certainly seems like the favorite to be Boyd’s strike partner on March 12.

The Timbers will kick off the MLS regular season on March 12 at Jeld-Wen Field against the Philadelphia Union. Check out oregonsports.com and twitter.com/themikedonovan for full coverage on the week leading up to the match.

Timbers rally for another draw, 1-1

Kawulok nets first goal as Portland hangs with Chivas USA
March 1, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Portland coach John Spencer got a good look at most of the players either looking for a roster spot or consistent playing time Thursday night, and they were able to rally in the second half for a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA before 15,195 fans at Jeld-Wen Field.

Ryan Kawulok scored in the 78th minute to match a first-half score by Chivas and the Timbers finished with their second draw of the preseason tournament, three days after a 1-1 tie with San Jose.

Spencer suited up a line-up full of players from last season's U23 squad as well as unsigned players led by forward Sebastian Rincon. The unit applied consistent pressure, but few serious scoring opportunities until Kawulok found the net off a corner by Kalif Alhassan, who entered as a second-half sub.

"He did well with the goal," Spencer said of Kawulok.  "That's why we signed him. He's ready to play in the first team right now." 

Portland plays its final preseason game Sunday against Sweden's AIK.


Timbers start fast, hold on for 1-1 draw

San Jose recovers and dominates much of preseason match
Feb. 27, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning

Two weeks before the start of the Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers jumped out to an inspiring start with a goal just 15 minutes into their preaseason match with San Jose Monday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

Kalif Alhassan scored with a spectacular curving shot for a 1-0 lead, but the Earthquakes recovered and controlled most the remaining 75 minutes, settling for a 1-all draw in the first round of the four-team tournament.

Hanyer Mosquera, trying to control a cross, knocked the ball in for an own goal, tying the score in the 60th minute.

The tournament continues for the Timbers Thursday night with a match against Chivas USA and concludes Sunday against AIK.


Timbers close in on preseason tourney

Portland fans get a chance to see new line-up Monday
Feb. 25, 2012 / by Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Portland Timbers fans get their first look at the team's new line-up Monday when the team's four-team preseason tournament begins at Jeld-Wen Field.

Portland plays host to San Jose, with Chivas USA and Sweden's AIK also involved in a doubleheader.

AIK and Chivas USA begin at 5 p.m. with Portland and San Jose following.

The tournament continues Thursday when the Timbers, who went 3-0-1 in a series of exhibition games in Los Angeles, play Chivas USA and concludes Sunday with the Portland-AIK match.

Portland opens the regular season March 12 at home against the Philadelphia Independence.


L.A. scrimmage goes Timbers way, 4-1

Beckham plays in low-key affair
Feb. 7, 2012

The Portland Timbers opened their exhibition season with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center Tuesday, a solid sign the team is prepared to make a run at the Major League Soccer playoffs in just its second season in the league.

Four different players: Futty Danso, Bright Dike, James Marcelin and Jorge Perlaza, scored in the win, one of four preseason games the team is scheduled to play prior to its preseason tournament in Portland that begins Feb. 27.

“It’s always nice when you can score goals so early in the preseason, and hopefully it’s a vein of form we continue to have; finishing is usually the last thing that comes before the start of the season,” Portland coach John Spencer told the media afterwards. “We were lucky enough today that we got some good chances, some good looks at the goal, and guys put the ball in the back of the net, which is nice.”

Portland's goalkeeper, Troy Perkins, played the duration of the game.

Dike and Perlaza scored a minute apart early in the first half, with Dike heading in a corner kick from trialist Franck Songo’o in the eighth minute to start the scoring. Just a minute later, Perlaza got one past former USL Timber Josh Saunders for a quick 2-0 lead.

“I thought we played well in the first half; we passed the ball very well,” Spencer said. “We obviously went up two-nil at halftime, which is a good result for that team.”

Los Angeles and international star David Beckham played through the first half.


