Six Degrees: Tough Times

Seattle Photo - Craig Mitchelldyer, Portland Timbers

I chose the above photograph for two reasons. One, that tifo was basically the highlight of the match, and two, that MLS Cup win back in December was the last time the Timbers won a game on the road.

1) We’ve lost four of our last five, we’re the only team in the league yet to win a road game, we’ve got a -2 goal differential on the year, and our biggest rival is now the hottest team in the league. Without a doubt, this is a tough time to be a Timbers fan.

On the other hand, remember how dire things were last season? After seeing how quickly things turned around then, I’m not sure we can give up on this year until the team’s mathematically eliminated.

That’s easy to say and hard to do, but it’s a good point to keep in mind as we go over Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Seattle. It might ease the pain a little.  Maybe.  It’s worth a try, at least.

2) After a first half of sitting back, ceding possession, and looking like a solid bet to finish with a 0-0 draw, Caleb Porter and the coaching staff must have decided at halftime, You know what? Fuck it. Let’s take the game to them.

Generally, I applaud that sort of attitude. It usually leads to more possession, more chances, and more action. Unfortunately, it can also lead to more goals allowed, which is what happened Sunday. Let’s look at all three and see if we can assign blame.

Goal one was the penalty. I love you, Vytas Andriuskevicius, but this was a mess. Maybe you got the ball, maybe you didn’t, but that dude didn’t fall down on his own. You plowed him over. That’s a foul anywhere on the field. Don’t make a habit of this.

Goal two, this one’s on the new guy, Steven Taylor. I don’t know how Clint Dempsey got this open in the first place – maybe it’s Taylor’s fault, maybe it’s Jack Jewsbury‘s, maybe it’s Diego Chara‘s – but once Dempsey’s got it in that location, don’t just stand there and let him do his thing. Close him out! Whether you’re in MLS or the English Premeir League, if you give a good striker this much time and space, it’s almost guaranteed he’ll seal the deal.

Goal three, this is on another Englishman, Jack Barmby. Yeah, sure, the corner kick was re-directed, but Roldan read it pretty well, so why didn’t you, Jack? You were right there on him. Look alive, kid.

3) The Timbers had 16 shots Sunday, which is a very solid number. Good on them for creating chances. Finishing those chances, however? That’s another issue entirely.

A number of times this year, I’ve referred to Jack McInerney as a finisher. I’m beginning to wonder if that was a mistake. He may automatically lose that designation for this play alone.

There are so many things wrong with this play, they pretty much blur into one giant wad of ugly. I’m not ready to give up on JackMac as a finisher, but Sunday was not his best performance.

On the other side of things, Fanendo Adi didn’t see much of the field Sunday, but still managed to renew his membership in the Finisher’s Club with this stoppage time goal.

The goal had little effect on Sunday’s game, but perhaps it will pop Adi out of his rut moving forward. Speaking of Adi’s psychology…

4) … the big fella was a last minute scratch from the starting XI. What gives? Here’s the best info we have.

Not too surprisingly, after the game, the Timbers staff dodged all questions on the matter, saying they’d keep it in-house. What can I add to the discussion? Not much. Adi wanted a summer transfer to a bigger team and didn’t get it, but I was hoping he’d respond by scoring bushels of goals, raising his status and his salary next year. That hasn’t happened. Instead, his scoring’s dried up a bit and now he’s missing flights. How much should we worry? Is the locker room falling apart? Is the team spirit fraying a bit?

Officially, our current DPs are Liam Ridgewell, Lucas Melano, and Diego Valeri. Adi’s not on that list, but it kinda feels like he could be. I’m starting to wonder if next year Valeri will be the only one of those four who returns. Adi covets a bigger league and a bigger paycheck, Melano is always on the verge of breaking out but never does, and Ridgy’s body is breaking down to the point he only plays about half our games.

Guys wanting to leave, guys worried they’ll have to leave, this isn’t a recipe for success. We’ve got two months left. If the team’s psychology sours, you can bet its on-field performance will sour as well. We may already be seeing it.

5) A few player quick takes.

Alvas Powell and Jack Jewsbury. A very solid game from the both of you. Well done.

Liam Ridgewell and Steven Taylor. A very uncertain game from the both of you. Some good moments, but some others that left me concerned. Please put me at ease about our back line.

Clint Dempsey. Feel free to go fuck yourself for this elbow to the ribs.

Diego Chara. I’ve watched this gif a bunch and I’m not entirely sure why Lodeiro goes flying. Is there some contact I’m missing? Something that deserves a yellow card?

Fortunately, El Maestro came by to tell the ref how he felt about his performance.

6) A few weeks ago, I talked about us, SKC, SJ, and Houston as the four teams competing for the last two playoff spots. Things have change dramatically since then. For starters, SKC’s running away from the rest of us, making it seem there’s only one playoff spot really up for grabs.

2016-08-22 (1)

Second big change? Seattle is on fire. In fact, not only have they climbed back into the race, right now I’d call them the favorites. Not the favorites to win it all, mind you, just the favorites to take that last spot. They’re currently two points behind us and they have a game Wednesday. Win it, and they’ll come into Sunday’s rematch having already passed us.

I’ve heard some people say the entire season rests on Sunday’s game. I think that might be a little extreme, but I will say that there’s only so much longer we can scuffle along. We’ve got to pull out of this tailspin now or we’ll be spending the last month of the season talking about next year’s team.

Am I frustrated right now? Yes. Would missing the playoffs suck? Yes. Would it be the end of the world? No. Would it mean the Timbers are a failure in every possible way? No. Should we abandon ship? Absolutely not.

As a very wise young woman said…