Monday, June 29, 2015

MLS Week 17 Rankings: Sorting Through the...INCOMING!!!

Your newest member of the Sonoma County Sol!
I had this Major League Soccer at the Half Rankings concept all worked out. It had a couple of attendant challenges: for one, not every MLS club has played 17 games; some have less, some have more (along with the potential for sitting idly later in the season as other clubs play their cards in the hand well; see, the Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United). Giving a high-five to a milestone as it passed all of us by had some appeal, as well. A big part of attraction to that idea, though, was the sheer amount of goddamn data spit out by the last two weeks.

By all that's So The last week alone featured 16 regular season games, which spelled two-game weeks for all but 7 MLS clubs (yeah, that odd number tells me I overlooked a dead rat in the data). The Saturday and Sunday before that: more games. The freakin' week before that: U.S. Open Cup. For goddamn everybody. With that much soccer on offer, I figured some enterprising coaches would send out heavies to scout soccer-friendly bars across the country in search of able-bodied, and nearly-able-bodied males, recruiting the ones they could convince, and shanghaiing the rest as the market dictated.

The situation argued for a wider focus, basically, and what's more big picture than a big, Vaseline-lensed looked back at the first half of the 2015 season? Frame it as a projection, maybe, a way of arguing that this one club that no one would dare project in the playoffs, yeah, I'm sayin’' it. Going. Maybe even all the way. In a crazy league this one, I mean, who can say, really? Right?

And then I wrote it all down and realized that my "crazy" projections for the post season look a-whole-goddamn-lot like the current standings. The only change – literally, the only difference? – I have the San Jose Earthquakes going into the post-season over FC Dallas. So, there's that.

Still, can we all agree that the following three coaches are now circling The MLS Musical Chair Hot Seat: the Chicago Fire's Frank Yallop; the Colorado Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni; and the Philadelphia Union's Jim Curtin. My money's on Pablo. And I give him...mid-August. He.s gone by mid-August. OK, enough of that...

OK, onto the Methods section. Just two games watched in full this past weekend (Damn my obligations! And, OK yes, sometimes entirely natural wish to mix up my weekends a little!)
Real Salt Lake v. Columbus Crew SC
Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders (HA! Ha ha ha ha! Whoo...still enjoying that one)
Quickly, just prior to the ranking, I think I finally have clear explanations for two numbers beneath each team's name. If it's unclear to anyone, do speak up. And, full disclosure, I may or may not have watched the 20-minute mini-games for Week 16 1/2, Hogwarts Week in MLS (e.g. the June 24 set of games)...long may Hogwarts Week precede Rivalry Week.

OK, rankings time. Stack 'em up!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Portland Timbers' Win Over Seattle Sounders: The Tale of the Hydra

(In your best "Keanu," say) "What do you do? What do you do?"
Do I feel elation?

It's closer to contentment, which is better. Elation implies "surprise" on some level – as in, you're so goddamned excited, at least in part, because you didn't see the good thing coming. The cards set up pretty favorably for the Portland Timbers tonight.  They took down the Seattle Sounders 4-1 in Portland, but that was hardly a surprise with Seattle limping in with half the line-up missing (more on that later). The Timbers fielded a team (sorry!) One and a Half Men short of the best (Liam Ridgewell and, for some, uptight dickholes, (e.g., me), Maximiliano Urruti on the bench accounts for the other missing half) and that was more than OK. The Timbers first team,'s pretty goddamn good lately. The basic math works pretty simply: Portland(2) > Seattle (0.5). So, no, I'm not elated. Content? Yes, and all kinds of.

With the way this set up, the Timbers had to win this game. Blowing out Seattle complemented the evening elegantly (?) as a shot backs a beer, but a win, any win, was all Portland needed to back up the argument that the Timbers' own blowout loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy was an anomaly, the soccer equivalent of putting in overtime on a bad night at the office, sucking the rust off a trailer hitch, etc. etc.

