Houston v. Portland: A Nothing Game in a Nothing Season

When even the in-house TV shills admit a game isn’t all that thrilling, you know you’re enduring something less than the finest in entertainment. That’s the kind of season it’s been for Portland, though. Just one game this season gave Timbers fans the sweet opportunity to dare to dream – the Seattle moment/debacle. Eight games into the season now and “mundane” best describes the attack and, “nervous,” the defense.

So, how bad was today? Portland scored – yay! – but only half-intentionally – sigh…. It’s what happened at other end, and keeps happening, that really freaks me out. 1-1. Another draw. Who the fuck are we, Chicago?

The Big Thing
Call this an attempt to finally define what troubles Portland’s defense in 2014: Pa Modou Kah is a terrible, terrible ball-watcher. This is a term I didn’t really consider till last season, instead filing most mistakes made by defenders under “fucking up.” I watch for it now and I see it a lot from Kah. He’s the worst of a generally reactive defense, of a back four a step too slow about attacking the ball and clearing it decisively. It’s not all Kah – see the moment when (I think) Will Bruin all but barreled over Mamadou “Futty” Danso on a cross from Corey Ashe, or when three Portland defenders gaped at a sprawled Donovan Ricketts after a save on a Brad Davis attempt. But Dynamo attackers breezed right past Kah at least three times today, the worst slip coming when Bruin bolted past him for a point-blank shot on a follow-up. Kah jogged back on that one. Intense as he is, he can’t be faulted for a loss of concentration. It’s more that he’s so mono-focused on what’s in front of him that he misses what’s behind him. Continue reading

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What New York v. Houston Says About Houston v. Portland

ImageNow, one could call this a late post, seeing as it looks back at the Wednesday night game between the Houston Dynamo and Red Bull New York. But one could also call it early, because much of the focus goes to what the Portland Timbers can expect in an early (goddammit!) Sunday afternoon match against Houston.

Typically, there will be a frame for this kind of post – i.e. what I’ll do when I talk about matches: One Big Idea, plus as many little ones that seem worth mentioning (e.g. while I didn’t think much of Eddie Robinson as a player, I think he’s pretty good in the booth). Originally, this week’s Big Ideas was going to be a contrast between Houston’s Will Bruin and New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips (hereafter “BWP”). In the end, though, I decided that adding to many words about New York/BWP (e.g. that he played a pure poacher’s role) would take too much time away from things Houston (e.g. how much deeper Bruin plays/played, how much more work he put into the build-up).

So, that’s that. Now, what the hell happened to Houston Wednesday night? (4-0, that’s what.) Continue reading

RSL v. Portland: Curse That Baby-Kissing Bastard

ImageGoalkeepers 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… Continue reading

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

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

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