Continue reading Six Degrees: Six Points
Continue reading Six Degrees: Six Points
1) I feel safe calling Friday night’s 4-2 loss our ugliest game of the year. It’s the first game we lost by more than one goal. I’m not sure if a two-goal loss qualifies as a “blowout,” but that’s certainly what this felt like. It felt like Real Salt Lake did whatever the hell they wanted, and we couldn’t do a thing to stop them.
No surprise, I’ve had a black cloud of gloom following me ever since, but I knew I had to shake it off and bang out this column, so, in an effort to raise my spirits, I did a little research. I checked out last season’s schedule and compared it to this one.
Let me list this year’s “blowout losses.”
Now, let me list last year’s “blowout losses.”
Also, last year’s team lost to Chivas three times. Chivas. Three. Times.
Well, I’m suddenly feeling much better about our current struggles. How about you?
2) The TV color man gave an astonishing little factoid Friday night, one that I have since confirmed by looking at lineups from previous games. The fact: since the start of July, Will Johnson and Diego Chara have played together a total of FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. It was the first half at Philly.
Another quick look at the schedule tells us this: on July 1st, our record was 7 wins, 1 loss, and 9 draws. Since then, with the Johnson/Chara partnership in tatters, we’ve got 2 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws.
There are a thousand variables in our team’s current form and it’s fun to analyze and re-analyze all of them, trying to figure out what’s wrong. But maybe – just maybe – it all comes down to this simple fact: when Will Johnson and Diego Chara play together, we kick ass. When they don’t, we suck.
I’d love it if this was all that was wrong with the Timbers. I have a simple mind. I like simple answers.
3) Having a simple mind, as I watched the game, I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. Or rather, I knew WHAT it was – a complete domination – I just didn’t understand WHY. Why was RSL making us look like a high school team? When RSL had the ball, they did whatever they wanted. When we had it, everything was a struggle. On the other side of the ball, our defense was in a constant state of frantic, overwhelmed recovery. I’m not sure RSL’s back line broke a sweat.
Fortunately, this website has a writer whose mind ISN’T so simple. If you haven’t read Kevin Alexander’s article yet, do so now – here’s the link – because he breaks it down in a systematic way, putting into words and pictures the steaming pile of feces that was Friday night’s game.
All of it makes me wonder if Caleb Porter and his staff might be switching things up a bit too much lately. Sure, they’ve had to plug in a non-stop stream of replacements, but that doesn’t explain how lost our attackers looked last night. Do we need our core group of attackers – Valeri, Nagbe, Wallace, and Ryan Johnson – to go through some remedial instruction? Or do they simply need Will Johnson and Diego Chara tag-teaming it behind them? Is the recent addition of Alvas Powell causing things to go awry on the right side? Hard to say, but I hope we can figure things out, because our offense looks awful. Friday night’s two goals were both fairly flukey and, beyond them, we didn’t threaten at all.
4) Watching Friday night’s referee, Baldomero Toledo, I was reminded of an old expression about schoolteachers. “If one kid fails a test, it’s the kid’s fault. If fifteen kids fail the test, it’s the teacher’s fault.”
In this situation, I’d say, if one player gets booked, it’s the player’s fault. If EVERY player gets booked, it’s the referee’s fault.
It got so bad last night, it seemed like Toledo was carding people just because he didn’t know what else to do. If there was a situation on the field, and he didn’t know exactly what happened, but he was pretty sure SOMETHING happened, he’d just hand out a couple bookings. I mean, somebody must have done something, right?
The best moment of the night was when Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Joao Plata shook hands and Toledo immediately gave them yellows. I’m pretty sure he carded them for shaking hands. Which he should, of course. We can’t have a bunch of hand-shakers running around out there, ruining our game.
5) A few very quick player notes.
Darlington Nagbe – Dear Lord, man. That goal was SICK.
Donovan Ricketts – You still look a little stiff, but there was nothing you could do about those first couple of goals. They were so perfectly placed, they grazed the post.
Sal Zizzo – When Train’s rocket blast didn’t go in, I automatically assumed it was just more bad luck for the Timbers. Thanks for stepping up and sinking that rebound. It’s good to have you back.
Javier Morales (RSL) – Your little bicycle kick was cool and all, but honestly, man, there wasn’t a Timber within 15 feet of you. You could’ve set up a lawn chair and had drinks, you were so open.