All that's great (and gross), but the greatest thing slips sweetly into the talking points:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Timbers v. Los Angeles: A Collapse in Five Parts

I fear nothing! At least once!
The Portland Timbers dared the Los Angeles Galaxy the punch them in the stomach hard as they can! So, LA did. Five times, in fact. For all intents and purposes, though, the Timbers dropped after the second goal. It might have been after the first goal, really.

OK, no, that’s not really what happened. The Timbers didn’t strut down to LA all cocky and certain. Caleb Porter, for one, said all the right things, talked about club’s recent streak with due humility, etc. And yet, Portland was due. First of all, four-game winning streaks are damn rare in Major League Soccer; as we’ve all heard ad infinitum and beyond, Portland has only managed two-game streaks since joining MLS. The point is, one doesn’t have to watch MLS for all that long before one sees the whole “parity” thing intervene. Clubs rarely win for very long. When long streaks do happen in MLS, they generally hit/victimize clubs in the form of nightmarishly long losing streaks.

In that context, each win after the second straight one tempts the Fates to give your team a little kick in the teeth. And, thus, MLS nips hubris in the bud.

That said, was there any reason for the inevitable loss to be so damn brutal, so unbalanced? Did anything in the past four wins come with an assist from luck, or did something sniff of too much hype and Timbers fans seeing what they wanted to see? Maybe the Timbers beat either shitty clubs (the Colorado Rapids; who doubled-down on their incompetence just tonight), or clubs on a distinct downswing (e.g. the New England Revolution, who doubled-down on their incompetence just tonight). Maybe it’s simply that Western Conference clubs (e.g. the Timbers) are better than Eastern Conference clubs (e.g. DC United and New England) and everyone’s better than the Colorado Rapids (except FC Dallas). Or maybe it’s simpler still: LA is back to their best and Portland just picked a bad time for a visit.

LA sure as hell looks back to their best. By combinations of passes and movement that look so simple and straightforward in action, the Galaxy finds attacking players in two yards of space (see LA’s opening goal, in particular) – and all that begs the question, what was better; the pass or the run? Either way, it all ends with the opposition’s ‘keeper sitting on his ass in the dirt while one of his stunned defenders picks the ball out of the net behind him. The Timbers had a couple of those moments tonight. And that, for the most part, was that.

Monday, June 22, 2015

MLS 16 Rankings. Just Rankings.

Bliss. Most weekends of the year.
For this first part of Major League Soccer's Week 16, just plain rankings unfold below. Well, that plus the sort of "what-does-it-mean?" sort of thought that comes to me every week sometime during the 5th MLS mini-game.

Two themes to discuss before getting into all that. First, is this league goddamn crazy or who? I mean, what the hell are the Seattle Sounders doing losing to San Jose anywhere? Why can't Toronto FC beat even the lowliest club in MLS in their expanded hizzouse (I'm not spelling that right, am I? But, yes, I'm talking about New York City FC...or are they now the formerly lowliest)? Why are the expansion teams suddenly going all Freaky Friday with each other's reputations?

Second, let's talk transition, or, rather, the dreaded "transition year." Personally, I've used it as a knee-jerk shorthand for "shitty season" long enough that the thought behind it lost its meaning. Webster's Dictionary defines "transition" as...jesus, never mind. The point is, bad teams pick up and drop new players into the puzzle like slow infants smashing the star over the square hole. No one notices because, bad yesterday, bad today. Either an upgrade happens or no one notices. Before you know it. you're the Chicago Fire. When it comes to good teams, the years pass subtly from great to good to "smart" to some version of manifestly bad. The realization hits you like a pressure drop: you're pretty sure you feel the change, but you can't be sure till it starts raining. I want to believe that this explains my ongoing fascination with Real Salt Lake (because it damn sure ain't the product on the field). RSL's intended future finally showed up last Saturday, when Sebastian Jaime scored his first goal for the Utahans since joining late last year (and celebrated by looking like his wife gave birth to Twins Spoken of in Ages Past; Olmes "Almost" Garcia followed up by doing the rare something - accidentally, it bears noting, but everyone takes three points: for now, these are RSL's stewards for the post-Saborio era. Never mind how much shit's gonna hit the fan when Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman retire: that is a transition,with a massive Jamison Olave cherry on top: the new players' (ideally) growing pains combine with the slow, clear, steady decline of players who will become club legends of some scale or another.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Portland Timbers Just Sort of Walk Over the Houston Dynamo

Wait. Will he still have a number?
The Portland Timbers won.

