This last game’s gotten me a little emotional. I apologize in advance. Continue reading Six Degrees: Please Please Me
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.
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!
1) No big surprise, yesterday’s loss has me in a bit of a funk. This column definitely has the potential to slide off the road and into an icy ditch of despair. I’ll do my best, though. Both hands on the wheel and all that.
I’ll just start with the big picture: going into the game yesterday, everything was against us. We had tons of injuries. We had a key suspension. We had some gimpy old guys in the starting lineup. And we did it all in front of 67,000 self-congratulating-but-not-all-that-noisy fans.
Lesser teams would have folded. Our boys didn’t and we can be proud of that. They went in there and gave Seattle everything they could handle.
2) But to be honest, we gave it to them a whole lot more in the first half than in the second.
To my eyes, these were probably the two most different halves of the entire season. We looked great in the first, we looked awful in the second. At the end of the first half, I was supremely confident. At the end of the second half, I wanted to break stuff.
What happened? A number of things. For starters, they completely eliminated Diego Valeri as a factor. He was dominant in the first half, he was invisible in the second.
Things also shifted when they put Mauro Rosales into the game. They banged in the opening goal a few minutes later and we were pretty much worthless for the rest of the game.
We’ve become used to Caleb Porter making brilliant halftime adjustments, but it seems that in this game, he was outdone by Sigi Schmid and his enormous belly. Whatever he said in the Seattle locker room at halftime worked. The balance of play shifted completely.
3) For the game this weekend in Salt Lake, we’ll be getting Diego Chara back from suspension, but I have a feeling that when the MLS disciplinary committee looks at the weekend’s game film, they’ll be giving a brand new suspension to Pa Modou Kah. Did he intentionally knee Eddie Johnson in the head? I’m not sure, but my instinct tells me that MLS is going to sit him down.
The funny thing is, I’m not sure I mind that much. I don’t entirely trust Kah. He just seems a little crazy, you know? I like the intensity, I like the passion, but I’m constantly worried he’s going to step over the line, that he’s going to kick someone in the face (oh, wait… he already did that…) or knee someone in the head (oops… that too…) or maybe start a bench-clearing brawl (hasn’t happened yet, but it’s not out of the question, is it?). He’s just a red card waiting to happen.
I’d love to see Futty Danso come back from injury and take that starting spot next to Beast. He may not be as fast as Kah, but he’s better in the air, he’s got veteran wiles, and he’ll just restore a little sanity to the back line. Sorry, Kah. There’s a lot I like about you, but I can’t take the crazy anymore.
4) I feel terrible even saying it out loud, but what the hell is going on with Donovan Ricketts? He was our rock. Our foundation. He was the one guy on the field we could count on, fully and completely. These last four or five games? He’s been a shell of his former self. Suddenly, he’s old and stiff. He’s allowing rebounds on shots he’d have gobbled up earlier in the year. After going the whole season as the team’s MVP, he now feels like a weak link.
Maybe it’s injury, maybe it’s fatigue, but I’m really wondering if it’s time to bench him. (God, I feel awful saying that…) Maybe he needs to sit for a few games, let all his injuries heal, get good and rested, then come back for the last few weeks. Milos Kocic is a pretty good backup. Let’s put him in there. Could he be any shakier than my man Donovan’s been?
And you are still my man, Donovan, I swear. I just don’t want to see you like this. I want to see you healthy and energetic and dominant. Take a month off, okay? I think it’s for the best.
5) Some player quick-takes:
Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe – Absolute superstars.
Ryan Johnson – I’ve had your back all season, bro, but that wasn’t the best game for you. Come back strong against RSL so all the haters will shut up.
Kalif Alhassan – You absolutely killed it, supersub. You’ve earned more playing time, I think.
Alvas Powell – After four games, I’m convinced. You’re the real deal. Let’s make this loan permanent.
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle) – You sir, are a thug. Did you beat up Nagbe after the game, too? Mug him in the parking lot? Take his wallet?
Clint Dempsey (Seattle) – It’s a shame you didn’t get into the game Sunday. Oh, wait… you DID? Sorry. I missed it.