6) Okay, I’m gonna end this column with some extremely questionable advice for Caleb Porter. Our next two games are Toronto at home and Chivas away. We can beat these teams with our reserve squad, so I say we rest EVERYBODY. Give the regulars a couple weeks off. Let Nagbe and Valeri go off to their Fortress of Solitude, or wherever it is they go, so they can recharge their superpowers. Send Will Johnson and Diego Chara to Vegas, so they can plan out some kind of “buddy movie” over blackjack and all-you-can-eat buffets. Let Donovan Ricketts spend the next two weeks in the trainer’s room, slowly moving back and forth from the hot tub to the massage table, reggae on the stereo and a Red Stripe beer in his gigantic hand.
Then when Colorado comes to the house of pane on 9/20, we’ll be healthy, we’ll be rested, we’ll have Horst and Dike on the bench, and we’ll be ready to start an end-of-the-year winning streak.
I’m a simple man, so I’ll cling to this simple belief: put Will Johnson and Diego Chara on the field together and we cannot be stopped.
I think I have emotional whiplash. There’s only so much a man can take. Back and forth, back and forth, all night long. Way too much drama. Five goals? That would have been fine. But that sixth one? Too much. Way too much.
So for this column, the “Six Degrees” will actually be “Six Goals” followed by “Six Emotions.” Continue reading Six Degrees: The Passion and the Fury
In the wake of a very disheartening 2-1 loss at San Jose, I’ve decided to ignore all these negative thoughts coursing through my tiny little brain and instead focus only on the positive. I’m going to put on my rose-colored glasses (they’re actually closer to fuscia than rose…) and see if I can bang out this column without saying a single negative thing.
Warning: in this effort to buck up my spirits, I may be a little heavy-handed with the exclamation points. And, God help me, I might even throw in some smiley faces or something. I’ll try not to, but things happen, you know?
1) Guess who has the fewest losses in MLS? Your Portland Timbers, that’s who! We’re heading into August with only three losses. Three! I feel safe saying that NO ONE predicted that at the beginning of the year. Despite Saturday’s loss, we’re still right on target for the playoffs and we’ve got a very good shot at the Supporter’s Shield. This is a good team. Good teams lose a few games and then come back strong. Our boys will be alright.
2) We created a LOT of great chances and that’s something to celebrate. Twenty shots Saturday, which is our season-high for a road game. If not for the woodwork and some outstanding saves by San Jose jedi knight Jon Busch, we score 4, maybe 5 goals. And, as always, we showed tons of heart once we fell behind. Sure, I wish we could summon that kind of passion from the opening minute, but those are negative thoughts, so I’m ignoring them completely. Instead, I’ll just think happy thoughts about us turning up the volume for long stretches of the 2nd half. San Jose was lucky to survive.
3) And how about the goal we did score? Lovely. Just lovely. Nice flow from Valeri to Piquionne, who makes a gorgeous heel pass to Nagbe, who puts it away like the seasoned vet he has become. (I love gorgeous heel passes. Why can’t we have a game where we’re only allowed to make heel passes. Every other way of kicking the ball is off-limits. Even the goalie would have to heel-kick it. Sure, we’d probably lose, but think of the aesthetics.)
Also, congratulations, Darlington, on your sixth goal of the year. That ties your career high, you know. Now, what do say we go for double figures? A very safe bet, I think.
4) I’m enjoying this positive thinking so much, I’m not even going to limit it to players. Let’s talk about that great red card by the ref! San Jose’s Marvin Chavez gets a yellow, and then, mere seconds later, with a sulky look on his face, he kicks the dead ball away from Valeri. Boom! Here’s your 2nd yellow, sir! And a red! Enjoy your shower!
I don’t know whether that second yellow was for “time-wasting,” “encroachment,” or just “being a douchebag.” Either way, great card, ref! Zero crap taken!
5) Let’s dish out some positive thoughts about the players.
Donovan Ricketts. As always, you gave us some heavenly saves. And congratulations on not breaking Steven Lenhart’s jaw after his goal-celebration dance. Very few of us have that kind of patience. You set a fine example for the kids.
Diego Valeri. 3rd place on the MLS assists board, sir. And if I’m not mistaken, you’re no longer on loan, are you? I look forward to many more years of silky passes and bizarre goal celebrations.
Micheal Harrington. Great night’s work, Mikey Mo’ Money. Loved that cross to Ryan Johnson. Also, your hair’s been especially impressive lately. So blonde. So bouncy.
Diego Chara. You’ve never looked so good, my man. Games like this really strengthen your case for Timbers MVP.
6) And finally, In Caleb We Trust.
