College

10 September 11:21 am

Photo: GoZips.com

Caleb Porter and the Akron Zips came out of the weekend with a split in two matches at the Mike Berticelli Mermorial Tournament in South Bend, Ind.

On Friday, the Zips beat No. 10 Indiana behind midfielder Eric Stevenson's 19th minute goal. Dillon Serna had beat his man on the left flank and crossed into Stevenson who fired just inside the right post. Senior 'keeper David Meyes picked up his third win and second shutout in the match.

Two days later, however, Akron suffered their first loss of 2012 as No. 17 host Notre Dame (5-0-0) defeated the shorthanded Zips 3-1. UA got off to a strong start as Alfred Koroma crossed in a fine ball that Scott Caldwell (right) corraled and fired from the top of the box to give the Zips an early 1-0 lead in the 4th minute. However, Aohdan Quinn received a straight red in the 30th minute, the Zips played the rest of the match a man down and the Fighting Irish were able to counter with three unanswered goals.

With Friday's 1-0 victory over No. 10 Indiana, UA finished second in the tournament. Chad Barson, Caldwell and Serna were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Porter and the Zips return to FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field next weekend to play host to The University of Akron Tournament. UA will host St. John's Friday night at 4 p.m. PT on FOX Soccer Channel and South Florida Sunday at 4:30 p.m. PT.

ADDEDUM: MLSsoccer.com's Daniel Robertson says that Akron "had probably the toughest weekend of anyone in the country," but still rates them highly at #5 in their College Power rankings. He also points out that Friday's match on FOX Soccer Channel against St. John's is definitely one to watch as "practically every player you’ll see on Akron has a possible MLS future, either through the draft or via Homegrown signings."

05 September 3:28 pm

Wondering what 2012 Timbers U-23 alum, Troutdale native, and current University of Portland Pilots midfielder Steven Evans has been up to now that school is back in session?

Just a little bit of this:

Evans is one of four U-23s players on the University of Portland squad joining Justin Baarts, Ricardo Carillo, and Marc Tonkel on a team predicted to finish 3rd in the West Coast Conference. Evans was also selected to the Preseason All-WCC team alongside U-23s teammates Erik Hurtado (Santa Clara Univ.) and Clark Phillips (Gonzaga)

The Pilots are currently 2-1-1 on the 2012 campaign.

03 September 10:36 pm

Photo: Mary Schwalm/AP

 

The Backcut has talked about the growing importance of statistics in soccer before. Manchester City is busy crowd sourcing ideas by releasing reams of stats from last year's campaign while MLS has already made much of the same information available through their excellent Matchcenter Chalkboard

But now none other than the immenent tech geek bible Wired takes a look at the new adidas tech wizardry behind their new miCoach system and its potential impact on the league through their excellent Playbook blog.

Starting off at the 2012 MLS Combine in Florida, the article talks about how a number of draft eligible players taking part in drills and scrimmages--Portland's eventually drafted Andrew Jean-Baptiste among them--were outfitted with prototype miCoach trackers that fed information about speed, location, heart rate and more.

It’s far flashier than such antiquities as a timed 40, but not much different in that the athletic attributes it measures have little to do with sport-specific skills like, say, passing the ball.

Still, proper dribbling technique is more easily taught than absurd acceleration through a defensive alignment, which is why University of Connecticut defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste started turning so many heads.

Jean-Baptiste was among those participating in the miCoach trial ahead of a league-wide rollout next season. As four Adidas reps roamed the sideline holding iPads displaying real-time readings from the field, coaches and team officials filtered by with raised eyebrows and the occasional question. Everything was proceeding as expected until Jean-Baptiste took off on a sprint across the pitch and his measurements exploded.

“Ten to 12 teams’ staff people crowded around me at once,” said Jan Mueller, a manager for the miCoach line. “They were watching intently, and then began asking a lot of questions.”

Given the long established importance of statistics in sports such as football, baseball and basketball, MLS is looking to push the envelope as to what kind of stats become more important for soccer. And not just for coaches and players, but for fans as well. The aforementioned Chalkboard feature is already readily available for fans and writers alike to breakdown certain elements of a game with heat maps, pass completion rates, shot locations and more.

miCoach adds another layer into the player performance aspect by breaking down individual elements to a very specific level. And while much of that in-game analysis of miCoach may not be something that fans will have immediate access to, MLS Digital general manager Chris Schlosser says in the article, “We’re working on what we feel like is a game-changer in the digital match experience — a whole new way for consumers to experience the game."


Image: Adidas

And even coaches who are intrigued with the possibilities of what miCoach could bring to the table such as Philadelphia Union head coach John Hackworth, there's still a belief that not everything seen on a computer screen tells you everything you need to know about a player.

