Saturday’s match was a blast from the past. And not the good kind, like when skinny jeans finally made their reappearance after more than a decade of market domination by fat pants. No, this was the bad kind, in which a nightmare that one has lived through on several occasions, and which one dearly hoped was now behind one, suddenly reared its ugly, ugly head. I’m talking, of course, about the late goal that the Timbers gave up, costing them two desperately needed points against the Caps.
I give credit to Spencer and the coaching staff for trying a new formation. Once again, the offensive side of the game improved, and for a lot of the time it seemed like it wasn’t done at the cost of defensive frailties.
I suppose the most irritating thing about it was that it was once again the lads were undone by a momentary lack of concentration, costing them the fruits of 82 minutes of otherwise pretty solid work. Spencer went with a more attacking line up, which had the virtue of creating more chances. But then this happened. I would apologize for the irritating Miller 64 commercial tacked on to the front of this video, but frankly it’s not even nearly as irritating as what comes afterward. Admittedly, David Horst hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time lately, and he was in there because the two guys in front of him in the pecking order weren’t fit, but he gets this badly wrong. This incident does highlight why playing center half is such a challenging assignment: minor errors of judgment and positioning have major consequences.
Claims by some players that there was a handball in the buildup to the goal were brought up on The Axe’s Facebook page, but I think we all came to the proper conclusion: if the defender stays in front of Mattocks, then it isn’t an issue.
1. Troy Perkins: Ok, here we go again. The goal (sing along if you know the words here) was not Troy Perkins’s fault. If you give an opposing attacker a free one from the penalty spot bad things will happen. Perkins generally played well and might have gotten a better rating but for the fact that he only faced six shots. 6
5. Eric Brunner: Once again, it was Brunner deputizing for Danso, this time due to injury rather than suspension (although Danso certainly couldn’t have played in the last match even if he hadn’t been suspended). Had a heavy collision with LeToux, who is a pretty big guy, and came off second best. Subbed off at halftime, and there our problems began…5
33. Hanyer Mosquera: I thought he did quite well, especially given the quality in attack that Vancouver brought to the match. One reason that Perkins had a relatively quiet night was that Mosquera was all over LeToux and Sanvesso like a cheap suit for most of the night. He was slightly out of position on the goal, but it shouldn’t have mattered. 6
13. Jack Jewsbury: I kind of thought that he would get the start, just because he’s been toting the captain’s armband and usually that means that management is hesitant to bench someone unless they are really out of form. Responded with his usual display of adequaquacity at right back. He does alright there, but eventually the team really will need something more going forward. 5
14. Steven Smith: I am swiftly becoming a believer in our stalwart Scot at left back. He is a solid one on one defender and he is comfortable handling the ball in tight spaces, which is good since there were a number of times when Alexander passed him the ball in positions that really didn’t do him any favors. Moreover, he gets forward in the way that a modern fullback is meant to. Maybe this rating is a little rich, but what the hell. 7
21. Diego Chará: Chará was the Man of the Match for me. He absolutely harried Vancouver’s attackers and made himself a real pest. He’s not the biggest guy on the park in terms of actual stature, but he really punched above weight. 8
6. Darlinton Nagbe: Nagbe is on a long term journey around the forward parts of the pitch, as Spencer and the coaching staff try to figure out where he can make the best contribution. Run out this time at ACM, Nagbe brought his usual energy and pace, but seemed to struggle to work out how to impose himself from that far back in the formation. 5
17. Eric Alexander: I’m really of two minds about Alexander’s play. He really worked hard and brought a level of physicality and aggression to the left side of the attack. For a lot of the match, he worked well with Smith, especially under intense forward pressure from the Caps. But his passing as the Timbers worked their way out of defense was often questionable. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because he worked hard. 6
11. Kalif Alhassan: In his return from a leg injury, Alhassan really added some attacking thrust down the right side. His effectiveness was somewhat muted by the fact that he didn’t have a fullback behind him who had a great interest (or skill) in getting forward. 6
15. Jorge Perlaza: Perlaza has kind been in the wilderness for much of the season, so it was nice to see him get a run out. For once, he really brought all his assets to the match in terms of speed and technical ability. He fought hard, created dangerous situations in attack, and clearly made Boyd feel like he didn’t have to do it all. 6
9. Kris Boyd: For the last few weeks, Boyd has soldiered alone up front and the result has been a scoring drought and the definite impression that he was frustrated. This time, in a formation in which he was paired with another fulltime attacker, Boyd looked like the dangerous, pure striker that he can be. He responded with a tough performance in the box and the taking of a real strikers goal. A performance that bodes well for the future. 7
12. David Horst: As the old country lyric goes, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometime you’re the bug.” Horst was the bug on Saturday. Football can be a cruel game sometimes. Horst had done pretty well since coming on for Brunner, but he got his position on Mattocks horribly wrong and was instantly punished. This rating is based on his overall performance, particularly in light of the paucity of playing time that he’d had coming into this match, not on his one, spectacular botch. 5
7. Sal Zizzo: He’s been getting a lot of time, mostly off the substitutes’ bench, since coming back from injury. In general, I like what I’ve seen so far. Zizzo has a big engine and he’s very aggressive. That said, I’m not totally convinced that he was the right sub for Alhassan with ten minutes to go and a one goal lead to defend, at least in pure football terms. The question you have to ask is: given who was available, who else could they have brought on? And the question answers itself. 5
2. Mike Fucito: Brought on in the dying moments for Perlaza. Not really enough time on the pitch for a rating, but in general I haven’t been overwhelmed by what he’s brought to the team. Still, it’s early doors yet. NR