All season, Coach has been keeping the highs low. Now he’ll get to keep the lows high. Monday morning, the team will put all this San Jose nonsense behind them and start getting ready for Saturday’s visit from Vancouver. And how can we not be excited? It’s the Cascadia Cup, baby!
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but around here, we play to win trophies, and these next two games both involve silverware. We’ve already got the Cascadia Cup. I say we keep it another year. So far, we’ve gotten draws at both Vancouver and Seattle. Now we’re gonna start getting some wins at home. Not draws. Wins. And once we tighten our grip on THAT cup, we’re gonna head to Salt Lake and take the next step toward the US Open cup.
Vancouver? Real Salt Lake? I may be thinking positively today, but I don’t see how you can feel anything but fear, because the Timbers got their noses bloodied this weekend and we’ll need to take our frustrations out on someone. I feel positively sorry for you.
1) This might be a short column. It’ll definitely be a challenge for me to write, mostly because I can’t seem to summon any enthusiasm for what I saw Saturday evening. There’s just something inherently unsatisfying about watching your team go 90 minutes without scoring. It leaves you with one of two reactions. At best, you have a feeling of… “m’eh.” At worst, you’re wondering what the hell’s wrong, is this a sign of serious problems with the offense, and is the entire season in danger of collapse. I’m going to try and talk myself off the ledge with those latter thoughts. Which leaves me with… “m’eh.”
2) So let’s talk about the defense, shall we? I can summon some enthusiasm for that. It was another shutout, right? And on the road, no less. Against one of the top scoring teams in the league. Much to be proud of there. Jean-Baptiste and Kah make a very good pairing in the center. I’m really pleased with Kah’s improvement on the whole kicking-people-in-the-face thing. Out on the sides, Harrington had a solid game, defensively, but Cap’n Jack was getting burned a few too many times by that Cruz kid. Should we have switched those two? I’ll let Caleb Porter make those decisions. I mean, we did shut ’em out, so Jack didn’t hurt us too much, right? And he did have that wicked shot on goal. Possibly our most dangerous shot.
3) I think we need a new reality TV show called “Donovan Ricketts versus the World.” I’m not quite sure on the details, but Ricketts would win. Sharks, ninjas, bulldozers, ICBMs. I think Ricketts can take them all. Without looking all that troubled, either. In 2010, when Ricketts was the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, he had a 0.89 goals against average. This year, it’s 0.84. In 2010, he had 11 shutouts in 29 games. This year? 9 shutouts in 19 games. I wish there was a way to figure out how many points he’s been worth this year. He certainly got us our point on Saturday in Philly. From this point forward, I will only refer to him as “The Upgrade.”
4) Our offense.
Ahem… Well… Hmm… What to say? What to say?
I’m sort of hoping some of you readers will have some insight. You’re smarter than me. What’s up with our offense? Has the league figured us out? Is Philly’s defense good? I’m not sure they are. I think we just kind of sucked. Perhaps our only problem is the lack of Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. Perhaps the Ryan Johnson/Freddy Piquionne experiment needs more time to gel. ¿Y donde esta Diego Valeri? I was sort of wanting some magic out of him. Both him and Nagbe. Of course, in Valeri’s defense, if his pretty little turn & shoot had gone in, this would be an entirely different column.
5) Those last five minutes were pretty terrifying, weren’t they? Non-stop chances for Philly. Cross after cross after cross. One corner kick after another. We could never seem to get possession. Last year, we would have given up a goal. This year, our guys summoned the strength to survive and we should applaud that. Also, thank goodness for Mr. Post, right? He’s been rock solid for us this year. Unwavering.
6) So, we got a point on the road. That would be reason for celebration last year, but we’ve changed our expectations, haven’t we? Now we want three points on the road. And, I gotta tell you, we absolutely must get three in San Jose next weekend. Why? Because August is coming and it will be BRUTAL. Here’s the murderer’s row we’ll be seeing next month: Vancouver, Dallas, Salt Lake, then @ Seattle and @ Salt Lake. Oh, and there’s a bye and some mid-week games, so those last four games are all bang-bang-bang within two weeks. My point? Things could get ugly in August. We need three points next week at San Jose. Sharks, ninjas, ICBMs? I don’t care. Bring me three points. Nothing else will do.
1) At the beginning of the year, if an impartial soccer fan had looked at the MLS schedule, he’d have seen the March 9th game between Portland and Montreal and thought, “Well, that’ll be a stinker of a game. Portland? Montreal? Couple of losers, there.” Now, here we are, at the half-way mark in the season, and those are, arguably, the two best teams in the league.
