Tag Archives: Futty Danso

Six Degrees: Dare To Dream?

daretodream


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?

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Six Degrees: Vampire Weekend

Compared to last week, this game was refreshingly free of both the inane and the absurd, so I think there will be a lot less comedy from me. Which is a shame, since my soccer analysis can be both inane and absurd. I’ll give it a try anyway.

1) I wouldn’t call this the prettiest game we’ve ever played, but we still won, 2-0, didn’t we? Part of that is because DC United sucks. But it’s also because we’re a very good team, and very good teams win the ugly ones.

Why was it so ugly? Well, from what Coach Porter’s saying, the loss of Diego Valeri required us to play a more direct style, with less possession, more punting, and a slightly uglier aesthetic. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that DC had a higher percentage of possession, more total passes, and more shots. Fortunately for us, every time DC got the ball in front of the net, they blew it, spraying shots at everything except the goal. We were lucky. If we give up those kind of opportunities to a good team, we lose.

2) Possibly we gave up so many chances because we had a new guy in the back four. Pa Modou Kah is certainly a lot more experienced than 20-year old Andrew Jean-Baptiste, but he’s also only been on the team a week and a half. He’ll be better next game.

But what about that next game? What happens when Futty Danso comes back from his red card? Does Kah stay in? Personally, I think he should. Jean-Baptiste makes me a little nervous, always wrestling with guys back there. He seems like a penalty kick waiting to happen.

And I like the idea Kah and Futty back there together. This whole “Great Wall of Gambia” thing we’ve got going on is fascinating. But I will admit, there are questions. For starters, who’s in charge, Futty or Kah? More importantly, will they have theme music and costumes? I think they should wear vampire teeth. And yes, I’m completely serious. Think of the intimidation factor. The opposing team will hear rumors that we’ve got two big tall Gambians back there, but they won’t know what to expect. How could they? Does anyone know what happens when you play two Gambian centerbacks side-by-side? Maybe they grow vampire teeth. I say we give it a try. (Editor’s Note: I love African football)

3) Three words. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. The guy’s a machine, isn’t he? Non-stop energy, from start to finish. I saw him rockin’ it on the left side, the right side, forward, back, middle. He’s everywhere. You know how much I love Diego Chara, right? Well, everything Chara does for our defense, RFW is doing for our offense. And how about that goal, eh? An absolute laser right between the goalie and the near post. That’s a world-class strike, right there. Does MLS give an award for Most Improved Player, because if so, they might as well start inscribing the trophy right now.

4) Also fabulous: Darlington Nagbe. For years we’ve been begging him to be more aggressive. Well, Valeri’s absence Saturday must have flipped that switch, because Nags came out firing. I love it when he’s got the ball at his feet and decides to pin his ears back and run straight at the defense. He’s a blur. His aggressive play and shots from distance really opened things up for the rest of the team. The question now is whether this sort of energy will continue once Valeri’s back on the field. And should it? There’s a side of me that wonders if perhaps everything we saw versus DC was a one-time thing.

5) Case in point: we started the game with two strikers – Ryan Johnson and Frederic Piquionne. You’d expect them to be the scorers, right? Except they weren’t. In this weird, direct offense we had Saturday, the scorers became the playmakers and the playmakers became the scorers.

RFW’s goal? That happened because Freddy Piquionne got the ball, held it for a few seconds, let the defense rush out to stop him, then flipped a nice little pass to the suddenly wide-open Wallace. One missile strike later, we’re up 1-0.

Nagbe’s goal? Similar, except this time it was Ryan Johnson holding the ball, pulling the defense to him, then lofting it forward. Nags fights off not one, not two, but three DC defenders, then sends it through the keepers legs.

I’m starting to wonder if there really is no single, definable offense that we can call “Porterball.” Caleb Porter seems to mix it up just a bit for every single game. And when we face Chicago, with Valeri back on the pitch, I’m sure that, once again, we’ll see something new.

6) So, we lost to Montreal way back in early March. Since then, 11 straight games without a loss. When does it end?

Probably not against Chicago. It’s a road game, yes, but Chicago’s really not that good.

After that, we host Dallas, who only have the best record in the league. Still, it’s at home. I say the streak’s safe for that one.

It’s the next week when I think we finally lose. We visit the LA Galaxy on June 19th and, lemme tell ya, they could not have looked better this Sunday night, destroying Seattle 4-0. They dominated every aspect of the game. Offense, defense, set pieces, possession. They looked like the best team in the league. So if our streak has to end – and it does – then I think it’s against LA.

But until then, let’s enjoy ourselves, right? I saw some heavy legs against DC, so I think we’re having our week off at just the right time. Take it easy, boys. Spend these next two weeks getting healthy, then come back against Chicago tanned, rested, and ready to go.

And please, please, PLEASE bring your vampire teeth.

Six Degrees – Keep Portland Weird

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.

Six Degrees: The Flip Side

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

1) Two game winning streak. Third place in the Western Conference. These are all good things, right? So why am I feeling so uncertain? Last week, after we pounded Houston, I was over the moon. This week, I don’t know what I am. But I’m pretty sure it ain’t good.

