First, major props to Will Johnson for calling a pig a pig in the post-game. And Caleb Porter was nuts for calling this game “tight” in the mid-game.
So, what the fuck happened to the Portland Timbers tonight? How do we start the season with a 1-1 draw, especially when our Cascadia rivals both won? (The fuckers!) Tough to say, really, because the game moved pretty quick and loose – which is to its credit. Open games are greater than tight ones. And I mean every time…
To forward an opinion as to what went wrong: Will Johnson and Diego Chara went missing when it mattered. It’s either that or the defense played too deep. Or, to Philly’s credit, they found room to operate in the (considerable) seam between the midfield and defense and, from there, wrought havoc. At least in the first half. And, to me, that gap is where Chara and Johnson ought to be. Or where Chara or Johnson ought to be, like, at all times. To choose between them, Chara improved as the game wore on, so….please don’t find my house, Mr. Johnson. I don’t fight!
Other players visibly struggled as well, chief among them Diego Valeri. Between bad luck and wearing a second left foot on the night, our normally rock-solid Diego looked a little out of sorts – see, the big whiff at the left of Philly’s 18 in the second half. Also consider why Will Johnson had to holler at him. Whatever it was, his feet betrayed him again and again. And then once more. I think Valeri’s still getting there and, after last season, enormous faith seems a reasonable default position.
I count Gaston Fernandez as another player who looked noticeably off. He played behind people, his runs weren’t nearly as productive as Urruti’s (nailed the spelling; unlike on Twitter) and he operated in a sort of “once-removed” capacity all night.
And then he scored the equalizer. This is the guy you don’t expect. And I take that as his marker that he’ll come around. And so will Valeri. It’s early doors, people. The Timbers got this…
In spite of my opinion, and Will Johnson’s (see? expert endorsement!), more Timbers than not played at the expected/desired level. As alluded to above, Urruti chased the ball like a ravening loon and his runs did more to pull Philly apart than any…other…Timber. Also, in the good column, Darlington Nagbe. Whether turning a 180 to face goal or taking on a Union player from a complete stand-still, he kept just about every Philly defender within a 10-yard radius anxious.
Other honorable mentions: Donovan Ricketts (saves!); Michael Harrington (blocks!); Jack Jewsbury (steady!), Paparatto (ditto! Way to go, other, taller new guy!).
If you’re looking for a take-away, most of the problems revolved around showing the new guys the right part of the song sheet and getting the regulars fully recovered. In other words, I have faith. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the requisite level. And we will. Unless we don’t. Crap…the season really started, didn’t it?
As for Philadelphia (first, sorry to stick you around the bottom), they came off pretty well – and in both halves. Maurice Edu looked fairly commanding out there, McInerney all but converted me to the faith (for I have none), and the Berry/Okogu central-D tandem held pretty firm. Hackworth put in the subs I would have – we can leave open, for now, the question of whether or not that’s a good thing – but this was one point on the road in a tricky venue for them that totally could have been three. This was a good game, the rest of the East, so sit up and salute! So, the hype holds so far. And god knows why I didn’t pick them for the post-season…
OK, let’s see what the Timbers do next week. I’ll post a bunch of crap to hold the guests over in the meantime.