Six Degrees: Frustration, Fan Clubs and Quick Fixes.


1) The key word in Portland these days? Frustration. We can’t put the ball in the net, we can’t defend set pieces, we can’t get three points at home. Frustration, frustration, frustration. I left Saturday’s game with a small black cloud in my wake.

But as always, Coach Porter’s all about keeping the lows high. And I can understand that, since, in many ways, we really did play well Saturday night. We had passion, energy, possession, and lots of good scoring chances. You could even suggest that this game came down to one play. We gave them a set-piece goal, so we didn’t get the win, simple as that. If we stop them on that one play, it’s all candy canes and daisies here in Timbers Land.

But we didn’t, so here I am, trying to make the best of it. I’m not gonna go all super-optimism like last week, but I will try to keep the lows high. Coach’s orders.

2) First of all, this game felt like the playoffs. From the very start, there was a ton of energy in the crowd. Cheering, booing, cursing, desperation. Everything about it screamed playoffs. Perhaps this is what all our games will be like the rest of the year. We certainly have more at stake than we did this time last year, when we were just running out the string. Let’s keep bringing the passion, Portland. Hopefully it will spur the boys on.

That being said, I must grudgingly admit that Vancouver’s traveling fans were outstanding. And I know I’m going to make a lot of people angry with this, but in many ways, they seemed to have won the day. From my seat, at least, sitting in 218, the Vancouver fans were louder, more enthusiastic, and better organized than the Timbers Army. I’ve never seen this happen before and I hope I never will again, but a number of times during the game, I found myself a little disappointed with the Army, wondering why they weren’t picking it up a little, rising up to match the Vancouver passion. Maybe the Vancouver fans didn’t seem significant way over in the TA section, but they sure did in mine. And yes, I’ll admit that maybe the TA’s chanting was disrupted by all the foul calls, but still, from where I was sitting, the Vancouver fans won.

You may begin flaming me now.

3) Let’s hear it for Vancouver’s designated hockey goon, Brad Rusin. He was only in the game 17 minutes, but he made the most of them, smashing Diego Valeri to the ground three or four times. And he’s so gigantic, it looked like a high school senior picking on some tiny little freshman kid. So how cool was it when he smashed into Valeri like a runaway train, only to injure himself and get carted off the field? Don’t mess with Argentinians, pal. They’re not flesh and bone like you or me. They’ve got Wolverine skeletons or something.

But I think the thuggery was all part of Vancouver’s plan. Their physical play really slowed the game down in the first half. With the constant fouls being called, there was no chance for Portland to get an offensive rhythm, which made things super-frustrating for players and fans alike.

I have a feeling we’ll see a lot of teams doing this the rest of the season, since it works so well. The Timbers will be winning ugly, if we win at all.

4) A few individual notes.

Ryan Johnson – He leads our team in scoring, but everyone prefers Piquionne, which drives me absolutely crazy. I feel like starting a one-person Ryan Johnson fan club. I’ll have t-shirts and signs and everything. It’ll be awesome. You’re not invited.

Jack Jewsbury – I like him better than Zemanski in Chara’s spot, but the lost chemistry between Will and Chara is noticeable, no matter who’s the sub. Everyone please send healing prayers in the direction of Diego Chara’s big toe.

Diego Valeri – Very active game, very good game. Diego is always trying for the degree-of-difficulty passes and I can’t say I mind too much. That assist to my boy Ryan was sweet.

Darlington Nagbe – Also a very active game. Sadly, there were few times he was charging toward the goal, seemingly on the verge of something brilliant, only to slam on the brakes and look for help. It’s frustrating, but I guess when you’re swamped by five Whitecap defenders, these things happen.

Alvas Powell – Not a bad MLS debut for the 19-year old Jamaican. He seemed a little overwhelmed at times, and my section mates and I were terrified he’d give Vancouver a PK, but on the whole, he shows great potential. That being said, I’d rather have Jack back there. Sorry, but Jack’s my security blanket.

