Category Archives: Timbers Match Dispatch

Six Degrees: Maestro

C.I. DeMann is back with his final regular season Six Degrees, looking back at a 5-0 romp against Chivas, and a season that no-one would’ve predicted (except, perhaps, a certain head coach with big brass balls).


With this wonderful regular season finally over, I’m feeling the need to reflect. So I’m gonna start this column with a very quick game recap, then we’ll head down memory lane.

Continue reading Six Degrees: Maestro

Six Degrees: So Near

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I) Saturday’s 0-0 result versus Real Salt Lake was a tough draw to take. I really really REALLY wanted the win. Why? Not just because we should ALWAYS win at home. And not just because we needed three points to make the playoffs. (We didn’t. We made the playoffs anyway.) It think this draw frustrated me for two reasons.

One, I’d gotten myself REALLY geeked up about the Supporter’s Shield. I’d spent the past week looking obsessively at the standings, looking at New York’s schedule, Kansas City’s schedule, figuring out what two straight wins meant for us, convincing myself that this was really going to happen.

My second reason for frustration is because Real Salt Lake feels like our boogeyman. Including the US Open game, we’ve played them four times and we still haven’t beaten them. Even worse, they’re the only team this year who’s truly kicked our asses (August 30th’s 4-2 loss in Utah).

It would have been nice to slay our dragon, just once. Just so we’d know we could do it. If we end up facing them in the playoffs, I’ll go into it very anxious. Like I said, they’re our boogeyman.

II) That being said, we’re pretty damn good, too. My main reaction to the game was that these were two very good teams going toe-to-toe. On Saturday night, both teams were organized, skilled, composed, and driven. Portland may not have won, but there’s no doubt we’re a great team, a true contender.

I’ve bitched many times about us starting games slowly, but I was very happy with the attacking spirit Saturday night. We got after it right from the first whistle.

The defense? These guys are unconscious. I told you we don’t lose when Futty plays. Never doubt me again. My powers are legend. I called the Futty thing. I called for Seattle’s epic collapse. Who knows what I’ll call for next? Maybe a functioning national government.

Jokes aside, I’m quite happy with the team right now. We’re getting hot just in time for the playoffs. How will we do there? No telling. This is uncharted territory. But could the pressure of the playoffs be any worse than the pressure of the last month? We’ve had a string of playoff-atmosphere games and we’ve come out on top. Definitely a good omen.

III) Okay, enough of all those happy thoughts. Let’s get back to my specialty, agonizing shifts of emotion followed by snot, tears, drool, and fetal positions.

How many almost-goals did we see Saturday night? It was horrible. Truly a game of inches. I’ve got two almost-goals from Kalif Alhassan, one or two from Valeri, at least one from Trencito, Piquionne’s header in the 90th, then the two in stoppage time from Will Johnson and Sal Zizzo. Maybe there are others I’m forgetting? It seemed like non-stop heartbreak. So agonizingly close all night long.

So, CLEARLY, the man of the match was RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. The bastard.

But if I were to pick someone in Timbers green, I’d suggest the entire back four. RSL held 56% of the possession, but they got almost no truly dangerous shots. Rimando was the one under siege, not Donovan Ricketts. His shutout came a lot easier, and I think that’s because of the four horsemen in front of him. They’ve been so tremendously solid for the last couple of months, it makes me feel very good about the playoffs. Yes, we’ve been having trouble scoring, but when you don’t give up any goals, you’re guaranteed at least a point.

IV) A few quick player notes.

Donovan Ricketts – How great was he in the 28th minute when Robbie Findlay got behind the defense and was running down a long pass? Ricketts came racing out of goal, then out of the 18-yard box, chested the ball, collected it on his feet, then bopped it upfield like he’s a fullback or something. Beautiful. His best play on an otherwise quiet night.

Jose Valencia – I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m starting to come around on the Little Train. I think he might be turning into the real deal. He’s pretty remarkable with the ball at his feet, isn’t he? Yes, he sometimes tries to much, but oftentimes, he pulls it off. His 42nd minute ball across the face of the goal was glorious and ALMOST found Kalif’s foot. So close, so heartbreaking.

Chris Wingert – Complete Douche. Why do I hate this guy so much? It’s not just that he’s out there mugging our guys, it’s that he does it while looking like a high school popular-kid bully. Or a frat boy. (And, really, what’s the difference?)

V) A few numbers to throw at you.

