MLS Goal of the Week Nominees: Kicking off the Season In Style

The first week of the 2013 MLS season is in the books, and it was a lively round indeed.

There was a shocker in Seattle, a wild one in Portland, and a slow-motion trainwreck the emerging saga of Chivas USA in Southern California.

The nine games yielded 24 goals, many of which were terrific, including the following five:

The week was filthy rich with great goals; there were also fine strikes from Mike Magee and Sebastien Le Toux. But of the five nominees, we have to go with Davy Arnaud’s excellent finish, teed up by Felipe’s superb scoop over the top. Finishing a close second for us was Diego Valeri‘s slick slalom and finish against New York, followed, again, very closely, by Vancouver’s beautiful team goal.

Keep an eye on Whitecaps midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, the man who laid that ball off for Gershon Khoffie to finish. Kobayashi’s teammate Jun Marques Davidson said the Japanese import (who’s only 30) would be the most technical player in the league when he joined in preseason. After seeing him for one game, we see what Davidson means: Kobayashi is superclean on the ball. He—and Vancouver—are going to be fun to watch.

Let’s Watch the Timbers Army Open Up JELD-WEN Field for 2012

The ESPN guy said this gave him “chicken skin:”

It also inspired the Portland Timbers players who, like their great fans, ignored the crummy weather conditions and went out and beat the revamped Philadelphia Union in their home opener last night, rallying from a goal down to win 3-1.

Scottish newcomer Kris Boyd scored a skillful glancing header in his debut, Kalif Alhassan had a goal and an assist, and Andrew JeanBaptiste also scored, atoning for a defensive gaffe minutes earlier that helped Philly go up 1-0. (Jean-Baptiste’s deflection of a Gabriel Gomez free kick was initially ruled an own goal.)

Apart from the weather, it was an ideal debut for Portland.

As for Philadelphia, Gomez had his moments, and Colombian striker Lionard Pajoy could be a good pickup, but Freddy Adu failed to put his mark on the game, the backline looked shaky, and 20-year-old keeper Zac MacMath did his best Chris Seitz impression, nearly tipping an early shot into his own goal, and bungling Jean-Baptiste’s header that went in for the equalizer. They’ve got some work to do.

Portland Timbers Unveil Third Kit, Divide MLS Nation

In a special event at the Key Bank Club at JELD-WEN Field this morning, the Portland Timbers and adidas unveiled the Northwest club’s official third uniforms. The response so far has been decidedly mixed, ranging from ESPN announcer Taylor Twellman’s “SICK. LOVE IT!” (via Twitter) to shouts of “Ugly!” from various comment boards.

Made of 100% recycled materials, the alternate uniforms are designed to honor the Rose City’s soccer heritage, which dates to the mid-1970s and the NASL.

“One of the greatest strengths of the Timbers is the rich history of the club,” Merritt Paulson, president of the Timbers, told the MLS website. “With this third kit, we are paying homage to the teams and players that inspired our city to become Soccer City, USA.”

The “Timbers” script on the back of the neck is rendered in the same font the club used in its NASL days, and the sponsor logo is done in the same style that company used in 1979, when it started regular service in Portland.

While we appreciate the retro spirit and the honorary details, the uniform is a little bland, and the collar makes the shirt look like a tennis (or golf) get-up.

The Timbers have produced 2,012 limited-edition “box sets” that include an authentic third jersey, a Timbers scarf (made of 100 % recycled cotton), and a collectible gift box featuring a photo collage of historic Timbers images. They’re available at the Timbers store at JELD-WEN Field or online at the team site for the next six days.

Darlington Nagbe’s Juggling Volley Named Goal of the Year

There were plenty of fantastic goals in MLS this year—more, it seemed, than in any other of the league’s 16 seasons. From Adam Moffat’s long-distance rockets to Juan Agudelo’s flip-and-rip golazo to Eric Hassli’s audacious volley, voters had a surplus of worthy candidates for 2011 Goal of the Year.

In the end, they went with this bit of magic from Portland rookie Darlington Nagbe, and it’s hard to argue with the choice:

Nagbe is just the second rookie in league history to win the Goal of the Year award, following former Chicago striker Damani Ralph, who won it in 2003.