I think that's a sufficient explanation. The Timbers out...did the Houston Dynamo in every meaningful facet of the game. Unless they snuck in another one during bathroom breaks (at home; no line) or during the intermission where I had to regulate on some howling UFC action between cats, the Dynamo produced two oh-so-close shots all night: the goal that should have counted for Raul Rodriguez off an early corner for Houston combined with Ricardo Clark’s pick on Jorge Villafana. Later, Clark (again) almost scored the infamous Juggling Recumbent. He would have pulled it off, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling crossbar...

It's possible Clark was the most potent player on the field tonight. He just lacked the supporting cast to make anything. Back to Houston's highlights...

...those two moments came damn close to changing the script in Portland tonight; had the Dynamo scored the first one, in particular, it's hard to know how the Timbers would react. When’s the last time they had to come back into a game after going a goal or two down (May 30; not so long ago, as it happens). To their credit, Portland did plenty to make those two moments isolated events. Most to the point, Portland made and finished two great chances, both of them lousy with Argentines. Fans got a cherry on top when Diego Valeri came off the bench and showed enough flashes to get arrested in any civilized state. Well, given the right setting.

Before moving on to Timbers, Timbers talking points (not all caps), just a thought or two more on Houston. The Dynamo looked pretty clueless out there tonight, something that probably had a lot to do with having Brad Davis and Giles Barnes missing. Impressed as I was at all the panic Clark created all night (very), he pulled enough of that out of his ass to make one worry that the next thing he pulled out would be a vital organ. Another thing for Houston to wrestle with was how readily the Timbers got around Kofi Sarkodie all night. Portland keyed on his flank enough to imply a pre-planned line of attack; the payoff the Timbers achieved probably won't go unnoticed. More than anything else, though, the Dynamo was undone by sloppiness all over the field. Errant passes, passes that went behind, or ahead of players’ runs, or, worse, flat-out give-aways like the one Horst coughed up to Maximiliano Urruti, or…some damn mess out of the back or another. Sorry, want to get to the talking points...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Portland v. Houston Preview (Plus (some of) the Rest of Week 16)

Eat my cleats, bitches!!
Here's the thing: the last time I had big ideas about how the Portland Timbers can win against the Houston Dynamo, this happened (or, for a neutral interpretation, this). So, lick this salt lick (for your grain of salt) and keep reading.

I’ll keep this preview particularly brief. One of the biggest reasons for brevity? Houston's level generally floats around a line that reads "undefined." The other reason is equally straightforward: Portland played Houston just over a month ago. It's not like a ton has changed since then. Erick "Cubo" Torres still hasn't arrived, not that it's hurt Houston all that much. Then again, Giles Barnes will be gone Saturday, and for a while after besides. Barnes had arguably cooled off a little after a torrid late April/early May, but he's down toiling in the Copa America for this one. So, big plus: one less thing to worry about...wait, two less things. Houston is also down Jermaine Taylor (because, another Jamaican).

So, who does that leave for the...what do Houston call themselves? The day-glo Orange? Regardless, I'm guessing that their line-up for the last game, warts and all, comes pretty close to what they'll field Saturday night in Portland...or not. Turns out their June 5th game came before Barnes and Taylor's departure. That leads to the obvious question: who replaces both of them? First, I'm guessing that Raul Rodriguez goes back to central defense, while Kofi Sarkodie slots in at right back. As for Barnes' all honesty, they have a pair of interesting options: Rob Lovejoy, who, apart from having a name worthy of a 70s snuff film, scored at least one brilliant goal in 2015, but there's also Mauro Manotas, far as I know, hasn't suited up for the sweaty Houston club this season.

