|The 18th street walk is dramatically different at Providence Park for 2019|
Work stress has been all over the place, but that is nothing new. I'm also able to de-stress from my day by tweeting about my bus adventures (the hashtag #WillMyBusArrive) which we have talked about in this blog. I never thought I would get so many followers by just talking about whether a bus shows up or not, but it's turned out to be quite popular for some reason - even getting some attention from the local transit authority. I get it's a tough job to drive around and deal with the public daily, and I'm not trying to be passive aggressive about something showing up on time. I've advocated for several years that there should be a true notification system for buses when they break down real time, but for now, it's just using an app on my smarty phone to hope it shows up as directed. Between all of this along with general life events, this should be enough to keep someone distracted from things, but here I am trying to write regularly about our local soccer team and keep people informed about what has been happening.
|New signage on the 18th street side of Providence Park|
From visiting Costa Rica to Arizona during pre-season play to then visiting 12 MLS cities (Denver, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Los Angeles again, San Jose, Dallas, Columbus, Toronto, Salt Lake, Vancouver, Houston and Philadelphia), the team has only trained locally under limited conditions. The Timbers didn't even return home after some matches, opting to travel between destinations to save wear and tear. This situation likely contributed to early season uneven play, which happened to coincide with our last predictions post back in March. The Timbers looked disinterested against FC Cincinnati and got run out of the building, but to me, this wasn't a case of talent - they simply looked passionless and lost, looking for any type of identity. After the early season struggles, there was tons of debate on social media about everything - play the kids, trade the kids, trade the vets, blow it up and start over, trade the coach, don't trade the coach, don't trade the kids - I am sure there are plenty of categories that I have missed, but suffice to say, nobody was very happy about it. That is when Sebastian Blanco put forth a post on his Instragram what I term "a call to arms". The entry was a rallying call for everyone to unify behind the club, and Portland responded with their best collective effort of 2019 to that point in a 2 to 1 loss to FC Dallas. Yes, the officials absolutely blew several late calls that impacted the result, but it was obvious that the team rallied around Blanco and showed some of the fight that had been lacking.
|The new look for the West Side concourse, complete with new color scheme.|
It was during the trying results combined with everything else that I took a step back and pursued other activities. My wife and I are regulars at our local gym, and I remember having a great leg workout while Portland was dominating Columbus while we got a lot of shopping done during the Toronto match. It's not that I didn't care about the results, but there is a rule about sports superstitions to not mess with a streak, and considering we had other plans during the FC Dallas match and it went better, we kept up the pattern. I was finally able to watch the Houston match live and a replay of Philadelphia, but this helped provide some much needed balance and perspective. Considering that my over 50 team, Old Growth FC Silver, is in some form of stasis with an unknown future, and there isn't exactly a hot transfer market for a bald 52 year old right back/defensive midfielder/attacking midfielder with a totally average shot, middling dribbling skills and an ability to fall down easily at any point, I was really missing soccer and the community surrounding the Timbers. To say that I'm looking forward to this opening is a true understatement; while it brings back soccer, this actually represents my 29th year of going to events on the grounds.
|Taken from the Key Bank deck, the new roof changes the stadium skyline.|
I received an email from the team inviting local media to a tasting of the new food options at the park on the same night that Timbers 2 was hosting the Real Monarchs, so I was excited for the chance to walk about the grounds and reconnect with my media colleagues. Upon arriving at Gate G, I was greeted by Katie from the Timbers press staff with my season credential and a pass for the night to the Key Bank deck. I have to say that I'm truly humbled and honored to continue the tradition of covering the team, and I take this as a great responsibility. Many clubs don't work with independent media at all, so considering the Timbers grant this to me and my wife after years with our previous outlet and now working our own sites is still thrilling. I will be honest that my nerves are still very much on edge each year until I see the credential after our ghosting experience back when, so when it is there officially, the weight of the world just goes away. I am then directed to walk through the concourse all the way to the Key Bank deck, and I get a chance to walk the entire concourse from the southwest corner to the center east side. Although the way, I'm struck by the changes in signage and colors, which make the stadium seem more open, and I'm not just saying that because I've watched way too may home design shows over the years.
|A view of the South Deck after the construction has completed|
The team put their money where their mouth is with the recent acquisition of accomplished striker Brian Fernandez, who joined the team a few weeks ago and already has 3 goals in 2 matches. Timbers Coach Gio Savarese has been very pleased with the composition of the 2019 Timbers, but one of the areas the team has wanted to address is adding a pure impact scorer that could mesh with Blanco and team captain Diego Valeri seamlessly yet not impede the development of young forward Jeremy Ebobisse. While it's very early, Fernandez has shown an ability to create chances out of the most minute chances and put the defense on notice, and you could tell the Dynamo and Union had trouble marking Fernandez. Portland's opponent for their first home match of 2019, Los Angeles Football Club, dominated the tempo in their March meeting in Los Angeles and the Timbers' defense never fully found their footing in losing by a 4 to 1 margin. Ebobisse did tally a goal on the afternoon, but Portland wasn't able to keep the pressure going forward enough to trouble the LAFC defense. However, the addition of Fernandez changes the complexion rather dramatically, as the Timbers now have a player that can attack and score from anywhere on the pitch. While Blanco and Valeri can still command a match during long stretches, Fernandez's inclusion keeps teams from solely concentrating on Timbers' number 8 and 10.
|Portland still has a turf field, but the new Cool Turf should lessen field temps|
These people were some of my best friends over the years of watching soccer. Steeplechase was one of the first people I met in my first ever Timbers Army meeting back in 2004, while Obi was the best man at my wedding back in 2005 after we had worked together in the corporate world years prior. Firestarter and
|The outer concourse concessions all received new looks in the upgrade|