Six Degrees: Thanks, I Needed That

After the crime against humanity that was our 1-0 loss to SKC, I needed some nice, pretty soccer to pull me off the ledge. Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Vancouver was just what the doctor ordered.

1) The first big story from Saturday came before the match even started. How about that Starting XI, eh? Caleb Porter’s lineup sheet had five changes from the SKC game. Fanendo Adi out, Darren Mattocks in. Sebastian Blanco out, Dairon Asprilla in. Marco Farfan out, Vytautus Andriuskevicius1 in. Roy Miller out, Liam Ridgewell in. Jake Gleeson out, Jeff Attinella in.

Adi’s absence we knew about. He was suspended for doing what I wanted to do, punching an SKC player in the face.2 Miller’s absence wasn’t too surprising, since Ridgy had to get healthy eventually. Farfan’s absence, that was a tiny surprise, since he’d kind of won the starting spot, but maybe Vytas won it back. Competition’s a good thing, right? Blanco’s and Gleeson’s absences, I think those caught most of us by surprise. Especially Gleeson’s.

How did the team handle all these changes? By winning the game.

Caleb Porter had big words in the offseason about improving the team’s depth. After eight games, I think we can call his efforts a success. Let’s hope the bench can keep this up.

2) A couple weeks ago, I put out a special column listing my six favorite Timbers goals. It’s hella fun and you can read it here, but if you’re only interested in which golazo I ranked number four, here it is, from the 2013 US Open Cup.

One, that’s breathtaking, and two, Darlington Nagbe nearly matched it in the 18th minute Saturday. Watch as he punks not one, not two, but three Whitecap defenders, the banks it off the bottom of the crossbar and into goal.

If you need a few moments to recover from that, I understand. I’ll wait.

Good to go? Cool. Let’s talk numbers.

Over the last three seasons, Nagbe has averaged 2.33 goals. This year, he has two goals in eight games. (That’s eight team games, of course. Nags has only played in seven of them.) If he keeps up this pace, he’ll score eight and a half goals on the year, which is just short of his career-best 9 in 2013.

More numbers: Over the last three seasons, Nagbe has averaged 43.66 shots. He has 13 shots so far, which works out to 55 on the year. Again, just short of 2013, when he shot it a career-best 62 times.

We’ve long hoped that 2013 Nagbe would someday return. It appears that day has arrived.3

3) In the 40th minute, Darren Mattocks became the ninth Timber to score a goal this year, and he did it against his old team, which I sure must annoy the hell out of Vancouver fans.

There are many things worth noting here.

First, Andrew Jacobson earned a yellow card for that foul on Diego Chara in the center of the pitch.

Second, hats off to referee Chris Penso for playing advantage.

Third, that’s a hell of a pass from Nagbe to Diego Valeri, splitting two defenders like it’s no big thing.’s game log is listing it as an assist, but their box score is not. I’ll choose to believe it’s an official assist, since that would put Nagbe on pace for a career-best 12.75.

And finally, both Valeri’s pass and Mattocks’s run were pitch perfect. Vancouver’s D got drawn out of position, Valeri and Mattocks got behind them, and it was all over from there.

Also worth discussing,4 goal celebrations.

After two goals, I think it’s official: Nagbe celebrates goals like a golden god.

It would seem Mattocks has a goal celebration as well, though it’s much less god-like.

All things considered, I’m still Team Valeri and Team Adi when it comes to celebrations. I’m all about the unbridled joy.

4) Our offense spent a lot of time on the right flank Saturday. Check out this passing map, especially noting the large possession circle of Alvas Powell, versus the small circle of Vytas.

Now, with that in mind, watch our first goal again, only this time, don’t look at the ball handlers. Look at Vytas.

And here’s the second goal. Again, look at Vytas trailing the play.

Dear Lord, is that man wide open. If I were a betting man, I’d put a small wager on Vytas picking up a cheap goal at some point this season while following a play like this. A spilled save? A looping pass to the back post? However it comes, keep an eye on Vytas, because the defense certainly isn’t.

5) The Timbers dominated the opening 45 minutes, but things were a little less sharp in the second half. In the 58th minute, Alvas was called for a penalty. In the moment, I thought it was a bad call, but afterwards, seeing video like this, there’s not much room for argument.

When it came time for the kick, surprise starter Jeff Attinella almost came up the hero. Almost.

What a whiplash of emotion that must be for a keeper. The ecstasy of saving a PK and then, literally one second later, the devastation of giving up a goal. You gotta feel for the guy.

At least he had this moment to ease his pain.

6) And I’ll finish us off with some quick notes.

– If we ever bring in that mystery center back everyone’s talking about, I hope he’s a beast in the air. We give up too many headers.5

– Speaking of center backs, whatever happened to Rennico Clarke? He looked fairly decent in preseason. When’s Caleb gonna give him a run? #PlayYourKids

– Dairon Asprilla is an artistic jumper. He jumps for the ball like a ballerina. Like a majestic orca, rising above the ocean’s gray surface only to crash down again, a bloody lifeless seal in his maw.6

– Valeri took the big hit to the head/neck in the 6th, took another big shot somewhere in the middle of the game, and then had to be carried off in the 80th. None of these things are good. Get well soon, El Rey.

– Nothing came of this counter attack, but sped up a little, it’s genuinely terrifying to watch. God help the goalkeeper who sees this train coming his way.

  1. Insert spelling bee joke here. Did you know you don’t have to click on these footnotes to see my stupid jokes? Just float your mouse over the number and the stupid joke will magically appear. Now if I could just get those weird Lithuanian umlaut tilde thingies to magically appear in Vytas’s name. 

  2. Okay, it wasn’t quite a punch, but I won’t hold that against Adi. 

  3. I’ve jinxed it, haven’t I? Nags ain’t scoring again the rest of the year, is he? Dammit, why did I open my stupid mouth? 

  4. ALWAYS worth discussing 

  5. By the way, Yaya Banana is old news. It’s all about John Boye these days. I loved him on The Waltons

  6. Note to self: don’t do peyote before writing about Dairon Asprilla.