Six Degrees: Sickening

Photo Craig Mitchelldyer, Portland Timbers

This column is getting to you a little late and a little short on words. Why? Because I’m sick. Crazy sick. Like, “I was walking around the hospital earlier today with a surgical mask on” sick.

The best part? I was at a bar Sunday, watching the game, coughing into my Timbers scarf. So all you people with me at the bar? I’m the reason you’re hacking up bits of lung today. You’re welcome.

I’ve been sick for about three weeks now, and if you’ve ever had a long-term cold like this, you know that you start questioning everything in your life. Am I allergic to my pillow? Am I allergic to my house? Am I allergic to air? To sunlight?

And as I sit here, coughing, trying to figure out what’s making me so sick, I have a new suspect. Maybe I’m allergic to the Timbers. Specifically, all these friggin’ draws. Maybe I’m gonna be sick until we win a game. Or lose, even. At this point, I’ll take anything.

1) The game really was a tale of two halves. We owned the first, they owned the second. It’s almost fitting that it ended with a draw.

Why the change of momentum? Maybe LA figured something out at halftime. Or maybe it was all that damn wind. In the first half, we had the wind at our back and dominated. In the second, we were going into the wind and suffered. Coincidence? Maybe. The difference in our performance was noteworthy, though, so here I am, noting it. In the future, perhaps the Timbers Army could do something about this. Give everyone a fan to wave? Whatever the team needs.

2) Quick take on the two Portland goals.

1st goal – Just heavenly. And truly a fast-breaking counter. Kwarasey to Chara. Chara to Nagbe. An obscene backheel from Nags to Wallace. Wallace with the sweet leading pass to Adi, who curls it around the keeper and inside the far post. This is the sort of goal that won LA the Cup last year. More, please.

2nd goal – Nagbe, being Nagbe. He was deep in enemy territory, with zero room to maneuver, but right as the LA keeper was getting ready to gather the ball, Nagbe zips in and pokes it away. Adi finds it and bangs it in off a defender’s leg.

A lovely last-second goal to win it, right? Everyone goes home happy, right? Wrong.

3) Quick take on the two LA goals.

Zardes’s goal. This was a bang-bang play with Zardes getting his foot on the end of a nice cross. Kwarasey hung back a tiny bit, just a split-second, really, but if he’d sprinted to the ball, he might have stopped it. There would have been a hell of a collision with him and Zardes, but probably no goal. Like I said, he had just a split second to do it in, so I forgive.

Gordon’s last-second goal – Last year, I think we were worst in the league giving up set-piece goals, and here we are, giving up our first of the new season. This was a case of the big strong experienced Gordon just manhandling Villafana. Jorge was trying to fight back, bless him, but Gordon wouldn’t let him. Gordon’s scored a lot of those goals against a lot of defenders. The bastard.

4) As Roy Gathercoal said in his column “Gathered Thoughts,” Darlington Nagbe’s doing whatever the team needs. Clearly, with Valeri out, the team needs someone to be a Maestro. Maybe not the Maestro, but a Maestro. And Nagbe’s delivering.

The guy’s everywhere, isn’t he? He’s just making defenders look stupid out there. Is he shooting? No. Does that bug me? A tiny bit. But it’s hard to argue with the two goals we scored Sunday. It’s hard to argue with Nagbe work in the middle of the field.

When Valeri comes back, what will the team need Nags to do then? Score goals? Support the defense? Whatever it is, I believe Nagbe will do it. I’m so high on this dude right now. We thought we’d need Gaston Fernandez to fill in for Valeri, but we were wrong. Nagbe’s the guy for the job.

5) As far as the defense goes, well, so much for that four game shutout streak. Turns out that, despite what we saw in the RSL game, our defense is not actually perfect. They weren’t nearly as relaxed and confident against LA. A few signs of panic, a few people out of position, a few clearing headers going straight up, a few worrisome moments from Powell, looking like a kid again. It wasn’t the worst defense ever, but it made me realize this season isn’t going to be the nice relaxing walk in the park I’d been hoping for.

We’re definitely improved, but not yet perfect.

6) And finally, to finish off this abbreviated, cough-filled column from my sick bed, a few quick notes.

  • Jack’s set pieces weren’t quite as perfect as week one. There also weren’t as many of them.
  • What is it with Adi always scoring braces? Is this really going to be his thing?
  • I don’t feel like Maxi Urruti has been much of a factor in either of our first two games, which is weird, considering how dangerous he is. I’d like him in the game a little earlier, I think.
  • No third sub? Follow-up question: who would’ve been the third sub? After Gata and Maxi, there’s not a lot of offense on the bench right now.