I guess the point is, Houston will field a pretty comfortable back four and, while they'll miss some continuity up top, they're replacing all of one person, really. (Wait, really? Well, near as I can tell, yes.)

To turn this the other way, what do the Portland Timbers do about all the little of the above?

MLS Week 15 Rankings + A Dip to Find the Best Bargains in the Bin

Keep digging! They've got Scott Caldwell for cheap in there!
[Editor’s Note: I came up with the concept below late, late Monday night, at the last gasps of a struggle to get the rankings posted in time. Creating the sort of content mash-up that appears below seemed like not only a great idea for adding value – and who doesn’t like added value? - but also a sound justification for putting off the post till the next day. Turns out huffing paint doesn’t contribute to good decision making. OK, that’s not true. No paint was huffed. It is, however, true that huffing paint does not help with making good decisions. Huffing paint is not, in itself, a good decision. OK, on with the post.]

OK, trying a new arrangement for the rankings. And piling on the data. Or arguments. No, they’re more suggestions. Yeah, suggestions. This will work like regular rankings, but, with an eye to broadening the appeal of post, I’ll throw in another subject for each club – and try to do a new one every week. [Ed. Note: See? There is no goddamn way I could come up with a new data point every week. None. I may as well have been huffing paint.]

The first part of the commentary on each team, then, will be the usual, straightforward argument for each club’s rankings in this week’s post. The second part will touch on some other aspect about that team – something that should be of interest (at least potentially) for the engaged, to over-engaged, fan of Major League Soccer. This week, for instance, I went through the 2014 MLS Players’ Union salary report to name one player from each club as the biggest bargain on that club’s roster – e.g., the poor bastard who, all things considered, should be thrilled with his playing time/accomplishments, while giving some serious thought to whether, y’know, he’s getting screwed by management.  This week, I’ll list the part two stuff after "Bargain Bin Star."

As for the salary stuff, it might be a little stale. The MLSPU hasn’t released the 2015 salary info yet. And, to be clear, that second talking point has no bearing on that club’s ranking. All that make sense? Good!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Timbers Advance: An Open Cup Victory Sprinkled with Sweet, Sweet Humiliation!

Wait! Right, left, down, A...STOP IT! What's the move?!
First of all, wow, is this going to throw a handful of ground chiles all over the next Cascadia match. The Seattle Sounders turned in a meltdown worthy of toddlers, I tell you. Clint, you've added to your legend, buddy. Congrats! Back to the regularly scheduled post...

If you've ever played Mortal Kombat, and if you're as terrible at it as I am, you know what it's like to master one even mildly effective attack. Say, it's a jab, something you can work against an opponent due to a fluke of timing, so you use it to shave off a narrow band of health at a time. This only gives you the illusion of winning. If the guy you're playing has mastered his avatar’s "killer move," you can land all the jabs you like, but your opponent has still lost only two thirds of her bar, and she'll lay your ass OUT after just two attacks. And if you're not on the floor with your entrails sprawled to the sky after that, your sad little spandexed man is swooning on his feet to set up the same humiliation.

That's the rough experience of playing against this edition of the Seattle Sounders: no matter how badly they've played all 90 long, the Sounders have the talent to score at absolutely any moment and steal the game. Turns out the tale unfolds a little differently when you push Seattle to the 120th, when, again, they melt down, get three players sent off, and just generally act entitled. And so your club wins, 3-1. Can't we game-plan this for next time?

Anyway, great, deeply satisfying win for the Portland Timbers – and I absolutely look forward to the hair-rending amongst Sounders fans (even if I'm not likely to see it), because, yes, two of those cards were harsh. One wasn't (e.g. the two yellows to Brad Evans), not that they'll either care or remember, and Sigi Schmid's game management followed roughly the same script that Caleb Porter might have followed if he was a complete idiot and left Diego Valeri in to the end of the game. But he wasn't, so Portland didn't...and now Portland is in, Seattle's is out, etc.

