Chris Burkhardt

Handing out grades for the Blazers at Summer League

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USA Today

Handing out grades for the Blazers at Summer League

The Trail Blazers failed to repeat as summer league champions last week, finishing with a 2-3 record as the MGM Resorts Summer League. Of the 14 players on the summer league roster, only four were actually under contract with Portland: Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Nassir Little, and Jaylen Hoard (two-way contract). 

How did those four do? Let's grade them!

Anfernee Simons - Grade: B
Simons had a great summer league showing, but it was unfortunately cut short by an ankle injury. Simons played in just three games, averaging 22 points in those games. His performance in Las Vegas earned him All-NBA Summer League Second-Team honors. However, I don't know if Simons showed the true jump we all wanted him to. Sure, he lit up the scoreboard, but we knew he could do that. Blazers fans really wanted to see how he ran the offense. In that regard, he still has a little work to do. He averaged just 1.7 assists, which is far lower than you want from your point guard.  Once his vision and control catch up to his scoring prowess, Simons will be a force. His biggest weakness is still on the defensive side of the ball, and Summer League showed he has a lot of work to do. All-in-all, it was a great three games for Simons, but he still has some holes to fill.

Gary Trent - Grade: B+
Trent Jr. gets a slightly higher grade than Simons simply because of expectations. We already knew what we had with Simons. He showed it in the final game of the regular season against the Kings. With Trent Jr., we really wanted to see that second-year jump. Trent was a force for the Blazers in five games in Las Vegas. He averaged 20.6 points per game and led the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game at 6.4, 2.6, and 1.4 respectively. He shot just 41% from the floor, which is far lower than the team wants from him, but boy his he a gunner. He has no fear and no hesitation when it comes to taking a shot. Give him the smallest of windows and he will jack it up. Like Simons, he needs to improve on the defensive end, but again, it was a pretty strong performance all-around. 

Nassir Little - Grade: D
Let's start off by first saying that the ceiling is very high for Little. He is an explosive athlete with the potential to change the game on both ends. However, right now he is as raw as they come. He averaged just 3.3 points in four games, which was the fifth-lowest PPG average on the team, and shot a poor 33% from the floor. Of players that averaged 15 or more minutes per game, he had the lowest PPG average. He often looked a step behind on both ends of the floor, struggling to get in the proper spots. For a player that was a projected lottery pick, you would have hoped to have seen better. However, when he did make the right play, it was electric. The kid has bounce and showed it off numerous times with some monster jams. What keeps this from being an F grade is his ability to push the tempo. What I really liked about his game was when he would grab the defensive rebound and quickly push the ball up the floor. It was Draymond Green-esque in that regard. If he can develop quickly and excel in this aspect, he could really change the offensive approach for the Blazers. Just imagine Little pushing the ball, playing point-forward, and finding McCollum and Lillard on the break! The future is still bright with Little, but his summer league was gloomy. 

Jaylen Hoard - Grade: C+
Hoard was the Blazer I was most impressed by in Las Vegas. He wasn't the best player on the floor, but for an undrafted rookie he looked solid. He had a good feel for the game, was in the right place at the right time, and never really forced the issue. He seemed to have a pretty good mind for the game. He is on a two-way contract and outperformed Little, the Blazers' first-round pick. He averaged 8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in five games. 
He didn't do anything exceptionally great, but he didn't do anything exceptionally poor either. While I don't think his ceiling is as high as Little's, he is much more polished as it stands right now. As a two-way player, I find him to be very intriguing. The Blazers have two roster spots open right now. If the Blazers feel they need help as SF/PF as the season progresses and can't find a guy on the open market, Hoard could be a candidate to get the full-time call-up. He still has learning to do, but the foundation is there. He reminds me a lot of Al-Farouq Aminu, but with better ball-handling skills. I'll take that on a rookie contract all day long. 
 

Outsiders Blog: Making a case to bring back Aminu

Outsiders Blog: Making a case to bring back Aminu

Of the many big free agent questions facing the Trail Blazers this offseason, Al-Farouq Aminu may be the biggest (and the most polarizing).

