In 2016, the Portland Timbers had a grand total of six road points. They achieved this awe inspiring total in 17 games. The 2017 Timbers have already matched that total, and they did it in three.
1) There’s been a lot of talk about how bad the Timbers looked at the start of Saturday’s game in Philadelphia. My take is a little different. I don’t think the Timbers were playing badly, exactly. I just think they weren’t playing like the Timbers. They were playing like some other team that maybe they’d like to be, but couldn’t quite pull off.
Long possessions. A tons of passes in the back half. Slowly developing plays, usually ending in a turnover. To my eyes, this all seemed weird, intentional, and strangely reminiscent of another MLS team I watched this weekend. Specifically, NYCFC. I think Caleb Porter caught a Pigeons game, saw how awesome they look playing out of the back – averaging 500 or 600 passes a game – and said, “Alright, boys, gimme summa dat.” And then for about a half hour on Saturday, the boys tried giving him summa dat, failed, and then switched back to playing like the Timbers.
All of this is just my personal theory, of course. Maybe the whole thing was random. Maybe it was due to Philly’s defense. I really don’t know. But it felt like an intentional strategy. It felt like we were trying to play like NYCFC, but doing it poorly. So poorly that eventually we just gave up.
Am I wrong? Was that frustrating period due to something else? Wherever the truth lies, we were the weaker team for a good 30 minutes and are lucky we didn’t give up two or three goals.
2) We did give up one goal, though. A corner kick header in the 26th minute.
I’m not sure who to blame here. The goalscorer seems equidistant between three of our taller players – Fanendo Adi, Lawrence Olum, and Roy Miller – all of whom look distinctly flat footed.
I’m starting to worry about our set piece defending. Olum’s given up set piece goals before. Neither he nor Miller seem terribly good in the air. Adi has never been. Until Liam Ridgewell returns, who can we count on when a ball’s sailing into the box? And even after Ridgy’s back, do we have fundamental set piece issues? Over the years, I’ve heard many complaints about defensive coach Cameron Knowles and his handling of this issue. Will those complaints start up again? I have no answers, just concerns. Thank you and please drive through.
3) Fortunately, our early struggles improved and in the 32nd minute, we tied things up, courtesy of Darlington Nagbe‘s right foot.
My thoughts on this: One, Nagbe shot the ball! NAGBE SHOT THE BALL!
Two, I wonder if the team will petition MLS to give Adi an assist on this. There may have been a Philly touch at some point, but it wasn’t much of a touch, not much at all.
Three, interesting celebration from Nags, isn’t it? Arms open, cocky look on his face. You’d think he was Cristiano Ronaldo or something.
Four, since we’re on the subject of goal celebrations, can I tell you how much I appreciate the way the Timbers celebrate goals? Everyone gets involved and there’s genuine, obvious love in the group.
Celebrations are on my mind right now because I watched the end of the Seattle/San Jose game Saturday night and when Nicolas Lodeiro scored, he genuinely showed no interest in hugging his teammates.
Isn’t that weird? He actually seemed to avoid his teammates. Very odd, especially compared to what we’re used to with the Timbers. If I were to give credit to anyone for the way our team celebrates, I think it would go to our two main goalscorers, Adi and Diego Valeri. When they score, they’re openly ecstatic and eager to share that ecstasy with everyone on the field and sometimes even the substitutes. I love it, I love them, and I love having a team that’s fun to root for.1
4) In the 66th minute, we finally took the lead, thanks to a Roy Miller header.
My thoughts: One, you’ve probably already heard, but this was Miller’s first MLS goal and it took him 130 games to score it. That’s 27 games less than Jack Jewsbury played and eight games more than Diego Valeri. Now that Miller has finally uncorked his goal scoring bottle, I predict he will score two more this year. Maybe this month. Just a feeling.
Two, is Miller the only guy who got his head to this ball? It’s really hard to tell, but damn it looks like the Philly defender got a touch on it. In fact, at first I thought it was an own goal. The only thing convincing me otherwise is that Miller wouldn’t have celebrated so strongly if he hadn’t gotten a solid touch.
