CCL: Booted Out

I’m stepping on C.I.’s toes a bit here, but before this weekend’s critical match in Our House in the Middle of B.C. I wanted to post a brief note about the Wednesday night 1-1 home draw to Saprissa C.D. that knocked the Timbers out of the CONCACAF Champion’s League.

chara

I can’t add much to William Conwell’s report at the Stumptown link above.  Yes, it was a brutal hackfest.  We think we have it bad here in MLS (as C.I. noted about the Colorado match this past weekend…) until we have to play under the indifferent gaze of CCL officials.  This was a whole order of magnitude rougher.

What was even more frustrating was seeing the Timbers seem to fail to recognize what the center referee was doing.  After getting a blank look from two appeals for a first-minute penalty the home side seemed clueless as to what the CR was going to allow.  Several players – particularly Lucas Melano – would sit plaintively raising their arms in appeal to the cold blue deity long after they should have been up and kicking again.

I don’t want to see my club thug it up, but…if the referee is going to let rough play go and the rough play is harming you more than your opponent…well, you have to adjust.

Of course, the one player who did was Diego Chara.  You could almost see it in his slyly evil grin; “¡Ohe’, mira!  THIS is how it’s gonna be?  ¡Qué nota!  How about a nice helping of Portland cleat, then, Tico..?”

The referee’s indifference didn’t reduce the Timbers to a shambles, as might have happened back in 2011 or 2012.  But the team didn’t adjust well to it, and on a night when everything had to work right that didn’t help.

But the real problem wasn’t the officiating.  It was the same two damn things we’ve seen over and over this year.

First, slack defending.  Saprissa had only something like three shots at the half hour, and one of them was a ridiculously simple goal; Vytas gave Saprissa winger Hansell Aruaz all the time in the world out on the Timbers’ left to find Rolando Blackburn crashing between Taylor and Ridgewell standing like decorative lawn ornaments to head past Gleeson.

Second, awful finishing.  The ugly truth is that without Adi and Valeri our striking quality drops precipitously.  Barmby and Grabavoy were at least making some runs, although we still lack outside quality of the Wallace degree to place crosses accurately on heads or to feet, but Melano was a complete waste of a pair of boots and with Saprissa packed in tight Nagbe and Chara had little space to work with.

Diego also looked gassed, not surprising after Colorado and with the work he was doing that night; his passing was uncharacteristically poor.  Nagbe worked his tail off but couldn’t find anyone upfront to help him.

A MacInerny goal in the second half evened it up, but even wasn’t enough and the Timbers are out of the CCL in the group stage, again.

If the Timbers had to lose one of the two must-win matches this week I admit I’d just as soon it’d be this one.  But I’d rather have won it, and the loss points out how difficult this seasons has gone and how…well, how not-good this season’s Timbers have been both tactically and technically.  Missing a handful of players on their own pitch the team struggled to score, conceded a soft goal, and was knocked out of synch by the rough play typical of the CCL, and nothing Coach Porter could do changed that.

The only thing left to play for this season is a playoff match, and to do that the Timbers will have to do what they have not done all season; win away.

And C.I. will be back here to tell you about what happened and why.  I only hope he’s got a happy story to tell, because about this one I have nothing but a rainy night of rough futility.