Six Degrees: Both Good and Bad

I’m not sure if Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City was good or bad. No matter which angle I look at it, I see a little of both. In fact, let’s run with that gimmick. Instead of six degrees, let’s have six goods and bads.

1) The bad: yet again, the Timbers gave up a lead. How many is that for the season? A hundred? A thousand?

Even worse, we did it while playing a team missing some very key players. No Dom Dwyer. No Graham Zusi. No Nick Besler. We may never again face SKC when they’re this shorthanded. How could we not get the win?

The good: we were missing some key players, too. Diego Chara, he’s pretty important. David Guzman, too. And I’m pretty sure Roy Miller and Lawrence Olum entered the season as our 3rd and 4th string center backs. And remember how Darlington Nagbe was gonna play left winger this year? That ain’t happening. Sebastian Blanco was our left winger on Saturday, Dairon Asprilla was our right winger, and Nags was our #8. So basically, when it comes to the Timbers, take all your preseason position charts and throw them into the garbage.

So our lineup was a mess, we were playing on the road, and it was against the top team in the Western Conference.

As this sage tweeter put it…

2) The bad: Diego Valeri should’ve hit his PK.

Penalty shots down the middle are awesome. Until they’re not.

Speaking of the penalty, I’ve heard some talk that Fanendo Adi dove. I’m not sure I agree.

The thing that impresses me most here is Tim Melia’s reaction. He doesn’t pop up and begin freaking out to the ref. “He dove, he dove, he dove!” There’s none of that. My lip-reading skills aren’t great, but it looks more like he’s saying, “That’s so tough.” Whatever he’s saying, there’s no real freak out. No outrage.

All that aside, great run from Adi, great pass from Valeri.

Speaking of Valeri.

The good: Valeri’s PK is forgiven, because in the 26th minute, he gave us this thing of beauty.

Funny thing is, right before he hit that, I was thinking how Valeri had been a little silent and I wanted him to start influencing the game.

Clearly, I can control Valeri’s actions with my mind. Do not fear my powers. Rest easy, knowing I use them only for good.

3) The bad: Olum should’ve scored this header.

The good: SKC missed one, too. And Ike Opara’s chance was actually a little better, if you ask me.

The lesson here? If you’re a tall, black center back with a shaved head and a name that begins with O, Saturday wasn’t your day to shine.

4) The bad: Nagbe was astonishingly passive with his passes. Backwards, sideways, backwards, sideways, all day long. Safe, yes. A bit frustrating, yes.

You can see a few forward passes here, and even one leading to a shot, but watching the game live, I was struck mostly by how often Nags stopped the team’s forward movement, turned around, and sent the ball backwards.

The good: That red line above? That’s an incomplete pass. And, according to Mike Donovan, that may be a mistake. It may not have actually happened.

With that in mind, I think I’ll shut up about backward passes and just appreciate Nagbe for the world-class possession machine that he is.

5) Let’s start with the good this time.

The good: if you have to give up a goal, make it a beauty. And this SKC goal really was a beauty.

Look at that pass. Gorgeous. Perfectly timed, perfectly located. Even better, look at Daniel Salloi’s first touch, then his quick shot past Jake Gleeson. Absolutely beautiful. If we had to give up a goal, at least it wasn’t a howler.

The bad: on the other hand, did Alvas Powell blow this? That’s a genuine question, because I’m not sure.

My first thought is that Alvas should have stepped forward, instead of following Salloi’s run, but I’m not 100% convinced that he would have put Salloi offside.

The main mistake I see how Alvas tracked the flight of the ball. He took a bad angle and made a premature leap. From there, it was all Salloi.

But maybe I’m wrong. How badly did Alvas blow this?

UPDATE:  Caleb Porter has spoken!  Alvas blew it!

6) And the final good: somehow, the Timbers are still tied for third in the Western Conference. In our last 11 games, we have a PPG of 0.91, which is objectively horrible, and yet our overall PPG is 1.37, which is eight points better than our PPG last year. It would’ve snuck us into the playoffs last year and it would probably do so again this year.

The Western Conference has taken a real dive this year. After being the strongest conference for what seems forever, we’re now looking up at all those juggernauts back east.

The final bad: speaking of juggernauts, on Wednesday we’ll be playing the juggernautiest team in the entire league. After finishing dead last in 2016 and 2015, the Chicago Fire have gone absolutely thermonuclear this year.

In their last 10 games, they’re 8-0-2. That’s a PPG of 2.6. Overall, they’re 11-3-4, which is a PPG of 2.06.

This past weekend, they beat Vancouver 4-0, and they did it without Dax McCarty and David Accam.

There’s a good chance they’ll still be without McCarty and Accam on Wednesday. It’s also possible Bastian Schweinsteiger has an injured hip.

But even with injuries and even with absences, they’re still the hottest team in the league, and we’re still being held together with chewing gum and baling wire.

Let’s hope my next column has a few less bads and a lot more goods.