Tag Archives: 2012 season

30 Points: An Obsession

My last look back at 2012 brings out what started as a fear and became a full blown obsession as the season progressed. Here’s how it came about and what cured it.

“Match day again and we are feeling whole
The drums are pounding, our voices full
We sing our love of team

“And in a flash, Jorge scores
I see that very first goal
Something in JELD-WEN is calling me”

These are part of some poached lyrics to a bluegrass tune I wrote during the silly season leading up to the preseason tournament. While I thought to submit it here and there, I also thought I might better wait until Jorge does score his first goal. So I waited. And waited. And I waited, and then Perlaza was traded without scoring a single goal in 2012.

Well, thanks Jorge, there goes my song. Actually that came as a big shock to me. Yes, I was one of “THOSE” guys. But this is professional soccer; trades come with the territory. After a few weeks, I moved on. (Although I confess, I’m happy to see Jorge is scoring goals with Millionarios.)

But now I’m way ahead of my story. I go back, back to the home opener. What a glorious night. After a very satisfying and successful preseason tournament, in which we whupped all comers, there we were, in the North End, rain pouring down, chills and thrills of anticipation, until BOOM! we pored our hearts out in the National Anthem again. And then the match. We won! Boyd scored! Glory and bliss for all! What a great season we were certain to have.

Real Salt Lake. After the match, at home I watched the recording of the live version I had only hours before witnessed at Jelly, with replays, and commentary, and reverse (perverse?) angles. The gut punch didn’t hurt any less the second time.

What I took away this time, though, was something I didn’t see at the stadium – the smile on Jason Kreis’ face. As he walked away, it looked like he was laughing. And why wouldn’t he laugh? He went from a loss, to a point, to three points! In a matter of minutes. It still burns.

Chivas USA. What just happened? We were winning. At home. That’s as it should be. TA singing our hearts out, stadium rocking, beautiful weather. Two rookie coaches, John Spencer and Robin Fraser, former teammates at Colorado, going head to head. It couldn’t get any better. But oh, it could get way worse!

At half time, one coach made an adjustment that immediately almost produced a goal. 120 seconds later it did produce a goal. Wait a minute. Where’s our team? Why aren’t we making tactical adjustments? Where’s that second half fire that Spencer was famous for producing last season?

*****

In between, there were some away games. We got a point out of one of them. The first one. Dallas away. We scored a goal. They scored a goal. ONE goal. Sure, it was March, but it was Dallas away. And we got a point. Four points out of six. This season is looking good, I thought.

Then we lost a game. Well, it was an away game. And yeah, we played poorly. But it was New England. Surely we could have expected 1 point. Maybe the boys had a big head from the away result – against Dallas. Maybe they were tired from the rigors of away travel in MLS. And we don’t really play well on the road.

We came out of March with 4 points. They came from the first two games. Two more games into April and we still have 4 points. Next we face the best team in the league, the only undefeated team in MLS.

Whoa! Now what just happened? We beat the best team in the league; we beat Sporting Kansas City! Sure, it’s 3 more points. But we beat the best. We beat Sporting Kansas City. Who are we?

And where are we now: 7 points from seven games. If you like draws, maybe that’s pretty good.

We finish April with those same 7 points. Ouch! (Troy) And obviously, by omission, I’m over that non-brace by Boyd. We would have been up 2-nil at that point. What would that have done to the bottom-dwelling league champions? But, I’m over that.

We get ready for May, hope in our hearts, courage on our sleeves, and knowledge. The season is only one-third over. We still have two-thirds to play and see the success we began the season knowing we deserved. So May, and we’re at 7 points from eight games. I’m starting to wonder if maybe draws ARE pretty good.

An unwanted and certainly unwelcome feeling is creeping into my subconscious.

We end May with 6 more points. That’s 6 points from four games. Or, 6 points from a possible twelve. We’re feeling pretty good. Nut, um, now we have 13 points. I mean, we have 13 points! That creeping feeling has identified itself.

We finish June with 16 points. We got 3 more points from three more games. Maybe there’s something to be said for the consistency of draws. Or maybe some people do like draws. I don’t. Maybe one or two here and there, but NOT as a replacement for wins. That said, 3 points from three games is an an average over three games. But oh were we not average!

Another painful loss in LA, a chance to avenge a wrongful loss – wasted. A wretched 3-nil loss in Colorado. What could that portend? What words for that game?

*****

That feeling I was so loathe admit to at the end of May, is here. Strong. It’s fear. Fear about points. But it’s early, I tell myself. And I didn’t want to admit to it at the end of May because of one game in June. There’s that one game in June that we’ve been looking forward to all year. That one game in June from which we got all our points. 3 points from one game. No average game at all. One game where our lads brought their game.

