Tag Archives: Quick Shots

Six Degrees: Let the Portland Timbers score

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo.

1.) Wow. So this is what it feels like to root for a good team. Nay, a dominant team.

Show someone the video from last night’s second half and ask them, “Which team is leading their conference?” “Which team has been to the MLS Cup finals four times in the last 6 years?” “Which team sets the standard for consistent excellence?” Anyone watching that second half would answer you, “Obviously, it’s the Timbers.”

We have now seen how good this team can be and it is good. Very good. If we can build on last night’s second-half performance, this team is going to be scary.

2.) But before I get too carried away, let’s start by talking about the first half.

Weird half, wasn’t it? First, not one, but two of our starters are lost to injury. So that sucked. And then, didn’t we look a little choppy? Particularly when we got anywhere near Houston’s goal. We were pretty good in the defensive third, pretty good in the middle third, but we had nothing in the final third. We’d get close to their 18-yard box and just hit a brick wall. I’m not sure Ryan Johnson touched the ball the entire first half. Was it Houston’s defense flummoxing us or were we making tactical mistakes?

Whatever the reason, it was a weird half. We weren’t awful, mind you, just a little frustrating.

3) Now… let’s talk about the starting XI. Putting Jack Jewsbury at RB didn’t surprise me. But starting Rodney Wallace did.

The thing is, both guys played well. Very well. I think they’re both going to be starting for the foreseeable future. Jack seemed much more defensive-minded than Michael Harrington was over at LB and I think this was by design. With Jack staying closer to home, the back line was solid. In fact, it’s a bit astonishing how solid they are, considering it’s been a different starting lineup every single game.

As far as Wallace goes, well done, sir! Rodney played beautifully all night. He was disruptive on D and dangerous on O. I think the guy’s earn a spot in the XI.

4.) But what will that XI look like? Clearly, David Horst will be out for awhile. But what about Diego Valeri? Did that nasty elbow merely ring his bell? Or will this turn into a Sidney Crosby situation, where Valeri’s out for weeks on end? I’m going to assume he’ll be back next week.

So who’s spot does he take? Wallace’s or Alhassan’s? Both looked great yesterday. In fact, everyone looked great. So who does Valeri replace? Nagbe? No way. Ryan Johnson? You don’t get benched after scoring two goals. Will Johnson or Diego Chara? No chance, and anyway, they’re defensive. So I think if Valeri comes back next week, it’s Alhassan who sits, even though he was great yesterday. Sorry, Jazz Hands, but we can’t play twelve men.

I’m really tempted now to talk about what formation we’ll play — the 4-2-3-1 of the first half or the 4-4-2 of the second half — but I’m gonna let Kevin Alexander weigh in on that. He knows a whole lot more about that kind of stuff than I do. I will say, however, that whatever we were doing in that second half, maybe we should keep it up.

5.) Speaking of which, you know the only thing better than watching the Timbers storm back from behind? Watching them play with a lead.

You do realize that when Ryan Johnson scored his first goal, it was our first lead of the entire season. And, man alive! Pity the team that lets us get a lead!

Last year, when we got a lead, we would dial back the intensity, pull back into a defensive position, and just try to survive. This year? Forget leading by one goal. The Timbers want to lead by seven goals! And I don’t see how the other team can stop us. As soon as we got the lead, Houston started pressing forward, which just led to more opportunities for us! Johnson got his second goal (a beauty, by the way), but there were almost goals from Wallace, from Nagbe (twice), even from Piquionne (who was so pumped up, he fired a rocket at the goalie five seconds after entering the game). We looked so dangerous with the lead, I honestly think that if Caleb Porter had called me down from the stands and put me into the game, I would have scored a goal (and then ripped my jersey off, run around like a freak show, stolen Timber Joey’s chainsaw, and cut my own slab. And yes, I’ve imagined this in my head quite a few times. Please don’t judge me.).

6) I cannot tell you how optimistic I am about the rest of the season. You can accuse me of joining Caleb Porter’s cult if you want (and, by the way, does he have a cult? Because if he does, I’d totally join…), but I think this new playing style has finally clicked, I think Porter is very close to figuring out what lineup works best, and I’m no longer questioning if we can make the playoffs. We will. There’s no doubt. The only question is whether we’ll be the number one seed.

