a real let down…

Posted on: April 20th, 2014 by sunshine 27 Comments

Going into yesterday’s match against Real Salt Lake the Timbers had never won a game in Salt Lake City. They still have not. Despite controlling overall possession in a game for the first time since what seems before the Western Conference finals, the Timbers fell short of that promise.

 

the captain would sooner clean your clock than excuse missed chances...

the captain would sooner clean your clock than excuse missed chances...

Blame the poor positioning of the central defense. Blame a gassed attacker. Blame the cross bar. Blame the fact only 4 of 9 shots were on target. Blame the fact Rimando blocked every one of those. You can play that game all day and all night, but it will not resurrect the chances the Timbers failed to bury. Perhaps the best approach is to accept the Timbers played a good game but were not good enough to close it out. This team could have won the game. They could have. But for some unfortunate stroke of luck or fate or whatever hoodoo hocus pocus is out there, they could not get over the invisible barrier preventing that first win.

 

Most of you have asked or are going to ask whether or not the Timbers have the right players or the right chemistry. You may ask what, other than the average player age, has changed since last year. The fact is nothing and everything. But these are philosophically searching questions that require a more esoteric investigation than what is possible in a match report. Here we try to highlight the play and discuss the issues that influenced the result—good or bad. But when a game was as evenly played as this game was the only player contribution available to assist our understanding of the game may just be the lowlights.

 

But before we get there, let us talk about the good things that happened. This team pressed and they did so without using the right flank. Jack Jewsbury came in for the defensively inept Alvas Powell and provided the experience necessary to protect well the right flank. Granted, the tactic used limited his efforts going forward—he rarely ventured into the final third, instead opting to hold back in support of the positionally suspect central defense. This meant all play went through the left flank. Indeed, Will Johnson and Harrington combined for 27% of the 403 total passes attempted by the Timbers. The combination between the two players in the back and through the midfield was essential to opening opportunities for Darlington Nagbe, the primary outlet for the Timbers attack.

 

And that worked well. Too often Nagbe made Nat Borchers, a player often considered one of the best central defenders in MLS, look ordinary. At one time, he burst past the central defender in a move reminiscent of Gareth Bale’s wonder goal for Real Madrid earlier this week, only for Nick Rimando to do what Nick Rimando does—prevents Portland from scoring. The point is things were happening and it seemed it was only a moment before the Timbers would score.

 

Indeed, after the first half it was clear the Timbers controlled the game. They had the better portion of possession and won the battle for midfield. Despite controlling the run of play, the Timbers put only one shot on target—Nagbe’s 15 minute, off-balance attempt after he beat Borchers for pace.

 

In the second half, the Timberslooked to improve upon the foundations set out earlier in the second half. They continued to spread the pitch, preventing RSL from using the multiple triangles that make the narrow diamond so fluid and dangerous. Their tempo and urgency was met with real consternation from RSL, forcing them to sub off the frustrated Olmes Garcia and Luke Mulholland. Both players made good efforts to expose the Timbers defense for their lack of positional nous. In the early moments of the first half, Mulholland skipped a dangerous cross in behind the entire Timbers backline, and Garcia took advantage of when Kah wildly and unadvisedly came off his line in the 40 minute, a miscue that nearly resulted in the opener. But they did little else than create those two moments.

 

Like his counterparts, Urruti had some chances. But rather than talking to the girl, he spent all night at the bar looking at her. He failed to take his chances, which was not unexpected, but still unfortunate. It seemed the way things were going that it would take only one moment to break the game open for the Timbers. Unfortunately it came at the wrong end.

 

a man, a man given space, a man given space with no obstruction...

a man, a man given space, a man given space with no obstruction...

