John Spencer’s job had been on the line for weeks, if you believed reports. That certainly seemed to be the case on June 24, when a home win over Seattle brought word the then-Timbers’ head coach had thanked his players for saving his job.
If true, the thanks seemed more like a joke than a confession. Why acknowledge the rumors? There was no feeling of besiegement around the Timbers – the kind of environment you see as relationships between ownership, staff, players (and sometimes, media) break apart. Take a man from L.A., drop him at training in Beaverton, he wouldn’t have been able to sense anything was wrong.
The home-road results might have had something to do with that. When Portland were in town, they were a happy team. Putting up a 5-2-2 (W-L-T) record at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers always had reason to give the locals a happy face. Away from home, the Timbers were 0-6-2. Still, most of that frustration seeped out on the plane. Add in an off day after returning hope, and then next face the Timbers showed was one of determination: We’ve got to stop being Edward Hyde on the road.
The duality meant Spencer’s termination was always going surprise, even if the move had been rumored. With players content and the Timbers Army scarves up on Morrison Avenue, there was sense of Portlandia-irony to the circling vultures circling. They seemed out of place. Maybe vultures are a thing in Portland now?
The checklist, however – the mental list you go through when assessing whether a coach might be in trouble – didn’t single out Spencer. Results, ideas, attitude, relationships – Spencer wasn’t failing on all fronts.
Usually, by the time an organization decides to change coaches (often making the hard admission that they were wrong to hie him in the first place), almost all of these boxes need to be checked. Coaches have to leave their teams no outs, but with Spencer, most things seemed business as usual:
Dipping/flat lining results
The home-road schism had become worrisome. When Portland beat Seattle and immediately squandered the momentum by being routed in Colorado, the issue took center stage. After the mid-week win over San Jose, the reoccurring theme to everything post-game: How do we do this on the road? As evidenced in Sandy, Spencer still hadn’t figured it out. If anything, the Timbers were regressing, giving one of their worst performances of the year Saturday in Utah.
The broader picture was more promising. The Timbers had scraped their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture, even if they sat on the periphery. They were generally trending upward, and having played some of their best soccer of the year against San Jose (particularly in the first half), the silver lining on Spencer’s cloud was thickening.
But in that game, Portland again had troubles closing out the match. They looked shaky and desperate as they tried to hold their one goal lead. Most teams have looked the same against San Jose late in matches, but for Portland, it brought back early season memories of late match gaffs that pushed them to the Western Conference basement.
Lack of ideas
It seemed Spencer was trying to find the right combination. Darlington Nagbe has played everywhere in attack. Jack Jewsbury went from central midfielder to right back. Rodney Wallace went from left back to left wing. Everybody in the organization was a potential solution to the team’s width issues.
When the team showed improvement and started climbing the standings, Spencer’s tinkering slowed down. Until then, Spencer never stopped trying.
The roster’s very limited, having very few natural wide players. Kalif Alhassan has been injured for most of the season, and until his strong showing against San Jose, Frank Songo’o had given mixed results. The lack of options meant there was only so much tweaking Spencer could do. No matter how he lined his team up, the weaknesses were going to be the same.
Lost the players
If a team goes into a slump, that’s a problem. If the players don’t believe they can recover, that’s a crisis. A coach can’t lose the dressing room in the best of times. When the team is struggling, it becomes a clear reason to move on.
Portland didn’t seem to have those problems. The players attitude toward Spencer hadn’t change. The respect was there. Occasionally a player would implicitly question a decision, but it rare, and there were no rebellions.
Troy Perkins’ comments after Saturday’s game were as strong as you’ll read, but there’s no singling out the coach:
“There were times we did what we wanted to do, and there were times when we completely had the blinders on. The first hour was okay. I felt the second half we were just chasing the game. We didn’t hold the ball up enough to get guys out and when we did we were too slow to get up.”
“It’s great when we’re at home, sure. At some point, you have to draw the line and say enough is enough. Everyone’s got to say it, do it, believe it, and whether or not we win at home doesn’t matter. At this point we’ve got to win on the road.”
Perhaps the Timbers front office wasn’t as openly supportive of Spencer as they’d been in the past, but given how the team’s performed this season, it would have seemed overcompensating if owner Merritt Paulsen trumpeted Spencer’s virtues on Twitter. Given the team’s expectations, the tone was appropriately reserved, and if there was conflict created from above, Spencer hadn’t given any hint.
That’s not to say everything was perfect, but the kind of cracks you normally see when a relationship deteriorates weren’t there. Every struggling team has tensions. Portland’s weren’t profound.