“We’ve always had lies, damned lies and statistics,” said Timbers assistant coach Amos Magee. “For example, just because a guy is covering a lot of ground, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s smart running or that he’s in the right place at the right time. That’s a statistic that needs to come with experience. So some of these measurements are going to be useful, but some aren’t. We’ll just have to see which ones fill a void.”

In that capacity, miCoach readings will fit right in with the rest of soccer’s statistics. There’s another school of thought, however, that presents an even warier eye.

“Soccer is so much art, and art is impossible to measure, like music or dance or paintings,” said Hackworth. “The beauty of our sport is that there are so many creative, imaginative and skillful moments, and you’ll never be able to truly quantify that.”

It's a fascinating read about some great tools MLS is leading the way with. Read the whole piece here.

How do you see the focus on statistics changing the game? Let us know in the comments below or send us a note at thebackcut(at)portlandtimbers.com

 

03 September 9:39 am

Photo Courtesy of GoZips.com

The Akron Zips finished up their time in Nebraska at the Ameritas Classic with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over SIU Evansville. Senior Chad Barson and sophomore Bryan Gallego scored for Akron--both via great corner kick executions--and Caleb Porter's team improved to 2-0-1 on the season. 

Gallego, Alfred Koroma-who had an equalizer against Creighton on Friday night--and Eric Stevenson were all named to the Ameritas Classic All Tournament team. 

Head over to GoZips.com for the full recap. 

Also check out the Akron Beacon Journal's article about Porter's accepting of the Timbers job but staying with the Zips through the 2012 season. Writer Marla Ridenour says Porter is "leaving with class." It's a great piece that lauds Porter's loyalty to his Akron team and how Portland presented a dream job.

01 September 12:51 am

Photo Courtesy of GoZips.com

In Caleb Porter's first University of Akron match after being named head coach of the Portland Timbers, the Zips came from behind to draw with #2 Creighton 1-1 in Omaha, NE on Friday night.

After going into the half down a goal for only the 11th time in Porter's seven years at the helm in Akron, the Zips found the equalizer in the 57th minute on a Alfred Koroma header.

Were it not for an offside call in the ensuing overtime, Akron would have come away with the win. As it was, they dominated both halves of the overtime outshooting the Bluejays 4-1.

Check out the recap on the GoZips.com website. Akron next plays SIU Edwardsville on Sunday morning at 10am PT in their final match of the Ameritas Classic in Omaha.

31 August 1:40 pm

As is well known by now, Caleb Porter will be the Timbers new head coach beginning in 2013. After a stellar career at the University of Akron, an NCAA national championship, buckets full of talented players who went on to MLS--including our own Darlington Nagbe, a slip up with the US U-23s and Olympic qualifying, and one final year with the Zips, Porter has decided to make the jump to the next level.

MLSsoccer.com's Jonah Freedman talks about what he calls "The Fraternity" of college coaches who made the same leap and the challenges they face: 

The 37-year-old Porter will join [Schellas] Hyndman, Bruce Arena, Thomas Rongen and Sigi Schmid. Those four have among them six MLS Cups, five Supporters’ Shields, five US Open Cups and seven MLS Coach of the Year awards among a laundry list of other accomplishments.

No pressure, right? By now, no one should be crying that college coaches don’t have the chops to make the jump directly to the pros. That quartet is clear proof they do.

Freedman goes on to explore what that pressure is like and how some of that quartet dealt with it to become successful in MLS. 

Read the whole thing over at MLSsoccer.com.

Meanwhile, Porter's Zips take on Creighton tonight at 5:30pm PT. There's a live webstream at NetNebraska.org.

22 June 8:24 am

 Photo: Ethan Erickson

Jacob Klinger of Soccer 365.com has an excellent profile of the Timbers' Brent Richards as part of their series on MLS Homegrown players. It takes a look at how the Camas, WA native came to be Portland's first-ever Homegrown player and charts his career from youth to college to Timbers U-23s to the professional ranks.

With interviews from coaches and teammates, it's a great examination growth that Homegrown players can have on teams in the MLS.

As Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson says in the piece, 

"When you live in that same neighborhood you feel a little bit more desire. I think you’re willing to run through a brick wall," Wilkinson said. " ... I just feel it’s great for all concerned and all involved to have a local player on the field."

Head over to Soccer 365 and give the whole piece a read.

Got a story, tip, soccer tidbit to share? Send it in to thebackcut (at) portlandtimbers.com.

