Tag Archives: Mikael Silvestre

Timbers 100: Part Five – Maximum Impact

Frederic Piquionne scored the Timbers’ hundredth MLS goal, 814 days after Kenny Cooper scored their first. In a five-part series, I’ll use those goals to talk about the Timbers as they were and how we got to where we are.

Part 1: Island of Misfit Toys

Kenny Cooper and Eddie Johnson

Part 2: Everyday Magic

Jorge Perlaza and Darlington Nagbe

Part 3: Defensive Axis

Eric Brunner and Kris Boyd

Part 4: Endurance

Sal Zizzo and Bright Dike

Part 5: Maximum Impact

Rodney Wallace and Frederic Piquionne


Goal 88. Rodney Wallace vs Sporting Kansas City

27th April 2013

impact

A change of style was expected when the Timbers appointed a new head coach, but the individual impact Porter has had on the players both new and old has been the most refreshing change of all.


Watch The Goal Here

The Timbers pounced upon a loose pass by Sporting Kansas City, with Diego Chara showing physical strength and presence of mind to play the ball into the path of Rodney Wallace.

Wallace slots the ball coolly past the keeper, notching his second for the season and the Timbers third on the night. It would prove to be the winner, and the first time the Timbers had scored three on the road.


Rodney Wallace’s goal against Kansas City was the crucial third in a 3-2 win, just as it was his goal that proved to be enough for Portland to hang on to against Dallas in early 2011 when a late breakdown threatened to see a three goal advantage wiped out entirely..

100 Pts Per Goal

His impact in games, especially when it comes to scoring goals, is second to none on the Timbers roster. He just has a knack of scoring important goals, with every single goal of his “earning” points in someway.

Compare and contrast that record with Kris Boyd. The Scot scored a bunch of goals against LA – his three is second only to Landon Donovan’s four in matches between the clubs – which is nice, except that each and every one of them end up being consolation goals, despite putting his time 1-0 up twice.

After this goal Wallace would add winners against Chivas USA and DC United with his next two goals, and diversified into assists by having a hand in all three of the Timbers goals against Colorado in their last match before this little mid-season break.

Over the first two seasons Wallace had struggled to put together a consistent run by confounding the previous coaches very rigid round-hole tactical system. In defence, Wallace always looked more comfortable in attack than when defending,but when played as a winger, it was his defensive cover and pressing that impressed more than his wing play.

His role, as he’s come to define it, didn’t exist then, so Wallace was destined to fall between two stools. With his new role that covers a much larger territory than Spencer’s tight lines, Wallace has finally found a role that rewards his lightning ability to change the speed of play and defensive reading of the game without relying on him to be the last line of defence or forcing him to play in a box.

Nevertheless, Wallace had to play his way into the team having started 2013 on the bench.

100 Wallace Start Sub TableIn the 177 minutes Wallace had played coming off the bench, the Timbers have scored four times, with all of them coming this season in under 80 minutes of late game “Wallace Time”. He scored one himself, a late, late equalizer against Seattle, and notched an assist against Dallas.

Wallace’s importance to the team was underlined when he missed three games due to international duties, a situation Merritt Paulson bemoaned on twitter.

A tough run of games admittedly, with trips to Chicago and LA and visit from Dallas but, despite racking up five points, the Timbers rarely looked as fluid as they had done with Wallace in the team. Wallace saw his minutes limited in 2012, his standing among the fans drop, and a spot on the bench waiting for him in 2013, and he fought back with the kind of spirit that Caleb Porter has instilled through-out the team. This joie du foot is underlined by the fortunes of Jack Jewsbury this year.

Jewsbury’s move to right-back has reinvigorated the player and given him new purpose within the team, lending an experienced head to the defence and a steadying influence in the flanks. It’s hard to picture an XI without Jewsbury in it right now, though long term options are starting to pile up behind him at right-back at least.