6) The rest of this season is going to be a slog. Players are already breaking down physically. The psychology of a playoff chase is going to be tough on them, too. For the rest of the year, every game will feel like a must-win, and that can be exhausting. I know it’s wearing me out. I’m a mess.
We have nine games left, only three of them easy: Toronto at home and two road games at Chivas (I’ve been thinking of those as sure-fire wins, but then yesterday the Goats beat New York, so maybe it’s not automatic after all.)
Regardless, those three are pretty much our only easy games. The rest of the schedule is nothing but playoff teams. Real Salt Lake. Colorado. Los Angeles. Vancouver. Seattle. Real Salt Lake again.
This time last year? I wasn’t all stressed out like this. The Timbers sucked and had no chance at the playoffs. This year, they’re good, they’re in the hunt, and I’m an emotional wreck. Funny how that works.
1) The key word in Portland these days? Frustration. We can’t put the ball in the net, we can’t defend set pieces, we can’t get three points at home. Frustration, frustration, frustration. I left Saturday’s game with a small black cloud in my wake.
But as always, Coach Porter’s all about keeping the lows high. And I can understand that, since, in many ways, we really did play well Saturday night. We had passion, energy, possession, and lots of good scoring chances. You could even suggest that this game came down to one play. We gave them a set-piece goal, so we didn’t get the win, simple as that. If we stop them on that one play, it’s all candy canes and daisies here in Timbers Land.
But we didn’t, so here I am, trying to make the best of it. I’m not gonna go all super-optimism like last week, but I will try to keep the lows high. Coach’s orders.
2) First of all, this game felt like the playoffs. From the very start, there was a ton of energy in the crowd. Cheering, booing, cursing, desperation. Everything about it screamed playoffs. Perhaps this is what all our games will be like the rest of the year. We certainly have more at stake than we did this time last year, when we were just running out the string. Let’s keep bringing the passion, Portland. Hopefully it will spur the boys on.
That being said, I must grudgingly admit that Vancouver’s traveling fans were outstanding. And I know I’m going to make a lot of people angry with this, but in many ways, they seemed to have won the day. From my seat, at least, sitting in 218, the Vancouver fans were louder, more enthusiastic, and better organized than the Timbers Army. I’ve never seen this happen before and I hope I never will again, but a number of times during the game, I found myself a little disappointed with the Army, wondering why they weren’t picking it up a little, rising up to match the Vancouver passion. Maybe the Vancouver fans didn’t seem significant way over in the TA section, but they sure did in mine. And yes, I’ll admit that maybe the TA’s chanting was disrupted by all the foul calls, but still, from where I was sitting, the Vancouver fans won.
You may begin flaming me now.
3) Let’s hear it for Vancouver’s designated hockey goon, Brad Rusin. He was only in the game 17 minutes, but he made the most of them, smashing Diego Valeri to the ground three or four times. And he’s so gigantic, it looked like a high school senior picking on some tiny little freshman kid. So how cool was it when he smashed into Valeri like a runaway train, only to injure himself and get carted off the field? Don’t mess with Argentinians, pal. They’re not flesh and bone like you or me. They’ve got Wolverine skeletons or something.
But I think the thuggery was all part of Vancouver’s plan. Their physical play really slowed the game down in the first half. With the constant fouls being called, there was no chance for Portland to get an offensive rhythm, which made things super-frustrating for players and fans alike.
I have a feeling we’ll see a lot of teams doing this the rest of the season, since it works so well. The Timbers will be winning ugly, if we win at all.
4) A few individual notes.
Ryan Johnson – He leads our team in scoring, but everyone prefers Piquionne, which drives me absolutely crazy. I feel like starting a one-person Ryan Johnson fan club. I’ll have t-shirts and signs and everything. It’ll be awesome. You’re not invited.
Jack Jewsbury – I like him better than Zemanski in Chara’s spot, but the lost chemistry between Will and Chara is noticeable, no matter who’s the sub. Everyone please send healing prayers in the direction of Diego Chara’s big toe.
Diego Valeri – Very active game, very good game. Diego is always trying for the degree-of-difficulty passes and I can’t say I mind too much. That assist to my boy Ryan was sweet.
