Our new recruit at keeper has started working out with the team, and according to this video he’s pretty chuffed to be here. And I suppose that’s to be expected. He’s saying the right things about slotting into the team and staying well clear of the Wilkinson/Perkins unpleasantness. That’s no great shakes, but at least he seems to be off to the right kind of start. One almost wouldn’t think to mention this were it not for the propensity of professional athletes to deviate from such well considered conduct in moments like this.
He seems to be in pretty good nick. His recent history has been marred by injury, but that doesn’t mean that one is expecting him to spontaneously combust the first time he steps on the pitch. On the other hand, given how things have been going for us this season, that would just about fit into the normal run of luck. Then again, it’s not like what’s happened so far this season has been a series of random events. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with which we have had to contend in the past few months have, if not been launched by ourselves, at least abetted by actions that we took (or failed to take).
In all honesty, it’s not like this is likely to be changed all that much by the arrival of Ricketts, or that of our new kiwi for that matter. At best, Ricketts is likely to be a push. He’s a good stopper, but none of what I have seen makes me think that he’s distinctly superior to Perkins. If some combination of Smith, Danso, Horst, Brunner, Purdy, Kimura,
Chabala, Jewsbury, and Braun can get it together and keep things sorted in front of him, he will do alright. If not, there’s no reason to believe that he’ll fare any better than his predecessor did. One thing that is certain is that he’s not going sprint up the pitch and score at the other end. Until the Timbers can identify someone who is going to do that, it’s rather difficult to see any serious change in form.
For what it’s worth, I finally got around to watching the Dallas match, and it prompted the following thought about our offensive woes. First let me say that I have had innumerable discussions with Timbers fans in the last few weeks on the theme of “let’s get rid of Boyd, because he’s stinking it up.” This is not an entirely unfair position. His return in terms of goals since his arrival has been disappointing, particularly in light of the long scope of his career. This is a big problem for a guy like Boyd, because he’s not the kind of guy who is going to make a lot of other contributions to the side if he’s not filling up the goal.
He’s a big guy, not terribly mobile, and never the fastest man ever to play the game. Not that he’s given many indications of this lately, but the job that he is best suited to finishing chances in front of goal. His profligacy in recent matches is intensely aggravating to the fans. According to John Strong (I think) the other players say that he is absolutely lethal on the training ground. Obviously that’s not worth much. I pointed out in a couple of recent posts that Boyd hasn’t really had the kind of service for most of the season which would really allow him to thrive. Given the paucity of chances that he’s been presented with, it’s not wholly surprising that he would be pressing a bit. The Dallas match was indicative of another problem: the failure of the team to formulate a real playing style. They’ve done a bit better of late, as their newly compact formation in defense and midfield has resulted in more possession. I think it’s fair to say that the main problem during the Dallas match was not so much that they weren’t trying to get the ball to Boyd, they just weren’t doing a terribly good job of kicking it too him. The whole operation seemed a bit out of whack.
I don’t mean to sit here and make excuses for the team’s failure to produce. Twenty goals in 22 matches is not acceptable. What I am saying is that this is not the sort of thing that can simply be laid at Boyd’s door. Partly it has been the ill-conceived formations that they played for much the season. Partly it has been a matter of personnel. For instance, it’s only since Songo’o solidified his hold on left wing that the team has started to create a reasonable number of chances. With no disrespect intended to Eric Alexander, I think that there is a fair amount of empirical evidence for the proposition that he is just not that great at providing service from wide positions. It’s not that he stinks, it’s just that by and large that’s not what he’s geared to do.
Does it seem to anyone else that the recent personnel moves have been, in effect, the running up of the white flag over this season? The playoffs are pretty much a lost cause at this point. What remains is for the current playing staff to audition to keep their places. The question is not so much what is going to happen for the rest of the season. Obviously, as fans we want the team to play better and provide entertaining football. But the larger question to be answered is: what will the team look like going forward? Every player has to have impressed upon them that their continued position in the squad is not assured. I suspect that there will be some more moves before the end of the season, irrespective of whether a manager is hired or not. Who is brought in, and how much playing time guys like Richards and Dike get will provide at least some insight into where things are headed.
At least we can’t get relegated.
There will be more to say about the upcoming match with Toronto in posts to come.