i left the jw last night thinking of all the disappointing moments in the match about which i could write. i thought i could write about boyd and his knack for missing sitters. i thought i could write about songo’o giving away a cheap foul that lead to the goal. i thought i could write about perkins coming 12 feet off his line in an attempt to claim a ball he had no business claiming. i could write about those things because they happened, and i will.
but before i get into the dirty details of the match, i have an important admission to make. one that might affect the readership of this blog. one that might offend, cause hatred, even force me to obtain restraining orders on those who will likely threaten my well-being. i am a tad bit apprehensive, but here it goes: i am not going to highlight those disappointing aspects too heavily because, despite their existence within the match, i think the team played well.
so, there it is–my confession. i fully expect repercussions. but to forewarn those who will seek retribution for my pathetic admission, know that i have several city and county detectives on speed-dial, as well as pepper spray. and a cat that hisses.
even if you were nowhere near the game, a television, or your computer, and you consider only the basic statistics of the match you can see the timbers were the commanding force last night. they controlled nearly 60% of the possession and they completed 78% of their passes. you can do the math to figure out how many passes they actually completed. and while you do that i will move on to the next perfunctory statistic. they controlled the midfield and the air, winning 58% of the contested duels. and they had the monster share of shots on goal. the official stats at the jw reflected 21 shots on goal.
those are great numbers. if i understood what they meant i would take myself to vegas and forget my current career for a life in the fast lane. fortunately, i did rather poorly in calculus and statistics, so the analytical description of the game will be left to those better equipped with graphs and heat sensors, and tony “the grinch” fugano will have to wait a few more years before he gets to break my kneecaps. instead, i will remain steadfast to my shoot-from-the-hip descriptions and say those numbers suggest a match weighted in favor of the timbers.
sure, some can look at the 21 shots without a goal to justify their irritation with the team. i agree, the result was frustrating. but the fact 21 opportunities were created by this side, in any game, is exceptional. especially when considering the fact against fc dallas the timbers had just 6 total attempts. and fewer against chivas on the 18th. the service was there, the finishing was not. that happens and is forgivable–unless you support a team at the bottom of the table, in the worst skid of any side this season, and is without a legitimate head coach, interim head coach, and technical director. i get there will be comparisons to cal fc and the number of chances created against them, but some rather glaring differences exist between the two games. first, the official number of shots on goal against cal fc was double that of last night. second, chivas is mls quality. and third, cal fc was CAL FC.
as always, during the pre-match build up, my seat neighbor asked my final score prediction. i suggested a 2-1 loss, which took into consideration ryan smith was out and the advantage given by playing in the jw. the prediction was made with the understanding that i hoped to be proven wrong. from the first minute of play it looked as if i would be.
the timbers attack was weighted on the left-side, with songo’o the primary creative force. it was apparent the team had been instructed to utilize brent richard’s leaping abilities, which is a no-brainer. songo’o worked either to get to byline or to a position that would provide him the best opportunity to dump the ball to the right side of the box. considering the stingy nature of the chivas defense, the tactics looked to put the center back pairing of danny califf and john valencia off-balance. but more importantly, it was clear the timbers had learned their lessons from their last meeting with chivas–they kept john riley busy. riley absolutely torched the timbers and steven smith the last go around. so, the more songo’o pushed on the left-flank, the less time it provided riley to get forward in support of bolanos and cardozo. essentially, the timbers were defensive in the chivas final third. it worked.
after a few minutes i was certain the opportunities were going to come. but it took some time for the momentum to settle in the timbers favor. starting in the 17 minute, the timbers had a serious of breakaways that either resulted in corners or off-sides. one particularly tastey opportunity came in the 20 minute from a richards header to boyd. boyd collected the ball with a nifty back heel, hoping to tee off on dan kennedy, who looked a plum in his plum kit. unfortunately, boyd missed his moment with a mis-hit. this would not be the only time the timbers faithful would be treated to such frustration.
here are some highlights–remember them in a sixties-esque scene montage similar to butch cassidy and the sundace kid, it will make reliving them easier to stomach. in the 23minute: franck slices the ball to nagbe on the top of the 18 yard box. nagbe flicks to, well, i do not know who, but it looked promising. in the 25 minute: after being sent through with a great ball from chara, boyd rounded kennedy and put the ball in the net. off side. in the 26 minute: franck found richards on the opposite side of the 18 yard box. richards then shanked the ball wide. in the 29 minute: a breakaway started by the industry of the horstache, would see chara center to boyd, who would then set and drill kennedy with the ball. in the 39 minute: following some great interplay between kimura and chara on the rightside touch-line, richards took a nifty flick from chara and broke into space. he then rifled a shot at kennedy who did well to block without parrying. in the 42 minute: after putting the centerbacks off-balance, songo’o and chara had finally carved out space through the mid-to-left channel. they were able to capitalize on their efforts and opened room for chara to push to the byline. pushing as hard as his little legs would push, chara was able to put in a beautiful and stinging low-centered cross. boyd was there, collected, and for whatever reason thought it unfair to put over the windfallen plum, kennedy. there would be no better opportunity than that opportunity and that opportunity was lost.
the half was blown without any stoppage awarded. instead of walking into the dressing rooms with a 3 goal lead, the timbers walked into the dressing rooms knowing they had just given dan kennedy additional footage for his youtube scouting report.
the second half was more of the same and similarly frustrating. so, there really is no need to relive the highlight reels of missed opportunities. the only difference between the first half and the second half was the 69 minute. songo’o was beaten on the left by paolo cardozo. rather than trusting jewsbury to clean up the mess (can you blame him?) he gave cardozo a tug on the shirt and was awarded a yellow for his efforts. ben zemanski took the resulting free-kick and he curled in a good ball outside the 6 yard box. rather than doing the correct thing by remaining on his line, perkins attacked a ball he had no reason to attack. he flubbed, and danny califf headed in the only goal of the game. while it takes a village to raise a child, it only takes one mistake to lose a match. that was the mistake. perkins knew it, and to his credit he took responsibility for the mistake in his post-game comments rather than saying he did not want to point fingers at anyone (ehhhhem, jack). as nice as that was, it did not keep the score even.
even with the loss, i was left with pride in the way the side played. songo’o and richards asserted themselves in this match. franck displayed more of the creative qualities his pre-season form suggested were in his bag of skills, and richards brought industry and passion to the side. richards’s passing will improve, but any failure to connect will be overlooked by his dribbling and ball winning abilities. going against the opinion of the estimable and erudite co-author of this blog, i thought richards really made a statement for his inclusion in side.
finally, the question on everyone’s mind for the last 2 weeks was answered last night. the reason sean mcauley was brought to portland was to bark orders from the sideline. i cannot approach his addition to the side without some cynicism. he does provide a sufficient buffer for gavin if this season goes completely tits-up, which means gavin rides off into the sunset unscathed, free of responsibility, and looking for new bus fares. but overcoming my initial reaction when watching mcauley on the touch-line, it was clear he had been working on reshaping the defense. he made certain they retained their line, worked as a unit, and spread attackers appropriately–you know, the things a defensive corps should do.
alright, that is my game response.
have a great day and enjoy the reserves.