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!