Aminu has underwhelmed in his four seasons with the Trail Blazers, averaging just 9.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. However, over that same stretch, he has been the Blazers best on-ball defender. 

He has his good days and he has his bad days, but has been a staple of the Blazers starting unit since his arrival in 2015.  

Now that he is hitting the free agent market the fan base appears to be on the "let him walk" side of things. Our own Chad Doing loves to argue about how bad Aminu is and it's just not worth it to keep him around.

So, is it worth extending an offer to Chief? 

First, let's look at it from a pure basketball point of view. 

On the court, I don't think it makes much sense. I think the best basketball play is to start the season with Zach Collins at power forward. Collins has been on record saying he prefers to play center, but in the long run, his best path to the starting lineup is playing power forward alongside Jusuf Nurkic. 

You probably aren't going to find a better option than Aminu with limited funds in free agency, but you do have a very good option already on your roster. Let the young buck play. 

However, it may not be that simple. I do feel there is a place where signing Aminu makes sense, and that is the business side of things. 

Regardless of what we feel about his on-court pros and cons, it could be a smart business decision to bring him back. 

Reports are saying that Aminu's agent is asking for somewhere in the $12-14 million range. To me, that's a steep price for Aminu. But what if he hits the market and finds that his value is closer to $8-10 million? If Portland can keep him at that price, you do it. 

The Blazers can go over the cap to keep him, and that $8-10 million can only be used on Aminu. If you don't sign him it's not like you get that money to spend elsewhere. 

All the Blazers currently have to spend on free agents is $5.7 million with the taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE). If you keep Aminu, you have the MLE to work with. If you let Aminu walk, you still only have the MLE to work with, but you also have one more roster spot to fill. 

Also, signing him doesn't mean you are keeping him long term. You would be adding an asset that could be turned around at a later date should you see fit. 

There is no true "negative" to signing Aminu outside of having to pay luxury tax penalties. Penalties that you really shouldn't worry about paying if you hope to repeat last season's success. 

When you consider the business side of it, I don't think it is as cut and dried as waving goodbye as he walks out the door. 

Report: Damian Lillard to have key role in Space Jam 2

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USA Today

Report: Damian Lillard to have key role in Space Jam 2

It has long been known that LeBron James would be starring in a sequel to the 1996 basketball classic Space Jam. A movie famous for Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny still hold sa special place in the hearts of basketball fans. 

While we have known the sequel was coming, we didn't know who would be cast alongside King James. Well, now we know. 

According to Sham Charania of The Athletic, Portland star Damian Lillard will play a key role in the movie. 

Lillard was just six years old when the first Space Jam came out, but a lot has changed in those 23 years. 

He's now a four-time all-star, four-time All-NBA selection, and was the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year. 

As expected, Portland fans were happy to hear the news. 

Outsiders: John Sabine - The great unknown draft prospect

Outsiders: John Sabine - The great unknown draft prospect

We all have dreams. Some big, some small, but dreams the same. Now one of our friends in Chicago is trying to live his - make it in the NBA.

John Sabine has officially entered his name in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Who is John Sabine you ask? Sabine is a fellow Outsider, co-host of Bulls Outsiders in Chicago. He's short by NBA standards, he's slow by any standards, and his strength measurables leave much to be desired. But hey, they also said Kevin Durant was too weak when he entered the NBA and that hasn't hurt him one bit. 

Sabine is laying it all on the line to live the dream. Will an NBA team take the risk and draft him? You can always coach him up and fix his skillset. One thing you can't teach is leadership. By all accounts, Sabine is a class act. The perfect locker room guy. He's not the water boy, but if someone needs a quick drink he won't hesitate to jump up and grab the Gatorade. He's a team-first guy. Sometimes it's that mentality in the team huddle that helps get the squad over the hump.

At the very, very least one of these 30 NBA should at least sign Sabine to their Summer League squad. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. 

Sabine is dreaming, and dreaming big. Here's to hoping he lands on an NBA roster. Just think of the future documentary potential! These are the stories made for TV movies are made of. 