5) July was a tough month for the Timbers, going 1-2-1 over that span. I was hoping we’d leave our troubles behind, but no, the malaise has followed us into August. We can’t score, we can’t defend set pieces, we can’t get three points at home, much less on the road. We had midsummer slumps in 2011 and 2012. Now we’re doing it again in 2013.

But here’s the good news. This year, despite these summer doldrums, we’re still in contention. Firmly in contention. Check out the standings. All other results aside, a three game win streak would move San Jose from 8th place to 1st. San Jose! So if those bums are still in it, then Portland sure as hell is, slump be damned.

If we tie every game the rest of the way, we’ll finish with 47 points. Enough to make the playoffs? Dunno. Maybe. But I’m going to count on some wins. I think Seattle and Vancouver will have their Cascadian hearts broken yet again, I think we’ll get back into form as the weather gets colder, and I think we’ll finish this year safely above the red line, something our neighbors in the fishing village to the north are getting a little desperate about.

6) Speaking of desperation, let’s talk about Seattle’s new striker, Clint Dempsey.

With all the trouble Portland’s having scoring goals, what would a foolish front office do right now? Well, they’d probably break the bank on a big name striker, desperate for that one guy who would fix everything. I pray Portland’s GM Gavin Wilkinson doesn’t do this. Why? Look at Seattle. Earlier this year, they overpaid Obafemi Martins, because he was going to be their high-priced savior. Now they’re overpaying Clint Dempsey because HE’S going to be their high-priced savior. Except he’s not. What will he be, then? Well, he might be Herschel Walker.

For those of you who don’t know that name, here’s some American football history. Herschel Walker was a fabulous Dallas Cowboys running back in the 1980s. The Minnesota Vikings felt they were one fabulous running back away from winning it all. So they traded their entire world for Herschel. Money, players, draft picks. They gave Dallas everything, just so they could have that one final piece.

What happened? The Herschel trade didn’t save the Vikings, it saved the COWBOYS. They used all those draft picks to build a TEAM. A team that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.

Now, the Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since. Why? Partially, it’s because they’re doing just what the Vikings did back in the ’80s: throwing big money on a series of high-priced saviors. And when teams do that, they fail.

Gavin Wilkinson, Merritt Paulson, please don’t look for the quick fix. Let Seattle do that. Let them bring in over-priced saviors. It will only hurt them. What Portland needs is a great TEAM.

Do we already have that? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m willing to wait and see how this season plays out.

34 thoughts on “Six Degrees: Frustration, Fan Clubs and Quick Fixes.

  1. I prefer Z-man in at C(D)M when Chara’s out. His creativity and pace in the midfield is more urgently needed, in my mind, than Jack’s steadfastness. I’m willing to take a gamble on Powell at RB over Jack too. I’ve seen Jack get burned too many times from lack of pace in the last few games. Along with set pieces and fouling, being able to predictably zip past Jack has been a key to unlocking us. Even still, as has been noted, we haven’t given up a goal in the run of play in 8 games, but cruising by the footballer formerly known as Captain creates many of those chances. I’m also terrified Powell is going to earn a red and I still have similar feelings about AJB. This is how the youngsters learn though. I’m worried about risking our chances at silverware by field reckless youth but I hope it will pay more dividends in the future than sandbagging now. I think I agree about pretty much everything else. I appreciate Jack’s veteran presence and calming influence. Powell is probably more likely than Jack to give up set piece on a foul but I think Jack will allow more chances for crosses and corners. Maybe not six of one and half dozen of another but Powell is also going to get forward and back faster, making our attack less one-sided and predictable.

    1. Good points, Nick, all of them. I also believe in planning for the future and I really do wonder if Powell is the next AJB. I didn’t trust Beast earlier this year, but we’ve seen him mature right before our eyes. What’s Powell’s timeline? We’ll have to wait and see, but I do think he’s our future starter.

      Here’s an idea. What if Caleb kept playing him half the game? Start him then sub Jack in at 60 or 70 minutes. I’m not saying this will happen, but it might be an interesting strategy.

