Arnold on ETR on the Timbers; Me on That

ImageSomewhere in the last year or so (actual year, not calendar) I discovered podcasting – which I now believe happens kind of automatically on arriving at middle age…probably relates to how music suddenly sounds scary somehow…anyway

I don’t listen that many podcasts; MLSsoccer.com’s March to the Match is the only one I listen to reliably (obsessively, even; and I do recommend that one, and highly. They just do things better ‘round there.) ExtraTime Radio (ETR) can lure me back every once in a while – notably, when they have a guest ready to talk Portland Timbers and everything that’s wrong with them this year.

That someone was The Oregonian’s sports reporter, Geoffrey Arnold, a guy I used to read regularly before they fucked up just about everything about Portland, Oregon’s leading major daily. The man does good work, though, so it was the paper who cocked it up, not Arnold.

Arnold’s segment on ETR didn’t last long, but he had some interesting things to say, among them: casting Caleb Porter as a “supremely confident coach, almost to the point of some arrogance” (in a highly-public forum, no less) and having close to zero confidence in the Timbers finding their first win of 2014 this weekend (TRAIT…oh, who am I kidding; I requested odds when betting on a Portland win).

But Arnold made some other, specific points. To wit, and to respond: Continue reading

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The Small Crappy Club the Portland Timbers Are In

Funny-Fat-People-Pictures-500x364All eyes are on Atlanta? Bullshit. My attention has lingered on the panic button for most of this week. By the end of this weekend, the Portland Timbers will be over 1/5 of the way through 2014. We’ll be seven games into a 34-game regular season, right? And the odds of getting a win in there? Let’s see…how is Portland’s record against Real Salt Lake? Not so good, people. And…shit.

It’s funny (actually, no, it’s not) to consider that, just prior to this past weekend, I slipped a throw-away sentence about Portland having time to tinker into a post in favor of squad rotation. The thing about squad rotation I stand by, but that thing about time just jumped out the window. 100% open to experimentation, though, because, y’know, losing. Or just not winning.

The League beat me to the business of acknowledging the panic button – though they expanded the sample size to MLS’s five winless teams. That the first thing one sees after Andrew Wiebe’s face is Timbers captain Will Johnson’s now-familiar pinched, frustrated scowl says something about the locus of the disaster. That is the image of the season, people: a captain of a boat taking on water coming to grips with the possibility that we’re out of fucking buckets. Continue reading

MLS Week 6 Feelings Check: A Failure to Launch

ImageWe’re finally to that point in the long – and, by August, interminable – Major League Soccer season when narratives start to take shape. And thank gods for that. Who doesn’t like a story? And the title, it’s a joke so inside that it’s entirely possible that only I will get it. Still, it fits the vagueness of what comes below.

I like stories, personally, because they signal an end to the long march through watching and commenting on highlights (which I’ve long felt was a little low value). Maybe the time lost watching and re-watching highlight reels will go to watching one more game each week; maybe. What I’m after here, and what I’ll be after in the (many, many) weeks ahead is a general sense of what’s going on across the MLS as a whole. Something as global as power rankings, but without the faux-precision…like getting rid of the guys with the chains in futbol Americano. Maybe it’ll deal more with players in the future, or trends that track below the game-level. For now, though, it’s all about games. At any rate…

…so, where are we, or rather where are MLS’s 19 teams after Week 6, and how do they fit together. Again, generally? Continue reading

Philly v. RSL: Tools And How to Use Them

The Philadelphia Union surely constitutes one of Major League Soccer’s bigger mysteries this 2014. Though capable of bringing the bubbly (that’s playing “sparkling stuff”), they’re not getting enough by way of results. Just another team failing to launch, only one generally agreed to be packed with promise.

Then they have a game like Saturday’s draw against Real Salt Lake. Charges of theft can be plausibly made in this case, given one clearly blown penalty call (Luke Mulholland absolutely* clipped Leo Ferandez while the ball rolled forward, but referee Alan Kelley waved it off; *eh, maybe not; a compelling case against is made about the 5th minute on this round-up). That wouldn’t have stung nearly so badly if it weren’t for the basically fair/mildly dubious PK that Kelley awarded RSL in the first half. Sideline reporter Heather Mitts was shocked – shocked! – at that one. Replays proved it to be reasonable, but, still. One feels for Philly all in all. This was one they coulda should won.

