After today's NWSL allocation of national team players, much of the early chatter has been about the incredible forward pairing of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. And with good reason. Combined, the pair scored 51 goals over 53 matches for the United States and Canada in 2012.
But perhaps the steal of the day was in acquiring midfielder Tobin Heath. Long considered one of the best up-and-coming midfielders on the USWNT, Heath won three NCAA national championships with the University of North Carolina. Her final one, in 2009, had current Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone as an assistant on the team.
But it is also known in soccer circles that Heath is a master of the trick shot and ball skills. A while back, while on the road with the USWNT, Heath went on a simple walkabout. But this is hardly the simple walkabout you and I might make. WATCH:
Tip of the hat to soccer writer Charles Boehm.
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.
If ever there was a sense that a rising tide lifts all boats in the new NWSL, it's this:
— Alyse LaHue (@alahue) January 3, 2013
Alyse LaHue just happens to be the general manager of fellow NWSL club Chicago Red Stars.
And the numbers are certainly growing, Timbers/Thorns FC owner and president Merritt Paulson had this Twitter update earlier today:
Your unofficial @thornsfc Season Tix deposit tracker: 3,500+. that's w/o players & pricing announced (hopefully both will elicit increase..)
— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) January 3, 2013
In it together, indeed.
Want to make your own Thorns FC season ticket deposit? Details right here.
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 time of year of giving, it is interesting to hear from a former Portland Timbers player who is now making a career of giving back. Adin Brown started the inaugural MLS match for the Portland Timbers in 2011 as part of a career that included helping lead the New England Revolution to the 2002 MLS Cup final, becoming a fan favorite with Norwegian side Aalesund (where he also scored a goal), to becoming the first ever Timbers Alumni Ambassador of the MLS era. Timbers fans will also be familiar with Brown's voice as he became a regular soccer analyst on Portland radio broadcasts during the 2012 season.
But it is in Brown's post-soccer career that he is perhaps having one of his biggest impacts. A longtime supporter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program--he was a "Big" early in his career in Colorado--Brown had made appearances on their behalf while a player with the Timbers at their Northwest chapter in Portland. After retiring, Brown approached them about volunteering again and they countered with a job offer to head up their new Sports Buddies program. Sports Buddies helps pair adult mentors with kids around athletic activities.
A natural talker, Brown sat down with me to talk about his time off the pitch, his passion for BBBS Northwest and how he's making a difference in Portland.
The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, 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.
We’ve all heard the Timbers Army walking in a Timbers Wonderland, but this holiday season, the Portland Timbers wanted to see it.
The Timbers invited fans to share photos of their own Timbers Wonderland via Instagram using the special hashtag #TimbersWonderland between December 10 and December 17, showing off Timbers holiday spirit.
Ultimately, this photo of a hardworking lumberjack bringing in his own Timbers tree with a friend stood out above the rest to win the grand prize of $500 worth of Timbers gifts!
Other favorites included bright shining Christmas trees, #RCTID holiday stockings, and a bad Christmas sweater portrait with the one and only Santa. Clearly, the holiday spirit is in full affect across the Timbers Wonderland.
Happy holidays from the Portland Timbers!
While recent reports show that MLS is getting higher attendance numbers than the NHL and NBA, it should come as little surprise given soccer's long history in the United States.
Hang Up and Listen, Slate's all-sports podcast, was back at it today discussing Adrian Peterson's amazing comeback from knee surgery, baseball's West Coast power shift, and an interview with NBC Sports Stan Van Gundy.
But toward's the end, when they get into their "oppo tacos"--a reference to the surprise of an opposite field home run in baseball--co-host Stefan Fatsis opens up a discussion of the new National Women's Soccer League and the collection of new teams, crests, and names. Quickly running through the rest of the league, Fatsis describes Thorns FC as, "The only team in the new league with a sense of style and smarts."
He goes on to sing the praises of the new team crest, the uniqueness in having a soccer fan help design the logo, and how these things matter.
"Smart team's take this seriously," said Fatsis. "I'm definitely taking my daughter out to Portland to watch the Thorns play."