Just Another Timbers Loss

The Timbers lost again, suffering their biggest defeat since going down 4-0 in Dallas a year ago but in some ways this 3-0 loss in Colorado was even more dispiriting.

In beating Seattle last week the Timbers had finally shown a spark of what John Spencer has been telling us their capable of, with some good wing play and incisive attacking. This week saw a return of the bad old Timbers and, you know what, it’s really fucking pissing me off.

Here’s a short, Scottish summation or my thoughts…

[learn_more caption=”The Short, Scots, version”]Aner fuckin loass. Goatae say, ah’m gettin mare th’n a wee bit fucked off wae this shite. It’s no the loassin that pisses me aff, it’s the fuckin wey we dae it. Thur’s nae fuckin heart tae this shower. Lose wan fuckin goal and it’s gemme o’or.

Spenny disnae seem tae huv a fuckin scooby whit he’s daein maist ae the time. It’s no workin? Nae both’r, ah’ll jist take wan cunt oot and pit aner yin oot tae dae the same fuckin hing that wisnae fuckin workin in the fucking first place, for fuck sake. It giy dis yir fuckin heid in.

Ah wannae hope fur the best against yon Urthquakes oan Tuesday nicht, but it’s kinna hard, ken whit ah mean? Ye cun oanly eat so much shite afore it comes back up, and ah’ve hud ma fill.

Will we win? Fucked if ah ken. We’ll miss wee Diego fur share, but it’d jist be lik the Timburs tae fuckin win like we did against yon Sportin mob a while ago.

Aner loass, and fuck, who kens? How long dis Spenny get? How long’s a piece a string? Ah don’t ken whit’s goan oan there. Tae bae hoanest, ah’ve kinna loast faith in the gaffer, ken? How’s he still in a joab efter Cal FC n aw that, fuck knows.

Hing is, ah’ll be back tae support’n the boiys the morra, giein it laldy. Thur’s nae skulking awa’. The hing aboot being a fan is yir eiweys there.

Rose City till ah die.[/learn_more]

Anyway… Where was I?

I said last week that I worried we’d go out there and just blindly repeat what worked before, and guess what? We only fucking did. Sure Zizzo came in to replace the injured Alhassan, but the plan was the same as last week.

Spencer is like the guy at the roulette table who won big on red once and is going to stick to that strategy because it clearly works even as he’s offering blow jobs in the fucking casino toilets for another ten bucks to throw away.

I mean, for fuck sake. I’m sick of this shit.

What annoyed so much me isn’t the losing, though no-one likes that, it’s the way we lost. Rolled over and let the Rapids tickle our bellies. It was so bad to watch that to take my mind off it, I spent much of the second half thinking up #timbersmovienames on twitter with other fans.

I don’t expect a team that’s going to buy it’s way to success, or win every week. I do expect a modicum of fucking effort and intelligence. I saw neither this week. I saw a spineless performance, led by a manager who, I’m beginning to suspect, never fucking had it in the first place to lose it.

We hear Spencer is a great coach, so who has improved under his guidance? So he’s a motivator, right? Except the team I saw wearing green on Saturday showed all the motivation of a hooker on her eighth john of the night – sure, she might make the right noises, but her heart’s clearly not in it.

And it’s not the fucking first time either. How often do we only get 45 minutes of effort of out this team? A shambolic, lazy first half followed by a rocket up the arse at half time, or a decent first half, then a snooze through the second? What. The. Fuck?

We didn’t even get that this week. Sure I could go through it with pics and graphs and all that shit, but why fucking bother? We were shit; a shambles. You know it, I know it, Colorado sure as fuck know it. HashtagRCTID does a good enough job of it, anyway.

Steven Smith had his worst game for the Timbers. He played like he was still on honeymoon. I can only assume that Brian Mullan has horrific B.O. cos Smith didn’t seem to want to get anywhere near him all game.

Last week he and Songo’o looked so effective and threatening down that flank, but they may as well have stayed in Portland. Both ended up being subbed – Songo’o in the first half, Smith in the second.

Smith looked gassed. Was it the heat and altitude? If so, why the fuck didn’t the team fly in earlier to prepare? If anyone should know about the problems with playing at the Rapids, it should be Spencer since he played there himself.

Another bad day at the office for Darlington Nagbe too. Where is the player who started the season? He looks a shadow of himself. Gone is the zip and verve, the daring and dramatic. In comes a player who looks tired, needs an extra touch and is off the pace. He’s repeatedly being caught in possession and even when he’s not, he doesn’t seem to have any clear idea what he’s hoping to achieve.

