brian costello

25 February 12:04 pm

From the rainy February of Portland to the snowy fields of the French Football Federation's national training facility in Clairefontaine, Timbers Academy co-director Mike Smith has traveled quite a distance.

Sent as part of a special MLS initiative to broaden league academy and player development, Smith was selected to partake in a extensive Elite Formation Coaching License program that involves close collaboration with the FFF as well as on-site observation and work with Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.

Freshly arrived in Paris this weekend, Smith was whisked away to the training facility and snapped a few photos:

Got to the French Training center... how amazing! It was snowing here most of the afternoon. We were taken into the local village for savory crepes for dinner with the obligatory red french wine. The scenery is so rustic and cool but we are in the middle of nowhere in the snow! Am staying in Chateau where French Men's National Team stay. I am in Lizarazu's room

Throughout Smith's stay in France, we'll post updates and photos as they come through. 

  

22 February 6:04 pm

Lee Baxter, AIK goalkeeping coach

With just over a week to go befor the Portland Timbers' season opener against New York Red Bulls (Mar. 3, 4:30pm PT, ESPN2 - March to Soccer Opening Match presented by Alaska Airlines), the team has been preparing with a broader approach to their final preseason tournament match against AIK (Feb. 23, 5pm PT, webstream at www.portlandtimbers.com) treating it more as though it were a real league game. Midfielder Will Johnson called it a "dress rehearsal" and that there'd be a definitive emphasis on getting a virtual three points in anticipation of when they're in the fight for an actual three points.

For AIK, the situation is very similar. Long a mainstay of the country's top division Allsvenskan, AIK's season runs a similar spring-to-fall calendar as MLS. After a few preseason games of their own in Oxnard, Calif., the team has been in-residence in Portland for the Timbers preseason tournament.  They drew 0-0 to FC Dallas in the opener and held another clean sheet in a 0-0 draw against San Jose Earthquakes in their second match.

Lee Baxter (right) is the team's goalkeeping coach and third 'keeper. In his first stint with the club from 1998-2000, Baxter was part of a team that made it to the Champions League and he played in matches against Arsenal, Barcelona, and Fiorentina. Growing up around soccer his whole life--his father Stuart was a club head coach in Sweden as well as leading the national teams of South Africa and Findland--Baxter has enjoyed a long and diverse soccer career. Now back with AIK, Baxter and I talk about how the team has been experiencing Portland, his hopes for AIK's 2013 season, and the importance of supporter's culture both in the U.S. and Sweden. 
 

The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, Thorns, soccer & culture to explore the unique elements of the beautiful game. You can subscribe to The Backcut on iTunes in the same feed as the Talk Timbers podcast.

 

19 February 5:03 pm

Every year, the Portland Timbers take on a veritable army of interns to help across a host of departments. Whether it's public relations, marketing, sponsorship, game operations, soccer operations and everywhere in between, life as a Timbers' intern is rarely boring. Getting to see the inner workings of a Major League Soccer club is an enticing proposition--even if it doesn't pay any money--and former interns have gone on to get jobs with the club, the U.S. Soccer Federation, other MLS teams, and throughout the sporting landscape.

For last winter's PR and marketing intern Mike Ekstrom, however, leaving the Timbers did not entail returning to school. Rather, Ekstrom had another job already lined up that entailed reporting to Oakland A's spring training in Tucson, Ariz. with the club's pitchers and catchers contingent. The Portland, Ore. native who played his high school ball at Barlow High School and college at Oregon State, has spent parts of the last five MLB seasons as a reliever with the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Colorado Rockies. 

In an interview with MLB.com, Ekstrom spoke about why he took on some extra offseason work away from the ballpark.

"First internship ever," said the 29-year-old Ekstrom, a non-roster reliever in A's camp. "First taste of wearing dress clothes and going downtown and feeling like a real person."

Sharing time between helping organize the Dribble Oregon tour to writing the occasional article for portlandtimbers.com, Ekstrom was able to get a full picture of the inner front office workings of a pro sports franchise.

