Six Degrees: A Perfect Storm

Not enough players to dress a full team? Check. First goal conceded? Check. Right back leaves the game on a stretcher? Check. Penalty conceded? Check. Red card? Check. Second red card? Check.

Wednesday night’s loss to RSL was kind of a perfect storm.

1) Here’s the weird thing. This loss, as bad as it was, didn’t hurt my soul like some other games this year. The 1-0 loss to SKC? That destroyed me, simply because SKC plays the ugliest, most cynical type of soccer possible and were rewarded with a win. The injustice of that game hurt every part of me.

The 2-2 draw to Seattle also killed me, mostly because I had hope. Up 2-1 late in the game, I genuinely believed we could beat the bastards. Then we gave up a goal at the death, my heart sank, and my anger rose.

To me, those were the worst two games of the year.

Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to RSL didn’t bug me nearly so much. Mostly because the game was over from the start. Before the start, really. It kind of felt over as soon as we saw the team’s 18-man roster.

Actually, it was a 17-man roster, wasn’t it?

No, wait, it was a 16-man roster. Yeesh.

Aside from the absent Darlington Nagbe, our offensive starters were pretty much first choice. The defense, though? The only guy you could conceivably call first choice was Larrys Mabiala, who’s only been with the team a few weeks and had never actually played before.

The rest of the defense? Replacements all over.

Next to Mabiala, Roy Miller was actually one of the few second-stringers on the field. Over at left back, our top two choices were out, so we played our second-string right back, who I suppose is our third-string left back, Zarek Valentin. Who to play at right back? Let’s try Chance Myers, who I guess was our third choice. He’s hadn’t played a single minute this year, plus he’d just recovered from an injury, but as they say, desperate times call for Chance Myers. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get hurt, amiright?

At central defensive midfield, we trotted out Ben Zemanski and Lawrence Olum, who I guess are third and fourth choice? Or at least they were. After their performance Wednesday, they may now be sixth and seventh choices.

My point in all this? At kick-off, I had very little hope. And 10 minutes later, I didn’t even have that.

2) As you watch Kyle Beckerman’s 10th minute goal, I want you to look at the perfect quadrilateral the Portland defenders have set up around him. Lovely angles, perfect symmetry. If this were geometry class, they’d get an A. But since it’s soccer, they all get F’s. F-minuses.

Besides the geometry aesthetics, another thing from this gif I like is how once Beckerman has the ball, he had enough time to look around, think, reset, dribble forward a couple steps, stop, think, look around, make himself a cappuccino, pull out a notepad and cross punk some bitches off his to-do list, then send the ball just under the crossbar. To be honest, I think I might be able to hit that shot if I had as much time and space as Beckerman did.

Watching this, a great deal of my ire goes toward Zemanski and Olum, but Valentin and Sebastian Blanco deserve some blame as well. They were the other two corners of that incompetent trapezoid.

But you know what I think this really comes down to? The fact that we had a bunch of dudes in new positions, playing next to guys they didn’t have a lot of chemistry with, and so the defense spent most of the game getting acquainted. Hell, it wasn’t just the defense. The entire team was off their game. No one looked comfortable, no one was in sync.

Soccer’s a complicated game[citation needed]. Changing one or two players can mess things up. Changing six or seven players? That’s a recipe for disaster.

3) When your lineup’s stretched this thin, the last thing you need are injuries. Sadly, no one mentioned this to Chance Myers’s foot, which had to go get its ligaments all tore up.

If I didn’t have much hope upon seeing our Starting XI, and had only the faintest whisper of hope after Beckerman’s goal, when Myers got carried off on a stretcher? That was when hope truly left the building.

In some ways, this was a good thing. It’s better than giving up a tying goal at the death, right? And so there I was, on a lovely July night, knowing the game was lost, and finding myself strangely intrigued by how the Timbers would see this out.

The first thing I pondered: what formation were we going to play?

When I saw Olum drop back and Miller switch over to the left, my first thought was, Oh, exciting! We’re gonna play a 3-5-2! It was genuinely fun discussing it with the people around me. Where’s Victor Aboleda gonna play? Will he be our left wingback? What is a wingback, exactly? Do we have two forwards? Who? Fanendo Adi and Dairon Asprilla? Will that work? Can we do all this on the fly?

Sadly, it turns out it wasn’t a 3-5-2, it was just our normal 4-2-3-1 with Miller as the left fullback and Valentin over on the right. I was actually a little disappointed by this. I figured, we’re gonna lose anyway, why not try some crazy formation and see how it works?

Regardless, at halftime, there were a couple fun things to look forward to. One, we’d get to see Sebastian Blanco play as a central defensive midfielder. And two, we’d get to watch Victor Arboleda run around like a madman for an entire 45 minutes.

4) Or seven minutes. Whichever.