      1. I think starting Powell and subbing Jack could be a great idea. As long as he’s not the one that gives up the goal in the first 17 minutes… If we can wear the other team out by late in the second half I wouldn’t mind seeing Jack come on. Of course, the opposition can always sub in fresh legs to attack him with too. I’m just a bit tired of being put on our heels so early, so I like the more aggressive players at the moment. Maybe we don’t need three guys like that in the same back line though. It’s too bad about Futty and, especially, Silvestre being injured, because Kah is pretty risky as well. Having one steady guy back there may make all the difference in the world. AJB can get forward or move right pretty effectively be we definitely need someone to keep things organized and calm back there. Maybe we need Jack at CB? Is that crazy?

      2. I floated the idea of Jack playing in central defense a while ago, and in certain circumstances I think it would be a good option and changes the dynamic of the team from the back.

      3. Jack at CB isn’t a terrible idea, Nick. I must say, I’m becoming less enamored of Pa Kah these days. I love the passion, but I think I’d rather have a calm, cool veteran presence next to Beast. Silvestre provided that, as does Futty. Kah? Not so much. He’s a little too volatile.

  2. As someone who was in the Army, I couldn’t hear the Southsiders until everything went silent after their goal. I can, however, attest to the fact that there were a lot of tourists in TA on Saturday, which was incredibly disappointing. A lot of people were giving it 110%, and then there were people like the guy next to me who didn’t look up from his phone the entire match. He didn’t even stand up for the national anthems until I told him to.

    And re: RJ/Piq. I’ll admit that I was one of those Piq supporters, and I really wanted him to get a chance. He got a chance on Saturday, and didn’t make an impression. I think both RJ and Piq have their strengths, but RJ was definitely more present on Saturday. I’m glad he got to go in, and I look forward to seeing him out there on Wednesday.

    Finally, thanks for having some optimism. I’m as frustrated as everyone else, but I like Caleb’s policy of keeping the lows high, and I think a lot of people are forgetting that our lows are already so much higher than last year. I’m a big fan of Six Degrees, and I think you hit the nail on the head this week especially.

    1. I don’t have a perspective on the Southsiders vs. TA because I was down in front of 108 with among the loudest people. The fouls really messed up the rhythm on and off pitch though.

      I like Piq and RJ. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. They are different styles of players and should be used in different circumstances. It depends on the opposition. I’ll be willing to give Valencia more minutes though. It’s not like all of our scoring problems are because of a lack of quality at one position. We’ve got several guys missing sitters right now and teams are getting too successful at fouling Nagbe and Valeri out of matches.

      As for optimism, I’ve reminded elsewhere that we are achieving more than we could have imagined or reasonably expected so far. I want to sweep all the cups and get the Supporters’ Shield to boot but if we simply make the playoffs that will match the goals I wished for this season. I thought this would be more of a rebuilding year than it has been. I hope to see still more changes in the off season. While I’m a little disappointed that we haven’t brought in anyone in the transfer window and that MP says we’re content with what we’ve got (What else is he going to say without risking morale?), I’m very happy we’re trying to get Mister Rights and not Mister Right Nows.

      1. Have you noticed, Nick, that MP hasn’t tweeted a single thing since this whole Clint Dempsey business started? Not one single thing. About anything. What do we read into this?

        Oh, and I like your comparison of Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now. Don’t panic, Gavin!

      2. I’m guessing MP is, along with everyone else, trying to figure out MLS roster rules. Hopefully he’s organizing with some other owners to file a complaint with the league. It seems like Seattle is taking advantage of some vague language in the rules to get a DP that should have passed through the allocation order. More power to them. We benefited from some creative interpretation to secure the rights to Brian Gallego from NYRB. I’d prefer to have consistent and comprehensible rules though. I demand reparations.

      3. The general consensus in the wristband line yesterday is that somebody took away his phone or changed his Twitter password. He must be furious, but the FO probably doesn’t want him to get fined again.

    2. Thanks for the insight into the TA and not flaming me too bad. I adore the TA, so it was really weird to have those Vancouver fans in my ear all night. I seriously doubt any Vancouver fans read this column, but if they do, I’ll say, “Well done, guys.” And I’ll add, “Next time you come to town, we’re going to drown you out.”

