MLS Regular Season

17 September 1:25 pm

Photo: SoundersFC.com

Darlington Nagbe has had a very busy couple of weeks. His former Univ. of Akron head coach, Caleb Porter, was named head coach of the Timbers. He had a camera crew follow him around for MLS 36 for NBCSports. He helped out with a special project with MLS Digital and EA Sports that will air soon. His jersey is one of the top selling kits in MLS. And he came in at #15 on the MLS 24 Under 24 list.

But Saturday presented a rare opportunity to reunited with an old friend in Seattle Sounders midfilder Steve Zakuani. Both teammates under Porter while at the Univ. of Akron, the two had yet to actually take the field with each other due to Zakuani's leg injury that had kept him on the shelf for almost a year. 

In a great article on SoundersFC.com, Zakuani spoke about playing against a friend with whom he shares a long history:

“It was great, you know.  Last year, I didn’t get to play against him, so this year it was just good seeing him out there, and getting the chance to go against him,” Nagbe said.  “It was fun.  We both had fun.”

Like Zakuani in 2010, Nagbe is having success in his second MLS season.  Zakuani was tied for the team-lead with ten goals in 2010, while Nagbe has six goals for the Timbers with still six games left on the schedule.

The success comes as no surprise to Zakuani, who has been carrying the Nagbe flag for years.

“I’ve known Darlington for a very, very long time and always said he’s a great player.  He’s maturing more and more,” Zakuani said.  “I still think he has a long way to go, because I think he has so much quality.  I was happy to, for the first time, play against him at this level.  I wish him to continue to become a good player.”

Zakuani goes on to talk about his friendship--he'll be in Nagbe's wedding in the offseason--and says that he'd like to share the pitch with him some day again on the same side: 

“He’s someone I like to always look out for and I wish him to keep playing the way he’s playing right now,” Zakuani said.  “I wish maybe one day in the future we can play again together.  But at this point he is with Portland and I’m with Seattle.

The Akron roots run deep for many players across MLS. Nagbe was reunited with with another former Zip and close friend, Teal Bunbury, earlier this season both for an adidas commercial and on the field. Moreover, wunderkind Vancouver Whitecaps rookie Darren Mattocks, yet another former Akron teammate of Nagbe's, tweeted today about his thoughts on Nagbe's inclusion in the 24 Under 24 list.

17 September 11:43 am

You may have noticed Jimmy Conrad was in Portland recently with KICKTV. He spoke with Merritt Paulson. He received chainsaw lessons with Timber Joey. 

However.

Perhaps the biggest moment of all was Conrad actually attending the Cascadia Cup showdown between the Timbers and Seattle Sounders at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday. There were bagpipes, there was facepaint, there was yelling and as part of his indoctrination to the experience, Conrad became a full fledged member of the Timbers Army, No Pity scarf and all.

07 September 4:24 pm

Dike while with L.A. Blues

With two goals in his last four games, Bright Dike has been on a bit of a run as of late.

After being one of the first Timbers players ever signed in the MLS era, Dike ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the first MLS preseason game and missed much of the 2011 season. After a hard dedicated recovery, he came back to the team and was loaned to USL PRO side L.A. Blues earlier this season.

In ten games, Dike got his groove back and pocketed six goals. So while he wasn't there for the entire season, USL PRO was impressed enough to name him to the 2012 All-League Second Team.

In other MLS-related news in USL New York Red Bulls forward Corey Hertzog was a finalist for MVP after spending the season on loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads. The small but increasing number of MLS teams loaning players to the USL is a growing phenomenon as more and more teams look to further develop their players with more games and minutes. Timbers defender and 2012 MLS SuperDraft first round pick Andrew Jean-Baptiste was also loaned to the Blues in 2012 for six matches.

WATCH: Dike finishes off Zizzo cross against Rapids

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

 

30 August 7:33 am

The third installment of the Portland Timbers Food Cart Alliance is coming to JELD-WEN Field this Friday as the Timbers take on Colorado Rapids (7:30pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940) in the form of Stumptown Dumplings, or Stumplings.

Stumplings will be serving up orders of six dumplings and two sauces for $7 out of the Soccer City Grill concession stand on the east side of the stadium.

Owners Justin Prasad and Nimesh Dayal started their food cart after ten years of friendship and even more in the hospitality industry. “We wanted to branch out,” said Prasad. After a month and a half of discussing the idea, Prasad and Dayal had their license and their custom-built food cart ready for business. “It happened much faster than either of us expected,” said Dayal. Stumplings celebrated their grand opening on May 31.

“I’ve always worked for someone else. Serving here at the field proves I can work on my own and can succeed,” said Prasad. “It’s exciting because it’s our idea coming to life. I just want people to connect the ‘Stumplings’ with Justin and Nimesh, and this is a great opportunity for us.”

Stumplings can be found in the Alberta15 food cart pod in northeast Portland, and is the third of four food carts voted to serve during a home match via Facebook.

PTFCA is looking for new members. Applications for PTFCA will be accepted for the remainder of the season. Another fan vote for the remaining two home matches will run in early September.
 

27 August 10:16 am

Ian Hogg with Auckland City FC - Photo: OFC via Phototek

The Oceania Football Confederation--home federation for New Zealand Football--wrote a nice piece about new Timbers signing Ian Hogg recently that makes for a good read. A starter in all three matches for the Oly Whites at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Hogg played alongside Jake Gleeson who was also a member of the team.

