For the first 57 minutes of Sunday’s game, the Timbers showed they could hold their own against the best team in the league. Then, in the final 33 minutes, they showed they’ve got a LOOOOOONG way to go.
1) When you play the league’s best team, you know it’s going to be hard. But on the road? Playing without your best striker and your best center back? Even harder. And yet, despite all this, at the 57 minute mark Saturday, things looked pretty good.
The defense wasn’t great, but they weren’t awful, either. Jake Gleeson had given us an outstanding save in the 3rd minute. Vytautus Andriuskevicius had given us an outstanding tackle in the 21st.
Likewise, the offense wasn’t great, but not awful, either. They’d been maintaining possession, threating a little, keeping the Toronto D honest.
So there I was in the 57th minute, seriously thinking we might come home with a 0-0 draw. An incredibly impressive 0-0 draw.
2) But then, in the 58th minute, Justin Morrow popped our bubble.
What the hell is Alvas Powell doing here? Look at him. I think he’s going in for the header, but then he doesn’t head it. He chests it. Or, he tries to, I guess. In truth, all he really does is lay the ball out for Morrow to run onto. If Zarek Valentin‘s starting at right back in our next game, this play may be the reason why.
Also worth noting, Darlington Nagbe was marking Morrow on that play. Or not marking him, in this case. I doubt Zarek Valentin’s taking his spot next week, but I imagine Nags will be getting chewed out in the film room. I hope so, at least.
3) But as annoying as this goal was, the team didn’t immediately fall apart. In fact, our best chance of the game was still ahead of us. Check out the Expected Goals map.
Look at that big white circle in front of goal! Surely, that got turned into a goal, right?
Ouch. That’s some ugly stuff, and I’m thinking maybe this is why Lawrence Olum ended up a defender and not a striker.
If Olum sinks that, it’s a 1-1 game and who knows what sort of column I’d be writing today. But he didn’t sink it and things went astonishingly downhill from there.
How bad did it get? I showed you the xG map above. Now look at the xG timeline.
Look at those first 57 minutes. Very respectable. And then, boom, boom, BOOM goes the dynamite.
I’ll give the Timbers credit, when they fold, they really fold.
4) This next 15 minutes is pretty gruesome, so I’ll understand if you just want to skip ahead. I’ll try to keep it brief.
Who’s covering that guy? Alvas Powell? Larrys Mabiala? Me?
I see a lot of dudes standing around and watching. I’ll credit Mabiala here. He looks clumsy and out of control, but at least he’s got some life in him.
Again, Mabiala’s clumsy and out of control, but again, at least he’s trying. He’s better than Vytas and Olum, who let Delgado run right in between them, straight onto that loose ball.
Guys, this is awful. The Timbers completely folded. In our 4-1 home loss to RSL on July 19th, at least we could blame a pair of red cards. What do we blame in this game? To quote Pablo Mastroeni, I think this one may come down to the human spirit. Or the lack thereof.
5) On the defensive end, I’ve already ripped Powell and Olum. I’ve had a bit of scorn for Vytas. And I’ve called Mabiala willing, though clumsy and out of control.
How were things on the other end of the field? Well, to my eyes, Darlington Nagbe was a bit of a no-show, though you might be able to talk me out of that.
I don’t think anyone will be defending Darren Mattocks, though. Holy crap, did that guy take a starting opportunity and do the absolute least with it. If he gets any more starts this year, I’ll be very upset.
Instead, we should be giving starts to Jeremy Ebobisse, who fits our offense much better than Mattocks, as he showed on this 90th minute goal by Diego Valeri.
I’m fascinated by Ebobisse’s movement on this goal. When he passes to Valeri, instead of drifting along with him, giving Valeri a potential outlet, Ebobisse instead dashes straight across Valeri’s path, briefly gumming things up, but then dragging defenders away and giving El Rey a clear path to goal. Really, really interesting. No way does Mattocks do that. I’m not even sure Fanendo Adi does it.
We need a lot less of Mattocks and a lot more of Ebobisse moving forward. We need to see what the kid brings to the table.
As far as Valeri goes, we know very well what he brings to the table.
Fewest games to reach 50+ goals and 50+ assists in MLS history-
Landon Donovan 136
Jaime Moreno 138
Diego Valeri 139 #rctid
— Mike Donovan (@TheMikeDonovan) August 14, 2017
6) Friday night, we play host to the Red Bulls of New York. They’re not as good as Toronto, but still good.
We’ll have Roy Miller back from red card suspension. From what I’m hearing, we’ll probably have Adi back from injury. I’m less sure about Gleeson, and even less sure about Liam Ridgewell.
Injuries aside, did any healthy players lose their starting spot this week? I’m predicting we’ll see Valentin at right back, but is Caleb Porter angry enough to bench anyone farther up the field?
If Adi’s still a tiny bit banged up, do we see Ebobisse start and Adi sub in? I know Adi’s been in a goal-scoring slump lately, but if he bangs in a pair against New York, I imagine there will be much forgiveness in Timberdom.
And if the Timbers win big, will they find forgiveness, as well? Will a 3-0 win over New York have us forgetting what we saw in Toronto?
I hope we get to find out.