Before getting on to talking about the Timbers’ upcoming match with Real Salt Lake today, there are a couple of other things I’d like to mention. First, it was announced yesterday that Aston Vil-la captain Stiliyan Petrov had been diagnosed with acute leukemia in the wake of their match with Arsenal last weekend. I’m sure I speak for everyone involved in The Axe when I wish him the best of luck and a quick recovery. Petrov is a solid pro and has been an excellent servant for both Villa and Celtic. I’ve known people who have survived leukemia, and I’ve know people who have died from it. He’s got a fight ahead of him.
The second matter is the three game suspension doled out to Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark for directing a homophobic slur toward a ball boy who failed to give him a throw in ball with sufficient alacrity in Seattle last weekend. It right and just that he should have received this suspension. What a moron. Even if stupid things like this are in your head, all but the very stupid can figure out that that was a particularly inappropriate place to give voice to it. People may say that the things that come out in the heat of battle might not be representative of what a person really thinks. My feeling (and my experience) is that when one in agitated, one will often try to think of the most hurtful thing to say to someone who has caused annoyance. I think that this is pretty sad commentary on what was going on in the withered stump that is Colin Clark’s brain.
Now on to matters closer to home. At the risk of sounding snarky (ok, I don’t care that much about sounding snarky), I think Real Salt Lake is a stupid name. I understand that there is some value in trying to come up with names that, to some degree, mimic names from European teams. It helps the domestic fans to feel some connection with the larger world of the game (thus for instance DC United and Sporting KC). I like regional names (the Timbers, the Sounders, etc). I’m less cool with the common tendency in American sports nomenclature of just picking an ex-citing sounding noun and making that your team name (the Impact). Actually, one of my favorite team names is Houston Dynamo, as that (I think probably accidentally) mimics sort of industrial team names found in the old world of European communism ( such as Dynamo Dresden, Lokomotiv Moscow, and my personal favorite Turbine Erfurt) (Note: This should not be taken to suggest that I think communism was a good idea, but that I liked the team names that it generated). But “Real”? Real Madrid’s club name (and that of all the other teams that share this moniker in Spain such as Betis and Sociedad) relates to some notional connection to royalty (which is suppose in Madrid’s cases is better than an association their great patron, the murderous dictator Franco). Sorry, we don’t have royalty in this country, and the whole national ideology of the nation is a rejection of royalty. I really think that the Salt Lake City’s franchise name shows a distinct lack of imagination.
As far as last week’s match in Foxboro, it was deeply unimpressive. It seemed to represent a re-version to last year’s road woes, with the whole team (with a couple of notable exceptions) seemed to be suffering from some kind of malaise. Roger Anthony from Timbers Army got it pretty much right in the Guardian when he noted that, “CB Andrew Jean-Baptiste came off the bench to replace the injured Hanyer Mosquera and looked out of place only because he played pretty well.” Given that the Revs were starting a pretty makeshift defense, this would have been a good opportunity to try and get some road mojo going on, but giving up a goal in the first mi-nute seemed really to deflate the Timbers. Although Songo’o looked good, the rest of the team were collectively pretty mediocre.
This week we’re back in the friendly confines of Jeld-Wen, which is all for the best because Real Salt Lake are certainly the toughest opponents that the Timbers have faced all year. RSL were predicted by many in preseason to win the division and possibly the league. They started out by staging a smash and grab away to the Galaxy, then won comfortably at home against a New York Red Bull side that was still trying to find its feet. The quality of their play in the first two games of the season made their home loss to Chivas USA last weekend all the more shocking. Chivas is enduring yet another season of rebuilding (which you could also read is just perpetually being crap) and they had failed to score in two home matches against Vancouver and Houston. In truth, they really didn’t look all that good in this match either. I kept waiting for RSL to drop the hammer and put Chivas out of their misery, but in never happened. Instead. Casey Townsend managed to induce Nick Rimando to mishandle a high ball into the box in the 73rd minute and ended up poking the resulting sitter into an open net. Chivas then proceeded to park the bus in front of goal for the rest of the match and came out with a hard fought road win (and their first goal of the season).
This will be a tough match for Portland, but it is definitely winnable. The side looked a lot better when Songo’o came on, and if he is fit to start and Nagbe starts in attack I suspect that they will give RSL’s defenders a lot to think about. The key, and I’m going to write this in all caps since it really seems to be an issue, is DO NOT CONCEDE THE FIRST GOAL. The Timbers have managed to give up the first one in all three matches so far and the Timbers are simply not a side with the kind of quality to make that good match after match. 1-1-1 is a pretty good line given this fact, but it’s unlikely to continue without better defending, starting with the midfielders. The Revs had far too much space to work in midfield and, to tell the truth, it was a little surprising to me that the Timbers didn’t concede a second given all the space that the Revs’ attackers were allowed. Mosquera will be out with the broken orbital (and apparently a concussion) suffered in his collision with Tierney. Alhassan (groin) and Marcelin (hammy) are also doubts among the players that have featured so far. Things should be better for the Timbers at home, but given the opponents I’m trying not to get my hopes up.