Player

24 September 12:57 pm

Bright Dike's second half 61st minute header against Real Salt Lake may not have been enough for the win Saturday night but it was a tremendous display of skill. Check out MLSsoccer.com's special goal GoPro camera capturing the moment.

Dike's got hops.

If you want to see just how close we came to scoring on two other shots only to be stopped by crack RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, you can see his saves here (Warning: RSL's goals included in this collection too).

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.

11 September 8:37 am

MLS released today, perhaps for the first time ever, the top 25 selling jerseys across the league. The Timbers are one of five teams with multiple players in the top 25: Darlington Nagbe and Kris Boyd.

The list below, which includes sales from March 10-Sept. 10, reflects the 25 top-selling adidas MLS player jerseys across the league on MLSgear.com, MLSgearCanada.ca and MLS club websites.

1.     David Beckham - LA Galaxy
2.     Thierry Henry -  New York Red Bulls
3.     Landon Donovan - LA Galaxy
4.     Fredy Montero - Seattle Sounders FC
5.     Dwayne De Rosario - D.C. United
6.     Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes
7.     Tim Cahill - New York Red Bulls
8.     Robbie Keane - LA Galaxy
9.     Mauro Rosales - Seattle Sounders FC
10.  Brian Ching - Houston Dynamo
11.  Darlington Nagbe - Portland Timbers
12.  Chris Pontius - D.C. United
13.  Osvaldo Alonso - Seattle Sounders FC
14.  Young-Pyo Lee - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
15.  Kris Boyd - Portland Timbers
16.  Barry Robson - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
17.  Eddie Gaven - Columbus Crew
18.  Brad Davis - Houston Dynamo
19.  Roger Torres - Philadelphia Union
20.  Freddy Adu - Philadelphia Union
21.  Kei Kamara - Sporting Kansas City
22.  Kyle Beckerman - Real Salt Lake
23.  Mike Magee - LA Galaxy
24.  Saer Sene - New England Revolution
25.  Arne Friedrich - Chicago Fire

Want to get yours? Head over to the adidas Timbers Team Store and order online. Also, don't forget to vote for Nagbe to be on the custom cover of EA Sports' FIFA 13.

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

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

 

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.

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.

16 August 2:19 pm

Photo: AP

If you were watching the Timbers 2-2 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday night, you may have noticed Lovel Palmer and Steve Purdy not with the team. This was due to both men being away with their respective national teams as Purdy was with El Salvador and Palmer with Jamaica. With both national teams matching up against one another Wednesday evening at RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C., there was a unique Timbers intrasquad rivalry at play with Palmer’s Jamaica beating Purdy’s El Salvador 2-0.

Palmer and Purdy both started and played the full 90 minutes battling against one another. Jamaica’s midfielder Luton Shelton would give The Reggae Boyz the win as he put two goals into the back of the net. Now not only does Palmer have a little bit of bragging rights here in Portland, but he also gets a nice home cooked meal of his choice made by Purdy due to a bet placed earlier on Twitter.

This past Sunday, Purdy and La Selecta took to the pitch in the first of their two matches this week as they played Guatemala to a 1-0 victory at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Purdy started and played the full 90 minutes while teammate Nelson Bonilla scored the only goal of the game in the 28th minute to give the Central Americans a boost ahead of the next round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Jamaica will play Kenya next in a friendlyl on Aug. 25 followed by a World Cup qualifier against the U.S. on Sept. 11 in Columbus. El Salvador will play Guyana in a World Cup Qualifier on Sept. 7.

RECAP: Jamaica Gleaner: Boyz ‘Two’ Good

RECAP in Spanish: La Prensa Grafica – El Salvador lost 0-2 against Jamaica

14 August 11:59 am

Timbers teammates Lovel Palmer and Steve Purdy are in the interesting situation this week of coming face-to-face with each other on the pitch far from JELD-WEN Field. Both players were called up to their respective national teams--Palmer for Jamaica and Purdy for El Salvador--to take part in an international friendly on Wednesday, August 15 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. at 5pm PT.

As both players are quite active on Twitter, the chatter began after Purdy's La Selecta beat Guatemala 1-0 in a friendly Saturday night at The Home Depot Center. Palmer noticed the win and tweeted a question about having a friendly wager for this week's match.
 

 

After some good-natured jibes back and forth the best idea was presented by a fan: The loser must make the winner dinner.
 

 

Now with both teams training in D.C., the two have run into each other as part of the preparations.
 

 

While the game does not count in any CONCACAF standings anywhere, it should present a great tune-up ahead of September's World Cup qualifiers. And for one of two Timbers teammates, it means a hearty meal and bragging rights.