This last game’s gotten me a little emotional. I apologize in advance.
1) I’ve got to hand it to Seattle. After two straight blowout losses, they came into a packed Jeld-Wen, facing a red-hot Timbers side, and they could have just rolled over. I WANTED them to roll over. We all did. I mean, Colorado and Vancouver got to kick their ass. I wanted to kick their ass, too. A 5-1 victory? 6-1? 17-1? This is what I wanted.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be, because the Flounders came in and COMPETED. No comfortable, relaxing blowout for me to enjoy. Instead, it was 90-plus minutes of tension, anxiety, and fingernails bitten down to the quick.
Those first 20 minutes were probably the hardest of all. I wanted us to go for the quick kill, and instead the Timbers barely crossed midfield. Not much possession, not much pressure, and zero attacking spirit.
Seattle were the only ones attacking, and we really should have been down 2-0. We can only thank Mr. Ricketts and Mr. Crossbar for keeping the Flounders at bay.
All in all, a very unsatisfying first 20 minutes. My pent up excitement could find no release and so it turned to anger and fear. Borderline insanity, really.
2) An insanity that only increased during the last part of the first half. From the 20th minute on, Seattle’s attacking finally abated and we began holding possession well. The only problem? It resulted in ZERO shots on goal. Not even weak attempts. We were just dicking around out there, and I was going absolutely bananas.
I mean, for crying out loud, Clint Dempsey was ON THE BENCH getting his shoulder taped! We were up a man! I repeat, we were UP A MAN!!! And did we do ANYTHING? No! I want to write THIS ENTIRE SECTION IN ALL CAPS with an absurb number of exclamation points just to express my fury about all this!!!! Clint’s on the sideline, Portland’s playing lazy passes back and forth, and I’m going FREAKING INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (hold on, just a few more…) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thankfully, around the 35th minute, my Man of the Match Darlington Nagbe decided that SOMEONE on the team should take his head out of his ass. So Nags decided to attack. FINALLY.
He had a good shot on goal in the 38th minute (which led to a rebound Valencia completely muffed), then in the 41st, he had that gorgeous breakaway. Pretty much sprinted half the field, then somehow snuck past the goalie. Sadly, his touch failed him at that point, but still, I appreciated the effort. I appreciated ANY Timber showing some aggressiveness. And I think maybe it paid off, maybe everyone else noticed and decided to step it up, because just a few minutes later….
3) KALIF! KALIF! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!
Oh, thank you Kalif Alhassan and your wonderful Jazz Hands. Thank you for erasing that entire misearable, frustrating, MADDENING first half with one beautiful stroke of your right foot. And what a touch it was. No toe poke, this. It was hard and fast and just inside the left post. The keeper didn’t have a chance.
The entire city celebrated as if we’d just won the game. And since the half ended just a moment later, it really did feel like a victory. Players were still hugging Kalif as they walked to the locker room. Green smoke was still in the air. Timber Joey was still cutting Kalif’s slab. A feeling of celebration hung over the stadium and the city. 44 minutes of frustration behind us, only good things ahead. I can relax now, right? Right? RIGHT???????
4) Sigh… No, apparently I can’t. No blowout to soothe my frayed nerves. Because to me, the story of the second half wasn’t Alonso’s red card (bless its little red heart). The story was Portland’s refusal to smell the blood in the water and ATTACK.
Remember earlier in the year when we were an attacking team? Wide open, free flowing? Those were great days, weren’t they? Now it’s all hard-nosed defense and 1-0 wins, which means I’m spending the entire 2nd half of every game crapping my pants, wondering if we’ll be able to hold on.
Serious question, though: when my team’s a man up in the 85th minute, I shouldn’t be scared, right? I shouldn’t be terrified of every Seattle set piece, right?
(I should probably be talking to my therapist about this, but instead I’ll just use some more all caps and exclamation points…)
Where’s the KILLER INSTINCT?!?!? Where’s the TASTE FOR BLOOD?!?!?!? (this is really quite satisfying… just a few more…) ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
I feel like I shouldn’t complain, since, you know, we’re WINNING all these 1-0 games, but still… come on coach! Lean on the gas a little? It would really help my mental and emotional well-being.
5) I could spend a lot of time talking about Alonso’s elbow and subsequent red card. I’m sure there are tons of writers doing just that. But I’ll refrain and instead make only three points.
One, an elbow to the face is an automatic red, whether it connects or not.
Two, I’ve got such a man-crush on Will Johnson. His reaction to the elbow was PERFECT. Not too much, not too little. Juuuuuust right. He spun away, fell to his knees, then gave the classic Will Johnson Face we’ve all come to know and love: “Elbow to the face, eh? I guess he’ll be leaving soon.”
Three, how many Flounders will be getting suspended because of this? I think their reaction to the linesman pretty much DEFINES “mass confrontation.” They’re lucky they only had one guy ejected. They might be a little short on players for their next game.
6) Okay, here we are at the last section. I think I’ve vented my frustrations enough now. I appreciate you stepping in as my sports-fan-psychiatrist. Now it’s time to step back from the abyss and bring the happy.
We’re in first place. Not just in the Western Conference, but in the whole friggin’ league. Two games left. One’s at home against the team right behind us, Real Salt Lake. That’s a six-point game if ever there was one. Yes, they’re the only team this year to really blow us out, and yes, they broke my heart the last time they came to town, but still… we’re at home, we’re streaking right now, and if there was ever a time to beat them, this is it.
After that is our final game of the year, our final road game, and it’s against Chivas, the last-place team in the conference.
My point? We might actually do this. We are tantalizingly close to not only making the playoffs, but winning the friggin’ SUPPORTER’S SHIELD. Can you believe this? It’s possible, folks.
This time last year, interim coach Gavin Wilkinson had taken our boys to Seattle and gotten pounded, leaving Timbers fans enraged and despondent. Twelve months later, MLS Coach of the Year (I’m just gonna go ahead and give it to him now) Caleb Porter has us on the verge of the Supporter’s Shield.
Yes, I’m going out of my mind during every close game. Yes, I’ve chewed my fingers down to the bone. Yes, my psychotherapy bills are through the roof. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. We are in rarefied air right now. We’re at the top of the league with two weeks left.
Next week against Real Salt Lake is going to be BRUTAL. Two excellent teams, both chasing the Shield, trading body blow after body blow. It will be a 90-minute death match and I feel certain it will end 1-0.
I know our boys will survive it. I just hope my sanity survives as well.