Six Degrees: Convincing

Beating a very bad Minnesota team? Not entirely convincing. Beating a 10-man LA team? Not entirely convincing. Beating a 2-0-0 and clearly dangerous Houston team? I think we can quit wondering. It’s official. The Timbers are good.

1) That’s not to say we’re perfect. Houston bossing us around in Saturday’s first half was evidence of that. It wasn’t a total ass-kicking,1 but I think it’s fair to say the Timbers lost the first 45 minutes.

Included in those first 45 minutes were two penalties that were questionable at best. I guess we’ll take solace in the fact that both teams were equally screwed.

Here’s DaMarcus Beasley getting screwed by the ref.

And here’s Diego Chara getting screwed by the ref.

The lesson for all you kids out there: let the ball hit you in the face. Mom and Dad won’t mind taking you to the ER with a broken nose.2

So it’s 1-1, the ref sucks,3 and Houston’s still looking a little too lively. Then, just before halftime, this happens.

You have to admit, that’s a beautiful counter-attacking goal. Could our defense have done better? Yeah, probably. I mean, maybe Diego Chara could’ve blown that dude up. Maybe Roy Miller could’ve closed him out more aggressively. Maybe Zarek Valentin could’ve committed the professional foul. But none of those things happened. And it’s hard to blame Lawrence Olum. He was in a decent position. That was just a gorgeous, gorgeous pass. 2-1, bad guys.

Well, at least the first half gave us this moment. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

2) That’s how the first half went on the defensive end of the field. Offensively? Well, sadly, the best front six in the league was kind of a mess. They were slow moving forward, hesitant to enter the box, and the only tools in their toolbox seemed to be crosses from Alvas Powell and Sebastian Blanco. Crosses that never really accomplished much.

Fortunately, soccer games have two halves,citation needed and as he has shown many times before, Caleb Porter has a black belt in halftime adjustments. Did you see him leaving the field at the end of the first half? He walked briefly with Lawrence Olum, arm around his shoulder, giving him a few words, then raced off the field. I mean, he damn near sprinted into the locker room. Did he desperately need to take a leak? Or was he just fired up to get at that white board?

Whatever happened in there, the team came out screaming in the second half. I mean pedal to the metal, right from the start. This even included Porter. Anytime the ball went out of bounds near the Timbers bench, he raced after it, trying to get the throw in as fast as possible. I’m thinking Porter’s halftime speech consisted of three main points. 1. Push forward. 2. Push forward. And 3. Push forward.

And that meant Houston got to spend 45 minutes completely and totally on the back foot.

Check out their shot charts.


Now look at ours.


Yep, Caleb Porter can make some halftime adjustments.

3) Diego Valeri tied things up in the 58th minute. Here’s the goal, including the buildup.

There are a number of things to enjoy here. One, Valeri tries setting up Fanendo Adi, but Adi gets the ball stuck in his wheels. Rather than fumbling it away, though, the big fella controls it, gets his head up, and scores a secondary assist with a nice leading pass to Zarek Valentin.

Second thing to enjoy: Valentin’s right-footed, but that cross is with his left foot. Aww, yeah. Who’s a baller?

Third thing: After starting 2017 without a single headed goal, that’s Valeri second header of the year. And his third counting preseason.  What’s going on here? Has El Rey4 decided to add “header” to his repertoire? If so, God help us all.

And finally, this.

This guy’s surprised by Valeri’s mean muggin’? Didn’t think he had it in him? Oh, El Rey’s definitely got it in him. I present to you, sir, this video. Not as a gift, but as a warning.

4) In the 66th minute, we took the lead with this goal by David Guzman.

What in the name of Fanendo Adi is going on here? Did Gooz just round the keeper? He did! He just rounded the fucking keeper!

Also of note, the Timbers have petitioned MLS to give Darlington Nagbe an assist on this goal, and I agree. He was passing that ball. From the ground. While spinning on his hip.

Don’t believe me? Ask Matt Doyle.

Still don’t believe me? Ask Steve Zakuani, who asked Darlington Nagbe.

5) And finally, in the 88th minute, after a long half of trying and failing and trying and failing, the big man finally got his goal. And it was heavenly.

Are you friggin’ kidding me? Look at that! How many touches did Adi take? How many people did he have to dribble around? He dribbled around the goalkeeper twice, for crying out loud!

And look at the ball. It never gets more than three inches from Adi’s feet. This is not Darlington Nagbe doing this. It’s Adi, an objectively gigantic person. How is he able to do these things?

And then there’s the finish. It was at a sharper angle than his Minnesota goal, plus there was a guy standing there. Adi had almost nowhere to shoot, so he banked it off the far post!

