Dan Itel, MLSsoccer.com Timbers beat writer (and Hillsboro Argus sports writer), has a strong commentary piece today on MLSsoccer.com about the recent flurry of Timbers trades and moves. Looking back at the expansion year and taking it through to Caleb Porter's hiring plus the last two weeks of moves--as well as some looks into the future--Itel says the new makeup is a markedly different direction than two seasons ago.
It’s why the Wilkinson-Porter team shored up the midfield with road-tested guys like [Will] Johnson and [Michael] Harrington – more no-nonsense, less step-over. And Porter’s fingerprints were all over Wednesday’s acquisition of forward Ryan Johnson and goalkeeper Milos Kocic in a trade for promising young ‘keeper Joe Bendik as well.
Johnson is a proven talent in the league – he’s bounced around a bit but established himself as a double-digit scoring threat every season in the right system – and Kocic should be a worthy challenger to incumbent Donovan Ricketts.
Itel grants that questions remain but overall believes Portland is aiming for "Less gambles, more guile. Get used to it."
Liviu Bird of the excellent New York Times Goal soccer blog has an interesting story today about how MLS is leveraging league assets to create a central scouting resource specializing in the Central and South American region that is available to all teams.
“Since a number of our players were coming down from Central and South America, we decided at that point to think about ways that we could help our teams in their scouting and recruitment efforts,” said Lino DiCuollo, the league’s vice president of player relations and competition, in a recent phone interview. “So one of the things was to start cataloging all the games in many of the leagues in Central and South America where we were getting players.”
Building an interconnected web of technical tools involving video of matches, WyScout, Opta, and Statbridge, while weaving together in-country consultants that can assist teams with information, the system is similar in part to endeavors created by Major League Baseball and the NHL. MLS' structure also allows for the cost to be shared.
“Instead of paying to have a consultant in Bogotá, clubs are basically paying one-nineteenth of the cost,” DiCuollo said. Many clubs still have dedicated scouts in these areas, and it is common for members of their technical staffs to make trips to Central and South America to find players. But instead of having to rely on just one or two games as an evaluation period, staff can go to the league catalog for more video to make educated decisions on transfer targets.
With the recent talk of Timbers scouting trips to Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina to search for potential new players, it's an interesting complimentary piece to learn more how the league as a whole looks to evaluate new talent.
It is not every day that your local paper does a Sunday editorial about the local college soccer team. Sure, you might hear about the local football team heading to the conference title, or how the baseball team won a championship.
It is also not every day that that editorial celebrates the style of play that said local college soccer established and how that innovation can impact an entire city.
But that is just what Akron Beacon Journal editorial page editor Michael Douglas did today. While watching the NCAA College Cup, even though one of his own alma maters made the final, Douglas laments the absence of Caleb Porter's Akron Zips and the creative way that they play. Going on to discuss the tremendous impact Porter had in not only creating a unique style but then explaining what that meant to Akron as a community, Douglas is proud of Porter's accomplishments in establishing an overall desire for innovation across industries in the city, admiring of his decision to take on new challenges with the Portland Timbers, and certain that the legacy of "Porterball" will remain in Akron.
What leaves the strongest impression is the style of play. Akron long won respect for its soccer program, from Stu Parry to Ken Lolla. Porter elevated things dramatically, with his possession game, elegant and attacking, college soccer with a new element of purpose and plain fun to watch.
Watch the Zips play, and the echoes are apparent, of the “total football” of Johann Cruyff, the brilliant Dutch star, now in his 60s. The more current comparison is Barcelona, where the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi break down the opposition with their relentless short and exact passes.
The achievement of Porter resides in his innovation, applying these principles, building on the strengths already here and producing something new. Possess the ball, and the other side chases, as you play offense and defense at the same time. Porter has talked about the Zips wanting the role of the “deciding” side, dictating the flow and the opportunities.
. . . . .
The word “revolution” may be too much. But we have been watching a remaking of the game.
“This is Akron” is the cry. It points to what is distinctive, the soccer here what you cannot get elsewhere.
And it carries a wider lesson. What must Akron and other aging industrial cities do to prosper? They must build on their core strengths. They must keep and attract talent, Porter reaching across the country, from Washington state to Texas, from Massachusetts to Colorado.
In addition, they must be organized for innovation and distinction.
It is an essential read into learning just how much Porter meant to the Akron community but also a testament to what his soccer vision could mean to his new home in Portland.
"It's the best environment I've been in," [Jesse] Garcia-Aguilar said. "They push us every day to become better. They treat everyone here as young pros; that's what I really like about it. They give us a lot of support. And they tell us the truth because we need the truth to become better."
With the Portland Timbers arrival into Major League Soccer came a mandate from the league that the club would need to start a new academy system. During the 2011 season, the Timbers began with an Academy staff that set up regional training centers around the state, administration of the Olympic Development Program, and some pre-academy teams.
Those pre-academy teams gave way to full fledged U-16 and U-18 squads that began play this fall. Most recently the team was in Florida as part of the overall U.S. Development Academy Winter Showcase.