The role that Spencer has him playing in, at the tip of the diamond, should be the creative fulcrum for the attack. It’s a dead end right now.

Yet Spencer keeps putting him in, and keeps playing the same way. Tactically, he’s a dinosaur. He’s a second year manager, and he already looks like he’s twenty years late to the party. The Timbers play like a mediocre British team from the early 90’s. It’s like the last twenty years of footballing innovations have completely passed him by.

Maybe it’s not surprising. Spencer was inculcated in that system throughout his playing career. 442 was king. MLS is beginning to show some innovation and moving towards a more modern, nuanced attitude towards tactical flexibility and playing style, and yet the Timbers are stuck in this kick-and-rush, blood-and-thunder time loop. We’re outdated.

It’s never been more clear than now, when Euro 2012 has served up some delightful, modern, football. Going back to watching the Timbers is like going to McDonalds after eating at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant.

He’s either too bloody-minded to recognise the fact that his “system” doesn’t fucking work, or doesn’t even realise. Neither of these are good things.

Or perhaps, this is the only way he can play with the guys he’s got? Maybe he’d love to go Full Bielsa on us, but he can’t. I doubt there’s much more to him than what we’ve seen, but who knows?

Sure, the team might lift their performance level now and then, and beat a poor Seattle (who seemed to have got MMA and MLS mixed up on the trip south), but we’ll inevitably regress to the mean.

Regardless, the same old faces will be in the XI. There are some decent young players in the roster – Jean-Baptiste, Richards, Rincon, Kawulok to name but four – but they can’t get a sniff of first team action.

On one hand, I can understand Spencer’s reticence. He knows it’s not going well, and he probably feels he can’t “risk” the kids for fear that they lose the match that costs him his job – though considering he’s survived the Cal FC debacle, the dire Galaxy showing, and this gutless shitfest, I suspect the only two things that’ll survive a nuclear holocaust are cockroaches, and John Spencer as head coach of the Portland Timbers.

The thing is, it’s not really a risk, is it? Neither Fucito – despite his great workrate, which I do admire – nor Mwanga have exactly hit the ground running. Even Boyd has looked a shadow of himself at times. Nagbe looks like he needs a break. Jewsbury isn’t a right back. Horst goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Is Brunner ever going to be fit again? Palmer… Yeah.

Why not blood some of the young guys? At least they might care. And at this stage, I don’t think many Timbers fans are keeping play-off dates clear in their calenders, you know?

As I said, I don’t expect wins every week. If I was a gloryhunter, I’d have grown up supporting Rangers or Celtic, just up the road. Instead, I supported my local team, Kilmarnock, through bad times, allright times, more bad times, and a couple of good times.

So it is for all Timbers fans. This is our team, and we don’t expect the moon on a stick. All we want is a team that care enough to give 100% every single week, not just when the ESPN cameras are in town, and a manager who knows what he’s doing.

Tomorrow we play San Jose Earthquakes, and we’ll be missing the one outfield player who can hold his head up high week after week, Diego Chara. It’s no surprise the yellows have accumulated considering the way he plays – and the fact he’s often had to do that defensive job single-handedly – but it’s a huge blow to have him miss this match.

This is a team that are flying this year – they finished 2011 four points behind the Timbers, but already twenty points ahead this year and top the Western Conference. The Earthquakes come into the game on the back of a remarkable come-from-behind 4-3 win against LA Galaxy, so the omens aren’t good.

Do I think it’s time for Spencer to go? It’s getting harder and harder to justify supporting him. The whole “who’ll replace him, then?” argument is bullshit. Who’ll replace him? Who the fuck knows – that’s why you accept applications and select the best candidate.

I don’t know. I’m angry. I’m rapidly losing faith in Spenny. He’s showing nothing on the field, but I always held to the belief that he does good work on the training ground, and maybe all he needed was someone alongside to nudge him in the right direction, tactically. Now I’m not so sure about his off-field endeavours. This really doesn’t look like a team that’s busting a gut for their manager.

Knowing the Timbers, they’ll go and beat San Jose on Tuesday, with Palmer smashing one in from 30 yards*, and everything will be rosy – pardon the pun – again. I’ll get the “so what do you think now?” questions. Which would be fine. I really hope we do win.

My problem isn’t individual results – the Kansas City win didn’t spark our season, and neither is the Seattle win, as welcome as it was, good enough on it’s own. Equally, I went out of my way to play down the loss to Cal FC, and I’ve tried to find positives in every defeat. It’s getting harder though. The trend isn’t good.

We, the fans, will endure this and emerge stronger for it. The Army will be in full voice against San Jose, and will sing till the final whistle.

I can only hope that the team at least match that effort.

