1) Yes, yes, I know. Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote how I was sick of all the ties. I also know we should go into every game wanting three points. But I have to be honest, as many games as we’ve had lately, as banged up as our team is, and as up-and-down dangerous as the LA Galaxy have been lately, I went into this game fearing a loss. And the game’s first 15 minutes did nothing to allay my fears. We looked horrible, didn’t we? No possession, no flow, and, most importantly, no urgency. To be honest, it didn’t even look like our team our there. It looked liked the very worst of last year’s squad. We looked utterly lost. But then, somehow, we turned it around. I don’t know if we flipped our switch “on” or if LA flipped their switch “off,” but at roughly the 20 minute mark, Portland had 37% possession. By end of game, we’d bumped it up to 53%. And that, to me, tells the story of the game.
2) I’m a little amazed how solid our back line looked. Particularly centerbacks Pa-Modou Kah and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. If you’d asked me before the game, I’d have told you Kah hadn’t been here long enough or looked impressive enough to earn my trust. And Beast? Well, he’d sort of LOST my trust, what with his hand-wrestling in the box, and his guaranteed one or two bone-headed plays per game. But after their performance last night, I really wonder if we’ve found our ideal pairing. They were brilliant. Did they earn starting positions for the rest of the year? Is Footy Danso stuck on the bench from here on? We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but wow, I couldn’t be happier with what I saw. And strictly for comedy’s sake, how fabulous was that play late in the game where Keane was heading straight for goal and somehow, this 20-year old kid picked his pocket. Keane looked around like he wasn’t sure what had happened. Like the ball had just disappeared. Absolutely hysterical.
3) Also fantastic? But honestly, why should I act like this is some special announcement? Of COURSE Donovan Ricketts was fantastic. That’s just what he does. He came to town last year, replacing the beloved Troy Perkins, and did absolutely nothing to endear himself to Timbers fans. This season? Oh, my lord, has he been great. It’s gotten to the point where Donovan’s almost like a security blanket for me. All hell can be breaking loose in front of the goal, but as soon as I see that big, 6’4” Jamaican racing out from his goal, I relax, because I know everything’s going to be okay. In earning his league-leading seventh shutout, he had so many great plays. I’ll only mention two. At the 55 minute mark, when Sean Franklin hit the post? Yes, my heart stopped there, as did yours, but did you notice how Ricketts got his hand on that ball? Not before it hit the post, but AFTER. It would have bounced right back in front of goal, where Landon Donovan was waiting, but Ricketts just gave it a little punch. Enough to send it out of harm’s way. Beautiful. And then later, around the 83 minute mark, LA had a great counter going, with a long pass to Robbie Keane, and he’s racing for it, Kah trying to keep up, and once again, our man Ricketts races out of goal and beats both of them to the ball. You can relax, Portland. Ricketts in on the job.
4) I feel like I should say something about our offense, but what do I say? There kind of WASN’T any offense, was there? LA had 10 corner kicks to our one. We had a four shots on goal, same as LA, but for some reason, none of ours seemed terribly dangerous. And I’m not sure any of them qualify as close range shots. I can’t tell you for sure why we were so impotent last night, but I’m inclined to give two reasons. One, we had tired legs. Valeri and Nagbe both seemed to be moving at half-speed. Ryan Johnson had a few decent moments, but when Piquionne came in, he didn’t do a thing. All my strongest memories from the game happened on defense. The offense? Well, they were just kind of there.
The second possible explanation? Maybe LA’s just good. I mean, after those first 20 minutes, we did a nice job with possession, and we had a few times where I saw 15, 20, 25 straight passes, all over the field. Well, almost all over the field, because as soon as we tried to take it into LA’s final third – you know, that place where goals happen – then everything just fell apart. So perhaps it’s LA’s fault. Maybe they just shut us down.
5) I know this is silly, but I feel like I have to dedicate one entire talking point to that late-game almost-fight between Will Johnson and Robbie Keane. I mean, how fantastic was that? If you didn’t see it, trust me, it was quintessential Will Johnson. I don’t even know what started the argument, but suddenly there in front of our goal are Will and Robbie jawing at each other, right up in each other’s faces. And you know how Will is, he’s got the total Will Johnson face on, the same face we saw in the San Jose game, when he and Alan Gordon were going at it. So the ref steps in and separates Will and Keane, but they’re still jawing, so then some teammates separate them and they both start jogging up the field. But here’s the best part: they didn’t want to be separated. They’re jogging up the field, sure, but they’re still jawing at each other, and the cameras are following them, because this is way better than the actual game, and they’re getting closer and closer, until they’re finally right up in each other’s grills again. And I’m watching this in a bar and everyone there’s howling with laughter, and then – new best part – out of nowhere, Pa Modou Kah comes sprinting up, wedges himself between Johnson and Keane, and SHOVES them away from each other. Well, as you can imagine, this pisses Robbie Keane off, especially since he and Kah kind of got into it earlier in the game, so then he’s jawing with Kah AND Johnson and the cameras are still on them, and I’m at the bar, watching all of this, just laughing my ass off. It was priceless! Will Johnson rules! And Kah? You’re pretty fantastic, too, pal. Welcome to the team. If there’s anyone reading this who has some sort of video editing mojo, put this fight on Youtube. You’ll be a Porland hero.
6) Okay, last point. If you include US Open Cup matches, this was our 4th game in 12 days. We’re utterly exhausted. But, hey, no problem, right? We’ve only got two more games in the next week. Almost like a vacation, isn’t it? Fortunately, nobody was hurt last night. Well, unless you count our goalie and our centerback colliding full-speed with each other, both rolling around for a few minutes in pain. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our left back, Michael Harrington, being carried off the field on a stretcher. We finished the game with 10 men. Did you know that?
So who the hell’s starting Sunday versus Colorado? I bet you Mikey’s out, so that means Ryan Miller and Jack Jewsbury as our outside backs. What if Kah’s busted up? Is Futty healthy yet? The rookie, Tucker-Gangnes has a concussion, so he can’t go. McKenzie, maybe? If there’s anyone reading this who can play centerback, please contact Caleb Porter. He may have a job for you Sunday.
On offense, I don’t know what to say. We looked tired, all over the field. Maybe give Nanchoff a start? Zemanski? Zizzo? Dare I say… El Trencito?
Whoever we throw out there Sunday, I hope our defense continues their great play and our offense gets their groove back. But, most likely, Sunday’s game with Colorado will be an ugly slog. Then next Wednesday in Dallas? I can’t even imagine how ugly that’s going to be. But hold it together, boys. After Dallas, we get a week and a half break. And man, will we need it.