incapable of drumming up anything positive in review of the last match, which has become an unfortunate standard this season, i was forced to seek seclusion in the halls of a late 70’s ruin. you know the kind of place with steel window frames, aluminum girders, and the dangerously acute angles of cinder blocks. it was a comforting reminder of the years spent in exile within an unnamed communist-block country—a monument to despair painted in drab, muted colors incapable of reflecting the 90 degree sun and heat. it was in a building just like that i learned to detest borscht. and i thank shecky for the adventure into my fragile eggshell psyche when he so cruelly discussed the annual ritual of the beet harvest. if it only got better than that…
unfortunately, it does not. dreams of defecting from this wasteland could never be entertained because there are no other options than here. being here, at this moment, in this confinement called support for the timbers, is the equivalent of a stay on one of the many islands in the gulag archipelago. even with the anticipated arrival of caleb porter, it is either too easy or too convenient to remain rooted in this despair caused by the acutely inept play of our beloved timbers. more specific to that pain is the awareness that our defense, the men we expect to protect the side even when the offence cannot take the team forward are as effective as the maginot line.
ironic as it may be that a central defender cannot put together a defensive battery able to defend against attacks nor able to keep any lead, we must remember that even in his days running stiff-legged in the middle of the timbers backfour, gavin was not a good defender. so it comes as no surprise that he is as effective at putting together a defense that could prevent goals as andre’ maginot was at constructing an obstacle to german tanks. and while the metaphors are mixed, both the gulags and the maginot line were instrumental footprints towards the destined cold war. and it is the color of the cold war, lacking sparkle and vibrancy, which best describes the malaise from which many of the timbers faithful suffer.
so where do the timbers go from here? how do they move on? after watching the timbers do what they do best—lose on the road–it is clear the defense is not good enough. whether due in part to poor coaching, poor training, and poor drilling, or to the personnel accumulated by the stiff-legged ginger it really does not matter. the fact is this team knows very little about defending and does not appear to be learning any lessons from the previous game(s). that is as much of a reflection on the coaching staff and the defensive coach as it is the defense itself.
the character of the back four is defined by consistent mistakes that would make even a rookie blush. the result of the persistent mistakes is the timbers continued failure to close out matches or even enter them. which is what we saw on wednesday.
in yesterday’s post, magadh isolated a particularly distressing comment made by kimura following last wednesday’s loss to rapids.
I wanted to play well. Coach told me not to be too emotional, but I got caught up in the moment a little bit. I can’t let that happen in a game. It’s just 90 minutes, but if for just one minute you lose focus, it’s just going to kill you at the professional level. I put pressure on my shoulders today, but it didn’t come out well.
whether it was intended to be taken as such or not, his admission to being unnerved by the return to a stadium as empty of supporters as the stomachs of my fellow inmates of the gulag were empty of food only suggests he has little stomach for any battle. particularly disappointing is the fact most footballers when traded by a side are so bruised by the treatment use the perceived betrayal as motivation to prove their former employers wrong. i get that it was his first return, but he really took a turd on the game and likely now the rapids feel justified in their decision. taking into consideration that it was his first return to colorado he could be forgiven for the multiple mistakes he made on the night if those mistakes were not errors we have repeatedly suffered during his tenure at rightback.
but I hate to single out kimura when every player on that back four is guilty of making the same or similar mistakes throughout the season and in the recent matches against colorado. at home, the timbers weathered an ugly second half, where the rapids adjusted their approach to the timbers predictable tactics. colorado pressured the midfield, which required some players unfamiliar with assisting on defense to actually play defense. consequently, the backs had the increased burden of the defensive limitations of their teammates. this did not go unnoticed by one back who suffers the burden every match. in a rather candid discussion of the two games against colorado, steven smith stated:
I don’t think we played well in the second half at home against Colorado, so maybe that kind of got a little bit into the game tonight. There’s something that’s maybe dragging us down a little bit, the form on the road, and we’ve got to get a result somewhere.
while not overtly so, smith impugned the timbers ability to play defense as a team. how could he throw himself under the bus? but the point is the timbers will never win on the road until they address the issues within defense. many of those issues can be addressed through attention to drilling positioning, not as a single player, but as a unit. the defensive back four is a unit and is only effective when played as a unit. consequently, this is why I think steven smith has such issues. horst is terrible at position play—while he is a very strong reactive player, he is not equipped with positional intelligence to support his partners and their duties. so often, his deficiencies place smith in peril because smith is responsible for his own duties as well as songoo’s duties. frustrating as that is, he then receives little support from horst. with corrective training, this might not happen. might. and with corrective training my eyesight may return to 20/20 and the scars from the beating received at the hands of cruel and sadistic jailers at the gulag may disappear.
when a side chooses to employ possession tactics, as the timbers have, it must also teach tactics designed to obtain possession. as pedestrian as this may sound, you get possession through winning your challenges and duals, and by defending from the front back. each player, not just the back four, should be instructed on the importance of assisting in defense and his responsibilities when not on the ball. so often the timbers look like two squads on the pitch—those who play defense and those who do things when the defense is not busy. hopefully these issues can be addressed when porter takes his position.
hey, have a great saturday!