Spencer has plenty of wisdom to pass to Boyd

Portland coach heads list of Scotland's top MLS players
Feb. 1, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

This offseason has seen the Portland Timbers sign Scotsman Kris Boyd to a lucrative contract, while the Montreal Impact selected Scotish-born Calum Mallace in the second round of the MLS draft.

Mallace and Boyd are trying to follow in the footsteps of 11 other Scottish players who have played in at least one MLS league match. The previous make up a list of both champions and busts.

Here is a ranking, in order from best to worst, of every Scottish player in MLS history based on their performance in the U.S.  

1. John Spencer – Colorado (2001–04)

The current Timber head coach made 88 appearances for the Rapids and finished his MLS career with 37 goals and 17 assists. Has the most goals and best scoring ratio (1 goal per 2.4 appearances) of any Scot in MLS history. He is also the only Scot to be named to multiple MLS Best XI teams.  His 14 goals in 2001 were the good for third most in the MLS, as were his 14 in 2003.

2. Mo Johnston – Kansas City (1996–2001)

Johnston made 149 regular season appearances for the Kansas City Wizards, scoring 31 times for the club. He also played in 15 playoff games including the 2000 MLS Cup. Well respected by teammates and loved by fans, Johnston was the first player to hold the 2000 MLS Cup trophy after he helped KC beat the Chicago Fire, 1-0. Johnston has the most appearances and assists (28) of any Scottish player in MLS history.

3. Richard Gough – Kansas City, San Jose (1997–98)

A defender, Gough played 36 games in two seasons in the MLS. The former captain of the Scottish national team scored twice in MLS career, both for San Jose. After his 1997 season with Kansas City, he became the first Scot to be named to the MLS Best XI and is just one of two Scots to ever be named to the MLS Best XI. In 1997, he played alongside fellow Johnston, marking the only time in MLS history that a team played two Scots at the same time.

4. Paul Dalglish – Houston (2006–07)

The son of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, Paul played in just 11 regular season games and four postseason games over his two MLS seasons in Houston. The striker scored four goals total, two of which were in the regular season. He is most remembered for his two-goal performance in the 2006 Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Rapids for which he was named Man of the Match. He won the MLS Cup in both his seasons in the MLS. 

5. Adam Moffat – Columbus, Portland, Houston (2007)

Moffat’s MLS career has been injury-riddled and full of ups-and-downs. A successful 2010 season with Columbus and a great end-of-2011 with Houston sandwiched a subpar stint with Portland. To date, Moffat has played in 61 games in his five MLS seasons and scored seven goals. His two goals last season were both named MLS Goals of the Week. He was also named Dynamo Newcomer of the Year, despite playing just 13 games with the club. Is expected to start in central midfield this season for the Dynamo.

6. Jamie Smith – Colorado (2009)

The current Rapid has seen time in 46 regular season matches for the club, scoring four times, while assisting on 13 other goals. Started in Colorado’s 2010 MLS Cup victory in the central midfield. Became third Scot to win MLS cup. His goal in the 2011 season opener against the Timbers was nominated for MLS Goal of the Week. In both 2009 and 2011, Smith’s season was cut short by a knee injury. Smith is still recovering from a torn ACL and hope to return to the pitch this June. 

7. Thomas “Tam” McManus – Colorado (2008)

In his one season in Colorado, McManus appeared in 22 league matches, making 15 starts. His five goals in 2008 were the third most for the Rapids. McManus is most remembered for his long distance goal against Chivas USA, which was named MLS goal of the week and one of the ten best MLS goals in 2008. After 2008, McManus and the Rapids could not agree on a new contract and McManus signed with Irish club Derry City.

8. Kenny Deuchar – Salt Lake (2008)

Deucher played in 29 regular season games in his one season with Real Salt Lake before returning to Scotland. The striker also played one minute in one postseason game for the club. He scored 3 goals and had two assists while making 18 starts for the club, which made its first trip to the postseason. One of the few professional soccer players ever to have been a practicing doctor while playing, Deuchar could never match his scoring rate that he had with previous club in Scotland, where he scored 63 times in 93 games for Gretna.

