Six Degrees: The Kid Is Alright

On Wednesday, the Timbers sent out a short-handed side to face a bottom-of-the-table team in front of a friendly home crowd, and got dusted, 4-1. Four days later, they sent out a short-handed side to face a playoff-caliber team on the road, and won, 2-1.

If any of you ever figure out how sports works, please let me know.

1) Coming into Sunday’s game, rookie Jeremy Ebobisse had played in only three games. Seven minutes in the first, one minute in another, and 18 mop-up minutes in Wednesday’s big loss to RSL. But with starting forward Fanendo Adi suspended due to anger management issues, and his backup Darren Mattocks off breaking Mexican hearts in the Gold Cup, the Timbers didn’t just need Ebobisse to play against Vancouver, they needed him to play well.

He did exactly that.

This is a lovely poacher’s goal, but poaching and opportunism aren’t the only skills Ebobisse showed us on Sunday. He also showed that, while his hold up work isn’t as good as Adi’s – whose is? – he at least has it in his tool box. And his ability/eagerness to make quick runs through a back line’s gaps might actually be better than Adi’s.

Seeing all this gets me a little excited, wondering if the two of them can work together and give defenses two different problems to solve.

Something else that got me excited…

2) …is how calm and composed he looked on this back heel assist to Sebastian Blanco.

Does Ebobisse look overwhelmed here? Is the game moving too fast for him? Is there panic in his eyes?

No, no, and no. This is an absolutely veteran play by a guy who came into the game with 26 professional minutes and came out of it looking like he’s got a helluva future in this league.

Also worth nothing, this is a wonderful run by Blanco, followed by an even better finish. That shot was so well placed, David Ousted didn’t even bother diving.

I hope I don’t jinx things by saying it out loud, but Blanco may be figuring out the league. He’s currently on pace for six goals and eight assists, which isn’t bad at all. But, even better, in his last eight games, he’s got three goals and three assists. Stretch that out over a full season and his numbers would be 12 and 12.

Dare we hope for that in 2018?

3) But offense aside, if you want to win on the road with an under-manned side, a rookie striker, and a mish-mash of depth pieces on the back line, your goalkeeper’s probably gonna have to stand on his head a couple times.

Jake Gleeson‘s didn’t have a perfect game, but he did save us a few times.

That’s at least a goal or two saved, right there.

But as always with Jake, there’s good and there’s bad. He almost gave up a goal on this play, only to be saved by Lawrence Olum, who looked as cool as the other side of the pillow while clearing this ball off the line.

Jake’s screwed up a couple times this year, charging out of goal, only to get chipped. It almost happened again here. Would he have been better served staying back? I honestly can’t decide. Keeper is a tough position, requiring split-second decisions. I’m just glad Olum was there to save Jake’s bacon.

4) Olum’s center back partner was Larrys Mabiala, who made his second start for the Timbers. After 180 minutes of watching Mabiala, I’m pretty sure I like the guy. He seems mostly solid. We lost his first game badly, but it’s hard to blame the guy too much since he started the game partnering with Roy Miller and ended it partnering with Olum.

Sunday in Vancouver, it was Olum the whole 90 and things looked better. Mabiala looked like a decent organizer, a decent 1v1 defender, and a decent presence in the air. He beats Tim Parker like a drum on this header.

Sadly, like Jake Gleeson in goal, Mabiala stubbornly refused to be perfect. Tim Parker returned the drum-beating on Vancouver’s only goal. That’s him breaking away from Larrys and getting his head on the ball that was eventually tapped into goal.

Assuming he stays healthy – and that’s a huge assumption – we’ve got 12 more games to decide if Mabiala can be our starting center back moving forward. For the moment, I’m hopeful.

Oh, one last thing on Larrys: he’s French. I thought he was Congolese, since that’s the national team he plays for, but he was actually born in France, raised in France, and played for the French U-21 team. Really, he’s a lot like Adam Kwarasey, who was as Norwegian as pickled herring, but could play internationally for Ghana thanks to immigrant parents. None of this is super-important, I suppose, I just find it interesting. And it means I’ll henceforth be be pronouncing Larrys with an outrageous French accent.

