as i write this post i cannot help but think this feeling might just be the emotions morrisey was feeling when he penned: “nothing’s changed. i still love you, oh, i still love you.” stop me if you have heard this one before, but the timbers lost on the road last night. if you had not paid attention to friday night’s match against the rapids you might ask what happened to the timbers last night? nothing: they played the same game they played on friday, the rapids simply adjusted their tactics.
it seemed for 90 minutes the timbers chased a game they were never invited to play. or, even worse, for 90 minutes they chased a game they were not equipped to play. i feel like i have written this post before. unfortunately, i will continue to write this post until the timbers current defense has been told the red button is room service, not a trigger for the nuclear arsenal pointed at their collective brain cell. there is very little else to say about the issues last night that have not been stated throughout the season, but the issues were made so much more painful because just friday the timbers beat the rapids.
unlike the rapids, the timbers failed to make any tactical adjustments for this match. instead, they went with their preferred starting eleven and the preferred possession tactics they struggled to employ against the rapids last week. frankly, the timbers were lucky to walk out of the jw with a win. it was not because they struggled to create chances, but because they struggled to defend against the rapids superior possession and movement. last night their defensive naiveté was exploited yet again.
observing how ineffective connor casey was against the timbers on friday, oscar pareja wisely gave the athletic andre akpan the start last night. while the absence of casey was a good thing for the knees and heads of the timbers, it was not a good thing for the timbers defense. stop me if you have heard this one before, but speed against poor positional play often means poor positional play loses out. last night was not an exception.
while koesuke kimura may tug on the heart-strings of the northend while performing the pre-match pound the badge routine, it would be easier to earn the northend’s love if he knew how to play his position. three times last night he was caught out and directly contributed to a goal. he should not feel alone in that awful distinction, because david horst was similarly lazy and ill-prepared in his positioning.
but in the first minute, we saw the payoff from the knowledge of playing with kimura. tony cascio latched onto a long cross-field pass from tyrone marshall and dumped kimura on the pitch in the process only to drill a shot into the near post. had it not been for the post, portland would have been down 1 nil rather quickly. that play was preventable. great passes are made in any game, and that was a great pass, but the issue is that kimura was caught cheating on his marking. he had given cascio the better part of 20 feet to work with and young tony took advantage.
overlooking the positional issues on display earlier, in the 6 minute, mosquera, horst and kimura combined to provide akpan an easy opportunity to open the scoring. while some have attributed the goal to rickett’s poor decision-making on the play prior to the lead up to the goal, which I can see to a point, but that transfers accountability from those directly charged with protecting the goal too easily. kimura did well enough to break up the initial cross sent in from drew moor, but his headed clearance was about as effective as leaving your keys in the doorknob in order to prevent burglary. even kimura’s poor clearance could have been dealt with had horst been sat in front of akpan and not allowed andre to get goal side of him. or if mosquera was not caught in a daze of bewilderment. as frustrating as horst positional play was, and it was awful, mosquera should have picked up akpan rather than watching kimura fall to the ground. the positional awareness displayed on that goal was typical of the timbers ethos this season—rarely do they maintain concentration throughout a match.
the lazy approach to the game was again displayed in the 14 minute when horst was caught ball watching. rather than attacking the ball to eject it somewhere other than anywhere near his goal, horst let the ball roll slowly to him. his lackadaisical approach opened space for the speedy andre akpan to get to the ball. he showed very little urgency, which is unacceptable at this level of play. any level of play. the disheartening fact of david horst is that he is 26, which means he has learned all that he will learn as a defender. this is what he is and it will not get any better regardless of his halftime leadership (if you saw it, you know what i am talking about–how wonderful it would be to have a captain who leads that way).
after several more attempts by the rapids to isolate kimura against their wingers, the pay dirt came in. in the 26 minute, castrillon took the ball from midfield down the right-wing. tony cascio was allowed several yards space by kimura and easily strolled into the box as crastrillon launched a superb cross. cascio drilled a shot point-blank at ricketts and then buried the rebound. goal side, unmarked, allowed space to roam—typical.
i will not bore you with the details of the second half (though if you suffer from insomnia those 49 minutes might cure your ails). i think you have enough from the first to make an educated guess about the result. if not, i would suggest you are like the timbers defense—beyond salvation. during the match i was bothered with an unpleasant question: where was our possession play? i mean, this was to be the new look timbers–a timbers team built on ball retention, quick passing, smart runs, and creating effective chances. the game statistics are misleading at best, but at first glance they suggest the possession was not as one-sided as the game appeared and that timbers were able to complete a greater percentage of passes than the rapids. if true, that points to a number of issues.
first, without efficient finishing, possession play is just that—possession play. las night the timbers had 9 attempts on goal and only 1 was on target. that 1 shot on target was likely the opportunity diego chara had against pickens before he pissed down his leg in fear. and aside from dike’s moon blast that is likely still extending into the bounds of saturn’s gravitational pull, i cannot remember an open play shot that had any hope or design of being on goal.
which leads to my next concern. the offensive options had been studied on friday. zizzo was the timbers most effective player on that night. consequently, he received special attention last night. zapata put the reducer on him several times, effectively taking him out of play. while that often happens in football, the fact no other options were explored or supported indicated the timbers have limited creativity when it is not coming from the wings. indeed, the last match saw songoo switch his work through the middle of the pitch to the wings. last night he remained on the wings and the options available to the timbers were then limited. the one set of play that was inspired and threatening was started when smith worked his way into the middle and then looked to set dike free. unfortunately, dike started from an offside position.
finally, in a possession based offense, all players should be skilled with the ball at their feet—not just a few. last night the limitations to dike’s game were exposed. the rapids placed him in positions that required him to use his ball skills, if he had ball skills, which he does not. his ability to hold up play and bring others into the game was missing. frankly, he was a passenger. the work rate exhibited during firday’s match was gone and replaced by a jaded, almost apathetic display. bringing on plan b and the kitchen sink in the last 20 minutes of the match really could not undue the effects of his free ride. as i have said, i think he is the better option at plan b than at starting center forward.
the only hope that comes from this loss is that it is one less game until the end of the season and one less game until this side can be dismantled even further. there really was nothing more to take from the match, though perhaps it was enough to force a shy, bald buddhist to commit murder.