Six Degrees – Getting Old

Man, I’ve been crazy-busy these last few days, and somehow Kevin Alexander got his column out before I did. Which is fine, I say. He’s provided you the calm, considered, and logical analysis. Now I’m here to bring you the TRUTH.

1) Clearly, when you have a 2-2 tie, there must be somebody to blame. Obviously, in this case, we can blame the Chicago groundskeepers. Did you see the goalposts? They were GIGANTIC! They must have been three feet across. How else could we hit the woodwork twice in the first 30 seconds? Three times in the first four minutes? And Valeri’s goal was off the post, too. Ridiculous! Who do they think they’re fooling? Clearly, these posts were thicker than regulation. Don’t believe me? Did you see the Chicago groundskeepers dragging that big-ass goal to the opposite end at halftime? Hmm? Did you? I’ve scoured the internet and there is no video showing they DIDN’T switch the goals. That’s all the proof I need. Conspiracy, I say! Conspiracy!

I’ve already contacted the league commissioner. He says he’ll look into it.

2) Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get serious. These ties are getting old, aren’t they? Yes, it’s wonderful that we haven’t lost on the road. Yes, it’s great that we can “learn a lesson,” as Coach Porter says, and still get a point on the road. Yes, yes, and yes again. But generally, teams make the playoffs because they WIN games. We’re sort of the opposite. We’re going to make the playoff by not losing. Am I complaining? I’m not sure. I’m really not. The “not losing” thing is great. But honestly, this is getting a little weird.

Love the spirit, fellas. Love the “refuse to lose” spirit. Now, let’s turn it up a notch. “Refuse to lose or tie” isn’t nearly as catchy, but let’s try it anyway. Three points from here on, what do you say?

3) That being said, you do realize we were missing four starters, right? 36% of our starting lineup was off playing for various national teams. How did the subs do? Pretty good, actually. At forward, Freddy Piquionne was everything we could ask for, actually. Two assists, good work rate all night. If he scores a couple goals before Ryan Johnson comes back, Coach Porter’s going to have a tough decision to make.

Ben Zemanski? I like him. Yes, his goal was super, but I liked him even without the goal. He’s fast, he’s disruptive, he’s always in the middle of things. Reminds me of Diego Chara. I don’t think Rodney Freakin’ Wallace’s starting spot is in danger, though.

Nor is Donovan Ricketts’s. Milos Kocic was only okay in goal, I thought. He couldn’t do a thing about that free kick goal. It was a perfect shot. But the other goal? Super-hard to tell what happened there, with bodies flying all over. Did Kocic drop it? Or was it knocked out of his hands? I dunno, but I do know this …

4) … I’ve just about had it with Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Not only will Futty Danso be starting the moment he steps off the plane from Gambia, it’s possible Jean-Baptiste will lose his job before then. To McKenzie, maybe? To Tucker-Gangnes? To me? I don’t know. But I know that every single game, Beast does something that scares the hell out of me. He’s either wrestling someone in the box or missing an assignment or running into the goalie. And do you remember how Coach was screaming at him during that US Open Cup game versus Wilmington? I think Beast’s position as a starter is in serious jeopardy. If anyone out there can tell me how I’m wrong and how Beast is a lot better than I realize, I’d love to hear it. Educate me.

5) A lot of people are screaming about how the Timbers fell apart as soon as Diego Valeri came out of the game, and I’m not going to contradict that. But I’m not sure we can complain too much, and here’s why: Caleb Porter’s not just managing the game, he’s managing the entire season. He knows we’ve got a ton of games coming up – important games, too – so he’s figuring out who needs rest, who needs to play. He’s worried about Valeri’s bad hamstring. He’s wondering if the international call-ups will be exhausted when they come back. He’s wondering who’ll be the next central defender to blow out their knee. So I can forgive him taking Valeri out of the game early. He’ll probably do the same with some other players in the next couple weeks. We’ve got a tough stretch ahead. Coach is thinking long-term.

6) So how do the next few weeks turn out? Well, obviously all my predictions have come true this year, so I’ll drop a few more on you. Feel free to call your bookie right away.

I think we crush Tampa Bay in tomorrow’s US Open Cup match. Our boys have a bad taste in their mouths. Tampa will pay the price.

Then a quick turnaround for a Saturday game and I think we eke out a tie versus Dallas. We’re at home, but Dallas is leading the league and we’ll be tired and undermanned. So, yes, another damn tie. Curse them.

And then ANOTHER quick turnaround for a Wednesday game against the LA Galaxy. We’ll still be tired and undermanned, only this time we’ll be in Los Angeles. To make it even tougher, we don’t know if we’ll be playing Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. One week, LA is an overwhelming force. The next week, they’re getting shut out. And so, for my prediction, I fall back to the easy choice. A tie. Another damn tie.

It’s getting old, fellas.

13 thoughts on “Six Degrees – Getting Old

  1. The person I’m wondering about is Kah. Every analyst keeps saying that he’s such a strong addition to our defense, but I’m not seeing it. Can someone explain to me why people think he’s so good?

    1. The thing I’m seeing from Kah right now is a tendency to boot the ball out of trouble, rather than start working it slowly up the field. I’m fully prepared to blame this on unfamiliarity with the team, and I hope it changes.