Our Blazers Outsiders took the time to breakdown some of Sabine's training film and you can hear their analysis in the video above.

On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

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USA Today

On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

These NBA Finals have been absolutely amazing. 

One team is trying three-peat while the other team is trying to win its first championship in franchise history. 

It's Steph and Co. vs Klaw and Co.

The North vs The Bay.

U.S.A vs Canada.

No matter how you slice it, the series has been well worth the price of admission and just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it got better.

Like one of those famous Marvel Cinematic Universe end scenes that get you hyped for the next movie and hint at a new character, Twitter started to tease us with the prospect that Kevin Durant could return to play in Game 5. Then the tease turned to reality. KD was a full go. He was about to play superhero. He was going to will the Warriors up from the ashes and the brink of elimination to another championship. 

The story had the making of a Hollywood script. Durant came out on fire. He showed no signs of rust as he torched the Raptors early.  Then in a snap, it all came crashing down. One wrong move and Durant fell to the floor.

It is feared the Durant has torn his Achilles. If that's the case, what a heartbreaking end of the season for one of the greatest players in the game. 

Injuries are the worst part of sports. 

The. Worst.

You know what sucks? Jusuf Nurkic breaking his leg.
You know that sucks? Victor Oladipo rupturing his quad tendon
You what sucks? Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles.

Now I'm not here to place blame like so much of social media was quick to do on Monday night. Was it Golden State's fault? Was it Kevin Durant's fault? Was it your next door neighbors fault? Come on. 

No matter who we choose to blame for this accident, the end result is the same - We don't get to watch one of the most amazing basketball players in the world next season, and even worse, he doesn't get to lace up his shoes and play the games he loves. 

That was my first reaction when I saw the injury Monday night. A man who put it all on the line, who wanted nothing more than to play the game of basketball, had it cruelly ripped away from him on the world's biggest stage. I cared not for the series. I cared not for how this could impact free agency. I cared only for the person on the court wearing the blue No.35 jersey.

Too often we forget that these players are not robots. they are people. Kevin Durant the person will be around long after Kevin Durant the player is gone, so we should really take time to enjoy Durant the player while we can.

We should all be rooting for Durant, because as much we want to make him a basketball villain and pretend like we hate him, deep down we all know we need him. 

It's like the scene in The Dark Knight where Batman says The Joker wants to kill him. Joker's response, "I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you... No, no, you… you complete me." 

Durant completes us.

Why? Because as fans we all love the game of basketball, and the game of basketball is better when the best in the world are suited up. Seeing Durant, arguably the best player the game has to offer, on the court makes the game that much better. 

I hope Durant comes back stronger than ever. The game next season won't be the same without him. 

REPORT: Minnesota adds Blazers assistant David Vanterpool to coaching staff

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USA Today

REPORT: Minnesota adds Blazers assistant David Vanterpool to coaching staff

The Blazers coach staff just lost one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA. 

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Minnesota Timberwolves have hired David Vanterpool as their associate head coach.

Vanterpool has long been linked to head coaching vacancies around the league, and actually interviewed for three of those open jobs his offseason: The Phoenix SunCleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. 

All those teams eventually went in a different direction, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were impressed enough to offer him a key assistant role. 

It was reported by Marc Stein of The New York Times early Wednesday that Vanterpool had interviewed to join Ryan Saunders' staff.

Vanterpool joined the Trail Blazers as part of then-new head coach Terry Stotts' staff in 2012. In that time he has built great relationships with Portland's star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and has been a key part of their development since they entered the league. 

Coach Stotts, who just signed a contract extension, none has the unenviable task of finding someone to fill Vanterpool's shoes on his staff. 

Outsiders Blog: Which Blazers player would you want to go on vacation with?

Outsiders Blog: Which Blazers player would you want to go on vacation with?

Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner were on social media just a few days ago heading to Spain together, which got me thinking, which Blazers player would you want to go on vacation with?

Thanks to our research team here at NBC Sports Northwest, we put together the perfect travel brochure to pair your perfect vacation with your perfect Trail Blazers travel companion. 