Verdict: Maybe, leaning toward no
Coach behavior showing cracks
Behind the scenes, who knows, but John Spencer’s public face always reflected his team’s struggles more than his own. When they improved, he expressed support. When they struggled, he criticized. Nothing seemed disproportionate. There were no meltdowns, shutdowns – nothing out of the ordinary. He led with the same direct, honest intensity that he’d shown all year. At no point did he tense up, start pointing fingers, or otherwise throw people under the bus. If he was fighting for his job, he didn’t take that fight public.
Failure to meet expectations
Coming into the 2012 campaign, competing for the playoffs was expected. The subtext of those expectations: We’re going to the playoffs! It was something that was constantly mentioned at the beginning of the season, the optimism surrounding last season’s strong finish carried over into the new campaign. Now in mid-summer, it only occasionally comes up.
Setting aside the fairness of those expectations, they were there, particularly after Kris Boyd was inked to a big money deal. If Portland competed for the postseason with a misfiring Kenny Cooper, surely Boyd will push the Timbers into the playoffs. At least, that was the logic.
Portland’s still in the playoff picture, but they haven’t performed like a playoff team. They probably have not performed like ownership envisioned. That vision undoubtedly includes a consistent, upward trajectory. Expansion teams don’t want to level off in their second season. The first season is a baseline upon which you have to improve. Unfortunately, the results say the Timbers were still in expansion mode.
That the checklist paints a mixed picture explains why the move’s been met with mild surprise. Were it not for last month’s rumors, Spencer’s dismissal may have caught everybody off guard. You sit down and think about it and say Yeah, I guess Portland is struggling, but there was little in the day-to-day happenings that suggested Spencer would go. No fan discontent. No curious leaks in local media. No tension around the club.
Those my be symptoms of an idyllic existence: A new MLS team with a reverent, gregarious support capable of weathering these storms. That might not be good enough for an ownership group that paid high price to enter Major League Soccer.
If Spencer’s termination does nothing else, it at least sends a message to the entire organization: 2012 has not been good enough.
Chivas vs Tigres: How to watch live, stream link, updates
Tied at 0-0 from the first leg of the final in San Nicolas on Thursday, the advantage is with red-hot Chivas as their stunning recent form saw them win their final four games of the Clausura regular season to finish third in the table before beating Atlas and Club America in the playoffs.
Victor Guzman and Alexis Vega are Chivas’ main attacking threats as they will keep it tight defensively and the energy of the home crowd at Akron Stadium should be a huge help as Chivas aim to win their first Clausura title since 2017, when they also beat Tigres in the final.
Tigres finished seventh in the Clausura standings and beat Toluca and Monterrey to reach the final. The duo of Sebastian Cordova and Andre-Pierre Gignac are their main hope of winning on the road in Guadalajara and lifting the trophy.
Below is everything you need for Chivas vs Tigres, one of whom will be crowned as the Clausura champions on Sunday.
Borussia Dortmund gave the Bundesliga title to heated rivals Bayern Munich on a shocking final day in the Bundesliga, a stunning collapse that left a ready-to-party Westfalenstadion in mourners’ status.
Bayern took an early lead through Kingsley Coman at Koln and Dortmund went down 2-0 in the first half versus Mainz, missing a penalty that would’ve tied the score at 1.
Dortmund entered the day with the table lead and dominated Mainz to the tune of 26-7 in shots and 3.64-0.62 in expected goals, but Andreas Hanche-Olsen and Karim Onisiwo’s goals were enough as only Giovanni Reyna’s set-up of Raphael Guerreiro got Dortmund on the board in a 2-1 loss.
Koln briefly gave hope with a penalty equalizer in the 80th minute versus Bayern, but Jamal Musiala’s 89th-minute goal put the defending champions back in front.
Dortmund would’ve won the league by matching or bettering Bayern’s result and but Instead hand an 11th-straight Meisterschale to the Bavarians. No one has won more German top-flight titles than Bayern’s 33.
BVB remains on eight Bundesliga titles and remains one behind Nurnberg, which has not won since 1968.
MAINZ TAKE LEAD AT DORTMUND 🇩🇪 If results hold, Bayern win 11th straight German title. Bundesliga scriptwriters trying to one-up Premier League counterparts.pic.twitter.com/dXn5Ruk5If
Luton Town overcame a blown lead in regulation to earn a place in the Premier League by outlasting Coventry City in penalties during Saturday’s playoff final at Wembley Stadium.
USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath watched as Fankaty Dabo’s penalty sailed over the goal to give the Hatters a 6-5 win after 120 minutes ended 1-1 and neither team missed on 11-straight attempts from the spot.
