I must admit this morning to being just the slightest bit unprepared. Due to professional commitments related to the need to prevent southern European economies from disengaging themselves from the German strangleho…I mean the Euro, I was out of position for Saturday night’s match and could only listen to it on radio. Normally, in such a situation, I would just rewatch it later on MLS Live. However, since last night the good people at MLSL have decided that what the fees that I have paid to them entitle me to watch as a series of white dots circles endlessly on a black screen. I suppose that this is meant to suggest that something is loading, but instead it is merely an illustration of the concept of purposiveness without purpose.
Of course, why should I be permitted to watch? I suspect that somewhere in the EULA for the MLSL service there is a rider clarifying that I’m paying for the chance that I might be able to watch the match, assuming the stars align properly and the pack of mental deficients in their technical department can step away from their all night session of internet porn and Doom 3 for long enough to upload the game footage onto the web. Next week, I’ll be slicing open a chicken and trying to determine whether I’ll have access to the games by analyzing the patterns of its entrails.
Anyway, long story short, I’m quite annoyed this morning.
And perhaps this is not the time to be mulling over the consequences and implications of a match that I was only able to listen to via the radio. But is what it is. Sunshine expects me to have a piece up in a matter of half an hour or so here, and since I don’t want to wake up some morning lying beside a horse’s head, it is incumbent upon me to come up with something vaguely resembling substantive content.
I suppose if I were to approach this match from a glass half full sort of perspective, I might start with the fact that we did score three goals, which is more than our usual tally, especially of late. On the other hand, getting lit up for five was not good. The nine minute period on which the team gave up four of those goals was, I think it’s far to say, the worst stretch of play that the JW has ever seen. In a way, I was glad that I was only listening and not watching, and even then it was really painful. Even from my vantage point (listening but unsighted so to speak) it was possible to discern some key facts.
Goal #1 was a typical David Beckham production. Once again, he was left with time and space to shape shot, and once again he made us pay. I say once again because this goal was, as near as I can tell, pretty much a carbon copy of the one that Beckham scored against us at the HDC in April.
Goal #2 was also vintage Beckham: a free kick from just outside the penalty area. Beckham is a past master at this, so of course it is very important when playing against Beckham equipped sides like the Gals that one avoid giving him opportunities such as this. This was right in Beckham’s wheelhouse, and I must admit that I was not surprised in the slightest when John Strong announced to the radio audience that it had gone in.
Having made sure that the members of the David Beckham Fan Club would have something to post on their message boards for the next week, Portland then preceded to continue their collective implosion by giving up two more goals in the next four minutes. As an aside, I really wonder if this has something to do with scoring first. I have come to dread the Timbers scoring early because it is so often the portent of unfortunate consequences. Usually, the conseqences aren’t quite this dire, but in all honesty I have to admit that although I was aggrieved at the way things turned out, I wasn’t shocked.
I still hope to watch the video of this match, although it will be the sports viewing equivalent of scarfing down a bowl of wormwood. Painful though it will be, I must admit that there are a couple of things about which I am curious. As the teams came out for the opening kickoff, John Strong pointed out that the Timbers were shaping up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. I really couldn’t believe my ears. Did I hear this correctly? Can the role that that ill conceived formation played I our humbling against FSL really have been so thoroughly lost on the people running things? I start to question my own sanity. Maybe the Timbers have been playing that formation all season and I simply haven’t noticed. No, that can’t be it.
As I said many times after the FSL debacle, this formation really doesn’t play to our strengths. One might have thought that it would have worked a little better in the friendly confines of the JW than it did below the western face of the Wasatch Range. Sadly, it did not. From the radio broadcast it was clear that the Gals had a lot of possession, which is precisely the thing that this particular formation is meant to address. And then of course there were the repeated scoring opportunities gifted to Beckham and to Keane (the latter is on the verge of replacing Tommy Smyth as my least favorite Irishman).
This result must really put paid to the idea that 4-2-3-1 can be a winning approach for this team. It didn’t work on the road, it didn’t work at home, and unfortunately there really isn’t anywhere else to play. I suppose what I find most shocking is that this formation has been implemented in the two matches since we brought in Kosuke Kimura. Am I alone in thinking that that would have been the time to rededicate ourselves to playing a real pro-style 4-4-2 with the fullbacks coming forward and contributing to the attack? Why this has not been tried is a mystery to me.
Ok, that’s probably about enough nattering about a match that I’ve only heard and not seen. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the midweek match with Chivas.