* Actually, as was pointed out on twitter, Palmer may be suspended still. I haven’t checked, but thinking about it, it was a straight red so he probably will be. In which case, Jewsbury? Yay…?

17 thoughts on “Just Another Timbers Loss

  1. You touched on it in your post, but the biggest thing that has made me lose faith in Spenny is the lack of improvement and the downright poor technique of most of the players on the team. Let’s say that he really is trying to build a young team and doesn’t care about winning, as he’s said in recent weeks, where are the young guys that are becoming better players? It surely isn’t Nagbe. The kids got a first touch like his boot is made of concrete. In fact, the whole teams basics are embarrassing. Songo’o’s back-heel to Smith that set up Boyd’s goals was actually a total flub. Kalif’s step overs are cool and all, but when was the last time you could decide of he was crossing or shooting? When was the last time Palmer kept a shot under 8 ft ABOVE the goal? Half the time Zizzo tries to dribble his first touch is a 12 yard touch. Perkins throws? Basics.

    Secondly, in the US Soccer coaching curriculum, the higher you get, the more the focus becomes on how to motivate players and teams, and how to adapt your tactics to who you’ve got and who you are playing. Even at the US Soccer “C” level of coach training (intended for high school aged kids), the majority of your instruction is focused on these two topics. This is stuff intended for Dads (and moms) doing youth soccer and people that want to coach high school teams. How is Spenny completely empty here? This is the basics of coaching, literally..

    1. Nagbe, if anything, has been going backwards for a while now. I really think his development is being harmed at this stage. Look at Mwanga – was on fire, got leaned on a bit too much, confidence went and he’s here trying to rebuild a career, and he’s only 20. Nagbe needs a rest – maybe a few sub appearances, or just a week or two break from playing – just to recharge and find that spark inside himself again. Throwing him out there isn’t working, I can only see it doing harm to the lad’s confidence.

      If you want to highlight the difference in technique between this team and the Rapids, just go back through the highlights and check out the crossing. Yes, we gave them too much time to get the ball in, but the crossing was excellent from the Rapids – Mullan in particular. Now check out ours – it’s either off the first man, straight down the keeper’s throat or overhit and out for a goal kick. It’s embarrassing and indicative of poor technique overall.

      And these aren’t bad players in green. These are guys who’ve played top level football, be it Champions League or Internationally. It’s inexcusable.

  2. Totally agree with all the above. These players have hung with some great squads (for 80 minutes at least), and I was in CO and watching their energy looked like they all found out their puppies were being murdered in the locker room. Lots of standing around and long faces.

  3. Fucking brilliant post. 1000x more creative and passionate than what we saw Saturday. And I learned Scottish!

  4. What’s Jim Jeffries up to nowadays? He had some good times followed by lots of repeated futility. Portland could be just the place for him.

    1. I was actually thinking about JJ in regards to the inevitable “who replaces Spencer” question. There was a manager who went stale at Killie (admittedly over many years), left and was replaced by Jimmy Calderwood – though to watch the “football” you wouldn’t spot much of a difference. It was 4-4-2, hit it long to the big guy, boring football. Kinda familiar now I think about it…

      Fair enough, it kept us up by the skin of our teeth, but still…

      Calderwood doesn’t get kept on. The job’s open – a provincial club, struggling against relegation from a diddy league, with no money – and yet people still applied. There was talk of Steve Kean (bullet, dodged) and Stevie Clarke before Mixu emerged to take over and completely revolutionise the way Killie play.

      Fast forward a couple of years, there’s been no danger of relegation, there’s a trophy in the cabinet and the football is (mostly) lovely to watch.

      You never know who’s out there…

  5. After the Seattle game we talked about this, and I said something like “I’m also a little concerned about Plan A. I saw a LOT more of the “pointless backpass” sort of play in the second half. Part of Spencer’s job has to be to keep the Boys at work as well as seeing the opponent’s tactical moves and adjusting to them. He doesn’t seem to do this particularly well – yet – and he’s got to start figuring this out soon or he’s gonna be back in Arbroath grilling kippers.”

    And…sure enough, the Boys in Green showed up in Denver acting like they’d never played a minute together or, hell, every PLAYED a minute. Lacking Soccer 101. WTF? As you pointed out, these guys have played together now for almost two years, many of them, and some at the highest levels.

    What’s insanely frustrating is that this team looks like it has no idea fi what it’s doing, what it SHOULD be doing, or what to expect from their opponents. That’s not a player issue, it’s a coaching/management issue.

    And Merritt shows little or no sign of dealing with it.

