BY JOHN ACE
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been documenting my search for an MLS team, similar to how Dan Conover has done with the EPL. You can see the two previous installments of my search here for part one, and here for part two. You can also start reading Dan’s quest for an EPL team here if you haven’t already.
And now it’s time to end my search. I’ve gotten many comments on how “the team chooses me. I don’t choose the team.” I know this, but like my other sports teams, I will pick this team, and I’ll stick by this team. With that in mind, I’ll get down to business.
GFP (Good Fanbase Points): 8
GPR (Good Play Rating): 4
BB (Bully Box): No. No player on the TFC roster got more than seven yellows last year. Part of this may be down to their manager, former Blackburn, Tottenham, and Queens Park Rangers defender Ryan Nelson who rarely got booked himself as a player.
Pros: Due to their strong presence in the early years of the Carolina Challenge Cup, I know many of the Red Patch Boys. Particularly a guy called Dave Leet, who’s also a Liverpool fan.
This has given me an insight into the club and its supporters, and prior to writing this article, I’d said if I ever followed an MLS team, Toronto would probably be it.
Cons: Despite having a near perfect fanbase, TFC are one of the weakest teams in MLS. But they do, however, have Ryan Richter, a former Battery player, on their roster. Ryan, aka “Shaq” has made 13 appearances for TFC since joining last season, and was one of the players vital to the Battery winning the USL title in 2012.
Another thing going for TFC is their recent acquisition of Micheal Bradley and Jermain Defoe to help to change their fortunes in the league. A midfielder of Bradley’s quality, can help any team, while Defoe has been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League, wherever he’s gone.
Despite all the great things about TFC, and the love I have for the RPB… I just can’t see myself a part of all of it. There’s something off about them and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Pros: The Timbers Army is mental. Completely mental. I love the atmosphere at Jeld-Wenn almost as much as I like the atmosphere at some of the English grounds… I could liken it to St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United in England.
There’s also Timber Joey and before him Timber Jim. Some people think the wood-cutting thing is a whole load of poo. I think it’s awesome. And it may be a bit weird, but it is tradition. You can’t change something that’s been around for that long. It dates back to Portland’s NASL days, and there comes a time where you just can’t mess with tradition. If someone took “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Liverpool, there’d be an uproar. It’s the same case here.
Ever since their first season in MLS, and even besides that in the USL, Portland have been exciting to watch. Their manager, Caleb Porter is young, ambitious, and drives the team well. He’s the closest MLS has to Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool, (and yes, I know, I made that comparison with Brad Davis and Steven Gerrard last article. I’m a Liverpool fan, it always comes out somehow.)
Cons: Maybe the fact that they’re on the West coast, we’re on the East. Time difference when watching PTFC would be a problem, but I do it for the Battery. I also do it for Liverpool if they tour Asia and Australia, as they did during Pre-season this year.
So, for Portland… Great Fanbase is a yes, Good Football is a yes… What’s not to love?
BB: No. Lee Nguyen got seven yellows, but that’s average. Dimitry Imbongo-Boele got three red cards, but two were 2nd yellows… I still wouldn’t count them as bullies.
Pros: Ex-Liverpool player Steve Nichol was their manager once upon a time, and led the team to five MLS Cup finals, however. he didn’t win any of them. He did, however, win them a US Open Cup and a now defunct CONCACAF SuperLiga title. The Kraft Family owns both the Revs, and my NFL team The New England Patriots, so that could be viewed as a plus.
Cons: Ever since Nichol’s departure in 2011, the team has been under a period of re-building. Jay Heaps is now their boss, with Lee Nguyen and Charlie Davies being New England’s linchpins of late, with ex-Battery player O’Brien Woodbine also on the roster. The Revs haven’t made any moves in recent years, and look to be going nowhere. Despite this, the Revs have, by all accounts, had a great 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
Pros: The Crew were one of the first teams in MLS, and have been with the league for all 18 seasons. They also beat the Battery out for the first American Soccer-Specific Stadium in 1999 by one week. They’re also regular entrants in the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Cons: Why do I not like the Crew? Maybe it’s because of the stadium thing I mentioned above. Maybe it’s because Eddie Gaven totally let down American soccer, maybe it’s because they’re one of those teams who just can’t seem to do much of anything anymore.
Jim Lynch said before the publishing of this series that the Crew might get an “honorable mention”, and I suppose they have, but out of all the sides I picked to finish the series, the Crew were the least likely to win my affection.
In conclusion: Unlike Dan’s article, which was posted in the middle of the EPL season, I can make a decision, as the MLS season doesn’t start until March.
In the end, it was difficult to choose… I had been thinking about it for a long time, thinking Seattle, Portland, Toronto, and New England all had a decent shot of being the club I could call my own, and I took Seattle out of the running in the last article.
With all this being said, I can finally say that I have chosen the Portland Timbers as my MLS team. In actuality, I always felt drawn to them, because to me they embody the closest club the MLS will ever get to perfect.
I now have the coming MLS season to look forward to with my new-found team, and look forward to it I do. Portland had a very good 2013, and look to only improve. I’m excited to see what happens.