The Abyss

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.


19 thoughts on “The Abyss

  1. you know they won’t do anything unless this shit starts happening in mls. they’ve moved up the standings – i’m sure they see that as progress.

    this shit tonight though, that was a joke.

    1. I’m inclined to believe you. Given the way Spencer and Wilkinson have hung players out to dry in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has essentially kicked their last ball as a Timber. We’ll see.

  2. We might have had a lot of possession and sent the ball toward goal a lot. But we failed to challenge the Cal FC keeper until the 110″ of the game. the lack of potency is directly related to the system the coach has implemented. Spencer is the one who is stuck on the whip the ball into the box approach to soccer.

      1. It is like watching stone age soccer. We keep doing it over and over again. It is maddening to watch. This franchise has the chance to be something special in sports. They have created a situation in the USA that really doesn’t exist anywhere else in the this country. Having attended thousands of sporting events , the magical feel at Jeld Wen for a soccer game is umatched,They are now in danger of losing the magic. We need a proven general manager and coach. Gavin and John Spencer are clearly out of their depth. Stop blaming the players and look in the mirror.

  3. So much to worry about with this one.

    I can’t think of a single player who had even a decent match by their own standards – way too many awful misses and wasted buildup. We Can. Not. Finish. I suspect that tonight was a violent outbreak of something that had been building on this team for a long time; I think this group, as a team and as individuals, has lost their confidence in their ability to score. They fire away half- or more-the-half-expecting the shot to go wide, or be blocked, or caught.

    And part of this failure has to go all the way back to the whole idea that someone (ahem) once expressed as something like “you know what the Timbers will do, you know how they will do it, and you know how to stop them.” Waldo had his game plan; press when you can, sit back when you can’t, play for the counter, we know where they’ll be sending the ball in so just make sure you’re there when they do. And his guys worked it.

    Meanwhile Spencer’s plan was what it has been, and it worked…well, it worked way worse than it has up until now. But it struck me as a variation in degree, not in nature.

    Ugh. The nadir of the season to date. On any other club I’d give Merritt half a chance of sacking either Spencer, Gavin, or both, during the coming week. But with this one…hard to say. And players..? How do you pick one goat out of that disaster. Perlaza? Yeah, he wasn’t good…but did he miss a PK? What about Horst’s horrible giveaway that cost the match? Alexander regressing to the meaningless wandering that characterized his game lase season? Nagbe’s constantly being dispossessed?

    I have to admit; I have no idea how Merritt begins solving this, but agree that it needs to be solved, and soon, or this season will become legendary in the Little Bighorn/Braddock’s Defeat/Caporetto sense…

  4. Another fantastic article, as always. You manage to capture my thoughts and emotions when I’m struggling to figure them out. Thanks, Kevin.

    “If #RCTID was a monkey enclosure, there would be shit EVERYWHERE.” Haha, totally. That was crazy. Probably one of the rare times Seattle and Timber fans sounded very similar.

    Regarding crosses: “We’re like the bee that keeps beating its head off the window in the belief that next time it won’t be there. ” Spot on.

  5. Thank you for making me laugh today. I am very glad I am not a monkey in that cage. What is more disheartening is that the last few games where our players are getting hurt and not being able to come off the pitch. I am off to go to the summit of Mt. Hood to offer up a sacrifice to the soccer gods. HERE ARE THE TOP OF THE LINE JELD WEN WINDOWS, OH GREAT LEADERS. WE ARE NOT WORTHY..

  6. Very well said! we are in a world of trouble and the issues start at the top! time for major Change!!

  7. Thanks for some comic relief Kevin. I’ve been pretty much speechless — thanks for putting into words what I’ve been trying to express overnight.

    There should honestly be no Timber with a feeling of job security this morning. Perlaza, Horst, Alexander should be very worried. Hate to say this, but I’d even consider trading Nagbe for a CM who can actually play a through-ball rather than dribbling backwards or straight into double teams.

