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.

17 Comments Six Degrees: Finally!

  1. Sean

    The best thing about Chara’s goal – he started it by poking it away from Barrios. Does that mean he gets the 2nd assist on his goal??? The one thing on their goal, I have this feeling that if Wallace was tighter, there would have been a good chance to be an own goal. While George looks good & solid, I would like to see Jack back in. He brings great experience and knows where to be defensively and most importantly for his steady corner kicks. That and I just like Captain (ret) Jack.

    Reply
    1. C.I. DeMann

      You’re probably right about Wallace. The only thing he could’ve done was stopped Akindele’s progress a lot earlier, probably just by getting in front of him. Once Akindele had a step toward goal, not much RFW could do. He was already hanging onto Akindele’s shirt. If he’d done much more, it would have been a penalty.

      Reply
    2. Mac

      I like Jack but I’d choose Fochive even with a healthy Jack. Paraphrasing Coach Don Shula: when choosing between young talent and experience, go with the talent every time – experience only comes by playing, and extraordinary things can happen along the way.

      Reply
    3. Roy GathercoalRoy Gathercoal

      If this happened on some shady street at night, Chara would have been charged with two separate crimes. Seems only fair he should get credit for both the score and the assist when it happens on the field and under the lights.

      Reply
  2. Timber Dave

    A shout-out here to Villafaña. He got the Castillo assignment in this game — never anyone’s idea of a good time — and he managed it really well. I remember Castillo getting around Villa once or maybe twice, and then only after he had slowed Castillo down enough that there were other defenders to back him up. Excellent job Jorge.

    Reply
  3. thecaveatlector

    It was too perfect that Borchers scored a goal on “Borchers face on a stick” night.

    On the FCD goal, I think you targeted the two main culprits. Truth be told, it is a clever set piece by Dallas. They set Harris up in the “harass the keeper” position, then had him push out a couple yards, putting him in a nice position for a flick-on or header toward goal. Starting in the “harass the keeper” position generally means the defender is between the offensive player and the keeper. This gave Harris a positional advantage when the corner came in. That being said, Fochive just didn’t make an aggressive attempt at the cross.

    As for Wallace, his error came early in the play when he lost track of Akindele, allowing his mark to get goal side. Akindele did well getting open for the back-post run.

    Regarding Kwarasey, I thought this game was a huge step forward. After giving up the goal to Zardes in the LAG game, Kwarasey has been very reluctant to come off his line with the ball in the air. If you watch the SKC game, he seems scared to come off his line. Against Vancouver, he made one attempt at a ball he should have been able to punch but mostly missed.

    Tonight, he started out with just punches, but his confidence grew and he actually started plucking the ball out of the air. The FCD goal comes from a corner that happens due to Kwarasey punching a ball out that I really felt he should have grabbed. But he’s venturing back out to defend his box, that is key. At the end of the game, he was grabbing and holding the desperation balls Dallas was throwing into the box. If he just punches them, there is the chance they fall to the wrong player or are cleared out for corners. Kwarasey holding onto the balls in the box was key to holding on late in the game.

    Lastly, it was nice for Chara to get a little FCD redemption after the June 2013 encounter when he had three great chances to score (including two one v one’s with the keeper), only to have two spectacularly saved and the third miss wide.

    Reply
    1. Timber Dave

      I get the feeling that Kwarasey is reluctant to try for a catch when he’s in traffic. He’d rather not risk getting bumped and thereby fumbling the catch, and he takes the safe route (at least for the moment) of punching it out. Most of his late catches came when he was alone. I’m not certain about this, but it’s something to look for.

      I do like his mobility, which is leading to shot-prevention rather than the more spectacular shot-stopping.

      Reply
    2. C.I. DeMann

      Great breakdown of Dallas’s corner kick strategy. Atiba Harris was sitting in Kwarasey’s lap all night. Every team should do that. Hell, we should do it.

      Reply
  4. Timber Dave

    Also….
    – We not only hung 3 goals on Dallas, we hung 3 goals on a Dallas team that had given up only 1 goal (!!) in 4 previous games. And it’s not like Dallas plays a possession game and never lets the opponents see the ball — those opponents would have put in more if Dallas’s defense been poor.

    – I had exactly the same thought about Urruti’s goal looking like his very first one for the Timbers, in mirror image. I almost expected the rubber arms to come out. I also thought Maxi would run out of steam, what with all the running he does up there, but he was still going strong when Porter removed him in the 81st minute.

