After today's NWSL allocation of national team players, much of the early chatter has been about the incredible forward pairing of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. And with good reason. Combined, the pair scored 51 goals over 53 matches for the United States and Canada in 2012.
But perhaps the steal of the day was in acquiring midfielder Tobin Heath. Long considered one of the best up-and-coming midfielders on the USWNT, Heath won three NCAA national championships with the University of North Carolina. Her final one, in 2009, had current Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone as an assistant on the team.
But it is also known in soccer circles that Heath is a master of the trick shot and ball skills. A while back, while on the road with the USWNT, Heath went on a simple walkabout. But this is hardly the simple walkabout you and I might make. WATCH:
Tip of the hat to soccer writer Charles Boehm.
After a record breaking year, FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi won his fourth FIFA Ballon d'Or award today recognizing him as the best player on the planet.
But how did he get so good?
The venerable icon of broadcast television, CBS' 60 Minutes, takes a close look at the phenomena that is Barcelona and, in particular, they examine the strength of the legendary La Masia football academy that produced Messi. A rigorous institution, La Masia also produced Timbers midfielder Franck Songo'o who came up through the ranks with the likes of Messi, Gerard Pique, and others.
While the 60 Minutes treatment can be a bit simplistic to the experienced soccer-phile, there's no denying that is a unique look into one of the best soccer factories in the world.
Also of note is 60 Minutes' Overtime section where they talk about how they put this particular episode together. It gets a bit deeper into the how they brought it all together as well as how La Masia works and a bit on how MLS is developing their own academies:
Another exciting development at the FIFA award ceremony was U.S. national team women's striker Abby Wambach winning the Women's Ballon d'Or. It is the first time the award has been won by an American since Mia Hamm received it in 2002. Wambach was recently in Portland in November as the USWNT crushed the Republic of Ireland 5-0 in a friendly at JELD-WEN Field.
If ever there was a sense that a rising tide lifts all boats in the new NWSL, it's this:
— Alyse LaHue (@alahue) January 3, 2013
Alyse LaHue just happens to be the general manager of fellow NWSL club Chicago Red Stars.
And the numbers are certainly growing, Timbers/Thorns FC owner and president Merritt Paulson had this Twitter update earlier today:
Your unofficial @thornsfc Season Tix deposit tracker: 3,500+. that's w/o players & pricing announced (hopefully both will elicit increase..)
— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) January 3, 2013
In it together, indeed.
Want to make your own Thorns FC season ticket deposit? Details right here.
Followers of City Hall may remember that a friendly Twitter wager was placed last season between the three Cascadia Cup mayors of Portland's Sam Adams, Seattle's Mike McGinn, and Vancouver's Gregor Robertson. The stakes were simple: the mayors of the two losing MLS teams had to wear the Cascadia Cup victor's team jersey.
While the jury is still out on Vancouver, Seattle's Mayor McGinn fulfilled his end of the bargin over the holiday break:
Here's hoping that Cascadia Cup stays right here in the Rose City in 2013.
While Brent Richards, Darlington Nagbe and more were busy during the offseason, centerback Hanyer Mosquera has been keeping busy as well. Spending his offseason in his hometown of Istima, Colombia, Mosquera and his family helped organize a local soccer tournament for high school aged kids and outfitted two teams: Amigos de Hanyer Los Verdes and Amigos de Hanyer Los Rojos.
Naturally, the kits should have a familiar look to Timbers fans.
Done in conjunction with the local mayor, Mosquera says that he helps put together the tournament--now in it's fourth year--so kids can see that "it's possible to be a professional player."
"We hope that every year, we make it a little bit better," Mosquera added. "It's a short tournament that people enjoy but also brings me a lot of happiness. We're just helping bring my hometown a game that they love."
After a 2012 season that saw Bright Dike score 16 goals across all competitions--5 in the regular season, 5 in the MLS Reserve League, and 6 in the USL Pro while on loan to the LA Blues--the Timbers forward added one more tally to his growing goalscoring exploits as he scored the equalizer for Nigeria in a friendly against Catalonia on Wednesday.
