Six Degrees: ‘Til You Finish The Fight

1) Yes, yes, I know. Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote how I was sick of all the ties. I also know we should go into every game wanting three points. But I have to be honest, as many games as we’ve had lately, as banged up as our team is, and as up-and-down dangerous as the LA Galaxy have been lately, I went into this game fearing a loss. And the game’s first 15 minutes did nothing to allay my fears. We looked horrible, didn’t we? No possession, no flow, and, most importantly, no urgency. To be honest, it didn’t even look like our team our there. It looked liked the very worst of last year’s squad. We looked utterly lost. But then, somehow, we turned it around. I don’t know if we flipped our switch “on” or if LA flipped their switch “off,” but at roughly the 20 minute mark, Portland had 37% possession. By end of game, we’d bumped it up to 53%. And that, to me, tells the story of the game.

2) I’m a little amazed how solid our back line looked. Particularly centerbacks Pa-Modou Kah and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. If you’d asked me before the game, I’d have told you Kah hadn’t been here long enough or looked impressive enough to earn my trust. And Beast? Well, he’d sort of LOST my trust, what with his hand-wrestling in the box, and his guaranteed one or two bone-headed plays per game. But after their performance last night, I really wonder if we’ve found our ideal pairing. They were brilliant. Did they earn starting positions for the rest of the year? Is Footy Danso stuck on the bench from here on? We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but wow, I couldn’t be happier with what I saw. And strictly for comedy’s sake, how fabulous was that play late in the game where Keane was heading straight for goal and somehow, this 20-year old kid picked his pocket. Keane looked around like he wasn’t sure what had happened. Like the ball had just disappeared. Absolutely hysterical.

3) Also fantastic? But honestly, why should I act like this is some special announcement? Of COURSE Donovan Ricketts was fantastic. That’s just what he does. He came to town last year, replacing the beloved Troy Perkins, and did absolutely nothing to endear himself to Timbers fans. This season? Oh, my lord, has he been great. It’s gotten to the point where Donovan’s almost like a security blanket for me. All hell can be breaking loose in front of the goal, but as soon as I see that big, 6’4” Jamaican racing out from his goal, I relax, because I know everything’s going to be okay. In earning his league-leading seventh shutout, he had so many great plays. I’ll only mention two. At the 55 minute mark, when Sean Franklin hit the post? Yes, my heart stopped there, as did yours, but did you notice how Ricketts got his hand on that ball? Not before it hit the post, but AFTER. It would have bounced right back in front of goal, where Landon Donovan was waiting, but Ricketts just gave it a little punch. Enough to send it out of harm’s way. Beautiful. And then later, around the 83 minute mark, LA had a great counter going, with a long pass to Robbie Keane, and he’s racing for it, Kah trying to keep up, and once again, our man Ricketts races out of goal and beats both of them to the ball. You can relax, Portland. Ricketts in on the job.

4) I feel like I should say something about our offense, but what do I say? There kind of WASN’T any offense, was there? LA had 10 corner kicks to our one. We had a four shots on goal, same as LA, but for some reason, none of ours seemed terribly dangerous. And I’m not sure any of them qualify as close range shots. I can’t tell you for sure why we were so impotent last night, but I’m inclined to give two reasons. One, we had tired legs. Valeri and Nagbe both seemed to be moving at half-speed. Ryan Johnson had a few decent moments, but when Piquionne came in, he didn’t do a thing. All my strongest memories from the game happened on defense. The offense? Well, they were just kind of there.

The second possible explanation? Maybe LA’s just good. I mean, after those first 20 minutes, we did a nice job with possession, and we had a few times where I saw 15, 20, 25 straight passes, all over the field. Well, almost all over the field, because as soon as we tried to take it into LA’s final third – you know, that place where goals happen – then everything just fell apart. So perhaps it’s LA’s fault. Maybe they just shut us down.

5) I know this is silly, but I feel like I have to dedicate one entire talking point to that late-game almost-fight between Will Johnson and Robbie Keane. I mean, how fantastic was that? If you didn’t see it, trust me, it was quintessential Will Johnson. I don’t even know what started the argument, but suddenly there in front of our goal are Will and Robbie jawing at each other, right up in each other’s faces. And you know how Will is, he’s got the total Will Johnson face on, the same face we saw in the San Jose game, when he and Alan Gordon were going at it. So the ref steps in and separates Will and Keane, but they’re still jawing, so then some teammates separate them and they both start jogging up the field. But here’s the best part: they didn’t want to be separated. They’re jogging up the field, sure, but they’re still jawing at each other, and the cameras are following them, because this is way better than the actual game, and they’re getting closer and closer, until they’re finally right up in each other’s grills again. And I’m watching this in a bar and everyone there’s howling with laughter, and then – new best part – out of nowhere, Pa Modou Kah comes sprinting up, wedges himself between Johnson and Keane, and SHOVES them away from each other. Well, as you can imagine, this pisses Robbie Keane off, especially since he and Kah kind of got into it earlier in the game, so then he’s jawing with Kah AND Johnson and the cameras are still on them, and I’m at the bar, watching all of this, just laughing my ass off. It was priceless! Will Johnson rules! And Kah? You’re pretty fantastic, too, pal. Welcome to the team. If there’s anyone reading this who has some sort of video editing mojo, put this fight on Youtube. You’ll be a Porland hero.