06 June 12:32 pm

With today's acquisition of Danny Mwanga from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Jorge Perlaza, much has been made of Mwanga's Rose City roots. Originally born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mwanga and his family fled the Congolese civil war in 2006 to settle in Northeast Portland whereupon he starred for Jefferson High School (53 goals in nine games) and later for Oregon State University (Pac-10 Player and Freshman of the Year in 2009).

 Photo: Oregon State University 

Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune did a nice profile of Mwanga and the story of his journey to the United States when the then-Union forward came to take on the Timbers last season:

Mwanga was born into the bloodshed and sorrow of the Second Congo War. The war claimed the life of his father and forced his mother to flee the country, leaving Mwanga and his three older sisters behind. As a boy, Mwanga played soccer in the streets after school to forget some of the pain. A daring escape in June 2006 reunited Mwanga and his sisters with their mother in Northeast Portland.

It's a good read. Check it out here.

Searching through our own PortlandTimbers.com archives, last season Terry Horstman spoke with Mwanga's former Oregon State Beavers coach Steve Simmons as well as John Bain--president of Mwanga's youth team and adidas Timbers Alliance club, Westside Timbers. Bain is also a current Timbers alumni ambassador.

“He’s really humble, he really appreciates everybody, and he’s a really genuine and nice person.” Westside [Timbers] President and Timbers Ring of Honor inductee John Bain said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the surface of how good he’s going to be.”

At that same match in Portland last season, 400 of Mwanga's family and friends from the Westside team were in attendance. It's another great read.

The influence that Westside had on Mwanga is unmistakeable. In an article MLSsoccer.com did on Mwanga's homecoming, they talked about the role youth coach Monty Hawkins had on the young forward:

From teaching him how to drive to helping him find out where to go to school, Hawkins filled a very large void in the teenager’s life. “He helped me a lot and is a big part of my family,” Mwanga said.

Check out the full article here
.

Timbers fans in Oregon, do you remember Mwanga's youth in Portland? Share your stories and memories in the comments below.

08 May 8:59 am

Soccer history isn't always dealing with obscure fith division teams from some pastoral English countryside. No. Rather there's a long American--and even Oregonian--slant to what we know as The Beautiful Game.

 Jan. 20, 1914, Lincolln High School Boys Soccer Team
Photo courtesy the Futbol Heritage Archive/Boxscore News World Sportswire

George Fosty, president and a founder of the Society of North American Historians and Researchers, has written a lovingly researched post online that charts the history of soccer in Oregon all the way back to the 19th century. The early guises of the Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club—now known simply as the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC) and its quest to build a stadium that eventually becomes JELD-WEN Field, intra-Oregon collegiate rivalries, road trips to Seattle, a Cameron Cup, the inception of the womens game, hoodlums, hoodwinks, and eventual creation of the Portland Timbers are all mentioned in his piece, Knee-Knockers: Celebrating 120-Years Of Oregon Soccer. Fosty explains his love of Portland and sets up its founding in the Oregon Territory as the precursor to a long soccer history:

The city of Portland, the largest city in Oregon, was incorporated in 1851. At the time of incorporation Portland boasted a population of 821, of which 653 were men, 164 women, and 4 were identified as "free colored." By 1885, the population would stand at 17,500. Fifteen years later, the city would register 90,426. By 1910, it would boast 207,214. During these years, Portland would distinguish itself as one of the most forward thinking cities in North America. A visionary approach that often split over into the realm of sports, among which included the game of soccer.

While much of those early years are difficult to research and may be built around more conjecture than fact, it's an interesting read into the nascent stages of Oregon soccer. Read the whole thing here.

Hungry for more history? Check out Portland-based historian and occasional PortlandTimbers.com contributor Michael Orr’s new book that expands upon the creation of the NASL-era Timbers in his new book The 1975 Portland Timbers: The Birth of Soccer City USA. Well researched with interviews from many of the original Timbers such as current MLS-era soccer ambassadors John Bain and Mick Hoban, the book is a unique snapshot of a key era of Portland soccer history.

Still wanting more history? The excellent soccer blog Free Beer Movement blog took the recent Lionel Messi achievement of scoring 72 goals over the course of a first division season—including all cup tournaments—to delve into how that broke a record once held by an American soccer player, Archie Stark.

With players like Pele (66 for Santos in 1958) and Mueller in the rear-view mirror for global scoring tallies who could have Messi blown by to set yet another record?
An American, of course.
Yes. Someone from the United States of America.
Buried in a host of articles celebrating Messi's accomplishment (many omitting any mention of it at all) was the name Archie Stark.
Read up on this great piece of American soccer history here.

Study up for finals.

Got a story, tip, soccer tidbit to share? Send it in to thebackcut (at) portlandtimbers.com.