Six Degrees: Finally!

Diego-Chara-Portland-Timbers-FCD-JaimeValdez-USATSI

I finally got to my first game of the year this past Saturday and the team finally won. Now, I’m not saying my presence at the game is the reason we won. I’m just saying that if anyone out there wants this team to go to the playoffs, sending me tickets to upcoming games probably wouldn’t hurt. Just sayin’.

1) For the second straight week, we were in a 4-4-2 formation, but this time without the plague of crosses. Last week, 47 crosses, 5 shots on goal. This week, 22 crosses, 6 shots on goal. Go figure.

Our offense felt much more fluid, much more centrally oriented, and infinitely more pleasant to watch. Fanendo Adi was doing work in the middle, getting smashed and pounded all game long (he must be a walking bruise today). There were times I found Maxi Urruti a little invisible, but he got his in the end.

Despite the more fluid play, our first goal came on a corner kick, when Nat “Face On A Stick” Borchers found himself completely alone on the back post. How did he get so phenomenally open? Because Fanendo Adi cleared out a couple defenders like an offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers. Hard to tell if he did it on purpose, but either way, good on you, Fanendo. I’m giving you a secondary assist on that goal.

2) Speaking of Borchers, it was a good day in front of goal for him, Liam Ridgewell, and Adam Kwarasey. A lot of banging, a few dirty plays, but on the whole, no major problems. Kwarasey even got to make a few genuine saves, possibly for the first time this year. I am disappointed, though, that we gave up another damn set piece goal. It’s becoming a little ridiculous, isn’t it, how we continue to hemorrhage set piece goals? Is it time to warm up the “Cameron Knowles Out” two-sticks?

On that Dallas goal, it’s young George Fochive who bears most of the blame. He was in charge of Atiba Harris and let the guy have way too much room right in front of Kwarasey. Harris headed it toward the back post – it was not heading into goal – then Tesho Akindele raced forward and got a leg on it. Akindele was marked by my boy Rodney Freaking Wallace, who deserves some blame, but I think more blame goes to Fochive. He can’t treat corner kicks like a chance to relax. Especially not when he’s covering the guy parked front and center.

3) That tying goal took the air out of the crowd for awhile. I was wondering if we were headed for another damn draw. 30+ minutes with no major chances for the boys in green and a rising nervousness in the crowd. So what do you do when the team needs some energy? You bring on Dairon “Instant Offense” Asprilla. He entered the game in the 61st minute. By the 62nd minute, we were up 2-1.

As I said earlier, for much of the game, Maxi Urruti seemed to be MIA. Then suddenly, there he was, scoring a goal. It was a beauty, too. Darlington Nagbe was doing his thing, driving straight into the heart of the defense. Asprilla was doing his thing, providing instant offense, taking Nagbe’s pass and firing it at the keeper. And Urruti was doing his thing, sticking out a sideways foot and re-directing the ball into the net.

That sideways foot, by the way, was eerily reminiscent of Maxi’s very first goal as a Timber, way back in September of 2013. It was his only goal that year and had the same sort of sneaky re-direction. Back then, Maxi celebrated with noodle arms. This time, he shot an arrow. Definitely an improvement.

I hope this goal opens Maxi up a little. He was so phenomenally dangerous last year, but I’ve seen almost none of that this season. Maybe opening his account will get him going, turn him back into a deadly attacker.

4) So we’re up 2-1. Time to relax, right? Wrong. If you’re me, it’s time to start freaking out, waiting for the inevitable mistake, the inevitable Dallas goal which will break all our hearts and keep the team winless.

I’ve come to think of the game’s final 15 minutes as our witching hour. It’s when we forget how to play defense and start handing out goals to anyone and everyone. When the 75th minute rolled around against Dallas, I was completely puckered up. Blas Perez had been subbed into the game and I just knew that obnoxious shit was gonna shatter our dreams, then do his stupid little bull horns dance, the fucker. The clock kept ticking, the team kept falling back, falling back, refusing to play offense. I was in the stands, stomach churning, thinking about Roy Gathercoal and his regular complaints that we don’t have the killer instinct. I was ready for it to all go wrong.

And then, Diego Chara.

Is there a more beloved player than Diego Chara? Honestly, when he took Adi’s breakaway pass and slotted it just inside the right post, the people around me pretty much burst into tears. A game-clinching goal is always nice, but this was Diego Chara! Who doesn’t love this guy? He works his ass off, he blows people up, he’s got a smile that lights up the stadium.

And not only were us fans freaking out for him, so were his teammates. You can tell a lot about a player by the way his teammates react when he scores. Based on that, the Timbers love Chara as much as we do.

So sing it with me, loud and proud. He’s short! He’s hard! He’s got a yellow card! Di-ay-gooooooooooooooooo Chara!

5) Some quick takes on the team.

Jorge Villafana is so damn solid. I’m such a fan of his game. Solid at both ends, great crosses, and, when we need him to, great free kicks. He’s rising up my list of favorite Timbers.

Alvas Powell and Dairon Asprilla seem to be in a competition to see who can do the coolest shit. Nutmegs, heel passes, stuff I don’t even know the names of. Those two are just showing off and I love it.

George Fochive had that one mistake that led to a goal, but otherwise, the guy is solid, no doubt about it. Does a now-healthy Jack Jewsbury start next week or has George won that spot?

I love it when Darlington Nagbe gets surrounded by defenders and just clowns them. I love it when he runs straight at the defense, bodies flying in from all directions, trying to stop him. But you know what I don’t love? When Nagbe’s got the ball at his feet, nothing but goal in front of him, and realizes there are no other options, he absolutely, positively has to shoot. It’s almost guaranteed that he’ll freeze up and send it into the third row. So frustrating. Historically, all his best goals have come when he had zero time to think. Give him a second or two to think and he’s going to blow it.

Caleb Porter‘s game could not have been sharper. He did it all. The fake laugh, the point, the “scoreboard”, the tissue toss. It doesn’t get much better than that. World class, start to finish.

6) Last week, I said that, despite them beating us, I wasn’t sure Vancouver was actually good. Well, they won again this week and are now at the top of the table.

I also said that, despite occasional signs of friskiness, I wasn’t sure if Portland was any good. Well, we just hung three goals on Dallas, giving them their first loss of the year and knocking them out of the top spot.

Am I now prepared to call Portland good? I dunno. Maybe? Probably?

This weekend, expansion team Orlando City is coming to town, along with our old keeper, the Iron Lion of Zion, Donovan Ricketts. Let’s give him a huge welcome, guys. He carried this team in 2013 and was a class act the whole time. He deserves our love.

On the field, though, I hope we take it to him.

Even more than the Timbers, Orlando’s a bit of an unknown. They’ve got Kaka, of course. They’ve got an aging Ricketts. They’ve got a road win under their belt, 1-0 in Houston, week 2. Past that, I don’t know what to say about them, so I guess we’ll go into this game focused on ourselves.

The 4-4-2 again? Probably. In his postgame comments, Caleb said it’s our best option right now.

47 crosses or 22? Fochive or Captain Jack? Asprilla as a starter or a super-sub? Those decisions will be made by the team.

But me sitting at home watching a loss or sitting in your seats at the stadium, watching a win? That’s up to you, people. I didn’t ask for this mysterious power. It was thrust upon me.

I trust you to do the right thing.