Six Degrees – Keep Portland Weird

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 2-2 tie at Vancouver.

Okay, people, there were so many weird things about this game, so many things that I either need to cheer or ridicule or shout down with furious rage, that I’ll just get them all out of the way here at the start. I promise, there will be some “normal” stuff towards the end. I think.

1) The first point I’d like to make is that, right this minute, somewhere in British Columbia, Whitecaps forward Camilo Sanvezzo is diving to the ground.

And about 300 yards away from him, his line-of-sight completely blocked by a family in a mini van, referee Matthew Foerster is:

  • Taking a bong hit
  • Reaching for his yellow card
  • Taking ANOTHER bong hit
  • Pulling out the MLS referee’s how-to-guide, which he just read for the first time on Wednesday
  • Putting the yellow card away and grabbing the red
  • Tripping over his bong, falling on his face, and soiling his underwear.

2) Now, there really is no excuse for Camilo’s constant flopping, but perhaps we can excuse the ref’s ineptitude a little. After all, how could he tell the teams apart? It was the All White team playing the Almost All White team.

When the Timbers rolled out the new uniforms this Spring, I immediately disliked the way the “Rose City Red” jerseys only had red on the front, not the back. Still, I didn’t think those white backs would cause this much trouble in a game. All that sloppy play? All those missed passes by Diego Valeri? Maybe it wasn’t a case of him trying too hard. Maybe he just got confused by the uniforms. Thought he was passing to the Almost All White team.

3) Alright, enough with the bad… here comes the good… it’s comin’ ’round the bend… building up steam… dear God, get out of the way! CHOOOOOOOOO CHOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Okay, for all those readers who AREN’T obsessive Timbers junkies, let me give you a little background on Jose Adolfo “El Trencito” Valencia. Apparently, in Columbia, his daddy was the Big Train, which makes Jose the Little Train, and here in Portland, he’s become something of a mythical figure, like Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. We think he’s real, but we’re not entirely sure, because he’s young and raw and doesn’t play very often. But just like with Sasquatch, whenever there is a sighting, even if it’s just for a few minutes at the end of a game, El Trencito looks so good that every Timbers fan starts wetting themselves and screaming about how he needs to play more and how all these ties would be wins if we’d just put Trencito in there to work his magic.

Except there was no magic. He was Sasquatch. Grainy photographs were the only evidence anyone could provide. There were no goals, there were no great plays, there was nothing, really, except hype.

Until now, that is. Because this past Saturday, in Vancouver, British Columbia, not only did Trencito finally make an appearance, not only did he score, he did it so dramatically – nay, miraculously – that it’s pretty much guaranteed nobody in this town will ever shut up about him again. To be perfectly honest, if Trencito doesn’t start our next game, I’m worried the Timbers Army will lay siege to Caleb Porter’s house. With catapults and flaming arrows and everything.

So, yeah, we finally have proof. Sasquatch exists. He plays forward for the Timbers and he single-handedly ripped the heart out of the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend.

4) Okay, now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, some more reasonable commentary. Like the fact that both of Vancouver’s goals were gorgeous. Donovan Ricketts didn’t have a hope on either one.

Of course, ours weren’t so bad, either. That was our second penalty kick of the season. Two! In the same season! Can you believe it? And Will Johnson’s the right man to take them. How in the name of God did Real Salt Lake let him get away?

And Trencito’s goal? How cool did he look? Two defenders mauling him, goalkeeper racing toward him, he just gathers the ball, checks his watch, has a cup of coffee, and slots that baby home. You’d think he was a seasoned pro, he looked so calm.

Now, did he touch it with his hand? I’m not sure. I’m really not. The Vancouver fans are screaming about it, though. They’re not screaming about Futty’s red. They’re not screaming about all the diving. So all I can say is, quiet down, Vancouver. Whether Trencito touched that ball or not, you’ve got no room to talk. You’re not even close to us on the bad call tally sheet.

5) Well, Futty Danso’s out next week with that red card. How are we doing for Gambian center backs? Do we have an extra? We do? Awesome! Send him in!

So we’ll finally get to see Pa Modou Kah’s debut at centerback. What about Darlington Nagbe? If he’s hurt, the obvious sub would be Kalif Alhassan. But do we really want two KAHs on the field at the same time? Sounds risky. Especially when we’ve got… CHOOOOOOO CHOOOOOOOO!!!

How great would it be if the Timbers come out next week in a 4-2-2-2, with Ryan Johnson and El Trencito up front? You know the fanatics will be calling for it. And what better time to try it than against DC United, who aren’t just the worst team in the league, but have actually been lapped a couple times. Nothing’s finalized yet, but I’m pretty sure they’re starting ME next week, and I haven’t played soccer since 8th grade!

6) Now, like I said at the beginning, it was a weird game and I’m a weird guy, so this has been a weird column, but I’ll close by making an important point. If you can get a tie on the road when you’re not playing your best, you must be a pretty good team. It was an ugly match for the Timbers on Saturday. A huge number of things went against us but somehow we came out of there with a point. Last year, we lose that game. This year, we tie. This team has a heart the size of Secretariat’s. Eventually, our unbeaten streak will end, but I know we’ll go down fighting. To the very last second. Even if we’re a man down.

