Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, fresh from his revealing MLS player polls, recently put together a grand list of the 50 most important people in U.S. Soccer. It has many of the names you'd expect. The top 5 are, in order: U.S. Sports TV executives, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, MLS commissioner Don Garber, Nike and adidas.
Of local note though are two rather big names. Coming in at No. 9 is Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan of which Wahl writes:
Let's be honest: the 23-year-old Morgan has everything it takes (on the field and off) to become the next Mia Hamm. Just one example of her appeal: Morgan has in excess of a million Twitter followers, more than any U.S. soccer player, male or female.
Young owners who live and die with their MLS teams, Heineman and Paulson are the faces of MLS 2.0 and the league's answers to Mark Cuban. If only every league owner cared as much.
Head over to SI.com to read the full list. Any names missing you think should be on there? Any names on there you disagree with?
Montreal Impact midfielder and Québec native Patrice Bernier is quite familiar with Timbers midfielder Will Johnson. The two have played side by side on the Canadian national team for years with Bernier having 49 caps The Canucks to Johnson's 31. Now set to face off this Saturday in Portland at JELD-WEN Field (7:30pm, KPTV, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), Bernier spoke to impactmontreal.com about his national teammate:
“He’s a guy that gives 100% all the time and you see that on the pitch,” added Bernier. “They brought him in because they know that he sets the tone. Training, games… I think that’s why their coach named him captain. He always brings that competitive edge.”
Check out the article over on the Impact site and be sure to watch the two go head-to-head on Saturday.
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."
The Portland Timbers get into the act with a unique event this week at Last Thursday on NE Alberta in Portland. Long a bastion of art galleries and creativity, the Timbers will unveil their new primary and secondary kits as part of the art show Green & Gold: A Tribute to the Portland Timbers.
Along with players Diego Valeri and Ryan Johnson being on hand to present the new kits, curator Chris Haberman has put together a show that features original artwork created by fans and inspired by Timbers soccer. Spread across the galleries of NE Alberta, The Talisman and Best Art Gallery will have the bulk of the show and each will be for sale to the public with proceeds split between the artists and the Portland Timbers Community Fund. Other participating galleries include Guardino, Six Days Art Co-Op, Screaming Sky, Antler & Make House and the Red Rover trailer. Hop on the ever popular pedicabs and buzz up and down the street to see them all.
Haberman will also have a large mural piece of his own that fans will be invited to help contribute to and will be installed at JELD-WEN Field for the 2013 season.
Following the jersey unveiling, staff from the adidas Timbers Team Store will be on hand to start selling the new primary and secondary kits.
The eminent soccer writer Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated spent a good chunk of the preseason asking MLS players about the state of the league. In a recent article, he posted the answers to things like, "Who's the most underrated player in MLS?" and "Who's the most overrated player in MLS?"
Perhaps most interestingly for Portland fans was the question, "If you could play for one MLS team other than yours, what would it be?"
Among the top choices? The Portland Timbers.
Portland also humbly scored high on "Which team has the best MLS stadium atmosphere?" landing up there with Seattle though Wahl goes on to say,
Seattle has bigger numbers (more than 43,000 fans per game), while Portland may have an even harder core.
Read the whole piece here and keep an eye out for Part Two tomorrow.
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.
Portland isn’t Paris, but it sure is a long way from Long Island. It might as well be a different country. New Thorns FC signing Allie Long spent a couple months playing in the City of Light for Paris Saint-Germain during the 2011-12 season, but aside from that experience the native New Yorker hasn’t played professionally more than about four hours from home with the Washington Freedom, Sky Blue FC and the New York Fury.
Life in the Rose City presents an opportunity for the former University of North Carolina and U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team midfielder to take a step out of her comfort zone. Long was quoted in a story by Dan Lauletta on The Equalizer about leaving home and joining up with head coach Cindy Parlow Cone in Portland as well as her time spent training with Thorns FC teammate Alex Morgan in California and alongside women’s soccer royalty Mia Hamm.
“I’m hoping to get a role where I can create and help score goals myself as well as play defensive and be able to keep it,” Long said. “I love keeping possession of the ball and playing quickly. I like both aspects of the game so wherever she needs me is where I’ll be and at the end of the day I just want to win.”
There's no debating the crossover between music and sports and ESPN The Magazine brings the connection to the forefront with this year's Music Issue. The Mag got creative with this issue, having athletes impersonating various album covers.
Some of the highlights include Oympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte as the swimming baby on Nirvana's iconic "Nevermind" cover, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman as Michael Jackson on the cover of "Thriller" and let's not forget about Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan, who graces the issue as pop star Katy Perry in her "One of the Boys" cover.
The issue doesn't hit the shelves until Feb. 8, but ESPN released some behind-the-scenes video and photos of the creative process.
You can take a look at Morgan's album cover here.
The Oregonian's Geoffrey Arnold chatted with Thorns FC's first-round draft pick Kathryn Williamson to get the story on how she found out she was drafted. She apparently had some pretty excited friends.
"They were on computers and I was on Twitter on my phone. I guess their computer was faster than my phone, because they started screaming and said I got drafted," Williamson said. "I thought they were joking, because it hadn't come up on my phone yet. I'm like, 'That is a really mean joke.'"
But of course, it was not a joke at all. Williamson was the club's inaugural first-ever NWSL Draft selection on Friday--an honor that she quickly warmed to.
So thankful and excited to start a new chapter of my life with the Portland thorns @thornsfc!
— Kat Williamson (@KatWilliamson7) January 18, 2013
Williamson's new teammates were also excited to have more players on the Thorns squad:
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) January 18, 2013
— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) January 18, 2013
Check out Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone's take on the new crop:
Clearly, the day had plenty of fun and promise.
MLS's Armchair Analyst, Matthew Doyle, knows this 2013 MLS SuperDraft backwards and forwards. A veritable genius on tactical analysis, Doyle spent the whole of the past week at the MLS Combine looking and thinking about who should go where and why.
He did a recent winners and losers take on the recent draft and had this to say on the Timbers second round pick-up of defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes:
"First of all, I . . . could argue that he’s the most MLS-ready of the center backs on offer, so just on a nuts-and-bolts level, it was the right pick. As important, though, is that Portland took a kid who is Seattle born-and-bred, and University of Washington star, one pick before the Sounders were up. Seattle fans flipped their collective bean in the live chat, on Twitter and elsewhere."