What a game! A game where the points don’t even really matter, only the delicious, orgasmic, satisfying result. Was it good for you too? Most of the time that’s a rhetorical question. Here, we don’t even have to ask. There were other delicacies in the tryst. Lots of good physical play. Before and after play. We scored twice! Kris Boyd created some amazing photo opportunities. Someone we don’t like got a red card. Oh NO! And someone else we don’t like got a red card. Oh WELL!

Usually, one NO is enough. Sometimes not.

As painful as 2012 was to endure as a supporter, as much as it hurts now, bringing this up again, there’s something else that is gnawing at me. I’m going over my schedule and my notes, and the points. I don’t see it. What is bothering me so?

Oh. Oh yeah.

Even though I’m only 5’7,” from where I sat behind the goal in late May, I could tell that, even directly in line with the one PK of that game, standing on top of the crossbar, I wouldn’t have had to flinch.

Oh yeah. That.

Back to the story.

We started July with 16 points. Before Independence Day we had 19! There was hope for the season after all.

July we ended with 19 points. Six games and we pulled out 3 points. Now we’re at 19 points in twenty- one games. Draws are starting to look positively appealing.

“MY GOD, WE’RE NOT EVEN GOING TO MAKE 30 POINTS!”

Aaagh! It’s out! All through July I had been repressing it. Now it’s been voiced. Granted, out loud only a few times, and certainly not in front of sane persons. But what had been a creeping, concealed fear a few months ago has turned into all-consuming, uncontrollable MONSTER!

The agony is on. The obsession has me in its jaws. 30 points. Will we make 30 points? Surely, we will. I resisted the temptation to look at our standing last year at this time. What good would that do?

*****

August. Dallas. But it’s at home. 19 points. 19 points. … A result! 1 point!! One graciously gained point. Gracias Capitán! Golazo!

20 points. Toronto away. We scored 2 goals! We never score two goals away. Uh, we gave away 2 goals. We gave away 2 points. But we got 1 point!

21 points. New York Red Bulls away. We scored 2 goals! We scored 2 goals. Away. Again! We gave away three goals. We gave away 3 points.

21 points. Vancouver – at home! We win!

24 points! Two wins away from breaking free! Two wins.

Colorado. The team that has mugged us away and robbed us at home. How can we possibly beat them? But we do! Maybe ginger ball is not imaginary after all. That’s two wins in a row.

So where are we? It’s September. We have 27 points. Nothing to brag about for a season. But most of us have pretty much given up on the season. But for me, release is imminent! One win and we’re there. One win.

So, 27 points in – nope! I’m not gonna do the math. We had two wins in a row. I like wins. I don’t want to think about draws.

September. 27 points. Colorado away. It’s okay. We showed them at home, we’ll show them away. After school, behind Safeway. Bring it!

Another mugging.

One thing that hasn’t escaped me in this all-consuming obsession with points is our record against our Cascadian rivals. Two wins and a dr–… (cough cough) put us in the driver’s seat to win the Cascadia Cup!! Really? With such a shitty season, we can still win the Cascadia Cup?

And look who’s up next? And not only that, a win, at home, clinches the Cup! How glorious would that be! Here at home. Beat our biggest rival from up north, here at our own stadium, and win the Cup! Right here in front of our own fans! Those Emerald City Idiots would have to present the Cascadia Cup right here, in front of the whole Timbers Army. Come on, boys, now’s the time!

*****

28 points. We can still actually win the Cascadia Cup. And there is another way to get to 30 points. But I’m not going to talk about that.

San Jose away. Who DOESN’T hate San Jose?

Two more away goals! Another goal against San Jose for the hometown boy.

Damn! I hate talking about this. Two goals up, two goals given, 2 points lost. One point gained.

29 points. Rio Tinto. The last time there put a different slant on a chant from last year, “Free John Spencer!” But I didn’t chant that, nor did I hear anyone else chanting that. Maybe it was Gavin. As much as anyone didn’t want to acknowledge it, even while recognizing the inevitability of it, it rang true.

29 points. Four more matches to go. One more point! Surely we couldn’t go four matches without a point. I take a quick look back at the results. March 24, March 31, April 7, April 14. Four losses – in a row. Holy shit! But that’s an anomaly. I scan some more. Lots of L’s and some D’s. Not very many W’s. There it is again! July. Four losses in a row. No, wait. I miscounted. Five losses in a row.

Not only was it possible, we’d already done it twice this season. 30 points! Four games. Oh, mama, help me!

29 points. D.C. United. We haven’t lost at home in two months. We’ve only lost at home three times this year. Oh, do I love home. 1 point. Please, Timbers boys, take me out of my agony.

We win! No, I win! We draw! (We draw and you’re happy?) 30 points! 30 points. We made 30 points!

There aren’t words sufficient to express my relief!

