Six Degrees: A Complete No-show

 

I gotta hand it to Alaska Airlines. When the Timbers flew down to San Jose this past weekend, not only did the flight crew lose the team’s baggage, they lost the whole damn team. Has anyone found them yet, by the way? Is there a number we can call? Or should we just hang out by the baggage carousel and wait for Alvas Powell to come tumbling out?

1) How do you talk about a game where only one team showed up? It’s not that Portland’s performance was bad, exactly. It’s that there was barely a performance at all. Almost across the board, the Timbers spent 90 minutes Saturday night sleep-walking.

They were slow, they lacked energy, their communication was poor, the offense lacked chemistry, the defense lacked organization. I could go on and on, listing all the ways the Timbers under-performed Saturday, but in the end, it’s all part of the whole. The Timbers were a complete and total no-show.

Why? I have no idea. Is it as simple as no Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe? What about no Jake Gleeson? Would his presence have improved anything?

Last week, I was really quite happy with our bench after they came up big without Valeri in Dallas. This time we were without Valeri and Nagbe, but it wasn’t against Dallas, one of the best teams in the league, it was against lowly San Jose. Our bench should be able to beat San Jose, right? Nope. Not even close.

I hope we get Valeri and Nags back next week. I’d also like Gleeson in goal. But if none of them play, the bench still needs to show us something. This is MLS and absences will happen. The bench needs to show us that they can keep the team afloat. That they’re an improvement on benches we’ve had in seasons past.

2) The defense did not cover itself in glory Saturday night. After scoring only five goals in their previous seven games, San Jose dropped three on us.

In the interest of desperately needed comedy, I’ve added some Benny Hill music to the first goal. Enjoy.

The second goal had much less comedic value. Lawrence Olum and Liam Ridgewell just gave Chris Wondolowski too much room at the top of the box. Nothing funny about that.

Though, to be fair, that’s a hell of a turn-and-shoot from Wondo. Fast, efficient, precise. The old man’s still got it.

3) The night’s third goal was the most concerning. It was an utter failure of communication. Olum stepped up, thinking he was putting Wondo offside, but Vytautus Andriuskevicius and Alvas Powell clearly knew nothing about this.

In the end, it’s Powell who kept Wondo onside, but Vytas seems just as oblivious to Olum’s intentions. Is Ridgy the only loud voice on the back line? If he wanders off, is all organization doomed? If so, maybe don’t drift so far forward, eh, Liam?

Speaking of center backs, the Primary Transfer window closes Monday night. Do we have a center back signed? Do we even have a name? A name that is not John Boye or Yaya Banana? No one seems certain, but according to Jamie Goldberg, whoever the new guy is, he ain’t getting here until June.

4) Down 3-0 late in the game, there wasn’t much worth watching on the pitch, so it was nice of Caleb Porter to give us some exciting substitutions. I’m referring, of course, to Victor Arboleda and Jeremy Ebobisse, both of whom made their MLS debuts Saturday.

Arboleda got plenty of run in this year’s preseason tournament, and his performance there was electric. The 20-year old Colombian showed both speed and aggression, which got me very excited for his future.

Ebobisse, on the other hand, spent most of the preseason and early season with the USMNT U-20 squad, which left him pretty much a mystery.

Did Saturday night tell us anything new about this pair? Not really. Arboleda is still aggressive, Ebobisse is still a mystery.

But of the two, it’s Arboleda who improved his chances to play moving forward. He got off three shots (one on target) in 27 minutes, which are exactly the same numbers Darren Mattocks put up in 63 minutes. This isn’t a perfect comparison, of course, since Arboleda played in garbage time when we were throwing everything forward. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if he gets more playing time in the future and, if so, if he will continue to put up big numbers.

5) Since starting the season 3-0-0, the Timbers have gone 2-3-2. The PPG for these last seven games is 1.14, which would put us well below the red line.

But adding in that 3.0 PPG from the first three? That puts us at 1.7 PPG for the season, which might be good enough to win a Supporter’s Shield.

I don’t have a huge point here, I just find the whole thing kind of funny, since most years, the math is the complete opposite. Normally, we’re saying, “Dang, we’ve been so good lately, but that first month killed us.”

This season, it’s “Dang, we’ve been so mediocre lately. Thank God that first month is still propping us up.”

Will we be a 1.14 PPG team the rest of the year? I doubt it, I think we’re better than that, but I don’t really know for sure. The draw at Dallas made us look like a real contender. This loss at San Jose has thrown us back into the land of uncertainty. Maybe next week’s game will give us a better sense of who we really are.

Speaking of next week…

6) MLS has two expansion teams this year. We’ve already played one. This coming Sunday, we’ll play the other.

Early-season laughingstock Minnesota United has turned things around and is 3-2-1 in their last six games (1.66 PPG). Over that same stretch, early-season juggernaut Atlanta United has gone 1-3-2 (0.83 PPG), which includes losing their last two, one at home, one on the road.

Was Atlanta winning with smoke and mirrors? Has the league figured them out? Can our coaching staff figure them out, too?

And how will Atlanta respond to their recent troubles? By altering their high-pressure, fast-countering style? Or by doubling down on it and going higher pressure, with faster countering?

Likewise, how with the Timbers respond to getting their asses kicked in San Jose? By altering our style or by doubling down? Will Nagbe and Valeri be back? Will Gleeson take back his place in goal? Will the Timbers mentally show up?

We’ll find out on Sunday.