Six Degrees: Time To Worry?

Back in March, the big question was Are The Timbers Really This Good? My, how things have changed.

1) Going into Saturday’s early kickoff in Montreal, I was hoping a rock solid road performance would get the Timbers back to their winning ways. 13 minutes later, I realized we might have to wait another week.

What is there to say? It’s an absolute howler from referee Jair Marrufo. Genuinely one of the softest penalty calls you will ever see.

Though, to be honest, I can’t help but be impressed by Blerim Dzelmali’s dive. How does he spin himself around like that? It’s almost gravity-defying. A tiny little touch from Sebastian Blanco and, boom, Dzelmali’s spinning like Jackie Chan. A world-class dive from a man with a world-class name.

One Ignacio Piatti PK later, and the Timbers are down 1-0.

2) That PK wasn’t the back breaker, though. The back breaker was in the 18th minute when Diego Chara got tossed for smacking Piatti in the face.

Chara’s my favorite player, I love how physical he plays, and it’s always frustrated me when opposing fans call him dirty. “He’s physical,” I say, “not dirty.”

And then he goes and does this, a clear and obvious red card-worthy play.

The key moment in this sequence is after Piatti and Chara struggle on the touchline, then Piatti leaves Chara behind. You can see Chara look at the ref and hold both hands out like, WTF, ref? You’re not gonna call that?

He then immediately chases Piatti down and gives him a casual wack to the face.

Did he hit Piatti hard? No. Did Piatti sell it a little? Yes. But that doesn’t change the facts. Chara got frustrated and wacked a dude in the face.

He’s still my favorite Timber, but this was a dumb play and pretty much sealed our team’s fate.

3) That being said, the game still had a few nice moments. Like when Tanner took on the whole 7th grade.

Wait, I’m sorry, it was when Blanco took on the entire Montreal bench.

Blanco’s feisty, isn’t he? Got a little touch of the crazy?

4) Speaking of feisty Argentines…

This whole “Diego Valeri scoring with his head” thing is getting weird, isn’t it?

Another interesting statistic? This was Alvas Powell‘s third assist of the year. In 34 games last year, Portland fullbacks had a grand total of two assists. After only 12 games this year, our fullbacks already have five. Make of that what you will.

5) I’m gonna dedicate these last two degrees to numbers. I’ve been looking at various statistics these past few days, hoping they might tell me what’s going on with the Timbers. If arranging them in just the right way would give us all a clear answer as to why we’re struggling.

Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

But they’re interesting nonetheless. Let’s start with our back four.

Wait… what is our back four? Do we even know? With all the different guys we’ve thrown out there, which back four has done the best? The worst? Will looking at this tell us anything at all?

Minn W 5-1 Vytas Ridgy Olum Powell
LA W 1-0 Farfan Miller Olum Powell
Hou W 4-2 Valentin Miller Olum Powell
Colum L 2-3 Valentin Miller Olum Powell
NE D 1-1 Farfan Miller Olum Powell
Phi W 3-1 Farfan Miller Olum Powell
SKC L 0-1 Farfan Miller Olum Powell
Van W 2-1 Vytas Ridgy Olum Powell
Dal D 2-2 Vytas Ridgy Olum Powell
SJ L 0-3 Vytas Ridgy Olum Powell
Atl D 1-1 Vytas Ridgy Miller Powell
Mtl L 1-4 Vytas Ridgy Miller Powell

To be honest, I’m not sure this tells us anything at all. It’s kind of a confusing mess.

Powell’s the only guy who’s played every game, so his record is 5-4-3, same as the team.

Lawrence Olum‘s played the next most. He’s 5-3-2. (2-1-1 with Ridgy, 3-2-1 with Miller)

Roy Miller is 3-3-2. (He’s 3-2-1 at left center back, 0-1-1 at right center back)

Liam Ridgewell is 2-2-2. (He’s 2-1-1 with Olum, 0-1-1 with Miller)

Vytautas Andriuskevicius is 2-2-2. (Interestingly, he and Ridgy have played all the same games.)

Marco Farfan is 2-1-1. (Interestingly, he has always played with the exact same back four.)

Zarek Valentin is 1-1-0. (He subbed in for Powell Saturday. Will he start at RB this coming week?)

Do you see anything obvious? Can we draw any conclusions from these lineups? I’m not so sure. The only thing I’m willing to say is that it sure would be cool to have the same four guys back there week after week after week.

6) And we’ll finish with one more pile of numbers. Again, I’m not sure if they’re terribly significant, but I’ll show them to you anyway. Make of them what you will.

After three games, the Timbers were 3-0-0 (3.0 PPG) with a +7 goal differential. Since then, they’re 2-4-3 (1.0 PPG) with a -5 goal differential.

3.0 PPG will definitely get you some silverware. 1.0 definitely won’t.

Does using that opening three-game win streak seem not quite fair? Okay, let’s break it down differently.

After eight games, the Timbers were 5-2-1 (2.0 PPG) with a +8 goal differential. Again, this will get you some silverware. Since then, they’re 0-2-2 (0.5 PPG) with a -6 goal differential. This will get you the Wooden Spoon.

Break the games up however you like, the Timbers are having serious problems. Fortunately, they’re not the only such club. Orlando started 6-1-0. Since then, they’re 0-3-2. Stick a fork in them? Stick a fork in the Timbers, too?

Not so fast, my friend. Toronto started the year 1-1-4 (1.16 PPG). Since then, they’re 6-0-1. Philadelphia started the season 0-4-4 (0.5 PPG). Since then, they’re 4-0-0.

Are we going to win our next four? Our next six? Probably not. But maybe. It’s a long season. There are hot streaks, cold streaks, and lukewarm streaks. Pretty much every team has them. We’re in the middle of a bad one right now, but do I think it’s a death spiral? No. We were playing above our abilities earlier in the season, we’re playing below our abilities right now, but the season is long and the Timbers will eventually find their true selves. The only question is whether that true self will be closer to 2.0 PPG or 1.0 PPG.