We’ve proven we can come from behind. We’ve proven we can go on the road and get a point. We’ve proven we can get a lead and then keep it. We’ve proven we can completely dominate another team. What’s left to prove? Doing this consistently, I guess. Winning on the road, I guess. But I really think it’ll happen.

New coach, new players, new system. Basically, we’re an expansion team. And only five games in, we can dominate a first-place team like we did last night?

So this is what it feels like to root for a good team.

Six Degrees: From out the jaws of defeat…

Joining Jeremy as a “Quick Shots” contributor, C. I. DeMann presents his first “Six Degrees” look back at the game. Enjoy.

1. I honestly think this might have been Portland’s worst-looking game of the season. Worse even than the loss to Montreal. Perhaps it was the altitude, perhaps it was the wind, perhaps it the was the pre-game locker room margaritas, but I felt Colorado was the better team for most of the game. Sure, we were better in the second half, but not to the same degree as we were against NY, for example. Missed passes, bad clearances, poor communication, we got to see the whole spectrum of weak soccer.

2. All that being said, we came away with a point, didn’t we? In fact, we’re undefeated on the road this year, so maybe we should think some happy thoughts about that. Even better, for the first time in our MLS history, we gave up less than 3 goals to the Rapids. Not too shabby, considering how bad we looked. In fact, forget all that stuff from point #1. Let’s just think happy thoughts, what do you say?

3. Is it just me, or is Diego Valeri looking a little lost these days? He had a few nice almost-passes yesterday, but for much of the game, I barely knew he was on the field. Now, it’s very possible I’m just expecting too much from him. After his performance in the pre-season and then against NY in the first game, I was fully expecting him to be the league MVP, to take Portland to a 30-win season, and then to cure cancer and fart candy canes. But since then? I’d be happy with just the candy canes. Come on, Diego! We know there’s magic in those feet of yours! Let’s see it! We believe! We believe!

4. Man, I wish I knew what to say about Jack Jewsbury. Is he helping us or hurting us? On the plus side, when he starts, we’re undefeated on the road, and that is no small thing. On the negative side, the offense seems pretty dead, doesn’t it? And it’s not like his presence is stopping those early-game mistakes. We nearly gave up a 4th minute goal yesterday. Two of them! I’ve heard people suggest dropping Chara back into Jack’s spot and bringing in Kalif or Piquionne. There’s also talk about Jack only starting on the road, when maybe we could use a little help on D. Personally, I don’t know. Is the offense dead because of Jack or because both games have been on the road?

5. You want more complicated questions that I can’t answer? Let’s talk about our CBs. When I saw Horst in the starting XI, I almost swallowed my teeth, thinking Porter had decided to bench Silvestre. Turns out it was just an injury substitution, but it was still a shock, not just for me, but for the entire Timbers defense. Can we blame those 4th minute almost-goals on everyone getting to know each other? Personally, I blame the pre-game margaritas. Regardless, our defense has been an adventure all season and, personally, I’m sick of it. I want a nice, boring, we-know-what-to-expect defense. Is that so much to ask? And now I will spend the rest of the week lighting candles for Mikael Silvestre’s gimpy abductor. Who starts next to him? I say we let Horst and Beast fight it out, professional wrestling style. Put a cage around the ring. Last man standing gets the start next weekend. And this is why I’m not coaching the Timbers.

6. Negative, negative, negative. Do I have anything good to say about our beloved Timbers? You bet I do! New coach, new players, new playing style. This is essentially an expansion team. And how are we doing? A hell of a lot better than anyone has a right to expect. We’ve lost one game, people, and it’s to the best team in the league. Twice we’ve gone on the road and twice we’ve broken the other team’s heart. Would we have done that last year? Absolutely not. And best of all, we’ve got TONS of heart. Nobody on this team gives up. Nobody. And that definitely wasn’t the case last year. Yes, I’ve got complaints about yesterday’s game. Yes, I’ve got complaints about the back line. Yes, I’ve got complaints about the lack of candy canes produced by Diego Valeri’s farts. But all of that is secondary to my feeling that this team will be in every game this year. They are a team nobody will want to play. They will frustrate us, then they’ll come back and thrill us. And, most of all, they will be a team we’ll be proud to support.