Longtime Timbers fans from the USL era may remember midfielder Troy Ready. The former University of Washington standout played three seasons for the Timbers and was had a huge presence in the club's community outreach programs.
By 2011, Ready had traveled halfway around the world to combine his abilities on the soccer pitch with his love of helping other people. Moving to Qurghonteppa, Tajikistan, Ready began work with the Millennium Relief and Development Services non-profit organization while playing for FK Vakhsh.
YanksAbroad.com catches up with him and talks about how it all came about.
"In 2005 I was invited to play on a professional soccer tour with a team called Ambassadors in Sport," Ready explained. "It was a compilation of several past and current players playing against Tajikistan's National team, Olympic team, and also they flew Afghanistan's national team to the country."
So in the midst of being there and seeing all of the opportunities football may unlock, it ended up being a good opportunity. And over the course of the next six years we made slow steps to moving ourselves and our family and making that our new home."
After establishing himself with FK Vakhsh, Ready worked with a number of American youth clubs that specialize in soccer development internationally. That, combined with his FK Vakhsh experience eventually landed him the job of the national team technical director. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the head coaching position at FK Vakhsh opened up recently and Ready has an eye towards taking that on along with his national team work.
"I've been in contact with the federation again. The former head coach of Vakhsh left to coach a different team up in the north," said Ready. "So, I'm putting my name in the hat for taking over as the head coach of Vakhsh along with the national team responsibilities and overseeing some of the youth clubs. "
In the end though, Ready has always been interested in humanitarian efforts along with the football aspect of his job. The former Husky is excited for his unique and rewarding opportunity in central Asia.
"It will be busy but it's something that I love to do, and it's a great platform beyond the football side of things," Ready went on to say. "There's just so many platforms for life and community development that have opened up as a result of coaching and playing It's a great platform beyond the football field."
Timbers Academy co-director Mike Smith's unique MLS-led research trip to the French Football Federation continues.
After a long first, interactive day of class, on Monday night I was lucky enough to participate in a quite incredible Commencement Dinner with Gerard Houllier and Commissioner Don Garber. I can tell you that the French Chefs are brilliant!!! There were only 7 courses. :)
The course is definitely challenging from a theoretical point of view and they are looking for things a little differently from the way we do in Licenses for US Soccer. It is always good to see a different point of view and today (Tuesday) was more specifically looking at their teaching method, an introduction to their sports psychology module and some instruction on how to cut up videotape.
We got to see some of the U14/15 boys here training at Clairefontaine, the Parisian Regional Training Center. The U17 French National Team arrived today for 3 days of training and we hope to see them tomorrow.
From the rainy February of Portland to the snowy fields of the French Football Federation's national training facility in Clairefontaine, Timbers Academy co-director Mike Smith has traveled quite a distance.
Sent as part of a special MLS initiative to broaden league academy and player development, Smith was selected to partake in a extensive Elite Formation Coaching License program that involves close collaboration with the FFF as well as on-site observation and work with Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.
Freshly arrived in Paris this weekend, Smith was whisked away to the training facility and snapped a few photos:
Got to the French Training center... how amazing! It was snowing here most of the afternoon. We were taken into the local village for savory crepes for dinner with the obligatory red french wine. The scenery is so rustic and cool but we are in the middle of nowhere in the snow! Am staying in Chateau where French Men's National Team stay. I am in Lizarazu's room.
Throughout Smith's stay in France, we'll post updates and photos as they come through.
With just over a week to go befor the Portland Timbers' season opener against New York Red Bulls (Mar. 3, 4:30pm PT, ESPN2 - March to Soccer Opening Match presented by Alaska Airlines), the team has been preparing with a broader approach to their final preseason tournament match against AIK (Feb. 23, 5pm PT, webstream at www.portlandtimbers.com) treating it more as though it were a real league game. Midfielder Will Johnson called it a "dress rehearsal" and that there'd be a definitive emphasis on getting a virtual three points in anticipation of when they're in the fight for an actual three points.
For AIK, the situation is very similar. Long a mainstay of the country's top division Allsvenskan, AIK's season runs a similar spring-to-fall calendar as MLS. After a few preseason games of their own in Oxnard, Calif., the team has been in-residence in Portland for the Timbers preseason tournament. They drew 0-0 to FC Dallas in the opener and held another clean sheet in a 0-0 draw against San Jose Earthquakes in their second match.
Lee Baxter (right) is the team's goalkeeping coach and third 'keeper. In his first stint with the club from 1998-2000, Baxter was part of a team that made it to the Champions League and he played in matches against Arsenal, Barcelona, and Fiorentina. Growing up around soccer his whole life--his father Stuart was a club head coach in Sweden as well as leading the national teams of South Africa and Findland--Baxter has enjoyed a long and diverse soccer career. Now back with AIK, Baxter and I talk about how the team has been experiencing Portland, his hopes for AIK's 2013 season, and the importance of supporter's culture both in the U.S. and Sweden.
The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, Thorns, soccer & culture to explore the unique elements of the beautiful game. You can subscribe to The Backcut on iTunes in the same feed as the Talk Timbers podcast.
The U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Canada at the London 2012 Olympics. That’s really all that needs to be said, but in case you were on a trip to the Outback last summer and didn’t have access to a TV, internet, newspaper or any other form of news media here’s a quick refresher.
