Do you like bunnies? I do. I like to watch them nosing around for food among the bushes in our backyard on a summer morning. I sit quietly, mug of coffee in my hand, watching as they search the undergrowth for tender buds and grasses. Where do they go when they’re not here? Who knows, but it sure is relaxing to watch them quietly going about their business, seemingly without a care in the world…
Ok, sorry, I can’t maintain this charade any longer. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with something to write about other than that match on Saturday, but I just can’t do it. When the final whistle blew, I started trying hard to forget it. It’s like trying to forget the existence of nuclear weapons or global warming. No matter what else I try to think about, the wretched memory of getting absolutely butchered by FC Dallas imposes itself on my mind.
I suppose that first of all, I should hold my hand up and say the following. For several weeks now, I’ve been promoting the idea of a return to a 4-4-2 formation. My argument was the 4-2-3-1 set up that they’d been using in the last three losses wasn’t working and had been partly responsible for our poor play. Well, be careful what you wish. You might just get it. Portland came out in a 4-4-2 formation against Dallas and suffered their most comprehensive thrashing of the MLS era. Apropos of nothing, Dallas also dealt the Timbers their second worst MLS level beating when they hammered us 4-0 in June of last year.
4-4-2 proved itself to be an even more abject failure than 4-2-3-1. Also, Perkins had the armband and Jewsbury was on the bench, and it didn’t help. So, just to sum up, Portland implemented three of the five things that I suggested yesterday and the result was a catastrophic failure. Nagbe didn’t play in central midfield, which you could also charge to my account, but I did say that they should bring someone else in, since after Nagbe the choices at that position don’t get any better. Portland failed to hold on to the ball for much of the match and didn’t really create much in terms of offensive threat, outside of Fucito’s chance around minute 8. All in all, it was one of those matches that really makes you glad that they don’t have relegation in North American football, because that is where we would be headed…with a bullet.
Having offered five suggestions for moving forward on Saturday, I now offer five dissections of the goals that we conceded.
1. Kimura got sucked inside to cope with a run into the middle, which resulted in three Timbers defenders standing around the top of the D. Alhassan clearly ball watching while this was all going on, and as a result, neither he nor Kimura tracked Benitez’s run down the left hand side. Thus, the latter was a good ten yards clear of any Portland defender as he casually lined up a cross to the on rushing Jackson. Mosquera was actually not in bad position, but his lunge at the ball only succeeded in tipping it inside Perkins’s near post. It was a harsh result for Mosquera, but it was the kind of thing that is going to happen (and has happened repeatedly this season) when opponents are allowed the freedom of the byline.
2. This was the result of a pretty good hit from Andrew Jacobson from just outside the box. You could say that Perkins might have done better, and I think that that would be a fair cop, but the real villains of the piece are Chará and Songo’o, neither of whom saw fit to pick up Jacobson has he followed the ball in to Zach Loyd. On the replay, Chará (for reasons only he will know) just lopes back without making any effort to get close to the Dallas attackers streaming forward. At that moment, I think we all knew it was going to be a long night.
3. You might say Chará was partly at fault on the third goal, as the angle he took toward Jackson was a little too flat. The real catastrophe here was Chabala getting caught flat footed. In a situation like that, the mantra for defenders is: either the ball or the man, but not both. Jackson ghosted past Chabala and even the latter’s attempt at a jersey tug was ineffectual. Perkins wasn’t at fault, as the ball took a deflection off of Danso’s ankle. This was, once again (and I know that I sound like a broken record as I say this), a result of failure to close down an attacker properly.
4. Where was Chabala as this was getting going? He wasn’t anywhere near Scott Sealy. In fact, he was ball watching about fifteen yards up the pitch. This goal was really maddening because it is the kind of thing that one sees in the latter stages of muni league matches when one team is tired and mailing it in. There is just no excuse for an opposing attacker getting this clear in our box. By this point, Portland’s hamster was lying dead in the wheel, and the only question seemed to be exactly how bad a mullering we were going to get.
5. How bad was it going to get, one foolishly asked? This bad. Jackson blew by Chabala and put in a cross about three feet off the touch line. Futty allowed Ruben Luna to get goal side of him, and it was 5-0. I really don’t know what to say about this. Or, more properly, I feel like what need to be said about this has already been said…by me…earlier in this piece. This was just criminal defending. By this point, I think everybody was just wishing that the whole thing would end and that the ref would implement some sort of mercy rule. The MLS is not a top league in terms of world football, but there are a lot of good players here and if you put out a sophomoric effort, this is the kind of dire result that you will get.
Portland has now set the MLS record for longest spell without a road goal. I’m not sure if scoring one or two (or even three as we did against LA) would have mattered, given the level of play in defense. This was a shocking result, but we just have to grit our collective teeth and hope that the lads can start to turn things around.