    I have to agree that the “wing and cross” approach has become way to predictable for opponents, and never was that effective in the first place. We actually have decent personnel to play a possession game, but for some reason Spenny won’t put them on the field together. Can’t understand.

  8. One thing I should add, though; while I understand that we’re all frustrated and angry, I was shocked and frustrated with the Army’s ripping the players last night, and the outburst of whingeing and wailing on the Timbers Hatebook page.

    Supporters and the club are like a family but with no privacy to work their problems out. Of course you’re furious when your brother-in-law cheats on your sister, or when Uncle Max gets nailed for embezzlement. But you don’t run into the street chanting “This is bullshit!”. Family stays family. You support your family while you, and they, work the problems out. Is “RCTID” just a hash tag, or a cute sticker for a car window? I’m more disappointed than angry – I thought we were “Soccer City, USA”. To rant about “playing with heart” and “care like we do”? I saw the same thing you saw, Kevin; that side came off the field furious with their own play; they didn’t need one of their own capos ripping into them – and especially into Jewsbury, who was far from the least-effective player out there that night.

    I’m hoping that the Front Office is having a real come-to-Jesus meeting today, and that Merritt is finally willing to confront the issues that we’ve been discussing here for some time. I wish I was more confident that that was so. But now is the time that try men’s souls, and we can either fall into pieces tearing at each other, or remember that we’re Green and White.

    1. Your comments make me sick. If nothing at the club changes you can thank attitudes like yours for it. You’ll blindly keep going back to the games and giving all your support as you’re slowly being taken for everything you’re worth. There was more reaction from Jack Jewsbury walking off the field towards a capo than he’s had on field for any of the players he’s supposed to be the captain of.

      We are the best supporters group in league. Demanding excellence and telling the team to care like we do does not make you a bad supporter. In the end I will still be in the stands long after “captain for life” Jack Jewsbury is gone. If he’s going to put on the badge and play here then die on the pitch. I don’t care if you lose to Cal FC 6-0 as long as you go out there and die on the pitch. I saw effort from hardly anyone last night. If you don’t want to leave everything on the pitch take off the shirt and leave.

      1. “If you don’t want to leave everything on the pitch take off the shirt and leave.”

        I think the blood on Jack’s shirt should tell you all you need to know about THAT.

        You’re not getting my point.

        I’m not saying that as supporters we shouldn’t demand the best. I’m saying that just like in any other family, there’s smart ways to do this and destructive ways to do this. You want to destroy the Timbers? Make sure that we look like some reality TV show, with everyone screaming at each other and the kid sister in the corner in hysterics.

        Look at what happened; as the team is walking off, having proved nothing whether or not they were willing to leave everything on the pitch and everything about their technical and tactical weakness, one of our own lays into Jack, who of all people out there having a truly shitty night had actually played like he was doing everything he could and had gotten nutted for his efforts. He’s bloody, he’s exhausted, and because he’s a professional he knows damn well he’s sucked and been beaten by a bunch of part-timers.

        And then somebody tells him he’s “not fit to wear the badge”?

        So what if he’s not?

        How the HELL is this gonna help?

        Jack is what he is; we’ve seen his weaknesses exposed this season. This is his livelihood; he’s not gonna hang it up because he’s playing poorly. Do you quit your job when you get a crappy annual review?

        What I’m saying is that everything we do as supporters is public, and everything reflects on our city, our team, and ourselves. Angry at the state of play? Write or phone the front office and tell them! Don’t come to the matches, don’t buy their merch, and tell them you’re not until they make changes! But to throw a massive tantrum that has the very real potential to poison things between the supporters, the team, the front office, and the casual fans?

        Not smart.

  9. Really just wanted to see what my avatar would be.
    Great write-up.

    Maybe I’m not being reasonable or rationale, but I personally hope that there is some change either at GM and/or Coach or on the pitch before we suit up again (which couldn’t be far enough away). A ‘this is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps’ move to be sure, but also a move to get new blood, new skills and a new attitude in the mix.
    I have no idea what kind of help is available, though.

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