D.C. Ties Portland, Misses Playoffs for Franchise-Record Fourth Straight Season

It was not for lack of effort, but the Black and Red will miss out on the postseason for a fourth consecutive year and the seventh time since they last won the title in 1999.

With the score tied 1-1, United threw everything they had at Portland in the waning moments of the game, but could not find the winner needed to keep their playoff chances alive. “That’s the way you want to go down,” coach Ben Olsen told the Washington Post, “every guy basically not being able to walk after the game. I’m proud of that fact.”

The final minutes of the game were like a heavyweight bout in which two weary fighters have dropped their defenses and are simply looking to land a haymaker. The midfield disappeared and the teams traded chances on goal in a thrilling end-to-end homestretch. DC thought they had the crucial winner in the 89th minute, but Blake Brettschneider was offside when he headed in Dwayne De Rosario’s cross.


The result keeps Portland (and Chicago) alive with one game to play, but to qualify, the Timbers need New York to lose to Philadelphia tonight (a tie will eliminate Portland), and will have to win at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Chicago’s odds are even longer: they need to win their finale against Columbus, then have Portland lose or tie at Salt Lake and New York lose big against Philadelphia—big enough for the Fire to overcome a five-goal deficit in goal difference.

DC, Portland Miss Opportunities In Playoff Chase

Playing at home, with a chance to gain an advantage over New York in the playoff race, both DC United and the Portland Timbers surrendered leads and stumbled to ties, against Chivas USA and San Jose, respectively.

In DC, the Black-and-Red took a 2-0 lead through Dwayne De Rosario and Ethan White, only to give up two second-half goals to Chivas striker Juan Pablo Angel.

De Rosario then had a penalty saved by the Goats’ superhero goalkeeper, Dan Kennedy, and the match ended 2-2, leaving DC one point behind New York in the playoff standings instead of one ahead.

At Portland’s usually impregnable fortress known as JELD-WEN Field, the home team took a 1-0 lead after rookie Darlington Nagbe set up Kenny Cooper nine minutes in. But the Timbers couldn’t add to their lead, and San Jose tied it up in the 70th on Khari Stephenson’s seeing eye shot from the top of the box.

Had they won, the Timbers would have been three points clear of New York in the tenth and final playoff spot.

As it is, they have a one-point edge heading into their pivotal visit to Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.

(DC has two games in hand on both New York and Portland. Click here for the current playoff standings.)

Hurricane Irene Forces MLS Schedule Changes

The DC United–Portland game scheduled for tomorrow evening was moved up from a 7:30 p.m. start to a 2:00 afternoon kickoff, and both of Sunday’s MLS matches, including the sold-out New York–Los Angeles match, were postponed to later dates as the league anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irene along the Eastern seaboard.

Citing “general public safety concerns,” MLS made the following schedule changes (courtesy of

D.C. United vs. Portland Timbers (at RFK Stadium)
NOW: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m. ET*
WAS: Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET

*Major League Soccer, in collaboration with D.C. United and Portland Timbers, will continue to monitor the path of Hurricane Irene before making a final determination as to the status of the game between both clubs, originally scheduled for Saturday at 7:30pm ET at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

A further update on the status of this game will be provided by 12:00 p.m. ET tomorrow (Friday).

UPDATE: This game has now been postponed. Reschedule date is TBD.

Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution (at PPL Park)
NOW: Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 8:00 p.m. ET (Galavisión)
WAS: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET (Galavisión)

New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy (at Red Bull Arena)
NOW: Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
WAS: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

Red Bulls GM Soler Issues Statement on Refereeing in Portland Game (But Henry’s Red Was Deserved)

The New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers played to a wild, back-and-forth 3-3 draw last night at JELD-WEN Field.

Here are the highlights, with the not-even-trying-to-hide-their-bias local announcers (one of whom is former Jamaica international Robbie Earle, who scored that nation’s first ever goal in the World Cup finals. The more you know….):

Absent from the clip are a penalty miss (off the post) by Jack Jewsbury that would have put the Timbers up 4–2, a bicycle-kick goal-line clearance by Teemu Tainio, and a red card issued to Thierry Henry in stoppage time for smacking the head of Portland midfielder Adam Moffat.

