Six Degrees: Demoralizing

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The Portland Timbers went to Houston this weekend and stumbled around drunkenly for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, the Portland Thorns went to New Jersey and won the Supporter’s Shield. At least we’ve got one good team to root for, right?

1) Just when the Timbers put together their first two-game winning streak of the year, just when I was starting to feel good about them, they pull a complete no-show on the road.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t a complete no-show. We looked good for the first ten minutes of each half. Running, passing, all the things you’d expect from a professional soccer team, the Timbers did ’em. So that’s encouraging.

The other 70 minutes, though? Utter crap. Blown out by a last place team. Three goals allowed to a team that can’t score goals. A hat trick allowed to some random guy no one’s heard of. And basically just looking like a USL side.

Getting walked over by a first place team, that happens. Getting walked over by a last place team, that’s unacceptable. If the Timbers truly are professionals, they’ll come out blazing next weekend in Colorado. But if they fail to show yet again? I’m not sure they deserve the playoffs.

2) What’s there to say about the three goals allowed? All of them were our fault. Alvas Powell‘s giveaway started the sequence leading to Liam Ridgewell‘s handball and Houston’s PK goal.

The second goal was from another Powell giveaway, but that was just the start. The real problem was the defense allowing two or three Houston players to set up house in front of our goal, unchallenged.

The third Houston goal was on a counter, a 1 v 1 chance where everyone sprung the offside trap except Steven Taylor.

Three ugly goals to a last place team. The Timbers do not have a playoff-quality defense. Not this week, at least. Next week? Who friggin’ knows?

3) I recently wrote about how right back Alvas Powell had become so reliable. How he’d become so steady, we could stop worrying about that side of the field. It looks like I was wrong, because Young Alvas turned in a real stinker Saturday. He missed passes all day, he was slow and timid on defense, and he was mostly missing in action on the offensive side of things.

Also MIA Saturday: Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi. It seems silly to call Valeri absent, since he was our lone goal scorer, but did he seem all that dangerous in the game’s other 89 minutes? No. And neither did Adi. Both looked tired and disinterested.

Darlington Nagbe was a bit better, but not by much. The only consistent offensive threat was Darren Mattocks, who was fabulous for the second straight week. He didn’t get an assist on Valeri’s goal, but should have.

Mattocks played like a guy trying to earn some playing time but his 90th minute hamstring pull means it may be awhile before we’re seeing more plays like this.

4) Things I’m not sold on: players named Taylor. It’s clear that Caleb Porter trusts Jermaine Taylor to fill in at multiple positions, but sorry, I’m just not seeing it. He seems like a nice enough fellow, but his play is MLS-average at best. Below-average at worst. And yet, when people get hurt – and since this is 2016, people will get hurt – it’s J Taylor who keeps getting thrown in there to muddle about for 90 minutes.

Steven Taylor, on the other hand, has been a starter pretty much since he got here and has done almost nothing to deserve it. We’ve heard about all that Premier League experience, but I’ve seen nothing to make me think he’s a better option than Taylor Peay or Amobi Okugo. Maybe it’s time to try one of them?

5) Speaking of Jermaine Taylor, he was stretchered off the field Saturday night. He was only in there because Vytas Andriuskevicius has broken ribs. So the first stringer’s down and the second stringer’s down. Zarek Valentin, you’re up! Get ready to break a metatarsal, buddy!

To be honest, I can live with Taylor going down. Anyone named Taylor, for that matter. But the night’s other injury was a lot more painful. Darren Mattocks has already had one hamstring injury this season. A second hammy pull might mean the end of his year. And that’s just as he was rounding into form.

At some point in the next few weeks, I’m going to have to pick a 2016 Six Degrees Player of the Year. At this point, I may just give it to whoever’s played the most games, because, honestly, not getting injured is the most impressive thing a Timber can do this year. This has definitely been The Year of Injuries.

6) Unless, of course, it’s The Year of Not Winning On the Road.

While it’s tempting to blame Caleb Porter for this team’s woeful road performance this season, it’s worth remembering that the Timbers were the best road team in the league last year. So last year Caleb was a genius of motivation and this year he’s a bum? It can’t be that simple.

Could it be all the injuries? Yeah, possibly. The international absences? Yeah, maybe that, too. And maybe a little bit of psychology? At this point, sure. If it wasn’t messing with the team’s head before, it’s got to be by now.

So what to do? Well, the international absences are over. The injuries, definitely not. The psychological baggage? That’s probably only getting fixed with a road win.

We’ve got two more chances – at Colorado this weekend, then at Vancouver the last weekend of the regular season. If we fail to win one of those, our year may be over. Or maybe we’ll sneak into the playoffs and immediately have a knockout game on the road.

I have no answers. I don’t even have predictions. Just like you, all I can do is wait and see. Maybe we’ll get this gigantic monkey off our back, maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll lose five more guys to injury, maybe we won’t. I can’t predict anything anymore.