Six Degrees: Best Win of the Year?

Sure, it was tight until the final whistle, and sure, we’ve had other wins on the road. But a road shutout against the 2nd best team in the league? Without our top striker, our top keeper, and our top center back? I think this may be our most impressive three points of the season.

1) The main thought I kept having Saturday – hell, the main thought I’ve had every time I’ve watched NYC play – was, Holy crap, that field is tiny. It’s like they were playing on a basketball court.

And then Jamie Goldberg goes and tweets this.

What? No. Really? Impossible. How? Is it possible that the camera angle threw me off?

I’m not really doubting Jamie Goldberg’s numbers. I’m sure they’re accurate. But here’s the thing, the field didn’t just look smaller. It played smaller, too. Guys were practically running into each other, there was so little room. A Timber would get the ball and there would immediately be four or five players within 20 feet of them. And not just defenders. Players from both teams. Everywhere on the field was crowded. It was a game played in crowded spaces, with short, quick passes.

Is this because of NYC’s style of play? Did all their short passes in small spaces start rubbing off on us? Or did we make a conscious decision to play their style?

Or maybe it’s not about choice. Maybe 5 yards of width, while sounding small, is actually a significant amount. That’s 7.5 feet less distance on each side. Maybe that’s enough to make a real difference, both in appearance and style of play.

Clearly, I don’t have an answer here. Maybe one of you can drop some knowledge on me in comments. All I know is that, for 90 minutes Saturday, it seemed like 22 guys were crowded together, making tiny little passes up and down a tiny little field.

And to be honest, I kind of liked it. It was different. Of course, sometimes it messed guys up. Like on this play, when it got in Roy Miller‘s head.

I really do think that, in a normal game, Miller just clears that ball out of harm’s way. But I think the field and the opponent and the entire vibe of the game kind of got in his head and made him screw up. I’m giving Miller a pass on this one. I think losing 5 yards of field will make a man do strange things.

2) Speaking of men doing strange things, you want to see some New York street crime? Check out this video of an old man getting his pocket picked by some young hoodlum.

I swear, I though Pirlo was going to throw his walker at the ref.

First off, great hustle by Darren Mattocks. As you know, I’ve been bitching about Jeremy Ebobisse not getting starts, but I think it may be time for me to shut up. It’s hard to argue with the results we’re having with Mattocks at the 9. The team’s hot, and Mattocks deserves some credit for that.

But of course, more credit goes to the guy who scored that goal. Diego Valeri has now scored in seven straight games, which ties an MLS record. When he scores next week against RSL – and yes, I said when – he’ll have the record all to himself.

It cannot be overstated how much Valeri has risen to the occasion since Fanendo Adi went down with injury. How many teams in MLS could lose their top scorer and keep rolling like we have? And Adi’s not just our top scorer, he’s one of the top scorers in the entire league. Most teams would have folded. But those teams don’t have a second option like Diego Valeri. He’s put the team on his back and put himself firmly in the MLS Player of the Year conversation. We should remind ourselves every day how lucky we are to have him.

3) The second half was a grind, but the team somehow held on for the win. This is worth celebrating, simply because, for the majority of this season, the Timbers haven’t held on for the win. Over and over this year, when things have gotten tough, the Timbers have gotten soft. They’ve made an art of giving up late goals, turning wins into draws, and draws into losses.

And now, suddenly, they’ve stopped. They’ve gotten tough. They’ve gotten to the headers, they’ve made the blocks, they’ve cut out the boneheaded mistakes.

Is it because Caleb Porter’s benched a few guys? Is it because Larrys Mabiala‘s finally settling in? Is it because the back line’s learning to play without Liam Ridgewell? Is it because we’ve got Jeff Attinella in goal?

Let’s talk about Attinella. Though he’s only appeared in nine games, it’s still been an up and down year for him. He started three games in May, going 1-1-1 and giving up an average of two goals a game. He started another game in June and lost it (to Minnesota!), giving up 3 goals. Then a month ago in Toronto, he subbed on for an injured Jake Gleeson and got shelled, 4-1.

Very little in the above paragraph is good. A loss to Minnesota isn’t good. A 3-0 loss to San Jose isn’t good. A 4-1 loss to Toronto is… well, maybe we can forgive that one, since Toronto is one of the best teams in MLS history. But still, 1-3-1 isn’t good.

But in the last four games, Attinella’s gone 3-0-1, with two shutouts. Yes, Colorado’s bad, but Seattle, New York, and New York City are three of the best teams in the league, and Attinella’s looked damn good against them all. Here he is saving a few goals in the Bronx.

If Attinella stays this hot the rest of the season, and then into the playoffs, it’s going to make things pretty tough for the Timbers front office this winter. Let Gleeson go? Try Attinella between the sticks for an entire year? I don’t know who I’m rooting for in this race. The team, I guess.

Speaking of goalkeepers, Sean Johnson’s got to be feeling pretty good about his job security today.

4) A few random notes.