Darlington Nagbe – Also a very active game. Sadly, there were few times he was charging toward the goal, seemingly on the verge of something brilliant, only to slam on the brakes and look for help. It’s frustrating, but I guess when you’re swamped by five Whitecap defenders, these things happen.
Alvas Powell – Not a bad MLS debut for the 19-year old Jamaican. He seemed a little overwhelmed at times, and my section mates and I were terrified he’d give Vancouver a PK, but on the whole, he shows great potential. That being said, I’d rather have Jack back there. Sorry, but Jack’s my security blanket.
5) July was a tough month for the Timbers, going 1-2-1 over that span. I was hoping we’d leave our troubles behind, but no, the malaise has followed us into August. We can’t score, we can’t defend set pieces, we can’t get three points at home, much less on the road. We had midsummer slumps in 2011 and 2012. Now we’re doing it again in 2013.
But here’s the good news. This year, despite these summer doldrums, we’re still in contention. Firmly in contention. Check out the standings. All other results aside, a three game win streak would move San Jose from 8th place to 1st. San Jose! So if those bums are still in it, then Portland sure as hell is, slump be damned.
If we tie every game the rest of the way, we’ll finish with 47 points. Enough to make the playoffs? Dunno. Maybe. But I’m going to count on some wins. I think Seattle and Vancouver will have their Cascadian hearts broken yet again, I think we’ll get back into form as the weather gets colder, and I think we’ll finish this year safely above the red line, something our neighbors in the fishing village to the north are getting a little desperate about.
6) Speaking of desperation, let’s talk about Seattle’s new striker, Clint Dempsey.
With all the trouble Portland’s having scoring goals, what would a foolish front office do right now? Well, they’d probably break the bank on a big name striker, desperate for that one guy who would fix everything. I pray Portland’s GM Gavin Wilkinson doesn’t do this. Why? Look at Seattle. Earlier this year, they overpaid Obafemi Martins, because he was going to be their high-priced savior. Now they’re overpaying Clint Dempsey because HE’S going to be their high-priced savior. Except he’s not. What will he be, then? Well, he might be Herschel Walker.
For those of you who don’t know that name, here’s some American football history. Herschel Walker was a fabulous Dallas Cowboys running back in the 1980s. The Minnesota Vikings felt they were one fabulous running back away from winning it all. So they traded their entire world for Herschel. Money, players, draft picks. They gave Dallas everything, just so they could have that one final piece.
What happened? The Herschel trade didn’t save the Vikings, it saved the COWBOYS. They used all those draft picks to build a TEAM. A team that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.
Now, the Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since. Why? Partially, it’s because they’re doing just what the Vikings did back in the ’80s: throwing big money on a series of high-priced saviors. And when teams do that, they fail.
Gavin Wilkinson, Merritt Paulson, please don’t look for the quick fix. Let Seattle do that. Let them bring in over-priced saviors. It will only hurt them. What Portland needs is a great TEAM.
Do we already have that? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m willing to wait and see how this season plays out.
A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 2-2 tie at Vancouver.
Okay, people, there were so many weird things about this game, so many things that I either need to cheer or ridicule or shout down with furious rage, that I’ll just get them all out of the way here at the start. I promise, there will be some “normal” stuff towards the end. I think.
1) The first point I’d like to make is that, right this minute, somewhere in British Columbia, Whitecaps forward Camilo Sanvezzo is diving to the ground.
And about 300 yards away from him, his line-of-sight completely blocked by a family in a mini van, referee Matthew Foerster is:
- Taking a bong hit
- Reaching for his yellow card
- Taking ANOTHER bong hit
- Pulling out the MLS referee’s how-to-guide, which he just read for the first time on Wednesday
- Putting the yellow card away and grabbing the red
- Tripping over his bong, falling on his face, and soiling his underwear.
2) Now, there really is no excuse for Camilo’s constant flopping, but perhaps we can excuse the ref’s ineptitude a little. After all, how could he tell the teams apart? It was the All White team playing the Almost All White team.
When the Timbers rolled out the new uniforms this Spring, I immediately disliked the way the “Rose City Red” jerseys only had red on the front, not the back. Still, I didn’t think those white backs would cause this much trouble in a game. All that sloppy play? All those missed passes by Diego Valeri? Maybe it wasn’t a case of him trying too hard. Maybe he just got confused by the uniforms. Thought he was passing to the Almost All White team.
