I’ll have something to say in the way of player ratings below, but I thought before I did that I might say a few words about what I try to do in columns such as this, and how I approach the team more generally. My number one premise is intense love for the team, something that I share with Merritt Paulson, as well as with the thousands who fill the JW week in and week out. Thus, when I have a criticism to make, and I very often do, the goal is not to burn the team down but to point out things that could and should be improved.
As far as criticism of the players goes, it’s something that I take seriously. These are professional footballers, but they are also human beings. On the one hand, they have chosen a career path that is, for better or worse, one of the most public available. Most people in their working lives don’t have an audience of thousands whose emotional state is tied to the success with which the individual’s job is performed. There is an all too prevalent tendency among people writing about sport to let emotions get the better of judgment and to give play to some very bloodthirsty and inhumane sentiments. You don’t have too far in the blogosphere to find people saying things in public that a civilized person would hesitate to say in private. It’s easy in the passion of the sporting environment, and in a situation where there is very little in terms of editorial control, to allow hyperbole and aggression to shape the things that one writes.
Having said that, my business here is to be critical when criticism is warranted. If I am cognizant of the humanity of the players, I am also aware that there are standards to which they must be held. I have watched thousands of football matches in my life. Does that make me an expert? I suppose it’s up to the readers to answer that question. I do know that the players and the management are working conscientiously to make things better and I understand that what they do is not easy. If it was…well, things would be a lot different. In any case, I’ll just close this little segment of my commentary by saying that I much prefer to express praise than disparagement. But being a pollyanna does no one any good.
1. Troy Perkins: He was let down by his defense repeatedly. He might have done better on Jacobson’s goal, although the latter should never have been allowed an open shot from that sort of territory. He was wrong footed on the deflection for the third goal, but really hung out to dry by his defenders on the other four. Quite rightly got the captain’s armband and should probably keep it in the future. 4
98. Futty Danso: He was the best thing that Portland had going in defense, which is not saying much. He worked hard, but he was too often pulled out of position. His frustration with his fellow defenders was evident, but he was simply unable to marshal them in the way a center half should. 3
33. Hanyer Mosquera: He started the evening with an own goal and, quite frankly, things did not get much better from there. He lacked direction for most of the match, and I suppose that the best thing that can be said for him is that he managed to prevent the scoreline from going to 6-0. Still, it was pretty grim. 3
4. Mike Chabala: Dire. Simply dire. Repeatedly caught out of position and/or ball watching. Dallas is not that good, but he made them look like champions. One of the saddest performances in a Timbers jersey in recent memory. 1
15. Kosuke Kimura: Margianally better than Chabala, but not good. He was out of position frequently and allowed Dallas the freedom of the left side of their attacking zone. I understand that he was brought in to try and improve the attacking action on the right side, but he was MIA from a defensive perspective for most of the first half. 2
21. Diego Chará: His was an uncharacteristically feckless performance in midfield. Usually his stock in trade is hassling opposing attackers, but he seemed strangely diffident for most of the night. His failure to win ball with his usual alacrity was a major feature in the dysfunction further up the pitch. 3
17. Eric Alexander: Simply could not get anything done. Repeatedly got caught in possession and passed the ball at a substandard level. I felt sorry for him, because it must have been humiliating to look that out of whack against his former team. 3
8. Frank Songo’o: MOTM for whatever that is worth. It looked to me as if he was playing the role into which Nagbe usually slots. He exerted a lot of effort, but too often ran himself into isolated positions and contributed to the general malaise in Portland’s midfield. More than anything else, this really highlighted the degree to which Portland needs a quality CAM. 4.5
11. Kalif Alhassan: Of all the dysfunctional things going on for the Timbers on Saturday night, perhaps the worst was the combined play of Kimura and Alhassan. Between the two of them, they contrived to prove neither effective offense nor acceptably competent defense. Alhassan was a spectator for most of this match. It’s hard to criticize his defending in the same way that it’s hard to criticize the Cheshire Cat: it didn’t really exist. 2
2. Mike Fucito: He provided pretty much the best scoring opportunity for Portland early in the first half, but then faded into oblivion for most of the match. This had mostly to do with the fact that the rest of the team could not get him the ball. He showed his usual energy, but given the paucity of service that he received, the results were thin. 4
10. Danny Mwanga: Did he even play in this match? I distinctly remember him being mentioned during warm-ups, and I know I saw him being pulled off in favor of Boyd early in the second half. In between, I’m not sure I have any evidence that he was on the pitch. No part of the problem, or the solution. He was just nothing. 3
16. Brent Richards: A lad with a lot of pace and some decent talent, but he just hasn’t looked the part so far. The fact that he keeps getting put in once the side has fallen into deep dysfunction probably has something to do with that. 3
13. Jack Jewsbury: Came on for Alhassan and was an improvement. It wasn’t clear what the substitution was meant to accomplish, except to put Alhassan out of our collective misery. Still, Jewsbury worked hard and was a force for good. 4
9. Kris Boyd: I think the coaching staff really did him a favor by keeping him on the bench. I doubt that this climate would have suited him (or his long sleeved jersey), so holding him out probably saved him a case of heat stroke. Came in for the ineffectual Mwanga and was…ineffectual. 3