  • Sebastian Blanco is so damn good.  I know he didn’t score or assist on Saturday, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  That dude was everywhere.
  • Holy crap, is Alvas Powell deep in the doghouse. Caleb Porter brought Lawrence Olum in and shifted Roy Miller to left back rather than bring Powell in and shift Zarek Valentin over. Yikes.
  • Speaking of subs, I’m still not sure what Jeremy Ebobisse is. He’s not as quick as Mattocks, nor is he as target-y as Adi. Right now, he seems like a middle ground between the two. I’m intrigued and want to see more. I may get my wish, because…
  • Both Mattocks and Vytautus Andriuskevicius left the game with injuries. I thought nothing could top 2016 for injuries, but 2017’s making a strong case for itself.
  • Speaking of injuries, at this point, it looks like I’ll pretty much have to give the Six Degrees Player of the Year award to Valeri, but I just want you all to know how strongly I’ve considered giving it to the triumvirate of Miller, Olum, and Valentin. That trio was expected to start precisely zero games this year. Instead, at least one of them is starting pretty much every week, at pretty much every defensive position. They have been huge. And if El Rey falls off a cliff these last five weeks, there’s a chance the three-bladed Swiss Army Knife will be getting my MVP.

5) Speaking of the rest of the season, the Timbers are looking pretty good right now. They just had a brutal pair of road games – Seattle’s second in the West, NYC’s second in the East – and came away with 4 points. That’s gigantic.

Here’s where we stand.

Of the season’s remaining five games, only one of our opponents is currently above the red line; Vancouver, who we’ll host on the season’s final day (possibly with the Cascadia Cup on the line).

That being said, the RSL and San Jose games will be tough. Both games are on the road, and both teams are just below the red line and desperate to get above it.

The other three games? All homers. If we sweep those and lose the two roadies, we’ll finish the year with 53 points and a PPG of 1.56. Definitely good enough to make the playoffs, possibly good enough to get a first round bye, and maybe even enough to win the conference.

And, of course, if we take a few points from the two road games? Even better.

We can start that next week in Utah. Sadly, we’ll do it without Diego Chara, who’ll miss the game due to yellow card accumulation. We may also be missing Mattocks and Vytas and Adi and Ridgy and Jake. Christ, I think Attinella may have hurt his shoulder, too.

But, you know what? I’m not sure it matters any more. The team’s been plugging holes so long, I’m not sure they even know how to play with a first-choice XI. And somehow, against all odds, it seems to be working.

6) Okay, that’s it for the Timbers. I’ve saved this last degree to tell a personal story.

A bit over a week ago, there was an unexpected email in my inbox. It was from Zach, the new guy in charge over at Stumptown Footy.  He wrote to tell me he liked my work and was wondering if I’d like to join their site.

The offer intrigued me – Stumptown does have a lot of readers, after all – but at the same time raised many questions.

Would Stumptown Footy give me the same artistic freedom I have here? Would they let me write whatever I want, whenever I want to write it?

And what about Stumptown Footy’s readers? Would they accept me and this strange little column I write? They’ve already got William Conwell giving them the news, and Chris Rifer giving them the analysis. What would they think of some new guy showing up with a third option: the fan’s perspective. Would they welcome a column full of joy and anger and hopes and fears and half-baked ideas and – above all else – stupid jokes? What would they think of the stupid jokes?

Over the past week or two, I’ve asked all these questions, and Zach’s done his best to answer. We even had a face-to-face meeting at Saturday night’s T2 game.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that STF would give me the creative freedom I wanted. And since Slide Rule Pass has given me their blessing to leave if I wanted, it seemed my final decision would come down to numbers. Did I want more readers?

Some history: over the course of my life, through all my creative endeavors – sportswriting, novel writing, radio shows, YouTube videos, etc – I’ve never sought out larger audiences. My attitude has always been, I do this for me. If people read it, listen to it, watch it, and buy it, that’s awesome. But if they don’t, no biggie. I do this for me.

That attitude has given me a damn good life. No fame, no money, and no power, but still, a damn good life, full of adventures.

But this time around I wondered, What would happen if I did the opposite? What if, for maybe the first time ever, I sought out a larger audience? What would happen? Would it be the end of the world? Or would it be awesome in unexpected ways?

And that’s why, starting next week, Six Degrees won’t be here at Slide Rule Pass. It will be at Stumptown Footy.

Will this be an effortless transition? Of course not. Will I have trouble figuring out how to post all my links and photos and gifs and stuff? Almost certainly. Will some Stumptown Footy regulars hate my style? Probably. Will they say mean things in the comments? I hope not.

But eventually, we’ll figure each other out. The Stumptown Footy readers will still have Conwell for news and Rifer for analysis. And starting next week, they’ll also have me, offering up a third option.

I hope you’ll join me there. I also hope you’ll write some nice comments, just to get me off to a good start. In fact, I’ve got a great idea. When you read next week’s column over at Stumptown Footy, copy and paste this into the comment section:

Wow, I’ve never read this column before, but I love it! None of that smart, insightful analysis Rifer’s always giving us. This new guy, DeMann, his ideas are so charmingly half-baked! And his jokes, they’re so exquisitely dumb! And I swear, I didn’t just copy and paste this from last week’s column. These are my actual thoughts and words that I’ve come up with entirely on my own. I swear.

If a whole bunch of you copy and pasted that into next week’s comments, I think it would be hella, hella funny. Plus, it would let me identify all my old school readers.

So here were are. Moving day. I’d like to say thank you to everyone here at Slide Rule Pass. Our founder, Kevin Alexander, my colleague John Lawes, and all of you, my regular readers. When I started this column way back in 2013, I had no idea it would turn into what it has. Thank you for helping me get to this point. And I hope you’ll follow me over to Stumptown Footy so we can see where thing go from here.