Why the All-Star Game is a Distraction For Timbers

Portland hosts game as part of massive month on MLS, CCL, Cascadia fronts
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, August 01, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

August has arrived, and it is a very big month for the Portland Timbers.

There are 5 matches that could make or break their MLS season. Their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League match takes them to Guyana in the middle of the month. And there’s a pretty big match at Providence Park that most of the players won’t have much to do with.

That match is the MLS All-Star Game, which happens on Wednesday night. Some of the best players from around the league will team up to face Bayern Munich in what is, for the most part, a glorified friendly. But the match will be a showcase for the league and another sign that Portland has become one of the league’s glamour markets, no matter how well the team is doing on the field.

There are plenty of Portland connections with the ASG. Caleb Porter, being the head coach of the ASG’s host club, will be the head coach of the MLS ALL-Stars. He’s played a role in the selection of some of the players and will be a central part of festivities leading up to the match.

Two Timbers are a part of the All-Star team itself. Diego Valeri was a “Commissioner’s Pick”, chosen for the team by MLS Commissioner Don Garber. It will be Valeri’s first playing appearance in the ASG, being injured but on the roster for last year’s game.

Timbers’ captain Will Johnson is also on the team, chosen by Porter as a reserve. This will be his third ASG, but his inclusion has been a subject of debate among Timbers fans on Twitter, as the question of whether he deserved to be on the team based on his 2014 performance was discussed greatly for a number of hours after the announcement was made.

The younger players will also see a bit of the ASG spotlight, as well. The Timbers’ U-23 side will take part in the MLS Homegrown Game on Monday night, facing a select MLS roster of players who are listed as Homegrown Players by their clubs. One of those players that the U-23s will play against is Timbers’ midfielder Steven Evans, who spent 4 seasons with the Timbers’ U-23s while attending the University of Portland, including their undefeated USL PDL championship season in 2010.

Many of the Timbers will likely be a part of ASG festivities, even though they are not playing in the game itself. With events going on throughout the city, from concerts to community events, appearances by Timbers players will likely be many between when they get back from southern California and Wednesday night.

Oh, yes…there’s still a match to be played before the ASG, and it’s a very important one. That a win over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Saturday would be massive for the Timbers is a somewhat of an understatement. It would pull them even on points with the Galaxy, currently sitting on 30 points (though LA has 3 games in hand on Portland) and in a playoff spot. It’s also a nationally televised game on NBC, with the unusual start time of 11:30 am in Carson.

The Timbers need points in every match, as they must keep close to the teams in front of them. Portland wants to forget the July 4 match in SoCal, when an own goal in the 84th minute snagged a 2-2 draw with the Galaxy away from the jaws of victory for the Timbers. They need to finish the job this time, and the distraction of the ASG on Wednesday must somehow be ignored if Portland is to do exactly that. If not, then the playoff run becomes harder for the Timbers.

The match after the ASG is also crucial, as it involves the club immediately behind the Timbers coming to Providence Park. Chivas USA currently sits in 8th in the West, just a point behind Portland. If the Timbers stumble & the Goats beat Columbus on Saturday, then that order could be reversed. Any hangover from ASG festivities must be forgotten and recovered from, as Chivas USA have shown themselves to be quite improved in 2014 over their disastrous 2013 season.

What else does August have for the Timbers? Their first CONCACAF Champions League match, when they play Alpha United in Guyana on August 19. The team will fly from Boston to Georgetown the day after playing at New England (whom they play on August 16), and that trip could be quite an adventure.

It also has 2 Cascadia Cup matches, at home against Seattle on August 24 and at Vancouver on August 30. If there’s any hope for the Cup, the Timbers must win those matches. That they likely will still be battling the Whitecaps for a playoff spot will add extra spice to that match, as well.

All of that is part of a critical month for Portland, on and off the field. Every match gets bigger, and the hope is that the All-Star Game doesn’t become too much of a distraction before, and after, the match.

Because the situation that the Timbers find themselves in on the MLS front is enough of a distraction in itself.

NEXT UP: August 2 – Portland Timbers vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, StubHub Center, Carson, Cal. 2:30 p.m. EST, NBC.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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