A deserved red? Yes. But a malicious one? I’m not so sure. To my homer-riffic eyes, I think Arboleda was going in for a hard shoulder-to-shoulder and raised his elbow a tiny bit too much. Not enough that he actually elbowed Joao Plata in the head, but enough that it looked like it, and with red cards, appearance matters. Rookie mistake, Victor. Learn from it. Keep those elbows down. Don’t give ’em any reason to toss you.

(For the record, it doesn’t help that Joao Plata’s one of the only guys in the league shorter than Arboleda.)

Fortunately for Victor, he wasn’t lonely in the locker room for very long, because two minutes later, Fanendo Adi did this.

It looks like Beckerman threw an elbow into Adi’s ribs as he passed him. Adi takes a lot of hits over the course of a game, and I guess this time, he decided enough was enough.

Do I sympathize with Adi? Yes. Do I think he should bum-rush dudes like he did here? No. Very unprofessional. Very foolish.

Did Beckerman do it on purpose to get Adi tossed? Almost certainly not, since his team was already a man up. Did he deserve to get tossed? I guess. Will his red card be rescinded by the Disciplinary Committee? Maybe.

But the DISCO will also take a look at this video.

Did Beckerman just spit in the direction of Baldomero Toledo? Looks like it to me. Did he hit him? I have no idea. Is the spit alone enough for him to miss a game or two? Again, I have no idea. Still, it’s intriguing. It’s not often you see a guy spit at/toward/on/in-the-general-direction-of a ref.

5) So there we were in the 55th minute, down 2-0, playing 9v10, and up in the stands, I was wondering how to amuse myself for the game’s final 35 minutes. The whole Timbers Army was, really. When we went down 3-0, then 4-0, the crowd began singing “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.” I approved wholeheartedly.

A bit after that, we began Tetrising, which I did not approve of, nor did I participate in. Some things are sacred. Lines must be drawn.

Rather than Tetris, what I did was check out all our new players.

Larrys Mabiala – Decent game, I thought. It’s hard to judge a guy playing his very first game. It’s even harder when he’s surrounded by a bunch of dudes playing out of position, then switching positions when Myers went down, then switching again when Arboleda got tossed, then switching again when Adi got tossed. So really, Mabiala gets a pass for this game. He didn’t look awful, though, so that’s nice.

Chance Myers – Does it matter? It’s possible his season’s over. And maybe even his time here in Portland. I feel genuinely bad for Myers. He’s had nothing but bad luck since he came into this league, and when he finally gets a start for the Timbers, he wrecks his foot. It ain’t right.

Victor Arboleda – We know he needs to keep his elbows down. That’s pretty much all we learned Wednesday night.

Jeremy Ebobisse – I have no strong feelings about his performance. I’ve heard others say that he looked good, but I didn’t see a lot, good or bad. And I think we can all agree that 9v10 isn’t the ideal situation in which to judge a striker.

But you know who didn’t care that it was 9v10? Jack Mothereffin’ Barmby. That dude didn’t care about the numbers, the score, or the situation. From the moment he came on in 72nd minute, he was ballin’. He went like hell up and down the field, he looked like we wanted to scrap with a couple RSL guys, and then, right at the death, he gave everyone in the stadium a reason to set off smoke bombs, wave flags, and have a little party. For all these reasons, I declare young Mr. Barmby to be my Man of the Match.

6) But did he do enough to earn a spot in the Starting XI? We’re traveling to Vancouver this Sunday, you know. And if you think we had a hard time fielding a full team against RSL, take a look at this photo.

Adi’s out at least one game, probably more. And since Darren Mattocks is still Gold Cuppin’, ready or not, Jeremy Ebobisse’s our starting striker.

Lining up behind him, I’ll assume it’s Blanco, Asprilla, and Diego Valeri.

Behind them? God help us.

I guess our CDMs are Zemanski and… Jeez. Who? Olum’s probably at CB with Mabiala. Miller’s probably at left back, while Valentin’s at right. Who’s our second CDM?

Do we slide Blanco back and start Barmby on the left wing? That’s what we do, right? Does that make it a 4-3-3? With Z-Man as the 6, Blanco as the 8, and Valeri as the 10?

And who’s on the bench? Looking at that photo above, the only guys left are Rennico Clarke, Jeff Attinela, and Kendall McIntosh. McIntosh won’t dress, since we don’t need two keepers on the bench.

So by my calculations, on Sunday in Vancouver, our bench will be two first team players and five T2 players. And since Clarke and Attinela are both defensive, if we make any substitutions Sunday, they will almost assuredly be T2 guys.

I literally can’t name three T2 players. Wait, I can name Augustine Williams. That’s it. That’s the one guy I can name. Last year, there was a Belgian dude with a big afro but I think he’s gone now. So Augustine Williams it is. He and a couple guys I’ve never heard of may very well be playing on Sunday. Good times, good times.

You know what would be hilarious? If we took this hot mess of a team up to Vancouver and won 5-0. In fact, I’m calling it now. A 5-0 win. Two goals for Barmby, one goal each for Ebobisse and Mabiala, and one goal from some T2 guy I’ve never heard of.

Always look on the bright side of life, right?