Six Degrees: Nothing Is Easy

They say there’s no such thing as an ugly win. For the 2017 Portland Timbers, I’m thinking there’s no such thing as an easy win, either. But even if we had to sweat it out until the very end, it’s still three points, and I’ll take ’em.

1) Okay, to begin with, apparently Caleb Porter doesn’t read my column, because I clearly said Jeremy Ebobisse should start. But who did we see for the first 69 minutes? Darren Mattocks.

I want to complain – and maybe I will later – but the truth is, it’s hard to argue with the results, since the Timbers spent the first 25 minutes looking like the best team in the league. Hell, the best team in the world. No joke, we started the game about as dominant as a team can be.

That’s not to say we found instant success. It’s hard to score goals when you keep running into a wall, and that’s exactly what Colorado set up, packing the box with all 36 of their players.

Alas, they should have used 37 players, because in the 21st minute, Diego Valeri finally broke through.

This is El Rey’s 5th goal in the last 5 games. It’s also his 15th of the year – a personal record for him. It’s also the 52nd of his career – a new Timbers record. But most importantly, it’s his 4th header of the year, after entering the season without a single headed goal in his entire Timbers career.

2) The smoke had barely cleared from Valeri’s goal when Darlington Nagbe decided to join the fun. And while Valeri only scores headers, Nagbe only scores golazos.

I can’t get over the fact that he didn’t look up. How do you do that? How do you score a goal this gorgeous without even looking? Did he see the goal with his peripheral vision? Did he see the lines of the 18-yard box and do some mental geometry? Or did he just close his friggin’ eyes and use the force? It’s uncanny. Collect, turn, shoot. With his eyes closed. Unreal.

Appropriately, Nagbe’s goal was from the corner of the 18-yard box, which is where he spent a great deal of those opening 25 minutes. I love In-The-Box Nagbe. I wish we saw him more often.

3) Our domination of Colorado didn’t exactly end there. We were still the much better, much more threatening side. But not to the same degree. The boys began to look a little tired, a little less aggressive.

And then in the 27th minute, Lawrence Olum fucked up good.

Ouch. The awful giveaway’s not enough, Larry? You gotta get nutmegged, too?

I don’t think this play will go on Olum’s highlight reel.

4) Impressively, just two minutes after giving up that goal, our boys came charging downfield and damn near scored a third.

The goal involved the Video Assistant Referee, and I gotta say, I think this whole VAR thing is awesome. We’ve seen it used twice now, and each time it’s benefited us. Will I still like it when a call goes against us? Probably. I want calls to be correct. VAR helps do that.

When the foul occurred in real time – and wasn’t called – I saw it and was outraged, same as Valeri. But I thought it was just a collision. Looking at the replay, we can see that it’s more of a grab and tug, with perhaps a bit of heel-clipping, too.

Once the VAR convinced the ref to take a second look, and once the ref decided it was a penalty, that’s when things took an interesting turn. Diego Valeri didn’t take the PK. Instead, much to everyone’s surprise, he handed the ball to David Guzman.

And, with his big opportunity, he did this.

We should never judge a PK choice by the result. Whether Gooz scores there or not, the question is the same: was it a good decision to give him the shot?

I say yes. Valeri had already scored his goal. He wanted to make someone else on the team a hero. Is that ever a bad thing?

Remember, don’t judge it based on the result. If Gooz hits it, Valeri’s a selfless leader who’s making the team stronger. I would argue that it’s exactly the same if Gooz misses it. Valeri believed in him. Guzman will remember that. Hell, every player on the team will remember that. They will fight for Valeri. They’ll follow him anywhere.

That’s my take, at least.

5) The second half was a much different story. The Timbers were no longer playing like Real Madrid. Instead, they were playing like the Timbers. By which I mean, making everyone in the stadium burn holes in their stomach lining until the final whistle. You’ve seen it before, you’ll see it again, so rather than break it down, I’m just gonna say it sucked, and we’ll move on to random notes.

  • Picking up an assist on both of our goals, Vytautus Andriuskevicius. Last season, Vytas, Alvas Powell, and Zarek Valentin combined for two assists. This year, they have nine. I kind of want to do a deep dive and check the fullback stats for every team in the league. Hard to imagine any team can top nine.
  • As I said earlier, it’s hard to argue with our offensive performance in the first half. That being said, I wasn’t very happy with Darren Mattocks. Lots of hard touches. Lots of wasted opportunities. I really, really want Ebobisse getting these minutes, but I have a feeling Caleb Porter will continue to ignore me. Even though I clearly know more about soccer than the coach of a professional soccer team. Duh.
  • Have you heard of this thing called FOMO? Apparently, it means “fear of missing out.” I propose that we add another acronym to the modern vernacular: FOAG. “Fear of Alan Gordon.” From the moment he entered the game in the 67th minute, I was absolutely 100% certain he was going to break our hearts with an ugly, messy, shitty Alan Gordon kind of goal. Fuck him for getting in my head like this.
  • Vtyas almost got a 3rd assist in the 82nd minute, when Sebastian Blanco put clown shoes on some poor defender, then, sadly, sent his shot into orbit. Since we couldn’t enjoy a goal, let’s enjoy the gif instead.

6) Let’s talk about the future.

Despite making us sweat out results until the final whistle blows, the Timbers are now 4-1-1 in their last six games. This has lifted us to 2nd in the Western Conference on points and 4th on points per game.

Unfortunately, our next three games are on the road. And they ain’t against chumps, either. We’re at hottest-team-in-the-league Seattle this Sunday, then a bye week, then we’re at second-in-the-Supporter’s-Shield-race New York City, then we face surprisingly-frisky-with-a-1.88-PPG-over-the-last-two-months Real Salt Lake.

In other words, we could be looking at three straight losses.

But maybe we’re playing with house money. We did, after all, take care of business here in Portland, winning our last three home games. If we lose three straight on the road, that’s still a 1.5 PPG.

And maybe we’ll do better than that. We have, after all, gone 1-1-1 in our last three roadies. Maybe we’ll squeeze some points out of this stretch.

We’ll face Seattle without Gooz, who’s suspended for yellow card accumulation. We will, however, have Larrys Mabiala back from his red card suspension.

Will we see Fanendo Adi or Liam Ridgewell? I doubt it. I think Porter will play it safe, take advantage of the bye week, and give those two a couple weeks off.

Will we see Jeremy Ebobisse in the starting lineup? Absolutely not, because Caleb Porter hates me for knowing more about soccer than him.

Will we see a really lame tifo from the Seattle fans? I can 100% guarantee this. And also, they’ll do that weird thing where the guy sorta halfway sings the national anthem while also waving a conductor’s baton. Is that not the weirdest thing ever?

No, actually.  It’s not. This is the weirdest thing ever.  (Volume up for awesome.)

I call him Vampire McBoobs and he’s given me so much pleasure through the years. I hope this stays on the internet forever. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.