We’re unbeaten in seven games. Five of those have been shutouts. Not bad form, heading into the playoffs.

We held RSL to zero shots on goal. ZERO. That’s the first time we’ve done that in 101 games as an MLS side.

Last year, we had 34 points for the entire season. This year, we had 38 points AT HOME. Aww yeah…

Finally, I have not given up on this Supporter’s Shield thing. Here’s what we need: we need a loss from both NY and SKC. A tie would be good enough from LA. But all of these scenarios require a Timbers win against Chivas. Three points, nothing less. If we win, and NY loses a game, SKC loses a game, and LA loses or ties a game, we win the Shield. We win the damn shield.

I will now begin obsessing about this for the next week.

VI) Last thing. This past week, like many of you, I went online and cast my vote for the Timbers Army 2013 Supporter’s Player of the Year. Also known as “the People’s Champion.” With its oh-so-perfect-looking boxing-style championship belt.

It was a tough decision.

I considered Diego Valeri, who was the perfect conductor for Caleb Porter’s new style of play and who’s in the discussion for MLS Player of the Year. I considered Diego Chara, who’s possibly my favorite Timber, always where you need him, his engine never slowing. I considered Darlington Nagbe, who’s had his best season as a pro, and who seems to have made “the leap.” I considered Donovan Ricketts, who’s only been the best goalkeeper in MLS, who’s got 13 shutouts, and leads the league by a healthy margin in “oh dear Lord, that was going in, he just saved us a goal” plays.

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But in the end, it was Will Johnson who got my vote, who got everyone else’s votes, and who raised the championship belt Saturday night. I can’t speak for everyone else who voted for him, but for me it came down to the change in this team’s attitude. The 2013 Portland Timbers absolutely REFUSE to lose. When we’re down a goal, we turn up the intensity to almost homicidal levels. And if we get a goal to draw even, we don’t celebrate. We grab the ball out of the net and RACE back to the center line, eager to get started on scoring the go-ahead goal. Losses are unacceptable. Draws aren’t good enough. Getting three points is all we care about.

This attitude did not exist twelve months ago, but now, everyone has it. Clearly, Caleb Porter’s the biggest reason for the change, but I couldn’t vote for him, so I voted for the guy who personifies him out on the field. The scrappy gamer whose personal attitude has become the TEAM’S attitude. Who’s always in the ref’s ear, who gets into scraps defending injured teammates, who cracks me up on a regular basis by irritating opponents or mocking inept referees or just basically giving us the “Will Johnson Face.”

I’d congratulate Will on his victory, but I know what he’d say to that. We all do. “We haven’t done anything yet,” he’d say. “There are still a lot of games left to play and we’re gonna keep working hard and staying focused. We won’t be satisfied until we’ve won the whole thing.”

And that’s why we love him. That’s why he’s the People’s Champ.

Six Degrees: Raising The Bar

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1) I watch most away games at home, but this time I went to a sports bar, and I gotta tell you, soccer’s more fun when you’re surrounded by fellow fans, all of them cheering, singing, crying, and bitching. I think I’m going to have to do this from now on.

Everyone at the bar was in agreement on our Man of the Match. Clearly Donovan Ricketts. And it’s not even close.

Yes, Ricketts had three shutouts in September, but in none of them did he truly amaze. The defense was sharp and he never had to make a lot of saves.

Sunday in Vancouver, he made up for it, with brilliant, world-class saves time after time. He had a double save at around the 75th minute that was truly breathtaking. Then he had a couple more save of the week nominees in extra time. Without him standing on his head, Vancouver scores 5 or 6 goals and I’m writing a very different column.

Has there ever been a week where all five MLS Save of the Week saves were by the same guy? Because Donovan might do it this week. He was out of his friggin’ mind. Vancouver was desperate, they were throwing everything they had at us, and our defense let them get far too many quality shots on goal. Ricketts turned almost all of them away.

He was struggling in July and August, but the Iron Lion of Zion is back in a big, big way. Which bodes well for us once the playoffs start.

2) Our first goal was caused, once again, by Maximiliano Urruti’s high pressure. Maxi made the Vancouver goalie panic and hit a crap clearance. Will Johnson intercepts, hands it off to Darlington Nagbe, who did what he does: bring the awesome.

In any other game, I’d probably spend some time here talking about how fabulous Nagbe’s 30-yard bomb was, but let’s be honest, after what happened later in the game, it was somewhat forgettable.

