1) The chip-shot goal is my favorite thing in soccer. I have always felt this way. Double saves are very nice, but the cheeky chipped-in goal is the best. Every time I check out the five nominees for MLS’s Goal of the Week, if there’s a chip-shot goal, I’m almost always voting for it, even it’s scored by some turd like Camilo or Blas Perez or Steven Lenhart. (Okay, I take that back. Steven Lenhart could score on a 75-yard bicycle kick and I still wouldn’t vote for him…)
But you get my point. It’s heavenly. And is it any surprise that Diego Valeri’s the Timber who finally chipped one in? The guy came to town this off season with a big paycheck and a lot of hype and, MAN, has he delivered. Currently tied for the team lead with eight goals. Currently tied for the LEAGUE lead with 12 assists. He truly is the maestro. Well done, Gavin Wilkinson, for bringing the guy to town. He’s enough to make us forget our last designated player, Kris Boyd.
2) And what about our NEWEST designated player, Maximiliano Urruti? Well, he got his first start Friday night and, I gotta say, I liked what I saw. He did a really nice job with the high pressure, harassing the Colorado backs and goalie every bit as good as Ryan Johnson always does. That was nice to see. It was his high pressure, in fact, that led to our lone goal. He harassed the fullback into a bad pass, Rodney Freaking Wallace intercepted it, headed it to Valeri, and the maestro did what maestros do.
The one negative I saw from Urruti’s game was his reaction to constantly getting knocked down, grabbed, and man-handled. This is the MLS, Maxi. For better or worse, it’s a physical league and you’re just gonna have to get used to it. No flopping, no screaming, no dramatics. Just expect to get knocked around and move on. Valeri’s gotten used to it, you can, too.
3) Of course, Urruti might also need to get used to MLS referees and their habit of doing LSD right before each half.
Seriously, could that ref have been any more inept? It was borderline comical. Although I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least he was consistent. Every call went to Colorado. Every. Single. Call. After awhile, my section-mates and I were just laughing about it. No matter what happened on the field, we knew Colorado would get the call. I think Edson Buddle could have pulled out a gun and shot someone and the ref still would’ve called for a Colorado free kick.
4) But the referee’s stand-up comedy doesn’t entirely explain why Portland looked so off-kilter Friday night. Everything just seemed a little off. Except for a few 5-10 minute stretches where we maintained possession, the rest of the night was a buffet of barely-missed passes, just-off headers, 50/50 balls that we just barely missed. To my eyes, Pa Modou Kah looked the most off, but he wasn’t the only one. Will Johnson, Michael Harrington, even Darlington Nagbe sometimes. Everyone was just a little bit off, and this translated into Colorado holding the ball for 51% of the game. I suppose those numbers would be fine in Denver, but here at home? It felt weird. It felt like our boys were being outplayed for most of the game.
And the numbers kind of back that up. Colorado had 51% possession. They outshot us 13-9 (but only had one shot on goal). They beat us 9-3 on corner kicks (but never put one in). They had at least 4 or 5 free kicks in the attacking third (but, again, no goals).
I guess I won’t complain too much, because despite all the chaos they created in our third, despite all those shots and all those set pieces, our defense held firm. Just barely, at times, but still, a shutout’s a shutout and I applaud it.
5) A few quick player notes.
Michael Harrington. You are so solid, dude. You might never be an all-star, but you never lay an egg, either. Just rock-solid work every single game. We know exactly what we’re getting from you, which is very reassuring.
Darlington Nagbe. Man, I love it when you turn on the jets. There’s always a few points in every game where you’re sort of slowly dribbling upfield and then you decide to really start moving and whoever’s covering you just gets left behind. The down side? This means the defenders have no choice but to grab you and throw you to the ground. At which point the referee does NOTHING.
Donovan Ricketts. First shutout in a while, buddy. Great to have you back.
Rodney Freaking Wallace. Very nice game. Extremely active on both offense and defense. Saved us a few times on defense. Plus, you’re now second on the team with six assists. Not bad, Tico.
6) Okay, so I kind of geeked out today on the Timbers website, checking out our starting lineups for each game this year. I was curious to see if having Jack Jewsbury and/or Futty Danso in the starting lineup makes any significant difference. The results of my pseudo-research are unclear, but here they are anyway. You decide.
First off, Jack and Futty have started TOGETHER ten times.
Jack’s started without Futty eleven times.
Futty’s started without Jack zero times.
In eight games, neither of them have started.
And that’s a total of 29 games, which is exactly how many games we’ve played.
How’d we do with the different starting lineups?
Neither start: 2 wins, 2 losses, 4 draws.
Futty alone starts: 0 wins, 0 losses, 0 draws.
Jack alone starts: 3 wins, 3 losses (we’ll come back to this), 5 draws.
Both Jack and Futty start: 6 wins, 0 losses, 4 draws.
Now, I haven’t done any statistical analysis here. I haven’t looked at median or regression or done a Chi-squared test. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what any of those things mean, but I’m pretty sure they’re fancy statistical words and I’m hoping they’ll make me look smart. But with or without statistical analysis, I know one thing: when Jack and Futty start together, WE DON’T LOSE. Six wins, five draws, and ZERO losses. Oh, and four of those six wins were shutouts. Does this seem significant to you?
(And remember how I said we’d come back to one of those “Jack Only” losses? It was at Columbus. Remember that game? Jack and Kah started. We gave up an early goal, then Kah kicked a guy in the face, got red-carded, and who came in for him? Futty. So, really, with just Jack, it was a 1-0 loss. But with Jack AND Futty and playing a man down, it was a 0-0 draw. I don’t think any of this will stand up in the Court of Statistical Logic, but I thought I’d include it anyway, since it allows me to, one, make Futty look good and, two, use the words “Kah kicked a guy in the face.”)
I’m sure there are some really smart people reading this who know all sorts of cool statistical stuff, so I encourage them to look at these numbers, do some smart-person stuff, and tell me if any of this is significant.
But until I hear from them, I’m fully prepared to jump on the “Jack and Futty Can’t Lose” bandwagon. And since we all know Caleb Porter reads this column and uses it to make most of his important decisions, I’m gonna say it right now: Coach, if you start the two old guys in back, we’ll go undefeated from now until we raise the MLS Cup overhead.