5) Some random thoughts.

  • Diego Valeri had an interesting game Sunday. No goals, no assists, but plenty of possession and influence. At times, I wondered if he was filling the Darlington Nagbe role. You know, just keeping the ball moving. It was a subtle and interesting look which I may be completely misinterpreting.
  • Dairon Asprilla, on the other hand, was doing all the classic Dairon Asprilla things, in both the best and worst ways. He had some blistering attacks from the right flank, while also bringing the ball to a screeching halt with indecision and/or step-overs.
  • Welcome back, Diego Chara. Please never get hurt again.
  • Welcome to the bigs, Harold Hanson. You’re built like a brick house. That’s pretty much all I could glean from your one-minute shift on Sunday.
  • Welcome to the team, Bill Tuiloma.  I’m honestly so damaged by our team’s injury history, that my main hope for you is that your body’s made of steel or carbon fiber or something so tough that not even the Timbers bad luck can break it.

6) Saturday, we travel to Houston, Texas. The game will be at 8 p.m. Texas time, but I imagine the temperature will still be around 130. Fortunately, it’s so humid the team will be able to drink the air.

As you can see, Houston’s PPG is only a little better than ours, which is encouraging. Less encouraging is their home record, which is nearly flawless. Even less encouraging is the fact that they’ll be fielding pretty much a first-choice lineup, something we haven’t done this entire year.

We will, however, be getting David Guzman back from the Gold Cup. So that’s nice.

Darlington Nagbe, Alvas Powell, and Darren Mattocks, though? They could be in the 18, but it’s hard to predict whether they’ll see action, considering they’re all playing for the Gold Cup championship Wednesday night in San Francisco.

Will either Vytautas Andriuskevicius or Marco Farfan return to claim the left back spot?

Did Dairon Asprilla wreck his ankle in the closing minutes of yesterday’s win?

And this biggest, most fascinating question: is there any chance in hell that Jeremy Ebobisse gets the start over Fanendo Adi?

Can you imagine it? Now that would be a message sent. That would be a jaw-dropper.

I don’t think Caleb Porter’s got the guts to do it, but dang, I kinda hope he does. Not because I hate Adi or anything, but just because it would be such a monumental wake-up call to the entire team. It would be Porter telling his players, You know what, guys? You’ve been a mess for about three months now. The kid came in on Sunday, did everything I wanted him to do, and we won. That sort of play should be rewarded. Kid, you’re getting the start.

I don’t think it will actually happen, but dang, it’ll be fun to think about and argue about for the next five days.

19 Comments Six Degrees: The Kid Is Alright

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      That’s actually how I’ve decided to pronounce it, only with more frenchiness and perhaps a mustache twirl.

  1. James Bondo

    I can’t believe that I can’t figure this out, but…
    I want to make a gif of Robinson pulling Asprilla away from the pitch at game time 88:00.
    I have MLS Live, but I have no idea how to make pretty gifs like you.
    Can you point me towards a tutorial or program to help? My Google Fu failed on this.


    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      This is what I use. Just enter the web address into the box and you’ll be off and running. It works with both YouTube videos and videos, so I’ll bet it works for most online videos. You can also load in files you’ve downloaded, like mpegs or avi or whatever. I made a 10 second Bad News Bears gif from the full two hour movie.

      Make sure you let us see the finished product.

        1. N

          Thanks. When I saw that during the game I had assumed Robinson was attempting to help asprilla stand up, but it does look like he is just making sure he Asprilla doesn’t roll back onto the field. Seems a bit in coach like that.

        2. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

          Now we need a gif of Diego Valeri almost starting a fight last year by trying to pull a player off the field. Remember that? It was so awesome. I love Crazy Valeri.

