Six Degrees: Losing Hope

DC Photo - Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports

This was a horrendously ugly game. I don’t want to write about it, you don’t want to read about it, so there’s a chance this could be my shortest column ever.

1) In summation, the Timbers sucked. Yes, I know it was hot. Yes, I know we’d traveled across the country. But whatever, we could have done better.

Missed passes, disappearing stars, more missed passes, defensive attempts gone awry, even more missed passes, loss of energy down the stretch, and, of course, missed passes. My number one takeaway was how sloppy we were with the ball. My number two takeaway was how dead we were by the end.

2) Especially bad was our defense. This was the worst game I’ve seen Liam Ridgewell play. Can we blame it on the bad calf? Perhaps. Maybe that explains how dead he was late in the game, but does it explain his awful giveaways?

His fellow center back, Jermaine Taylor was also bad, but at least Taylor played until the end. Ridgy was done after 60 minutes. I really think Coach should’ve pulled him and put Amobi Okugo in there. He and Taylor last week were a whole lot better than this crap.

Our stars were no better. Diego Valeri disappeared late. Fanendo Adi was hardly there from the start. And this month’s heartthrob, Vytas Andriuskevicius, for the first time looked less than stellar.

3) Did anyone look decent? I thought Darlington Nagbe deserves praise, if only for the defensive help he gave. Even late in the game, he was tracking back, covering for our dead defense, lending a hand to lone CDM Jack Jewsbury.

Speaking of Jewsbury, he showed up. He wasn’t amazing, but at least he played the full 90.

Jack Barmby gave us our only real burst of energy, looking great off the bench.

And to complete the Jack trifecta, Jack McInerney was our best offensive player. By a large margin.

4) In fact, let’s have three JackMac gifs, just to reward the only Timber I can think of who might deserve Man of the Match.

Here’s his shot in the first half. Look at the gorgeous pass from Nagbe. This was probably the highlight of the game. If Bill Hamid doesn’t get a foot on it, that’s a goal, we’re tied 1-1, and maybe this is a very different column. Damn Hamid and his foot.

JackMac also had this sweet little give-and-go with Valeri. He’s not a target forward, but this is the sort of close quarter passing target forwards will give you.

But then there’s this 2nd half shot, which to be honest, I think everyone would like to do over. Could Jack have slipped a pass to Adi? Could Adi’s movement have been better? Could we have spread ourselves out a little more, created some space to work? This entire sequence feels like a missed opportunity.

5) Well, I suppose at some point I have to talk about DC’s two goals. Each time, a Portland center back screwed up.

The first DC goal was preceded by a Ridgy giveaway. Then on the goal itself, it was Ridgy’s man who got free and put the final header into goal.

On the second DC goal, yes, that was a gorgeous chipped pass which may have been impossible to stop, but still, I think if Taylor doesn’t make that desperate lunge to head it away, maybe he can get back, maybe get in the guy’s way. I’m not sure. It was a hell of a pass.

6) Despite all my current frustration, I haven’t completely given up on the playoffs. There’s still a chance we sneak in.


Most of my hope is because the other teams around the red line are just as inept as us. Vancouver’s in free fall, San Jose is Team Mediocrity, and we just split a home and home with SKC. Mostly I think we can make the playoffs because none of our competitors want it any more than we do. Most years, it takes 50 points to get in. This year, maybe it takes less.

Sadly, there is one other team that is suddenly becoming a problem.

I was wrong last week when I said Seattle couldn’t catch us. They’ve got a new DP playmaker, they’re red hot, and we’re ice cold. So I’m changing my stance completely. Not only can Seattle catch us, they can pass us. And soon. They’re five points behind us and we’re playing twice in two weeks. If they win ’em both, it’s done. They’ve passed us.

In other words, we better figure things out in a hurry or we’re screwed.

8 Comments Six Degrees: Losing Hope

  1. Logan

    Seattle also has two games in hand on us.

    So, it’s not looking great. It’s gut check time in the Rose City.

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      And Seattle was dead in the water just a month ago. Maybe we can turn it around the same way they have. Though, I don’t know who’s going to be our Lodeiro. Maybe Valeri will just have to go supernova for a couple months.

  2. fdchief218

    Sadly…I think this is kinda who we are. 2015 was wonderful…the MLS Cup was marvelous…but this “flirting-with-the-red-line-one-season-in-the-playoffs-the-next” seems to be the Portland Timbers. This is what we do. 2013 was great, 2014 not so much, 2015 was the topgallant delight, 2016 so far looks like the keelson of despair.

    So we’re going to have our share of games like this, in the off years like this one. And teams like ours…HAVE off years. We’re not an LA Galaxy that just kind of seems to have moderately decent “off” years and wins Open Cups or MLS Cups in their “good” years…

    And, really, that’s not shocking when you think about who we’ve got on the roster. Who do we have that, were they players on another team, we’d seriously work to poach?

    The Maestro, yes, sure. Nagbe. Jake’s been pretty terrific. Chara the Destroyer (tho he seems to have lost a stpe this season. Adi.

    And that’s pretty much all I could think of. It’s not that guys like Powell or Luca or JJ or Ridgy are BAD. But…in their normal form they’re pretty much bog-standard MLS journeymen.

    Sometimes they combine to be more than the sum of their parts, as they did in the Cup run, or in 2013. Some times…not.

    And when they don’t, you get crap like this.

    Would I like us to be like LA? Sure! But I’m not gonna bet the farm on it…

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      Yeah, I guess I can live with it, too. I mean, they’re a bunch of nice guys I’m very happy to root for. If some years there’s a bit less to cheer about, I suppose I can live with that.

