Six Degrees: Breaking Bad


1) No big surprise, yesterday’s loss has me in a bit of a funk. This column definitely has the potential to slide off the road and into an icy ditch of despair. I’ll do my best, though. Both hands on the wheel and all that.

I’ll just start with the big picture: going into the game yesterday, everything was against us. We had tons of injuries. We had a key suspension. We had some gimpy old guys in the starting lineup. And we did it all in front of 67,000 self-congratulating-but-not-all-that-noisy fans.

Lesser teams would have folded. Our boys didn’t and we can be proud of that. They went in there and gave Seattle everything they could handle.

2) But to be honest, we gave it to them a whole lot more in the first half than in the second.

To my eyes, these were probably the two most different halves of the entire season. We looked great in the first, we looked awful in the second. At the end of the first half, I was supremely confident. At the end of the second half, I wanted to break stuff.

What happened? A number of things. For starters, they completely eliminated Diego Valeri as a factor. He was dominant in the first half, he was invisible in the second.

Things also shifted when they put Mauro Rosales into the game. They banged in the opening goal a few minutes later and we were pretty much worthless for the rest of the game.

We’ve become used to Caleb Porter making brilliant halftime adjustments, but it seems that in this game, he was outdone by Sigi Schmid and his enormous belly. Whatever he said in the Seattle locker room at halftime worked. The balance of play shifted completely.

3) For the game this weekend in Salt Lake, we’ll be getting Diego Chara back from suspension, but I have a feeling that when the MLS disciplinary committee looks at the weekend’s game film, they’ll be giving a brand new suspension to Pa Modou Kah. Did he intentionally knee Eddie Johnson in the head? I’m not sure, but my instinct tells me that MLS is going to sit him down.

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I mind that much. I don’t entirely trust Kah. He just seems a little crazy, you know? I like the intensity, I like the passion, but I’m constantly worried he’s going to step over the line, that he’s going to kick someone in the face (oh, wait… he already did that…) or knee someone in the head (oops… that too…) or maybe start a bench-clearing brawl (hasn’t happened yet, but it’s not out of the question, is it?). He’s just a red card waiting to happen.

I’d love to see Futty Danso come back from injury and take that starting spot next to Beast. He may not be as fast as Kah, but he’s better in the air, he’s got veteran wiles, and he’ll just restore a little sanity to the back line. Sorry, Kah. There’s a lot I like about you, but I can’t take the crazy anymore.

4) I feel terrible even saying it out loud, but what the hell is going on with Donovan Ricketts? He was our rock. Our foundation. He was the one guy on the field we could count on, fully and completely. These last four or five games? He’s been a shell of his former self. Suddenly, he’s old and stiff. He’s allowing rebounds on shots he’d have gobbled up earlier in the year. After going the whole season as the team’s MVP, he now feels like a weak link.

Maybe it’s injury, maybe it’s fatigue, but I’m really wondering if it’s time to bench him. (God, I feel awful saying that…) Maybe he needs to sit for a few games, let all his injuries heal, get good and rested, then come back for the last few weeks. Milos Kocic is a pretty good backup. Let’s put him in there. Could he be any shakier than my man Donovan’s been?

And you are still my man, Donovan, I swear. I just don’t want to see you like this. I want to see you healthy and energetic and dominant. Take a month off, okay? I think it’s for the best.

5) Some player quick-takes:

Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe – Absolute superstars.

Ryan Johnson – I’ve had your back all season, bro, but that wasn’t the best game for you. Come back strong against RSL so all the haters will shut up.

Kalif Alhassan – You absolutely killed it, supersub. You’ve earned more playing time, I think.

Alvas Powell – After four games, I’m convinced. You’re the real deal. Let’s make this loan permanent.

Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle) – You sir, are a thug. Did you beat up Nagbe after the game, too? Mug him in the parking lot? Take his wallet?

Clint Dempsey (Seattle) – It’s a shame you didn’t get into the game Sunday. Oh, wait… you DID? Sorry. I missed it.

