Six Degrees: The Passion and the Fury


I think I have emotional whiplash. There’s only so much a man can take. Back and forth, back and forth, all night long. Way too much drama. Five goals? That would have been fine. But that sixth one? Too much. Way too much.

So for this column, the “Six Degrees” will actually be “Six Goals” followed by “Six Emotions.”

The first goal. 1-0.

Emotions: Blessed relief that we finally scored, followed by near certainty that the game was ours.

I can’t tell you how nervous I was leading up to this game. It felt like the most important game ever. The true test of whether this team is the real deal. A draw was unacceptable. We had to get a win or we were nothing. I was pacing the house, checking the Timbers blogs, analyzing the standings, pacing some more, re-checking the sites, re-analyzing the standings. I was practically vibrating with nervous energy. Eventually, I just drove to the stadium and wandered around, trying to ease my pain.

It didn’t ease, really. Not until our first goal.

And Diego Valeri… why does he toy with us so? In the game’s fourth minute, he has the entire goal in front of him, only to bang it off the post. Twenty minutes later, he wins back our hearts with a perfect free kick to Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. That’s two straight games with a set piece assist. And, what is it, like 7 assists in the last six games? The guy’s on fire. We definitely need that to last.

The second goal. 1-1.

Emotions: Deflation. Frustration. Annoyance. But some solace that they had only tied us. The game was still ours for the taking.

Donovan Ricketts? What’s with the stone hands all of a sudden? When you first joined the team last year, I remember people bitching about the rebounds you gave up. I thought that talk was over, but I’m beginning to worry again. Last night you gave up a few brutally dangerous rebounds, including one which led to this goal. I’m sure there are others to share the blame here, but still… hang onto the ball, my man.

Plus, what’s going on with your body? This was the second game in a row where the ref’s called time because you’re flat on your back for no obvious reason. Please tell me this is nothing, because I’m worried you’re breaking down, just as we start the stretch run. The coaching staff knows more about this than I do: is it time to give Donovan a few games off? If he’s gimpy and can’t do the job, sit him. I’d rather have a healthy Kocic than a hobbling Ricketts.

The third goal. 1-2.

Emotions: Stunned silence. Confusion. Worry that the wheels are coming off. Renewed tension and dread that we might actually lose this thing.

Again, Donovan Ricketts gives up a rebound right in front of the net, but that’s not the story here. The story is the PK. When they asked Andrew Jean-Baptiste about it in the locker room, he gave what I thought was a pretty calm and mature answer, basically saying, “He felt my hand on him and he took advantage of it.”

And that’s exactly how it looks in the replays. Beast gives Morales a light touch, Morales falls to the ground, and our favorite referee, Ricardo Salazar, points to the spot.

In one respect, this totally sucks. In another respect, it’s understandable. I mean, from the stands, watching it full-speed, my immediate thought was, “Uh-oh, that could be a penalty.” And so it was. Should I bitch and complain here? Call the ref a bunch of names? Maybe. But mostly I just think this is a case of Newly-Matured Beast wandering off for a moment, only to be replaced by our old friend Young-and-Foolish Beast. I thought he was gone completely, but no, he can still pop up. I hope it’s the last time we see him this year.

The fourth goal. 2-2.

Emotions: Amazement. Glorious relief. Huge exhalation. Renewed hope. Knowledge that tying is nice, but it’s not nearly enough. We can’t stop here.

Salazar giveth and Salazar taketh away. Standing in the crowd, my mouth was hanging open in amazement. I mean, the Timbers NEVER get PKs. How could this be happening? And yet it was. There were over 30 minutes left in the match, we’d tied it up, and we had the momentum.

Twenty minutes pass, no goal for the Timbers, and then… RED CARD!

I have no idea what to say about this. The PK surprised me. The red card blew my tiny little mind. Did it look valid to you? I couldn’t tell, but Mr. Salazar certainly could. There was NO hesitation from him. He went straight for that back pocket, held up that red, loud and proud, and suddenly we were a man up with ten minutes to play. Amazing. Truly amazing.

The fifth goal. 3-2.

Emotions: Absolute, unbridled euphoria. I was jumping around, slapping hands, hugging people. I was so geeked up, I’m surprised I didn’t start making out with someone.

