1) Sunday’s 1-0 victory over LA was an interesting game, with both good and bad.
Good: the Timbers looked dangerous for long stretches. Bad: they couldn’t turn that into shots on goal.
Bad: the Galaxy kept breaking out in numbers. Good: then they’d get shut down by our backs.
Good: it was super-fun to cheer in the cold and rain. Bad: I’m pretty sure I now have that Chinese bird flu.
The possession stats in this game were also strangely flip-flopped. LA looked more dangerous in the 1st half, but at halftime we had 54% possession. It was the opposite in the 2nd half. We looked more dangerous, but somehow when things were over, LA had 53% possession for the game. Weeeeird.
Another odd thing: did LA have a frightening shot the entire game? Oh, sure, they had some corners and sure, the ball bounced around our box a few times and, sure, LA fired off a few shots, but none that were too scary. Ricketts made a couple saves, nothing too hard. There was a worrisome rebound, but honestly, for all the shots and all the corners, LA really didn’t threaten. Surprising for a team with so many dangerous weapons.
2) Perhaps LA’s problems were because Coach Porter took my advice and kept Futty and Jack in the starting lineup. The team is still undefeated when those two start. Coincidence? I think not.
But it’s also possible LA’s difficulties were because of our formation. Didn’t it seem like Will Johnson and Diego Chara were playing pretty far back? Almost like extra defenders? I can’t say I mind, since they shut down two of the scariest attackers in the league, Landon Donovan and Robbie “Earle” Keane. Man, every time those guys got the ball, I held my breath. So dangerous. But we shut ’em down. And we’ve given up only nine shots on goal in our last four games. I’m feeling very good about our D right now.
Side note: big big props to Diego Chara for doing a VERY choppy post-game locker room interview. This is the 2nd English interview I’ve seen Chara give this year. The guy’s English is super rough and super slow, but he still volunteered to be interviewed and applaud that. I also feel 100% certain we can thank Diego Valeri for this. Valeri’s been so dedicated to learning English and been so eager to give choppy interviews in this new language, I feel certain that he’s encouraging the other Latino players to do the same. Well done, both Diegos.
3) I could talk about Maximiliano Urruti’s amazing goal. I could talk about his even more amazing floppy-arms goal celebration. But instead, I want to talk about how quickly he’s become part of this team. Urruti’s been here THREE WEEKS and he already looks completely at ease out there, as if he’s been playing at Jeld-Wen for the entire year. The fans like him, his teammates like him, and with two straight starts and a game-winning goal, I have a feeling Coach Porter likes him as well. I know I do.
Since the start of the year, one of my favorite things about Ryan Johnson was that he was the anti-Kris Boyd. I loved how RJ was going full-speed the whole time he was out there, sprinting around in the defensive half, harassing the backs and goalkeepers. Well, doesn’t it seem like Urruti may actually be doing it even better? That guy is WORKING out there. The bar has been raised, RJ. If you want to remain our first sub off the bench, you’ll need to match Urruti’s work rate.
Last week, I said that Urruti needs to get used to the pounding he’ll take in MLS. I think he did a lot better this week. He may have flopped and complained a little, but not as much. Well done, Max.
Finally, I don’t know that this has much to do with Sunday’s win, but it’s still worth pointing out: Maximiliano Urruti has one more goal this year than Clint Dempsey. And Milos Kocic has one more assist. Anyone want to show us your Deuce face?
4) During the first half, my section-mates were bitching about how close that linesman was calling the offsides. He wasn’t giving the Timbers ANYTHING. Well, in the second half, his sharp eyes turned out to be a good thing, didn’t they?
First thing I want to say is this: THANK GOD that goal was called off. I don’t think I could have handled the heartbreak. It was like the Real Salt Lake game all over again.
But secondly, the most amazing thing about that call was Robbie Keane’s reaction afterward. He went absolutely bananas. He ran over there like he was going to kill someone. Then he’s up in the linesman’s face, yelling and pushing and grabbing the dude’s flag. The head referee was perfect, getting in the middle of it, calming everyone down, but once he finally gets everyone away, Keane goes racing over AGAIN. What does Keane have to do to get a yellow? Punch someone in the face?
Of course, to make matters worse, the linesman just happened to be on the side of the field with the LA bench, so means Bruce Arena got to scream in his ear the rest of the game. I’m sure that was fun for everyone. That poor ref’s probably got PTSD now. But it was a good call. The replays back it up. Good job, linesman. Now go have a good stiff drink and then see a therapist.
5) Two straight shutouts for the backline. Three shutouts in the last four. I’m really liking the Great Wall of Gambia. I also suspect Futty is a calming influence on Pa Modou Kah. Futty’s always had a serene quality to him, something I would never say about Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Maybe having Futty is a psychological balm for Kah. I hope so, because when Kah can keep the crazy at bay, he’s a fabulous defender. He was just sensational Sunday. And I wholeheartedly applaud his efforts to tie Donovan Ricketts’s shoes juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right.
To be honest, the entire back line was great. Jack Jewsbury is so clutch, such a master of positioning. Over on the other side, Michael Harrington is Steady Eddie. He brings the same solid performance game after game after game. I feel great about our defense right now. We can ride this back four a long way.
6) I’m not sure I want to pick apart this win much more. I mostly just want to enjoy it. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but after the hell of July and August, when everyone was hurt, when victories were hard to find, when we discovered that Caleb Porter was indeed mortal, well, it just feels good to win again. It feels good to have three wins and a draw in our last four games. It reminds me of those Halcyon days in May and June when the Timbers couldn’t lose and all was right with the world.
So, yes, we might lose next week in Vancouver. I’m not gonna think about that right now. For now, I’m going to simply be a fan and enjoy this. Enjoy beating the two-time defending champs. Enjoy climbing back into the Supporter’s Shield race. Enjoy telling myself that, once again, we’re a Great Colossus, that we’re going to make the playoffs, that we’re going to retain the Cascadia Cup, and that we’re going to roll all the way to the MLS Cup.