Given the way he lost the captaincy it’s a credit to the man himself and the coaching team that Jewsbury hasn’t missed a step going into the XI, and has embraced the new without dishonoring the past – a tricky balancing act for a guy who was so inexorably linked to the old regime by talk of being “captain for life”.

Though money can, and does, skew things towards those who can pay the most, good coaching is still pretty easy to spot, and you can see it in abundance in Portland. Rodney Wallace didn’t suddenly become a great player, it just took great coach to bring it out of him.

And Jewsbury’s case is a great example of man management and smoothing over what could’ve been a delicate situation. Contrast that to publicly lambasting the club’s assist leader in an effort to get him to try harder.

All in all, it’s a marked difference for the days when players didn’t seem to know what the plan was on the field, and the atmosphere wasn’t great off it. As an aside, it’s a long held theory of mine that the time until a manager is sacked and a weight being lifted off a club is inversely proportional to the number of goal celebrations that make a point of including the manager. Just saying.

Motivating hungry players like Will Johnson or Diego Chara, or firing up Andrew Jean-Baptiste or Darlington Nagbe are fairly simple tasks compared to the job Porter has done in getting some fantastic contributions from some of the more experienced signings.

Frederic Piquionne, Pa Moudo Kah and Mikael Silvestre have a combined age of 101, but there’s no sense that any of the three are just here for the cash like a score of previous such signings to the league. Generally speaking buying guys the wrong side of 30 from the middle east isn’t the way to go about building a team founded on hard-work and technique, but Kah gives us just those traits and more and doesn’t seem to be lacking in hunger. Silvestre was a joke before coming to Portland, and provided a couple of punchlines in his debut, but pre-injury he’d become the the heartbeat of a defence that was giving up very little.

Piquionne, like Silvestre, hadn’t played a competitive (domestic league) game in over a year before joining the Timbers. It had been a 4-0 defeat for Doncaster in April 2012 which wouldn’t seem t bode well, but he has added an extra dimension to the attack since joining and looks to have the energy (for 60-70 minutes, at least) of a player 10 years his junior.

Soccer fans are well accustomed to the effects of the new manager bump, or the new star striker who scores in his debut before fading away as the season goes on. all of Perhaps this is Porter’s bump and the likes of Wallace or Piquionne will fade with the team as the season wears on, but I’m not so sure. There’s a different feeling about this season. Things are being done better, on and off the field, and this breeds a cautious optimism in even glass-half-empty Scots that this not a flash in the pan.

Not all are as impressed by the Timbers, or their unbeaten run, but we as fans are allowed to get a little carried away. The clouds around Jeld-Wen Field have lifted but with this being the Pacific Northwest and all, they are never too far away.

So, let’s all enjoy the sunshine in the meantime.

100 join fix

Goal 100. Frederic Piquionne vs Colorado Rapids

23rd June 2013

funsun

The future’s bright, the future’s green and gold. The Timbers have started 2013 beyond most fan’s wildest expectations, and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change anytime soon.


Watch The Goal Here

A quick free kick is taken by Will Johnson, who rolls the ball to Rodney Wallace. Wallace’s cross is attacked by Frederic Piquionne, whose header has too much on it for the Rapids keeper.

The goal was the club’s 100th in MLS, and Piquionne’s first, though he already had already set a record with four in a single US Open Cup match.


There is something fitting in the 100th goal coming from one of the new guard. Will Johnson’s quick thinking caught Colorado out, as it would do again for the Timbers’ 2nd goal of the game. Ben Zemanski’s interception started off the lighting strike move that led to Ryan Johnson adding a third.

I’ve already written about squad depth and covered a lot of what I like about the club’s trade policy this year, so this part will be fairly short.

The word that applies most to what I see from Portland is “fun”. Fun on the pitch, fun off it. There have been times during the first couple of years that it would be easy to forget that the game can be pretty damn fun sometimes.

