Six Degrees – Blowout

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 3-0 win over Chivas USA.

1) I gotta tell you, after all the ties we’ve been having, it was nice to see a blowout win. Our first blowout of the season. The team looked great, not tired at all, like they did against Dallas. Sure, Harrington was gassed there at the end – I’m glad he didn’t cost us a goal, because for awhile there, he couldn’t keep up with his man – but otherwise, we looked sharp and on the front foot. Maybe that’s a result of our boys sleeping in their own beds, or maybe Chivas just makes everybody look a little better.

2) Chivas really didn’t look very good, did they? Lots of grabbing and holding. Very few threats on offense. Too many threats on the Portland ball boys. Their goalie’s the only one who had an impressive day, and he’s not even their regular starter. Aside from him, Chivas bears no resemblance to the team that was 2nd in the conference earlier this year. They look like a team in free fall. I’ve been reading that their owner is to blame; that he’s not interested in fielding a winning team, either here in the US or with the original Mexican League team in Guadalajara. It might be time for MLS to step in and do something, for the good of the league. (Don’t ask me what should be done about DC United. They’re horrendous. Chivas would pound them.)

3) Speaking of playing on the front foot, did you see how high our line was? A few times, the entire back four was across the centerline. And how about Futty Danso and Jack Jewsbury? Both of them had genuinely dangerous chances on goal. Maybe Jack was playing more offensively because Harrington was tired, but that doesn’t explain Futty. I think Futty just had goal fever. Maybe he’s trying to cement his position as the Alpha Gambian before Pa Modou Kah shows up. (That’s gonna be fun, isn’t it? Having two Gambians at centerback. The Great Wall of Gambia!)

I guess as long as I’m talking about the team pushing forward, I should compliment Chivas’s back four on how many times they got Ryan Johnson offside. In fact, there were so many offsides called against us that when Valeri finally got his goal, no one sitting around me quite believed it was real. We were all cheering sort of half-heartedly, eyes on the sideline ref, waiting for his flag to go up.

4) I want to say three words to you. Just three words. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. What is going on with this guy? He’s a changed man this season, isn’t he? I hear people calling him the best left winger in MLS and I think they might be right. He’s just a force these days. Huge energy all the time. Great passing, great scoring. He can play inside or out. He’s good with both feet. And his head. Last week, I declared Diego Chara to my Timbers MVP, but if we keep seeing this kind of play from Rodney Freakin’ Wallace, he could be collecting some hardware at the end of the season. (My MVP trophy is pretty impressive, too. It’s one of those old jelly jars with a Looney Tunes character on it. You know the ones? First-class all the way. I think I’ll give the winner either Bugs or Daffy.)

5) Right now, our offense is tied with Dallas for most goals per game, and if opposing defenses want to shut down our main threats, they’d better bring a lot of guys, because we have five, coun’t ’em, FIVE main threats. Ryan Johnson – 4 goals. Will Johnson – 4 goals. Nagbe, Valeri, and RFW – 3 goals each. And if the opposition has all those dudes covered, well, we’ve still got my boy Chara, who’s turning into a hell of an assist man. And then there’s Futty’s goal-scoring headbone. And Jack Jewsbury’s rocket shots from distance. Am I forgetting anyone? Oh, yeah, the subs! Piquionne and Alhassan looked great yesterday, didn’t they? (I especially liked Freddy’s gorgeous almost-assist to Will Johnson.) So, all in all, we’re a dangerous team, with many different threats. You might stop one, but it’ll be hard to stop them all.

6) Now we get to the crazy-prediction part of this column, and remember you heard it here first: yesterday’s victory was the first of four straight wins. Not ties. Wins.

You think I’m nuts? Tell me how I’m wrong. We’re going on the road, sure, but we’re playing some very beatable teams. And, let’s be honest, with the way we’re playing, EVERY team is beatable. So I’m calling it now. We go to Vancouver next week: win. Then to DC against the worst team in the league: win. Then to Chicago: win. That’ll be four games, four wins, and 12 points.

And that’s when it gets a little tougher, because we’ll be facing first-place Dallas. Except we’ll be at home. And they might not be the first place team anymore. After four straight wins, it might be us.

