Promises of progress ring hollow when they go long enough without being fulfilled. That’s not complicated.
And the Portland Timbers find themselves in a fairly uncomplicated position after four games and two points. Anyone can sit back and weigh what’s going well for Portland and what isn’t. Here’s a piece that does it, but I haven’t even read it yet, just to make sure I’m relying on the pickled brain cells; don’t want things like optimism and reasoned caveats to get in the way of righteous funk. What needs to happen is fundamental enough that it doesn’t need dressing up: it’s time for the Timbers to start scoring goals on one end of the field, at least deliberately or earlier, and stopping the dumb ones from going in the other end.
So, the Portland Timbers went on down to Dallas, waded past the longhorns (presumably; I have to assume that’s why those beasts featured in the broadcast intro) and took the field. Things started reasonably enough that to make a case for viewing this as the Timbers brightest start to any game in 2014. Too great a gap between the defense and midfield made for the sole worrying sign I noted early. Then again, I don’t remember a lot of major importance happening in the first 30 minutes or so…(highlights for those interested in confirming).
…which stitched this neatly into Portland’s pattern for 2014 so far – e.g. a casual preponderance of possession leading nowhere in particular. Don’t get me wrong: it looks nice on paper, all that rushing and feinting up the field, but there’s a certain shyness to it, a politeness that recalls an awkward suitor…more on this later, because it comes up after something of a bad spell. Or a pair them.
Things started looking officially bad when Dallas’ Fabian Castillo discovered a gap between Jack Jewsbury’s right flank and the central defense. Castillo would get in there a few times and all people who give a shit about Portland came that much closer to having a shit with each successive foray. It was plain, then, that thar be gaps. With that opening, Dallas leaned a little on the front foot.
The game really went on its head when the ref dealt red cards to a player on each team – Michael Harrington for Portland, JeVaugh Watson for FC Dallas. I can’t say for sure how Dallas adjusted beyond assuming that they adjusted better than Portland. Diego Chara apparently went to right back and…someone else apparently went to left back: it’s hard to say given the way Dallas scored their opening goal. Without painting a picture and naming names, suffice to say that the ball went from one side of the Timbers narrow defensive set-up to another before Dallas’ Blas Perez nodded home on the threshold of goal.
And Portland returned to a place they know so well: 1-0 down. C’mon, you know the words! Sing along…anyone? Anyone?
The half started and things just kind of happened from there. Portland sort of desultorily asserted themselves, aided by a series of fortunate bounces – though none so fortunate as the own-goal that Maximiliano Urruti caromed off Chris Hedges foot. Credit Urruti for chasing down everything out there down to balls of lint, but there’s one thing that bears pointing out: Portland didn’t really score. As goes the goal, so goes the game: the Timbers deserved it and they didn’t. They had the better of the game, but it was the better of a whole lot of meh. There was a lot of panting, but not a lot of action. It’s just…can someone please give these guys the OK to go for second base?
That’s it in a nutshell. I’ll read what Matt Doyle counted as their particular sins after this goes up, but a general lack of conscious aggression tangles around the root of it all. Timbers defenders are not closing down quickly and with bite – I mean, Dallas could play just about anywhere, even during Portland’s better spells – they’re laying off, generally, and putting the most emphasis on getting goal-side as opposed to pouncing into passing lanes. When the Timbers have the ball it’s…I don’t know. Aimless? Put it this way: on one end of the spectrum you’ve got Will Johnson wailing balls into the stands like he’s blindfolded and, on the other, play just sort of petering out. Gaston Fernandez may or may not have played at all, while Darlington Nagbe’s injury was the most memorable part of his day (get better…in all ways, please). Anyone looking for positives can point to a little welcome looseness in Diego Valeri’s play, but he’s passing to a bunch of guys still learning their roles. And he’s not even passing that great as yet.
As everyone knows by now, the persistent inability to just. knock. the. damn. ball. away bit again and Dallas’ Mauro Diaz lashed a well-taken winner past Andrew Weber. There was nothing left to do but nurse the tumbler of bourbon till my face drooped as numbly as the Timbers players.
Recalling that Portland dropped points last year gets more academic with each point dropped this year. It’s very easy to say things will turn around, but that’s not going to make it happen. And things do need to turn around. MLS might be the world’s most forgiving league (no, scratch that; it IS the world’s most forgiving league), but there is a point of no return. And searching for it seems like a really, really bad idea.