- Jason Davis

John Spencer, the fiery Scottish head coach of the Portland Timbers, is, at the most understated end of the spectrum, expressive. On the sidelines, he's nonstop action; a whirling, cursing, maelstrom of a man alternatively exhorting his charges and berating the referees, adequately meeting every generalized notion of Scottish soccer coaches to which a wide-eyed American soccer public ascribes. Off the field, he doesn't hesitate to let loose with white hot eruptions of pointed commentary invariably tinged Timbers' green and gold. If it didn't seem like he was calculating every word, no matter how sensational they seem, we might call him "volatile."

Spencer held court with assembled media in Portland just yesterday, choosing to hit back at statements made by Sigi Schmid in the aftermath of Saturday's Cascadia derby match in Seattle the Timbers' coach viewed as so many "excuses." Via The Oregonian:

“I’m disappointed with their assessment of the game,” Spencer said Tuesday. “But then that’s their prerogative. I think if it is too wet up there for them to play soccer then they may want to move that franchise because it pisses down rain nearly every time I’ve been in Seattle. Obviously to say that the conditions suit us more than they suit them just blows me away. It seems to me they had 50 excuses before the game written down as to why they never beat us 3 or 4 nil at home.”


“The next time we go up there we’ll take plenty of towels for them so we can dry off the field before the game. Maybe take plenty of tissue paper so they can dry their eyes after the game.”

Wait, he's not done. In response to Schmid pointing out the Timbers might play for set pieces - something they're very good at - Spencer said this:

“I think we’re going to call the league as soon as this training is over and ask them to deduct (other set pieces scored around the league) because it seems Seattle is not happy that teams can score goals from set pieces,” he said.

That attempt at sarcastic wit is far from the most clever thing said by a coach responding to perceived criticism from a rival, but it's not bad either. In fact, it prompts a stupid grin on my face, not because it was funny, but because Spencer said it at all. I don't care if Spencer is flat wrong, taking the piss, winding them up, distorting the facts, missing the point, speaking out of turn, etc., etc., etc. I don't care if John Spencer is myopic, delusional, or just blowing hard. Right and wrong aren't important. What's important is the bit of intrigue the Scot is bringing to a league in desperate of something to fill the void between the games. There are only so many Goal of the Week honors to be won and groused over.

The Sounders-Timbers rivalry doesn't need anymore heat. Spencer's pop off won't move an already pegged Cascadian needle. Sounders fans might take exception with a few of the claims contained within the rant, but the refreshing nature of his rant is more interesting than any of the things he actually said.

More, more, more. More coaches taking shots at their opposite numbers. More back-and-forth between clubs that supposed to not like each other. More billboards in enemy territory, as long as they're backed up by someone of authority with one of the clubs in question lobbing criticism, delusional or otherwise, in the others side's direction. A bit of heat, please.

MLS needs to be more interesting from Sunday to Friday. Outbursts like Spencer's might attract attention from sports fans not otherwise inclined to look in Major League Soccer's direction. Conflict sells.

Again, the Seattle-Portland rivalry doesn't need any additional fuel, so Spencer's comments won't have much effect (other than the usual partisan taking of sides) in that particular corner of the country. But rivalry doesn't have to be local to be a draw.

MLS needs more John Spencers and less of the country club/circle of friends attitude that pervades the coaching ranks. Ridiculously defending your team from imagined slights by persons attached to other teams is a well established tradition in sports, and specifically, soccer. It's high time MLS got a little more interesting.

Now, if only there had been a camera around to capture Spencer's rant and a Worldwide Leader in Sports willing to cover a league they happen to broadcast...

*Updated to add the video. Thanks to Paul in the comments

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