Then again, wins in a Cup tournament come in isolation by their very nature: they’re not part of the season overall, naturally, which means patterns from that regular season matter a lot tonight, while, at the same time, they don't matter at all. I'll attempt to draw a line between league play and Cup play below, but it won't last long. And there will be bleeding.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Elusive 15+ Goal Season: Why the Portland Timbers Are All Right

It'll totally make sense by the end...but only then.
If you asked me cold the number of goals a Major League Soccer forward needs to score in order to rate as "quality," I'd say 15 in a season. I've even thought of 20 goals as a reasonable haul for a real quality forward. True story...

Who knew I was the angry, disappointed father type (that I always feared I would be), because that figure doesn't hold up. First of all, a goal every other game is a great strike-rate in any league in the world; that's 17 goals a season in MLS. It's even further off in the context of MLS as a league. 15+ goal seasons are rare in America's top flight. How rare? Since 2010 (according to a...loosely statistical analysis (inviting peer review, people), an MLS forward has scored 15 or more goals in a single season just 21 times. And two players – the Los Angeles Galaxy's Robbie Keane and, of course, the San Jose Earthquake's Chris Wondolowski – account for a combined total of six of those twenty-one 15+ goal seasons. As for those 15 other occasions, call them wonderful exceptions to a rather stingy rule.

How many 20+ goal seasons have there been since 2010? Just five. And those are as follows (alphabetically by team, accidentally, because that’s how the data lays out):
Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact, 2013 (20 goals)
Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls, 2014 (27 goals)
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes, 2012 (27 goals)
Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City, 2014 (22 goals)
Camilo Sanvezzo, Vancouver Whitecaps, 2013 (22 goals)
For the curious, I listed all the 15+ goal seasons below, by player, and after everything else. But, for the general purposes of this post, I counted a total of 72 times when an MLS forward(-ish*) scored more than 10 goals in a single season. According to my stroll through the stats page every friggin' club in MLS (DC United's excepted, because it's a frickin' mess; and here's a sample of where I'm looking), since 2010, the raw percentage that any forward will score 10 goals or more in a season boils down to about 30% (29.6% by a precise count; 72 out of 243 "statistical events").

And, by implication, those same 21 15+ goal players came out of that same pool, which translates a whopping 8.6%. More qualifiers: I say *forward-ish because the word "forward" doesn't always cleanly define. For instance, I included players like Landon Donovan and Chris Pontius in the head-count; neither player is a forward, strictly speaking, but both are "forward enough." This will bite me on the ass as soon as the next paragraph...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A History of Portland Timbers' Forwards, MLS Era

Open minded. Just want goals....
I coveteth a forward from another Major League Soccer club: Sporting Kansas City's Krisztian Nemeth. It started innocently enough, back in the pre-season, when he lit up a club or two in one of the ever-proliferating preseason tournaments. (sorry, no links; KC runs one of MLS’s limited website templates.) Coveting ripened to lust (bosom now heaving) when he put his foot up Chris Hedges' ass in KC's recent rout over FC Dallas (just, FYI, I'm down with master/slave stuff) and so his reputation grew, at least in my eyes. I dream of him winning the Golden Boot, MLS MVP, and possibly MLS Defender of the Year the way a pre-teen girl imagines Zayn Malik strolling into her bedroom. I mean, look at that sick little spin against Hedges (start watching at about 1:30 here). Totes dreamy!

Let's pause there, because I looked up Nemeth's numbers yesterday. They're solid, certainly, and they don’t capture the full scope of Nemeth’s contribution (he passes well, combines a little better, and, to borrow an Armchair Analyst favorite, he's developing reasonable gravity). That said, his level, at least in terms of raw numbers, should translate pretty readily for Portland Timbers fans: Nemeth is exactly one assist better than the oft-slagged Fanendo Adi. Both players have 6 goals; Nemeth just has two assists to Adi's one.