30 thoughts on “Six Degrees – Blowout

    1. Keep my highs low and my lows high? NEVER! That’s Caleb Porter’s job. My job is to blow things way out of proportion. It’s what I do.

    1. I’m pretty sure I was with you for the first three, but ICYMI? I’m trying to come up with some possibilities in my head, but most of them are dirty. And use the word “marmalade.”

      1. “In Case You Missed It”

        but also

        “Iceburg (Lettuce) Candied Yams Marmalade Icee” So yummy. Only at participating 7-11 shops.

    1. But you have to admit, all these teams are beatable. VERY beatable

      And personally, I think this column needs more Star Trek references.

      (Oh, 7 of 9… how you haunt my dreams…)

      1. As long as you don’t force it. What? Oh.

        I would agree about the 7 points though. The Whitecaps will be tricky, by DC and Chicago are stumbling out of the blocks this year. DC, what is it, 6 or 7 games without a win. Straight losses even, and they play Kansas City before us. Chicago will be tougher over there, but I still fancy us to have what it takes to get a win there. I think a minimum of 5 points is a decent baseline target, and 7 is achievable. I’m not going to jinx us by calling 9 points, yet.

      2. Those aren’t the points you’re looking for.

        (Oh no he didn’t! Oh yes he did!)

  1. I’ve been thinking that we have a penchant for over-acronyming our players’ names; with AJB, DTG, and KAH (which isn’t even a correct acronym for Alhassan) but I gotta say, RFW might be a keeper!

    And just to follow suit with the comments; it’s great watching this Team boldly go where no Timbers team has gone before.

  2. Just in case you thought I might sit back and keep my mouth shut this time. . .
    . . . no chance.

    #1. Yes. It is Caleb Porter’s job to keep the highs low and the lows high. But ask yourself “why?”

    one big reason has to do with team motivation and management, something we do not have to deal with here.

    However, another reason is that this season IS a marathon, and if we are not to blow ourselves out of the game mid-season, we need to keep that in mind. I agree with Kevin that Vancouver will not be a cakewalk. I have seen several posts from fans that seem to underestimate our snowy neighbors and that could be a concern.

    Fan management is sorta something we should deal with here. At some point this year, we will probably blow a game. We can set ourselves up to handle it in stride (still 439 laps to go) or we can panic and hit the wall. Fan support is important to this team, and our sudden lack of ferocity when they need it most–coming off an embarrassing loss–would be unfortunate.

    So there is something to be said for moderation by moderators. . .

    And it seemed that Harrington was not the only one gassed by the end. In particular at least one of those off-sides calls resulted from our forwards walking back to an on-side position. This was probably the thing that bugged me the most about Kris Boyd–no matter how good you are if you are off-sides you will not be able to score. And when the all has been played to you is the wrong time to start finding on-side positions again.

    #2. Chivas did not look very good. Don’t forget that their primary goal scorer just got shipped to the East Coast in apparent prep for some big acquisition or trade. Chivas would have looked very different last night with Dan Kennedy at goal and a top-flight forward. Still more reason to not rise too high over this “blow-out”. We do face them again. . . there.

    I am a bit concerned that the score was not 5-0. Given the way they played we very well could have walked away with more than a 3-point differential. And with a couple of breaks flowing the other way, it is a 1-1 tie (again) at home, against the bottom team in our conference. And with Kennedy in goal, two additional saves over a rookie’s first start, on the road, isn’t asking all that much.

    My question: Why do we miss so many good shots? I love our “sensational curling ball from the half-line” scores, as well as our saves of the week. But exceptional plays do not a championship team make. I hope we are able to do whatever it takes to get the “missed header from 3 feet” problem fixed.

    In other words, Dan Kennedy’s red card last week and the timing of Aguadelo’s trade might be all that separates our 3-0 blowout from a repeat of the New England game.

    #3. High back lines. Both sides featured them, and it made for an exciting game. I think we did an exceptional job on the back line–perhaps the biggest unsung victory of the game. Porter did an amazing job of adjusting our line to the flow of the game. We were not beat many times. This is one of those things that needed dramatic adjustment from the opening brace of games.

