Results in preseason don’t count, or so we’re told about just about any sport. That doesn’t sound so bad great if you’re from Portland, Oregon, this March 2014. On evidence of the Portland Timbers’ preseason, some of bad habits from last season appear to have carried over into 2014. Something about early doors…
When it comes to the rest of MLS…it’s just confusing.
No, fans shouldn’t feel any emotion stronger than mild optimism – a light beer on the imaginary scale that equates beer to happiness – on seeing their team hoist a preseason trophy. On the other, 2013 was a tall bucket of shit for DC United, so it only seems fair to let them whoop a little about taking the Carolina Challenge Cup…even if they win it just about every preseason. As for everyone else, just keep cool if the ball rolled your way in early 2014. And nod sagely as if it’s all going according to plan.Good bounces happened for a weird number, and collection, of teams this preseason. Did anyone predict the Columbus Crew’s rolling through February or, when the calendar turned to March, over Sporting KC? Chicago coming out just as strong has anomaly written all over it, but who knows in MLS? And if someone can explain to me what the hell the LA Galaxy was doing for all of February…a little help, please? (As in, did they play any team of consequence?) It’s a goofy league. Seriously.
Some teams played to type – Toronto FC, for instance, who proved the point, unintentionally no doubt, that shit-tons of cash truly doesn’t buy success, or at least not instant success. (Losing the, uh, 7th Place match…didn’t even know that was a thing. Hang in there, TFC fans; if the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” applies to anything, it’s MLS.)
I didn’t check every team’s record, this isn’t exhaustive, etc. etc. etc. I did pay attention, though, to the Portland Timber’s preseason in particular.
To be blunt about it, Caleb Porter’s off-season moves were…arousing. We have enough Argentines, and with enough apparent quality, to make for a pretty decent poker hand: Norberto Papparato looks at least solid and Gaston Fernandez looks skillful as he does active. Toss in some nice preseason moments for a couple of the young guys we picked up through the draft – among them, Aaron Long and Schillo Tshuma, especially – and it looks like we came by those erect nipples honestly.
The feet, however, remain cold. (And no more sexual allusions. At least for this post.) Here’s a question for any visiting Timbers fans: raise your hand if, last season, you remember agonizing through a game when Portland failed to turn all that pretty possession into clear chances, never mind goals. And how many of you feel a little extra queasy just before every set piece? Timbers fans picked up that little burp of nausea for good reason. Some distressing foreshadowing weighed down this preseason games, none more than the loss to San Jose. With the way their forwards found wide-open spaces inside the 18, we’d all do well to keep those motion sickness bags handy.
Yes, we’re all hoping for a great year out here in Portland, but we could very well have to settle for interesting.
I’ll close this preseason wrap-up (for that’s what it was; anyone notice?) with an observation about another game I caught over the weekend, Colorado v. New England. What with the wind and the standing water, the conditions sucked. The game, though, and both teams overcame it. Because it produces constipated soccer, I’m lukewarm at best on the “the pressing game” that so many teams play, but I was encouraged – no, inspired – by the way both New England and Colorado responded to it. They played the game the right way when they had the ball – i.e. on the ground, quick and short, using high percentage passes with an eye to getting a player in a position where he can try the necessary next-level thing. Good teams should do that and less-good teams aspire to it – and for a lot of reasons.
The fact that more teams in MLS are doing says a lot about MLS and where it’s headed. It does the soul good, that’s all I’m saying…
…well, that and that Portland needs to keep up. It looks like we’re trying and that’s the first step.