I lead this post on the Portland Timbers'....troubled? Allegedly troubled? Imperfect? A couple steps on the wrong side of paradise? At any rate, I entered into this exploration of the Timbers' history of signing forwards on the premise that none of them really panned out for Portland. But I lead with that note on Nemeth to acknowledge that perception, greed (for goals), and envy play some role in all this. (Also, just real quick: I had hoped to include some data from the USL/A-League days, but those are buried deeper in the internet than I'm willing to dig, at least while I’m on a self-imposed deadline. The only forward from those days who I remember by name is Fadi Afash. He was impressive, too, scoring 27 goals in 53 games for the USL Timbers...he, uh, also embezzled $138,000 from an elderly couple, which puts him squarely in the Timbers All-Time XI for non-violent criminals; um, back to regularly scheduled programming).

Monday, June 8, 2015

MLS Week 14 Rankings: Creating v. Getting, MLS's Mason-Dixon Line

At one point, there was definitely a right side of this one.
(Man, I really have to work on titling my posts sometime before the last minute.)

Going with very little preamble this week, and rankings. Just...rankings. And some comments before and within. I'll post other content elsewhere. Soon. At any rate, here are the games I watched in full during Week 14:
Portland Timbers v. New England Revolution
DC United v. Toronto FC
Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders
I was in Seattle for Week 13, where I endured Seattle's win over the New York Red Bulls. All I'll say about that is, thank god for good company.

Before assigning a number to each MLS club, a couple things occurred to me over the past couple weeks. First, good teams create chances while mediocre and/or bad times get chances. Yeah, that's a pretty banal observation, but it strikes me more and more as this season progresses. It's the difference between this this (good) and this (lucky, even when a team makes some of the luck) Рespecially in open play. A great clich̩ of the game is that all goals count. Like most cliches, that's true and trivial all at once. Chance creation speaks to replicability Рi.e., the capacity to do it consciously and with some form of intent, instead of relying on lucky bounces and a defender falling on his ass.

Second, and more significantly, I had hoped to wax excited about some long-awaited separation opening up between the top clubs and the bottom clubs, but Weeks 13/14 put the kibosh on all that. Sadly, only a select few MLS couple clubs appear primed for excellence. With too many of the rest, it's once-good teams slipping (e.g. FC Dallas, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls), as a selection of the previously dire outfits rise (e.g. Montreal Impact, Toronto FC...paging Ottawa; sensing a pattern here). The really crazy thing: that the New York Red Bulls can lose three straight and stay on the right side of the Velvet Rope (stupid playoff format). More to the point, how the hell do just 12 points separate acknowledged no-hopers like the Colorado Rapids from league darlings like the Seattle Sounders?

OK, onto the rankings! Again, the first number in parentheses is the number of times I've watched a full game for each MLS club, while the second numbers show the previous week's ranking for that club – or, in this case, where I ranked that club for Week 12. This week’s sub-text: Right, on with it:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Timbers Top New England: The Wonderful Efficiency of the Counter-Revolution

Yes, that is absolutely as fun as it looks.
A couple things escaped my attention while watching the Portland Timbers' late (late) 2-0 win over the New England Revolution. Holy yellow cards, for one. That ref really seemed to get a kick of pulling stuff out of his pocket.

One thing that couldn't be missed, however, was how well Portland pinned New England into the wrong end of a shooting gallery. I can't check the box scores yet (still games to watch; still results to parse), but I'd be shocked if Portland managed more shots on goal in any game this season as they put up against the Revs. The reputations of the club reversed a little, in fact, with the Timbers playing the short, quick, slick stuff on which New England built their little near-empire over the past couple seasons.

There's not much to say about New England, really, who got something close to over-run last night. The worst thing one could say is that they lost all of Adi on Portland's opening goal. They had a couple chances, of course, and Adam Kwarasey bobbled a couple of them (but on a night, and in the context of looking better every game), but the Timbers crashed into them one wave after the other. Something about harnessing the Power of the Pacific. Which, as everyone knows, is the superior ocean.