      1. Nick: Agreed, agreed, agreed. I was down in front of 103 and there was a weird combination of really loud and dead silent, but I couldn’t hear anything besides TA noise. I only brought up Piq/RJ because, for me, it’s not that I don’t like RJ, it just didn’t seem like he was gelling in the last few games. I’d like to see all three of them get chances, but I think that RJ is probably our best option right now.

        And thank you so much for that perspective. I refuse to let myself forget last season, and I think a lot of people have already forgotten. I ran into another fan after the game (Burgerville milkshakes help alleviate the post-draw sadness) and he was complaining about everything. I tried to point out that we now have more points from 22 games than we got in 34 last year, and he totally shut me down. It was a disappointing draw, but last year it would have been a loss, no question. I want to win everything too, but we’ve come so far as it is that I don’t think anyone should be too upset about our recent performance.

        C.I.: You don’t deserve flaming at all! Aside from the fact that you regularly post on a Timbers-themed blog, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t hate the Timbers and that if you’re acknowledging the Southsiders they probably deserve it.

      2. Tourists are another reason not to sell to scalpers. They were at the Thorns FC match yesterday too. The same woman texting on her smartyphone was shown twice on the screen, standing in the front row of the supporters section just asking for a ball to the face.

        I don’t think the TA has been especially organized for a while though. I even said something somewhere about having a set list to minimize down time between chants. I’m probably just being an ignorant, ungrateful jerk. I really think the fouls had a lot to do with it this match though. I know I stop chanting to groan, curse, and shake my fist. I’m also reluctant to participate in some of the ref taunts and cleats up chants because we’ve got homers who don’t recognize our own faults sometimes. Well, as far as cleats up goes, the last thing I want to encourage when we’ve got a card-happy ref is more physical play.

      3. I can understand a quick break to tweet in outrage or text someone the score, but being on your phone the entire game is infuriating. I don’t get it. I treat a spot in the 100s as a privilege, and I think that if you’re not going to participate you should go sit in the 200s (no offense to any 200-ers intended–I’ve sat up there before and it’s great, just a bit quieter).

        I’d agree that the TA is somewhat disorganized, but I think the tourists are really making it a problem. I think a set list would be a great idea, and I also feel like it’s easier to pick up a chant when you know it’s coming (Portland Boys, Sunshine, Falling in Love, etc.). I think you’re being perfectly reasonable, but I’d argue that cleats-up chants are more for keeping up the noise than actually encouraging anything.

  3. Dude, once again, “6 degrees” was on point.
    Gotta say I especially appreciated the Herschel Walker reference. When I got over my jealousy about Dempsey, I realized our team doesn’t really need him. Our team is already competitive and without monkeying around with the roster, we can galvanize into team that will wreck people in the playoffs. And as long as the sounders don’t figure out how to buy “heart” for their team, I’m not too worried. PTFC ain’t nothing to f*** with.

    1. You see a lot of this business in baseball. Every off-season, you can count on a few teams to sign some high-priced “saviors.” The Yankees, the Cubs, the Dodgers. Any team with big pockets. It pretty much never works. I hope the Timbers sign Mr. Right, but only if he truly is Mr. Right, instead of — as Nick put it — Mr. Right Now. And will Mr. Right show up during the season? I’d be willing to wait until the season’s over, personally.

      By the way, we may not have to sign anyone this off season, since we’ll have a lot of “new players” next year: Silvestre, Horst, Dike, Richards. For what it’s worth.

      1. I’d much prefer that we spend that kind of money on thirty 6-figure players than one 8-figure player. Give me a team of Charas, Nagbes, Will Johnsons, Wallaces, and Valeris over one Douche any day.

      2. I’m not confident we’ll retain the services of Horst and Richards. I’m not sure what they add at this point. I don’t know if Dike will become what we need him to be either. Also on my chopping block: Zizzo, Gleeson, and MIller. I’d say Kalif but he got a vote of confidence with a renewal this season and may still realize his potential, if he can check his ego. I’ve been absolutely, totally, wrong about Futty, Wallace, and others though, so I won’t put any money on my predictions.

