Timbers Tonight: A Blue, Madding* Interlude
Posted on September 22, 2011 6:20 am
(*Screw spell-check: it’s far from the “madding crowd,” dammit. I gave in with the use of the word “maddening” below, but regret it!)
Well, that sucked. And yet the result doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as the manner of it, which is to say the Timbers committed all the old sins. My seat, situated as it is toward one corner on the end of the field, don’t show a lot of things well. It does, however, show one thing very well: when Portland pinches themselves too narrow in the attack. On, the return of the not-least dreaded “funnel attack”! They did this tonight in the 1-1 draw against San Jose, a few exceptions aside. And these were too few to be all that relevant.
Tonight’s biggest sin – the one that topped gluttony, avarice, greed (wait…aren’t those last two essentially the same?) – was a recent addition to the Portland Timbers’ gallery of horrors: the Curse of Ever-Permanent, Ever-False Urgency. Any time any Portland player had the ball, he hoofed it upfield (yes, I exaggerate; please make allowances for frustration). And blindly often as not. Stupid, fucking forward movement on the ball for the sake of stupid fucking forward movement on the ball: just make the damn hounds run and hope they catch it before the other dogs. Simple possession went out the window and the play was disastrously predictable as a result: always look for forward movement on the ball and, yea, you shall be rewarded.
I would be very surprised if, in the final analysis, San Jose didn’t possess the ball at least at a 2:3 ratio. It seemed every time Portland had the ball they coughed it up right around midfield. I have seen San Jose often enough to know this is not their normal. What resulted from there was a siege on Portland’s end of the field, a seemingly endless parade of crosses, balls squirting out for long-range blasts from the top of the area, or, worse balls bouncing around IN the area leading to desperate, scrambled clearances.
Naturally, I see interpret this cycle of rushing possession and, thereby, coughing it up as not playing loose, if on one level. But that’s too easy. For all the talk of old sins, I’ve only noticed this one lately, which leaves open the question of whether it’s original.
As noted earlier, I refused to fall into the “must-win” trap. (OK, yes, a “must-win” comes into play when you actually have to win – e.g. if you don’t you’re out of the playoffs. Exception noted…but back to the script.) Had Portland played well – e.g. with the aggression and confidence they showed against a semi-supine New England Revolution – I could have taken a goal-a-piece draw with a little more equanimity. Instead, I’m seeing a choked-up team about to hit the road for the most the remainder of 2011 and I’m much, much less optimistic about the outcome. Again, it’s more the manner of the draw than the draw itself. So, yeah, maybe it does go back to that belief, whether true or not, about playing loose. And Portland, whatever it’s doing, isn’t playing loose.
In closing, I’d like to study two ends of the field, to examine what is working and what is not. Eric Brunner, to express an opinion, played a man-of-the-match game tonight: he stepped up boldly and well whenever needed. On the other end, Kenny Cooper, in spite of scoring Portland’s one goal, looked lost, blind, and clumsy out there. I’m very, very done with Cooper and can list at least a half dozen strikers I’d trade him for….and the names shuffling around the paddock in my head are not big ones. Portland has no presence up top – none – and I struggle more and more to understand why John Spencer starts Cooper, never mind plays him deep, and futilely, into the second half.
Whatever happened tonight, the game in New York just got a little bigger. I inserted “interlude” into the title because the week that started last Friday doesn’t really end until this Saturday. Bottom line, if we get the results, we may yet make the playoffs – and that’s not matter how maddeningly dire we might play on any given night.
But is this team ready for MLS Cup? Oh hell, no. Do they still give me a warm bubbly feeling inside when I see them do well? Absolutely. Good luck at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, guys. And remember, there IS a tomorrow. Apollo Creed is our mascot now…..or, if he isn’t, he should be. Dammit.