Damn, Fanendo. You got skills. You got serious, serious skills.

6) The next test of how good we are is how we do on the road. Last weekend in LA, we only faced an 11-man team for 34 minutes, beating them 1-0 in that span. Can we beat an 11-man team for a full 90 minutes on the road? Assuming nobody gets tossed, we’ll find out next Sunday in Columbus.

No surprise, we’ll do it while leaning heavily on our bench. Both Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman will be gone for national team duty.5 I guess that means either Ben Zemanski or Amobi Okugo plays at CDM, while Darren Mattocks or Jack Barmby plays at left winger. Unless Sebastian Blanco flips to the left and Dairon Asprilla plays on the right. Or something else entirely. My point is, we’ll see some bench guys.

And we’ll see some bench guys in the back, too, though that’s nothing new. Will Liam Ridgewell and Vytautus Andriuskevicius6 be back from injury? Unknown. Will Marco Farfan be back from illness?7 Unknown. But our back line subs continue to show remarkable competence, which I think is awfully nice of them, wouldn’t you agree?

No MLS teams went 4-0-0 in 2016. Or in 2015. Or 2014. The last team to pull it off was Montreal in 2013. Can the Timbers do it this year? Yes. Will they? Dunno. But there’s this.

Numbers don’t lie, people. Numbers don’t lie.

  1. Insert ass-kicking joke here. Don’t forget, folks, you don’t have to click on these footnotes to see my stupid jokes. Just float your cursor above the number and the stupid joke will miraculously appear. And it is a miracle, by the way. I previously thought it was magic, but no, it’s a miracle. I checked. 

  2. Tell them I put you up to it. 

  3. By the way, what’s the record for most yellow cards given in a five minute period? Because Alan Chapman gave out four between 34′ and 39′. I think he was taking the new “visible protest” point of emphasis out for a test drive. 

  4. I’m still all-in on Valeri’s new nickname, by the way. Let’s make this happen, folks. I mean, we’ve already got a flag! 

  5. Can I tell you how glad I am that Jurgen Klinsmann’s been fired? Fuck that dude. Seriously. Fuck. That. Dude. 

  6. You’re goddamn right I spelled that without looking it up. I’m a muthafuckin’ NINJA! 

  7. I know we’ve been told he missed the Houston game with ‘the stomach flu,’ but I’d rather imagine that after making his MLS debut last weekend, Marco went back to high school on Monday and promptly caught mono. You know, ‘the kissing disease.’ Wink wink, nudge nudge. 

28 Comments Six Degrees: Convincing

  1. John Lawes

    I normally don’t have a strong feeling for the Timbers’ broadcast team – if anything, it’s that they’re fairly adequate noisemakers, anyway – but I thought Strong was ridiculous on the PKs. I thought both were horrible. I thought that Chapman was awful all match, but those are both huge game-changers and he got both of them as wrong as possible.

    As is becoming a thing, Chris Rifer has a good analysis of the adjustments Porter made at halftime in his “Timber Cruse” column. IMO what was huge was settling Powell down; he had a epically bad first half but pulled things together in the second, which in my experience is unusual for him; typically when he’s having one of his off nights he just gets worse. Dunno what Porter said to him, or to the team, but it sure helped.

    The one thing I saw that was a trifle worrisome was the lack of Portland subs late in the match. I wonder if that was Porter feeling confident in his starters’ ability to see out the match, or a LACK of confidence in his bench? Is an almost-gassed Diego Valeri a better option than a fresh Darren Mattocks? Hmmm…

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      apparently, it’s the first time the MLS Timbers have used zero subs. I have to believe it was intentional, but for what reason? Probably not out of fear of using bench players. More likely psychological, I would bet. To show the starters how deep they can dig, perhaps. All theories, of course.

      1. John Lawes

        That was my friend Brent’s assessment; “Porter’s forcing the guys to close out the match.” Dangerous, IMO, but it worked, and you can’t really argue with “it worked”…

    2. Timber Dave

      Over on Stumptown Footy there’s a bit of Porter’s reasoning. BarmyTarmy said in the comments about the lack of subs, “Post-game on the radio, [Porter] made some comment about trying to get guys to work through some things and not let up when dominating, which I sort of think that was what he had in mind by not disrupting the flow.”

      1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

        ‘How to motivate athletes’ really is a fascinating psychological question. I wonder if this ‘play everyone the full 90’ is something we’ll see again or if it’s effective after only one use. Very interesting all around.

        1. John Lawes

          Situational, I think. If the team is legitimately gassed it would be a real risk. The ability to sort out “tired but still with something left in the tank if properly motivated” from “running on fumes” is critical.

