Soccer Culture

26 February 11:04 am

The eminent soccer writer Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated spent a good chunk of the preseason asking MLS players about the state of the league. In a recent article, he posted the answers to things like, "Who's the most underrated player in MLS?" and "Who's the most overrated player in MLS?"

Perhaps most interestingly for Portland fans was the question, "If you could play for one MLS team other than yours, what would it be?"

Among the top choices? The Portland Timbers.

Portland also humbly scored high on "Which team has the best MLS stadium atmosphere?" landing up there with Seattle though Wahl goes on to say, 

Seattle has bigger numbers (more than 43,000 fans per game), while Portland may have an even harder core.

Read the whole piece here and keep an eye out for Part Two tomorrow.

26 February 10:41 am

Two years ago, Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury teamed up with Ziba Design to help create a special bag as part of Girls, Inc's annual Power of The Purse fundraiser. You can see video of Jack's creation here

This year, new Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone takes up the challenge in designing a purse. Girls, Inc.--one of the Thorns main Stand Together partners--is an organization that inspires girls, ages 8-18, to be strong, smart, and bold. Via gender-specific programs and research-based curricula, the group provides girls with the confidence and self-esteem to access a bright and economically-independent future.

Cone sat down with Bella, a 7th grader from Da Vinci Middle School and a host of Girls, Inc. Radio, for a special interview where Bella interviews Cindy and then Cindy, in turn, interviews Bella. They talk about their respective background, sisterhood, and inspirations. It's a great listen (scroll to the bottom to hear Cone's interview).

To learn more about the Power of the Purse event and to purchase tickets, visit them here.

 

22 February 5:04 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 4:03 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.

12 February 4:30 pm

The Portland Timbers Food Cart Alliance (PTFCA) is a free, cross-promotional program designed to highlight the Rose City’s vibrant food cart culture. Through the PTFCA, select Portland-area food carts will have the opportunity to serve their food cart fare on Timbers and Thorns FC match days at JELD-WEN Field via fan vote.

Now’s your chance to choose the first round of carts that will serve at the stadium this season. Choose carefully, the five carts that receive the most votes on this poll will serve at three JELD-WEN Field events!

Know of any additional carts that should be included in this program? Post in the comments below or learn more about the program here.

11 February 1:55 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 1:48 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.

 

05 February 3:50 pm

Alex Morgan - Photo: Matthias Clamer/ESPN

There's no debating the crossover between music and sports and ESPN The Magazine brings the connection to the forefront with this year's Music Issue. The Mag got creative with this issue, having athletes impersonating various album covers.

Some of the highlights include Oympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte as the swimming baby on Nirvana's iconic "Nevermind" cover, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman as Michael Jackson on the cover of "Thriller" and let's not forget about Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan, who graces the issue as pop star Katy Perry in her "One of the Boys" cover.

The issue doesn't hit the shelves until Feb. 8, but ESPN released some behind-the-scenes video and photos of the creative process.

You can take a look at Morgan's album cover here.

01 February 9:40 am

Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

The Portland Timbers, in conjunction with Alberta Main Street & Art On Alberta, will be unveiling their new primary and secondary kits this February, and as part of the event, are looking for 10 Timbers themed pieces of art to be included in the event.

The unveiling will feature an art exhibition, with the Timbers pieces included in select galleries on Alberta Street in Northeast Portland. If your piece is selected, you will receive an invitation to the event, AND if your work sells, you will receive part of the proceeds, and the Timbers will donate a percentage of the remainder to their Community Fund on your behalf.   

How it works

  • Design a Timbers inspired piece of art. (If you’ve already created one, great, feel free to submit it)
  • Art must not be any larger than 2 feet x 3 feet and fit in a frame (pictures, photos, illustrations, paintings etc. are preferred). Three dimensional art pieces like sculptures will not be included.
  • Art must be framed and ready to hang (back wired)
  • Please label your artwork on the back
  • Art must be received by the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field no later than Wednesday, February 20 at 5 p.m. If you are selected, you will be notified by the Timbers no later than February 25.

If you are interested in participating, please confirm your involvement in advance by emailing promotions@portlandtimbers.com, using the subject line “2013 Kit Unveil.” Please include your full name, contact email and phone number, as well as a brief (2-3 sentence) summary describing your piece.  

31 January 3:30 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.