      Which doesn’t mean I won’t get all shitty and depressed after losses like this. I’m starting to think half the fun is losing all hope every now and then.

      1. jdlawes

        Well…don’t get me wrong. I’d LOVE for us to be LA. Or ManU, or Barca. I’d LOVE for PTFC to be one of those shirts you see on Syrian rebels, or that is despised as a home for bandwagon fans. To be bitterly disappointed when we DON’T bring home silverware every season.

        But it’s not horrible to be Leicester, to have one golden season to remember as old men wheezing at the youngsters in the North End “Maestro? You call HIM a “maestro”? Now…Valeri in ’15! THERE was a maestro! Did I tell you about his goal in MLS Cup? It was less than a minute into the match, y’see…”

        1. Roy Gathercoal

          If by “LA or ManU or Barca” you mean “the team that wins every year” well, not even LA is LA. And if there is such a team in the parity-ridden MLS, then perhaps the Timbers have a better claim than most. Consider this: out of five total possible years in MLS, the Timbers have been Western Conference champions, runners up, and MLS cup champions–that is three major trophies out of five possible! (a little messing with the odds, but you get the point. . . ) LA has won the MLS cup five times in 20 years, but took seven years to win its first MLS cup, and six years for its first championship (US Open Cup).

          This is not by any means to disparage LA or its stellar achievements, just to point out that the Timbers’ first MLS cup within its first five years as a MLS squad does in fact put it among the elite.

          Our Timbers are–by record of championships won–one of the elite teams in MLS. So let’s not go too hard on ourselves, nor raise expectations to a completely unrealistic level. No team in MLS wins a championship every year. None. I don’t see, therefore, why Portland’s failure to win successive championships (and we have not yet failed at this task–we are ahead of last year’s mark!) makes Portland only an average team.

          We need to be realistic about just how amazingly successful we have been already, and then to support our team whole-heartedly as the champions they are, even if they happen to experience an occasional “regrouping and reorganizing” season.

          If we fail to win anything else for the next five years, then I might accept the Leicester comparison. But with two championship seasons out of our first five, we are setting a pace worthy of a ManU or Barca (did either of these teams win top trophies this year?) We are among the world’s elite teams based on what we have already accomplished!

          Now I don’t want to stop here and retire the team’s ambitions, but I do want us to retain a foot on the ground so we do not define “average” as “among the world’s best” only to then proclaim we are not a good team.

  3. fdchief218

    NOT looking forward to your next one. As painful as this loss was, the crapfest in Seattle was worse just because…well, Seattle. Ugh. God, I hate even years.

  4. Roy Gathercoal

    Looking at the situation from a logical perspective for a moment, I am compelled to ask “what could we possibly gain by predicting bad results for the end of the season?”

    If we predict good results, we gain a team unity and presumably some increased aura of support not there (or at least less there) if we have determined for ourselves our team is likely to lose. At least, it seems, we feel better about the world if we go into a game expecting we will make a good showing than if we expect a dumpster fire.

    Presumably, the level of positive support for our team has some effect on outcomes–or else we are all wasting a whole lot of time and energy on something that doesn’t matter even a bit. Thus, logically, the introduction of real doubt into that positive spirit would decrease that positive effect (twelfth man effect) for our team.

    And there will be no test in which we score points if we incorrectly predict success. At least it would seem quite petty for someone to potentially slight their team just for the benefit of potential “I told you so” points for a week or so. I really don’t expect that anyone who hangs out here would entertain such selfish thoughts!

    It does seem that when I predict a good outcome for a game, I enjoy that game more while it is in process–and unless I go into games expecting to lose, I gain nothing by “being correct” in my disaster predictions.

    Meanwhile, there is objectively no basis for making anything other than a wild guess about the final outcome of this season in this parity-obsessed league. Our own 2015 season proves that! One of my favorite economists, Kenneth Boulding, has as his “First Rule: If something has happened it is possible.” Think on this for a moment.

    We can talk probability but the truth of the matter is that we all lack necessary information to calculate any kind of probability. The best we might do is to base our estimates on past results, and the ongoing reality of MLS is that this is a stupid way forward–unusual and unpredictable events (like Chicago’s first away win in two years or Seattle’s recent self-destruction–happen so frequently as to be almost predictable. We all bother to play sports games because we do not know the outcome without playing the game. Things change in a moment. So why does it make sense to predict a future outcome as if neither team experienced significant change?

    So we cannot–statistically and probability-wise–make reliable predictions about the outcome of the remaining eight or so games of the 2015 season. So why would we ever choose to take a “short” stance? What could we ever potentially gain by guessing (and this is all it can be, given all the factors we cannot know) a bad outcome?

    I sort of expected that with more years I would experience less of my “youthful” optimism. Instead I find myself wondering “why would I ever not be optimistic about sports contests?” General managers, yes. They need some reality and some safeguards against stupidly optimistic decisions. Coaches, less so but still I suppose they would benefit in some situations by taking a slightly more realistic view into a game.

    Players? Not ever. Any player who steps onto the field not expecting to win owes it to everyone affiliated with the team to head right to the showers.

    Which brings us to Supporters. I cannot see how taking a negative view as to outcome–however realistic we might believe it to be–offers any benefit. Shouldn’t we, like the players, start each game fully expecting to triumph? Doesn’t that responsibility trump any kind of supposed duty to “ultimate truth” (which we are utterly unable to know, anyway)?

    So I will continue to try and make sense of what I see my beloved Timbers doing on and off the field. I will not, however, go into any game or series of games expecting to lose. Just doesn’t make sense to me.


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