This time last week, the Portland Timbers were reeling. Stuck in a losing streak and fresh off a disappointing defeat to their most bitter rivals, rumors about job security for head coach and star players alike began to swirl, and things ... were a tad tense.
Last Thursday, when a television reporter guy asked John Spencer a question similar to one asked earlier in the week, Spencer’s eyes burned. The query: Did Chicago (winners of two matches all season) present Portland the best opportunity to end its losing skid?
Not exactly a "gotcha" question, but Spencer wasn't about to start putting an opponent below his team, which hadn't tasted victory in more than 50 days.
“Why? Why would it be?” Spencer asked, leaning forward and fixing his stare. “Why would you say that? I think that’s an uneducated question, to be honest with you. There’s no easy games in this league. I keep saying that.”
Edgy? Yeah, that might be a good way to describe things around Timberland the third full week in July, before Portland went in and beat Chicago 1-0 on Saturday to snap its seven-match winless skid and give the whole organization a much-needed first road victory.
The Timbers struck first, had great keeper play, held up despite injury and took full advantage of a red card and some lucky bounces to finally end their road drought. And with an exhibition against English club West Bromwich Albion at 8 tonight at Jeld-Wen Field, the Timbers can "take a deep breath" before hitting the road again to face Columbus on Saturday:
But first things first. Tonight's match brings an 130-year-old English Premiere League club with both a crop of current talent and some pretty awesome nicknames.
The "Baggies" or (my personal favorite) "Throstles" feature Russian-born Nigerian star (not a lot of those guys out there, I'm thinking) Peter Odemwingie, the team's top scorer and a World Cup participant. West Brom, coming off a sufficient 11th place finish in EPL last year and a bizarre loss to San Jose on July 12 also features Irish international Steven Reid and captain Chris Brunt.
All in all, as Capt. Jack said, tonight's match is a nice breather for Portland. It's a chance to bask in some love from fans after a big win and perhaps even showcase some reservists with the transfer window open.
More video with Spencer (watch him lambast another reporter for a non-silenced smarty phone!) and Eric Brunner (what kind of texts will he receive this week?) after the jump, plus EXTRA TIME links to get you set for tonight's match. Also, LIVE-BLOGGING later!
Portland defender Eric Brunner will face his former club for the second time this season on Saturday when the Timbers hit the road to meet Columbus. Brunner missed the Chicago victory after receiving a red card against Seattle and is undoubtedly eager to return against his hometown team. He talks Tuesday about watching Portland's first road win at Chicago, how the defense stepped up in his absence and whether he expects any text messages this week leading up to Saturday's road test:
Spencer talks Tuesday about getting a bit of luck against Chicago, continually working to deny shots, his lineup tinkering and the learning curve of young players:
EXTRA TIME! Links to get you properly throstled before first kick.
• Scouting West Brom? Check out these video highlights of their last exhibition match, against the Ventura County Fusion.
• Elvis has left the building, but West Brom reporter Steve Madeley of the Express & Star is just getting here.
• Albion boss Roy Hodgson suggests the Timbers should keep an eye on Sam Mantom and George Thorne.
• Jewsbury has been named to the MLS All-Star gameday roster, joining Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA), Brad Davis (Houston ), Shalrie Joseph (New England) and Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA) at midfield.
• After the big road win, Troy Perkins and Kalif Alhassan were named to MLSsoccer.com's team of the week, while Perkins and Diego Chará made Goal.com's list.