And what a goal it was, too. Alvas Powell – who may be our starting right back from now until the year 2025 – sends a cross to Valencia. He can’t handle it, but his defender falls down, flat on his back. Who’s there to clean up the mess, completely unguarded? Kalif Alhassan, who bangs it into the side netting like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

The crowd freaks, the smoke bombs go off, I’m in the stands, french-kissing complete strangers. I mean, come on… we’ve got the lead, we’re in the 87th minute, and we’re a man up. That right there is a guaranteed victory. GUARANTEED. Right? Right?

The sixth goal. 3-3.

Emotions: Complete and utter devastation. I was, quite literally, curled up in a ball.

I don’t know what to say about this goal. The ball shouldn’t have been anywhere near our goal. With a man advantage, we should have had the ball in THEIR half, passing it around, easy, breezy, burning the clock down to nothing. Instead, they’re dictating play, the ball’s banging around in our 18, and some dude scores his first MLS goal in extra time. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

But you know what? I’m not even going to think about it anymore. That game is DONE. And the MLS schedule has given all of us a little gift. Something that will help us forget this game and move on immediately. A game this Sunday in that little fishing village to the north.

All of us – players and fans alike – went through an emotional hurricane last night. We’re frustrated. We’re embarrassed. We’re angry. You know what I say? I say good. I say we take all those emotions and focus them down into one tiny ball of fury. I say we take that ball of fury to Seattle this weekend. There’s gonna be 65,000 fans there, all of them unbearable, all of them screaming and yelling about Clint Dempsey and how great they are and how they invented soccer and how we should just hand them the MLS Cup right now.

And you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to pull out that little ball of fury and we’re going to break their hearts. They’ll be the ones going through an emotional hurricane. They’ll be the ones curled up in a little ball. They’ll be the ones leaving the stadium with emotional whiplash, wondering what the hell just happened.

Let’s do this, boys. Heal our collective pain. Beat Seattle. Spoil their party. Break. Their. Hearts.

5 thoughts on “Six Degrees: The Passion and the Fury

  1. Certainly a frustrating result, but what a game! I feel like Chara losing his cool and earning a stupid yellow card that puts him out of Sunday’s game deserves a mention. What will we have in midfield? Jewsbury and Z-man? Yikes.

    1. I agree completely. I’m a HUGE Diego Chara fan, but I was very disappointed with him after that stupid yellow. I suppose we’ll have Zemanski and someone against Seattle. Is Jack still gimpy? Maybe Stephen Evans? Zizzo? Alhassan? Move Wallace to mid and put Alhassan up front? These are my best guesses. I wish Chara had kept his cool, so we wouldn’t have to worry about this.

      1. My thinking was (with no Jack or WJ), we’d put Wallace in midfield and start Kalif, but I worry about the movement of Dempsey in dropping off and into the pockets of space in front of defence that Will and Diego cover so well.

        I was leaning towards playing 3 in the midfield, at least to start, with Wallace, Zemanski and Jack/Will, and designating Zemanski to sit and hold. Nagbe and Valeri as the wider attackers. It’s flexible enough to allow us to switch to our more usual formation if we have to, but depends on getting Will and or Jack back fit. The risk of putting one of those guys into the midfield not at 100% in a derby match on that damned surface is a scary though.

        I think another big miss for us is Piquionne. RJ has done well, but away to Seattle I like The FP’s ability to hold up and play in others which I rate higher than Ryan’s. Our defence and pressure don’t mix well, so we’re going to need good, calm possession high up the pitch.

        EDIT: And only moments after I hit send William Connell tweets this: “Will Johnson and Jack Jewsbury are both warming up with the team today.” Don’t want to get my hopes up, and I hope we’re not rushing them back and causing bigger problems down the line, but if we can get one or both of those guys fit, I’ll feel a lot happier.

      2. Fingers crossed on Jack and Will.

        But if they don’t suit up, it occurs to me that maybe Caleb will play keep-away. Remember the Columbus game, when we were a man down and we just held the ball as much as possible. Maybe we do that against Seattle. After all, Dempsey can’t take advantage of our midfield subs if he never has the ball.

        Curse you, Diego Chara! And curse you, too, Will Johnson’s shoulder!

      3. Word is that they’re both out, Zemanski as well, so that leaves us with abit of a problem.

        It wouldn’t be the first time a club has overplayed an injury crisis before a player returns in time for a big match to gain an advantage, but let’s assume this is 100% the case and all four CMs are out, what do we do then?

        I guess we have Evans in reserve, and Wallace and Nagbe have both played there, with Nagbe having a fairly extended spell as a CM towards the end of the year. Beyond that, what, Ryan Miller given a shot there?

        This is when head coaches really start to earn their money.

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