You know what I think it is? It’s the way we won. We won it ugly. Against Houston, we looked like a juggernaut. This week, against San Jose, we looked like a heavyweight boxer who just won by a split decision. Our face is all puffy, one eye is swollen shut, and we may have some cracked ribs. We won, but we didn’t look all that good doing it.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna get all these negative thoughts out of my system early, then I’ll spend my last few points bringing back the optimism. Maybe by the end of this column, I’ll have talked myself back into a good mood.

But first, a couple slices of bad…

2) Man, we couldn’t buy a shot on goal, could we? We had tons of possession, we were constantly in their half of the field, but we just couldn’t make their goalie sweat. Hell, Donovan Ricketts was the one making all the saves. Why couldn’t we bother their guy?

Possibly, they just have a good defense. It felt like a brick wall most of the night, especially after they went down a man.

Possibly, it was slick turf. It seemed like there were a lot of passes last night that were just a little too long. Just past someone’s foot, just shy of being turned into a shot on goal. I’ve heard people suggest the field was fast, but I really don’t know. Maybe our passes were just off.

Whatever the reason — and maybe Kevin can give us more insight — the attacking third was a little frustrating to me. Lots of almost-shots, but not enough of the real thing.

3) The last ten minutes drove me absolutely insane. What the hell, boys? We finally get a goal and you decide to bunker? We’re a man up and you decide to go all Spencerball 2.0 on us? Kick it deep? Hope for the best? Horrible. I hated it. I was so anxious at the end, when the ref finally blew his whistle, I couldn’t even enjoy the win. I felt like that battered and bruised heavyweight, just happy to have survived.

Remember my column last week, when I said how great it was to watch Portland play with a lead? How they put the pedal to the floor, hoping to win by 2 goals? Or 7? Or 35? Well, that sort of blood lust was completely absent this week. Instead, we turtled. We’ve got a man advantage, and yet it’s San Jose who’s dominating possession for the last 5-10 minutes? I was in the stands freaking out, having flashbacks to last year, when we’d give the game away in the waning moments. It was awful.

Am I the only one who saw this? Was I the only guy who was curled in a ball, sucking my thumb, desperate for the ref to have mercy and end the game?

I really hope Caleb Porter saw it. And I hope it never happens again. I can’t take the stress.

Okay, that’s it for the negative. Let’s bring the happy!

3) Hold me closer, Futty Danso! What a game, big fella! This time last week, when Horst went down for the year, everyone was in a state, wondering if we’d need to bring in another CB. And lemme tell you, people were not kind to Futty. “He’s useless,” they said. “Too old,” “not MLS quality,” “why do we even have him on the roster?”

I’d say all of you owe Mr. Danso a big apology. The man played a nearly perfect game. He was calm, not even the least intimidated by San Jose’s dirty, nasty forwards, and as usual, he won everything in the air. He even stayed within himself as a passer, content to swing it back and forth amongst the back four.

And while we’re on the subject, how about that back four? Two straight shutouts, baby! And we did it with both Horst and Jean-Baptiste going down with injury. This defense has found its identity. They are calm, they are patient, they are masters of maintaining possession. All those early-season hiccups are forgiven. We will not give up a goal the rest of the season. You heard me correctly! Not one single goal! We will set a world record for consecutive shutouts! (Hey, I’ve got to have at least one ridiculous statement in every column, right?)

4) I really can’t decide who to have my fan-crush on.

Should I have it on Diego Chara? The little guy is everywhere. Anytime San Jose got a little movement forward, who comes racing up to stop them? Diego. Sadly, he’ll miss next weekend’s game, but I still think we should honor him in song. He’s short! He’s hard! He’s got a yellow card! Di-ayyyyyyyy-go Chara!

Or perhaps Mikael Silvestre? He’s been nearly perfect the last few games. He’s got that defense running like a Swiss watch. His passing has laser precision. Plus, he got up in Alan Gordon’s face while his mouth was gushing blood. Oh, Mikael… you had me at “gushing blood.” You had me at “gushing blood.”

But then there’s Will Johnson. The goal was so beautiful, I’m not sure it needs comment here. Instead, I’ll focus on his feisty-ness. When he and Gordon were jawing back and forth? Absolutely priceless. And how about when Chara was on the ground, writhing in pain, but play continued? Johnson said, Hell with this, then kicked the ball so far out of bounds, I thought it was going to hit a trolley on 18th street. Then he races over to the ref and absolutely freaks out. And zing went the strings of my heart!

5) On the offensive side of things, it was a tough slog, and I’ll give a lot of the credit to the San Jose defense. They were tough. But there were still some nice bits from our guys.

As always, Ryan Johnson had a motor that wouldn’t stop. He’s an easy guy to root for and was oh-so-close to sending a few shots on target.

I thought Darlington Nagbe did a very nice job filling in for Diego Valeri. He completed 88% of his passes and had four of our seven shots, including one on goal.

Rodney Wallace and Kalif Alhassan were both solid, if not spectacular. I will say that a couple times in the first half, Nagbe, Alhassan, and Ryan Johnson had some quick-touch, give-and-go pass combinations that were just exquisite.

I hope we see Valeri back next week — partially because it will give San Jose something new to deal with — but if he’s not, our front four will be up to the task.

6) I think I’ll close by turning a negative into a positive. Remember how I compared our victory to a bruising heavyweight split decision? Well, sure, that’s stressful and ugly to watch, but the plain truth is, we won. We’ve proven a lot of things this young season, and Sunday night we proved we could win ugly.

Now it’s time to prove we can win on the road.