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Six Degrees: And So It Begins

Word Count 3, DeMann 0

Craig Mitchelldyer, Portland Timbers

Tuesday was the first day of training, so in a way, the season’s started. Huzzah!

1) Vacations are over, players are back in town, and everyone’s getting themselves into shape. But more interesting than the fitness things are the tactical things. In those closed-door meetings where Gio Savarese tells the players his vision for 2019, what do you think he’s saying?

  • “We’re gonna absorb and counter, just like last year?”
  • “We gonna aim for 60% possession every game, let the other team chase the ball for 90 minutes?”
  • “We’re gonna press like mofos, make every ball a 50/50 challenge?”

If I were to make predictions, I’d say Gio’s gonna take baby steps. The personnel hasn’t changed all that much, so we can’t suddenly become the high-pressing 90 minutes of hell New York Red Bulls. But a little less bunkering? Something closer to 50% possession? Yeah, I could see that.

2) But our personnel isn’t entirely decided yet. Gavin Wilkinson spoke with the media on Tuesday, saying how the team was targeting an attacking player and it would be the most expensive signing in Timbers history.

To me, the most interesting bits of the interview are how Gavin wants someone young, he wants someone who can play forward or winger, and he doesn’t want to block Jeremy Ebobisse’s progress.

We’ll have to take him at his word that Jebo will get a fair shot, but history makes me question this. It’s very difficult for teams to sit their highest paid players. It happens, but it’s rare. So when you throw huge money at a new player, you better be damn sure he’s going to work out.

Which is why I question throwing big money at a young guy with lots of upside. Lucas Melano was a young guy with lots of upside, and we know how that turned out. I’m wondering if maybe it’s smarter to make your high upside guys young and cheap. Pay the big bucks to older, surer things. Roll the dice with small contracts, not big ones.

What do you think of that idea? Let me know in comments.

3) So, who exactly are these two targets Gavin’s looking at? From what I’ve seen on the interwebs, they’re Ezequiel Ponce from AEK Athens in Greece and Julián Quiñones from Tigres in Mexico.

Are they good? Ponce’s hard to tell. He’s crushing it right now for AEK Athens – 10 goals in 15 games – but he’s not-crushed it for a lot of teams before this.

I know less about Quiñones, but smart people seem to like him. Tigres has got a hell of a team, so maybe they’re so loaded they can sell super-talented attackers.

Do any of you have strong opinions about these two? Do you think I’m wrong to be worried about throwing big money at young guys with potential? Please let me know down in the comments. I want reasons to feel good about whichever player we get.

4) Did you see this tweet about Diego Valeri on Saturday? Timbers Nation had a tiny little freakout over it.

On Tuesday, Valeri addressed it with the media (5:50 mark).

Here are my thoughts. I think it would be weird and sad seeing him play his last few years for another team, but if I’m honest, it would also be weird and sad to see him here in Portland, playing his last few years as an older, slower, much-diminished player coming off the bench. And then eventually not coming off the bench. That’s what happens to all great players, it’ll happen to Valeri, too, and it will be weird and sad for all of us.

Will it happen here in Portland or somewhere else? Will there be some tough meetings in the front office where Gavin Wilkinson asks Diego to take a pay cut because of his reduced status on the team? Will he retire a year too early or a year too late?

It’s incredibly rare for a great athlete’s career to end perfectly. No matter where Valeri’s playing when his career winds down, we’ll be sad, he’ll be sad, everyone will be sad. If being in Argentina makes it a little easier for him and his family, then that’s what he should do. I hope that day is a long time in the future.

5) I am many kinds of nerd. I’m a soccer nerd, obviously. I’m also a music nerd, a book nerd, and a science nerd.

Two of my stranger nerd-labels? Stadium nerd and construction site nerd. So you can imagine how I feel about the construction over at Providence Park. It’s like crack cocaine for me.

And where do I get my daily hit? The construction company’s webcam. It updates every 15 minutes, so you can watch the construction progress, step by step. Here’s a screenshot from Wednesday morning.

I’ve been obsessing over this webcam the entire winter, sometimes hitting it up 10-15 times a day, just to what tiny bits of progress they’re making. It’s a sickness. Please send help.

I’m also strung out on @bobthebuilder4u on Twitter. He posts a video almost every day, giving play-by-play on what the workers are doing. Here’s what he posted this morning.

Anybody else out there rocking the stadium nerd/construction site nerd combo, or is it just me?

6) When the construction’s finally done and those Eastside terraces are ready to go, imma be one of the people sitting up there, and, unsurprisingly, I have many thoughts. Today’s thought: are we gonna get a TA name? You know, like how the TA in Texas call themselves the “Lone Star Brigade?” Or the folks up in Seattle are the “TA Covert Ops?” I love that shit.

So what should we call ourselves up in the terraces? Eastside Regiment? 18th Street Battalion? 18th Airborne? I like the Airborne theme, since we’re up so high.

Who decides such things? Who’s going to make our banner? And can we make the banner so long that it actually hangs down and blocks the view of the terrace below us? Because that would be kind of funny.

(Word count update: over 1,000 words. I suck at this. Each week it climbs. I’m never getting below 600 words, am I?)