Can you believe this? Last year, when I came home from Timbers games, I’d be bitching and complaining to my roommates. This year, I’m all smug and arrogant, crowing about one more victory in the books. Last year, it was “so what if we suck?” This year, it’s “first place, baby!” Yes, I’m pretty much insufferable.
2) Okay, Timbers fans. Time to get ready for all future trivia contests. Who scored the 100th goal in Timbers MLS history? Frederic Piquionne, that’s who. And what a goal it was… I remember it like it was yesterday… It all started with Will Johnson taking a very quick free kick, so quick that most of the Colorado defense still had their backs turned. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace doesn’t waste time, he immediately sends it in for the Flyin’ Frenchman, who heads it home. And for once, the crossbar is our friend. Great goal.
3) But the other goals were pretty sweet, too. Right at the end of the first half, RFW sends another ball in, this one to Cap’n Will, who chips it to himself, then bangs it home. In the postgame radio interview, Will said it wasn’t an accident, he really was trying to chip it to himself. Beautiful play, brother.
And then the third goal? Just as pretty, simply because of the gorgeous passing. Quick ball from Zemanski to RFW, who one-times it to Ryan Johnson, who one-times it to the back of the net. Bang, bang, bang, and it’s three-nothing. Thank you, sir, may I have another?
4) But this game wasn’t all about offense, since Donovan Ricketts earned his league-leading EIGHTH clean sheet. The defense looks great right now, don’t they? Jack Jewsbury saves a goal, Ryan Miller fills in beautifully for Harrington, Andrew Jean-Baptiste plays another game essentially error-free, and I can’t tell you how happy I am with Pa Modou Kah. He’s been stellar, no matter who he’s paired with back there. Another absolutely brilliant signing by General Manager Gavin “We-Hated-You-Last-Year-But-Can’t-Help-But-Admire-The-Team-You’ve-Put-Together-This-Year-Though-We’ll-Probably-Give-Most-Of-The-Credit-To-Caleb-Porter-Just-Out-Of-Our-Long-Standing-Distaste-For-You-But-Honestly-How-Can-You-Blame-Us-And-Also-How-Much-Longer-Is-This-Ridiculous-Nickname-Going-To-Continue” Wilkinson.
5) Okay, we’re half-way through the year. What’s the rest of the season look like?
Well, for starters, we have three games versus our co-league-leaders Real Salt Lake, but two of them are at home. In fact, in our final 17 games, we have nine at home, eight on the road. So that’s nice. Even better, a lot of those away games are very winnable. Two are at Chivas, who are in freefall. Another’s at Columbus, and they’re not looking so good. Same for San Jose. The game in Philly, that should be a tough one. But the game in Vancouver? We always play well there. As for the game in Seattle, well, they invented soccer, of course, but I still think we’ve got a shot, especially since it’s a Cascadia Cup game.
So, all in all, the second half of the season doesn’t look too awful. I think we’ll do okay. Sure, there might be injuries, but hell, we’ve already had injuries, haven’t we? We’re deep. We’ll handle it.
6) Now, last thing. This Wednesday, in Dallas, US Open Cup quarterfinals. How seriously do we take this game?
Clearly, it’s not a league game, so a lot of people will say, “Hell with it,” but Coach Porter’s already stated how important he thinks it is for this team to win trophies. He wants the US Open Cup. He wants the Cascadia Cup. And I’ll go out on a limb and say he wants the MLS Cup, too.
Even better, winning the US Open Cup gets us into the CONCACAF Champions League. That’s our version of the UEFA Champions League. You know, the one with Barcelona and Chelsea and AC Milan? Sure, CONCACAF’s not Europe, but it’s still kind of a big deal. We’d get our shot at the big-money clubs from the Mexican League. How fun would it be to show them that we’re the real deal? We’d get a chance to say we’re not just the best American team, we’re the best in all of CONCACAF.
So I say we take this game seriously. Let’s win this US Open Cup. And then let’s win all the other cups, too. Why not dream big, right? I mean, no one thought that half-way through the season we’d be leading the league, but we’ve done that. So why not keep rolling? Let’s win the quarterfinals in Dallas Wednesday, and then let’s win all the games after that. Let’s follow Coach’s lead. Let’s go win some trophies.
1) Man! What a game! You know, I’ve always heard that snails can slide their way along a razor and won’t get cut. That’s the image that was running through my head as I watched Saturday’s game. Both teams were living on the razor’s edge.