9. Jamie Clark – San Jose (1999–2000)

The only Scottish MLS player who attended college in the United States, Clark was drafted by the San Jose Clash in the 2nd round with the 21st overall pick. The defender played 34 games for San Jose, getting 27 starts. He scored two goals in the MLS including a late equalizer in his second professional game. Also added two assists in the MLS. His official biography on the University of Washington’s web site (where he is now the head coach) describes his MLS career as “disappointing and injury-filled.”

10. Kevin Souter – Kansas City (2008-09)

Souter made just eight appearances in two seasons with Kansas City. He was signed to the Wizards after appearing at an open tryout for the club. The midfielder scored his one and only MLS goal in a 2-0 victory over Toronto. After the MLS, Souter became a player-coach for Ryerson University in Toronto.

11. Peter Canero – New York (2006)

Canero played just 278 minutes played in nine appearances with the Metros. He had zero goals or assists and ended his MLS career with as many yellow cards as shots on goal (1). Despite being known as a player who could play multiple positions, he was beat out by Seth Stammler, Carlos Mendes & Jeff Parke.  He is easily Scotland’s most monumental MLS bust due to his cost of $142,996 and his lack of production.


Timbers make yet another move

Portland signs Scottish striker Kris Boyd
Jan. 30, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Kris Boyd, the all-time leading scorer in the Scottish Premier League, agreed to sign with the Portland Timbers, the club announced Monday.

Boyd, 28, had been mulling over a contract offer from the Houston Dynamo, but chose to sign with Portland and coach John Spencer, also a Scottish national, and said he would be in the Rose City in time for the team's season-opening game with Philadelphia, March 12.

"Kris is a proven goal-scorer at the highest levels of the game and we expect that to continue here in Portland," Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said Monday.

In seasons with both Kilmarnock and Rangers, Boyd scored 164 goals before moving to Middlesborough, where he languished and eventually left the club in 2010. He signed with a top-flight Turkish club in late summer, but left in December and returned to the UK to determine his future. Houston offered him a contract earlier in January.

Boyd, who ended last season on loan to Nottingham Forest, received interest from English Premier League clubs and was also rumored to be ready for a return to Rangers. He has 18 caps with the Scottish national team.

He now needs a visa and worker's permit to play in the U.S.

The league listed Boyd as one of Portland's designated players.

Boyd's signing also increases the focus on the Timbers' December signing of striker Jose Adolfo Valencia, who is a designated player but has yet to appear active at a practice while the club assesses his physical well-being.

He is the league's first designated player from Scotland.


Don't get Diego angry (if you're playing the Timbers)

Portland's defensive stalwart showcased the path to victory in 2011
Jan. 28, 2012 / By Ian Rose

For all the passion and noise coming from the Timbers Army every home matchday, the Timbers themselves rarely let their feelings get the better of them in 2011. No team in the league committed fewer fouls over the season.

Now, there’s always the question in interpreting foul statistics whether a low number represents good discipline or a lack of intensity.

However you look at it, there was one player who bucked the overall trend of the team. From the MLS team with the least fouls came the individual with the most fouls: Diego Chara.

In 28 games for the Timbers, Chara committed 64 fouls, a team and league high. For his trouble, he picked up no fewer than seven yellow cards (also a team high), but never pushed his luck to the point of a straight red or a second yellow. He was the Timbers' bulldog in 2011, the one player most willing to tackle hard to win the ball or stop an opposing move.

That aggression turned into wins.

When Chara was more active and more aggressive, the Timbers’ were significantly better. Chara ranged from 0-5 fouls per match in his 28 games, and a split within those numbers reveals the Timbers' success.

The Timbers won half of the games in which Chara fouled three or more times, but only one in five of those in which Chara was present, but committed less than three fouls. A loss was more than twice as likely in the lower-fouling games.

Chara’s offensive output: two goals and four assists; was split evenly between the two fouling segments, with a goal and two assists in each. It’s a small sample, but it doesn’t suggest that there’s much of an offensive trade-off to his more aggressive matches.

