Happy little trees

Do I have my ticket?

Do I have my wallet?

Do I have my keys?

Wait. Do I have my ticket?

Do I have a competent back four and a confident striker?

After a 5-1 win over an expansion side in the Timbers’ 2017 home opener, I’m absolutely sure of the following: I have my ticket, my wallet, and my keys.

The forward looks like he’s decided this is his year. I’m still apprehensive about the back four. I’ll probably stay apprehensive for quite some time.

Five goals in a game, a home game, the first home game of the season, might push us to see more in this team than is actually there.

To be fair to Minnesota, they held their ground remarkably in the first half, despite giving up a goal to (apologies to Larry) perhaps the least likely non-goalkeeping Timber on the field. It was only really in those last fifteen minutes of the second half that the Loons came completely unglued.

What’s key here is that, when that glue started to fail, the Timbers stepped up to capitalize. I think it’s fair to say many past Timbers teams would have taken the 2-1 win and that would have been that. But this team (and especially Fanendo Adi) saw opportunity and took it.

Caleb Porter said after the game he was disappointed not to go 3-0. I get you, brother. I do. And I’ll add to that by saying the Minnesota goal made me nervous.

A lot of people are high on a decisive opening weekend win and, while I don’t want to go all Debbie Downer here, I’m going to need to see what happens against a stronger team, and what happens on the road. It’s possible we see both of these things next week when the Timbers play away at the Galaxy.

Until then, maybe let’s calm down. I understand painting happy little trees is helpful.

5 Comments Happy little trees

  1. John Lawes

    I thought that the really important piece of the match was after the concession. How many times have we seen the Timbers park the bus, concede, and then…continue trying to park, flail, concede again (and, often, again…)? That this team responded to what really was a flat-out awful piece of crap defending by pushing up and getting another goal – Adi’s brace was just pure beatdown; nice, but a happy luxury.

    But the mindset of Friday’s Timbers squad was much different from the way the team has often responded to taking a shot, and I was really, REALLY pleased to see that.

    But defending? Yeah, I’m not convinced. And we also don’t know how well this attack will work against either a better opponent or an opponent who, as Vancouver did in the second half of the preseason match, resorts to putting the boot in rather than trying to play soccer. So I’m all for keeping the highs a trifle low at this point…

  2. Roy Gathercoal

    I believe there is no question the ability to defend is there. The question is the will.

    The best defenders don’t play harder or softer based on how they think the offense is doing. They play hard, as if every game depends on preventing the next goal. None of this “we have a two-goal cushion so its time to just chill out, and start anticipating the locker room antics.”

    I am a life-long opponent of bunkering, and it seems that Portland does it particularly poorly. If you have a one- or two-goal lead in a game, it is not the time to stop doing what got you that lead, and give your opponent time to take shots at you. Some call it “finishing out the game” but I see it as “gambling away your lead.”

    I also believe that we, as well as every other MLS team, needs to do less messing with the refs and more messing with the opponents. If we start by making the refs our opponents, the game will likely not go well that day. I really wish we could just stop the posturing, the diving, the time wasting, the pointless arguing, the strategic tirades–just play soccer.

    Just think how nice it would be if the refs come to know that Portland players are not playing games with them, that if a Portland player falls down, there is a real reason!

    Consider the alternative reality in which an official who is asked about a foul by a player starts by believing that the question is legitimate, and the input ought to be heavily considered!

    Wouldn’t it be nice to go to a game and not have to endure endless time wasting as players go down, writhing in presumed pain, holding parts of their bodies not involved in any contact then resuming full play at a moment’s notice when the attention wanes!

    Wouldn’t it be appropriate for Portland to be among the leaders of this new integrity on the field?

    1. C.I. DeMannC.I. DeMann

      I saw an interview with Lionel Messi where he said something like, “I decided at an early age that I would not be a player who went down.” We can see this in his play, how he miraculously goes over, around, and through defenders. And then there’s his teammate, Neymar, who currently holds the Diving Championship Belt. I know which kind of player I’d rather watch.

      1. Timber Dave

        Agreed about Neymar, though I do think he’s gotten a lot better about it this year (perhaps because of Messi’s influence). Busquets on that team also dives, though less often (perhaps because he’s a d-mid). Cristiano Ronaldo is really awful at it too — so many times he crumples at the slightest touch, then acts petulant when the ref doesn’t award a penalty. Yuck.

        There’s a hidden refereeing issue there. If someone fouls a player hard enough that she/he can’t play the ball well, but not hard enough to knock them over, what’s the right response? In my book that should be a foul, since it’s illegal contact that led to loss of a ball (or of a good shot), but very few refs will call a foul if the player isn’t knocked over. What’s a player to do? Falling over would be diving, while not falling over lets the fouler succeed. What’s a ref to do? Whistle a foul on every contact? That leads to a really choppy game interrupted every few seconds by a whistle. Not whistle? Again, that lets the fouler succeed. Obviously a ref has to choose what level of contact to allow, but it can be nearly impossible to tell how much force was involved in contact and how the direction of the force impacted a player’s ability to play the ball.

        I don’t know any solution to this problem.

    2. John Lawes

      While I agree with you on parking the bus, Roy, I think that defenders have to pick and choose tactics based on a lot of factors, including the score, the opponents, and their teammates. I don’t know if it’s possible to be spun up to 100% for every moment of 90+ minutes and not tighten up to the point of making mistakes just from nervous tension.

      But I don’t think that’s remotely the Timbers’ defenders’ problem. It tends to be, as you say, slacking off and derping around.

      As for officiating…I think that the Timbers in general and certain players in particular have a rep with the PRO for whining and diving. I think Adi tends not to get calls because he’s seen as a big guy who goes down too easily (tho he’s WAY less prone to do that than he was a couple of years back…). Agree; the team needs to get up and PLAY. If you have to add a little drama to your fall to draw the ref’s eye, fine. But leave the operatic acting to Serie A…


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