well, playing defense like that the timbers could not have made it anywhere. including new jersey. there were a number of convenient excuses for the reasons the timbers lost the match. for those who deny accountability in most everything they do, I am sure the referee will be the major factor in explaining away how the timbers could be the better side and still lose. but better sides do not let in 2 uncontested headers and one uncontested shot on goal that took an unfortunate rebound. you can look at the dax mccarty shot and acknowledge it should have been called a penalty. but given penalties are saved less than 20 percent of the time the odds were the goal was going to stand regardless of the way it hit the back of the net.
the timbers appeared to have the majority of chances. but chances do not score, scoring scores. and the timbers did very little about scoring when they had their chances. three one on one opportunities with bill gaudette and bill gaudette won each of those. perhaps the fact his eyes are disturbingly close together assisted him like certain beaks help finches break different types of seeds, but I would be willing to wager a large sum of money that his genetic mutation had nothing to do with chara, nagbe, and zizzo pissing away their second half opportunities to put the timbers ahead.
in the 61 minute, the 66 minute, and the 69 minute, the timbers had exceptional opportunities to reassert themselves on the match and they failed to capitalize. instead, they gave bill gaudette a highlight film and a wonderful position in bargaining for next season’s improved contract. in the 61 minute franck songo’o sent nagbe through to goal. nagbe took the ball and gave it to the outstretched arms of a willing bill gaudette. in the 66 minute, never being one to be outdone, zizzo latched onto diego chara pass and showed nagbe how you really give the ball to the keeper. in the 69 minute, as the senior midfielder, diego felt he should lead by example. facepalmer, who was in for the broken kimura, put chara on goal. chara said to sal and darlington, watch this! bill gaudette: ever grateful for the timbers finishing.
those complaints made, it would be unfair to not praise the industry of zizzo, nagbe, and songo’o. they may have missed some seemingly easy shots on goal, but they also drove the timbers offense. they pressured the red bulls all match, and showed exceptional awareness of each other. they displayed a great understanding and partnership–one i hope to see more of, but will likely see tinkered with yet again.
so, on to further praise of those three. the first goal was text-book counter attacking. songo’o picked the ball up in the timbers final third of the pitch. he then pirouettes, makes a short pass to kimura, who then lofts a quick outlet pass down the touch-line for a breaking sal zizzo. zizzo picked the ball up just beyond the half line and drove to goal. dike shadowed him through the middle of the pitch. noticing this, sal pulls up just inside the 18 yard box and puts across the edge of the 6 yard box a slide rule centering pass that splits three defenders to find bright dike. dike neatly chipped the ball in to the upper corner of goal to put the timbers up 1 nil.
from this point, the timbers pressed the energy drinks. when i saw that dike was in the roster, i assumed the timbers were going to hold back, work for the counter, and even play some long ball. this is exactly what they did. the midfield was instrumental in breaking up play. chara and nagbe adroitly worked the center and then pushed the ball to the wings. songo’o and zizzo stretched the energy drinks, often putting markus holgersson and pearce so off-balance i thought they two would trip over themselves.
but it was sal who started the next noteworthy counterattack. he stripped the ball from the soon to be substituted miller and breaks to the center of the pitch. as he did so, songo’o raced on the leftside. zizzo split helgersson and connor lade, putting the ball to the touchline. songo’o captured the ball and had the match been played in toronto the ball would have been ruled out. songo’o then rolled the ball towards goal, taunting lade to step towards him. he then moved to his right, found zizzo who then slotted nagbe onto goal from the right. nagbe then curled one around bill gaudette for 2 nil. that really was one gorgeous damn goal. really. and it was evidence as to why zizzo and songo’o should start over kalif every day of the week.
the ineffective miller was ceremoniously yet unceremoniously substituted for kenny cooper. at this moment…well, not really, you knew before the timbers ever stepped onto the pitch, cooper was going to score. even worse, the goal had to be started by the midfielder who should now be a timbers legend, dax mccarty. in the 42 minute, mccarty picked up a ball from helgersson in the timbers final third. he pushed to the right of the 18 yard box, opening space for jan gunner solli to move to the byline. mccarty slotted a sweet pass to solli who quickly crossed to an unmarked cooper. header. 2-1. this goal was wholly preventable. had horst stepped to cooper as mccarty was pushing to the touch-line, cooper’s run would have been halted. instead, he moved to the ball, allowed cooper to stroll into the box behind him, and gave an uncontested shot on goal. not that cooper was mosco’s mark, but mosco did watch horst pull off of cooper. it was obvious cooper was the target. so much so, mosco should have moved to him rather than standing firmly planted in no-man’s-land.
the frustrating thing about this goal is that it persists week in week out. the issue has not yet been resolved or coached out of horst or any defender on the timbers. if horst is not making the mistake, it is futty, if not futty, ajb, if not ajb, mosco. the timbers simply do not know how to defend the middle.
and if we needed any further proof of that fact, the second goal that came 3 minutes later signified how absolutely toilet the timbers defend as a team. thierry henry chased down a long ball and prevented it escaping for a goal kick. he kicked back to sebastien le toux who dribbled along the touch-line and then put a sharp pass into tim cahill. cahill then passed back to an unmarked, dax mccarty. if you look at the defensive line once cahill got the ball, you will see a certain captain forever sitting out of position in the back five. back five? yup–back five. mosco pushed up to meet cahill, but captain forever failed to make any movement forward. while nagbe, chara and zizzo all made movement into the middle of the pitch when the danger was sensed, their efforts were too late. by that time, mccarty had careened a ball into the arm of david horst. even though the whistle was blown for a penalty, cahill took the rebound and drilled it into the net, bringing the energy drinks level. putting any penalty kick controversy aside, that was again a great display of horrendous defending.
not that i needed this game to realize the timbers defense is a chasm of death, but it sure made it clear. the central defenders swallow any hope the timbers may have of surviving a match without conceding a goal. since gavin has taken over the interim duties, i believe the timbers have conceded 20 goals. you cannot expect to win matches handing out that much free candy.
so it should come as little surprise that the timbers would concede the game winning goal through inglorious defending. in the 82 minute, the energy drinks won a corner. thierry henry put in an inswinging cross that bobbled its way to the feet of kenny cooper. with his nimble, little feet, cooper dribbled the ball out of the 18 yard box and then passed to solli. solli put quick cross into the center of the box to 2 unmarked red bulls. chara jogged out to solli but did not quite make it to him. instead, he stood marking an empty patch of grass within the 18 yard box as heath pearce, the guy he had been marking leaped to reach the cross and firmly head in for goal. when you watch that goal you will observe 3 timbers defenders bunched together, marking no one other than the inconceivable thought that a red bull might actually make a run to the cross and connect with his head. in fact, they are the same 3 defenders who were suspect in the first and second goals: horst, mosco, and, you guessed it, captain forever.
the ironic moment in this match was when gavin brought on the rodwall as a last ditch hope to save the draw. obviously he thought the rodwall’s defensive nous would curtail the energy drinks press on goal. instead, the drinks score as rodwall chased keeny cooper out of the 18 yard box. we saw this after watching the man he was traded for have the game we have all come to expect. sadly, so did the rodwall.
as i started out this match report, i suggested there were many excuses to be made to justify this loss. but i chose not to highlight them–they were not the reasons behind this loss. the central defense and the absence of accountability were the reasons for the breakdown. this match was only another example of the coaching staff’s failure to properly coach defensive positioning and accountability. nothing more needs to be said…