In 2018 Luton and Coventry were both in the fourth-tier of English football. Now Luton is joining Sheffield United and Burnley in the top flight.
Jordan Clark scored Luton Town’s goal, while Gustavo Hamer leveled the line for Coventry City.
Coventry City vs Luton Town as it happened:
GOAL! Luton’s taken the first five shots of the match and now one’s found the back of the goal. It’s Jordan Clark who belts home in the 23rd minute to put the Hatters on top! Luton Town, 1-0
CHANCE! It’s Elijah Adebayo, who assisted the opener, who can’t quite get a very decent chance right, as Luton is looking to put an early vice grip on the final. Still 1-0, 30′.
Shots are up to 9-0 in favor of the Hatters but the total xG is still below 1.00. Coventry has to wake up, but maybe they’d take getting to halftime down one at this point.
The 11th shot of the game is Coventry’s, and it’s a high volley that slashed over the goal. Off-balance and improbable, but Coventry will be hopeful it’s a sign that they’re coming into the affair; Soon after, a rush is bungled but into the Luton third.
HALFTIME: Luton Town 1, Coventry City 0 — (Clark 23′)
SECOND HALF: Coventry has more of the ball and is building off its late first half, but Luton looks well-drilled into its system despite the concession of some set pieces.
Good news on a scary-looking injury for Luton star Tom Lockyer:
We are able to report that after collapsing on the pitch, Tom Lockyer has been taken to hospital for further tests.
He is responsive and talking to his family, who are with him.
GOAL! And the Sky Blues are level! It’s Brazilian-born Dutch youth international Gustavo Hamer who has it so with a solid finish, though the playmaking’s come from star performer Viktor Gyokeres. It’s all on now at Wembley! 1-1, 66′
A dangerous free kick in stoppage time for Luton after a very questionable foul, but fate makes sure this one doesn’t end with ignominy. Are we headed for penalties? Extra time is almost certain deep in stoppage.
xG is basically even after 90 minutes, as are shot attempts, and anything can happen when it comes to the 20th berth in the 2023-24 Premier League season.
END OF 90: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
INJURY! USMNT keeper Ethan Horvath is down for treatment 11 minutes into the first frame of extra time, which has otherwise been a scrappy period. Looks like he’s going to try to continue despite dropping to the pitch after a long goal kick.
END OF FIRST ET PERIOD: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
Not much happened there. Nerves? Can someone seize history in the next 15 or will we go to pens?
NO GOAL! Joe Taylor has it in the goal for Luton off a bad giveaway but VAR, not used in the regular season, spots a handball and the Hatters won’t win it here. We’re going to penalties.
END OF SECOND ET PERIOD: Coventry City 1, Luton Town 1 — (Clark 23′, Hamer 66′)
Horvath was a penalty hero for the USMNT in the CONCACAF Nations League against Mexico, while well-traveled Ben Wilson is between the sticks for Coventry. Here we go…
X Carlton Morris goal for Luton 1-0
X Matty Godden goal for Coventry 1-1
X Taylor goal for Luton 2-1
X Viktor Gyokeres goal for Coventry 2-2
X Marvelous Nakamba goal for Luton 3-2
X Ben Sheaf goal for Coventry 3-3
X Jordan Clark goal for Luton 4-3
X Josh Eccles goal for Coventry 4-4
X Luke Berry goal for Luton 5-4
X Liam Kelly goal for Coventry 5-5
X Daniel Potts goal for Luton 6-5
X Fankaty Dabo miss for Coventry 6-5
Coventry City vs Luton Town player ratings: Stars of the Show
The managers and star players
Luton Town boss Rob Edwards left rival club Watford in November and the risky maneuver has paid off for the coach and club. Viktor Gyokeres is the club’s 21-goal scoring hero and he’s chipped in 11 assists as well, and Gustavo Hamer has been sensational as well.
Coventry City manager Mark Robins has been with the club since 2017 and it’s been up-up-up. Carlton Morris leads the way with 20 goals, while Alfie Doughty and Tom Lockyer have been key players, too, with Lockyer scoring in three of the Hatters’ last four matches.
Championship playoff schedule, how to watch, updates
Dates: Final – Saturday, May 27 at 11:45am ET Updates: Via scoreboard on NBCSports.com How to watch: ESPN+
Can Manchester United’s new-look side keep its place in the top four? What about Newcastle? Is Tottenham going to turn things around to claim a place or will another new name, Brighton or Aston Villa, make their claim? Liverpool’s not out of this, either…
How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package? Can Chelsea salvage any pride from the season? Who will stay up in the congested scrap against relegation?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When did the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers