Six Degrees: Six Points

The Timbers got their first point in three visits to face Chivas USA. In the context of a push for the playoffs, is the draw good enough?
The Timbers got their first point in three visits to face Chivas USA. In the context of a push for the playoffs, is the draw good enough?

1) Remember when Chivas was a joke? An easy three points?

We whipped them 3-0 back in May. This time? A very different group, indeed. I’d suspected it would be tougher, what with their surprisingly good form of late. Still, I thought we’d get the win. Maybe not a blowout, but at least a close win.

Instead, we got a very frustrating draw. And to be perfectly honest, the Goats could’ve had two goals in the first part of the game, so maybe we’re lucky we didn’t lose. It’s a better team all around. They’ve got a better coach (Jose Luis “I’m Gonna Try Something Radical Here and Play a Four-Man Back Line” Real), they’ve got a better offense (centered around Erick “I’m Gonna Fall To The Ground Every Now and Then, Just To See If the Referee’s Paying Attention” Torres), and they’ve got a better defense (centered around Carlos “I Can’t Believe I Got Traded To a High School Team, I’d Better Whip These Youngsters Into Shape” Bocanegra). Put all that together, and they are most definitely not the easy targets I was hoping for. We visit them again on the last day of the season.

I REALLY hope we’ve already got the playoffs wrapped up by then.

2) Who exactly looked good in the first half?

Aside from Chivas players, I mean.

I guess Nagbe was fairly active in the first 45, but that’s only when he wasn’t getting smashed to the ground by either Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher. (It’s nice to see those two staying active in retirement…)

Seriously, though, Donovan Nagbe’s made of stronger stuff than you or me. The hits he takes, each and every game, how does he keep getting up? In the first half Saturday night, he was pretty much the only guy I felt had brought anything close to his A game.

Kalif Alhassan was a wreck. Will Johnson was nigh invisible.

El Trencito was very active, I’ll give him that, but he was trying to do too much on his own. He’d get the ball and charge toward goal, even if there were plenty of Timbers nearby, more than willing to help. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about Train, since he’s now had three assists in the last two games, but still, I think looking around for passing options is a concept he’s still working on.

Keep hammering it home in practice, Coach Porter! He’ll learn!

3) Some odd moments on the back line, too, weren’t there?

I think we can all agree how fun it is to see centerbacks passing the ball across the front of an open net. And it’s also cool when Andrew Jean Baptiste’s guy gets wide-open headers because Beast is at the other end of the field, pretending he’s a striker. Oh, and how great was it to see my guy Donovan Ricketts race out of the 18 yard box, only to realize “Wait, I’m not allowed to touch the ball out here, am I? Damn, I’d better turn around and go get that ball I just let go through my legs.”

Yep, it was good times all over the Portland Timbers defense, wasn’t it? At least Pa Modou Kah didn’t kick a guy in the face, so that’s something.

And things tightened up in the 2nd half, so that’s nice. I guess I’ll quit bitching now. Shutouts are hard to come by. I can’t expect them every game.

4) Do other teams start games as poorly as the Timbers do?

Does every team give up a goal or two right at the start? Is this a normal thing? Because it doesn’t feel normal.

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d go check the statistics for a bunch of old University of Akron matches.

Maybe this is a Caleb Porter thing. Maybe all his teams suck right at the start. Maybe one of the main things he tells his teams is, “Hey, fellas, don’t try to do too much right at the beginning, okay? Just take it easy for a bit, get your feet under you, get into the rhythm of things. I don’t want to see anybody going too hard for those first ten or fifteen minutes. You’ll get a cramp.”

Is this a possible explanation for why our games have started so badly all season long? Personally, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of waiting for “halftime adjustments.” Those are great and all, but by that point, we’re usually down a goal and the opposition’s parked a bus in front of their goal.

You know, maybe I shouldn’t complain about this too much. After all, last year it was the exact opposite. Last year we sucked in the FINAL ten or fifteen minutes, and we all know how well that worked out for us.

5) Some player notes:

Diego Valeri – The Timbers Army needs to hurry up and write a song for this guy. I recall seeing a variation on the Beatles’s “Let It Be.” I say we get that into the rotation as soon as possible. The guy deserves it.

Diego Valeri (part two) – But on the other hand, I’d kind of like it if you’d stop always trying to make the superstar hall of fame pass. Yes, it’s a thing of beauty when it works, but you’re turning the ball over way to much.

Will Johnson – Seriously, man, you were kind of invisible out there. Especially in the first half. Maybe you were just hanging back so Diego Chara could move forward, which I suppose is cool. But I think you’ve got a better nose for the goal than him, which we could have used Saturday night.

Maximiliano Urruti – First impression: are you really Argentine? Because that’s the most Italian-sounding name I’ve ever heard. Second impression: wow, you’ve got a lot of hair. I hope this doesn’t cause friction between you and Michael Harrington. Third impression: you almost, ALMOST got your foot on a game-winning goal Saturday night. Do something like that the first time you put on the jersey and EVERYBODY’S gonna be writing songs about you.

6) Well, much to everyone’s surprise, my prediction of finishing the season with eight straight wins did not come to pass.

Chivas is a tough bunch these days and they’re going to make things hard for a lot of teams these next couple of months. Like I said earlier, I hope we’ve got the playoffs wrapped up before we play them again.

The good news? We now get Colorado and Los Angeles at home, where we’ve already beaten them this year. They’re both in the same boat as us, needing a strong finish to make the playoffs, so this won’t be easy.

Still, it’s do-able. I’d love to see us playing hard from the START of the game, not fifteen minutes in. I’d love to see our defense avoid any more Keystone Cops/Three Stooges comedy. And I’d love to see two straight wins at home.

That’s not a crazy request, is it? Six points at home? Very reasonable.

We can do this.

9 thoughts on “Six Degrees: Six Points

  1. If we can’t sealup our backline and set piece defense we are not going to make the playoffs or if we do it will be one and done and no games at home. Jeld-wen is aching to have a playoff game. The Thorns won a championship but had no games at home. The Timbers are looking like they are just going to squeak in and lose. We need a game at Home!!! Pull it together guys!!

    1. I hear you, brudda. The MLS has a somewhat strange playoff format, so I’m not sure all the rules, but I think a #4 seed gets us a playoff game at home against the #5 seed. At least, I think that’s right.

      You’re correct, though. We need to pick it up these next couple months or we’ll be sitting at home, waiting for next year.

    1. Good catch. Though that would be a pretty sweet hybrid, wouldn’t it? I’ll get the Slide Rule Pass scientists working on that right away.

  2. My father’s Argentine, with a surname from Spain. But there are a LOT of Italian descendants in Argentina, and the % of Argentine soccer players with Italian surnames must be at least 50% (at least it seems that way.) so Max Urruti is a pretty common-sounding Argentine name, actually.

    and Oh, how sweet would it have been if the linesman had made the right call and he’d been one-on-one with Kennedy for his first goal? Sigh. Better not think any more about that. 🙂

    1. Very interesting Argentinian lesson. I wonder if I’ll ever get down there?

      And, yeah, that offsides was a bummer.

      But if Urruti DOES score that goal in his very first game, he’d instantly have legendary status. Straight into the Timbers pantheon. Which of course means… nowhere to go but down. So maybe a slow build up will be better for all of us. He’ll have to achieve superhero status the old fashioned way.

  3. “Do something like that the first time you put on the jersey and EVERYBODY’S gonna be writing songs about you.”

    Unless your name is Kris Boyd.

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