But one element of the new academy that caused some issues upon launch was the requirement from MLS that academy players could no longer participate in their high school teams. But the academy system was built to utilize best practices from the Timbers and MLS to help develop players to the highest level they can be it for college soccer, the Timbers' first team, or even the U.S. national team.
Academy co-director breaks it down thusly:
"They're getting lots of very good practice with and against the best players," Smith said. "We are trying to develop players that ultimately and eventually can play on the first team. But also can we help get all these kids get recruited into top college programs and push them as far as they want to go?"
Dan Itel of the Hillsboro Argus as well as beat writer for MLSsoccer.com, does an in-depth look into the new academy system through the eyes of two of its players, Jesse Garcia-Aguilar and Alejandro Segovia of the Timbers U-16 squad.
Adjustements, new challenges, and a greater sense of development are all at play as the future of Timbers soccer begins in Portland. Give the whole piece a read.
Also of note on a heavy day of player movement across the league was MLS releasing the list of players eligible for Friday's Stage 1 Re-Entry Draft.
While the rules around the Re-Entry Draft can get arcane, let's try to break it down.
In the MLS Rule book, eligibility is determined by the following:
--Players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years experience in MLS whose options were not exercised by their clubs (available at option salary for 2013).
--Players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary (available for at least their 2012 salary).
--Players who are at least 30 years old with a minimum of eight years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them (available for at least 105% of their 2012 salary).
--Players who are not selected in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft will be made available in Stage 2. Clubs selecting players in Stage 2 will negotiate a new salary with the player.
--Players who remain unselected after Stage 2 will be available to any MLS club on a first come, first serve basis.
Once selected in the Re-Entry Draft, clubs must exercise the option for, or extend a Bona Fide Offer to, all players selected in Stage 1. Players that were out of contract may either accept or reject the Bona Fide Offer. Should a player reject the offer, the drafting club will hold the right of first refusal for that player in MLS. Players with option years left on their contract will automatically be added to the drafting club’s roster.
One key element to remember is that though the eligible player list was released today, teams are still able to negotiate with players up until a temporary roster freeze at 5pm ET on Dec. 6. As such, there is a good chance that there will be some alterations to the list between now and Friday.
Draft order is determined by reverse order of finish at the end of the 2012 season which means Portland will have the #3 overall pick. Once a team elects to pass on their draft slot, they are finished for the rest of the draft. The draft ends once all teams have passed. For more info on the specifics of Friday, click here.
On a day of lots of comings and goings with the Portland Timbers, new midfielder Will Johnson was pretty excited about his new home:
Thank you to the Portland Timbers for allowing me to come to the team of my choice. I will repay your investment handsomely and can't wait!!
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
The first time I played in Portland I dreamed of playing there. My dream is now reality and my family and I are extremely grateful! #excited
— William Johnson (@WillJohnson08) December 3, 2012
As Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson put it in today's announcement, "his attitude is infectious."
The end of the 2012 MLS season draws nigh as the LA Galaxy host the Houston Dynamo in tomorrow's MLS Cup. A rematch of last season's final, this version presents plenty of drama.
Tune in at 1:30pm PT on ESPN to find out. Have your say on Twitter with hashtag #MLSCup.
Looking for a place to watch? The Timbers Army are hosting a viewing party to benefit AC Portland at Alberta Substation. Suggested donation of $5 gets you in with things getting rolling around 1pm.
The holiday season is in full swing at JELD-WEN Field at the adidas Timbers Team Store!
The 12 Days of Giving
Throughout December, shop.portlandtimbers.com and the adidas Timbers Team Store will be promoting different Timbers items on certain days for purchase, such as outerwear and “stocking stuffers.” Check back often for great deals leading up to the holidays!
For updates on holiday sales and featured items, sign up for the adidas Timbers Team Store mailing list.
Rockin’ around the Timbers Tree
It’s better to give and to receive this holiday season with the Timbers. Beginning Tuesday, December 4th, spend $25 at the adidas Timbers Team Store and you will be eligible to choose a gift from underneath the Timbers Tree! Gifts can range from Timbers novelties and gift certificates to autographed memorabilia and gifts donated by Timbers local corporate sponsors – stop in to see what surprises are under the tree!
The holiday season is also about giving back. The adidas Timbers Team Store is partnering with Stand Together in December. Customers that donate at least $1 to the Stand Together Community Fund at the register will receive an ornament to write his or her name on and place on the Timbers Tree!
adidas Timbers Team Store Holiday Hours
Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, December 23: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Christmas Eve, December 24: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
December 25 – January 1, 2013: CLOSED*
*The adidas Timbers Team Store will gladly handle all holiday returns and exchanges upon reopening January 2 at regular hours of 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
While the US Women's National team was busy last night at JELD-WEN Field tallying up 5 goals in their win over the Republic of Ireland, the US U-17's have been busy this week at the Nike International Friendlies in Florida.
Yesterday, the Yanks played to a thrilling 4-4 draw against Brazil and Timbers U-16 midfielder Rubio Rubin--who's been training at the US U-17 Residency Program--was particularly busy with two goals and two assists.
Backheels, throughballs and more. Rubio was busy.