6) Okay, last point. If you include US Open Cup matches, this was our 4th game in 12 days. We’re utterly exhausted. But, hey, no problem, right? We’ve only got two more games in the next week. Almost like a vacation, isn’t it? Fortunately, nobody was hurt last night. Well, unless you count our goalie and our centerback colliding full-speed with each other, both rolling around for a few minutes in pain. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our left back, Michael Harrington, being carried off the field on a stretcher. We finished the game with 10 men. Did you know that?

So who the hell’s starting Sunday versus Colorado? I bet you Mikey’s out, so that means Ryan Miller and Jack Jewsbury as our outside backs. What if Kah’s busted up? Is Futty healthy yet? The rookie, Tucker-Gangnes has a concussion, so he can’t go. McKenzie, maybe? If there’s anyone reading this who can play centerback, please contact Caleb Porter. He may have a job for you Sunday.

On offense, I don’t know what to say. We looked tired, all over the field. Maybe give Nanchoff a start? Zemanski? Zizzo? Dare I say… El Trencito?

Whoever we throw out there Sunday, I hope our defense continues their great play and our offense gets their groove back. But, most likely, Sunday’s game with Colorado will be an ugly slog. Then next Wednesday in Dallas? I can’t even imagine how ugly that’s going to be. But hold it together, boys. After Dallas, we get a week and a half break. And man, will we need it.

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13 thoughts on “Six Degrees: ‘Til You Finish The Fight

  1. I’d go mostly with “LAG is that good” along with “LAG was that well rested”.

    One caveat; I like Kalif well enough…but I like RodWall better, and the offense has suffered this season when the former is in and the latter is not. I think that Kalif’s skillset didn’t show well against LA last night and the results showed in the precious little attack we had.

    But for all that LA has had a run of poor form lately they’re still one of the better rosters in this league. At home. On more than a week’s rest. Against a Timbers squad in the middle of a hell of an exhausting series of matches. So I honestly sat down expecting a loss last night, and I wasn’t surprised to see us back against the wall in the first fifteen minutes. I really expected Keane or Landycakes to nick a goal out of that pressure somewhere. I’ll bet they would have, against last season’s Timbers.

    But the Boys rode out the initial gale and settled in nicely. What I liked seeing was our playing DEFENSIVE possession instead of just parking the damn bus. THAT’S how you grind out a nil-nil draw on the road, Gavin (…in Seattle last season, nudge, nudge..!).

    So…not thrilled but not unhappy, either. We DO need to put the hammer to Colorado this weekend, though…

    1. First of all, I wholeheartedly applaud anyone who uses the nickname “Landycakes.”

      Secondly, I agree that we didn’t park the bus and that was really nice to see. REALLY nice. We can be proud of this result.

      Lastly, I have no idea what will happen Sunday versus Colorado. Like you, I’m glad Rodney Freakin’ Wallace will be back. He’ll be well rested, too, since Costa Rica didn’t play him at all.

      1. “…since Costa Rica didn’t play him at all.”

        Yeah. That.

        Frankly, if I was Porter the next time the FCF called I’d hang up on their ass. It’d be one thing if they were playing the man. But I understand he didn’t even dress, wasn’t in the 18 for this last round. Here’s a guy we genuinely need and they snatch him up just to hang out with the vatos on the training field. The hell with that.

      2. it would be interesting to get RodWall’s take on all of it. Maybe he’s pissed at the Costa Rican coach, or maybe he thinks his time with the national side is the best three weeks of his year, no matter how much he plays. I have no idea what he’d say.

  2. For what it’s worth, I think the Keane kerfuffle started in the box when he interfered with Ricketts. He has no play on the ball – just backed into Ricketts trying to undercut him. The ref probably would have whistled it had he seen it. WJ was standing right there when it happened. I was rooting for a hockey game to break out, but then I remembered Sunday.