3) Alright, enough with the bad… here comes the good… it’s comin’ ’round the bend… building up steam… dear God, get out of the way! CHOOOOOOOOO CHOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Okay, for all those readers who AREN’T obsessive Timbers junkies, let me give you a little background on Jose Adolfo “El Trencito” Valencia. Apparently, in Columbia, his daddy was the Big Train, which makes Jose the Little Train, and here in Portland, he’s become something of a mythical figure, like Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. We think he’s real, but we’re not entirely sure, because he’s young and raw and doesn’t play very often. But just like with Sasquatch, whenever there is a sighting, even if it’s just for a few minutes at the end of a game, El Trencito looks so good that every Timbers fan starts wetting themselves and screaming about how he needs to play more and how all these ties would be wins if we’d just put Trencito in there to work his magic.
Except there was no magic. He was Sasquatch. Grainy photographs were the only evidence anyone could provide. There were no goals, there were no great plays, there was nothing, really, except hype.
Until now, that is. Because this past Saturday, in Vancouver, British Columbia, not only did Trencito finally make an appearance, not only did he score, he did it so dramatically – nay, miraculously – that it’s pretty much guaranteed nobody in this town will ever shut up about him again. To be perfectly honest, if Trencito doesn’t start our next game, I’m worried the Timbers Army will lay siege to Caleb Porter’s house. With catapults and flaming arrows and everything.
So, yeah, we finally have proof. Sasquatch exists. He plays forward for the Timbers and he single-handedly ripped the heart out of the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend.
4) Okay, now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, some more reasonable commentary. Like the fact that both of Vancouver’s goals were gorgeous. Donovan Ricketts didn’t have a hope on either one.
Of course, ours weren’t so bad, either. That was our second penalty kick of the season. Two! In the same season! Can you believe it? And Will Johnson’s the right man to take them. How in the name of God did Real Salt Lake let him get away?
And Trencito’s goal? How cool did he look? Two defenders mauling him, goalkeeper racing toward him, he just gathers the ball, checks his watch, has a cup of coffee, and slots that baby home. You’d think he was a seasoned pro, he looked so calm.
Now, did he touch it with his hand? I’m not sure. I’m really not. The Vancouver fans are screaming about it, though. They’re not screaming about Futty’s red. They’re not screaming about all the diving. So all I can say is, quiet down, Vancouver. Whether Trencito touched that ball or not, you’ve got no room to talk. You’re not even close to us on the bad call tally sheet.
5) Well, Futty Danso’s out next week with that red card. How are we doing for Gambian center backs? Do we have an extra? We do? Awesome! Send him in!
So we’ll finally get to see Pa Modou Kah’s debut at centerback. What about Darlington Nagbe? If he’s hurt, the obvious sub would be Kalif Alhassan. But do we really want two KAHs on the field at the same time? Sounds risky. Especially when we’ve got… CHOOOOOOO CHOOOOOOOO!!!
How great would it be if the Timbers come out next week in a 4-2-2-2, with Ryan Johnson and El Trencito up front? You know the fanatics will be calling for it. And what better time to try it than against DC United, who aren’t just the worst team in the league, but have actually been lapped a couple times. Nothing’s finalized yet, but I’m pretty sure they’re starting ME next week, and I haven’t played soccer since 8th grade!
6) Now, like I said at the beginning, it was a weird game and I’m a weird guy, so this has been a weird column, but I’ll close by making an important point. If you can get a tie on the road when you’re not playing your best, you must be a pretty good team. It was an ugly match for the Timbers on Saturday. A huge number of things went against us but somehow we came out of there with a point. Last year, we lose that game. This year, we tie. This team has a heart the size of Secretariat’s. Eventually, our unbeaten streak will end, but I know we’ll go down fighting. To the very last second. Even if we’re a man down.
I’m glad Pa Modou Kah got his visa sorted out and was on the sidelines Saturday, watching the way we fought back against Vancouver. He needs to understand what kind of team he’s joining. What is it Will Johnson said? “We will always fight to the death. Bare minimum requirement to play for the Timbers.”