  2. Emmett Ray

    Nicely done C.I.! I laughed out loud a couple of times while reading this. See what a great start to the season does for one’s overall mood? Keep up the good work.

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      Thanks for the kind words. I agree that winning makes for light work. I’m eager to write words these days. But trust me, there will be one or two bad losses this year, after which I will write something along the lines of, “I don’t want to write this column, you don’t want to read it, so let’s just keep this short, eh?” I have one or two of those every year.

      1. Timber Dave

        So…. you’re predicting 32-33 total wins+draws?

        More seriously, I’ll echo Emmett’s comment: Thanks for the write-up. I too LLOLed (literally laughed out loud) once or twice.

  3. Timber Dave

    The second half of this game was the best half by any Timbers team ever. We controlled, we exchanged, we consistently won balls, we recovered fast when Columbus got the ball. Valeri was magic, Nagbe played aggressively and did totally Nagbe things, Blanco was amazing, Guzmán defended AND appeared in the box at the right instant AND dribbled the keeper, Adi was Adi, Valentin attacked AND defended well. We shot, lots. We scored, and scored, and scored. Man that was beautiful. Mor pleez.

    About next week: Will Columbus be missing anyone? I know they have no one called up for USMNT duty, but what about other countries? As for us, I think we’ll see Mattocks starting, ’cause Caleb likes him lately, and Asprilla subbing in late for either Mattocks or Blanco, or Barmby-plus-Asprilla for both. And at second d-mid it’ll be… ummm… Zemanski, ’cause Caleb likes him too? Or will Okugo finally get a shot? Or will we go to a one-dmid setup? The latter seems unlikely, since the Chará-Guzmán push-pull system has been working so well. But as you say, who knows.

    1. burnsbabe

      It was a great half. But I’m having a hard time calling it better than the 5-2 win vs LA in LA. We were down coming back out onto the field then too. Still, definitely the best 45′ we’ve played in ages.

      1. Timber Dave

        Yeah I thought about that one, but I think this second half actually had better play, despite scoring “only” three goals. The LA game had more import, because it was LA and it was for immediate playoff placement, and the intensity was sky-high both games, but I thought our passing and movement was better this weekend.

        Could well be recency bias though.

        1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

          I’m not ready to pick a ‘best game ever,’ but I will say that the LA game was much more surprising. This week’s win over Houston was an excellent win by an excellent team. The LA win was a freak show. I mean, NOBODY saw that coming, which gives it a few extra cool points.

  4. siriharding

    The new “TImbers Remix” video on the Timbers site has great slow-mo shots for a lot of your points–shows how Derek tripped up Valeri to warrant his mean face, makes it pretty clear that Nagbe’s swipe to Guzman was indeed deliberate, spotlights some really sweet moves my Guzman in making his goal, and showcases the fancy footwork of Adi’s that you mention. Definitely worth checking out!

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      Love it! Though at first I was like, “Cool, a song we can sing for Valeri! We should let the Army know!” Only to discover the song has no words. So, clearly we all need to bring electric guitars to the game so we can play it for him. I’m sure no one will mind.

      1. Silent Queue

        Yeah, it’s more a theme song and it doesn’t work as an ode, though I wonder if some creative type(s) could come up with words to fit the tune, adding, of course the shouted “El Rey!” at the ends of the stanzas (if I’m using that term correctly).

        1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

          Yeah, I like the nickname El Maestro a lot, but I started liking it less when I discovered other fanbases were using it for their guys, too. Mauro Diaz was getting it, I’m pretty sure. Possibly Javi Morales when he was at RSL. So I started thinking, “eh, it’s a good nickname, but maybe too common? Maybe we should try something new?” And then on opening day I saw that gigantic El Rey flag someone made and I was hooked.

        2. John Lawes

          “Troesma” is apparently an Argentine thing, and has been used for DV8 before (and, I should add, he commented that he genuinely appreciated the appelation…).

        3. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

          All these are outstanding arguments for “Troesma,” but there’s this one big problem: I can never remember it. Seriously. NEVER. Even when I think, “Oh, yeah, what that’s word? The word? It’s like Maestro, but all weird? What is it?” I have literally never succeeded in remembering that nickname. Very frustrating. So, you know, maybe if I get it tattooed on my hand or something, then we can start going with that one. And even then I’ll probably forget it.

    2. Silent Queue

      Or, realizing I may be reaching a bit, we could try using ‘DV8’ outright, to the tune of the end of Rush’s “Vital Signs”. I can imagine how beautiful it would sound with the Army singing after a Valeri goal or as he comes off the pitch for a substitution:

      Everybody’s got to deviate from the norm.
      Everybody’s got to elevate from the norm.


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