Six Degrees: More Dropped Points, More Mixed Feelings

Saturday’s draw at Houston was eerily reminiscent of our April 29th draw at Dallas. In both games, we have to like the road draw against a good opponent. But also in both games, when the team’s so close to getting the full three points, we can’t help but rue what might have been.

1) Houston has one of the best home records in MLS, but the Timbers came damn close to giving them their first home L. We came out strong, right from the start, and in the 13th minute, Diego Valeri bagged the game’s opening goal.

That’s a lovely bank shot off the crossbar for Valeri, but the whole thing started with a wonderful cutback pass from Zarek Valentin.

Our right back situation is a tough nut to crack. I think Valentin’s our current starter in part because he’s more of a threat moving forward. Is that cutback pass to Valeri something Alvas Powell would do? Or would he take the ball to the endline, maybe try to skin his defender, and finally just loft a hopeful ball into the six-yard box? Valentin’s not perfect on the offensive end, but I wonder if he’s a little better.

But on the defensive end, I don’t think Alvas gets the credit he deserves as a 1v1 defender. Let’s fast forward to the game’s 80th minute and watch Houston’s second goal.

Does Alvas Powell go up and win that ball? I’m thinking he does.

I think Zarek and Alvas are neck-and-neck in the race for being first choice. Maybe it depends on the opponent, maybe it depends on who’s better in the locker room and on the training pitch, maybe it depends on Caleb Porter’s mood when he wakes up on game day.

Myself, I don’t have a horse in this race. I like them both and don’t think one’s significantly better than the other. I do wonder, though, if Alvas might ask for a trade somewhere down the line. He’s a national team player, after all. If he can’t start here, he might ask to be sent somewhere else.

2) Okay, let’s rewind again. It’s the first half, the Timbers are up 1-0, and in goal, Jake Gleeson‘s about to do something sketchy.

I think I want to see a two-stick that reads “Live by the Jake, die by the Jake.” Or maybe “Jake giveth, and Jake taketh away.”

How many goals did Jake save Saturday? Two? Three? And then he gives Houston this one by missing a punch he probably shouldn’t have attempted in the first place.

I like Jake, I really do. But is he a top 10 keeper in MLS? No.

A 50th percentile keeper? Erm… maybe?

Jake’s hella good at shot-stopping, on that there is no doubt. But would I feel a little better with Adam Kwarasey back there? Maybe. Will we see someone new in goal next year? I have no idea. I just know that this conversation isn’t over. The rest of this season, game after game, we’ll continue to see the best of Jake and the worst of Jake, and I’ll continue to wonder if he’ll be back in 2018.

3) Fortunately, we only had to wait about five minutes for Sebastian Blanco to get the Timbers back on top.

That’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I know Blanco can’t get a secondary assist on his own goal, but that’s a shame, because he deserves one. As it is, the red-hot Blanco’s up to four goals and three assists in his last nine games.

This is a lovely bit of give-and-goal between the two Argentines, but it’s worth noting that there’s a Nigerian involved, too. Did anybody else hold their breath, praying that Fanendo Adi wouldn’t get called for a goal-negating foul there?

4) Speaking of goal-negating fouls, let’s talk about Portland’s third goal, the goal that never was. I watched the game at a bar and couldn’t hear the television, so I have no idea what the commentators were saying, but it was quite the scene to watch.

Let’s pick it up just after the ball’s been headed toward a clearly offside Adi.

I love so much about this. I love Adi holding back because he knows he can’t touch it. I love Diego Chara also seeing the situation and racing forward, trying to beat the keeper to the ball. I love Adi’s final shot into goal, of course. And, forgive me, but I love the ref putting a shaving-cream force field down on the grass, then retreating into the corner for a pow wow.

The final decision? No goal, thanks to Adi interfering with the center back while he was in an offside position.

I was pissed at the time, but yeah, that’s a good call. When you’re offside, you can’t influence the play. Adi walling off the CB is definitely influencing the play.

Anyway, that’s one goal negated by Adi’s shenanigans. If he’d also been called for taking down the defender on Blanco’s goal? Ouch. Keep it clean, Fanendo. Keep it clean.

5) Some random notes.

  • Did anyone notice that David Guzman got his braces removed? Looking sharp, Gooz!
  • I’m just about sold on Larrys Mabiala. I saw some excellent 1v1 work Saturday, as well as a goal-saving block. He does need to work on his headers, though.
  • You know who else needs to work on their headers? Jeremy Ebobisse and Roy Miller. Dang, fellas, you both had clear chances to win the game for us. Delivering in moments like that are the difference between one point and three. Get ’em on target.

6) Next up, the Los Angeles Galaxy and their brand new manager, Sigi Schmid. As much as we like to ridicule Sigi for his ability to win pie-eating contests, it must also be acknowledged that he knows how to win soccer games.

One problem Sigi has to solve? LA has the league’s worst home record while also having the league’s best road record. How is that even possible? Has this even been done before?

When the Galaxy arrive Sunday, trying to get another road point at our expense, they’ll have added a second Dos Santos to their roster. Jona will be joining his brother Gio, which raises the important question, if you have two guys named Dos Santos, do you then have Cuatro Santos? If there are any mathematicians reading this, please let us know how to proceed.

As overflowing as the Galaxy are with Santoses, they’ll be severely lacking in Van Dammes, since center back and team captain Jelle Van Damme got his bi-monthly red card last week. I’m actually a little disappointed by this, since I was hoping he’d get his red card against us. Maybe Jermaine Jones can fill that role in his absence.

Speaking of red cards, did you know this will be our first game using the Video Assistant Referee? Yep, it’s official. MLS is getting video replay. I found this five-video series to be very enlightening. Keep in mind, though, it’s almost guaranteed there will be some missteps here at the beginning. Hopefully not too many, and hopefully all of them benefiting the Timbers.