I hope Kah’s ready to fight.
I wish I’d been there. But instead I was in the front room of my apartment watching the game. I miss the chanting. I miss the excitement. I miss my friends. I miss the TA. But there is one advantage to watching at home… you get to see the whole game. Let’s be honest, by a show of hands – OK so your probably in your underwear sitting in bed or something but you can at least nod along appreciatively- who has missed an important incident at a game because they were: tetrising, looking at their capo, talking with their neighbour, distracted by an incident in the crowd, had their view obstructed by a flag, scarf or other such object. We all have. It’s fantastic and much better than sitting at home watching a stream. But that’s what I have to do. I also may have lost any competitive analysis advantage I gained by the fact that it was 3am and I was sleepy. So if these are inaccurate please take your concerns up with someone who cares, like Kevin.
Here are a few quick points that I noticed in the game. Some positive, some not so positive.
1. Caleb Porter. Did you see that John “4-4-2” Spencer??? That’s called a tactical adjustment! Good job Caleb. Now in order to highlight why the tactical adjustment I need to say something complimentary about Seattle. It hurts to say this but Seattle are a good team. They’ve qualified for the playoffs every year since 2009. They are hard to play anywhere, but especially at clink. Porter saw that and made a tactical adjustment from the rough 4-3-3 we’ve been playing. This is something that very rarely happened under Spencer or Gavin. Porter has now shown he is not afraid to adjust tactics in game and for tougher matches. Until Portland becomes a dominant MLS force this is a very wise move. In this game the adjustment was semi successful. Jewsbury added a lot of support to the defence and was a big help in coping with Seattle’s potent attack. There were some not so positive things but we’ll talk about that a bit later. I’m just excited to see a manager willing to try new things and adjust to teams!
2. Rodney Wallace. There are certain things that elevate your status among supporters. Scoring against rivals is one of them. Scoring a late leveling goals is a big one. Do it twice… well in my book that’s pretty instant legendary status. Forever. Nothing Wallace does on the pitch takes away the fact. Only thing that can take it away is something really bad happen off the field (e.g. Gavin Wilkinson, Andrew F’in Gregor etc.). I’d also like to publicly say that I always liked Rodney Wallace, even when you didn’t. He is actually my second favourite Rodney Wallace ever. Sunday morning he became my favourite Rodney Wallace ever. I think Rod become a bit of a scapegoat for a team that was in general poor, particularly down the flank. But I think he has attributes that will continue to serve the team well.
3. Andrew Jean Baptiste. He literally looked like he was going to get shredded to pieces by Eddy Johnson for the first half hour or so. He did on the goal (by no means the only person at fault here). Again when he was deservedly booked for hauling Johnson down. But he responded impressively with maturity beyond his years. On a yellow card, facing a prolific and pacey attack AJB handled it with class and was a key part of an impressive second half defensive display from Portland. There was one highly impressive piece of work when Johnson was trying to connect with a through ball. He’d gotten the wrong side of AJB and was potentially one on one with Ricketts. AJB did everything that could be considered legal to keep Johnson out. Really making his presence felt physically, but without giving the ref any reason to give a pk. Of course Johnson tried to claim that penalty, but to no avail. It was really an impressive recovery from a poor start by Jean Baptiste. Of course, his night ended spectacularly with a beautiful assist for Wallace.
4. Lack of Shape. This was the hiccup in Caleb’s plan. For much of the night the midfield seemed a little shapeless. Other than Jack playing deep. Valeri continually drifted to his natural central role, this often forced Chara or Johnson out wider. Neither of them looked comfortable out there, so in turn they would drift back in. Thus, we didn’t really have any width. Nagbe provided some, but ultimately he is a right footed player playing on the left with the intention of drifting in and playing through balls or taking shots (PLEASE SHOOT MOAR NAGBE!). Width, of course, isn’t the be all and end all of football games. But it is a huge help in opening up space and creating chances. Creativity and passing have improved on the Timbers this year but we are still going to have difficulty in passing the ball through teams without using and creating space out wide. In turn that width will actually create more space in the middle. It’s also were our one goal against Seattle came; a cross from the brilliant winger Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
5. Freddy “Hernandez” Piquionne. Of course it was a small debut for the big man from West Ham (please note the West Ham is pronounced West ‘aam … it’s a cockney thing). But I was impressed with a few things. First, he is big and he knows what to do with it. He won several aerial challenges I don’t think any other Timber would have won. Second, his assurance on the ball. He was calm in possession always. I see this as a key sign of a player that has been there and done that. It’s a great attribute to be able to bring into the game. He didn’t look like he was going to let up the league and he may not be a huge headline setter but I believe Freddy has a few key things to bring to this Timbers setup. Sometimes off the bench and maybe sometimes from the start.