    #4. Yes! RFW and DFR! I place the credit for the performance of both of these players–as well as the huge turn-around of Ryan Johnson and Will Ryan this year–squarely before Coach Porter. The Ricketts piece talking about why he thinks he is doing so much better this year is eye-opening.

    Perhaps one of Porter’s greatest talents is finding the under-performing player and turning them around! In the MLS there is a lot to be gained from transforming underperforming players into stars.

    #5. If they kept such a stat, we might well lead the league in “almost goals.” That is not a distinction to be pursued. Again, we probably should have walked away with a 5-0 win. If we cannot turn some of these almosts around, other teams will figure out they don’t have to be marked. As it is, poor Diego Chara had a couple of really sweet looks at goal late in the game. The poor guy looked like he knew he couldn’t score!

    So many details define the difference between “goal of the week” and “almost goal” that player confidence is surely a big part. I hope that Caleb Porter has a back pocket solution for this issue, for it is one that has plagued Portland for a very long time. Two for instances; Kenny Cooper and Kris Boyd. They both scored some goals early in their respective seasons.

    #6. After throwing all of these wet blankets it might be surprising, but I believe we will emerge with 9 of 9 points. We are on a classic winning streak and all the major components seem to be in place.

    It is reasonable to believe, however, that this current hot streak will end. Question is, when it does will our team be strong enough in the fundamentals to carry us through?

    Yes. Especially if the guys can continue to count on an energized fan base even at the game following the big blown game. We are capable of keeping up our part of the workload through the entire season, as long as we keep remembering that the only smart sprint in a marathon is at the finish line.

    Next stop, Vancouver!

    1. Great to hear from you, Roy! But, I must say, after reading your first 5 degrees, I was a little shocked to see you agree with me on the 4 game winning streak. Go big or go home, right!

      Your point that this winning streak will eventually end is a good one. I think that we, as a fan base, will handle it well. After all, we’ve rooted un-erringly for a pretty crummy side for two years now. I think we’ll do okay with 2 or 3 losses.

      The question is, when will it happen? To be honest, that first game back, against Dallas, has real upset potential. Wouldn’t that be a drag? Team finally back from the road and they lay an egg at home.

      But it’s got to happen eventually. We’ll bitch, we’ll moan, but eventually we’ll dry our tears and love our team again, just like always.

      How will Caleb do? Well, he’s had very few missteps so far. I imagine he can handle some losses, too. Keep the lows high and all that. And he’s certainly proved himself as a tactician, so if everyone’s spirits are down, just fall back on tactics.

      Plus, we’ve got great leaders. Will and Jack should do a lot for the attitude in the locker room. I think we’re a sound group on that front.

      But the losses will come, no doubt. It won’t be fun, but it will definitely be interesting.

      1. Now there you go again!

        I am not even so sure that tying or losing to Dallas–the top team in the conference right now–would be an upset! We did tie them there, and THAT was an upset.

        It doesn’t make sense to cling to both.

  3. To tie back to a previous discussion, what about the incident with Darlington Nagbe’s elbow?

    Just what should be the difference betwen a non-event, a foul, and a card?

    I still think that Valeri’s injury was card-worthy, but I am not confident that Nagbe’s action was inoffensive.

    Where are the lines?

    1. I’m feeling like a bit of a dope here, Roy, but I’m not sure the incident you’re talking about. Can you give some details?

  4. No, wait… I just went to MLS.com and saw some video of Nagbe’s elbow, so I remember it now. Sadly, I’m not sure I have a strong opinion one way or the other. Yes, it was a bit like Valeri’s, and I wanted a card there. This time, hard to say. I’m fully prepared for you to call me a homer (which I won’t argue for a second… I’m a complete and total homer…), but can go either way on Nagbe getting a card. The thing is, if you look at some of the OTHER fouls around the league, Nagbe’s elbow was nothing. Actually, here’s the link. It’s a fun feature they do every week. http://www.mlssoccer.com/video/2013/05/13/instant-replay-ball-boy-center-stage-punch-thrown-columbus

    1. I watch the “Instant Replay” feature each week.

      But this is exactly my point.

