Is there any hope for the Portland Timbers?

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By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (May 20, 2014) US Soccer Players - What an MLS coach tells the assembled media and what goes on in the locker room are often two different things. Coaches put up a positive front for lots of reasons, ranging from wanting to build confidence in his players to being mindful that saying ‘we stink’ probably doesn’t sell a lot of tickets.

Nevertheless, there are a few MLS teams that, if we’re being honest, stink right now. Teams we consider quality teams that their fans have every right to expect more from. Teams that are already all but out of the running, and the World Cup hasn’t even begun. One of them is the Portland Timbers.

Is the MLS quote of the year category closed?

Yeah, probably. "We have the heart of a lion and the brain of a goldfish," midfielder Will Johnson said of his Portland Timbers team.

Is it true what their captain said about Portland?

Yeah, probably. You don’t have to be Franz Beckenbauer to see that Portland needed some help in defense.

It can’t continue to be this bad, right? As unlucky (let’s be polite), as Futty Danso and Portland have been, coach Caleb Porter’s decision to withdraw a player who can win a game by himself and has already scored (Urruti) with a midfielder (Jorge Villafaña) after Portland’s red card (to a full back), was odd. Against a team as talented as Columbus, you aren’t going to be able to hold out for 55 minutes.

"To outplay a team down a man. Down a goal. The biggest thing is psychologically... believing that you could still pull it off," Porter told the Oregonian. "We didn't get three points, but I'm proud of our effort."

This is not to single out Porter or Mark Watson or Wilmer Cabrera. Let’s go ahead and assume that the message for public consumption may well be different from the message in the locker room. However, there are too many MLS coaches making public statements about the team’s effort, as opposed to a lack of results.

Portland is only not in last place because the Galaxy has played fewer games. The Quakes could only find 16 players this weekend and put all of one shot on goal in 90 minutes. Chivas USA has a goal difference of -6 at home. If there’s company in the MLS misery category, it’s there. It’s also worth remembering that four teams won’t be making the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Which MLS coach has the longest unbeaten streak to the start of his MLS career?

Well, I’m still going with Lothar Osiander, who was 12-0-0 during his first 12 games as the Galaxy’s coach in 1996. The folks in Salt Lake will tell you it’s Jeff Cassar, whose team improved to 6-0-5 Saturday night.

Yes, MLS had the shootout in 1996, but that only happened in tied games. A tie isn’t a loss in mainstream soccer terms, so Osiander would still have been undefeated in his first 12 games. Too much? Ok, fine. What Real Salt Lake is accomplishing this season is pretty impressive and Jeff Casser deserves all the credit he’s getting for an undefeated streak that might require a footnote in the record book.

So the most watched EPL game in the United States this past season involved which teams?

It was Liverpool-Man City, right? Or Manchester United - Arsenal. No, it was Cardiff-Swansea City on February 8th on NBC. The Welsh derby reportedly drew almost 1.25 million viewers. The top markets for EPL in the USA? Washington, D.C. first, followed by New York, Baltimore, Boston, and then Seattle. It was a long winter on the East Coast, one that apparently caused unprecedented interest in the Welsh derby.

So is Minnesota now the Spring Season favorite in the NASL?

After their impressive 3-1 victory over previously tied for first Fort Lauderdale, Manny Lagos’s club is in the driver’s seat. With four games left, Minnesota avoids the Cosmos, and after this coming weekend’s game at home against Carolina, they face mid-table Atlanta and Tampa to finish out the Spring competition. A three-point lead with three to play means they aren’t home quite yet, but right now Minnesota might be hosting this year’s Soccer Bowl.


Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.

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