If you didn’t watch the game and only saw that it ended 1-0, you might think to yourself, “Oh, soccer is so boring… Another 1-0 game… Yawn…”
Well, lemme tell you, brudda, this game was one of the most exciting you could ever see. It could easily have been 5-4. Or 5-0, for either team. It was non-stop chaos. Back and forth, back and forth, both teams were just BLITZING the goal.
2) So how does a free-for-all like this end up 1-0? Because the goalies were absolutely brilliant. How many of those saves will be nominated for MLS Save of the Week? Donovan Ricketts is definitely nominated for that lay-out save in first half stoppage time, but Dallas goalie Raul Fernandez could have three or four saves nominated. The guy was out of his mind! The way we attacked him for 90 minutes, Fernandez is gonna have to go into therapy. He probably woke up screaming last night.
But back to our side, how great was it to have Ricketts back in goal? The one word that kept coming to mind was “comforting.” Every time our defense got leaky, Donovan stepped up, made the right play, and told all of us to just calm the hell down, because he’s got this.
Remember the last time we gave up a goal at home? Me, either. Apparently, it was against Montreal, back in early March. Since then, five straight shutouts. It’s good to have you back, Donovan.
3) Now, I feel like I need to blame someone for putting Donovan under so much pressure. Oh, sure, I could probably just give Dallas credit for being good, but I think our defense deserves some blame, too. They looked a little shaky. Jack Jewsbury, you’re on notice, sir. Quit letting guys zip past you! Lower the shoulder and drop someone if you have to!
Also, it was our first time seeing Futty Danso and Pa Modou Kah side-by-side at center back and, I gotta tell you, the Great Wall of Gambia is missing a few bricks. I’d hoped that starting two Gambians would lead to vampire teeth and complete intimidation. Instead, it just led to missed assignments, mental blunders, wide-open shots on goal, and me, up in the stands, soiling my delicates. Tighten up, people! Donovan can’t save us forever!
4) But our defense wasn’t entirely to blame. The ref was pretty bad, too. How many free kicks did Dallas have? 103? That’s gotta be a record. I think maybe he awarded Portland one, as well, but it was by accident.
Seriously, though, what is it with MLS referees? Every match seems to turn into a hockey game. I was telling the guy next to me that I was worried a fight was going to break out, and then one did! Some guy pops Freddy Piquionne, Freddy gets up in his grill, and then the dude head-butts him! Right in the mouth! What did the ref do about it? He took another bong hit, that’s what.
Jeez Louise, MLS. Get some decent refs for a change. Is there some sort of old folks home for retired European referees? I don’t care how old they are, I say we hire a few. We’ll give them whistles and maybe some of those motorized wheelchairs and then let them do their thing. Could they be any worse than what we have now?
5) Let’s talk about some players.
Darlington Nagbe. What a freakin’ goal. It actually caught me by surprise. Something about the slowness of the shot, plus the ridiculous angle, I didn’t realize it had gone in until the crowd started going nuts. I think the goalie had pretty much the same reaction.
Diego Chara. I love you, dude, but you need to go to finishing school. You’re now leading the league in almost-goals. Also, you now have 4 yellows cards. I’m pretty sure your 5th means a one-game suspension. We need you, buddy.
Diego Valeri. Once again, you looked really gassed at the end. What’s up with that? We need you at full-game fitness, okay? You’re too valuable to be subbing out after 70 minutes. On a more positive note, your almost-goal? Collecting, turning, and firing, all in one motion? Sick. Absolutely sick.
Futty Danso and Donovan Ricketts. Are you guys hurt? Futty, you had to leave the game. Donovan, you were holding your back and grimacing. We can’t have this, dudes! We need you right now! Heal! Heal!
6) Why do we need them so bad? Because there’s no rest for the weary. Wednesday, we go to LA to face the Galaxy. Four days later, it’s Colorado, here at home. Then three days after that, we go to Dallas for the US Open Cup quarterfinals. There’s not a bad team in the bunch.
Fortunately, we’re pretty good, too. But eventually this unbeaten streak will end. If it happens in the next week, I’ll be sad, but I won’t be terribly surprised. We’re living on the razor’s edge right now. We might get cut.
Man, I’ve been crazy-busy these last few days, and somehow Kevin Alexander got his column out before I did. Which is fine, I say. He’s provided you the calm, considered, and logical analysis. Now I’m here to bring you the TRUTH.