Damian Lillard: Whether it's the recording studio or the boxing ring, Lillard loves to try new things. He's also a family man with an old soul. A Damian Lillard vacation is all about family and trying new things. Load up the car, hit the road, and go wherever the vacation takes you. Want to see the Grand Canyon? Done. Want to skydive? Done. Anything that looks fun that the whole family will enjoy, Lillard will help you find it.

CJ McCollum: Want to take a vacation to wine country? Then CJ McCollum is your guy. McCollum is a wine connoisseur, so be ready to sit on the deck of the world's greatest vineyards, sipping on 20-year-old Pinots and watching the sunset over the vines. Remember, when in doubt, pinky out. 

Harkless and Turner: These two were already spotted on a plane to Spain, so you know where this vacation is taking you, at least to start. Did someone say road trip!? Start in Sprain, hit France, drive over to Italy, no big deal. At this point you are only a stone's throw away from Bosnia, so stop and pick up Jusuf Nurkic and keep the train rolling. Who turns this trip down? If nothing else, thanks to ET your Instagram story would be untouchable. 

Meyers Leonard: No need to pack a lot of luggage cause no shirts will be worn on this vacation. However, board shorts and Pit Vipers are mandatory. Hope you like beach volleyball, cause there will be a lot of it on this trip as you show off the summer bod on SoCal. Once the sun goes down, you have two choices - beach bonfire for Fortnite. Both winners. Where's the Coors Lights at?

Jake Layman: Jake Layman is the king of comfort, often showing up to the arena in his sweat suit. This means he is probably also the king of the staycation. If never changing out of pajamas is your thing, give Layman a call. 

Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr, and Zach Collins: Simons spends his summers in Florida, so hitch a ride with him, Trent, and Collins and let their youth show you the way in the undefeated Miami nightlight. Not into the club scene that's ok. Florida also has Disney World, so there is no way this vacation goes wrong. 

Terry Stotts: If your vacations center around sitting on a beach, wearing flip flops, straw hats, and having a white strip of sunscreen across your nose... then you are vacationing in sunny Hawaii with your guy Terry Stotts.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, Seth Curry, Enes Kanter: Unfortunately, these guys may not have vacation time. They are all unrestricted free agents, so they might be spending their free time scouting new places to call home. That doesn't mean they leaving Portland though. Maybe they are all re-signing here so they're hitting up the real estate market to find their new abode. Either way, they have busy summers ahead and have no time to vacation. But if they did...

- Aminu is a best friend type. He just happy to be along for the ride. He's going wherever the heck you want to go.

- Hood hasn't had time to explore Oregon, and now that he does it's going to see Mt. Hood and explore the Mt. Hood National Forest. Hood hikes Hood is ready-made for vacation photos on social media

- Kanter is the old-fashioned American road trip. The best part is there isn't a city around that doesn't love this guy, so you will have plenty of friends to room with, saving you a lot of money on hotels

- Curry is going home to Charlotte. So as long as you don't mind sleeping in the spare room of your friend's parent's house, vacation with Seth. Mom will take good care of you and breakfast will be fresh every morning. 

Time to jump online and start looking for airplane tickets.

Thorns demolish Red Stars for first win in new Providence Park

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Chris Burkhardt

Thorns demolish Red Stars for first win in new Providence Park

For the second day in a row, the newly renovated Providence Park held a home opener. On Saturday night it was the Portland Timbers, and on Sunday it was time for the Portland Thorns to take center stage. 

Despite missing nine players to the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Thorns still managed to put on a show. 

In her first start of the season, Midge Purce did not disappoint. Just three minutes into action Purce had a wide open shot at the net but nailed the crossbar. Despite the miss, you could tell she was in great form and she showed it the rest of way.

Purce would score twice in the first half, and if not for an offsides call, she would have easily scored a third. Both of Purce's goals came via great assists from Simone Charley. The dynamic Thorns duo was a sight to behold on Sunday, leading the home town team to an impressive victory over the red stars. 

