At the risk of getting too elevated about things, Saturday’s match put me in mind of the following. At the beginning of The 18th Brumaire, Chuck Marx wrote, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Once again, the Timbers followed up a hard fought 2-1 home win against up table opposition with a 3-0 road thrashing at the hands of a team on a wobble. The loss at Colorado was tragic. Saturday night was pure farce.
Perhaps the worst part of this last match was that Portland really looked broken. They came out in a sort of 4-2-3-1 formation, the purpose of which was clear. FSL is a team that likes to hold the ball in midfield. This formation was meant to counter that, clotting things up in the center of the park and forcing the Fakes to go wide or over the top. Unfortunately, the players on the pitch failed to play the formation properly. The key to this approach is that having so many people around allows one to close down the ball more aggressively than is possible in a four man midfield. This message seems to have been lost on the Timbers, who allowed FSL far too much time and space to operate. An unfortunate knock on effect of this was that Mwanga, and later Boyd, were completely isolated up the pitch and were thus almost totally neutered.
1. Troy Perkins: On the one hand, he gave up three goals. On the other hand, his defense was doing their best collective imitation of a sieve. He probably could have done better on Saborío’s first one He was rather less culpable on the second (for which blame will be apportioned below) and then there was the penalty (which obviously was not his fault). It was not his best night, but no worse than the rest. 4
12. David Horst: Horst is a sort of feast or famine guy, and against his former team the cupboard was bare. Perhaps it was the fact that FSL’s pitch is considerably wider than that at the JW, but he really did not play well in space. It wasn’t just that he and Danso weren’t on the same page. They seemed to be reading different books, and not in the same language either. He lost Saborío for the second goal, although both Smith and Danso were also poorly positioned for that particular cock up. 3
98. Futty Danso: He put in his usual tough performance, and you could look at it and excuse some of the problems by pointing out that FSL wings and midfielders were being allowed to put in training ground crosses. The fact of the matter is that both he and Horst got picked off repeatedly. Got beat to a header for the first goal by Saborío, on whom he has three inches in height. That doesn’t cut it. 3
14. Steven Smith: It seemed to me that he was put off by the formation and that it wasn’t clear to him how he was supposed to play it. He didn’t show a lot of ambition to get forward, which left Nagbe isolated for most of the match. Smith stuck to his defensive responsibilities reasonably well…until the 62 minute when he got the wrong side of Saborío and left for dead. 3
15. Kosuke Kimura: MOTM, but really only by default, and mostly because he was about the most energetic thing happening for the Timbers in the whole match. The formation (and the failure to execute the strategy that it dictated) meant that his effectiveness getting forward was going to be limited. He played aggressively, but it also must be noted that he got absolutely skinned by Luis Gil in the lead up to the opening goal. Still, he was the best guy in a green shirt. 4.5
21. Diego Chará: I have a sneaking suspicion that this match will not make Diego’s season highlight reel. He was frustrated in midfield as FSL passed the ball around with ease for most of the match. He dropped about fifteen yards off Beckerman, allowing the latter to put in the service for the first goal with no defensive pressure whatsoever. Then he started fouling Javier Morales. I had to listen to the FSL home broadcast and they were crying that he should have been sent off for about fifteen minutes. Then he managed to, although it wasn’t for kicking Morales. In any case, a pretty wretched match all around. 2
13. Jack Jewsbury: I think the conversation among the Timbers brains trust must have been something like, “We have to get him on the pitch somehow, being as he’s the captain and all.” He looked like a duck that had been smacked on the head for much of the match. He really had no idea how to play the formation that the Timbers came out in, but of course he wasn’t alone in that respect. 3
30 Lovel Palmer: He ran around a lot and kicked some people. Occasionally he got on the ball, but seemed to have very little idea about what he was supposed to do with it. 3
6. Darlinton Nagbe: I really have sympathy for the guy. He just doesn’t seem comfortable on the wing at the best of times, but on Saturday he was left out there alone. Watch the match again (if you can bear it) and you will see him get swarmed by three guys every time he touches the ball while getting very little help from his teammates. He was energetic and worked hard, but the formation really reduced his effectiveness. 4
10. Danny Mwanga: Hardly touched the ball, and was isolated when he did so. It’s hard to give him a rating because he was so thoroughly uninvolved in the match. 4
17. Eric Alexander: Probably played better than he would have if he’d come on as a sub (I’m just speculating here), but suffered from the general malaise of the Timbers wide players as a result of the ill-conceived (and ill-executed) formation. 4
2. Mike Fucito: Came on after the die was cast. Ran around with gusto but accomplished little. 4
9. Kris Boyd: See Danny Mwanga. 4
33. Hanyer Mosquera: Came on late and for what reason exactly? Mightn’t it have been a better idea to put on someone who had at least some chance of creating a threat to the opposing goal? Alhassan was on the bench, and I know he’s been injured but a) if he’s on the bench he should be fit enough to play, and b) he would have been the more natural replacement for Alexander. Mosquera’s substitution was the icing on a very puzzling cake. 4
That was an ugly performance, and you could see the frustration from the lads in the last 20 minutes when they started kicking everything in sight. Maybe later in the week we can try to dissect the road woes of this team. For now, I just want to forget this match.