And there it is: Portland's first three-game winning streak in their short life in Major League Soccer. It's a bit of a shame, really, that the Timbers have next week(end) off, because thar be wind in the sails and a fair wind it is (Arrr, me mateys!) And there's a little irony in this because before this streak started, most Timbers fans would have killed for this week off with any eye to buying time to get Diego Valeri back on field. And that’s a good place to start into the talking points.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Revolution Comes to Portland: A Preview (+ More MLS Week 14!)

Like New England, only with WAY better kits.
(Editor's NOTE: The rush of a week’s worth of new sights and sounds meant I never made time to circle back to the Portland Timbers' win over the Colorado Rapids. (Bad amateur pundit!!) As such, that will inform the preview below as...context, I guess? And only in the first paragraph.)

For those who haven't heard, this weekend's game against the New England Revolution affords the Timbers the opportunity to do something they've failed to do since ascending into the Major League Soccer orbit – i.e. win three games in a row. One would think that, surely, Portland managed this during the annus mirabilis that was 2013, but apparently not. It’s not inconceivable that trip-‘n’-sputter run goes all the way back to the Timbers USL days…not a ton of hot streaks come to mind (but, yes, in 2009; holy...they even managed a five-game streak!).

Will the visiting Revolution squad play a sufficiently pliable (Homecoming) victim? Tough to say. As I think everyone knows by now, neither Jermaine Jones nor Juan Agudelo will suit up for New England on Saturday (injury and international absence, respectively). Such details sweeten Portland's prospects a little given the Revolution's recent run of form. Let's just say that games 4-9 (5-0-1) treated New England a hell of a lot better than games 10-14 (0-1-4). Game-day opposition might have played a role - the clubs beat in their earlier, glory run (e.g. Colorado, the Philadelphia Union (at their worst), and Real Salt Lake) are on the opposite side of the standings from the clubs they faced in later, leaner games (e.g. DC United, Sporting Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Galaxy) – but there's something neither here nor there, and both here and there, about New England in 2015.

To clarify that last mess with clean numbers, the Revolution scores like Seattle, but defends like New York City FC (well...that's among others with the latter, honestly, but most clubs who come near their 18 goals-against aren't doing so hot).

Excited as I am about this one (and I get to go to (half-)watch it live!), this game, along with several others, let Week 14 shape up pretty nicely. I'll do little bullet/point-of-interest previews for those games after previewing the main event: Portland Timbers v. New England Revolution. Let's go with...five talking points this time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In Which the Timbers and Sounders Go Head-to-Head in Game-Day Experience

It's enough that they thought this looked good EVER.
Someone actually noticed that I never posted a review of the Portland Timbers death-bed win over the Colorado Rapids (which somehow convinced me that my funeral might not be a total bust). I didn't post because I was out of town this past weekend, in Seattle, actually, for a Sports Weekend. That said, thoughts on Colorado v. Portland will sneak into something going up mid-week...not that anyone’s holding his/her breath...

To get back to Sports Weekend, the Seattle Mariners lost the weekend's first game – which I didn't like – while the Seattle Sounders won the weekend's second game – which I also didn't like. So, close the New York Red Bulls. So close...

During the Sounders game, I spent most of the time comparing/contrasting what I saw, heard, and smelled at the Sounders' CenturyLink Park with what I see, hear, and smell at multiple Timbers' games at Providence Park. Out loud, often as not, and for an audience that started wondering by, oh, the 12th comparison why the Hell I insisted on answering a question no one was asking. Turns out I speak "eye-roll" (Pro-tip: the fifth eye roll warns of impending violence.)

Since I can no longer bombard them with my opinions - they're in their respective cities, while I'm in mine - thank god I've got Conifers 'n' Citrus! Welcome, few readers, to one fan's analysis of the Cascadia battle forever percolating under the surface: Seattle Sounders' Game-Day v. The Portland Timbers' Game-Day. Below, I pit one fan-base/club/stadium against the other across five categories; may the best club win. And, of course, my thumb belongs on one side of the goddamn scale. Stop asking questions....