6. Staying in the fight. Again. It happened. Conceded first again and thought for a draw. 3 games in which we’ve been behind, twice by two goals and we’ve never looked down. It’s like the opposite of 2011. It’s brilliant.
7. Defend Cascadia. Well an away draw is a pretty good way to start the defence of the cup. The circumstances of it were of course brilliant. But in reality if we win our home Cascadia matches and draw away we will be in a great chance of retaining. If we can win at home and pick up one away win we will contain. And it is our house, in the middle of BC.
385 days later, and at the 17th time of asking, the Timbers finally won a road match again, and few wins have mattered as much in the club’s short MLS existence as this one. The 1-0 victory in Vancouver, mirroring the scoreline of their last trip to British Columbia a year ago, was enough to ensure that the Cascadia Cup would be returning to Portland with the vocal Timbers Army, who had out-sung their strangely subdued rival fans in a sold-out BC Place.
The listless performance of the home fans mirrored that of the team. In truth, this does not look like a team that should be anywhere near the playoffs and, yet, thanks to Seattle’s victory against FC Dallas, that is exactly where they are.
Perhaps it was nerves on both sides that led to a very disjointed opening. At one point there seemed to be more fouls than completed passes, and the ball racked up the air miles as it was booted from back-to-front and back again. Eventually though, a football match threatened to break out as the timbers began to find a little more possession in the Whitecaps half, but neither keeper was being worked particularly, for the most part…
Gavin Wilkinson had taken a risky decision to play his best available players in an important match, bringing Steven Smith and Kosuke Kimura back into the starting line-up. Hanyer Mosquera also returned to the defence, giving the back four a much more settled look. Five of the team that started the Timbers’ last win in Canuckistan are no longer at the club, with only Nagbe, Chara and Zizzo starting last season’s result in Vancouver, giving some sense of the changes that have been wrought in the past twelve months.
Despite picking up a yellow card early on for a foul on Camilo, Mosquera highlighted what the Timbers had missed in his absence with an assured performance. The Colombian would be forced off with injury early in the second half, replaced by Eric Brunner, and I was worried that the enforced change at the back may just unsettle the defence, but I needn’t be so concerned.
By the time Mosquera went off, the Timbers already had the lead when Jack Jewsbury fired home a screamer from distance shortly before half-time.
From early on it seemed like a match that would be decided one way or the other by a defensive howler or a piece of magic from nowhere as both sides toiled. Fortunately for the Timbers, it was the latter. Indeed, early on in the first half there was a moment where Steven Smith didn’t catch a simple clearance right and forced Ricketts into a point blank save. On another night, that goes in and the Timbers crumble to another dispiriting road defeat. Not tonight, though. Not tonight.
In truth, there’s little to talk about in terms of the match itself. Songo’o played in the hole behind Dike for much of the game, and was subbed out for Rodney Wallace midway through the second half, presumably to counter the pace and athleticism of Whitecaps subs Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks.
Like the change at the back, the introduction of Rodney Wallace has, in the past, been a harbinger of late-game heartbreak, but the game felt so comfortable at this point that even this change didn’t cause the merest flutter for me.
Truth is, the Whitecaps could be out there still, playing against no-one, and they would’ve conspired to find some way not to score. I’d expected a whirlwind start to the second half by the Whitecaps, but instead it was no more than a moderate breeze.
