Six Degrees: Dropping Points

A few quick thoughts on Portland’s 1-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes.

1) Yes, you read that previous sentence correctly.

Some ties feel like wins, some feel like losses; when you hold the lead for the last thirty minutes and then give up a goal in extra time, well, that’s a tie that feels like a swift kick to the naughty bits.

The awful thing is, last year’s game at San Jose was almost the exact same thing. Remember it? We had the lead, we go into a defensive bunker for the last 30 minutes, then Wondolowski scores two late goals to tie it.

This year, it was another 30 minutes of bunkering, followed by a 92nd minute goal from some rookie named Jahn. Three points suddenly turned into one, and me, gasping on the floor, holding my man parts.

So I’m sorry if I’m in a bit of a snit right now. Maybe by the end of the column, I’ll have some happy thoughts to drop on you, but for now, I’m just gonna sit here with an ice pack in my lap and bitch for awhile.

2) Okay, I know it’s a bit sacrilegious to question Caleb Porter, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

Coach, I blame the last-second goal entirely on you. You love to talk about how we’re an attacking team, a team that maintains possession, a team that keeps pressure on the other side, and I love everything about this. So why have we gone into a defensive bunker the last two games?

When we got the lead against Houston we kept attacking, but for two straight weeks against San Jose, we’ve gotten the lead and then just turtled. San Jose came at us like a blitzkrieg over and over again.

And when we did manage to get the ball back, we didn’t hold it and slowly make our way up field, wasting time, tiring them out. No, we just kicked it deep and hoped for the best.

I blame you for this, Coach. You know a hell of a lot more about soccer than I do, but I still think I’m right. Please don’t make this a habit. This is a recipe for disaster.

3) But even before we went into bunker mode, our offense was still pretty shaky, wouldn’t you guys agree? Our worst possession rate of the year, I think. Very few good shots. Is San Jose’s defense this good? Because in both games, we felt lucky to score. Will Johnson’s free kick goal last week seemed lucky. Same for Valeri’s sweet one-timer this week. Aside from those two shots, how many chances did San Jose give us? Not many. Why is this?

The optimistic view: San Jose’s just really good. The pessimistic view: the league has figured us out.

Please don’t let it be the latter.

4) Okay, I’m gonna do something a little risky here and say nice things about two very annoying people. Wondolowski and Lenhart.

Yeah, I know I’m supposed to hate these guys, and I’ll admit, they are very hate-able, but I can’t help admiring them a bit. Lenhart’s an annoying little turd, but he’s amazing in the air, isn’t he? He got his head on everything. And, I hate to say it, but there’s something about Wondo I’ve always liked. He’s always in the right spot, he’s always finding loose balls and turning them into shots on goal.

Both these guys remind me of Will Johnson. You hate them on the other team, but you’d love them on yours.

And now that I’ve said something good about Lenhart, I need to go take a shower.

5) And now, a few of our guys.

Diego Valeri – Great goal, amigo. It’s good to have you back. But what the hell were you doing during that goal celebration? Brushing the dandruff out of your hair? Bizarre…

Diego Chara – You are still a wonder to behold. Do you ever get tired? Do you have a little stash of espresso beans hidden in your waistband? Are you even human? Whatever it is you’re doing, keep it up. You’re an absolute beast out there.

Michael Harrington – Wow, Surferboy, you’ve been pretty much perfect the entire year, but not last night! First you lose track of Wondo in the box, requiring Ricketts to make a beauty save, then later you pass the ball directly to Garza, who’s got an open lane straight for the goal. Thank God he tripped himself up. Those are two shoulda-been goals for San Jose, gift-wrapped by you, Mike. You’ve been great so far this season. Let’s hope last night was the only egg you’ll lay.

Donovan Ricketts – Man of the Match, by a very large margin. Those were some beautiful, game-saving stops, my man. You may look old and creaky, but without you, we’d have given up 3 or 4 goals, simple as that. And I can’t blame you for the one goal allowed. It was practically a penalty kick, the guy was so open.

6) And finally, let’s think some happy thoughts. (Semi-happy, at least.)

Sure, it was a swift-kick-to-the-balls sort of tie, but we still got a point on the road, didn’t we? In fact, we’re undefeated on the road. Amazing! After three road games this season, we have three points. Know how long it took us to get three road points last year? Eleven games. Eleven. So, yeah, I’d say we’re a different team this year.

Another stat for you: you know how many teams in MLS have only one loss? Four. Montreal, Dallas, LA, and your Portland Timbers. Not too shabby.

And now we head to Kansas City, to play one of the best teams in the league. A team with a really tight defense. I wish I had some optimism for you right now, but instead, I think I’ll just put it on the record that I will be very happy with a tie.

Just please don’t kick me in the man-bits again. That’s all I ask.