      This season has shown me how important communication is to a defense. We’ve had so many personnel problems back there – most through injury, some from international duty – that our communication suffers. That first goal? If Ricketts is back there, I bet he calls Beast off. The second goal? Nobody’s stopping that kick.

  2. To add on to #4–I feel like AJB has, in a way, become our substitute Horst. He’s got a ton of heart and really throws himself into every game, but often does so at the expense of the rest of the back line. It’s great that he cares so much, but it’s also really, really scary at times. So, in (slight) defense of Beast, A+ for effort, but a much lower grade for execution.

      1. I did get an opportunity to wait for the autographs after the game yesterday. First up was David Horst himself! I asked him how he was doing and after the obligatory “better each day” comments he mentioned that he was scheduled to start running this week and was aiming to be back on the field in September.

      2. interesting! I wonder if Dike has a target date this season? I’m almost positive Silvestre’s out until next year, but I could be wrong, since I thought Horst was, too.

  3. regarding the Timbers being tired and undermanned on Saturday vs Dallas, remember that Dallas also plays a USOC match tomorrow, and it’s vs Houston. So unless they decide they don’t care about the USOC and play mostly subs, they’ll have to work harder than we will, presumably, to win that match, then travel to Portland (while the Timbers are home all week.)

    Can’t remember how many players Dallas is missing on Intl duty but I thought they did have it a bit easier than Portland.

    I’m still hopeful of a win vs Dallas,as I was at the Dallas Away match and Portland was the better team that day, I thought. We’ll see!

    1. good job pointing out dallas’s game tomorrow. i’d forgotten about that, but it should even things a bit. enough to give us three points? boy, i hope so.

  4. Everyone is saying we had no chance on the second. Well first (sorry about the wordplay), it was a stupid foul, but most important, we didn’t set up for the free kick well. Kocic seemed to have the wall defending the far post, but he was way too central to defend the near post. Goalkeeping error methinks, so that would make two keeper errors in the game that cost us goals, harsh though they both were. A more seasoned, or able keeper might have got one or both of those.

    1. fair points. and credit Chicago for taking that free kick a little before we were expecting.

      it was still a helluva kick, though.

  5. I think he’s a good guy and he really works for his position, but–and I’m going to use an obnoxious buzzword here–he may lack a bit of “maturity” or “experience” that many of our other CBs have. I think if we had full depth at CB, AJB wouldn’t be starting. I think that AJB has the potential to be a regular in a year or two, but at the moment he needs to fine-tune his powers of judgment and work on being more moderate in his positioning/fouling. He went on loan to LA last season, and I think it wouldn’t hurt to send him back once we actually have healthy, starting CBs–look at what that loan did for Dike. In a pinch, AJB has really stepped up to the plate, and I’m incredibly grateful to him for that, but in the long-run, he needs a bit more work. And who can blame him? He’s only 20!

  6. I am with you, marching right behind you in the “ties-ain’t-half-wins” parade.

    Here is my concern.

    Perhaps we have not been getting so many ties because our skill level is so even to our opponents, week in and out. Perhaps we are not getting ties because we would otherwise lose but instead claw our way to avoiding a loss.

    Perhaps we have tied so often because our coaching style has been too clinical, too cool, too reserved. Perhaps we have lacked blood thirst.

    The tie against Chicago is a great example (and why would I mention it if it weren’t a fine example?). We started the game in excellent “beat-anybody-in-the-league” form. If we played 90 minutes like our first 30 minutes against Chicago, it will be a rare thing to see Portland not sweep the opposition aside.

    This is a credit to Caleb Porter. For we are not doing this with talent far and away better than everyone else; if anything, our talent mix is slightly on the down side of half, measured against the other MLS teams. Instead–and we demonstrated this even more vividly in the game against the team who just spanked Seattle–we can play this good even without all of our big guns.

    Porter is exactly right in saying that we are not a 1-11 team, but rather a 1-30 team. This is because our playing style maximizes the abilities of good players who are willing to work hard and play disciplined.

    Which is why our plethora of draws is disturbing; if this analysis is correct, then we are pulling back–not working as hard–once we get the lead.

    I remember enduring Kasey Keller’s commentary last year about how Portland was an immature team because it did not “finish off” games by protecting a lead, looking for opportunities to eat up time and above all, to head to the corners. No doubt he has conventional wisdom down pat. But we are not a conventional team.

    When we have a one- or two-goal lead in a game, it is not because we have been fortunate, or because our players have been slightly better than the other side that night. It is because we have worked hard as a team, making smart passes instead of dribbling into trouble and looking for the on-frame shot on goal.

    So when we do have a lead, it does not make sense to stop playing the same way we accomplished not only that lead, but similar leads the weeks before. Instead we ought to be careful to maintain the same level of intensity, the same level of teamwork.

    This makes sense especially because our style of play tends to tire out our opponents. Thus if we keep up the “possession with pace” into the last 3o minutes of the game, it will be increasingly difficult for our opponents to answer with anything but gasps for air.

    I am not certain that it was a bad move to sub out Valeri. I do believe it was a bad move to give up the possession style of play even before Valeri was subbed out of the game. That is where responsibility lies for the tie.

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