    If the Seattle match gave me a flicker of hope, this match dumped a bucket of crap over it…

  6. And I’ve gotta say this; I’m not sure that what we’re seeing is a question of laziness or lack of heart. We keep hearing this because WE have passion for the team, and for good football. But these guys play for a living; if they play poorly (or, hell, if they play well and still lose) they’re out of work and on the dole. So I’m not so sure that these guys just walk out there and punch the clock. If they did they’d be punching their way out of work – just ask Ryan Pore what a cruel game this is if you can’t succeed at it. So ISTM that for pure self-interest they must walk out on the pitch wanting and hoping to do well…

    But they look to me like players who 1) have no idea HOW to win, and 2) have gotten it more then halfway fixed in their minds that they CAN’T win. Again, that’s not nearly so much a player issue as it is a management issue. I think if we brought someone in who could teach them to play tika-taka Spanish passing and ball control, who could produce the sort of play that wins, we’d think that they had been slamming Red Bull shooters all night before the match.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure they don’t not care if they win or lose, but there seems to be an attitude around the players that when they go down, the game’s as good as over. The early part of the game was just sloppy, poor football – after the second goal there was no sense of hurt pride or a determination to turn it round. rather it was acquiescence. That’s what frustrates me more than anything.

      I don’t mind seeing us lose to a better team. Well, I don’t like seeing us lose at all, but you know what I mean – as long as they put the effort in, and work to a clear gameplan, I can accept losing if the other lot were simply better than us. I can accept that much more than a team that throws the towel in at the slightest adversity – adversity they only faced because of a lacklustre start.

      Sometimes I wonder if the best strategy to play the timbers is to simply sit back and wait for the Timbers to beat themselves.

      1. There’s an old military adage; “never reinforce defeat”. The idea being that if you throw fresh troops into a bunch of guys who have been whipped – who are convinced that ARE whipped – that the “defeatism” will infect the reinforcements and they will get whipped in turn. That your best bet is to take those new hard men and pitch them in elsewhere where they can win and convince themselves that they CAN and will win.

        I think we’re getting to a point of no return – if not now, soon. These guys heads are down. They look like – their play suggests they believe – they’re defeated. Their physical skills are degrading, their communication, what there was of it, is breaking down.

        I’ve been hating to jump on the “Spencer Out” train; I think if a guy give 100% he deserves a chance. But the way this team plays – dispirited emotionally and disjointed and hapless tactically – has convinced me that Merritt has GOT to make a move, and soon, or all he will be doing is “reinforcing defeat” – the culture of hopelessness and lack of confidence will have (and I hate to think this but perhaps already is) sunk in so deep that the only hope will be to blow up the entire side and start over. And that’ll hurt, both on and off the pitch. But I agree with you in that the Timbers are self-destructing, and I don’t see the front office making any moves to change that.

  7. I know who should replace Spencer…
    the guy who coached a non professional team to beat the Timbers 1-0 in the U.S. cup…
    Eric Wynalda!

  8. good stuff, as always!

    Your Scottish rant made me think of the Oor Wullie and The Broons comics I read as a kid. Except I don’t remember their language being quite as salty 🙂

  9. Not really gonna comment on the analysis (spot on) or the match (blergh), but what are the chances of hearing an AUDIO clip of the Scots rant?!?

  10. Good stuff. I could have done with a little less cursing (it distracts from your solid points), but it was good nonetheless.

  11. And…sure enough, the Boys wake up, play a lovely 30 minutes against San Jose and get the 2-1 win.


    Did you ever see this old Fifties costume comedy called “The Court Jester”? The macguffin is that the hero is just an ordinary schlub who is pretending to be this fearsome stone killer. In the big fight scene at the end another character hypnotizes him into believing he’s the world’s greatest sword fighter. The catch is that the hypnotic suggestion works when someone snaps their fingers. And in the middle of this fight the guy snaps his own fingers…and, presto, he’s forgotten all about how to fence. Then he snaps again and he’s the deadly fighter again.

    So all I can think is that Spencer stands in front of this friggin’ team in the dressing room spinning a watch and chanting “When the Army claps you’re Spain…you’re Spaaaaiiiiinnn…”

    Or something.

    It’s like they’ve got this switch that, when you flip it, makes them play lovely passing, flowing, attacking soccer. And then the switch flips off, like it did in the second half against Seattle, like it did the whole match against Colorado, like it did for most of the second half against San Jose. And, kidding aside, I don’t think Spencer or anyone else, including themselves, has any idea of how to flip that switch either on or off. This is one seriously schizo team, and much as I love ’em, I don’t understand what’s going on here, or why.

    Onward, goddamn it, Rose City!

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