where to begin? no matter how you define it, a point is always better than no point. and there are certainly some positives to take from not losing, yesterday. the timbers played well–their ball movement and possession play was incredibly attractive. they may not have lost their sixth straight, but as franck songo’o said, i would rather they played bad and won games than play attractive football.
regardless of what the local media pundits wish for us all to believe, the timbers did not convince me to any degree they will achieve gavin’s predicted 45 point total. to come from behind against a team who were down 10 men, with arguably their best player of late sent off early in the second half, is not an accomplishment to be regarded as turning the tide. had captain jack not drilled a left-footed response in the 80 minute, the timbers would have again suffered the indignity of losing due to a defensive mistake.
yesterday, the timbers again controlled the majority of possession in a match. but even while seeing the ball 57% of the time during they were still unable to convert their chances when necessary, and were able to convert only 1 of 21 attempts on goal. i get the law of averages thing, which is just some hocus pocus on which people hang their hats when attempting to justify failing and not an actual statistical law. in reality there is no short-term balance to be found, especially when a team fails to connect as much as the timbers fail to connect.
the tactics employed by gavin or mcauley or whoever is actually pulling the strings for the timbers were very similar to the tactics employed against chivas. they wanted the ball at the feet of franck songo’o and they wanted him driving from left to right. on the opposite side, brent richards was tasked with taking the play to the byline and opening space for boyd. the combined play of songo’o and richards again integrated several cross pitch passes in order to switch play between the wings, as well as keep dallas off-balance. and for the first half, it worked.
starting the match off, in what has now become a wonderful tradition, kosuke kimura ran the width of the pitch in front of the northend, pounding the badge. the ball was then placed in the middle of the pitch and dallas kicked off, but it was not until the 17 minute when the action did. that is not to say the first 15 minutes or so were boring, they were not, they marked a very tense spell where both sides felt out the other.
in the 17 minute brek shea opened up the action. dallas had pushed down the timbers left flank through the industry of fabian castillo’s little legs. he pushed past steven smith and into the timbers final third. smith recovered nicely and was able to clear the ball. unfortunately, the clearance was deflected and found itself at shea’s feet. he took the ball in stride and laced a shot from the left side of goal with his skinny legs that belie a cannon force power. fortunately for the timbers, perkins recorded his 65th save when stopping that shot point-blank.
a minute later kevin hartman found himself under threat of conceding. darlington nagbe took his usual 20 yard shot from outside the box, which was blocked and then followed by a quick shot from captain jack, which was also blocked. these shots recorded the beginning of a stretch of play dominated by the timbers. the main catalysts were songo’o and richards. to get to the juicy stuff, you can assume that songo’o's name was attached to anything good that happened to the timbers in the first half.
the second half began much like the first–from the center of the pitch. the first 5 minutes were spent with the teams figuring out the direction of their attacks. then in the 51 minute, brek shea used his shaggy-like appearance to dupe kimura and bolted past him to latch onto a defense splitting, slide rule pass from ferreira. shea drove to the byline and was able to draw back a good centering pass to an onrushing scot sealy. how sealy had so much room to get to that ball can only be explained by watching david horst’s lazy marking. as i saw it from the northend, horst was intent on watching shea speed past kimura. whether he believed his partner in the center of defense would make a stunning save of the cross, i am not certain. but sealy recognized horst’s moment of inattention and beat feet on horst’s blind side. it did not take much for sealy to seal that deal and put fc dallas ahead 1 nil.
there were some handbags in the first half between songo’o and zach loyd. they were involved in a good battle on the left flank and loyd had been isolated to great effect by franck’s attacks during the first half. i am sure taht added to the frustration. still, loyd insisted on continuing an on-going tussle with songo’o. it all started when he tugged on franck’s jersey as songo’o moved past him and fabian castillo on a byline move towards goal near the 20 minute. it continued with franck wagging his finger in loyd’s grille, which was quickly followed by loyd purposefully bending franck over on the touchline. it finally ended when loyd clipped songo’o's heels from behind. loyd, who was on a yellow earned in the 35 minute of the match when he tripped diego chara as chara moved past him into the dallas 18 yard box, felt it a good idea to do the same thing to songo’o in the 52 minute. i also thought it was a good idea for loyd to trip songo’o given dallas had just punished the timbers for a defensive mistake and the timbers needed a little help to get back in the game. they got it–red card and dallas went down to 10 men.
still for 20 minutes, the timbers did very little with their numerical advantage. but in the 77 minute the timbers began to put in a flurry of desperate shots. songo’o started with a nutmeg of some dallas creep (presumably george john), and if i cared i would look hard enough to get you that information. but i do not, so do not expect the effort. the nutmeg only meant franck had placed a defender between himself and the ball, so it resulted in nothing more than a really cool maneuver. a few minutes later, songo’o followed that nifty play with a defleceted shot that landed at the feet of danny mwanga who also took a good shot, forcing kevin hartmann to make a good save.
then in the 79 minute the timbers struck. kimura started the play by dragging ferreira and de guzman wide and away from the 18 yard box. he then dumped the ball to kalif. kalif quickly moved to the byline but then as quickly he changed directions and put jair benitez and de guzman off-balance, opening space to move towards goal. after taking an extra touch to get past the dallas defenders he lofted a good cross into the 6 yard box, which could have easily been caught by kevin hartmann. instead, hartmann punched the ball clear to an awaiting captain jack, who had set his shoulders to turn on the ball. he did just that. with a left footed shot put over and through hartmann’s arms, jack evened the game up.
as often as i criticize jack, i can overlook his varied issues as a lacklustre captain and as a mediocre player to say that was a great shot. and it was a great goal. and a goal the timbers needed because while to some losing a sixth straight may hasten the end of gavin’s tenure, losing sucks and is not something i willingly accept for a greater good.
yesterday in my game preview i wrote that i believed the timbers faithful were in for some heartache. had it not been for that goal there would have been. the timbers would have lost their sixth straight and fifth shutout during a really bad stretch. instead, they now have a 10 day reprieve where they can enjoy the hot summer nights with a radio–just like van halen. and i am glad to give them that rest, because we all need it.
final note, and one i am sure i will discuss a few days from now, is the pairing of danny mwanga and bright dike. it worked.
well, it was not a win, but it was not a loss. i will take it.
have a great monday!