"It was kind of eye-opening because there was a lot of stuff I took for granted being on a pro sports team, so I have a little bit better perspective of the workings that go on. It was fun seeing all of the moving parts."

Are you looking to be the next Timbers intern? Apply online.

11 February 2:55 pm

An 1870 oil painting by Ford Madox Brown
depicting Romeo and Juliet's famous balcony scene
Wikipedia

Editor's Note: As the hashtag evolved, it turned out it also held multiple meanings across the globe. In the Philippines, the word "baon" also referred to a style of lunch popular with school kids. It also came under use in Russia with other awkward meanings. As such, the Rose City Riveters decided that beginning with the 2014 season, the hashtag would alter slightly to #BAONPDX. It still remains its excellent theatrical, literate and rose-infused core.

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#BAON. You may have seen the hashtag pop up recently in regards to Thorns FC tweets. What does it stand for? What does it represent?

Much like #RCTID, #BAON has taken on an organic, fan-driven evolution. It grew out of a desire to sometimes separate fans’ Thorns Twitter conversations from their Timbers ones. They can certainly overlap and intersect, but on occasion, one is one and one is the other.

But back to #BAON, what’s in a name?

Exactly. For sharp-eyed literate Shakespeare academics, #BAON stands for “By Any Other Name” and is a snippet of a monologue from Romeo and Juliet’s Act II, Scene 2. Romeo, scion of the Montague family has fallen for Juliet, maiden of the sworn enemy Capulets. The famous scene is set is the evening when Romeo comes upon Juliet high atop her balcony. Hidden from her view, he speaks his famous “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks,” monologue singing the praises of her beauty. Her response, which he listens to, laments the fate that should see them be from separated warring families. Were Romeo not a Montague in name, she figures, all her problems would be solved.

What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! Be some other name:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

In essence, she’s saying, “It’s not the name that should matter, it’s what’s inside that counts.” Juliet is pining for the man, not the name—a romantic wish to be sure.

But for Portland Thorns FC, with their intertwining language and identity with roses and the Rose City being key, the meaning is expanded to become less about the name on the back of the shirt, and more about all being what’s inside the player—the quality of the play and the drive to win.

So be it #BAON #BAONPDX or #RCTID, now you'll know where to track your Portland soccer teams' online chatter and discussion.

08 February 2:48 pm

Throughout the Portland Timbers time in Tucson, MLSsoccer.com had a small squad of crack writers and videographers covering the various MLS teams, preseason friendlies, and more

Among them was Matt Doyle, MLSsoccer.com's Armchair Analyst, who was doing color commentary alongside play-by-play man Jonathan Yardley on the various Timbers matches all throughout The Desert Friendlies series put on by FC Tucson.

A longtime writer focusing on the tactical mysteries of the beautiful game, it has been said by some--probably me--that Doyle keeps a copy of Jonathan Wilson's groundbreaking book Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics under his pillow at night. It makes sense given that Doyle is basically the American version of Wilson mixed with Zonal Marking all with a focus on the intricacies of how American soccer--be it MLS, USMNT, or more--actually operates from a tactical standpoint. What's the difference between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 and why does it matter? 

While in Tucson with the Timbers, I sat down with Doyle in the team hotel lobby to learn more about how he became the Armchair Analyst, where soccer formational analysis is heading and how we share a common appreciation for the Coen Brothers. 

The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, Thorns, soccer & culture to explore the unique elements of the beautiful game. You can subscribe to The Backcut on iTunes in the same feed as the Talk Timbers podcast.

 

31 January 4:30 pm

Kathryn Williamson - Photo: Univ. of Florida

Earlier this month, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) held their inaugural College Draft for the new league in Indianapolis. After a weighted draw determined the draft order, Portland Thorns FC selected University of Florida defender Kathryn Williamson with the eighth overall pick. (Read this feature on how she was engaged only a week before the draft. A busy January for her to be sure.)

