I’m not sure I’ve ever been as pleased with a 0-0 draw. Sure, 0-0 looks ugly, but at 5,280 feet? Against the top team in the league? And Tim Howard? And, oh, what’s that? Valeri and Ridgy are out? Taking all that into account, I’d call it a world-class 0-0 draw.
1) For me, the story of this game was the defense. They did some beautiful work, all the way from Jake Gleeson in the back to the dual-pivoting Ben Zemanski and Diego Chara out front. Playing at elevation, these guys clearly didn’t want to tire themselves out, so we saw a possession chart with very little green.
Sitting deep, absorbing pressure, and hitting on the counter will keep your legs fresh a bit longer, so that’s what the Timbers did. And very well, thank you. Colorado had the ball a ridiculous amount of the game, but our defense gave them very few good chances. Once they reached our defensive third, they were in quicksand.
It was a quiet but effective night from Zarek Valentin at left back. I still haven’t figured out where on the field he’s most effective. I don’t think Caleb Porter has, either, since young Zarek’s in a different spot nearly every game. He may not be the final answer at any spot, but that kind of versatility is valuable. You can have a long, productive career with that kind of versatility. Just ask Jack Jewsbury.
At center back, Jermaine Taylor remains a hard player to get a read on. It many ways, he’s extremely solid, but his propensity to give the ball away may eventually drop him from the rotation. Clearly, he’s Porter’s third choice at center back. Where does Porter rank him at left back?
Speaking of depth charts, Jake Gleeson continues to make his case between the sticks. When Adam Kwarasey‘s finally healthy, who does Porter start? Jake’s got two shutouts now and is still making saves like this.
2) This game was a collective victory for the defense, but if I had to single anyone out for praise, it would be Nat Borchers and Alvas Powell. In truth, it felt like this was the first time in 2016 that we’ve seen the 2015 version of these two players.
It’s been a strange season for Borchers. After looking like one of the best center backs in the league last year, he’s been remarkably mortal this season. Monday night, though, he was running the back line perfectly, keeping everyone nice and tidy. Is it possible this is the result of not playing with Liam Ridgewell? Maybe Nat’s more comfortable as the Alpha? I’m not ready to sign on to this hypothesis, I’m just putting it out there. If we get Ridgy and Nat back together next week, we’ll need to take a close look at that.
Meanwhile, over at right fullback, Alvas Powell was huge at both ends of the field. It’s hard to believe he’s coming off a long injury layoff. He played the full 94 minutes at elevation and looked good doing it. If he can give us this kind of performance week after week, we’ve got to feel good moving forward.
3) Speaking of the right side, here’s another reason for optimism. Darren Mattocks. The kid’s growing on me. He looked awfully good Monday night. Hard charging on offense, more than willing on defense. I’m not saying he’s the total package, but he’s starting to impress.
Here’s a look at him and Powell working well together.
Nice dribbling, nice overlap. If that’s what our right side’s going to look like the rest of the season, sign me up.
4) Meanwhile, over on the left side, Lucas Melano has spent over a year mystifying and polarizing Timbers fans. I’m no different. I’ve sung his praises one week only to backtrack the next. Is he the next big thing? Is he just a waste of our time and our money? I have no idea.
But if you want to know why the Timbers brought him in, if you want to know why there’s still so much hope for him, here are three plays from Monday night.
First up, Speed Kills, Part 1.
And the sequel, Speed Kills, Part 2.
And finally, closing out the trilogy, Speeds Kills, Part 3 (subtitle, Aw, Fuck It, Just Foul The Guy)
That last gif is the most telling for me. Just as Darlington Nagbe habitually leads the league in fouls suffered because no one can dispossess him, it’s possible Lucas Melano will someday lead the league in yellow cards created because no one can keep up with him on the counter. Do I wish he finished all his chances? Sure. But what he’s doing is still valuable. He’s creating chances. He’s drawing yellow cards. He’s making things happen. If Luca can play every week like he played Monday night, I think he’ll be living up to his contract.
5) Final Timber I want to gush about? Fanendo Adi. He may be gone next year, so enjoy him while you can, folks, because the dude can ball. Getcha popcorn and enjoy this play.
There’s so much to like here. First, it’s a pretty nice pass from young Mr. Mattocks, but Adi’s first touch? Heavenly. He taps it back to the center of the pitch, letting him head straight for goal. Swedish Mountain Troll Axel Sjoberg tries to pull him down, but even at 6′ 7”, 210 pounds, he’s still not strong enough.
Then watch as Adi spins Jared Watts right round, baby, right round, setting up a 1-v-1 against Tim Howard. Should Adi have passed to the oncoming Lucas Melano? I’m not so sure. It wouldn’t have given Luca a sure tap-in, as some have suggested. He was too far out. And anyway, when Fanendo Adi’s got a 1-v-1, you want him to take the shot. He’s Fanendo Adi.
He did damn well with it, as is. If he puts that shot half an inch to the right, it’s banging into goal. Hell of a play, start to finish.
Not enough for you? Enjoy this, then.
Good lord, that chest pass is obscene. He should be ashamed of himself.
Finally, just as dribbin’ Nagbe draws fouls and sprintin’ Melano draws yellows, rumblin’ Adi draws PKs. Or at least he probably should have.
Here’s the Adi incident in the box for those asking. pic.twitter.com/qRWaA92wYf
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) July 5, 2016
Is it a penalty? Probably. Is it the most egregious non-call I’ve ever seen? No. Am I so happy with the road draw that I’m willing to ignore that it could’ve been a road win? Yeah, I am. And will I miss Adi next year when he’s in Mexico or China or wherever? Yes, I will.
6) A few things to think about moving forward.
One, I think we’re getting close to a first-choice starting XI. The goalkeeping situation’s in flux, but with Melano and Mattocks working out, we may have a pretty good 4-3-3 on our hands. The least certain spot is left back. But perhaps not for long. Sources are talking and they say we’re signing a Lithuanian left back with an impossibly long name. He won’t play for awhile, but when he does, will he work out? Am I going to have to type that monstrosity of a name on a regular basis?
Those are our internal concerns for next week. Externally, we’ve got the New York Red Bulls. On the road. Did you know we’re officially in the second half of the season and still don’t have a win on the road? I’m pretty sure that’s bad. But on the plus side, we’ve got more road draws than road losses. That’s most definitely good. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up next Sunday in New Jersey.
In my opinion, last September’s home loss to New York was our worst game of the year. We looked utterly pathetic in every facet of the game. Was it our fault or New York’s? Do they know our weaknesses? Will they take advantage of them yet again?
I’ve seen a few New York games this year. When they look good, they look ridiculously good. But I’ve also seen them look remarkably pedestrian. We just got done making the best team in the league look pedestrian. At their house. Can we do it again? Let’s find out.