Six Degrees: Revving Up

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 0-0 tie with New England.

1) Well. Okay. Hmm. That was a weird game, wasn’t it?

I’m really glad Kevin Alexander’s got his computer fixed, because I need him to tell me exactly what happened Thursday night. Do you know what happened? Because I don’t. We dominated in pretty much every way, we just couldn’t put one in the net.

I’m tempted to go all Caleb Porter on you and say something like, “Well, that’s soccer. It’s a cruel sport. Strange things happen.” And maybe in the end, that’s the truth of the matter. Still, I hope Kevin can pull out some of his charts and diagrams and screen shots and show us exactly how New England held us off all night. Because I watched the whole damn thing and I have no idea.

But if I can’t give you the “Soccer Genius” column, I can at least give you the “Overly Emotional and Borderline Demented Fan” column. So that’s what I’ll do.

2) Goodness gracious, was our offense fired up or what? It took us maybe 10 or 15 minutes to get our bearings, but from that point on, it was Pin-Your-Ears-Back-and-Go-Straight-for-the-Goal.

Shots: 22 to 9. Shots on goal: 9 to 4. Possession: 67% (possibly a season-high).

It’s just astonishing that we couldn’t put one it. And so frustrating.

But I’m gonna think good thoughts, because there really were a lot of good things to see. Some fabulous passing (I’m looking at you, Mr. Nagbe), some nice attempts in close (I’m looking at you, Ryan Johnson), some blistering shots from outside (I’m looking at you, Beast). If we can keep doing these things in future games – and I know we can – then the goals will come. Keep up the good work, boys.

3) I am absolutely crazy-go-nuts for our defensive midfielders. Could Diego Chara and Will Johnson be any better? Honestly, I would marry our defensive midfield if I could. (Am I allowed to marry a defensive midfield? I’m not, am I? Damn you, Congress!)

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Diego Chara is EVERYWHERE. Does that guy get tired? Is he even human? Pity the poor bastard who gets the ball in open space, because Diego’s coming, and he’s gonna take… you… down.

And Will Johnson. Ohhhh, Will Johnson. It seems like at least once every game he starts waving his arms around and screaming at somebody – the ref, the other team, the ball, the air – and the energy level just goes off the charts. Remember Wednesday when he started screaming at the ref? I thought the stadium was gonna explode. There’s something about that guy. His intensity is off the charts. And so infectious. Man, he’s a good addition to this team. I can’t believe Real Salt Lake gave him up.

4) The interplay among our midfielders and forwards is becoming a joy to watch. The team’s had a few months learning Porterball and they’ve really got it figured out. I’m no soccer expert, I’m just a fan, so I can’t break out all the fancy lingo, but I know what I see, and what I’m seeing is a defender steal the ball, then immediately make a short pass to so-and-so, who sends it out wide to some other guy, who then instantly taps it to the original defender, who passes it up to Nagbe, who taps it to Valeri, who sends a through ball to Nagbe, who chips it to Johnson, who taps it to…

Well, if you think I’m describing just one play, I’m not. I’m describing EVERY play. It’s become absolutely gorgeous, and I love watching these guys play. They’re making me understand why soccer is called “the beautiful game.”

5) Before Wednesday’s game, if you were to have asked me, “Who is the one guy on our team who is irreplaceable? Who can we absolutely not lose to injury?” I probably would have thought for a moment, then said, “Mikael Silvestre.”

Sigh.

Deep, heavy sigh.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s a torn ACL. He’s out for the year.

Fortunately, he’ll get to hang out with David Horst, who’s also out for the year. And then there’s Hanyer Mosquera, who’s disappeared to parts unknown.

So if there’s anyone reading this who plays center back, you should probably call the Timbers front office. They may have a spot for you. (Editor: Spot is filled, for now.)

Actually, I’m not as worried about this as you might think. Mostly because I really like the way the defense is playing now, not just those particular guys, but the whole system. I think Porter’s got it figured out. He’s got his two guys in the middle, staying strong. He’s got Jack Jewsbury on one side, mostly staying back, giving them a three-man line. And he’s got Michael Harrington on the other side, charging forward, forcing the other team to mark him, still fast enough to get back when he needs to. I really like this three-man-wall thing Porter’s got going on with Jewsbury and I think we’ll be okay going forward. Even without Silvestre.

(And if we give up seven goals in our next game, you can all blame me for opening my fat mouth. I know I’m tempting the soccer gods. But honestly, it’s not like they’ve been doing us any favors, right?)

6) And with my last point, I’m gonna go a little off-topic and discuss what happened here on Wednesday. For those of you who live under rocks, a quick summation: A 3rd-grader cancer patient named Atticus got together with the Make-A-Wish organization. His wish was for his soccer team to scrimmage the Timbers. Not only did the Timbers agree, they fixed up the locker room for their team, gave the kids new uniforms, brought out a color guard, sang the national anthem, and opened up the stadium, just in case anyone wanted to watch. Did anyone show up? Oh, only three THOUSAND people. With signs. And flags. And songs. And smoke bombs.

I just watched this video… again and I got all misty-eyed… again. I’m such a sap.

I have to tell you, people, I can’t imagine being prouder of a sports team. Hell, an entire city. This event made me so happy I moved to Portland. Becoming a Timbers fan, going to the games, learning the songs, meeting the other fans, it really has made me feel like a Portlander. Like I’m part of this city. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

I have friends all over the country who read this column and a few weeks back, my buddy Aaron from Dallas wrote me:

“I’ve been wanting to get into soccer for a while. And I’ve tried, just can’t get it to take. FC Dallas is in 1st right now but I think if anything is going to finally get me into MLS it may just be this column that does it. And I may have to claim the Timbers as my team. But what would really do it is if a jersey showed up at my house…”

I haven’t sent him a jersey, but when I Facebooked the story about Atticus playing the Timbers, here’s what Aaron wrote:

“I believe that settles it!!”

Congratulations, Timbers. You’re not just winning the hearts of everyone here, you’re sweeping the country. And when we go play Dallas next Wednesday, hopefully my boy Aaron will be there, cheering us on. Traveling fans, take him under your wing, okay?