1) Clearly, when you have a 2-2 tie, there must be somebody to blame. Obviously, in this case, we can blame the Chicago groundskeepers. Did you see the goalposts? They were GIGANTIC! They must have been three feet across. How else could we hit the woodwork twice in the first 30 seconds? Three times in the first four minutes? And Valeri’s goal was off the post, too. Ridiculous! Who do they think they’re fooling? Clearly, these posts were thicker than regulation. Don’t believe me? Did you see the Chicago groundskeepers dragging that big-ass goal to the opposite end at halftime? Hmm? Did you? I’ve scoured the internet and there is no video showing they DIDN’T switch the goals. That’s all the proof I need. Conspiracy, I say! Conspiracy!
I’ve already contacted the league commissioner. He says he’ll look into it.
2) Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get serious. These ties are getting old, aren’t they? Yes, it’s wonderful that we haven’t lost on the road. Yes, it’s great that we can “learn a lesson,” as Coach Porter says, and still get a point on the road. Yes, yes, and yes again. But generally, teams make the playoffs because they WIN games. We’re sort of the opposite. We’re going to make the playoff by not losing. Am I complaining? I’m not sure. I’m really not. The “not losing” thing is great. But honestly, this is getting a little weird.
Love the spirit, fellas. Love the “refuse to lose” spirit. Now, let’s turn it up a notch. “Refuse to lose or tie” isn’t nearly as catchy, but let’s try it anyway. Three points from here on, what do you say?
3) That being said, you do realize we were missing four starters, right? 36% of our starting lineup was off playing for various national teams. How did the subs do? Pretty good, actually. At forward, Freddy Piquionne was everything we could ask for, actually. Two assists, good work rate all night. If he scores a couple goals before Ryan Johnson comes back, Coach Porter’s going to have a tough decision to make.
Ben Zemanski? I like him. Yes, his goal was super, but I liked him even without the goal. He’s fast, he’s disruptive, he’s always in the middle of things. Reminds me of Diego Chara. I don’t think Rodney Freakin’ Wallace’s starting spot is in danger, though.
Nor is Donovan Ricketts’s. Milos Kocic was only okay in goal, I thought. He couldn’t do a thing about that free kick goal. It was a perfect shot. But the other goal? Super-hard to tell what happened there, with bodies flying all over. Did Kocic drop it? Or was it knocked out of his hands? I dunno, but I do know this …
4) … I’ve just about had it with Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Not only will Futty Danso be starting the moment he steps off the plane from Gambia, it’s possible Jean-Baptiste will lose his job before then. To McKenzie, maybe? To Tucker-Gangnes? To me? I don’t know. But I know that every single game, Beast does something that scares the hell out of me. He’s either wrestling someone in the box or missing an assignment or running into the goalie. And do you remember how Coach was screaming at him during that US Open Cup game versus Wilmington? I think Beast’s position as a starter is in serious jeopardy. If anyone out there can tell me how I’m wrong and how Beast is a lot better than I realize, I’d love to hear it. Educate me.
5) A lot of people are screaming about how the Timbers fell apart as soon as Diego Valeri came out of the game, and I’m not going to contradict that. But I’m not sure we can complain too much, and here’s why: Caleb Porter’s not just managing the game, he’s managing the entire season. He knows we’ve got a ton of games coming up – important games, too – so he’s figuring out who needs rest, who needs to play. He’s worried about Valeri’s bad hamstring. He’s wondering if the international call-ups will be exhausted when they come back. He’s wondering who’ll be the next central defender to blow out their knee. So I can forgive him taking Valeri out of the game early. He’ll probably do the same with some other players in the next couple weeks. We’ve got a tough stretch ahead. Coach is thinking long-term.
6) So how do the next few weeks turn out? Well, obviously all my predictions have come true this year, so I’ll drop a few more on you. Feel free to call your bookie right away.
I think we crush Tampa Bay in tomorrow’s US Open Cup match. Our boys have a bad taste in their mouths. Tampa will pay the price.
Then a quick turnaround for a Saturday game and I think we eke out a tie versus Dallas. We’re at home, but Dallas is leading the league and we’ll be tired and undermanned. So, yes, another damn tie. Curse them.
And then ANOTHER quick turnaround for a Wednesday game against the LA Galaxy. We’ll still be tired and undermanned, only this time we’ll be in Los Angeles. To make it even tougher, we don’t know if we’ll be playing Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. One week, LA is an overwhelming force. The next week, they’re getting shut out. And so, for my prediction, I fall back to the easy choice. A tie. Another damn tie.
It’s getting old, fellas.
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:
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.