I’m glad Pa Modou Kah got his visa sorted out and was on the sidelines Saturday, watching the way we fought back against Vancouver. He needs to understand what kind of team he’s joining. What is it Will Johnson said? “We will always fight to the death. Bare minimum requirement to play for the Timbers.”

I hope Kah’s ready to fight.

33 thoughts on “Six Degrees – Keep Portland Weird

  1. Great article, but geez, how much caffeine had you had when you wrote it? I’m exhausted, just reading it! 😛

    1. I can neither confirm nor deny reports that I had seven cups of coffee while writing the column in question.

  2. Not that it matters, because if he handled the ball it should have been called, and if he didn’t handle the ball, well, he scored anyway, but didn’t the fallen defender handle the ball pretty egregiously as well?

    1. I’m not sure if you’re talking about the Valencia goal or the Rodney Freakin’ Wallace almost-goal, so I just went back to look at video of both plays and, I gotta tell you, I just can’t tell. On both plays, there’s a defender who might possibly have touched ball (especially the RFW play), but it’s so hard to tell.

      I will say this: on Valencia’s goal, none of the Whitecap players were freaking out, screaming for a handball. Seems significant, if you ask me.

      (I’d love to use the argument that the ref was too far behind Valencia’s play to see anything, but that didn’t stop him on Futty’s red card, did it?)

      1. I think you’re giving those concerns too much credit. I haven’t heard a single person mention a handball, and frankly, it wasn’t one.

  3. Many will already know this, but Trencito’s dad played for the Colombian National Team through much of the 90’s, and there’s a fascinating documentary from ESPN’s 30 in 30 series called “The Two Escobars” where you can see him.

    Sebastian Rincon’s father was on the Colombian National Team at the same time.

    1. I remember watching that US vs Colombia world cup match when Escobar scored the own goal. None of us in the bar knew we’d just seen a man sign his own death warrant. I wonder if he knew?

      1. Watch ESPN’s show, “The Two Escobars.” It’s fabulous. Gives such a good sense of what life was like in Colombia at that time.

    1. Thanks, bro. I was a little worried I’d overdone it with the comedy. Hopefully our game against DC will be a more straightforward affair, so I can just write a normal column again.

      Oh, wait! I’m playing in that game! Dammit! Buffoonery is guaranteed!

    1. At first, I thought this was some sort of motivational statement, like, “There’s no I in team,” but now I realize that it’s just a straight geography lesson. How did I not know the proper spelling? Unacceptable. I will now make up for it by memorizing the capital cities of every South American country. Even Bolivia, where they have two.

      1. two Bolivian capitals? La Paz and. . . oh. . .you mean the constitution thing! It is sort of like Bolivia’s department of the Navy. . . landlocked Bolivia. But will you memorize the capital of Galapagos? With names like Ascuncion and Montevideo and Cayenne, everyone ought to know the South American capitals. Even better, get to know the diverse football styles of say, Argentina and Ecuador.

      2. I think right now I can give every capital except for those three little countries everyone forgets about on the NE corner. Just east of Venezuela. Actually, I’m not sure I can even name the countries, much less their capitals. See how forgettable they are?

      3. you mean Georgetown/Guyana, Paramaraibo/Surinam, and the aforementioned Cayenne/French Guyana? (If I erred in spelling it is either because of jersey color or because I really did do this by memory. . .

        my mnemonics: Cayenne as in spice–French cuisine uses spices
        Paramaraibo–utterly cool/unusual name, Surinam is different from the other two Guyana-derivative names (it used to be Dutch Guyana, I think).
        Georgetown–Guyana–both Gs, and both straightforward names as in the Jonestown massacres (kool-aid suicide)

    1. Football? Erm… I think you mean SOCCER. Because there are definitely ties in football. The Rams and 49ers had one just last year.

      (Why do I feel like I’m starting a very silly fight right now?)

    2. I much prefer ties in the regular season to the all-or-nothing penalty kick-off. That is a truly stupid way to decide a game. . . might as well play rock-scissors-paper at midfield. Problem is that in the beautiful game scoring is not frequent and the differential is often slight.

      I suspect this is somewhat due to the dual tendencies to let off the gas when you are ahead, and to play to your opponent’s level. So no matter how good or how bad they play, you will win if you are slightly better, and lose if you are slightly not.

      Perhaps a tie is a more realistic outcome for a 90-minute game.

      I certainly do not want to ever see 3-hour last-man-standing matches with dozens of injuries as a result of extreme exhaustion.

      Perhaps a 4-on-4 fast-paced 10 minutes might be more likely to provide results, but this would favor the teams with a few high-level stars. . . or what about an aggregate with the reserve sides, in the case of a tie? There is something to a depth-of-team quality.