While in Indianapolis for the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and the NWSL College Draft, I also had the opportunity to attend the Women's Soccer breakfast at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention (NSCAA). The NSCAA is a massive gathering of, yes, coaches, but also soccer gear manufacturers, leaders, players, and more. There's workshops, panels, speeches and gatherings. Basically, it's everything that is anything that is happening in U.S. Soccer at the moment. The Original Winger has a great photo essay and blog post about the NSCAA and its scope in their Portrait of A Sport.

The Women's Soccer breakfast is a celebration of excellence over the past year in the women's game and while there, I just happened to be seated next to Becky Burleigh, head women's soccer coach at the University of Florida and most recently, she coached Williamson for all of the defender's four years in Gainesville. Burleigh started the women's soccer program at Florida in 1994, won an NCAA national championship in 1998, and helped mentor U.S. national team stars Abby Wambach (Western New York Flash) and Heather Mitts (Boston Breakers) as well as Canada's Melanie Booth (Sky Blue FC).

Following the breakfast, I chatted with Becky for a short while about what type of player Kathryn Williamson is, what she thinks she'll bring to the Thorns, and how the NWSL presents a great challenge and opportunity for recent collegiate players. 

The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, Thorns, soccer & culture to explore the unique elements of the beautiful game. You can subscribe to The Backcut on iTunes in the same feed as the Talk Timbers podcast.

 

30 January 10:27 am

Timbers owner and president Merritt Paulson chatted with The Best Soccer Show podcast over at North American Soccer Network with hosts Jason Davis & Jared DuBois about new head coach Caleb Porter, the preseason so far and much more. Give it a listen (or download podcast):

28 January 1:08 pm

The Timbers left yesterday for Arizona to continue their 2013 preseason training in Tucson and will take part in a series of matches known as The Desert Friendlies. Hosted by USL Premiere Development League club FC Tucson, the Timbers will play Colorado Rapids, Sporting KC, Seattle Sounders, and FC Tucson all within the course of two weeks

The Desert Friendlies are part of a month-long Soccerfest that has grown over the past two years in Tucson. Spearheaded by FC Tucson, the month includes a Canada-Denmark--the first international friendly ever held in Tucson--the Desert Diamond Cup tournament, an art show, a film night hosted by the Kicking + Screening Film Festival, and much more.

Tucson Weekly dives into just how this big project started and has grown in a town once known for hosting Major League Baseball spring training programs:

"Soccer has always been there, under the radar," says Chris Keeney, a co-owner of pro club FC Tucson and one of a handful of people spearheading the push to make Tucson a soccer mecca. "I think people, especially in Tucson, are ready to buy into something they can call their own." Keeney is a recent transplant to Tucson, having come here from Houston, where he worked in marketing and public relations for the NFL's Houston Texans. Prior to that, he spent time in the front office of three different Major League Soccer teams, and he considers Tucson a ripe market for soccer growth.

Plus, with a new stadium in the works for FC Tucson, the soccer continues to increase its footprint out west. 

Be sure to watch The Desert Friendlies as they stream live on www.portlandtimbers.com. In Tucson? Ticket info is here.

24 January 2:46 pm

Just prior to Thorns FC announcing their season ticket information today, owner & president Merritt Paulson tweeted about some interesting stats:

 

Soccer City, U.S.A. continues to grow.

24 January 10:35 am

Photo: Univ. of Central Florida

“It’s a dream come true,” Radovcic said. “You play soccer, you go through college, and you’re like, ‘I really want to play after college,’ but only a few people are fortunate enough to be able to play after college. So to be selected in the draft, to that team, I am just so speechless and so grateful.”

Those are the words of Thorns FC forward/midfielder Nicolette Radovcic who just a few months ago was a marketing intern with the New York Red Bulls helping out at Red Bull Arena's Interactive Zone. The Rockaway, NJ native had 30 goals and 16 assists in four seasons at the University of Central Florida before being drafted by Portland 16th overall.

NewYorkRedBulls.com's Frank Della Femina has a nice profile of the new Thorns pick and how she's excited to jump from the Red Bulls to the new NWSL.

Read it.