Sunday, December 4, 2016

Timbers Update: Begging for Scraps (and Dreaming of LA)

Argentina...Argentina...shit, did I leave the map behind?
Starved for Portland Timbers news? Well, don’t count on the hunger pangs going away any time soon (also, how long did you think “hunger pangs” was actually “hunger pains”?). The best post I’ve read since the Timbers’ season died an untimely death came with just awesome speculation that Instagram photos of Alvas Powell’s apartment, shots that showed boxes and bare walls, indicated that the Timbers’ right back du jour could be moving on

I’m not even sort of being sarcastic, either. That’s semi-investigative journalism at least. And Instagram-stalking at worst. And who doesn’t do that? (Me. Can’t really sort out Instagram.)

Going the other way, barring something absolutely monstrous – and, here, imagination fails me (but, all the same, inviting a challenge from @GusRachels) – I couldn’t care less about what the Timbers wear when they take the field (still, guys? Too green. Can we slip some rainbows into that shit, or something?). The new stuff looks fine, based on the “glimpse” we’ve all been given (marketing, guys, that’s just knowing who you’re talkin’ to), but the Timbers could be clowns dressed in business casual and I’d still be fine with everything so long as they win enough games and in more style than the way they’re dressed…

…that’s a good rule for going forward, actually: the Timbers should always play above the quality/aesthetics of their kits, because, yes, broadly speaking, the team does good kits (shut up). If anyone has access to the team bylaws, kindly slip that in. Might have a salutary effect.

The point is, all the news is speculative just now and that’s…just how it is. There’s still MLS Cup to play (next Saturday) and that’s a helluva shadow. The Timbers announced their preseason training camp and schedule, plus where they’ll play their earliest preseason games, and that’s a kind of real news.

I don’t know if there’s actual scouting news going on, but someone posting on Stumptown Footy set up what looks for the world to me like a road map as to where to look (Wingers and Where to Find Them?). I’ve talked about whether or not the team “needs” wingers, but, even with the Timbers’ track record, god knows it couldn’t hurt to try to find one. Regardless, I picked through the list of wingers, and I guess I have only one question: is that just a list of wingers at a certain plausible price-point? I ask because I don’t know. (Raise your hand if you’re ignorant of the world scene. One hand raised over here.) If so, OK, and I hope the brass sees it. (Seriously, free advice is something like a courtesy, so accepting the help seems like a nice thing to do.)

For the record, though, and again, I really want to see the team search for central defenders and more depth at left back (or both backs, if Alvas skips town). As much as I respect the argument that a good offense gives even a mediocre defense breathing room, I feel like a sturdier, long-term defensive set up should be the Timbers’ Number One Priority (and, of course, reasonable people can disagree). So, yeah, looking forward to the “Central Defender” edition of the same series. As well as the “Defensive Midfielder” edition…also, not clear on how the “Wingers Edition, Part 1” references some kind of prior edition that’s…also, Part 1?

Next to the other Timbers news I’m seeing – e.g. speculation whether Caleb Porter could leave Portland for the glamour-gig that is coaching the Los Angeles Galaxy – that post on wingers feels like Woodward and Bernstein. The Oregonian put out a piece, based on a piece that Ives Galarcep put out for and, with actual respect to both authors…what?

In The Oregonian’s defense, they’re mostly posting on what someone else posted (e.g., and even that produced weirdness like this:

“I am surprised by the question as there is no coaching job in MLS bigger than the Timbers.”
That statement is, 1) from Merritt Paulson, and 2) something that Donald Trump would say. Look, I love the Timbers, and I think Porter is fine (till further notice…doing the thing where I point two fingers at my eyes, then point two fingers toward the proximate location of Caleb Porter’s house, which is…nah, better I don’t know; also, for the love of god (!), never tell me where Darlington Nagbe lives; or Lucas Melano), but, until the Timbers establish an in-league dynasty, the Timbers are a job in MLS, not the biggest job. To be clear, the fan-base has earned every bit of credit it gets for the atmosphere, Providence Park is beyond cool, and all that adulation needs an object…the point is, any coach and any player is lucky to play in front of that, but that whole idea about who is and is not “bigger” is earned, not stated.

Back to the LA job, though, that post by Galarcep feels like a wade into the wilds of MLS ephemera. Whether anyone else wants to admit it or not, LA is the premier post in MLS till further notice; it follows the same logic as taking over from taking over from Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Yes, I just called Bruce Arena American Alex Ferguson…

At any rate, a lot of the other coaches on Galarcep's list – e.g., Gregg Berhalter, Pablo Mastroeni, never mind Curt Onalfo – feel a little…small for the job. That’s not saying they’ll fail if they get hired, so much as LA fans might bitch (and every other fan base will titter) if any of those guys land the Galaxy head coach gig. Even the candidates who have accomplished “something” (aka, “MLS Cup”…hold on, why the scare quotes?) – think Sigi Schmid, Peter Vermes and, yes, Porter – feel a little light for the role. Or maybe it’s better to say the trends are wrong – e.g., all those guys took a team all the way at least once, but none of them are what one would call on the up, and that matters. In everyone else’s defense, only Schmid has failed with a big money team, so maybe any of the rest can come good with the right budget.

That’s what makes the LA gig so fascinating. If I had to name a “best fit” even related to the domestic orbit, I’d have to point to Jurgen Klinsmann – of which, can’t imagine it’d go well. Still, he’s at least got the “glam profile.”

I suppose that’s a way of wondering how MLS teams expand the available coaching pool. There’s a mini-trend in adopting(/struggling through) “local sons” as coaches. The overwhelming majority of those clubs – New England Revolution, DC United, Colorado Rapids, uh, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake (Jason Kreis, only weirder), maybe Columbus Crew (deep cut; Robert Warschzya) – have done some variety of fine. LA doesn’t have one of those – except maybe Landon Donovan, but he’s only dabbled in coaching so far – so that’s one option off the table. So…

I dunno. It’s possible that the whole LA coaching search will be more interesting going in, than in the way it resolves. Maybe there’s nothing left to do for them, but to build a new dynasty. Harder than it sounds, tho…

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