Winning helps, of course, but more than that it’s just the joy of watching a group of guys go out there and express themselves.

The team work hard to make it seem effortless at times, with the old guys buying into the new way of doing things and complementing the fresh blood.

Of course, there is no way of knowing where this story will go from here. My performance on the Prediction League only underlines that I’m not a guy to take tips from, and I don’t think there is anything a time traveller from the future could tell us about the rest of this season to come that would surprise a Portland Timbers fan.

Our little midseason break is over, and it’s back to real soccer again. Good feelings tend to only last as long as good results do, and in a way Porter has set a bar for himself that will be harder and harder to raise but that’s a challenge the man seems to relish, or else why would he leave his place at the top of the college soccer pyramid for a spot with a team that was trending downwards.

I don’t think a defeat or two will dampen the ardor of the Rose City faithful. There’s an understanding that everything must come to an end and there will be times when luck deserts the side or we’re just flat out bad.

That’s fine. We accept that. So long as we can see progress on and off it, and players on the field that honor the badge and have some damned fun doing it, the Timbers Army will always have the team’s back through good times and bad.

We can’t know the future, be it’s gonna be a whole lotta fun finding out what it holds for us.

Well, mostly.


Thanks for reading this series of posts. It’s taken a bit of time to put them together, and I hope you enjoyed at least something in there.

I won’t be posting as much on here for the next while. You probably noticed by output has been way done. There could be another move in the near future, and simply put, it’s time to get a job and put the hobbies on the backburner for a bit.

I’ll still post things here and there when I get the time, but for the next few months at least it’ll be left to our fantastic group of contributors to bring you the kind of coverage of the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns that you’ve come to expect from the site.

Thanks again for swinging by, and if you’re new then please do stick around and see if the place is for you.

#RCTID

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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.

It never rains…

As you’ve probably already heard (if you were anywhere within ten blocks of SW 20th and Morrison) or seen (if you were just southeast of there, or watching on ESPN2), the Timbers drew the visiting New York Energy Drinks 3-3 tonight.

“Exciting” might not be quite the word I’m looking for.  “Frightening” might have been the word I’d have chosen at the half, with Portland down 3-1.  “Incredible” might have described the second half, where the Boys in Green pulled back two and came within a ball-width of a late winner on an improbably bicycle kick effort from Ryan Johnson.

Despite a tifo bursting with umbrellas and a big-little Morton Salt rain-or-shine-supporter we didn’t get our signature rain…but we got damn near everything else.

The Good:    Some lovely buildup, composed attack, and three well-taken goals.  Perhaps the best of the three came first, one of the most composedly delightful goals I have ever seen a Timber score, as early in the first period Diego Valeri ran onto a rough looping pass from Kalif Alhassan and, with Jámison Olave practically tickling his ribs coolly flicked it up to his chest and then chested it right down before him as Olave stood there giving him that look that you give the guy who cuts you off at the Vista off-ramp to the I-405.  The finish was almost a gimme, a simple poke past a charging Robles to level the match at 1-1.  Valeri also hit the second-half hammer that Robles could only push wide, and this time Darlington Nagbe was there to slot it away to pull the match back to 2-3.

And tonight the Timbers went down two goals, at home, and refused to lie down and die.  The team I watched tonight showed a fight and a toughness that I haven’t seen at this level of soccer.  Whatever else has happened between 2012 and tonight, the Timbers fought back for a point they had done their best to throw away, and that is a very good thing.

And for the first time in a long time, a Timbers coach made substitutions that affected the match, and in a good way.  Okay, I’ll admit that the whole Rodney Wallace thing had me a little worried.  But the RodWall was solid, and as he had in the Rectangular (or whatever the hell we should be calling the four-team “preseason tournament” other than the lame “Portland preseason tournament” thing we call it now…) Jose Valencia shook things up from the moment he took the pitch.  His ultimate moment came in the 83rd minute, when he controlled a rebound to the left of the six, looked at the Drinks’ defenders swarming around the near post, and calmly teed it up and off Olave for the equalizer.  A Timber scoring a come-back equalizer in the waning minutes?  Whoodathunkit?

