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

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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

MLS Week 4: Men Standing…In Sashes!

(NOTE to WordPress: the hell is wrong with your photo button? A stack at the bottom does not help my site say, “Pow!”)

Now, that’s more like it: teams standing up to pull that big contender…sash across their, um, chests. Probably not the piece of clothing I’m looking for, but the point should be clear: teams like Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake turned in statement-style, mike-drop performances that read “Force to Be Reckoned With.” Clubs like the Columbus Crew and the Vancouver Whitecaps sounded off as well, if absent the stature that comes with being last year’s MLS Cup contenders…

…and thank god Vancouver stepped up for Cascadia, seeing as the other two clubs couldn’t be bothered.

Tempting at it is to dismiss the rest as a mess, some things came clearer this weekend. Among them, DC has a long, shitty, stressful season ahead; Toronto FC, while improved, can’t throw punches with the big boys yet; and New England’s not totally dead yet. At least one thing hasn’t changed: no one knows what the fuck is going on with New York.

The usual pile of observations about the week’s results appear below. Same rough format, though with some adjustments to content and arrangement. Continue reading

Real Salt Lake 2014 Season Preview: Holdin’ ‘Em. And Not Blinking. Ever.

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Jeff Cassar?

How’d 2013 Treat ‘Em: 16-10-8 (W-L-T), 57 gf, 41 ga; 2nd in the West
RSL did very well last season without anyone noticing. Well, that’s not entirely true: everyone noticed that freakin’ freakish loss to DC United in the U.S. Open Cup final. That got people wondering why RSL’s guts liquefy on the big occasion, at least for a while. After that, the team generally came up mainly as a club very much still in the hunt for the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup, but what about this other, far more interesting thing… It seemed like they were lining up for MLS Cup by the time anyone gave them more than thought than that – and yet they came damn close to winning the thing. And with a divine assist from Kyle Beckerman, of all people. The substance to Seattle’s style and LA’s glamor; the hairy bogeyman that chased those kids from Portland back to their room: it sucks for RSL that they didn’t take home any trophies, but that just means they didn’t have a happy year. Being in every domestic competition to the very end, on the other hand, means they at least had a solid one. Think about that for a second…

Exciting Additions! – Uh…

Tricky Departures… – Uh…

Quality Parts: Kyle Beckerman, Nat Borchers, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, Joao Plata, Nick Rimando, Alvaro Saborio, Chris Schuler

It Gets Better If They Come Good: Tony Beltran, Robbie Findley, Olmes Garcia, Luis Gil, Devon Sandoval, Sebastian Velasquez

What I’d Expect Based on the Above:
Now being the bridesmaid…every…damn…time would get some people thinking about adjustments or, failing that, at least some tweaks. RSL does not roll that way. If MLS was a big, 19-person high-stakes poker game, they’d be the guy at the table calling every bet and staring into the soul of the other gamblers. So, yeah, a name or two show under RSL’s line on the ledger on the transaction page, but they don’t belong to anyone special. As things now stand, the biggest off-season move for RSL was losing coach/motivator/terse interviewee, Jason Kreis. So…what to make of that? Unless, he’s the missing key to the relevant trophy cases, it’s very, very hard to believe that new coach Jeff Cassar will get more out of RSL’s players. They’ll continue to be good, in all probability, 2014 will live or die on what matters more: the benefits of another year of experience and education for the younger guys (e.g. Schuler, Gil, Sandoval, and Velasquez), versus what the older guys (Borchers, Morales, and Beckerman) lost to damn, dirty age. Unless that equation pencils out favorably, or unless they add some shiny new parts, I expect this team to walk into the playoffs, but to step out a little sooner. (And, god willing, Portland has finally scouted them enough to actually beat them.)

2014 Season Opener: @ LA Galaxy, March 8