Goalkeepers are like Congressmen: you’re OK with your own, but the rest are thieves or assholes. (OK, potentially obscure title, but what do Congressmen do on the campaign trail? Kiss babies, amirite?)
This week, Nick Rimando is both a thief and an asshole. He turned in a man-of-the-match kind of night, only for the wrong team. So, yeah, thief and asshole. The Portland Timbers had at least three (3) high-quality chances on goal and the son-of-a-bitch stoned them all. Two of them after the Timbers went down 1-0 to a goal by Ned Grabavoy. I only just learned about Grabavoy’s once-medically fragile daughter and, being a father myself, I can’t imagine the stress, so, Ned, have that goal on us. And a pint. Just keep in mind that it’s the last one you get. Are we good? Good.
The four people who routinely check my Twitter feed will know that I saw a 1-0 game. I just thought that Portland would be on the right side of the final score. I can’t say why – and gods know I’m fucking awful at predicting anything more complex than the sunrise – but something told me, this is around the 15 minute mark, that the Timbers would pull out this game. They didn’t obviously, but…
I count this their most complete performance of the early, painful 2014 season. Take away Grabavoy’s goal – which, sadly, we can’t – and Portland didn’t give Real Salt Lake an inordinate number of chances and they created enough of their own at the other end. Going from memory (it’s hazy) I counted at a minimum of five that required Rimando to reach into the upper reaches of his ass to find the save, so that’s a net positive, right? Anyway, yeah, Nick Fucking Rimando.
All in all, I found a lot of positives. Portland had a dominant spell in the second half that lasted a good 15, 20 minutes. And that was in the second half. It might have killed us – honestly, I think it did sap what remained of our energy – but this came on the road against RSL, the consensus pick for best team in MLS (well, at least in my own little world). Sure, RSL responded with ten quality minutes of their own – a fatal passage, as it happens – but it was a tight, buoyant ship Portland sailed till then.
The biggest positive came from the (Portland’s) man-of-the-match outing from Will Johnson. Free Willy (can I call him that?) has been a little off so far this season, but he played like himself today: tearing the ball of the toe of any RSL player who happened to be near him, switching the ball timely and with some aplomb, giving those now-patented eyes-bulging stares at anyone who didn’t perform to standards: yeah, that’s the Will Johnson I know and I hope he’s back for the rest of 2014.
Overall, though, Portland punched even with RSL. I think it was March to the Match’s Matt Tomaszewicz who dubbed this Portland’s best chance for an improbable win/escape due to the both teams’ playing styles. I could be completely wrong on the source there (but someone said it; trust me), but the game played out according to that plan. After what was, honestly, a loose, sloppy, yet structurally sound first half, Portland had some very genuine, a-special-episode-of kind of moments. See: those four of those five quality shots, which came in the second half.
Sadly, it wasn’t all upside – and not least because it wasn’t enough in the end.
To admit something I probably shouldn’t, I have a hell of a time watching the opposite team in any game when I have a rooting interest – like this one. As such, I don’t have a ton to say about what RSL did to win tonight. I only know that Nick Goddamn Rimando dropped a massive deuce on my night. Because that’s what ‘keepers’ go. Because they’re assholes. Or thieves. At any rate, my lightly-enforced glances at RSL told me that they weren’t shy about committing numbers forward – they got three guys in the box often – and this allowed for a couple hair-raising combinations in and around Portland’s area (can I start calling this the “swimsuit zone”?). Javier Morales looked good for them, Tony Beltran…well, he seemed to look good. Look, like I just told you, I struggle watching a second team when obsessively focused on another one…so, back to them. That is the Portland Timbers….
One player stood out for me as having an iffy night: Diego Valeri. The man still looks stiff, there’s just no two ways about it. He had his moments to be sure – FLASHBACK: your left foot Maxi Urruti! Your left! The foot you used, like, one fucking minute in the past? Use that one when Valeri pops a divine shoulda-been assist in stride, 12 yards out from goal* – but, more often than not, Valeri sometimes struggled to get the ball out from under his spokes, his passes were light too often, and he generally had issues with setting like the glue that the team needs him to be.
* I tweeted this and stand by it: Urruti had a five-minute spell that contained a career – i.e. he did so many good things in that span in terms of freeing himself to shoot…only to put a great left-footed shot on goal and follow that up with a moment when he forgot the left foot he had just used…maddening…
Another minor gripe: sure, Darlington “Darling!” Nagbe created a beautiful chance all on his lonesome – that’s one of Portland’s five – but he faded to the edges of oblivion after that shining moment and that’s not what Portland needs from a now and future star. It’s a 90-minute game, son, as I’m sure you know. Just do more of that and less of, say, getting rounded by Ned Grabavoy and the fans will adore you. Per the song.
To mention my big, personal concern going into the night – e.g. the Timbers defense – I think they had a decent night. No, I didn’t like where they were on the goal – i.e. that weird diagonal set up that slanted away from the angle of Grabavoy’s shot – and, sure, they had at least two shaky moments on clearances, plus a couple dumb fouls in troublesome areas. All in all, though, it was a respectable night, the kind your team can survive if your team gets their chances – which they did – only without Nick Fucking Rimando getting in the way – which he did.
Tough loss, all told, but one gilded with some precious metals. I think the Timbers can pip the Houston Dynamo on this form. Just sayin’….