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?

11 Comments Six Degrees: A Perfect Storm

  1. John Lawes

    Bijev. He’s the single bright spot for T2 this season. Worth a try. Hell, how much worse can it be..?

    I dunno…even with the makeshift 14 I figured this one was at least a 50-50 chance for a win. RSL has been on a tear lately but…they’re STILL 7-12. I figured, how the hell good can they be?

    Good enough, apparently.

    Anyway, the single thing that bugged me the most about this one was the complete lack of discipline and professionalism. Sure, it was a pickup Timbers side. But, damn, man, you don’t have to be freaking Nobby Stiles to figure out that if the guy next to you hasn’t stepped up to the opponent teeing up the ball you do it yourself, Z-man. You don’t have to be freaking Joe Machink to figure out that if you bring your elbow up beside the head of an opponent, even a little midget, you’re likely to get tossed, Arboleda. And you sure as hell don’t have to be Lionel freaking Messi to suss out that a caveman charge against the guy who has cunningly knuckled you in the ribs is gonna get you tossed, too, Adi.

    Gud-DAMN.

    It would have bugged me less if this was a black swan. But this team has been doing this ever since April. Chara in Montreal. Blanco in Minnesota. The lack of adult supervision? Frustration building up? Psychoactive slime in the Tanner Creek culvert?

    I dunno, but it sure looks to my like Porter is losing control of these guys. Adi’s red, in particular, was deliberate, massive, boneheaded stupidity that wrecked any chance of his team recovering or his coach figuring out a way out of that hole.

    (Oh, and I’ll bet you all the money in my pocket against all the money in yours that not only does the DC NOT levy an additional punishment against Pastafarian Kyle that there’s an even chance they’ll rescind his red. His foul – unlike Adi’s – is extremely smart and dirty. It looked to me like he slips a little thumb-knuckle into Adi’s ribs as he goes by. VERY cunning and Beckermanesque. That’s why I hate that dirty bastard.)

    Anyway, barring divine intervention we’re going to lose in Vancouver. Hell, look at the schedule; away to VAN, away to HOU (that are 8-0-2 at home), then back here to LA. If we can sneak 5 point out of that I’ll be ridiculously happy.

    Reply
  2. Timber Dave

    This happens way too often to Toledo-reffed games. Things start to get out of hand, and he does nothing. They get further out of hand, and he does nothing. Then they get wildly out of hand, and he starts dishing cards like a Vegas poker dealer. I’m not blaming him for Adi’s red and Beckerman’s red, both of which were well-deserved. But keep a lid on the game, man.

    By the way, Beckerman’s red was upheld on appeal. And there was no word about Adi, so I guess he’s suspended for only the Vancouver game.

    I think Porter should use the Vancouver game to blood some youth by playing a bunch of T2 guys. “Blood” will be the operative word, so maybe it’s not such a great idea for them to get their butts kicked, still, getting some first-team minutes could be helpful. Incidentally, can we do this? Do we need roster space for Bijev and whoever else, or does MLS provide some exception to the roster rules when you have only 10 field players?

    Reply
    1. jdlawes

      My understanding is that now that the team is below 14 field players they can sign development players to 4-day contracts. Problem being the T2 is a bigger shitshow than T1. Outside Bijev it’s pretty much dross.

      Reply
    2. jdlawes

      I thought that the Adi-Beckerman collision pointed up the difference between the two teams.

      Beckerman’s foul is subtle, smart, and dirty. It’s nasty but hard to see, especially for a mook like Toledo (and you bet Beckerman knows that to a micron). If Adi doesn’t explode I’d bet he wouldn’t even have drawn a whistle.

      Adi’s retaliation is blatant, crude, and stupid. And, sadly, just as deliberate as Beckerman’s. He has a moment to think about what he’s going to do…and does it anyway. Even worse, none of his teammates tries to tackle him to save his dumbass.
      To me that’s the story of PTFC 2017; given a choice between playing smart we play stupid. Given the choice between playing as a team we play like a bunch of strangers who neither know nor care for each other, or their coach.

      Reply
      1. Timber Dave

        This is something that I see in men’s CONCACAF games as well. We (Timbers and USMNT) don’t regularly “play dirty”, so we don’t know how to do it well. That is, we don’t foul secretively or stay just this side of what constitutes a foul or a dive. It’s mostly fine with me — I don’t want us playing dirty — but it is definitely a disadvantage.

        I’d rather win playing good soccer.

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  3. Timber Dave

    Just realized this: Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s USA-Costa Rica game, we should have at least one quality midfielder — Nagbe or Guzmán — back and rested for our next game. Barring, God forbid, another injury. We’re also likely to get our Jamaicans back too. (Not to throw too much shade on Jamaica, but I don’t think ANYONE is going to beat Mexico in this Gold Cup.)

    Of course, we’ll get *everyone* back before the following weekend, but I imagine that anyone playing all or most of the Gold Cup final will not be able to play for us more than a few minutes, what with the final being only three days before our next game and the travel. Though I suppose that’s not less than the rest time for a normal mid-week match, so maybe we will have something closer to a full-strength squad in Houston.

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  4. Stands

    Porter should pop in to Parsons’s office for tips on traveling with an injury report as long as the list of availables. Didn’t they have a match where the entire bench was the backup GK, Allie Long with a stomach illness, undrafted ex-amateur Meghan Cox’s third or so match of availability, and Kendall Johnson still not at 100%?

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  5. John Lawes

    Aaaaand…here the team now goes to BC Place and posts a disciplined, hard-working win for three points on the road. Go figure.

    Hope that means that this shitshow was the “hero’s nadir”, the point where Luke gets rescued off the TV antenna minus a hand so he can begin his journey to redemption and the return of the Jedi…

    Reply
    1. Timber Dave

      Definitely. That’s definitely what it was.

      And Ebobeast has me filled with high hopes for the future. Of course it will get harder for him now that there’s some tape on him for opponents to study up on, but it’s REALLY NICE to see a Timber — a Portland Timber! — making runs in behind the back line.

      Reply
  6. jdlawes

    Young Ebobisse’s work was fun to watch, and brings the question; does having Adi up front make the team more static and less creative? Not a rap on Adi himself…but Ebo sure made the attack more flexible looking…

    Reply

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