      Let’s back up a bit and look at the health of football overall. There have been increasing concerns about head injuries due to cumulative effects of heading the ball, as well as the more serious head-to-head contact in contested headers. If we add to this the potential of concussion from flying elbows–such as with Valeri–we are looking at a serious problem, with the potential of a concussion injury every single game.

      Concussion is a serious thing. We are talking about people’s brains. Injury to brain. We have no idea what the long-term effects of concussion are, except that professional boxers have a much higher than expected rate of serious brain injury and disease. Let’s see. . . a ref in Utah just died from a punch to the head. DIED. . .

      Now look at our youth programs.

      From step-over moves to goal celebrations youth will idolize professional players, and take cues for acceptable behavior from MLS. I can tell you clearly that I don’t want my boys to risk concussion from a sport! I have met and interacted with people with head injuries, and it is not pretty.

      So at what level do we want to shrug off flying elbows-to-the-head? In the NBA there is little or no tolerance. A flying elbow will usually be penalized, a serious elbow will result in ejection. I am just about certain that if the flying elbow was penalized every time that players would quickly learn how to contest headers by keeping their elbows to themselves. It has happened with hand balls, after all.

      Will that represent a fundamental change to the game? Outlawing headers would dramatically change the game, but would penalizing the flying elbow also be a game-changer?

      Am I just being a ninny? Should we just accept the risk of head injuries as part of the game?

      If so, should we just accept the company of US-rules football and rugby and accept the consequences to our youth development? After all, I have never seen or heard of a league for little girls playing US-rules football. . . International football leagues for both boys and girls are commonplace. Surely the perception of differences in risk is a significant part of this difference.

      I really don’t know, although the more I think about it, the more I believe we can live without flying elbows, just as we can live without cleats-up tackles from behind.

      What do you think?

      1. I think they might try to outlaw flying elbows, but I don’t think it will happen until there are some serious injuries — the sort of injuries that are showing up in the NFL and in hockey. The NFL is only now starting to take this stuff seriously, and it was only after some serious independent research, combined with overwhelming anecdotal evidence in former players. The NHL has had some serious concussion problems with Eric Lindros and Sidney Crosby, so they’re addressing it, too, though I wonder if there would be as much talk if the hockey players going down were a bunch of no-names.

        I guess my point is that it’ll be awhile before soccer does anything drastic like calling every single player whose elbows go up. It will take some big-name players having serious problems. And there will probably also have to be some independent scientific research, similar to what’s been done with football.

        And all of that is a good ways down the road, I would imagine. Let’s hope things don’t get too ugly between now and then.

      2. Here is the question: Should we wait for serious injuries to act? We have some substantial influence as fans, however diffuse. is this worth pursuing, calling for action?

        I believe it is. I have seen the damage to US-football and more recently, to hockey, over the issue. Many parents are having second thoughts about signing up their precious ones to youth hockey leagues, and the practice of youth hockey is departing further and further from the professionals–so much so it sometimes doesn’t look like the same sport.

        I really do not want this to happen to football. I really do not.

        What is more, I despise the idea of high school boys and girls walking around with concussive injuries because they were playing football to win–just like the pros do.

        I guess I am trying to take the temperature of the issue with others. Regardless of whether you think it will happen soon, do you think that blows to the head should be routinely penalized, even carded?

        Would this seriously change the game?

      3. Totally agree. MLS (& PRO) needs to reduce the chance of concussion, and stopping elbows to the head are a significant part of that. They need to do this for several reasons: (1) Players. Several concussions can totally wreck a players’ later life — witness the dementia, depression, suicide, etc. that have been visited on former NFL players. (2) Lawsuits. The NFL is current the subject of more than 4,000 — yes, 4,000 — injury-related lawsuits by former players. Not all of these are about head injuries, but many of them are. MLS seriously needs to avoid this kind of thing. (3) Fans. Having key players on your favorite team get taken out, like Valeri was, is a complete bummer. Also, I think I’m in line with most fans in wanting to see quality play, not thuggery, out on the field.