6) The rest of this season is going to be a slog. Players are already breaking down physically. The psychology of a playoff chase is going to be tough on them, too. For the rest of the year, every game will feel like a must-win, and that can be exhausting. I know it’s wearing me out. I’m a mess.

We have nine games left, only three of them easy: Toronto at home and two road games at Chivas (I’ve been thinking of those as sure-fire wins, but then yesterday the Goats beat New York, so maybe it’s not automatic after all.)

Regardless, those three are pretty much our only easy games. The rest of the schedule is nothing but playoff teams. Real Salt Lake. Colorado. Los Angeles. Vancouver. Seattle. Real Salt Lake again.

This time last year? I wasn’t all stressed out like this. The Timbers sucked and had no chance at the playoffs. This year, they’re good, they’re in the hunt, and I’m an emotional wreck. Funny how that works.

11 thoughts on “Six Degrees: Breaking Bad

  1. Perfectly said. I would have hoped that Kah’s experience everywhere else would have taught him not to play silly when your team is depleted. Have to agree about Ricketts as well; its getting a little too adventurous when the ball comes his way. As for the schedule; we need health, and fast.

    1. That’s what annoyed me more about Kah’s “accidental” knee to the head, it was the sheer stupidity of risking a second yellow for something as pointless when your team was already one goal down (thanks to you diving in and giving away a free kick).

      That raises huge red flags about the guy’s mentality and the last thing we need is a powderkeg in the back.

      1. Caleb Porter plays his cards very close to the vest, but I wonder what’s truly going through his head regarding Kah. Does he think Kah’s as bats#it crazy as we do?

      2. I’m sure he knows all of Kah’s faults and strengths but in terms of who was available and who the Timbers could (afford to) get, the plus column is longer than the minus. I’m not sure I buy his line that Kah was always in his plans and Silvestre / Kah was his preferred pairing, but when Mikael went down it left us down an “old head” on the backline to help smooth over some of the bumps that comes with so many changes and inexperience (both in terms of age and top flight game time).

        My worry is if Kah gets a reputation that begins to precede him as a headcase, and that starts to color how refs judge him as well as giving opposing players someone to rile up and draw into making stupid decisions. Having that kind of intense and intimidating presence on the back can be a great asset so long as the guy has the mentality to keep a lid on it and not let it boil over.

        Kah’s clearly imperfect in this regard, but maybe Porter values that intensity over any shortcomings. To paraphrase Kah’s own comments on Dempsey, if the big guy was the complete package, he wouldn’t be playing in Portland, via the middle east.

  2. Nice review of an intense match. I differ on the rest of the schedule. Of 9 games left, 5 are at home and 2 are at Chivas. Given how tight the West is, that’s as favorable as we could hope for. RSL on Friday will be tough but then we have a week to get the team ready for the run to the playoffs.

    1. You’re right that we’re blessed with a lot of home games, plus the two Chivas aways.

      I think what makes this feel like a hard slog for me is that — since we’re a good team now — every single game will be critical for the playoff race. And for me, psychologically, that’s gonna be a hard slog.

      Fortunately, our players are pros and won’t get as stressed out as I am. Maybe this will feel like easy street for them, but I’m gonna be a wreck.

  3. We seem to be breaking down physically. We were the team that dominated teams down the stretch but now we are struggling to hang on at the end of games. Hopefully we get guys back and can start a new streak going into the playoffs. I really wish Silvestre could be match fit by the last few games for our playoff run.

    1. I read somewhere that Silvestre is hoping for just that. And I know that Dike’s getting close. We could definitely use them.

    1. I was thinking today about which Timbers have been through a playoff race. Ricketts with LA. Will Johnson and Harrington with RSL and SKC, but they were both subs, I think. Possibly Kah over in Europe, possibly Valeri in Argentina. Can we count the Timbers of 2011 as a true playoff race? Maybe?

      Anyway, my point is, this sort of stress might be a new thing for a lot of the guys.

      1. Oops… it just occurred to me, some of the guys, especially the Akron guys, went through the college playoffs, so that’s something. Maybe not equivalent, but still…

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