Final Score: Portland Thorns 3 - Chicago Red Stars 0

No Place Like Home: 

After starting the season with six straight road matches, the Thorns finally returned to Portland to the roar of 19,461 fans - A new attendance record for a Thorns' home opener.

Said head coach Mark Parsons, "I didn’t dream about this because I didn’t think it was possible when I got into coaching. I’m proud of what this city, club, community does to continue to set the standard to support female athletes, the best players in the world."

Added Purce, "It was one of the most wonderful experiences I think that a soccer player can have and it was beautiful to see all that support."

"It was just a surreal moment, honestly, just being out here on the field and just having so many supporters out there, like words can't describe like how much that means," said Simon Charley. "To just be on the field and having them just give us energy and pick us up when we're down."

The Thorns are good anywhere they play, but put nearly 20,000 supporters behind them and they can be unstoppable.  
 
The New Dynamic Duo:

Speaking of Purce and Charley - they don't often play together, but you wouldn't know that by watching Sunday's match. The two looked like they had a decade of chemistry together, it was truly fun to watch.

Purce said of the connection with Charley, "that was honestly the first time I've played major minutes with Simone ever. And it was, I think the both of us were like 'oh this thing, this is working.' And I think when you have, you know, 11 people working really, really hard, it makes it easier on any partnership."

Talking to the media, Charley gave a lot of credit for the connection to Purce. "We talked about it this week in practice, just working on working off of each other and just building that relationship. Midge is a phenomenal communicator and [has been] telling me where I need to go and just working together and so yeah, shout out to her"

Some Love for the Ducks:
Former Oregon Duck Marissa Everett subbed in for Charley in the 78th minute. Seven minutes later she scored the first goal of her professional career.

Parsons said of Everett, "I thought the goal summed up what she’s about. She’s got great movement and she reads the game. You give her a chance to put the ball in the back of the net and she showed it against Sky Blue, first movement to drop the shoulder and then burst and almost apart from a great save. It’s great and you look at the undrafted players that come into this environment and look for an opportunity to develop and put their heads down."

She nearly had a brace to rival Purce's, but he put a shot just a little wide right in stoppage time. She looked great off the bench, and it was a great showing for the former Oregon star.

Next Up:

The Thorns return to action on the road on Saturday, June 15 against the North Carolina Courage. Kickoff is set for 4:45 p.m.
 

Jaylen Hoard brings versatility to the table

Jaylen Hoard brings versatility to the table

The Blazers held their first round of pre-draft workouts on Friday, welcoming six NBA hopefuls to the practice facility in Tualatin. 

Portland holds the No. 25 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Whether they decide to use it or not remains to be seen. The Blazers have a lot of salary cap questions to answer, and the addition of a first round pick could complicate things. But should they use the pick, you would certainly expect them to draft at a point of weakness - the forward position.  

Of the six players on hand for tryouts, one player specifically could fit the bill - Wake Forest's Jaylen Hoard. 

Hoard is a 6'8" forward that can play both the 3 and the 4.  Portland is weak at both those positions, so getting a guy that can play both would be a plus. Hoard is only 216lb, so he would have to put on a little size to really get dirty in the paint, but that's usually something you see with taller prospects. Not to mention, Portland's starting power forward last season, Al-Farouq Aminu, was just four pounds heavier than Hoard is now.

Speaking of Aminu, Hoard can best be described as Al-Farouq Aminu light, and not just because they are about the same size and both went to Wake Forest. 

Just look at their college stats:

In two seasons at Wake Forest, Aminu averaged 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds, while shooting 47.6% from the floor but just 23.8% from three. 

In his one and only season at Wake Forest, Hoard averaged 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, shot 45.8% from the floor and just 22.6% from deep.

To say the two are comparable is an understatement. 

While Hoard lacks a three-point game, he will block shots, get steals, clean the class, and pepper the stat sheet.  Should the Blazers lose Aminu in free agency, Hoard would be a nice replacement. As I said, he has a very similar skill set to Aminu and would fit in nicely with the team. They have already built around a player of his archetype. 