Three, did you see Vytas coming onto the field to celebrate, then peeling off when he realized what he was doing? See? This is a team that wants to celebrate together, even if they’re on the bench wearing a yellow vest.
Four, now that Miller’s scored, the only regulars who haven’t found the back of the net are Sebastian Blanco, Marco Farfan, Alvas Powell, and Vytautus Andriuskevicius.2
5) Our third goal, salting the game away, came in the 88th minute. Adi scored it from the penalty spot, but the real credit should go to the guy who drew the penalty, Darren Mattocks.
My thoughts: One, you could call the bounce off Onyewu lucky. Or you could agree that when someone’s all up in your space like Mattocks was, it’s easy to mess up. Mattocks created this lucky bounce.
Two, a couple interesting things happened after the ref made the call. First, the Philly players tried convincing him the foul took place outside the box and, then Mattocks convinced him to check with the fourth official about whether it was a red-card worthy foul.
The funny thing about this? The ref deciding the foul took place inside the box is probably the reason the goalkeeper wasn’t tossed.
If a GK commits a DOGSO foul inside the 18 then it’s a yellow not a red from what I’m gathering with the new FIFA guidelines. https://t.co/Bx59RSyLZk
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) April 9, 2017
I’m glad we got a PK and a third goal, but admit it, it would have been almost as cool having Philly down to 10 men and getting to see a field player standing in goal looking ridiculous in those big giant keeper gloves.
Final note, please enjoy this gif of a joyous Adi trying the dumb pregnant lady celebration, being denied by Onyewu, then saying hell with it and going to celebrate with the bench. As I said before, I really do think this sort of thing is determined by the personalities of a team’s primary goalscorers. So, God bless Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi. Not just for all the goals, but for always bringing in the rest of the team afterwards.
6) Last thing to talk about today? Marco Friggin’ Farfan.3
Vytas had better get healthy soon, or Marco is stealing his job.
Heading into this past weekend’s action, Timbers right back Alvas Powell led MLS in tackles with 21. Pretty sweet, right?
Now take a look at what happened Saturday in Philly.
That’s Powell over on the right with, hmm… let’s count ’em out… one. One tackle.
Over on the left? That’s Farfan, with seven.
Your updated MLS tackle rankings?
- Alvas Powell, 22 tackles
- Alexander Ring, 22
- Cristian Roldan, 21
- Marco Farfan, 19
And that’s just total tackles. When you look at tackles per game?
I am not saying that Farfan’s better than Powell. Chris Rifer wrote eloquently this week on Powell’s brilliance.
What I am saying is that, one, Farfan’s got a helluva future, two, in only three games he’s put himself into the MLS Rookie of the Year conversation, and, three, Vytas better get back on the field soon and kick a whole lot of ass once he’s there, or he may find himself permanently on the bench wearing a yellow vest.
Final note, and I think I’ll make this a footnote, a few weeks back, when Houston came to town, Erik Cubo Torres scored on a PK and did the whole put-the-soccer-ball-under-his-shirt-and-pretend-he’s-a-pregnant-women-who-is-also-sucking-her-thumb-which-doesn’t-entirely-make-sense-if-you-think-about-it-because-I’m-pretty-sure-pregnant-women-don’t-suck-their-thumbs-though-I-could-be-wrong-I’m-certainly-no-expert-when-it-comes-to-pregnant-women celebration. He did this in front of the TA and we booed him fiercely and that should be the end of the story. Except, this Saturday I saw three different players copying that move. Adi after his PK, Lodeiro in the Seattle/San Jose game, and Yura Movsisian in the RSL/Vancouver game. Do I have a point? No. I just find it odd that this goal celebration is the new big thing. I wouldn’t mind if it stopped. ↩
Have Vytas or Farfan played enough games to be called a regular? What about Ridgy? ↩
Dear God, did I just bestow the Friggin’ sobriquet on someone other than Rodney Friggin’ Wallace? I think I did and I think I’m incredibly conflicted about it. Oh, wait, hold on, hold on… it was Rodney FREAKING Wallace, wasn’t it? Okay, thank goodness, we may be okay here. Deep breaths. Step back from the edge, C.I. It’s gonna be alright. ↩