So instead, I’ll use this spot to compliment Urruti, just like I did last week. I love Portland’s high pressure defense, and from the very beginning of the year thought Ryan Johnson was brilliant at harassing the opposing strikers/goalies. And he was. But Maxi has come in and is doing it even better. His high pressure has been responsible for two goals in the last three games. I’m the founder and sole member of the Ryan Johnson Fan Club, but I think I might need to start a second club for Maxi, because the guy’s delivering in a big, big way. Welcome to team, kid. Now, please go to Gavin’s office and sign a 12-year contract. Take a few guys with you.

3) So, because of Nagbe’s goal, I was feeling pretty good about things when the 75th minute rolled around. We had the lead and Vancouver wasn’t really threatening. Then everything went insane.

Time – 75:32 – Camilo’s free kick.

It’s hard for me to give that little turd Camilo too much credit for this shot, because it deflected off Rodney Freakin’ Wallace’s head. If not for that deflection, the ball’s going straight into the goalie’s hands. So is it Camilo’s goal, or an own goal? The official MLS scorer is calling it a goal for Camilo, but I question this.

The guys in the bar and I couldn’t decide what qualifies as an own goal. Maybe one of my brilliant readers can tell us? How is that shot off RodWal’s head not an own goal? What would be required to turn it into an own goal? Ricketts looked all messed up, that’s for sure. He got no jump on that thing, almost as if he’d been going for the original trajectory, only to have RFW mess things up with his head. Sounds like an own goal to me, but not to the official MLS scorer. Anyone out there want to educate me?

Okay, all that aside, let’s talk about the emotional impact of that stupid goal. The bar I was in went completely silent. I had my face in my hands, the guy next to me was shaking his head. All you could hear were a few muttered oaths and the Vancouver fans cheering on the TV.

And then…

4) Time – 76:35 – Will Johnson equalizes.

EXPLOSION! Remember the first LA home game, when Jean-Baptiste scored the winner in extra time? And Jeld-Wen nearly collapsed from the general freak out? Well, I’m not gonna say we matched that in the bar, but it was definitely close. I was standing on my bar stool, yelling so loud and so long and so continuously, that I was actually getting light headed and worried I’d pass out. That’s how geeked the entire bar was after that Will Johnson goal. It was insanity, in every sense of the world. When we finally quieted enough to speak, the guy next to me at the bar said, “the Vancouver fans weren’t even done cheering for their goal when that went…”

And just as he was saying that…

5) Time – 77:56 – Camilo scores again.

You want to take the oxygen out of a sports bar? Do what Camilo did. Instant silence.

You know how I wasn’t sure we could give Camilo credit for that first goal? Well, don’t worry, I’m giving him full credit for this one. Sweet Mother of God, what a shot. In fact, I think the aesthetic beauty of the goal sort of takes away some of the pain. I mean, if we’d let in some piece of crap goal caused by poor marking or bad keeping? That would have hurt much worse. But this wonder goal? All we could do in the bar was shake our heads and appreciate it.

People are already suggesting it might win MLS Goal of the Year. Personally, I’m voting for Valeri’s four-touch-volley against New York. But I’m also a complete homer.

All of that aside, my main point here is that the brilliance of that last goal took away some of the pain. Yes, it turned a win into a draw, but still… did you see it? Fabulous. Absolutely breath-taking. The little turd.

6) Okay, a couple very quick points and I’ll get out of here.

Will Johnson – Did anyone see what caused Will to start bleeding in extra time? Vancouver’s Manneh was in the 18, Futty breathes on him, he goes down, and the next thing I know, Futty, Kah, and Ricketts are all holding Manneh back, like a bar fight’s going to break out. Meanwhile, Will’s bleeding. What the hell happened? Does anyone know? I haven’t seen any video to show what happened there.

Seattle Sounders – Here’s what I need from you guys: a complete and total collapse to end the season. You make a good start of it this weekend, losing 5-1 to Colorado. Nice job. Now keep up the good work! Losing to Vancouver on Wednesday would be a great next step, then you can keep it going here in Portland next Sunday. I don’t want close losses, either. If you guys really apply yourselves, you can finish this season the way you started it, with a big giant crapfest. I believe in you, Seattle! Let’s do this!

Six Degrees: Dare To Dream?

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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. Continue reading Six Degrees: Dare To Dream?

Six Degrees: Running The Numbers

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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.

You’re welcome.