RSL played strong at least. Nothing unusual about it, really, they just did RSL’s thing: quick combinations to play out of trouble, transitioning quickly and effectively, etc. While they didn’t dominate, RSL held a clear advantage in cutting edge: they had three shots on goal to Philly’s zero part way through the first half and they held that advantage till the 80th minute (5-1), maybe through the end of the game. RSL did things better, basically, more instinctively. Questions of PKs aside, they deserved the tie. Continue reading

FC Dallas v. Seattle: Deuce Drops a Deuce in the Big D

This week has been lousy with talk of Clint “Deuce” Dempsey. Whether serving as the poster-boy for Major League Soccer’s lopsided salaries (he was on the crawl, people, I swear!) or as talisman for the Seattle Sounder’s (fucking!) triumph over FC Dallas, Dempsey featured on Yahoo!’s crawl not once, but twice.

Then we had the week before when his hat-trick against my struggling Portland Timbers made him the talk of the league. I resisted the talk, whether out of partisan spite or a habit of taking my hype in small spoonfuls. Still, Dempsey’s performance against Dallas this weekend has forced me to confront some demons. And to cough up a couple bucks. Sumbitch.

He’s not the fastest guy on the pitch – pretty sure I saw Chris Hedges win a foot race against him – but Dempsey’s fulfilling the playmaker role that (some) rumor(s) assigned to him in the preseason. And, lord, is he filling it well. Continue reading

Portland v. Chivas: I Have Seen a Movie Very Much Like It, However

Sometimes this is how you watch a game.

Say you’re at an indoor amusement gallery in a suburban shopping mall – we’re talking bum-fuck, even for the suburbs – and you’re trying to get 10 people into a laser tag arena at 10 o’clock on a Saturday. The place is loud, full of blinking lights and reeks of sweat. You don’t even want to look at the carpet. The second you walk in, though, you see they have the Timbers game on a big screen TV at the back of the room. Which is nice. You squint across the room – you need new glasses; have I mentioned that? – and see it’s 1-0 to Portland. Which is nicer.

Then again, the first thing you see is Portland failing to clear their lines on a set-piece. This is about the 65th minute, maybe closer to the 70th. It’s familiar, but definitely not reassuring. Still, the score keeps the bet you made alive (Portland needs to win) and that gets you wondering if the other bet you made (that Darlington Nagbe would score) came off. A replay reveals that Nagbe didn’t get Portland’s goal; Will Johnson did. Nagbe set it up, though, which is nice, but you know you’re already down a couple bucks. Continue reading

Of Blaz Perez and Joining the Righteous Cult of Squad Rotation (C’mon Portland!)

ImageThis morning’s Kick-Off ran some little item ran on FC Dallas head coach resting the team’s forward, Blaz Perez. To anyone in a position to do so: see that this, or a similar memo, hits the desk of the Portland Timbers’ head coach, Caleb Porter. I mean, why not pull on some big boy pants and try a little squad rotation?

As noted in the piece on Perez, it’s about him being old. Old and tired. I kid, but it is definitely about resting a key player to, as the article puts it, make sure he, and others like him, are rested “when [Pareja] truly needs them the most.”

The idea of squad rotation – or even the simpler idea of giving players time to fully recover from injury – comes to me every time Diego Valeri creaks around the field like the Tin Man (as he did for the first couple games). Or, say, every time Darlington Nagbe dusts himself off from another “professional” kick at his ankles. Sure, you can ride either player another 20 minutes, or, when it comes to Nagbe, sick the Twin Terriers on the perps goon-style (that’d be Diego Chara and Will Johnson) to see if that can’t chase the problem away.

I credit Porter for working Valeri in over those first few games, but I’d still like to see him tread a bit more lightly through the recovery stage because it’s not like the fall isn’t going to be a fixture traffic jam – i.e. see note above about “when we truly need them most.” Bottom line, why keep a limping Nagbe on for the full 90, with Kalif Alhassan ready to roll at least half the time? If Valeri gets kicked – and, I swear, he’s catching up with Nagbe – sub him a little early, especially when the team has a lead. Um… Continue reading