Camilo looked like their most dangerous player, niggling and putting the central defenders out of their comfort zone and off-balance. It’s the kind of performance that can drive opposing fans, and players, crazy but his role, it seemed to me, was to wreak havoc and hope that a Kenny Miller or Barry Robson could profit and find space. Once he, finally and deservedly, was booked in the second half it robbed his game of that dimension and he drifted out of the game, to be subbed off shortly after.
From there, the entire Whitecaps game petered out to nothing. Rarely have the Timbers had it so easy, particularly on the road, and though I’ve talked about how poor Vancouver have been, some measure of credit must go to the Timbers defence for their work. Horst and Mosquera, and latterly Brunner, dealt with anything that came their way and even the late addition of Darren Mattocks and flailing limbs, failed to knock them off their stride.
After a nervy start, Steven Smith settled in to a reasonable game, even if it’s not one he’ll be putting on his highlight reel. Kimura had a couple of typically Kimuran moments as he was caught on his heels, or beaten to the ball, but even he never looked like he was under so much pressure that he was going to crack.
The Timbers had a couple of chances to seal the deal with breakaways, but as was typical of the match in general, there seemed to be little conviction or composure about them.
Whereas in the past we’ve seen the Timbers go away and play well for long spells, only to have it all crumble to dust late on, tonight we saw them put in a gritty performance that ground out the win they needed.
As well as securing some silverware, the 3 points also ensured that Portland wouldn’t be finishing bottom of the Western Conference. It leaves little to play for in the San Jose match next week but, with it being the final home match, I would hope it won’t be your typical end of season affair and the team take the chance to sign off on a crazy year with a victory against the Supporter’s Shield winners.
Rather than end on a “it shouldn’t be allowed to paper over the cracks” note – we’ve got a long off-season to come for all that! – I’d prefer to salute the fans. Not just those that made the trip to Vancouver, but those that have remained loyal throughout a trying year. The dedication and passion of the fans has been one inspiring constant as the on-field product has veered sharply from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous.
I’d also like to thank John Spencer for his part. The victory against Seattle went a long way to delivering the cup and though I felt he was floundering (apologies) by the end of his reign, without his hard work at the start of the year there would’ve been no light at the end of the tunnel.
Many sore heads will be nursed this morning, but the fans can now say that 2012 has not been for nothing. The thing is, even if it had, they would still be back come First Kick 2013 but through good times and bad, they have stayed the course, and they have earned the right to savour this.
Now and Forever
New contributor Cory Cordero has some interesting thoughts ahead of the final Cascadia Cup match of 2012.
We all know that Sunday was a disgrace. The Timbers had a chance to prove their mettle and failed spectacularly. A lot of Timbers fans are saying, from behind dead eyes, “Well, we can still win the Cascadia Cup if we beat Vancouver.” This is the last piece of flotsam that people are clinging to from this shipwreck season. After hearing this a number of times, though, I’ve come to a conclusion:
For the next game, I’m rooting for Vancouver.
You see, if we win on October 21st, it will actually be bad for the organization. Management can point to the Cascadia cup and say “Well, at least we won that” and use it as a rationale to continue business as usual when the truth is that business cannot continue as usual. A Cascadian victory would be a salve that the front office might use to assure us that things are okay when we ALL know that we are dealing with massive complications that no salve can fix.
The biggest problem from last season was not John Spencer or Kenny Cooper or any other scapegoat. The biggest problem was that we overachieved. Realistically, we weren’t that good. We had the unfortunate honor of advancing into the MLS in a year where we had to compete with another expansion franchise in the same season. This meant we got half as much quality from the expansion draft, that prospects to fill the squad were not as robust, and that we faced competition for signings on all fronts. Can you imagine how our defense would look today if we had signed Jay DeMerit instead of Vancouver? In fact, let’s look at the Whitecaps for reference.
Vancouver had a horrible season last year comparable to what the Timbers are going through now. The organization was in disarray, coaches were fired, and the fan base was disgusted. Subsequently, management took a harsh and sometimes brutal approach with the squad (just ask Lee Nguyen and Long Tan). Then they became decent. Of course, their openness to cutting their squad isn’t always effective (see the winless streak after the jettison of Hassli and Chiumiento), but at least their fans don’t have to constantly ask why Lovel Palmer is in the starting lineup.