Yes, it was an eventful, strange game. And here’s perhaps the oddest occurrence: New York was whistled for 25 fouls to Portland’s five.

There’s home-field advantage, Red Bulls GM Erik Soler has apparently decided, and then there’s … WTF?

Today, Soler issued the following statement regarding the match:

“We have carefully reviewed the film of our match against Portland last night and I can safely say that the level of refereeing was absolutely below the standards of what is required for a MLS match and completely unacceptable. First, the red card given to Thierry Henry was inexplicable. There was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever and this decision was made by a linesman who was more than half a field away. Second, in any soccer game, there is no way that one team can draw 20 more fouls than the other team, especially in a match where one team drew just five fouls. I have never seen this occur in my 30 years in the game.

“We are aware that U.S. Soccer and MLS are working hard to improve the officiating in this country and we support those efforts wholeheartedly. However, if we want to continue increasing the level of play, we cannot let these types of refereeing performances occur. We look forward to speaking with the League to appeal Thierry’s automatic red card suspension and expect that it will be rescinded so that he is available for our match Thursday in Seattle.”

As for the imbalance in foul calls—and just five being called on the home side—Soler has a valid point. That’s more than an anomaly.

As for Henry’s red card, it’s true that the linesman who helped the ref make the call was not right on top of the play, but the statement “there was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever” is demonstrably false.

Click here to take a look at the clip.

Henry does the time-tested “Yeah, yeah, we’re good, man” multiple pats on the head delivered with enough force to suggest exactly the opposite.

It’s a first cousin of the “Here, let me help you up” move seen so often on soccer fields that actually communicates “Get up, a—hole, I barely touched you.”

If it were Henry’s only borderline action of the game (or his brief MLS career), we’d say it deserved a yellow at most.

But Henry—who had an incredible game, by the way—was on the edge for much of the match, getting in little cheap shots here and there and twice planting his knee in the backs of Portland defenders while going for headers.

In that context, the red makes more sense—and regardless of the situation, Henry did strike an opposing player.

We’d be surprised if the league agreed with Soler (and 86% of the respondents to the MLS poll on the topic) and appealed the Frenchman’s automatic one-game suspension, making him available for Thursday’s game at Seattle.

Besides, with his sore knees, does Henry really want to play two FieldTurf games in a row?

Seattle vs Portland: That Was Then….

The sudden-death overtime NASL playoff thriller at Portland’s sold-out Multnomah Stadium in 1975:

This Is Now:

Stoking the flames for tomorrow night’s first MLS meeting between the fierce Northwest rivals at what is sure to be a sold-out, rocking Qwest Field (11:00 pm EST, ESPN2):

The Skinny:

Seattle (3-3-4) and Portland (4-3-1) are tied with 13 points in the middle of the Western Conference standings. Portland has not won on the road in four tries this season.

Seattle enters the game with some injury concerns as striker O’Brian White (leg surgery) and winger Steve Zakuani (broken leg) are out, while midfielders Mauro Rosales (hamstring) and Brad Evans (quadriceps) are questionable. The Timbers have all of their first-choice players available.

Seattle have been notorious slow starters in their three years of MLS existence, going 1-4-7 alltime in the month of May. Pay attention to Portland’s set pieces tomorrow night; seven of the Timbers’ 11 goals this year have come from corners or free kicks.

Fun fact: Sounders FC defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Portland striker Jorge Perlaza are cousins.

Bonus clip:

Pregame of that 1975 playoff tilt (we really need more houndstooth in our wardrobe. And collars, wider collars.):

Finally, click here for a great article in the Wall Street Journal about the reborn rivalry.

Choice quote:

“They’re hippies,” said Seattle fan Nic Greer, a 32-year-old garbage man with a lip ring who wears a chicken mask on his head to every game and a jersey that reads “Chicken Man” across the back.

Hat-tip to Prison Mike for the WSJ story.

Let’s see some predictions in the comments, and enjoy the game.