So, where are we now? 30 points. Three more games. Possible 39 points to end the season. Three less than last year. Respectable. But who’s counting on that?

We STILL have a chance to win the Cascadia Cup? Are you kidding me? Up north. In their stadium. Clink, clink. And the Emerald City Imbeciles present the Cup to us in THEIR home? Even better. Come on, boys!

*****

Are you kidding me?

What do we have now? Yeah, sure we can STILL win the Cup. Do I want to now? Chance to win it at home. Chance to win it where it smells like fish. Cal FC. I’m not feeling very good about this season. So if we win the Cup, IF we win the Cup – meaning we have to win on the road – IF we win that Cup, am I going to feel good about the season? Do I feel I DON’T want to win the Cup? Well, kind of, in the sense we had a chance to take it, show we were men on the pitch; instead we let it slide way, twice. Do we deserve the Cup? Do you ever NOT deserve something you win? After two weeks of agonizing, I realize I’m not with Cory Cordero: no way can you root for the other team. No way do I NOT want to win the Cup. I just realize that winning the Cup isn’t going to make me feel good. Cal FC still sticks out as the highlight of the season. Low light. Wish I could block it out.

30 points. (Other than me, who really cares about points? And even that’s wearing off now.) Vancouver. Away. No road wins to date. Chance to win the Cascadia Cup with a win. No chance with a draw or worse. Well, more than, anything, like always, I want the boys to play well, and win the game, which would win the Cup, which still wouldn’t assuage the pain from Cal FC.

Come on boys!

Wow! Again, Capitán, GOLAZO! We won! We won! We scored a golazo on a listless Whitecraps team and won! We won on the road! We won our first road game! And we win the Cup!! Ah, look at Abe. Look at the imbeciles in their aviators. They sure look happy! Ha Ha! (assholes) Sure would like to know that exchange between them and Abe. Ah look at Abe! He looks great! And there goes Gavin. Wonder what he he’s doing? What exchange with Abe there?

Wow! Look at the boys. Jack, Dike, Sal’s in there, Kosuke looks pretty happy, Brunner! Wow, it’s great. And Abe, above all. Hey MP. TV coverage can provide some great angles.

Wow. We did it. We won on the road. We won the Cascadia Cup. And we have more than 30 points. It feels great.

*****

Now that the season’s been over for a while, that 30 points obsession really doesn’t feel so bad. We made it and we broke it. We ended up with 34 points. Not so bad. Not very good. Winning the Cascadia Cup really did help take the pain of the season. I didn’t expect there to be such a catharsis from the Cup. Cal FC still hurts. But it feels a whole lot better knowing the Cascadia Cup is resting proudly in the Fanladen.

One more game? I don’t have any notes about it. It was a home game, I must have been there. San Jose. Oh yeah. All I can say is, you didn’t break the record in our house, Wondo. And you still haven’t scored a goal here in the run of play. And that was a shitty call, anyway.

34 points.

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Six Defining Moments of 2012

2012 is rife with talk of apocalypse, and there were certainly times that the sky seemed to be falling in on the Timbers. A managerial sacking, fans protests, twitter meltdowns, cup embarrassments, defensive horror-shows and, bizarrely, a late season triumph.

Thinking of some of the defining moments of the Timbers year, it would be easy to think of Spencer’s sacking, Porter’s hiring, the Cal FC defeat or Perkins’ trade as the big moments, and they probably are, but the lack of a definite article in the title is deliberate as I want to take a look at 6 other moments that I think would, in their own way, come to define the Timbers’ season.

1. The Late Collapse vs Real Salt Lake

Where: Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Oregon
When: March 31st, approx 19:45
What: There was still an air of optimism in Portland as the Timbers kicked-off against RSL. A opening day win, heralding the arrival of Kris Boyd with a debut goal, had been followed by a gritty road draw and a narrow road loss while RSL were coming off a home defeat to Chivas USA.

Despite the setback of going 1-0 down, the Timbers roared back with a brace of classy Darlington Nagbe goals to lead 2-1. The minutes ticked away, James Marcelin came on to help close the game out, the Timbers were looking at a 7 point haul from their opening 4 games, with a visit from Chivas USA up next.

And then, disaster. Two goals in the dying minutes overturned the result, giving the visitors a 3-2 win. Like a pin popping a balloon, suddenly the early belief and confidence was gone.

Another defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory result against Chivas the next week – throwing away a lead to another late winner – only cemented the belief that it was going to be another long season.

2. Eric Brunner’s injury vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Where: Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Oregon
When: May 26th, approx 18:06
What: With the second worst defensive record in the Western Conference in 2011, bolstering the defence was a priority for the Timbers in 2012 and, in the signing of Hanyer Mosquera, they thought they had their man to partner Eric Brunner in the heart of the back four.

