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.