Donovan Ricketts

Is one week enough for Portland to shake off the rust?


Our pals over at Soccerly are wondering whether one week is enough for Portland to get rid of the rust that saw the club barely find an equalizer against Philadelphia during last weekend’s home-opening draw at Providence Park.

Can’t blame them, but is their criticism of the Timbers timidity something for Portland fans to worry over?

“Win, lose, or draw, talk of dominance in possession is a recurring theme for Porter during post match press conferences, but unless passes are converted to assists the words can ring hollow, ‘we still had 59 percent of the possession, so we still had a lot of the ball. Still had 15 shots to 10. We were still the better team between the boxes, but we didn’t make a play on a corner.'”

While the Timbers had some new pieces in play, Philly could claim the same — including perhaps their most important piece in Maurice Edu — and had hauled it across the continent for the match. As Soccerly points out, it was an uncharacteristic mistake from Union captain Brian Carroll that kickstarted the match-tying goal.

I don’t think too many people are debating whether the Timbers are for real. They’re also a team that, as I pointed out in the Timbers season preview, tied a heck of a lot of matches last season. That’s good and all, as they aren’t losses, but Porter and company want to make a run at the Supporters Shield. One point is not going to do that, which means they can’t lean on that rust as an excuse.

It’s go time all-the-time with a Portland team in search of all the marbles… and it has to start this weekend with wobbly Chicago. Look for newly-extended Will Johnson to take the reins for a Timbers team aiming at win No. 1 in 2014.

Head to Soccerly for more details on Portland’s opening weekend lethargy and what needs to change.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.