In the 78 minute, Ned Grabavoy received the ball 30 yards out from Sebastian Velasquez. Nagbe tried to play the ball rather than place himself between the player and goal, Chara just loafed back into position, and Futty was caught watching the play while he enjoyed a nice tea with his buddy, Kah, 15 feet from where he should have been. Needless to say. Grabavoy took his chance, grabbed every inch of space the Tibmers defense gave him, and put the ball far post. It was a good goal. It was a smart goal. But most of all it was a frustrating goal because once again the Timbers went behind because of individual mistakes. Rather than sauntering back to the 18-yard-box when Nagbe picked up Grabavoy’s run, Chara should have read the play better and moved in to cut off the angle. He is equipped with speed enough to have reached the area behind Nagbe, but he chose not to use it. Similarly, Futty showed the better aspects of his positional awareness by just staying put rather than moving in to cut off the angle. Sure, Ricketts should have done better, but it is hard to put blame on the man when his defenders let him down in the way they did.

 

This was another example of players letting off because they expected someone else to pick up the slack. That never works. And that is why the Timbers lost and now sit on four points after seven games.

27 Responses

  1. misterpdb

    April 20, 2014

    I’m to the point where I don’t really care about controlling possession or dominating the midfield any more. None of that is any good without a corresponding incisiveness/decisiveness in the final third, and Timbers just don’t have that right now.

    When you combine that with the “defending”, it’s no wonder they have four points from 21 available.

    The shooting is fixable; the defending is a bigger, much more troublesome issue. I was glad to see Jewsbury stay at home all night, because someone back there had to.

    I’m not feeling 2012 about this team, but I want to see better things at the back before I’m convinced this is a playoff team.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      Even if Cam Knowles were to watch Arsenal’s back four while strapped in a chair with his eyelids propped open in a Clockwork Orange Ludovico Technique, brainwashing, aversion therapy session, he would still find a way to be exceptionally average. Similarly, so would Gavin Wilkinson.

      Reply
  2. Craig Meyer

    April 20, 2014

    It was particularly frustrating because so many things went well. In fact, RSL has more to complain about with their defense than the Timbers do. But for Nick Rimando, Timbers win that game. In the end, the keepers were the difference in the game. Rimando the wizard vs. Ricketts the really good.

    As has been mentioned, notably by Bruce Arena to much hissing, Ricketts had such a great year last year that our defensive issues were papered over. It was unrealistic to think he would stand on his head like that again. He’s good but no longer looks like the mistake eraser he was last year. Couple that with what looks like a disastrous off-season and our big expectations are dashed.

    The Timbers have talent and will likely have a hot streak at some point but this is far from a championship contending, much less playoff attending, team.

    As an aside, Porter clearly values Powell for his attacking abilities, albeit raw ones. I’d look at making him the Rodney Wallace in training rather than the Jack Jewsbury in training. The risks are lower and the payoff may be much higher.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      Powell would be better going forward than sitting back. He does one, not the other.

      Reply
  3. buckyball77

    April 20, 2014

    This team seems to need a couple players who are transformative (Valeri last year) or are at their career best (Wallace, Will Johnson). This year we are seeing neither. So, the team is (understandably) tentative and lacking confidence. And this may grow as shots continue to deflect off the woodwork, and opposing keepers have personal best performances against us.

    In the off season, no one was signed that could lift the team for 2014. Instead, we got shrewd, well-priced signings that are turning out not to be so shrewd. It’s a mis-reading of “Moneyball” as to how it relates to soccer.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      We got older, not better. That is 100% on Gavin.

      Reply
  4. FDChief

    April 20, 2014

    I hate to keep beating this drum, but…

    Cam Knowles was a beast as a player but as a coach his defenders seems to share a consistent lack of positional awareness, communication, and tactical decisionmaking and are prone to play for 85 minutes.

    I have no real notion whether he’s trying to correct this stuff, but he’s the constant piece on a team that has never been known for its rock-like defense. If I was Porter (or Merritt) I’d at least be wondering…

    I loved that the team stuck by Cam after he was crocked. But I’m wondering it isn’t time to be looking at other options…

    Reply
    • Honey Boo Boo goes to Hippo Hardware

      April 20, 2014

      I agree. Loyalty is nice (some might call it GW nepotism) but we need qualified, experienced coaches who perform consistently and get the best out of their players. Knowles never played in this league or coached at this level previously, so if he wants to coach he should have cut his teeth at the youth level and not the senior team.

      Reply
      • sunshine

        April 20, 2014

        The sooner Cam Knowles is gone the sooner this team begins to play defense.

        Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      Could not agree more–if Knowles actually understood how to coach defense, let alone a defense intent on playing possession tactics, we would have seen those adjustments by now. These players fail to spread the pitch when they are in possession and are anything but compact when defending–basic skills and tactics.

      Reply
  5. Honey Boo Boo goes to Hippo Hardware

    April 20, 2014

    Good teams find ways to win. Good teams find a way through a goalkeeper and work through bad calls, pk’s, or a phase of uneven play. Good teams score goals. We’re not a good team.

    The thing is, I think the guys are playing hard but just aren’t good enough. I don’t know the solution, none of us really do, and I’m not sure if CP does either. His comments don’t inspire me, but what else does he say given who his boss is?

    Hopefully, for his own sake, he is one of GW’s bros because it’s only a matter of time before the bus starts moving. As for GW, he should be hiding under a rock somewhere but knowing his vanity he’s either fueling the bus or saying to MP, “Look! The Thorns!”

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      For a team that desires to play possession football, do you not find it funny that it has very few players who can actually hold the football?

      Reply
  6. Paul

    April 20, 2014

    I’m disappointed in this one because we actually played well enough to possibly win at least draw. Against most any other team in the league it would have ended that way. Yes we need a few positions covered and possibly new def coach. I do care about possession because when you watch the games we hold possession and pass around and control we are much better and limit chances for other team. When we have been chasing and going back and forth nothing good has come.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    April 20, 2014

    I’m happy with how we did. Yes Urruti missed a couple of sitters, but we’ve had comically bad luck with our finishing. 90% of teams are getting the same looks, same shots, and scoring goals and winning a game or 2. It’s not something we’re necessarily doing wrong–the fates have been against us this far.

    Reply
    • Paul

      April 20, 2014

      Yes, this isn’t a league that is filled with great teams. All teams make mistakes and look bad on many occasions. The better teams are more consistent and we haven’t had anything fall for us. We also haven’t helped matters. I’ll take performances like last night much more often

      Reply
    • buckyball77

      April 20, 2014

      Sure, luck is a factor. But luck doesn’t explain the endless repetition of muffed scoring chances or 85th minute defensive swoons.

      Don’t depend on the fates to save this season. (Although a certain GM is probably backing that option.)

      Reply
      • sunshine

        April 20, 2014

        I must admit, the discussion of “luck” was rather tongue-in-cheek. Fact is, it seems we have run our luck into the ground and, as you say, until that ginger genius is given the pink slip this will be the case. We have one of the brightest, young managers in this country and he has been hamstrung with the owner’s choice of general manager.

        Reply
  8. Jarrett

    April 20, 2014

    It’s pretty obvious why we lost this game. We got Rimando’d. The guy had a monstrous game. We played very well.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      Steve Bould, a legend in England and current number 2 at Arsenal, used to say: “the other team cannot win if they don’t score.” I think that simplistic philosophy stands as a guide for us in reviewing the play of both sides last night. The Timbers couldn’t score, Real Salt Lake did. The question is why. Well, our defense did not properly read a play and because of that Ned Grabavoy scored a cracking goal. So, yes, PTFC did get Rimando’d, but they also suffered from their usual let down in the back. They will not win if that continues to happen, regardless if it is Rimando or Sean Johnson or Clint Irwin or Dan Kennedy or…Tally Hall.

