Six Degrees: Schizophrenic

dallas Photo - USATI

Two weeks ago we were destroyed on the road. Last week we were the destroyers at home. This week, we were back to being destroyed. I’d go with the “Will the real Portland Timbers please stand up” joke, but I’m starting to think this is the real Portland Timbers.

1) It was an ugly game and this is going to be an ugly column, so what do you say we start with some positives? In fact, by my count, the Timbers has exactly three positive things over the course of 90 minutes. And that’s maybe three. Possibly two and a half.

First there’s this almost goal when we were down 1-0. Does this count as a positive thing, considering we didn’t actually score? Still, it was exciting. If we’d finished it, this might have been a very different game.

Later, Zarek Valentin saves Jake Gleeson’s bacon. The game was over by this point, so again, this may not be a positive, but we’ll take what we can get.

And the final good thing, which again had no impact on the result was Diego Valeri’s lovely finish.

At the start, I said we had three positive things, but honestly, they were all half-positives, so adding them up gives us 90 minutes with one and a half good things. Go Timbers!

2) And now for the bad. And none of these were half-bads. This is a solid three.

On this penalty, bad play by Jake Gleeson.  He should’ve just shielded the goal and let Valentin clean up behind him.  Still, in the heat of the moment, dem’s da breaks.

I’m not sure what Liam Ridgewell thinks he’s doing here, but I know what he’s not doing: marking the late run into the box.

To be fair, Walker Zimmerman’s one of the best aerial threats in the league, but still, Steven Taylor got abused.

And trust me, there are many more shitty Timber moments I’ve left out, but I think we can agree that seeing them once was enough.

3) As a team, the Timbers are schizophrenic, but if I were to play amateur soccer psychologist, I’d express particular concern over Lucas Melano. Is it just me or does he hang his head a lot? A little trouble early, a missed shot, a missed pass, and he seems to disappear, particularly on defense. This is especially bad on the road, where he doesn’t have the Timbers Army to build him back up.

This wouldn’t be a problem if he were a bench player, but as sad as this is to say, he’s one of the major cogs in our offense. He’s one of three or four players who have to deliver for us to win. Psychologically, I worry he’s not up to that level of responsibility. He could be someday, but right now he’s not.

I wish we were so offensively loaded that we could bring him on as a late game super sub. A guy with no pressure on his shoulders. That seems like the ideal situation for him at this stage in his career and, sadly, the Timbers aren’t set up to give him that.

Am I giving up on Luca? No. Am I worried? Yes. And so is probably everyone else in Timberdom.

4) Let’s talk about the defense. Yeah, I don’t want to either, but it needs to done.

The defense was a shit show at Seattle, giving up three goals. At home last week, they were solid for 85 minutes, but managed to give up two goals in the other five. This week in Dallas, it was a mess pretty much the whole game. That’s eight goals in three games, which I’m pretty sure is Not Good.

Yes, Alvas Powell was missing this week, but the rest of the back line was supposedly first choice. That “supposedly” is especially relevant for new center back Steven Taylor who, up to now, has not looked any better than Jermaine Taylor or Amobi Okugo or even Taylor Peay. By some reckoning, Taylor has been to blame for five goals in just three games. Again, I’m pretty sure this is Not Good.

Liam Ridgewell, you just got a new contract. I won’t be happy with this if it’s just you playing well. If the Timbers are going to give a center back a big money contract, I want him fixing both center back positions. Hell, I want him fixing the whole back line. You’ve got six games, Ridgy. Whip your fellow Englishman into shape.

5) We’re getting to the point where people are starting to give up on the Timbers. Even worse, giving up on them is starting to seem reasonable. No road wins? No two-game winning streak the entire year? A team like that can’t make the playoffs. They just can’t.

So let’s make these next two degrees about giving up versus not giving up, okay?

First on the docket, giving up on the playoffs. If you’re in this camp, what should the Timbers do with the rest of the season?

One option, play the kids. Play the hell out of Jack Barmby and Taylor Peay and a few T2 players we haven’t seen at all. Give them some meaningful minutes, see what they’re made of, let that guide our moves in the off season.

Another option, play nothing but bench players on the road – after all, we’re not going to win there anyway – and save our varsity squad for home games and CCL games. Yes, it would feel like giving up, but wouldn’t a nice CCL run soothe some of the pain?

6) Next up, if you’re not ready to give up on the playoffs. And damn it all, after the late run we went on in 2015, how can we give up? Last year’s team was below the red line with three games left. This year’s team is currently above the rest line. As shitty as we’ve looked, there’s no denying that we’re in a better position this year.

Even more reason for hope? We have three more road games. Two are against Houston and Vancouver, the bottom two teams in the conference. The other road game’s against Colorado, who started the season brilliantly, but have won two games in their last 11. We may be stinking it up, but we’ve won three in our last 11.

In other words, there’s hope. It’s slim hope, sure, it’s hope the team has done very little to earn, sure, but it’s hope nonetheless. After 2015, after being below the red line with three games left, then winning the Cup, we may never be able to abandon hope again. The 2015 Timbers gave us either a gift or a curse.

We’ve got two straight at home. We can win at home. A two game winning streak? Six points out of six? That would do a lot to right this wildly rocking, schizophrenic ship.