  2. fdchief218

    So…in the epic film cycle that will be made from the 2017 season this appears to suggest that last Wednesday was the “hero’s nadir”, the part where the Timbers lose their hand and discover to their horror that their father isn’t dead but is Sigi Schmidt, and that this one is the part where they get rescued off the upside-down TV antenna thingie to begin their redemption as the Return of the playoff Jedi?

    Because if so I suggest Nat Borchers as Ghost Obi-Wan.

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      Wow, this is complicated. At some point, Vader’s gonna have to toss the Emperor to his death, but I’m not sure who is Vader and who is the Emperor. And will that happen in our final game (against Vancouver)? Or will the final game be more like the party with the Ewoks? If so, the penultimate game (vs DC) is when the Emperor has to die. If it were in DC, obviously the Emperor would be Trump, but since it’ll be a home game, things get tricky.

      Okay, I’ve got it. The final game is the Ewok party. The DC game is when Luke takes off Vader’s mask. The San Jose road game is Vader killing the Emperor, and obviously Vader is Wondo, and the Emperor is Steven Lenhart, who’s just there to watch the game. Wondo kills Lennie, finally earning the redemption he’s long deserved. The Timbers clinch the Supporter’s Shield and the last two games are the denouement.

      Wow, I put WAY too much thought into this.

      1. John Lawes

        I like to think that Vader was once Alan Gordon; Hero of the USL Republic gone over to the Dark Side…but deep in his heart…

        “Darth Vader is one of us,
        One of us, one of us.
        Dath Vader is one of us,
        He’s a Timber!”

  3. fdchief218

    Kidding aside, I liked the change in the attack I saw without a single holdup forward. Now…I’m not saying the team looked BETTER without Adi. But, damn, I liked the faster movement and the energy. I liked that a lot. Now if that could continue with Adi on the pitch…

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      I’ve been racking my brain trying to think how Caleb could play them both at the same time. A 4-4-2 with Gooz and Chara in the middle and Valeri and Nagbe on the wings? A 4-4-2 diamond with Valeri at the point of the diamond, Nags and Gooz on the sides, and Chara in the back? A 4-3-3 with Valeri and Ebobisse as wings? Or Nagbe and Ebobisse as wings? No matter what, it’s benching Blanco and Asprilla.

      1. Timber Dave

        Yah. We have five really good midfielders, and benching any of them seems like a crime.

        Maybe Ebobisse could routinely sub in for Adi and get 30-minute stints. You know, if Porter were to make subs at minute 60 like most coaches everywhere. Ebo’s got a different playing style from Adi, and it would be good to unleash some variety in our attack.

        I hope the current hype on Ebo isn’t misplaced. He played really well… in one game, when Vancouver had very little video of him, and when Vancouver may have been lulled into a false sense of security by our eleventy-seven absent starters. If he’s like any other player, he’ll progress by fits and starts and we’ll get frustrated with him sometimes. But hopefully he DOES keep progressing and become a top-notch player.

  4. Timber Dave

    P.S. Any Thorns write-up coming, John? You usually have interesting things to say! Or is beating Washington these days not interesting enough? Even with a come-from-behind win?

    1. John Lawes

      Up now. Took me a while to get that one; nothing dramatic, just Life getting in the way.

      And it WAS an interesting match, if for no other reason because how much it showed me about the effect of preconception.

      I went to the game figuring that it would be, if not a stroll, at least a solid Thorns win. Hell, Washington is licking the wooden spoon and has been a tire fire as often as not this season. So when the Thorns seemed to have fallen back into their “how do you do this “scoring” thing we’ve heard about” ways I was frustrated – it seemed that they were letting this meh Spirit squad hang around way too long instead of taking them out behind Hot Lips Pizza and putting a bullet in them and were, instead, at risk of giving up a random goal.

      And then they DID give up a goal…

      But watching the tape slowly over two nights I realized that Washington had played a damn good match, actually – better than PTFC for large stretches of it, too – and that instead the home side had only played just well enough and needed help from some truly awful comedy defending from Washington.

      But it’s up there. Enjoy.


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