The Bad and the Ugly:  Pretty much the entire first half that took place in back of midfield.    Mikael Silvestre will come in for some serious stick in the press tomorrow for his play, and well he should; he looked jet-lagged for 45 minutes and it was his errors (hard to say which one was the worst – was it the initial bounding back-pass to Ricketts that the big guy biffed for an easy tap-in, or was it the second, a ridiculous raised-leg poke at a bouncing ball that would have drawn hoots and whistles at the Bolshoi?) that led to the first two goals.

Ricketts looked…well, ricketty.  I keep waiting for the Ricketts who played against Mexico at the Azteca to show up wearing powder blue, but, again, his first half tonight showcased everything about him that shouts “dodgy keeper”; his fatal hesitation, his inability to field cleanly, and his poor communication with his defenders.  His sprawling and inadequate flop that fell somewhere short of Pearce’s cross (admittedly, Silvestre and Jean-Baptiste were loafing somewhere nearby) that let Olave put the Drinks 3-1 up less than half an hour into the match didn’t have anyone up in Section 109 making admiring comparisons between our keeper and Lev Yashin or Gordon Banks.

In the end, I can’t say I came away crushed.  Yes, we gave away two points at home.  Yes, we continued last season’s awful tradition of shipping soft goals.  Clearly we need to keep working on things at the back.  And I can’t say I’m sold on the man we’ve put between the sticks.

But the Boys never gave up.  They didn’t give in.  Their coach kept his head and used his substitutes well.  We weren’t gassed at 80 minutes and give up a late-match goal for the loss.  We didn’t win, no.  But, damn it, we refused to lose.

And as Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh might say, sometimes, it doesn’t rain.

Finn’s Five: There Are No Friendlies

The Timbers dominated in a 1-0 win today over The Price is Right FC that could have been a larger margin had the Timbers finishing been a little bit better. Lot to be happy with today, a few things to keep an eye on as we go forward.

Let’s get to the Five.

1) Was it nice to win? Yes, but perspective please. The first half featured 8 or 9 out of 11 probable Timbers starters vs a Sounders side with just 4 regulars and even fewer in the second half. What mattered was play of the Timbers and at times that was very good.

2) Width? How the outside midfield position is played greatly impacts Porter’s scheme. If you go back to the Colorado game I could count on one hand the number of overlapping runs by Miller and Harrington. In this match with Nagbe and Alhassan ostensibly lining up in the wide midfield position in the 4-2-3-1 system but doing anything but stay wide our two new outside defenders ran that open channel a lot during this match to very limited effectiveness. Endless overlapping crosses to a Dike covered by 3 defenders is not possession football.

3) Dike. Everything good and bad about Dike was encapsulated in one play in the 47th minute. Valeri plays a great ball over the top, Dike runs his ass off to get there, beats two central defenders and then… blasts the ball as hard as he can straight at the keeper when he could have simply slotted it home. I love his heart but I question his brain.

4) Silvestre. Today was his best day as a trialist and most of that was down to his passing. There’s a reason he played at some of the biggest clubs in the world. But I still maintain with the high-line defensive system Porter is playing, a guy with the turning speed of a cruise ship is going to do us a lot of harm over the course of the season.

5) Michael Nanchoff. Apart from be able to deliver a great set piece, I have been impressed with his play overall. Tidy, clean, doesn’t try to do too much. It didn’t work out in Vancouver but he went #8 in the draft for a reason and Porter is very familiar with him.

Oh and a final mention for Flounder Zach Scott – I have been watching this hack kick the hell out of Timbers since he welcomed Alan Gordon to his first professional game with a elbow to the head requiring stitches in 2004. It’s time Dike pulls a Dike on this clown.