August 6, 2012 … Old Trafford … Manchester, England ... Olympic Semifinal
Christine Sinclair gives Canada a 1-0 lead 22 minutes into the match in front of 26,640 fans at famed Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, and the teams enter the interval with Canada grasping a 1-0 lead and a chance to head to the gold medal match.
USA midfielder Megan Rapinoe equalizes in the 54th minute and the match becomes a slugfest with Sinclair and Rapinoe (both former standouts at the University of Portland) trading goals. Sinclair nets her second goal, putting Canada ahead 2-1 in the 67th minute … Rapinoe hits back with her second, tying the score at 2-2 three minutes later in the 70th minute.
Sinclair gets a hat-trick with the go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute and Canada carries a one-goal lead into the final 10 minutes of regular time before the real drama kicks in. Canada’s goalkeeper Erin McLeod is called for holding onto the ball for more than six seconds – a rarely enforced rule, but one that awards the U.S. with an indirect free kick inside Canada’s penalty box. On the free kick, the ball strikes a Canadian player on the arm and a penalty kick is called.
Abby Wambach steps up and buries the spot kick to level the score at 3-3 in the 80th minute.
The two sides battled to a stalemate through 30 minutes of extra time, trading jabs before U.S. forward Alex Morgan rose up and looped a header into the goal in the third minute of stoppage time, the game’s 123rd minute to be exact and the latest ever goal scored in a FIFA competition.
Now, catch your breath.
The rematch is coming on June 2 in Toronto as the U.S. Women’s National Team faces Canada in an international (not so) friendly for the first time since that drama-filled Olympic semifinal match. Mark your calendar as several Thorns FC teammates could potentially clash on the field. Clearly, there are no medals on the line, but there's no doubt the intensity will be heightened as Canada will look to repay the USA for the match last summer.
New Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc is no wallflower. Personable, charismatic, and fearless in asking anyone for an interview, she is currently with the Canadian Women's National Team in China at the Yongchuan Cup.
Frustrated by her Canadian and now Thorns FC teammate Christine Sinclair coming in last amongst Asian voters in the recent Ballon d'Or voting, LeBlanc went to the streets of Yongchuan with her famous KK Cam to help spread the good word of the merits of Ms. Sinclair.
I have a feeling we'll be seeing some more of KK Cam in the Portland Thorns FC future.
After a record breaking year, FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi won his fourth FIFA Ballon d'Or award today recognizing him as the best player on the planet.
But how did he get so good?
The venerable icon of broadcast television, CBS' 60 Minutes, takes a close look at the phenomena that is Barcelona and, in particular, they examine the strength of the legendary La Masia football academy that produced Messi. A rigorous institution, La Masia also produced Timbers midfielder Franck Songo'o who came up through the ranks with the likes of Messi, Gerard Pique, and others.
While the 60 Minutes treatment can be a bit simplistic to the experienced soccer-phile, there's no denying that is a unique look into one of the best soccer factories in the world.
Also of note is 60 Minutes' Overtime section where they talk about how they put this particular episode together. It gets a bit deeper into the how they brought it all together as well as how La Masia works and a bit on how MLS is developing their own academies:
Another exciting development at the FIFA award ceremony was U.S. national team women's striker Abby Wambach winning the Women's Ballon d'Or. It is the first time the award has been won by an American since Mia Hamm received it in 2002. Wambach was recently in Portland in November as the USWNT crushed the Republic of Ireland 5-0 in a friendly at JELD-WEN Field.
While Brent Richards, Darlington Nagbe and more were busy during the offseason, centerback Hanyer Mosquera has been keeping busy as well. Spending his offseason in his hometown of Istima, Colombia, Mosquera and his family helped organize a local soccer tournament for high school aged kids and outfitted two teams: Amigos de Hanyer Los Verdes and Amigos de Hanyer Los Rojos.
Naturally, the kits should have a familiar look to Timbers fans.
Done in conjunction with the local mayor, Mosquera says that he helps put together the tournament--now in it's fourth year--so kids can see that "it's possible to be a professional player."
"We hope that every year, we make it a little bit better," Mosquera added. "It's a short tournament that people enjoy but also brings me a lot of happiness. We're just helping bring my hometown a game that they love."
After a 2012 season that saw Bright Dike score 16 goals across all competitions--5 in the regular season, 5 in the MLS Reserve League, and 6 in the USL Pro while on loan to the LA Blues--the Timbers forward added one more tally to his growing goalscoring exploits as he scored the equalizer for Nigeria in a friendly against Catalonia on Wednesday.
Dike started the match in Barcelona as Nigeria faced the unique autonomous region of northeastern Spain known as Catalonia. Though not recognized by FIFA or UEFA, Catalonia has fielded a national team since the early 20th century often with numerous stars from FC Barcelona in their starting XI. Wednesday's match was no different as the Johan Cruyff-coached side featured Barca legends Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Gerard Pique.
For Dike, it didn't matter. After battling all game--including a nasty elbow to Puyol in the first half that left the centerback temporarily bloodied--Dike broke through in the 55th minute with a nifty cutback and lashed a shot with his left foot into the upper left corner of the net. Notice the trademark cartwheel backflip celebration.
Congratulations to Dike. Here's to getting 2013 started off on the (left) foot and to making your case for inclusion in Nigeria's squad for this January's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.