Where to start?
Oh I know. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking hell.
Okay, that’s out of the way, moving on.
So, the US Open Cup had already thrown up its fair share of upsets before Timbers took to the field to face Cal FC, an amateur side made up of ex-pros currently playing in the fifth tier. Cal FC already had a couple of notable scalps before rocking up to Jeld-Wen Field, and they were led by Eric Wynalda, a man who is to controversy what Eric Wynalda is to douchebaggery.
The worry was that Portland would send out a team of scrubs, get caught on the hop and suffer an embarrassing defeat but those concerns seemed to be alleviated when the squad announced was pretty much the regular starting XI. The Timbers were taking it seriously, and looking to send out a message that winning the cup was a major priority for them.
Unfortunately the Timbers would suffer a humiliation on a scale as yet unquantified by science.
A 1-0 defeat after extra time. To a team from the fifth tier. Oh, for fu-
It would be fair to say that the reaction on twitter was bugfucknuts. If #RCTID was a monkey enclosure, there would be shit EVERYWHERE.
The reaction is understandable. Passions run high in the heat of a shocking defeat. It hurts. It really, really hurts.
There are no excuses. We had the chances to win, we didn’t take them, we lost.
The fact is that the team played poorly. The first half was played at half-tempo, almost as if this was friendly. The Timbers looked like a team that expected to win. It was a certainty. Gonna happen. Any minute now. Just you wait and see. Written in the stars. Sure thing.
Chances came, chances went. No worries, there’s plenty more where they came from and one of them is bound to go in. Simple.
A brief flurry at the opening of the second half raised heartbeats a little, but soon the game slumped back into cruise control. When a penalty kick was won, it seemed that finally Cal FC’s resistance had been broken down. Truth is, for much of the second half, they looked like a team that had run themselves down to empty. The high pressing and in-your-face style of the first half had given away to a sit-back-and-wait approach, giving Timbers players an almost ludicrous amount of timer and space on the ball.
Kris Boyd buried the penalty in the corner of th… Wait, no. He absolutely murdered the ball, sending it sailing over the bar and, in doing so, let all the air out of Jeld-Wen Field.
Into extra-time, still pressing for the inevitable winner, the Timbers got caught on the break and Artur Aghasyan clipped it over Troy Perkins for what proved to be the actual winner.
I’m not going to make excuses for it. We were shit. All ends up, bad.
But I would say, divorced of the emotive knee-jerk reaction, there was a large slice of freakishness about the whole thing. The Timbers had an almost ludicrous amount of shots at goal. In fact, scratch that – not almost ludicrous, it was way beyond ludicrous. Over 40 attempts, 10 corners and a penalty kick. And still no goals.
The fact is, despite the angry lashing out on twitter, the Timbers still deserved to win this match. Yeah, it was horrible to watch, but they consistently outplayed their opponents, as you’d expect, but blew chance after chance and then let in one good chance at the other end on a break.
They weren’t “outplayed”, as some suggested. If anyone thinks the guys out there didn’t care about the match, or weren’t putting in their everything, they’ve never played sports at any kind of competitive level. No-one knew more clearly the disparity between the two teams positions than the players themselves, and there’s no way their professional or personal pride would accept anything other than a win. As they skulk out of Jeld-Wen tonight, you can be sure the players are hurting.
They lost on a freak result. An aberration.
If great chances hadn’t been missed by Perlaza (great timing on that article, huh? Though I’d still argue he was the best of a bad bunch in attack. But yeah, those misses. Baaad.), Boyd, Richards and Jewsbury to name just four, the result would’ve been vastly different. A half-yard here, a split-second there…
But, hey, it is what it is. Timbers lost and no amount of coulda-woulda rationalising will change that. The trolls will mock. The media will snigger. The fans will suffer.
We lost a match we should’ve won five times over, to a team we should be beating with relative ease. Big question will be asked in the wake of this.
How is left holding the blame when the music stops will be interesting. Will Gavin Wilkinson or John Spencer pay the price? Will it fall on a player or players to carry the can. After a result like this, the soul-searching almost invariably draws out a scapegoat. Someone to hang it all on. It was this guy. He fucked it up.
I don’t have the answers. Mistakes were made right across the board. I don’t think there is a The One to blame.
But, taking this match as part of the larger picture, there is a worrying trend emerging. This is a club that has so often looked like it’s lacked inspiration both on and off the field. I’ve already written about my concerns with Spencer, but to be fair to him there’s not much he can do about players passing up gilt-edged chance after chance when they cross the white line.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that, a few bright spots aside, the football has been ugly this year. The strategy – get it wide, whip in a half-arsed cross for strikers to throw their hands in the air about when they don’t get a chance to attack it – hasn’t worked yet, but we keep doing it. We’re like the bee that keeps beating its head off the window in the belief that next time it won’t be there. We absolutely deserve to be where we are in the conference.
It may well be the problems lie higher up the totem pole. Whatever it is, something isn’t right. I could almost – ALMOST – shrug off a freak result like this if it had come in isolation, but it didn’t. This season is trending toward the basement, and that’s not where anyone wanted to be in Year Two. This was the year we were supposed to be looking up and ahead. Well, yeah, we are looking up but only to see just how far we’re slipping away.
The next few days will be interesting to see what happens, or not, at the club as the dust settles. Will heads roll? I’m not so sure, but equally I wouldn’t be surprised.
If ever a club needed a wake up call it’s this one, and they just got a firm jab to nuts. Where we go from here will make or break this year, and possibly a few careers.