Another day, another draw for the Portland Timbers. Another goal by fuckin’ new guy, Gaston Fernandez, this one just as weird as last week’s.
The remarkable thing: Fernandez scuffed at least two good looks prior to. One of those came on an at-long-last feed by Diego Valeri.
Last year’s flash Argentine (that’s Valeri) has looked stiff over the first two games; the same affliction struck Darlington Nagbe this weekend, which is a shame because I thought he looked pretty sharp in Week 1. Valeri, meanwhile, finally “found joy” (as local commentator Ross Smith…who somehow calls games for the Portland Timbers while playing for Ebbsfleet United eternally) late in Sunday’s game when he found space on the right side of midfield. That’s where that at-long-last feed came from. And Maxie Urruti came achingly close to tucking the same ball into goal at the opposite post. Any ball that gives two bites of the apple is pretty good.
So, what happened Sunday in that 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire?
Well, for one, it seemed like Chicago had 20 guys on the field during the second half, everyone of them bigger than the nearest Timber. Portland almost seemed afraid to tussle with the giants, so they booted too many passes over the top, with Norberto Paparatto being the worst culprit (and whose pass selection generally irked me). Chicago gobbled them up again and again and Quincy Amarikwa kept buzzing around the box until – there he is again – Paparatto knocked him down in the area. Love the enthusiasm, ‘Berto, but curb the Argie-bargie…say, has anyone checked the etymology on that little slip of slang? (Turns out it’s not a reference to British ire at Argentines.)
Anyway, you can’t fault Chicago for playing a good first half. The question I always have, and the thing I still don’t have the eyes to see, is what adjustments to personnel or formation got Portland back in the game. This lack of answers begs the question of why anyone should read what I write…shh….
Here’s what we know: Urruti came out at some point, with Steve Zakuani coming the other way; this pushed Fernandez up top, where, perhaps not so coincidentally, he started finding feeds from Valeri’s right-side runs. Possession had already tilted in Portland’s favor, even during the egg-sucking first half, so it must have ended more lopsided still by the end of the game. Whatever they did – and, gawd, who else subbed in? (Oh yeah, Frederic Piquionne came in….to replace Valeri on the right, for some damn reason; more later*) – it worked: Portland contained the Fire (new pun!) and threatened mightily to suppress it (more puns!).
* I don’t have the chops to gainsay Portland head coach Caleb Porter, not at least till he goes on a big ol’ run of fuck-up, but I could not get my head around why Piquionne stuck to the right. I happened to be watching the game with my mom, who has a habit of embracing most ideas like they’re hatched from wiser heads, so the only answer I had to that question was that someone knew what they were doing. I thought Portland would do better to have Piquionne work as a target forward while they launched balls forward to keep the ball on the right side of the field as time ran out. Gonzalo Segares helped shorten that time (“hurt!”)and the Timbers didn’t do that regardless. So…yeah, color me as wanting an explanation from Mr. Porter on that one.
And, totally unrelated, how big a shit-fest did Patrick Nyarko turn in on Sunday. He’s a player I really like…so, c’mon, Patrick, keep justifying my high opinion.
At any rate, Portland really did pour it on toward the end of the game (and the first half, in a totally eerily similar way). I didn’t have the quality of attacking in waves so much as throwing as much shit at the wall as you can and praying to dear god in heaven that all three points don’t get coughed up at home.
The Timbers didn’t – yay! thanks god! – but getting only a draw at home, and against yet another allegedly weaker Eastern Conference team doesn’t do a lot for belief. It doesn’t kill it either. I think I’m mostly pissed about having to go through the effort of reconsidering these Eastern Conference teams. Don’t make me get off this stool, people…
For what it’s worth, Portland should really have four points by now. I lost a bet on this shit. (I have to watch kinda crappy, yet still impressively ambitious fan Trek. Dammit.)