    – What was up with all the miss-by-a-mile shots in this game? I mean, people on both teams were shooting … and putting the ball not just wide of the goal box, which would have been bad enough, but wide of the *penalty* box. What gives?

    – Your choice:
    Nat “Face on a Stick” Borchers
    Nat “Popsicle” Borchers
    Nat “Dreamsicle” Borchers (he is orange, after all….)
    Nat “Treebeardsicle” Borchers (okay, maybe not)
    Nat “Cerberus” Borchers

    – I think this PTFC team is very good but not great. Yet. We’re playing well for the most part, even when we lose, and we just won against the top team. Hopefully Valeri’s return gets us to the great level, and Johnson’s and eveyone else’s helps us maintain it. Can we maintain 1.5 points per game until then? 1.75? Can we avoid playing to the level of our opponent and crush Orlando this weekend? I say yes!

    Reply
    1. C.I. DeMann

      1. Hell yeah.
      2. I’m really hoping Maxi takes off.
      3. LSD in the water. Works every time.
      4. I think the Timbers community has decided on “Treebeard,” which is quality. I also like “Tormund Giantsbane.”
      5. I like the way you think. LET’S DO THIS!

      Reply
  5. Roy GathercoalRoy Gathercoal

    I watched this game three times; when the clock wound down the third time I still expected Dallas to sink a late goal. I mean, three times in a row! In one weekend!

    Our defensive weakness in this game is exactly where you would expect: Our two young outside backs. That is all right. We can manage that. You all are right, though about set pieces. Someone has to inform each member of the team that when they take the ball to the corner it is not a water break.

    The team is being consistent. There is not a huge qualitative jump in their level of play over the first few games. This means the team will just keep getting better. And when Johnson, and then Valeri return. . .

    I stand by my earlier Nagbe assessment. He is doing what the team needs right now, which is traffic direction. I would love for him to add in a few more goals, but realistically we won’t need more than 3 goals many games. At least I dearly hope those days are gone. What we do need, however, is Valeri’s ability to get the ball to the people who are just beginning to think about getting into the right position. It does seem most of the offense goes through Nagbe’s boot. To his credit, Nagbe is shooting more. Shot selection is not great, but getting better.

    Back when Nagbe was starting (the first “this will be the breakout year” year) alongside of Kris Boyd I wondered if it might take some time to undo the “coaching” that was occurring between the two players. It seemed that Boyd was always screaming “give me the ball” in traditional British striker style. I don’t blame him for this, it is exactly what Robbie Keane does.

    Yet the effects are not optimal for a team not trying to emulate that old school formation and mentality. I wonder if Nagbe might have been affected even more as he was clearly in a subservient role, and the message from the coach, his team mates and the supporters was “we need more service–we must get the ball to Boyd.” I don’t know, but it does offer a ray of hope that perhaps his progress out of that shell is happening before our eyes.

    Chara is a gem. National treasure. Enough to be one of both nations. And he cleans up after others.

    Even four deep, this team is solid. Fochive has put in two MLS performances now that would do him proud even in a couple of years. And just think of our 24-and-under players: Nagbe, Adi, Asprilla, Fochive, Besler, Gleeson, JeAnderson, Peay, Powell, Thoma, Schuma, and Urruti. These are the youngest guys on the squad. This is not the ending years of a experienced team. We are looking at the beginning of a dynasty. If we can just continue to keep people growing and happy.

    I’m grateful to be a Timbers supporter in 2015. Things are looking fine for this season, and beyond.

    Reply
    1. C.I. DeMann

      You’re right, Nags is doing what the team needs and, with El Maestro down, he’s probably our early-season MVP.

      Also, thanks for reminding me that Fochive is our 4th-stringer. That’s just astonishing, isn’t it? Johnson, down. Zemanski, down. Jewsbury, down. How many other teams would survive that? And Fochive isn’t just surviving, he’s thriving!

      I tell ya, Mondays are a helluva lot nicer after a win, aren’t they?

      Reply
    1. Roy GathercoalRoy Gathercoal

      For the good of all humanity, we in Portland have discovered the absolute cure for the horns celebration. Just do this and you will never have to see it again.

      Reply
    2. Timber Dave

      I hate it too. Although on further reflection, it’s not so much the celebration itself that I dislike, it’s the person doing the celebrating.

      Reply
      1. 120124

        “I don’t like your jerk-off name, I don’t like your jerk-off face and I don’t like your celebration. Jerk-off. Do i make myself clear?”

        Reply

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