Six Degrees: The Dallas Timeline

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 1-1 tie with Dallas.

1) My biggest reaction watching the game: the team looked tired. They’ve played so many games, so close together, and last night I saw a lot of jogging, standing around, sloppy passes, and a real lack of sharp cuts and quick acceleration. I’ve gotten used to these guys giving 100% effort from start to finish, and last night it was missing. It was especially obvious with Harrington, who’s usually such a powerhouse, but Valeri and Nagbe seemed to be dragging a little, too. And of course, early in the game, the entire back four was a mess. We’re lucky we didn’t give up an early goal.

Considering how tired we looked, it surprised me when Caleb Porter decided to sub out Piquionne and Alhassan. In theory, those were the two freshest guys on the field. Why not sub out the tired guys? I’m not gonna complain too much about this, since one, I don’t think it was actually Caleb Porter down there. (You saw the goatee, right? If bad television has taught us anything, it’s that a goatee signifies “evil twin.”) And secondly, Alhassan’s sub, Rodney Wallace, had that beautiful pass which Nagbe put into the net.

2) Okay, let’s talk about the yellow card on Andrew Jean-Baptiste. I’ll just start this off by saying I’m no expert. And soccer refereeing is a very subjective thing. Nevertheless, that was a questionable call, wasn’t it?

If you’ve seen the video replays, you know what I’m talking about. Perez and Beast were in an absolute wrestling match. Perez had Beast’s shirt and vice versa. Perez is moving toward the goal, pulling Beast with him. At this point, Beast needs to just let go, but he doesn’t. Perez eventually falls down right in front of the goal, the two of them still holding uniforms, and because of where the ref is standing, it looks like Beast shoved Perez to the ground. Out comes the yellow card, but there was no shove. The replays show it.

So, in the end, what do we call this? I think we call it a savvy veteran taking advantage of a young defender. I think Perez knew exactly what he was doing and got exactly the result he was hoping for. Kind of a dirty way to get a p.k., but still, that’s what savvy veterans do. Beast will just have to learn from this.

3) I’ve had five or six of these columns now and I still haven’t taken time to praise Donovan Ricketts. The guy’s on fire, isn’t he? He makes one or two goal-saving plays every single game and last night was no exception.

It’s been a little tough on Donovan since he arrived in Portland last year. For starters, he was traded for a truly beloved Timber, Troy Perkins. Secondly, our general manager did Donovan no favors by insulting Troy on the way out the door. And finally, let’s be honest, Donovan was a little shaky last year. So you can sort of understand why the fans were down on him.

Well that’s a problem no more. Ricketts is having a fabulous season and Timbers fans are finally welcoming him into their hearts, which I am thrilled to see. Keep up the good work, Donovan. You’re a great keeper and a nice guy and without you we’d have 2 or 3 more losses this year.

4) On a night of tired legs and sloppy passing, who else deserves some love? Well, Diego Chara was his usual brilliant self. It was his heavenly through-ball that led to Piquionne’s near-goal. And the tackle he made on that Dallas breakaway was truly world-class. Ten games into the season, he’s my MVP.

I should also mention Darlington Nagbe. He looked very tired the whole evening, but that goal was some sweet stuff. Nags has a hard time scoring in the one-on-one situations, but when he has to make split second decisions like last night, he puts ’em away.

And I think we can be pleased with the two new starters, Frederic Piquionne (who I enjoy calling “Freddy”) and Kalif Alhassan (who can no longer be referred to as KAH, since we just signed a guy whose name is actually “Kah,” which is all the proof you need that my Caleb Porter Evil Twin Theory is correct). Freddy had that gorgeous almost-goal the keeper just barely got a fingernail on, while KAH 1.0 had the looping pass across the box that Valeri almost put in.

5) So here’s the question: who starts Sunday against Chivas? As tired as we looked last night, we’re going to be even worse Sunday. Does Porter’s evil twin rest the starters? Kah 2.0 is still trying to get his visa taken care of, so he can’t step into the back four. But that big rookie Dylan Tucker-Ganges could. Does he get the start?

