Soccer Culture

06 September 3:41 pm

Everyone I know who loves soccer loves EA Sports' FIFA series. You can play it on Playstation or Xbox, your iPhone or iPad, connect with friends, create a team, and manage it to untold glories.

Check out the latest ad EA just dropped touting FIFA 13's pending September 27 release:

Awesome, right?

MLSsoccer.com has teamed up with EA Sports to create a custom cover for FIFA 13. The number one player from MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24 will automatically be on the list, but there's three slots still available and our very own Darlington Nagbe is among the nominees in a special poll. 

You know what to do. Get voting.

03 September 11:36 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 8:33 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.
 

23 August 10:00 am

On Saturday's match against Vancouver Whitecaps (7:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940 Presented by KeyBank) Portland fans can try battered cod and haddock, courtesy of The Frying Scotsman.

The Frying Scotsman will serve out of the Soccer City Grill concession stand on the east side of the stadium, and offer battered cod fish and hand-cut chips for $8.50 and battered haddock, also with hand-cut chips for $9.50.

Owner and chef James King, originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, opened The Frying Scotsman as a food cart in 2009 after moving to Portland and looking for work as a chef. He bought his cart from a seller on Craigslist one morning and the rest is history.

“I am not sure I could have done this in Scotland, or anywhere else in the US for that matter," said King. "I am very happy that Portland has afforded me the opportunity to do this."

Portland’s only Scottish fish and chip joint – or “chippy” can be found on SW 9th and Alder Streets.

The Frying Scotsman is the second of four food carts selected by fans via Facebook to serve at the stadium.

“I was really proud to be voted into serving at JELD-WEN, of course,” said King. “I have really enjoyed seeing Timbers matches and getting to know some of the players so it is a true honor to be a part of a great football club at its infancy.

"My customers are very happy too and it's natural for them to ask me all the time if I am involved with the Timbers. Now I can say YES!”

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.
 

22 August 5:21 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.

 

16 August 3:19 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

03 August 8:23 pm

Long is the list of numerous and creative Timbers Army chants that are used to thunderous effect on matchdays.

But the TA is also well known for their commitment to their town through a robust and developed community outreach programs. Whether it be helping through Operation Pitch Invasion and their efforts to repair and improve soccer fields throughout Portland or their work at fundraising for the unique Harper's Playground project, the TA volunteer efforts run deep.

Tomorrow, the Timbers Army are helping put on a unique show that combines their famous chants with distinctive art. Partnering with Portland design collective Factory North and a host of other talented designers and artists, the Timbers Army are putting on Art Takeover: Operation Harper's Playground aims to raise money for the still under construction Harper's Playground in North Portland. The Harper's Playground project is an initiative aiming to build a fully accessible playground for children and adults of all abilities can come together to play.

Perhaps the coolest part of all this? Each poster created is built and designed around a unique phrase pulled from the litany of famous Timbers Army chants. And at only $30 a print, each item is a steal of a deal. The list of artists is impressive including OMFGCo, Jolby and Justin "Scrappers" Morrison. Visit their website for a full list of designers and get a sneak peek of some of the posters to be on display. There's a total of 30 artists with editions of 50 made for each handpulled artist signed and numbered print.

So what are you waiting for? Head to Coava Coffee on 1300 SE Grand Avenue tomorrow anytime between 8am-6pm (or a special 21+ 7-10pm reception the same night) and get your poster then come Sunday to cheer on the Timbers as they take on FC Dallas at JELD-WEN Field.

Watch the great video for a complete rundown of the whole shebang:

03 August 9:57 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.

 

02 August 4:49 pm

Begun in 2009 in New York City—the center for all things independent film-related—the Kicking + Screening Film Festival set out to merge the art of the beautiful game with the art of cinema. Branching out to satellite editions in Washington, DC, Houston, North Adams, Mass., London, Amsterdam and, most recently, Liverpool, K+S presents films that examine the culture of soccer both on and off the field.

And now, they bring their cinematic and pitch artistry to Portland.

Arriving September 13-14, K+S Portland, presented by KickTV and presented in partnership with the Portland Timbers, takes on the theme of “rivalry” all in the build-up to Saturday’s Sept. 15 Cascadia Cup clash between Portland and Seattle (NBC, 12:30pm PT).

Along with the two headlining films, Argentina Fútbol Club—about the battles between Boca Juniors & River Plate—as well as Gringos At The Gate—a look into the U.S.A-Mexico soccer border clash—K+S Portland will also feature panels, gatherings, and all kinds of other engaging events.

There will be more info to follow but visit the K+S Portland website to see the full lineup, learn more get tickets (Thursday, Friday).

 

02 August 11:14 am

A few weeks ago during the Timbers' exciting friendly with Aston Villa at JELD-WEN Field, you may have noticed a spontaneous round of applause beginning at the stroke of the 19th minute. It was a show of solidarity and respect for Villa team captain and number 19 Stiliyan Petrov during his battle with leukemia. Petrov, who was diagnosed late in the 2011-12 EPL season, was undergoing treatments and did not accompany the team to Portland. 

Aston Villa was happy to announce today that Petrov's leukemia appears to be in remission:

It is with great delight that the club can confirm on behalf of our long-standing captain, Stiliyan Petrov, that Stan's acute leukaemia is in remission.
 
Stan would like to take this opportunity to express his deep gratitude to the medical staff who have looked after him so well since his condition was diagnosed just over four months ago.
 
He also wishes to place on record again his profound sense of appreciation for the incredible outpouring of love and support he has received from Villa fans, his team-mates and colleagues at the club, as well as football fans and many more people around the world during this period.
 
Read the full statement here.