Dike started the match in Barcelona as Nigeria faced the unique autonomous region of northeastern Spain known as Catalonia. Though not recognized by FIFA or UEFA, Catalonia has fielded a national team since the early 20th century often with numerous stars from FC Barcelona in their starting XI. Wednesday's match was no different as the Johan Cruyff-coached side featured Barca legends Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Gerard Pique.
For Dike, it didn't matter. After battling all game--including a nasty elbow to Puyol in the first half that left the centerback temporarily bloodied--Dike broke through in the 55th minute with a nifty cutback and lashed a shot with his left foot into the upper left corner of the net. Notice the trademark cartwheel backflip celebration.
Congratulations to Dike. Here's to getting 2013 started off on the (left) foot and to making your case for inclusion in Nigeria's squad for this January's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
After a time of year of giving, it is interesting to hear from a former Portland Timbers player who is now making a career of giving back. Adin Brown started the inaugural MLS match for the Portland Timbers in 2011 as part of a career that included helping lead the New England Revolution to the 2002 MLS Cup final, becoming a fan favorite with Norwegian side Aalesund (where he also scored a goal), to becoming the first ever Timbers Alumni Ambassador of the MLS era. Timbers fans will also be familiar with Brown's voice as he became a regular soccer analyst on Portland radio broadcasts during the 2012 season.
But it is in Brown's post-soccer career that he is perhaps having one of his biggest impacts. A longtime supporter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program--he was a "Big" early in his career in Colorado--Brown had made appearances on their behalf while a player with the Timbers at their Northwest chapter in Portland. After retiring, Brown approached them about volunteering again and they countered with a job offer to head up their new Sports Buddies program. Sports Buddies helps pair adult mentors with kids around athletic activities.
A natural talker, Brown sat down with me to talk about his time off the pitch, his passion for BBBS Northwest and how he's making a difference in Portland.
The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, 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.
Liviu Bird of EqualizerSoccer.com--one of the best sources for women's soccer news and content that you should now bookmark--tracked down U.S. women's national team coaching legend Tony DiCicco to ask him a few questions about his former player and now new Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone.
“She was a student of the game as a player,” former national team head coach Tony DiCicco said in a phone interview. “It’s awesome to have her get this chance. I think she’ll learn a lot, and I think she’ll be really good.”
DiCicco expects Parlow Cone’s learning curve to be short in the new league.
“I think you’ll find that she’ll play a possession style,” he said. “I think you’ll see some of the UNC aggressiveness in her coaching.”
DiCicco is a pretty good authority having led the USWNT to their famous World Cup triumph in 1999--a team Parlow was a key member of.
Bonus tidbit: DiCicco described the first time he and his assistant, and UNC legend Anson Dorrance brought Parlow into national team camp, in 1994. She was training with the U16 national team, and the coaches thought, “Hey, let’s bring that tall, red-headed kid in here. She looks like a player,” DiCicco recalled.
Thad Bell of the Kansas City Soccer Examiner has been doing some good reporting on some of the details around the new NWSL. In a recent article, he talks about national team player allocations and how Mexico is upping their player commitment, salary cap figures, sponsor information and more.
We’ve all heard the Timbers Army walking in a Timbers Wonderland, but this holiday season, the Portland Timbers wanted to see it.
The Timbers invited fans to share photos of their own Timbers Wonderland via Instagram using the special hashtag #TimbersWonderland between December 10 and December 17, showing off Timbers holiday spirit.
Ultimately, this photo of a hardworking lumberjack bringing in his own Timbers tree with a friend stood out above the rest to win the grand prize of $500 worth of Timbers gifts!
Other favorites included bright shining Christmas trees, #RCTID holiday stockings, and a bad Christmas sweater portrait with the one and only Santa. Clearly, the holiday spirit is in full affect across the Timbers Wonderland.
Happy holidays from the Portland Timbers!