The Timbers, in contrast, had a “good enough” season last year with almost making the playoffs so that no one really looked closely at the flaws in the squad. Instead, we looked to add on to what was considered a talented core of players. We branded Cooper as the bad juju, banished him to New York, and bought a million dollar finisher to bring glory to this talented core of players that Cooper was not doing justice to. Too late, we realized that this was all a lie. The talented core was really a just a group of hard working grunts that had gotten lucky on a lot of set pieces in 2011.
This is why I’m hoping for Vancouver to win. It would strip away the last of the lies that we would be able to tell ourselves about this season. Make no mistake, it will be painful, but it’s for the best. Maybe, just maybe, if we can get trounced by the Whitecaps, the Timbers front office will look at Vancouver’s example to try to figure out how to make things right.
I managed to delete this, so all your comments are gone. Sorry. – Kevin
I think we can all agree that this has not been the easiest of seasons. In fact, when we get right down to it, it’s been pretty ridiculous.
Inexplicable things have happened. Things we’d like to forget. Things we wish had never happened.
Through it all, we keep coming back. Despite our minor disagreements, we still stand united.
And now, with the Cascadia Cup on the line, an Army is gathering.
Eighteen buses at last count. Fifteen hundred tickets in the official allotment.
I’ve spent some time over the last couple weeks listening to the last half dozen or so episodes of Heart and Hand, a Rangers podcast. Bless them. If we could extract the accents, half the time, it would seem they were talking about the Timbers. Poor road form, unexpected and ridiculous losses snatched from the jaws of victory (including one recently that bounced Rangers from the Ramsden Cup) and a host of other similarities, not the least of which is a derby opponent whose fans seem more obsessed with Rangers than with their own club, despite the fact that probably won’t even face each other this year.
Gers are struggling, now in the third division of Scottish football, and as we saw when our Timbers began to struggle in the spring, people are calling for the manager’s head. I’m more than a little stunned by this. Without Ally McCoist, there might be no Rangers. Regardless, it was this quote from the pod that sent me off on this tangent:
One of the frames from them was that there’s no room for sentiment in football. And that, I have to say, is the most stupid thing I think I’ve ever heard. Football is entirely, intrinsically built on sentiment. If it wasn’t, you would change every year and support the most successful club. The reason you stay loyal is sentiment… it’s entirely sentiment.
Sentiment is why we continue. Sentiment is why, on a Sunday afternoon in October, over 1500 Timbers faithful will travel 180 miles into enemy territory knowing that our boys are underdogs.
“It means more,” one of my TA elders tells me, “because we do it together.” Sentiment.
We have survived this season because we’ve done it together. We’ve celebrated, we’ve mourned. We’re within a point of bringing home the Cascadia Cup and salvaging the season. And this we will do together.
For those unable to make the trip, our triumph will be broadcast Sunday on ESPN.
The soundtrack to our weekend, our Cascadia Cup derby weekend, can be found here. Be warned: it is not safe for sensitive ears.
If we are mark’d to LOSE this CUP, we are enow To do our TEAM’S loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour. CLIVE’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more. By Jove, I am not covetous for PLAYOFFS, Nor care I who doth TRIUMPH upon my cost; It yearns me not if men my TIMBER GREEN garments wear; Such outward things dwell not in my desires. But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from the ROSE CITY. CLIVE’S peace! I would not lose so great an honour As one man more methinks would share from me For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more! Rather proclaim it, NORTHWARD, through my host, That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not LOSE in that man’s company That fears his fellowship to LOSE with us.
This day is call’d the FEAST of CASCADIA. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d, And rouse him at the name of CASCADIA. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say ‘To-morrow is Saint CASCADIA.’ Then will he strip his sleeve and show his TIMBERS INK, And say ‘These IGOR wounds I had on CASCADIA day.’ Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he’ll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words- DOUBLE MOUNTAIN, FULL SAIL and AMNESIA, BRIDGEPORT and CALDERA, DESCHUTES and ALL THE BUSES- Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red. This story shall the good man teach his son; And CASCADIA shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that BEARS his GREEN AND GOLD with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in PORTLAND now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That CHEERED with us upon Saint CASCADIA day! ROSE CITY TIL I DIE!