      3. One of the best parts about the off-season: the debates over who to keep, who to drop, who to sign, etc, etc, etc.

        Hopefully, this off-season we’ll also be able to talk about how great it was to win the MLS Cup.

      4. Maybe I’m jumping the gun on Richards. I feel a bit bad about my reservations there. I thought he might become an RB but with Powell in, I don’t know. It’s been too long since I’ve even seen him play. I know he can jump and throw.

      5. I’d like to keep on Horst if possible. I know we have a lot of CBs, but, as this year has proven, we need a lot of CBs because we have an unlucky streak with injuries there. He may not be the top of the talent list, but I’d argue that he’s one of the most passionate players on the roster, which means a lot (to me at least). And he’s always good for this:

        I would also hope to retain Richards and Dike, for similar reasons, but I’d agree with your other selections (even though I have somewhat of a soft spot for Zizzo). I’ll be interested to see what happens in the off-season.

      6. I agree about Horst’s passion and I have a sentimental attachment to Dike. The local boy done good aspect of Richard’s selection is compelling as well. I was hoping to see more from Miller and maybe he’ll surprise me. It comes down to who fits the system and for what price too. Jack might get a new lease with a conversion to CB. I think Kah can’t fill in for Horst’s recklessness and passion to some extent. Silvestre and Piquionne may have another season or two with us, at best. We’ve also got Gallego and Meves in the pipeline, along with who knows who else from the U-23s. What of Rincon for that matter? I’m glad there isn’t really a guy that I’m just itching to get rid of at this point. I just know there are positions where I shouldn’t let my heart get in the way of my head when I assess the values of the players there.

  4. I’m not high on Jack at CB. Our biggest defensive weakness right now is set pieces, so it wouldn’t behoove us to have someone in there that’s not great in the air.

    1. That’s a good point, though I don’t think it’s just our CBs that are to blame for poor man marking. There’s also something to be said for not allowing so many set pieces to begin with, which often begins with the fullbacks.

  5. Regarding the TA the other night: I sit in 210 (which is kind of TA Reserves or National Guard area) and I kept hearing the chants getting out of synch between large sections of fans. It was loud, but disjointed. Without unison, the power is attenuated through destructive interference (or something).

    1. I’ve discovered a strange effect in 218. We can see the TA clapping before we hear them. So during, for example, the PT-clap-clap-FC-clap-clap, some people try to match what they’re seeing, while others try to match what they’re hearing, so it turns into a giant, a-rhythmic mess. You wouldn’t think 218 is far enough from the TA for this to happen, but trust me, it does, and it’s frustrating. There’s no one to blame here, except possibly the scientists of the world and their damn speed of sound/speed of light nonsense.

      1. Even over a relatively short distance what you hear will be out of synch with what you see.
        Years ago, as a volunteer timer at track meets, I was always told to to start the stopwatch when I saw the smoke of the starting pistol, not when I heard the bang. Obviously, in the 100 and 200 meters the finish is between 100 and around 130 meters from the start line.

  6. If Ryan Johnson is your man (I largely concur) then you’d love the “We have Serious Johnsons” 2 stick in 103. I’m hoping someone has a picture.

  7. I was loud in 108 and yes the Army was more disjointed than normal. Im not sure why but it was more than just the ref. I really thought that we were going to be a man up at the 17 minute mark. It was clear that Vancouver’s game plan was to foul Nagbe and Valerie every time they touched the ball. This will continue to be every teams game plan against us unless the ref makes it too costly for them. I don’t think that is likely in MLS. The Whitecaps I met after the game were great gracious fans. I am definitely going to have to road trip up there. We all agreed that Seattle and San Jose fans were the worst. I am sure that the next game the Army will bring it. RCTID

    1. I’ve never been to a Seattle game, so I don’t know how bad they are, but I think the only way they can match San Jose’s supporters is if the police department has to get involved.

      (by the way, SJ’s supporters would see this as a compliment…)

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