Before they changed the rules in the NHL to eliminate draws, you used to hear Canadian commentators say as they were coming up to the end of games, “a draw is like kissing your sister.” I must admit that I felt a certain irritation at the people running the league when they changed the rules. It seemed to me like a concession to the American obsession with having some sort of definite resolution, irrespective of how that related to what had gone on in the game itself. Of course, I don’t know a thing about the politics of how this was decided, and it may have been our Canadian cousins who drove the whole process.
In any case, I never thought a draw was all that bad. If a team manages to get through full time without conceding more than their opponent, then that should be that. You still get a point for that in the NHL, but then they send it to a shootout, which is just about as random as doing penalties in football and substitutes closure for a result based on the run of play. Yet people seemed (and seem) always to complain about draws. I don’t have a sister, but I can’t imagine that kissing her if I had one would be all that bad. Unless you mean like frenching her. That would be gross. I’d definitely prefer a shoot out to that.
A draw away to the MLS Cup runners up was really not a bad result, especially since they were still riding the high of the opening of their new ground. But the worrying trend of this period of the season, i.e. the failure to create chances, much less to convert them, continued unabated. And with that, I turn to the particulars.
1. Troy Perkins: Man of the Match on a sort of faute de mieux basis. He kept a clean sheet and didn’t panic when the air seemed to go out of his defenders late in the game. A clean sheet is a clean sheet. 7
98. Futty Danso: Our 98 did the business at the back for the vast majority of the match. He’s still lacking a bit in terms of match fitness, as evidenced by the fact that his battery ran down a bit at the end (he did take a bit of a knock as well). He provided a major physical presence and kept things tight. 7
33. Hanyer Mosquera: What did I just say about Futty? Well, you could just about say the same thing about Mozzer. He was Robin to Futty’s Batman, policing the space in the middle and making sure that attacks generated by Houston from wide areas didn’t amount to much. 6
13. Jack Jewsbury: Another solid performance at right back, at least for the time that he was on the pitch, which was only 45 minutes. He got a knock, tried to run it off, but was forced out at half time. What I said about him last match goes for this one as well. He played the defensive part of the game well, closing down effectively and winning ball in the wide areas. He didn’t contribute much going forward, but how surprising is that, really? 5
14. Steven Smith: Props to Smith for finding his feet after his horrendous night in Montreal. The Scot ran hard, got a boot in, and did a good job of shutting off Houston’s supply from the right wing. He also looked like he wanted to get forward, but he and RodWal just didn’t seem to connect very well. To be fair, this had a lot to do with Houston’s very aggressive forward pressure. In any case, a big step forward. 6
30. Lovel Palmer: I spent a lot of Tuesday’s match debating with sunshine about what the problem in midfield is. I don’t think it’s Lovel Palmer. He’s basically doing what he was sent out there to do: win ball and provide cover for the center halves. I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that he’s going to be a creative attacking force (certainly I’m not). 5
21. Diego Chará: Diego got some very good ratings elsewhere (7 from the Oregonian and the same from Stumptown Footy). With all due respect to those eminent personages, I disagree. He did manage to hold the ball pretty well, particularly given the heavy pressure that Houston applied in midfield. On the other hand, he committed some pretty meaty fouls, which might easily have seen him in trouble if the ref hadn’t been so obliging. More importantly, what exactly did he create from an offensive perspective? Not much from what I saw. The Timbers desperately need a creative, attacking player in central midfield, and this isn’t Chará, whatever else he might bring to the team. 5
22. Rodney Wallace: Didn’t create much. Didn’t get to the byline. Didn’t trouble the keeper. He filled up a jersey and I suppose you could say he didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but he didn’t add a lot of value to the side either. 4
8. Frank Songo’o: I was tempted to just cut and paste my assessment of Wallace here. The difference was that the latter was consistently mediocre, while Songo’o’s performance was more up and down. The upshot was pretty much the same: Portland got squat in terms of attacking threat from the wide areas of the pitch. 4
6. Darlinton Nagbe: After the match I wrote something on Facebook like, “Nagbe was invisible for most of the match, which given how he was playing when you could see him was not really a bad thing.” The same scenario played itself out over and over. Nagbe gets the ball from someone in midfield. Nagbe is confronted by two (and often three) Houston defenders. Nagbe contrives to lose the ball or kicks it thirty yards back down the pitch. In part this had to do with the fact that he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his mates. But the negativity in his play really gutted any offensive threat the team might have put forward. 3
9. Kris Boyd: It’s a bit tough to assess Boyd’s play because a) he’s utterly dependent on the kind of service that he gets, and b) he once again got crap service all night. Time and time again, Portland defenders, confronted by pressure from the Dynamo, just lumped the ball forward to the isolated Boyd who tried to head the ball to teammates who were nowhere around. You could see him getting frustrated as the match went on, and I was kind of worried that eventually he would kick out at somebody. This rating is based on the nothing that he produced, but with the caveat that he very much needs some help from the guys out there with him. 4
4. Mike Chabala: Came in for Jewsbury and did pretty well considering that the right side of the pitch is not his natural environment. He ran hard, and worked pretty well with Zizzo when the latter arrived. Please Chewy, enough with the orange boots. 5
7. Sal Zizzo: A welcome return to the side for Zizzo that was. He was a distinct improvement over RodWal. The usual hallmarks of his game were in evidence: graft and energy. It would be nice to see him get more time in the mix. 6
17. Eric Alexander: He looked like the guy who shows up late to a pickup game and just can’t get it together. In fairness, he never looks good coming off the bench. He seems to really need to get into the rhythm of a match and the final twenty minutes or so just doesn’t seem to be his time. 4
Ok, that’s what I have to say about that. I’ll be back tomorrow with some preparatory blag about our upcoming match with the Fire. Also, for all that are interested, I’ll have news clips, music, and other stuff on our FB page in the hours before the match on Sunday.