opening sentences in times like these are often difficult to come by. i am speechless, dismayed, troubled, resolved that this is as good as it is going to be for the remainder of the season until some serious changes are made. so, without an opening sentence of worth, i will tell you that last night i dreamt i was on name that tune. but it was name that game. and i was asked how quickly i could describe the game. and i said "tom, i can name that tune in two words: that sucked." unlike the timbers, i won and lost in the same moment.
blaming last night's loss on heat, exhaustion, being tired, jet lag, hotel rooms, 3 games in 8 days, only overlooks or ignores the basic play in the game--the timbers chased an fc dallas side that controlled possession and the balance of play. all the speculation in the world cannot disguise the fact the timbers were never in that match. Fucitio's would be goal, if it had actually been a goal, may have brought some hope to the side and helped them avoid an unflattering record, but it would not have stopped zach lloyd in the first half and jackson in the second half.
for those who watched the match it would be near impossible to fail to see the general team issues of lack of talent, lack of intelligence, and lack of conviction become central to the play of two specific individuals. but even more worrisome than the spotlighted transformations is that some are actually shocked by their play and this result. sure, dallas is nothing near enough to being a good team to be called a good team (yes, i meant it that way), but they exposed the timbers for the individual flaws and the collective inabilities that have persistently plagued portland throughout the season. so, yes we can look at setting a record for the longest number of minutes without having scored a road goal and hang our heads in shame, but we would miss the fact that during that scoreless time the timbers have given up 18 unanswered road goals, and have now given up 18 goals in the last 6 games. many will look to the fact the timbers cannot score on the road as the excuse for the problems, but that misses the point--they cannot defend!
i have written it several times on this blog, so it will not hurt to write it several more, and i think i will until the timbers change their approach--you cannot lose the game if the other team does not score goals. the only way to prevent losing is to prevent shipping the opportunities that brought the type of goals we saw the timbers hand fc dallas. in the several matches since gavin has taken over as interim coach, i have seen a not so great timbers defense that was developing a stingy streak turn into a pseudo-amoeba. the back four has no shape, no structure, but unlike an amoeba it cannot shift or move towards any threat. to defend successfully, a team must be drilled on structure, on recognizing threats, and on preventing threats. the recent changes in formation indicate this process does not take place during any training periods and is the furthest thing from their minds during game time.
last night saw gavin scrap that disastrous 4-2-3-1 formation for a return to the diamond. he also did something that most timbers supporters have been asking management to do for ages--sack jewsbury and give the armband to perkins. with those changes alone, i was highly optimistic going into this match. perhaps this was arrogance on my part, i knew that fc dallas was missing half their squad to injury, deaths in the family, and overall petulance, but i had a feeling a return to a familiar formation without an individual who made only 4 successful defensive clearances and tackles in the last match would give the timbers a positive result.
to save you readers the suspense, i will summarise the game in two sentences. once again, kalif was guilty of not tracking back too many times to count. and once again, chewy was found out to be an awful player, who is incapable of making proper choices in positioning, let alone proper tonsorial choices.
with those two points made clear, i can now inform you that fc dallas controlled possession through sharp passing, which forced the timbers to chase the ball for extended periods of time. the overall possession stats were astonishing. the end split was nearly 60-40. i was shocked they were not more lopsided than they were reported. at 35 minutes, fc dallas had retained possession for 70% of the match to that point. how could the timbers compete with that? pre-match i heard gavin describe his inept and horrific game plan--conserve energy by not doing what should be done defensively, not closing down the opposition, and not hustling. my jaw hit the floor and then i realized--only gavin. but, true to the game plan, the timbers did just that for the first portion of the match until it was apparent that plan sucked. and by that point, it was apparent the timbers sucked.
to cut to the chase, zach lloyd dominated chewy with his runs forward on the right. i know the television screen does not give a full picture of match play, but it did give a good picture of chabala's play. for large portions of the game i never saw him in the picture. zach lloyd was simply too good and too fast for chabala to handle. within fifteen minutes of the match starting, lloyd had already put in 3 superb crosses on goal. and but for the shoddy heading of carlos rodriguez, the scoreline may have been worse than it was soon to become.
the first goal saw lloyd attack on the right, switch the ball to ferreira who in turn found an unmarked jair benitez sprinting down the leftside near the touchline. benitez laced a bullet cross into jackson who was covered by hanyer mosquera. both men attacked the ball. unfortunately, mosco put it into the back of the net. that happens to centerbacks--they give up an own goal now and then. forgivable. unforgivable was kalif's positioning and lack of recovery on that drive. instead of putting himself in a position that would permit coverage on the leftwing, he stood 30 feet off the touchline and moved to ferreira who was already tracked by chara. open space was given, open space was taken. once he became aware of benitez run, he should have sprinted to cover kimura who was moving to benitez. instead--sunday in the park. 1 nil.
now, i can describe the pain of each and every goal scored by fc dallas, but i think we supporters have suffered enough. the first goal is the only goal that mattered, because the timbers never answered it. that was the winner and, therefore, the most important goal of the match. but the second goal is one that must be reviewed, if only to illustrate the pervasive issues within the timbers defense. ferreira, who was a boss in the midfield last night, had control of the ball just beyond midfield. he spotted zach lloyd who had taken out a picnic basket, laid out a table-cloth, and was sipping on sweet tea while awaiting an uncontested pass over the top of the defense. lloyd took the ball in stride and quickly tapped back to an onrushing andrew jacobson. jacobson easily put the ball past perkins for the second of two preventable goals.
the first time i saw the goal i yelled where was the offside trap? and then i yelled where was chewy? the second time i saw that goal i yelled something far worse and coarser than what might even be approved by a sailor. that goal should not have happened, and would not have happened if chewy had not been so inexplicably out of position, sitting in the stands somewhere behind kevin hartman. but it was not just chewy, it was the absentminded, positional awareness of the entire back line. lloyd was straying offside. had the line held its form and stepped forward, lloyd would have been called off. instead, the line disintegrated once ferreira made that superb pass and with that any chance the timbers had of levelling also disintegrated. the game was over at that point. 2 nil at the 26 minute.
for all the suck chewy was doing, and it was a lot of bad, songo'o sensed that his duty was to cover for a man who was being torched over and over and over again. he hustled on both defense and offense. i sympathized with his efforts, but sympathy is rather impotent 2500 miles away, sat in front of a television screen.
in the second half jackson displayed what a benefit modern striker/creative player can be for a side. he was skilful on the ball, off the ball, with a pass, or making his own shot. he tore the timbers apart in the is second half. his goal in the 48 minute was reminiscent of darren bent at his best. but the goals he created for sealy and luna were examples of the type of player needed to turn this timber side around (well, that and a few good defenders). even though the timbers do not have a player of his skill, i am certain the current staff would have little to no idea how to employ him if they did--he would be mishandled, played out of position, or sat on the bench.
the game ended 5 nil to fc dallas and further exposed some glaring issues i am sure magadh and myself will discuss throughout the week as we await next saturday.
i hope you all have survived and look forward to a day without worry.