The downside here is that most fans would like to see an upgrade over Aminu at power forward, and Hoard would be a step back, at least to start.

The upside is that we saw Aminu go from a 23.8% three-point shooter in college to a 34.3% three-point shooter last season. 34% isn't great, but jumping by more than 10% from a three-point line that is further away from the basket is quite impressive. It's easy to see Hoard doing the same. Add in the fact that is a better athlete than Aminu, at least on tape, and you really start to see the upside. 

Hoard is probably a late first or mid second round prospect, so there could even be a chance you see Portland trade out of the first round and buy a second round pick to get a guy like this. Going back to the salary cap situation, there is a big difference between first round and second round picks when it comes to the finances, and Portland wouldn't want to hurt their situation more just to draft a guy at No.25 that they could get in the second round. So what they do here will be very interesting. 

For Hoard though, what Portland decides doesn't really matter. The kid has a very good skill set for today's NBA, outside of his weak deep ball. something that will take little time to fix and will find a home in the NBA.

I don't know if any of the players the Blazers brought in are "the guy" for Portland, but remember that in 2017 they didn't even bring Zach Collins in for a workout, so you never know exactly what the team has its eye on. But if the Blazers were forced to pick on of the six players that they brought in Friday, Hoard would be that guy.

I did say Hoard is Al-Farouq Aminu light. Well, General Manager Neil Olshey actually drafted Aminu when he was with the Clippers in 2010. Hoard is exactly the type of guy Olshey loves.

Will he hear his name at No.25? We will find out on June 20th at the 2019 NBA Draft. 

LAFC spoils grand re-opening of Providence Park

LAFC spoils grand re-opening of Providence Park

After 12 straight games on the road to start the season, the Portland Timbers finally made their return to the home pitch. 

Not only was it the home opener, but it was the grand re-opening of the newly remolded Providence Park. Additions and upgrades to the east side of the stadium allowed 4,000 more Timbers' faithful to pack the park. 

It was supposed to be a grand evening for the Timbers, unfortunately, they had a juggernaut at the front door to welcome them home.

The best team in the league, LAFC, was their opponent on this night, and they quickly soured any happy feelings in the glitzy new stadium.

It took just six minutes of action for LAFC to capitalize on a huge mistake by Jeff Attinella and take the 1-0 lead over the home town team. 

Attinella threw a lazy pass attempting to reset the offense, LAFC intercepted it and beat the Timbers goalkeeper one-on-one for the easy score. It was the type of game where the Timbers showed they could play with the best in the league, but it was unforced mistakes that did them in.

It wasn't all bad though. Designated Player Brain Fernandez was making his home debut, and he would strike one of the most spectacular bicycle kick goals you will ever see. 

Despite the magic from Fernandez, the Timbers just couldn't take down the best the league has to offer. 

Final Score: LAFC 3 - Portland 2

A Grand New Home:

The talk after the game wasn't just centered around the game, it was centered around the venue it was played in. Providence Park was also making its debut after an offseason of expansions and upgrades. Said head coach Gio Savarese, "You can feel the difference of those extra 4,000. Not only because they're loud, but that presence. That building that feels like it's on top of you is fantastic. 

Added Diego Valeri, " The feeling is so different. Our crowd was great, as always."

Moving On From His Mistakes:

Jeff Attinella had a major mistake early in the game that led to a quick goal for LAFC, and he was quick to take the blame.

"When you're a goalie and make a pass like that, make a mistake, you get punished," said Attinella. "That one's clearly on me... I know that you won't hear any of the guys blaming me, but that one's on me, that's on my shoulders.  As a goalie, you gotta own it and move on and try to learn from it."

Attinella was right. None of his teammates blamed him for the loss, and in fact, his coach jumped to his defense. When asked if he was worried about Attinella's decision making Savarese was quick with the answer. "No. No. Zero concerns... anybody can make a mistake. It's how you react to mistakes that makes a difference, and I thought that he reacted very well."  

Next Up:

The Timbers play a U.S. Open Cup match against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, June 12 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. 

The team returns to MLS action when they host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, June 22. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. at Providence Park.