  3. “Ricketts” I scream that every time I see him do something that one part amazing and 2 parts, scares the piss out of me at the same time. I don’t see it as his name anymore but I think maybe a condition, or descriptor word. Want an example? How about against LAG, casually dribbling around in our box with an attacker (I think it was Keane) charging him at full speed. Instead of clearing the ball like like 99.9% of keepers do, he jukes him, casually side steps the advance, dribbles a little more and then clears it. During times like this, I picture him humming Bob Marley songs like 3 Little Birds (Don’t worry bout a thing cause every little thing gonna be alright), while I am having a heart attack….”Ricketts”. Love that guy.

    1. Hilarious!

      Yeah, i remember that play. Everyone in the bar had a mild heart attack. Donovan was unmoved. I think he toys with us.

  4. LA is not that good.

    And the rested thing is way overdone. From the way we talk of it, it seems that any team with two games in a week is about guaranteed to lose. Maybe the first time in the season, it is a fitness issue. But folks, these guys are professionals! It is not like they don’t know what is coming “who put those two games onto the schedule last night?” And they need to develop their training and fitness level so that they can run the whole game. Players do this all over the world–in many places three games a week are standard. No, Portland was as rested as we needed to be; we could have beaten LA with the team we fielded. We were not fortunate to have escaped with a tie.

    This is the 2012 team talking “we aren’t really that good; we can’t really play toe-to-toe with LA or even Seattle or Salt Lake; when we win it’s a fluke. No flukes. We win in 2013 because we are winners. We have a winning attitude. We go into games (mostly) expecting to win. As a result, where ever we are in our schedule we likely won last week and will probably win next week.

    As fans, let us not let the team down. Let us not say in any way or with any dialect “it’s OK if you don’t win, for you aren’t as good as the other teams and you should not expect to win each week.”

    How could we have beaten LA?

    One lousy goal! At any point in the whole 90 minutes, one goal would have beat them at home and deflated their crow-bags.

    I would defy anyone to demonstrate to me that there is a single MLS team in 2013 against which we are incapable of scoring a goal! We have a firing line as diverse and heavily powered as any team going. We are tied with Vancouver as the team scoring the most goals of any team–more than LA–this year and are second to NY in assists, by one.

    One of the great things that Coach Porter has done for the Timbers this year is to create a club where we believe in ourselves. We believe we can to toe-to-toe with even the biggest guns. And our little squad of stars keeps proving him wrong.

    The best thing we can do for our team is to say “we love you guys! We are behind you, and always will be. You don’t have to win each week to keep our loyalty. . . but we could have won last week. . . we could have won. Something is missing, not clicking right, not quite connecting. Can we find that small thing and fix it in time for Colorado? Can we continue our dominating play in the Open Cup?”

    “Can we finish this season with Supporters’ shield (you deserve it, guys, you truly do!), with the Open Cup and as MLS Champions?” Is there any reason we cannot accomplish this feat? And is there any other team in MLS who deserves this accomplishment more?”

    Porter did not come in with a bottomless purse and Beckham-quality players. He did not come in with a gazillion years of experience coaching MLS. He did bring in a system that makes sense, a system that allows good players to play as a great team. He brought in a full appreciation for the importance of fan support, and for building a climate of winning.

    We have come a long ways in just a short few months. Let us now continue to do our part. Let us set the standard, our expectations at the top. Let us communicate clearly that we clearly expect that Portland will walk out onto the field and 90 minutes later, will walk off the field with still another victory. No matter who the opponent happens to be. We believe. We know.

    1. Hear hear! I love the attitude and will take it with me to Jeld-Wen tomorrow. No ties at home! Game prediction: 2-0.

  5. Having just begun to quiet down after today’s game, I can’t wait for a post to reply.

    This, friends, is the performance we have been waiting for! This was the “we will simply continue to do what we need to do to win a game regardless of the score” football. Just a few minutes of bunkering (I know because my heart stopped the whole time) which culminated, predictably, in a carefully delivered pass to a spectator.

    Several weeks ago Caleb Porter said that if we could play to our potential, no one could stop us. I believed that then and especially now.

    And it is not about how good Colorado is as a team and where they are in the league. This confidence comes from the evenness of the game. It truly felt as though we could step on the field 100 times and each time would see similar results; Perhaps 2-0 or 6-0, but still a shut-out.

    And yes, this team did not play “the best game it possibly could play” this afternoon! The ref’s calls did not all go for either team and there was no gale-force wind blowing away from the Timbers goal, both halves. Both teams had reasonable line-ups. No excuses.

    This team is good–not because Porter went out and bought the most expensive players available, but because he has forged a team, a unit working together, covering each others’ flaws and relentlessly continuing to score.

    1. Roy,

      I’ve thought many times that you should be writing for this site. Maybe that would take all the fun out of it for you, I don’t know. But if you’re interested, contact Kevin at admin@sliderulepass.net. You’re a good writer and have good insights.

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