What about the rest of the lineup? Does Sal Zizzo make the starting XI? Jose Adolfo (choo chooooooo!) Valencia? Zemanski? Ryan Miller? Nanchoff? There are a ton of guys that I really wouldn’t mind seeing, if only to find out what they’re made of.

To be honest, wouldn’t it be fun if Evil Twin sends out six or seven brand new starters on Sunday? And why not? The team’s tired, we’ll be at home, and Chivas is struggling. Let’s do it, Evil Twin! Be evil!

6) As I’ve written before, there are ties that feel like wins and ties that feel like losses. This one was definitely closer to a win. I mean, honestly, it’s our first game without Mikael Silvestre, we’re on the road against the league’s best team, and we’re tired from a short week. Last year’s Timbers would have lost 16-0. This year’s crew goes in there and gets a point. Well done, fellas.

Over a quarter of the way through the season, we’re 3rd place in the western conference, and we just tied the 1st place team on the road. This is no longer a fluke, people. This is for real. The Timbers are a very good team.

Now watch… Evil Twin will follow my advice, start all the newbies, Chivas will beat us 47-1, and I’ll have a bunch of angry, pitchfork-waving Timbers fans on my front lawn. It wasn’t me, guys! It’s the evil twin! He’s evil! He’s got a goatee and everything! Evil!

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15 thoughts on “Six Degrees: The Dallas Timeline

  1. How hot was it down in Dallas? I only caught the second half so I didn’t see/hear any details, but could that have been a factor? Given that most teams are playing two games this week, I thought the Timbers got a pretty good draw because they had the midweek game last week giving them a full week’s rest this week. Of course, Dallas had the full on bye…

    1. You’re right, Peter, we did have the midweek game last week, so that was helpful. But remember, we played at KC the previous Saturday.

      So at KC,
      five days rest,
      New England on Thursday,
      six days rest,
      Dallas on Wednesday,
      four days rest,
      Chivas on Sunday.

      That’s four games in three weeks.

      Personally, I’ll be glad to get back to the once-a-week schedule.

    2. I was there in Jeans and a T-shirt, wearing two scarves, and the weather felt perfect. This entire week has been really moderate here in town. Agreed tho, the entire team looked like they were driving with the hand brake on.

  2. I was at the match – the weather was perfect, honestly. Upper 70’s at the start. No issues there.

    Great group of timbers fans there! The Lone Star Brigade represents the TA extremely well.

    Nice to have the Chivas match right away (assuming we can get the win)

    Coach Porter is a class act. After the team came over to greet the fans (with AJB rushing over first & jumping the fence to high 5 everyone) CP came over & did the same thing.

    I talked with him @ the airport & he was the same way. Very sincere & appreciative of the fans.

    1. Was he all “professorial” like he is with the media? I’ve often wondered if he reins himself in a bit when he’s with the media or if that’s just his natural personality.

      Your take?

  3. at the airport Porter was very friendly – i walked up to him, Diego Valeri, and a couple of Timbers staff members, and before I could say hello he had his hand out and was asking my name. He seemed genuinely pleased and appreciative that I was going to the match in Dallas.

    after the match he jumped right over the fence to where about 20 of us were, right at the front of the railing, and slapped every hand, and thanked us all for coming. Probably spend a solid minute there being sure he thanked everyone. Way beyond the call of duty from my perspective.

    He does come across as a fairly serious person, no doubt, and I do think that’s probably his personality. But he went above and beyond as far as I’m concerned.

    I met John Spencer once (actually it was on the elevator heading up to the press conference where he was being introduced) and he took a look at me and called me Freddie Ljundberg and joked around a bit. I don’t look that much like Ljundberg but I do shave my head similarly, I guess.

    Both were friendly, but Porter really went way out of his way on both occasions to show appreciation. I’d be a big fan of his even if he weren’t particularly friendly and gracious, but I was quite impressed.

    I would have loved to have had a chance to speak with Valeri in Spanish, as my dad’s from Buenos Aires just like him, but I didn’t want to impose and Porter had already been nice enough to chat a bit. Next time!

  4. The draws away are all right, as long as we pair them with wins at home. With that caveat I will say that getting a point at Dallas is not something to be taken lightly.

