Six Degrees: Digging Our Grave?

SKC Photo - Sporting Kansas City

Two straight six-point games, two straight losses. If we miss the playoffs, these last two games may be the reason.

1) Coming into the game, one of the big talking points was how we’d be without our center backs Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. With those two injured, we sent out Jermaine Taylor and Amobi Okugo, and considering it was their first time playing together, I thought they played pretty well. In fact, Okugo played well enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if he passes Taylor on the depth chart before the season’s over.

Yes, Okugo’s to blame for the SKC goal, but honestly, it’s hard to blame the guy too much. I’ve seen crappy set piece defending before, and this wasn’t that bad.

What should Okugo have done differently? Perhaps not commit so hard to that near post? That’s what delayed him shifting his weight back toward the ball. But let’s be honest, he was right there. If his head’s six inches farther to the left, maybe 12 inches, that’s not a goal.

Like I said, I’ve seen the Timbers give up pathetic set piece goals. This was not one of those.

2) All that being said, we still made Jake Gleeson do Jake Gleeson stuff more than a few times.

Here’s another look at that second save, just so you’ll appreciate it fully.

Currently, Portland’s goal differential for the season is -1. Without Jake Gleeson, I’m pretty sure it would be -74. That boy can stop some shots. Imagine what he’d do with a consistent back four in front of him. And a team that can score goals.

3) Speaking of goals, in our last six games, we’ve scored a total of five goals. Three of those were against Seattle. In the other five games, we scored 0, 0, 1, 1, and 0. You computer programmers will recognize that as binary code for, What the fuck happened to our offense?

Just as in past games, we had some lovely counterattacks, but none of them produced goals.

Just as in past games, Lucas Melano did just enough to excite us, but not enough to put the ball in the net.

Just as in past games, Darlington Nagbe looked fabulous handling the ball, maintaining possession, and relieving pressure, but when it came time to shoot, he wouldn’t put his foot through the friggin’ ball.

Just as in past games, when the opposition got the opening goal, they sat back and dared us to break them down. We couldn’t.

I wonder if perhaps it’s time to try something different. Maybe we should start Jack McInerney and bring Adi off the bench? Maybe quit with the 4-2-3-1 double pivot, benching Ben Zemanski in favor of a winger? Jack Barmby, perhaps? A hopefully-healthy Darren Mattocks?

A few games ago, I might have called our scoring troubles bad luck, but after enough games, I’m not sure it’s bad luck. I think maybe it’s bad offense. I think it’s time for some changes. Something, anything, to shake things up.

4) But in Fanendo Adi‘s defense, dear sweet baby Jesus, what’s that dude gotta do to get a foul call? Adi gets hammered each and every game. Grabbing, hooking, pushing, shirt-pulling, it’s pretty much non-stop. And why should the defense stop? The ref’s not going to call it.

Remember last week when I said how much I hate SKC and their ugly play? Here’s the call that infuriated me most on Sunday.

Look at that crap. Benny Feilheiber intentionally jumps into the path of an onrushing Adi, intentionally gets run over, then starts crying to the ref, who proceeds to book Adi. It was a travesty and exactly what I’ve come to expect from both SKC and the referees.

And before you start telling me about Adi twice opening up a gash in Ike Opara’s chin, I gotta tell you, there’s nothing there. I’ve seen players intentionally elbow people. Hell, I saw Dairon Asprilla do it earlier this year. Fanendo Adi wasn’t doing that. He wasn’t playing dirty or even reckless. He was just playing soccer. Call me a homer if you want, explain to me all the ways I’m wrong, but when you do, also explain to me exactly how much abuse Adi has to endure before he gets a foul call.

My advice to opposing teams: hit Adi early and often. Climb on his back and ride him to ground. The refs won’t call it.

My advice to Adi: keep your elbows sharpened. No one else is going to protect you.

5) Some player quick takes.

Zarek Valentin. You don’t strike me as the kind of guy who fakes injury. I’ve got a bad feeling about that knee of yours. The good news? You’ll have plenty of company in rehab.

Vytas Andriuskevicius. I like the cut of your jib. You tried some tricky passes and I like that. Keep up the good work, young man. Looks like you’ll be starting sooner rather than later.

Diego Valeri and Jack McInerney. Best pass of the day. Best shot of the day.

6) Depending on the team, the MLS season is currently between 20-24 games old. Some out there are suggesting the playoffs have already been decided. This guy used something called “math.”

In our 23 games, the Timbers have had 12 or 13 key players lost to injury. If it’s true the season’s decided and we’re below the red line for good, I find myself inclined to summarize the year with a single word.

In a single word, the story of 2013 was: relentlessness.

The story of 2014: offense.

The story of 2015: defense.

The story of 2016: injuries.

But maybe the season’s not done. Maybe there’s reason to be hopeful. After all, we were below the red line late last year, too. In fact, I seem to recall a late-season loss to SKC, after which everything turned around. Maybe Sunday’s loss will provide a similar springboard.