Brunner had emerged from 2011 as a fan favourite, and a rare bright spot at the back for Portland. It was always going to be a case of Brunner + A.N. Other at the back, or so it seemed.

The partnership between Mosquera and Brunner took a while to get together thanks to injuries and such, but it looked like the club had finally found a solution in the middle, even if the full-back positions continued to perplex.

A concussion sustained early in the match against the Whitecaps saw Brunner removed at half-time. It would be September before Brunner saw action again, thanks in part to a further knee injury, when he came on as a late game sub. By this time, David Horst had made the position beside Mosquera his own.

The instability that followed – Danso and Horst would come in and out of the team – would see the team lose goals left and right before they finally settled on Horst. Horst looked out of his depth early on, but steadied to become a solid presence at the back, but one of the big “What if?” questions that hang over the Timbers season is “What if Brunner had never gotten injured?”

3. Kris Boyd’s goal vs Seattle Sounders

Where: Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Oregon
When: 24th June, approx 13:16
What: Steven Smith to Franck Songo’o, touched off to the overlapping Smith, a low cross ball to the middle where an unmarked Kris Boyd taps it past the Sounders keeper.

Boyd’s goal put the Timbers on their way to a 2-1 victory against their great rivals – their first MLS victory against the Orcish minions from the North. It would also put the Timbers in the driving seat to win the Cascadia Cup.

The win came less than a month after the Timbers had lost 1-0 to Cal FC, the same team the Sounders would thump 5-0 shortly afterwards. If that loss had represented the nadir of the club’s fortunes, the derby win was the zenith, with hopes restored that the club could yet get it’s playoff hopes back on track.

And yet, a little over two weeks later, John Spencer had been sacked.

4. Kris Boyd’s misses vs Chivas USA

Where: Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, Oregon
When: 28th July, multiple times
What: Strictly speaking this is more than a single moment, but Boyd’s first half showing against Chivas would come to define so much of his season, and how it went into a tailspin.

Boyd was already getting criticism for not scoring enough goals, or justifying his hefty price tag, and it seemed to be weighing on the Scot. Gone were the natural, smooth finishes of early in the season – think, the flicked header against the Union, the calm finish against the Galaxy, the (wrongly) disallowed bit of skill and finish in the same match.

Now the finishes were nervy, jittery, rushed. In his desperation to score, he was hampering his natural instincts.

The first chance was much like that flash of skill against the Galaxy. Boyd heel-flicked a header down from Richards to control the ball, but rushed his shot, and sent it wide.

The second chance saw him caught offside, and of course he finished it with aplomb.

The third chance came only minutes later, and a nice touch left his defender for dead, but Boyd took the shot from a tight angle rather than the easy lay-off to Chara. Trying too hard.

The fourth chance came after a shot by Chara was palmed out by the keeper. Boyd swung at the rebound, barely connecting and only looping the ball up ineffectually.

Chivas would score the only goal of the game in the second half. Boyd’s time as a starter would come to an end only weeks later.

5. Bright Dike’s goal vs New York Red Bulls

Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
When: 19th August, approx 18:08
What: After a toothless showing in Toronto, Boyd was relegated to the bench. Bright Dike made his first-ever MLS start, after spending time on loan with LA Blues earlier in the season.

473 seconds. That is how long it took Dike to do what Boyd had gone 384 minutes without doing – score. Dike got on the end of Sal Zizzo’s low cross to put the Timbers in front, the first of five goals the striker would go on to tally before the season was out.

The Timbers would double their lead, but some poor defending, terrible officiating and an familiar late game sucker-punch resulted in a 3-2 defeat.

Dike’s form would bring him to the attention of the Nigerian national team, and would keep his more expensive team mate cooling his heels on the bench until injury ended Boyd’s 2012, and potentially his Timbers career.

6. Gavin Wilkinson’s experiment vs Seattle Sounders

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
When: 7th October, approx 17:00
What: The Timbers knew that a favourable result in Seattle’s backyard would guarantee them the Cascadia Cup. Interim head coach opted to switch out both full-backs and give starts to Lovel Palmer and Rodney Wallace. The game ended in a 3-0 defeat.

Peeved would be one word to describe the fans’ reaction to Wilkinson’s tinkering. Fucking furious would be two words.

Excuses would be made for the changes, some more convincing than others, but the fact remained that the Timbers went north to play their biggest rivals, with silverware on the line, with two guys in the team who had never convinced in their positions.

The defeat put the Cascadia Cup in doubt, and it would take a first road-win of the season against a frankly awful Vancouver Whitecaps to seal the deal. Had the cup been squandered… Well, that’s another “What if?” and one that would be best written by the writers of the Saw franchise should the Timbers fans have ever gotten their hands on Wilkinson.


So, there we have my thoughts on six moments that would shape and define the Timbers season. Which would you add as your own?