"I'm just looking to take any opportunities I get given," said Hogg. And with Timbers GM/interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson and assistant coach Cameron Knowles also being veterans of the All Whites New Zealand national team, Portland has a growing Kiwi contingent.

Read the article here.

The article refers to Hogg's first goal in his senior national team debut during a friendly against El Salvador earlier this spring in Houston. It's a pretty quick run down the left flank that leads to a confident strike. See it here (Fast foward to the 29:41 mark, commentary in Spanish).

Then watch Hogg's first training with the team from last week.

22 August 4:21 pm

Last week, famed English Premiere League club Manchester City announced a special program that would release loads upon loads of statistical information from the team’s 2011-2012 EPL season. They did this in a unique way to crowdsource ideas and analysis of players' performances. Gavin Fleig, Man City's head of performance analysis, told The Guardian, "The whole reason for putting this data out there is to open the doors. The data has value, previously it has been kept in-house and behind guarded doors, but there is a recognition now that clubs need to help this space develop."

Both Michael Lewis' Moneyball and Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s Soccernomics tell the story of the importance of statistical analysis in sports--Lewis' with baseball and Kuper and Szymanski's then building off of that to get into soccer. With Man City, their document is incredibly thorough and open to all after registering at their website. Broken out by player, there’s every match and every stat you could think of: Right Footed Shots off Target, Goals from Corners, Total Unsuccessful Passes Excluding Crosses, Corners and much much more. It’s a deep document.

But that kind of statistical analysis and, more importantly, access to it, is something that MLS has been similarly doing on a league-wide scale since last season as they rolled out their toolbox of features with Opta. Every Matchcenter page on MLSsoccer.com has up to the minute stats in game and the Chalkboard feature is filled to the brim with heat maps, pass stats, positioning information and more.

And with adidas’ new Smart Soccer platform having debuted at the 2012 MLS All-Star Game with an eye towards even more use in 2013, the importance of statistics and their meaning on the game becomes even deeper. See their latest ad running with quite a few cameos from Timbers players.

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

 

09 August 10:25 pm

While we often post here in The Backcut about news and interesting soccer tidbits, cool events with team partners, and other assorted ephemera, this Saturday, August 11 presents a particularly easy way to mix your love of Timbers with beer and helping out a great cause.

Join defender David Horst and goalkeeper Jake Gleeson--Gleeson freshly returned from London 2012--along with Timbery Joey at Widmer Brothers Brewing at 929 N Russell Street this Saturday from 5-8pm for a special "Brother's Day" event. There will be live music, prizes - including a pair of 2013 season tickets, plus for $20, you get two Timbers Reserve League tickets for the match against the San Jose Earthquake Reserves on Aug. 26, two drink tokens to Brother's Day, and a Timbers scarf and keychain. 

All proceeds from the 21 and over event's beer sales and special ticket packages benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest--one of the Timbers Stand Together Pillar Partners.

Sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

03 August 8:57 am

This Sunday's August 5 Portland Timbers match against FC Dallas (4pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940) marks the first appearance of a Portland food cart at JELD-WEN Field through the Portland Timbers Food Cart Alliance (PTFCA). But just what kind of menu of delicious food can we expect?

808 Grinds will be occupying the Soccer City Grill concession stand on the east side of the stadium serving up their Hawaiian-style plate lunches, including their Shoyu Chicken, Kalua Pig, and 808 Fried Chicken for $7. A combo of two entrees can be purchased for $9, and all plates are served with rice and macaroni salad.

Childhood friends Kevin Scofield and Jensen Kip grew up in Maui and started 808 Grinds in September 2010. The 808 Grinds food cart can be found on SW 9th and Washington Streets and has since grown to include a mobile truck that serves in various locations around Portland.

808 Grinds is one of four food carts selected by fans via Facebook to serve at the stadium.

“It feels good to be voted in by our customers. There’s always a good vibe around here,” said Scofield. “A great customer experience is something that we want to accomplish, and it feels good. We’re happy to be here.”

“[Serving at JELD-WEN Field] is a great opportunity. It’s a chance for people to experience 808 Grinds that live on the east side, or Hillsboro or Clackamas and might not visit downtown every day, but make the trip to see the Timbers every game,” continued Scofield. “To be a part of the Timbers organization is very exciting for us, not only to expand our reach, but to serve to local fans who are loyal to both us and the Timbers is a really great feeling.”

PTFCA is looking for new members. Applications for PTFCA will be accepted for the remainder of the season. Another fan vote for the remaining two home matches will run in early September.

 

12 July 4:06 pm

 

Thanks to the incredible support from supporters and fans, the Timbers are the MLS W.O.R.K.S./Continental Tire "How Green Are Your Goals?" contest winners. As a result of winning the league-wide contest, a deserving school in Portland will receive a $50,000 solar panel installation as part of an MLS W.O.R.K.S. Earth Day 2013 community service project.

In addition, Timbers fan Jeffrey Briley was named the "How Green Are Your Goals?" Sweepstakes Grand Prize winner and has won a trip to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., and a set of tires, courtesy of Continental Tire.

MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Continental Tire launched the "How Green Are Your Goals?" campaign as a way to engage MLS fans to participate and support environmentally friendly efforts leading up to Earth Day. Fans were encouraged to visit the Greener Goals website to share stories of how they incorporate green efforts into their everyday lives. Click here for more on the contest and the “How Green Are Your Goals?” campaign.

MLS W.O.R.K.S. and MLS corporate partner Continental Tire announced their commitment to educate the next generation of energy users during MLS Cup 2011 and are participating in Bonneville Environmental Foundation's (BEF) Solar 4R Schools program.