The FC Seattle Sounders made a splash last year in their inaugural year in the MLS.
The celebrity ownership of Drew Carey, sponsorship from X-Box, signings of Freddie Ljungberg and Kasey Keller, and, finally, playing in new Qwest Field all made for a massive, and impressive, unveiling of the Seattle soccer team.
Both on the field and in the stands, Seattle provided an example of just how big an MLS team's launch can be, constantly exhibiting massive crowds and an impressive team showing. It even found a star-in-the-making in Fredy Montero.
When Portland joins the MLS in 2011, it will hope to match the success of its upstate neighbors.
But don't expect a repeat of the Seattle strategy.
Yes, the Timbers secured $30 million dollars to renovate PGE Park. It will now be strictly a soccer stadium (the AAA Portland Beavers baseball club is rumored to be moving to Beaverton. I sincerely hope they will rename the team the "Beaverton Beavers".)
No word exactly on what the renovations will entail, but it's already confirmed that they'll be installing stands along the east-end. Some of the stands will be covered and some will not. There will also be a restaurant strictly for east-end ticket holders.
For everyone's sake, let us pray that they replace the PGE turf will something that doesn't resemble the green sandpaper that the team is currently forced to endure.
I have no idea if they'll be replacing the current video screen. It would be a welcome change to actually have the ability to see a replay without the use of binoculars.
But it's the product on the field that will bring about the most questions.
My sources indicate that Portland won't be signing a designated player unless it's someone that will make a "substantial difference in both the gate and on-field performance." So, unless Ruud Van Nistelrooy comes running, don't expect any known players to be in Timber green.
The other early whispers are that the Timber's scouts have already made three trips to England and two to Africa to secure players.
That is interesting.
After the Boca Juniors game, I'm sure many Timber's fans were hoping the scouts would have frequent flier miles to the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. The South Americans definitely provide an ample amount of entertaining play and an offensive mind-set.
Normally when one hears of "English style," it brings to mind the long ball and defensive play of Jack Charlton, who most famously bored half the world to death while managing the Ireland side in the 1994 World Cup.
I'm not sure if that terminology still applies to English style soccer. The English, known for hard tackling, hustle, and aggression, have come a long way in the past decade.
Could Michael Owen soon be hearing the chants of the 107st? Hmmm....
I personally wouldn't mind seeing the Timber's play an English style. It suits the mood and character of Portland. It rains here as much as it does in England and we're the micro-brewery capital of the world. If the players can't win, they can sure as heck drink like they were back in England.
And I, for one, never tire of the 'cleat's up' brand of soccer.
Thankfully, the leadership of the MLS hasn't followed the suicidal mindset of the EPL and almost every other soccer league on the planet, where seemingly every club is financially strapped and the top standings are dominated by a couple of clubs every.....single.....year.
Although Seattle has money, it won't make a difference in terms of signing players. Portland can still field a decent side.
Gavin Wilkerson, the current coach, will become Technical Director. I like Gavin and I sincerely hope he remains very involved with the team and player development. The Timbers haven't named their next manager. Undoubtedly this will have a massive impact on the style of play, as well as the players, on the team next year.
It's obvious to anyone that the Timber's players are feeling the heat and playing for spots on next year's side. They to dominate possession and shots on goal every game, only to either tie or lose 1-0.
I've never seen so many balls hit the goals posts. The boys just seem to be trying too hard.
Early favorites to join the squad next year have to include Ryan Pore, Alex Nimo, and perhaps Stephen Keel. Steve Cronin is still a massive question mark.
There's no question in my mind that the rivalry with Seattle will reach biblical proportions. Anyone who attended the Seattle-Portland game last year at PGE saw first-hand that there is a natural animosity between these cities.
The Seattle side seem to be taking on the personality of a corporate company man, with all the soul of a decaffeinated latte. Portland will, hopefully, maintain it's identify of the tattoo branded methadone addict.
Can't wait for 2011.
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