    I agree that the team looked lethargic, especially in the first half. For all of Porter’s talk of being hungry, it looked more like the team had just excused themselves from a sumptuous traditional Thanksgiving day dinner, complete with turkey, sweet potatoes, biscuits and gravy. I really didn’t see any hunger by either team before half time.

    Dallas did not appear to be a superstar team. They were good, but not great. Put another way, I would rather have our team at this point than their team with even a 9 point lead in the standings. It looks like they have enjoyed a bit of a streak while several other really good Western Division teams have been tying one another.

    From a points perspective, you want your opponents to tie one another rather than to have one win, for this will result in just two points “against” you, instead of three. This effect gets washed out largely over the course of the season, as various teams run into winning streaks, but expecially early you can see how a conference with all-around solid teams will result in fewer points than one with a few good teams, and some real bottom-of-the-table teams.

    Who would rather play Seattle three games than DC?

    That said, the path to success in the West is to keep getting points. It is simple, but converting no points into one, and one into three pays off over time. The strategy that does not work is to convert three points into one regularly.

    As it sits, I imagine most teams would be happy to take away a point from visiting Sporting KC or FC Dallas.

    This weekend we will see whether we really can win at home, whether our previous losses and ties were a fluke. I hope so. I believe so.

    But just as taking one point from Dallas away was a sort of victory, allowing Chivas to escape with any points from Jeld-Wen will be a significant blow.

    For a team that ties on the road and at home will not do a lot in this league.

    1. Agreed completely, Roy. And thanks for that little math lesson. I’d never really thought about two teams sharing two points, versus one team getting three. Seems obvious, but it had never occurred to me.

      By the way, I’ve been having fantasies of a four-game winning streak. A four-game WINNING streak, with 12 big points. It might just shoot us into first place.

      Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?

  5. On Piquionne. . .

    I was impressed by his play Wednesday evening. He seemed active, moving and creating, as well as working on, chances. He did not score, and ultimately that is the iron test of a forward.

    I am not sure he would not have scored if he had gone the entire 90, or if the team would have looked different in the first half with Ryan at forward. He did look a little less integrated with the rest of the team, but perhaps this is do to the rest of the team the first half of this game.

    It is clear that chemistry is vital to this team. The sum of the parts is much much smaller than the whole. As a team we accomplish far more than would be expected by looking at individual dossiers. Together, we are mighty.

    But what creates that chemistry? Is it exclusively Porter? Is there one key player who causes it to happen? Is it possible to look at the first half and make some conclusions?

    For example, is it possible that Ryan Johnson or Diego Valeri are critical to the team performing at their best? Or is there another reason why the team lacked the chemistry early on in Dallas?

    One of a coaches’ responsibilities is to get the players ready to play when the opening whistle sounds. This is something that John Spencer apparently was not good at doing. When the team played at home before the Timbers Army, they were jazzed and ready to play. But away from home, they looked flat, every game.

    Porter has shown he can inspire players to give of their best even when away from the main force of the Timbers Army. This is reflected in the undefeated-on-the-road record this year. But did Porter fail to accomplish this at Dallas? He certainly lit some fires at half-time, but the Timbers who started the game looked distressingly like last year’s team.

    Or was there some other reason for the lethargy? This is an important question because it is the team chemistry–not the skills of a particular player or two–that is responsible for our success this year. If we show up back at Portland looking like this first half team, we will lose against Chivas. If we show up at our best, no one can stop us. No one.

    1. I think they were just tired, brudda. It’s been a tough 3 weeks. Lotta games, lotta air miles. Fortunately, they’re back home now, sleeping in their own beds, and after Sunday’s game, they’ll have a full week until playing again. Let’s hope the fatigue doesn’t show against Chivas. After all, we did lose to them 3 times last year. Hard to believe, but true.

  6. Unequivocally – WE BELIEVE BEYOND REASON!!! The boys will be rested and happy to be back home in front of the TA and will kick Chivas butt! Send only the positive vibes, YELL LOUDLY (kick the tourists into yelling instead of tweeting and talking, drinking and being asses) – SUPPORT YOUR CAPOS – YELL LOUDER!!! WE NEED TO ROCK THE JWF! Support our boys in the best tradition of the TA – no racism, no bigotry – just love for the Team and the sport! PTFC – RCTID!

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