can it be that the national football league is over? this is truly a great day--it means eight months without roided out television commentators, who, as my mother-in-law so astutely pointed out, do little more than yell really fast as they talk over each other while stating the obvious amidst a cacophony of bursting suit buttons. it means no robots jumping around on the television screen trying to enlist the attention of viewers who already suffer from attention deficit disorders. it means peace. it means quiet. it means parking spaces in my neighborhood are no longer a premium on sunday afternoons. it means real football is about to return to the televisions and the roided-out commentators with muscles that stretch the seams of their suits are to now be replaced by a ginger commentator with an ego that rivals those muscles. and it means the timbers now step to the forefront of topics discussed around water coolers in the greater portland metro-area.
already the disruptions in pre-season training are happening. it should be no surprise that, but for a small event that occurs every four years in europe, i have no patience for international football. i know that it is a rather unpopular opinion to hold in a country that found its attraction to real football developed from following the united states men's national team, but i feel international football is as useless an experiment of patriotism as the super bowl is a great way to pass 5 hours of the perfectly good sunday afternoon. needless to say, i was dismayed when i read that our new number 9 and the current number one keeper had headed off to assist jamaica in the pursuit of disappointment. how the participation in a lost cause could actually improve the standard of play for the timbers in 2013 is my primary concern.
this last weekend, will johnson discussed some of the intangible benefits of remaining together in pre-season camp. he describe how the group of players have grown together and how important that experience is to bringing the players together as a team:
We get to see each other more, go out to some dinners and stuff, see each other around the hotel and have some more team meals together. I think that’s a positive. I think that’s why they bring us down here. We’re definitely getting to see some of the guys, get to know each other a little bit, start to make some friends on the team. Like I said, it’s a cool experience and I haven’t had this experience in the league in a long time.
building friendships and bonds between players only enforces the desire to fight for each other when the matter counts. and johnson recognizes the advantage to a continued pre-season seclusion:
We have to come together quickly because as a team because we’ll accomplish good things if we’re able to stay together and work together.
invariably, players head off to international duty and return injured and unable to contribute to the clubs that pay their wages. while the loss of ricketts to international football may not affect the timbers (and if he returned injured, which is highly likely given his injury record), the loss of ryan johnson to injury could prove a minor undoing of what the timbers want to accomplish this coming season. he has now had 11 days to adapt to and learn porter's system, as well as adapt to and learn idiosyncracies of his teammates. porter may be impressed by the understanding that has developed between johnson, valeri, and nagbe, but that understanding is now going to suffer an unavoidable set back thanks to the call of international football.
the next player most likely to step into johnson's role is bright dike. most think dike has blossomed since his stint with the nigerian national side. i cannot deny the potential positive effects that goal against catalonia may produce, but after reviewing the last couple games i have not seen the results on display. the optimistic approach to the loss of johnson for the next couple weeks is that now dike must and can learn how to play with valeri and nagbe. obviously, this cannot be damaging to dike's indoctrination to the system, but the loss of johnson is not ideal. especially so, now that porter has alluded to johnson's starting role when he discussed the developing understanding between the three likely starters.
one player i have been impressed with so far during the pre-season is trencito, jose valencia. the kid is good and has that indescribable quality that sets him apart from other players. if a positive could be found in the loss of ryan johnson to the reggae boyz then pushing trencito into the mix with valeri and nagbe might be ticket. unlike dike, whose technical skills have already been questioned by the boss, trencito seems to only require time on the ball to unlock his potential. the timbers have a month before the season begins and 2 weeks without ryan johnson, so i would assume valencia will get some chances to express himself on the pitch and, hopefully, that chance comes with the purported first team.
ok, it's monday; make the most of it.