Normally I would have the player ratings in today’s column. But the morons who negotiated the media deal with NBC decided that when the matches are broadcast to the national audience the replay on MLS Live won’t be available for 48 hours. This is annoying to me, since I don’t have cable at the moment, but also because this is the second time this season that NBC has made the Timbers the game of the week. The 48 hour delay is particularly annoying since, as far as I can tell, NBC isn’t reaping any added value directly from the restriction.
As a consequence, I had to listen to the match on radio. Between that and the few highlights that I’ve been able to say, I have a rough idea of what went on, but I won’t really know what happened until about 11:00 tonight when they actually allow me to see the replay. As an aside, this makes me really glad that I’m not consuming NBC’s coverage of the Olympics™. As a sports fan, I put up with a lot of insults, but insisting on shifting everything into prime time and tape delaying events in which it is, as a practical matter, impossible not to find out the results (unless you’re going to post up in a cave somewhere), is simply horrific. Fortunately, I really don’t care that much about badminton, white water canoe, or the modern pentathlon. I also don’t care to watch Olympic competitions for sports the championships for which are conducted elsewhere. But if I did, you can bet I would be watching the whole thing on the BBC via Tunnelbear rather than being treated like a child by the bozos at NBC.
In any case, you now know that I have only the most general idea of what went on. I do, however know a few things, which I will enumerate for you below.
1. We actually got a point. We probably should have had more, given the general run of things, but it surpasses our total haul from the previous five matches, so at the very least it’s a step forward.
2. Frank Songo’o had another good match. From the radio broadcast it was clear that he continued with the aggressive attitude that he evinced during the Chivas match. Songo’o looks to be growing into the role of the everyday left wing. He has the desire and technical ability to take on defenders, and he seems to understand the need for service from lateral positions, at least to a greater degree than Eric Alexander does.
3. The Timbers have clearly changed their strategy, and it seems to be working. Portland had 57% of the possession, which is a good sign. It’s evidence of a rather more patient approach, as opposed to just jamming the ball up the flanks until we run into a blind alley of opposing defenders. Moreover, the more we hold on to the ball, the fewer chances will be allowed to the opposition. The glass-half-empty types among you will say that, although Dallas only had three shots on goal, they actually potted one of them. Fair enough. But in the long run this is an approach that will reap dividends. Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is a team that is finally getting its act together after a long period when it lacked identity and organization. I’d have to see a lot more futility before I’d concede that this new possession-oriented approach wasn’t working.
4. The secret of Brent Richards is out. Well, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’m sure that the coaching staff at FC Dallas saw the film of his performance against Chivas. He seemed to get a lot of defensive attention, if the radio commentary is anything to go by. What was clear from the commentary (because it was explicitly adverted to) was that he still has a bit of the young player’s naiveté. That will change with time, but the signs at this point are still promising.
5. Oh backside defense, where art thou? Or, more properly, where werest thou when Scott Sealy sailed unmolested into the penalty area to pot Brek Shea’s cross? The answer, in brief, is: not within about ten yards of the attacking player, at least according the highlight footage that I saw on ESPN. The failure to produce at the offensive end has meant that, of late, the standard in defense for this team is a clean sheet. That is an awful lot of pressure to put on our defensive players, especially when we are now demanding that the fullbacks chip in effectively in developing forward momentum.
6. I’m going to stick to my guns for now and say that better service will improve Kris Boyd’s return in the long run. I strongly suspect that another thing that would improve things for him would be the league switching its schedule to the winter months. Boyd really doesn’t seem to cope with the heat all that well. Actually, Smith doesn’t either. I would be willing to be that the dips in his player rating could be mapped as an inverse of the game temperature. Just a thought.
7. Zach Loyd is a turkey. He was begging to get sent off for a lot of that match, and should have gotten his walking papers rather earlier than he did.
8. The new approach likes Diego Chará well. Freed from the necessity of covering acres of space in the middle of the park, he is able to focus his aggression and the results have been impressive. The partnership currently forming in midfield between Chará and Nagbe is one of the most promising signs among recent developments with the team. Nagbe is a guy who needs a bit of space to let his creativity tell. With Chará playing the role of enforcer, Nagbe seems to be in a better space.
9. Perhaps the thing that I am most interested to see is how Bright Dike actually looked. From the radio commentary it seemed like he really brought a freshness and energy to the match when he came on. He’s a big fellow and he has the potential to add a lot to this team if his skills are husbanded properly.
Anyway, it seemed like a pretty good match. I’ll be constructing voodoo dolls of the league media negotiators until I watch the replay tonight. Player ratings later in the week.