Preseason

22 February 6:04 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.

 

08 February 2:48 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.

 

30 January 10:27 am

Timbers owner and president Merritt Paulson chatted with The Best Soccer Show podcast over at North American Soccer Network with hosts Jason Davis & Jared DuBois about new head coach Caleb Porter, the preseason so far and much more. Give it a listen (or download podcast):

28 January 1:08 pm

The Timbers left yesterday for Arizona to continue their 2013 preseason training in Tucson and will take part in a series of matches known as The Desert Friendlies. Hosted by USL Premiere Development League club FC Tucson, the Timbers will play Colorado Rapids, Sporting KC, Seattle Sounders, and FC Tucson all within the course of two weeks

The Desert Friendlies are part of a month-long Soccerfest that has grown over the past two years in Tucson. Spearheaded by FC Tucson, the month includes a Canada-Denmark--the first international friendly ever held in Tucson--the Desert Diamond Cup tournament, an art show, a film night hosted by the Kicking + Screening Film Festival, and much more.

Tucson Weekly dives into just how this big project started and has grown in a town once known for hosting Major League Baseball spring training programs:

"Soccer has always been there, under the radar," says Chris Keeney, a co-owner of pro club FC Tucson and one of a handful of people spearheading the push to make Tucson a soccer mecca. "I think people, especially in Tucson, are ready to buy into something they can call their own." Keeney is a recent transplant to Tucson, having come here from Houston, where he worked in marketing and public relations for the NFL's Houston Texans. Prior to that, he spent time in the front office of three different Major League Soccer teams, and he considers Tucson a ripe market for soccer growth.

Plus, with a new stadium in the works for FC Tucson, the soccer continues to increase its footprint out west. 

Be sure to watch The Desert Friendlies as they stream live on www.portlandtimbers.com. In Tucson? Ticket info is here.