Six Degrees: Meat Face

CI DeMann is back with his first six degrees of the postseason, covering the Timbers win in the first leg of a tie against the Seattle Seahawks.


1) I’m in a weird place, psychologically, trying to process this 2-1 victory. Before the game, I was totally cool with a draw. TOTALLY cool with it.

Then we went up one-nil, and I got excited.

Then we went up two-nil, and I was going out of my flippin’ mind.

As the clock approached 90, I was euphoric, already planning out this column. I was going to ask the question: is this the biggest win in Portland’s MLS history? Maybe their biggest win EVER? I mean, come on… it’s the playoffs, and it’s in Seattle, and we not only win but we win 2-0? That’s history, baby! That win goes straight to the top of the list.

But then those bastards had to kill my buzz with their 90th minute goal. Damn them.

So here I am, trying to decide how to feel about this.

2) One thing I’d been planning to write about was how good our set piece defending has gotten. It was a big problem for much of the year, but during our season-closing 8-game unbeaten streak, set-piece-D tightened up nicely. Perhaps it was all due to Futty Danso’s presence, but whatever the reason, I was happy.

And we needed all of that great work in Seattle because they had 11 corners to our 1. Plus there were a bunch of free kicks we had to defend. And for pretty much the entire game, we did.

Then the 90th minute goal happened. Not on a corner or a free kick, but on a very long throw-in that bounced around the box and fell to the feet of an unmarked Osvaldo “Meat Face” Alonso. I’m pretty sure it was Kalif Alhassan who left him unmarked, but maybe we shouldn’t blame him. Maybe it was just a matter of time before our defense cracked. When you give up that many set-piece opportunities, eventually it’s going to bite you in the ass. So what do you say, guys? Let’s try to limit their corners and free kicks on Thursday, shall we?

3) I have a long history as a Ryan Johnson defender. No one seems to like the guy, but I’ve been defending him from the start. After this game, I imagine a bunch of you will be seeking admission into my one-man Ryan Johnson Fan Club. The answer is no.

Fabulous night by RJ. As always, his work rate was high, on both offense and defense. The goal was superb, obviously. Just a typical RJ goal, where he puts himself in the right place at the right time, getting just enough of a touch.

The almost-goal at the 83rd minute was almost a thing of beauty. There was the long pass down the middle. RJ broke free from his man, saw Meat Face zooming in from the right to intercept, made a nice touch to cut back against the grain, and then fired a shot on goal. If Gonzalez doesn’t get a foot on it, who knows what would have happened? Maybe a brace.

Great night, Ryan.

4) I liked our substitutions. The two guys on the team we absolutely, positively don’t want to be worn down before Thursday’s game are Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. So when we got the lead, Coach pulled them. I like this.

I actually might have left Ryan Johnson in the full 90. One, because he still looked good, and two, because if he’s exhausted Thursday, we have good replacements for him. We don’t have good subs for Valeri and Nags.

So I’m glad Coach pulled them early. I say he continues that on Thursday. If we get a lead, think about pulling them. Especially Valeri. (I wish we’d won 2-0 so maybe Valeri doesn’t even need to start on Thursday…)

5) Some quick player reviews.

Donovan Ricketts – Huge save in the 19th minute, big fella. That free kick was going in. No doubt.

Nags – All your best goals are when you don’t have time to think. Catch, turn, shoot. That’s when the magic happens.

Jack Jewsbury – An outstanding night. Great on D, a sensational cross to RJ, and then a nice left-footed shot on goal at the end of the first half.

Kalif – I loved your confidence on Nagbe’s goal. The way you ran straight at the defense, then zipped a perfect pass to Nags. You’re starting to play like a seasoned vet.

Rodney Freaking Wallace – Watch the yellows, my man. I’m still learning how these playoffs work, but it appears that two yellows gets you suspended a game. That’s what’s happening to Lamar Neagle. So be VERY careful, Rodney. We really do need you.

Diego Chara – I’d also like you to be careful. So far, no playoff yellows. Let’s keep it that way. We DEFINITELY need you.

Ben Zemanski – You, on the other hand, are a yellow card machine. 20 minutes played, one yellow earned. I’m starting to think Coach WANTS you to get booked, just so other people won’t.

Valeri – a quiet game.

Will Johnson – a quiet game.

6) So, here it is, the end of the column. Have I decided how to feel about this?

Well first of all, how cool is it that I’m vaguely disappointed after WINNING? Vaguely disappointed because we didn’t get a shutout on the road? I guess that’s a sign of how much things have changed this year.

In the end, I’ll just try to remember the big picture. Yes, that 90th minute goal was a bummer, but we still left there with a 2-1 sorta-victory. Why do I call it a “sorta-victory?” Because with this goofy aggregate-goal playoff nonsense, we still have business to take care of. As many have stated, this is just halftime. We play the 2nd half on Thursday.

Now, I want to be clear. I’m not going to jinx us by predicting victory, okay? But up a goal at halftime? I’m feeling confident. How can I not? When all we need Thursday is a draw? And we’re at home? For the first MLS playoff game in Jeld-Wen history? With a packed house going absolutely bat shit crazy? Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about this.

But I repeat, I AM NOT PREDICTING A VICTORY. I HAVE NOT JINXED US.

But still… I’m feeling good.

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2 thoughts on “Six Degrees: Meat Face

  1. I’m totally with you on RJ. He certainly has his deficits but I love what he brings to the team. His mix of high workrate offensively AND defensively along with his power and speed makes life very difficult for our opponents.

    1. I like Johnson a lot, and he brings something to the team that differs from what we can get from Valencia or Piquionne. He’s criminally underrated and unappreciated for a who has racked 9 goals and 4 assists in 1770 minutes, as opposed to Nagbe who matches his goalscoring output in 2848 minutes. Course, RJ plays through the middle and is expected to score more, but the point stands.

      His intelligence and timing of his run to the front post, then the deft touch on the ball, were the work of a clinical penalty box striker. I think you tend to see the best from RJ when the attacking play is coming more from the flanks than the middle, as his upper body strength, pace and aerial ability are more suited to a cross ball than a through ball. The deliberate attempt to stretch the play past those distracting white lines meant that we could play to his strengths, and he turned in a strong showing. I still wouldn’t be surprised if he sat out the start in Portland, should coach adopt a different attacking strategy to put this tie to bed.

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