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Twigs: The MLS climate change edition

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MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado midfielder Benny Feilhaber didn’t mince words when talking to the assembled media after Saturday’s 3-3 draw: “It felt like I was back in fifth grade playing tackle football on a snow day,” the newly acquired midfielder said. “It didn’t even feel like a real game.”

“Look, as much as it’s fun to watch this,” Feilhaber deadpanned, “I hate playing in this crap.”


Tangent: Saturday’s league record falls far short of the world record. Goal.com put together this brief and illuminating clip about the practicalities of fielding team in Finland at -18c.


Using Saturday’s conditions as a calculus is an unfair gauge to measure the Timbers progress, however. And those points have been made by people smarter, younger, and more handsome than I.

Timbers coach, Giovanni Savarese, broke Saturday’s result down by simply saying, “It’s not good enough to allow this team to score with 10 men.” While Portland’s players and coaches feel points were squandered on Saturday, leaving Colorado healthy and with a point on the ledger is nothing to hang their head about.

Getting points on the road is a task easier said than done, and it continues to get harder every season.

Naturally, many of the these problems are just the reality of travel in this modern age. Major League Soccer spans from coast to coast — an amalgamation of two of the largest countries in the world geographically. Portland is one of the teams most affected by travel, and lengthy travel often means fewer training days.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids
Colorado’s success may just hinge on the acquisitions Kei Kamara and Benny Feilhaber. The two 34-year-olds acquired in the offseason had goals on Saturday.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado is proof how new financial instruments are allowing teams to rapidly improve on the fly.

More importantly, mechanisms like allocation money are allowing teams to spend and build better rosters. Gavin Wilkinson said TAM and GAM were instrumental in helping Portland escape a salary crunch situation, much like the 2016 season. But it’s also allowing teams like Colorado to radically improve in the offseason.

Allowing three goals on Saturday and still getting a point was something Colorado was never able to accomplish in 2018. So it shouldn’t surprise you that Kellyn Acosta was the lone Rapids holdover who scored or assisted on Colorado’s three goals. A late-season acquisition, Acosta had only played in a dozen matches as a Rapid before Saturday.

Thanks to allocation monies, they were able to nab Feilhaber and Kai Kamara on cap-friendly deals. The two 34-year-old MLS veterans were just part of Colorado an aggressive offseason Extreme Makeover: Attacking Soccer Edition, seeking to upgrade an offense that was downright putrid in 2018. How bad? Well:

  • The Rapids failed to score in seven of their last ten games.
  • Finishing with 36 goals in 2018, Colorado joined San Jose and Minnesota as the three Western teams who failed to score 50 goals; San Jose and Minnesota each scored 49 goals in 2018.

Any lessons from Saturday will be on display next time.

I’m looking forward to seeing how mentally sharp Portland can be following a match where they dropped points not once, but twice. Sunday’s contest will be a good test for the team’s mentality as they prepare to face a team that in so many ways — forgive the pun — is the polar opposite of Colorado. LAFC finished with 57 points last year, and they have celebrity owners and a preponderance of green grass.

For perspective, those 57 points match Portland’s best-ever finish in MLS: Caleb Porter’s Porterball team of 2013.

In sum, Sunday’s game will give us a much better pulse on the state of the Timbers than Saturday’s frostbite festival.

Comments contest “[Insert player name] in a van!”

Have you seen the commercial for Stumptown Coffee featuring Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic? It’s fantastic.

I want to know, in the comments (hence the “comments contest”), what would be your pitch for the Dutch Bros./Portland Timbers and/or Thorns equivalent of this commercial? So many possibilities here.