        I have read that European leagues crack down on overly aggressive play. I wish MLS/PRO would do likewise.

  5. Just to throw a monkeywrench into the discussion… what about players heading the ball? Is that causing lots of micro-concussions? Because, if so, God help Futty Danso, you know? So clearly we can’t give players yellow cards for heading the ball. That truly WOULD change the game. But it would also be much safer for the players. And if we outlaw heading in youth soccer, then how will those kids fare when they get to the big leagues and don’t know how to head?
    Gigantic can of worms, isn’t it?

    1. Exactly my point.

      My wife is a research psychologist. She attended a presentation recently where the researcher speaking invited a guy from the audience to come forward. He administered a series of quick neurological tests and to everyone’s surprise, told the young man when he first started playing soccer, and which position he typically played.

      The effects of heading the ball are known, they can be measured, and they are harmful.

      Problem is, any move by the US would have to be independent of FIFA, and there is huge opposition to change throughout the world.

      I believe we are at the point that US-rules football faced in the 1950s; which led to the introduction of helmets. Perhaps a rugby-style headgear would alleviate the problem. Maybe in 10 years, this will be as standard as shin guards.

      What is clear, is that if we wait for the bad news to come, it will be a huge blow to football in the US. We have been benefiting from the perception (and so far, the research has upheld this) that football is safer than US-rules football, rugby or lacrosse. In particular, our youth programs are benefiting as aware-moms and aware-dads are pushing their dear little ones away from US-rules football and toward International-rules football.

      It would be a huge waste to sit back and do nothing until the headlines erupt that destroys that perception. I would much rather start instituting protective headgear in youth football, and begin training the first generation of players who learn to head using the gear.

      Even though folks won’t like it, we have to do something now, or pay a much higher price later.

      To be absolutely clear: We know that head collisions and heading the ball cause brain damage. This is fact and proven. What does it say about us if we do nothing, continuing to teach our children to damage their brains in youth leagues? What defense will MLS have in five years when players start figuring out that their Parkinsons’ is probably caused by their play in MLS, that the league knew it was a harmful practice, and that no one did anything about it?

  6. About the Valeri elbow, and the Silvestre Elbow (victims) and the Nagbe Elbow…

    It is really difficult to distinguish which ones are fouls and card-worthy, and which are not fouls at all. I think its all about positioning and timing.

    Valeri – might not be a foul. Houston player is already up, is throwing out his arm because that’s what people do (usually people say it’s for protection, or balance, but I think people are just trying to flap their arms and fly to the ball) and Valeri is basically the second guy on the scene.

    In Silvestre’s case, its the opposite situation. Silvestre is basically standing his ground – I’m not even sure he jumped – and Gordon comes running over and hurtles into him elbow first. I’m exaggerating a bit, because, like I said before, the distinction between this Silvestre card and the Valeri non-call is pretty hard to notice, but I do think it is there.

    And that’s how they get called.

    1. First of all, I’m glad to discover I’m not the only one who thinks a person should be able to fly if they can only flap their arms fast enough.

      And secondly, this is an excellent breakdown of how these plays differ. And maybe this is why soccer officials are the most subjective officials around. Maybe there’s just too much high-speed subtlety for anything other than “referee’s judgement.”

      I’ve always stated that a basketball referee’s “charging vs. blocking foul” is the toughest call in any sport, but maybe some soccer officials would disagree. They certainly have to make a lot of high-speed decisions out there. And on the whole, it’s just the one guy doing it.

    2. Granted. There are differences.

      Question is, are these differences significant?

      If there is real (as opposed to only professed) concern about head injuries, then shouldn’t the ref’s job be made easier? If you smack another guy’s head with your elbow, it is a foul. . .

      Then let the refs decide if it is egregious enough for additional color, based on subjective factors.

      There are more ways to fly, after all. Rocket ships don’t flap their wings at all.

  7. I’m also loving the idea of 12 of 12 points being something of a non-dramatic call to make. Like, reasonable people are looking at it and thinking, hmm, a four game winning streak, with three of them away? I guess the odds are against it, but we are pretty good….

    I mean, what a difference a year makes!

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