March 12th brings the Timbers’ 2012 MLS opener at home to Philadelphia. I for one will be watching Diego closely and hoping to see the hard-nosed midfield play that was so important to Timbers fans last season.


Training your brain for 2012

Portland has plenty of game for a playoff push
Jan. 25, 2012 / By Mike Donovan

It is hard not to analyze the first few trainings for the 2012 Portland Timbers without jumping to conclusions. After months without the team on the pitch, watching them for two straight hours leaves your head spinning in all sorts of directions about what kind of season Portland will have.

That being said, here are 11 observations from Wednesday morning’s training session.

1- The practice consisted of fitness drills, lots of one-touch passing drills and 9v9 half-field scrimmages. Head Coach John Spencer’s voice filled the training ground during the passing drills, but he was quiet for most of the 9v9 games.

2. It was nice to see some aggression displayed during the mock games. Futty Danso was constantly yelling directions at teammates, as was Troy Perkins.

There were also some contentious challenges, the hardest of which happened when Kalif Alhassan took out Eric Alexander with a slide tackle. Alexander shoved Alhassan’s legs to the ground and yelled at the Ghanaian before walking away. While some might see the chippiness as a bad thing, it seemed that none of the players nor coaches had any issues with it. 

3. The field players were broken up into 3 squads of 8, while the goalkeepers rotated between the teams.  Missing from the teams were David Horst, Sal Zizzo, and Jose Adolfo Valencia. Horst and Zizzo are continuing rehab from injuries, while Valencia was having “physical testing” done. 

4. While the teams were not broken down by playing time necessarily, two of the teams certainly shared the most experienced Timbers players. Here is a breakdown of the teams-

Team A- Jack Jewsbury, Mike Chabala, Darlington Nagbe, James Marcelin, Eddie Johnson, Eric Brunner, Miguel Ibarra, and Hanyer Mosquera

Team B- Rodney Wallace, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Danso, Alhassan, Jorge Perlaza, Diego Chara, Bright Dike, and Franck Songo’o

Team C- Alexander, Steve Purdy, Chris Taylor, Lovel Palmer, Freddie Braun, Ryan Kawulok, Brent Richards and Brendan King

5. The team of Johnson and Chabala was the most consistent and scored quite a few goals. Chabala, in particular, had some nice crosses, while Johnson looked completely game ready after dealing with concussions last season. Other players who looked good were Nagbe, who chased down quite a few long balls, and Brunner, who continues to dominate the air. Ibarra seemed to struggle to hit accurate crosses and shots.

6. Danso led his team with a steady presence at the back, while Wallace looked good when on the attack. Chara seemingly had no influence in the middle and appeared to be a step slow on the attack. Sango’o has the ability to get through traffic looks like he might be able to stick with the team.

7. Alexander was aggressive throughout the practice and put in the ball in the back of the net on multiple occasions. Taylor has some decent crosses, but had a few costly mistakes at the back, including a complete whiff on a clear that set up a Perlaza goal.

8. First round pick Jean-Baptiste is much thicker in person than he appears. He has a similar body type to Dike. After practice, Spencer talked about the massive jump from college soccer to pro soccer and it seems Jean-Baptiste is experiencing that. I would be surprised if Jean-Baptiste is in the 18-man game day roster on March 12.

9. If I had to make a prediction based on one practice, I’d say Songo’o might get signed for the season. He is definitely my favorite out of non-roster invitees. The only issue is the fact he is from Cameroon and would count against the international roster spots.

10. After practice, Spencer said Nagbe was “by far, technically the best player on the team.” He also said he projects that Nagbe could be as good as Brad Davis and Landon Donovan. Spencer also said that Jewsbury will be captain for as long as Spencer is the coach of the Timbers.

11. My first prediction at who will be in the 18 for the season opener vs the Philadelphia Union on March 12. The starters will be Perkins, Palmer, Brunner, Mosquera, Chabala, Nagbe, Jewsbury, Chara, Alhassan, Perlaza, and Johnson. The bench will be Gleeson, Valencia, Marcelin, Wallace, Dike, Danso, and Alexander.

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