      Reply
  9. Timberproud24

    April 20, 2014

    I hate to be the negative guy in the room as some tweeters have suggested but I had high hopes for this team this year, and being born and raised in Oregon I take it personal when we are one of the worst in Mls. I will always support the club but not the individual play. For the people saying we played good, yes we did play good, but when u compare that too terrible, how good were we really. Now I know that maybe some of us might be jumping ship a little early on some players, like gaston, but u have to question wether it is the coaching or the lack of time in Mls, but the fact gaston has been sitting and papa has been absolutely terrible, I think even cp is second guessing his off season picks, but than again maybe gaston might be like Dempsey and score once he plays more and gets accustomed to this league. I questioned signing him from the start since u look at his stats and he hardly played because he was injury prone, also the fact that in his highlight video he was more of a wondow style player, scoring because he was in the right place at the right time kind of player, never a true 1v1 goal scorer. Sorry to say I think our team is more geared to opening space to leave our striker in 1v1 coverage. Now Urruti was supposed to be that guy and he does find himself in great positions but he shoots like he is in a city league going against mediocre goalies. How he missed that second chance I have no idea and the first he tried to side foot the ball, rather than picking a spot and finishing with power. Nagbe also tends to do that a lot and those two have tons of potential but need to get back on the field and practice clinical finishing until there leg falls off. Now on too cp. He is still a great coach and no way in hell would I ever say at this point we should throw him under the bus but the fact is, every team in this league seems to have figured this team out, and just like jurgen is doing with the usmnt, cp needs to have multiple formations and line ups to keep the opposing team on their back heels. He is too one dimensional and that might have been great for college but now u are going against coaches who are top notch and can adapt at any point, it is time to make this more of a chess match or we will continue to be subpar. Now onto pm and gw. Gw out is not the answer because it really does come down to what cp is telling gw and it comes down to pm saying yes get the players u need to make us a powerhouse club. Facts are facts, chemistry is key but once that comes world class players score every time they have a real chance, Dempsey. People were hating on him last year but I kept saying it is only a matter of time that they come together. Now u might say that’s all we need but when u look at the overhaul Seattle has had and the 2 players we brought in, it should not have thrown us off that much. The fact is we don’t have a world class player like Dempsey even on this team that we are waiting to get accustomed to the league. other than nagbe. If Merritt is serious about being a Mls powerhouse and making our brand and name known world wide than in the off season he should have found some way of using our last two open international spots and dp spots for players who are proven talent like Defoe, Bradley, Dempsey, and watch Caleb take this team to a whole new level

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 20, 2014

      I’d say your ire is misplaced. Caleb can only tell Gavin what he needs, it’s up to the ginger genius to find and bring in the talent. Gavin is what Gavin is: a man with no insight into building upon the successes of a team, he only knows how to rebuild them after blowing them up. He lacks creativity, intelligence, and makes contractual agreements based on favoritism not ability. Until he is gone this is what you will see–a roller coaster of dips that occur every two years.

      Reply
      • Timberproud24

        April 20, 2014

        Yeah but Caleb went and scouted gaston and papa first. Gw met with him later. If cp did not like what he saw than he would have said never mind and gw would have said ok. Caleb scouts and makes the over all decision, now if Caleb was like “johannsson is available and is what we need on this team” and than Gavin could not sign johannsson and they settled for gaston, than I would said its gw. I am sure that cp probably wanted to bring in a true world class player but mp probably said too much money. It’s obvious that we need a rb, new cbs and a true dp top flight striker.

        Reply
        • sunshine

          April 20, 2014

          Couldn’t agree more about what we need. I’ve seen Gavin at it for several more years than just MLS–this is what he does.

          Reply
        • Paul

          April 21, 2014

          There is also the case of we only hear what they want us to hear. There is a solid chance gaston and pappa were not first choice options from CP. Yes, he might have looked at them before gw. He was probably looking at several other before as well. Deals are being worked on all the time. And all the time they fall through. I’m with sunshine that it has much more to do with gw than with both cp and gw. Gw is the GM and his job is players. CP is manager and job is to use the players he is give to best of their ability. With the CP has less pull

          Reply
          • nat

            April 22, 2014

            Seems like Fernandez, for sure, wasn’t the first choice. It was stated publically that they were looking for a “number 9″/”finisher”. There’s no way they could have possibly believed that’s what they were getting with him. Is he a good player? I think so…but he’s not what we were told the team was looking for.
            I also think things must have fallen apart somehow with Silvestre and they had to scramble for another CB and gambled on Papa.
            Is this all Gavin’s fault? I will defer to those who know more about him than I do…therefore, it sounds like yes, yes it is Gavin’s fault.

  10. Bil

    April 21, 2014

    Thanks BB and CM for mentioning Wallacito. That’s the first reference to him I’ve seen here this year. Sunshine, do we have a status on him?

    Reply
    • sunshine

      April 21, 2014

      From his post-match discussion it sounded as if less than a month out.

      Reply

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