      1. The 4-on-4 idea is kind of cool. Maybe not perfect, but still, it would be fun to watch.

  4. Hi gang, I the posting you forgot to mention that the passing by the Timbers was horrible , In the first half of the game I the the Whitecaps intercepted all ( well not all ) the Timbers forward passes.
    This is a problem that must be fixed.

    1. Agreed completely. But there is the uniform situation to think about. The game moves very fast out there, with super-quick decisions about where to pass the ball. If a guy sees an open man out of the corner of his eye, he might make that super-quick pass based solely on the color of the uniform. And, well, you know what happened Saturday, with the All Whites versus the Almost All Whites.

      I’m not saying I’m right about this. It’s just a theory. But a compelling one.

      1. I don’t think the uniform thing is all that big. The important thing for a good “possession with purpose” team is not the ability to see and identify a player as your teammate, it is to anticipate where your mates will be. To know one another well enough that you can pass to where they should be, rather than spotting one in the crowd.

        Players are moving all around, and in our style, players need to keep mental track of where several other players are and their anticipated trajectories. Can’t get the ball, then decide who to pass it to. . . now last year, the uniform would have been a stopper!

        And even from the back, there is the big red butt. . . Somewhat difficult to miss. . .

    2. Entirely true. Without a stable of superstars, the Timbers require accurate passing to succeed. Like Montreal, the Whitecaps collapsed in their own half for much of the game.

      Yet it seems to me that the missed passes is a symptom. After all, several of the fouls called against us were silly-squared; silly to have been called a foul by an inexperienced referee (his first professional game) but also silly for us to have been caught where we were with the suspicious hand so near the opened cookie jar.

      Futty should not have been sent off. But what in the world was he thinking, draping his arm over Camilla’s shoulder for so long? And Will Johnson’s yellow early on was totally unnecessary.

      And there is the problem of missed opportunities. You only get a certain number of opportunities to score when you face a team playing defensively. Plays such as when Wallace manages to miss the ball from six inches of the goal line, and where his beautiful header flies right at the keeper. . .

      If we had another half-dozen opportunities, I wonder if we would have scored three?

      And Ricketts. All right, I am getting accustomed to his island demeanor and pace around the goal. But even one quality save throughout the game would have given us the win. Thing is, for both of their goals (which were pretty, no doubt) he could have been positioned better and reacted quicker. You are capable, Donovan, you have done it in so many games.

      The real problem this game was that the guys showed up playing to their ability level, rather than above it. We have scored so many goals and saves of the week in MLS this year because we have so often played impressively, In Vancouver, we played well.

      It is possible that we could win in New England playing well, but we will be without arguably our top three center backs and potentially without Nagbe. Plus under whatever other plagues the soccer gods visit upon us for their sick amusement. New England, though, just beat Houston. In Houston. We underestimate them at our peril. Plus, they now have Agudelo, who we thankfully missed in the Chivas game.

      If we are to fly confidently to New England, our wondrous team of overachievers need to be ready to overachieve once again. The quality of play against Chivas (never mind the outcome) and Vancouver (likewise) will simply not be good enough for a road win. And wins are still something we are remarkably short of. . .

      I don’t know the magic answer. But whatever Coach Caleb has done to turn this group of old guys and misfits into a top contender for the Supporter’s Shield (!!!!) needs to return in full force. We need to complete passes, we need to avoid silly fouls, we must transform opportunities into goals, and we need a great game from our patched-up back line and Ricketts.

      One more thing. While I appreciate from the bottom of my heart the tying goal of el trencito, I would like to point out that he has been playing all along in the reserves. And not scoring a boatload of goals. So please, let’s not wish too hard, and not pray at all, for a significant roster change based on one play that could have been called a handball. (I do not believe it was–I think the MLS crew got this one wrong–but it was at least close. . . )

      Instead, let us do what we have shown the world we can do, and do it exceptionally. And wish very hard, and pray as well, that Pah will somehow slide right into the back line without the gaffes we suffered from the first days of Silvestre.

      And while you are at it, if wishes and prayers do come true, wouldn’t it be nice to have Horst and Silvestre and even Dike back in the line-up much, much sooner than predicted? And wouldn’t it be great if this injury to Nagbe turns out to be a one-time blip?

      Two solid, convincing wins on the road–without heroic last minute comebacks–would situate us comfortably for the toughest part of our schedule.

      1. Excellent points, Roy. I only have a couple corrections.

        One, it wasn’t the ref’s first match. On the broadcast, John Strong said something like “this ref’s first professional match was a Portland-Montreal game in 2009.” But he said it kinda weird, hence the confusion.

        Secondly, your comments about next week’s game versus New England were excellent and insightful, except we’re playing DC United.

        However, like New England, DC is also getting a few guys back from injury, so we need to be careful.

      2. And I agree that we need to keep fingers crossed on Kah. I’m really glad he’s been here a week or two, so we can avoid Silvestre’s jet-lag screw-ups. And we can also hope he turns out to be as brilliant as Silvestre.

  5. LOVE your column,especially the caffeine pace and humor. I am a newbie to soccer so it helps me understand a lot better when written in a language I know!

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