now that the match is over and oktoberfest out of the way, and i have had enough raspberry filled doughboys to make myself vomit the remaining game-day-anxiety-induced nausea into a wastepaper basket, i can say that match was enjoyable and exciting. it was a real pleasure to see the timbers bully the bully. and more to the unasked question: yes, it was nice to escape the day with a point.
the last time the sounders came into our gaff they were without several key defensive players. given the choice between that douchebag ianni or john (it is spelled john, jhon) kennedy hurtado, hurtado wins out every day. throw jeff parke and gonzalez next to him and a the timbers were given a formidable task when asked to score.
with all their talent, and it should be acknowledged the sounders do have player resources not yet found in the timbers organization, the timbers out-played the sounders in every computable statistic except douchebaggery (i will leave that one alone as it speaks for itself). the timbers controlled 56% of the possession, won 52% of the duels, completed 83% of their passes, and had more shots on goal. had it not been for a joint defensive cock-up on an extremely well taken goal, the timbers would have lifted the cascadia cup yesterday. as it stands, the timbers now only need another draw to bring home a cup based on bragging rights and bragging rights alone.
i found it odd seattle did not play the offside trap once in the game. their centerbacks held a deep line as the wingbacks pushed forward to pressure the timbers midfield. while tactically a smart decision because it limited the effectiveness of the timbers attack through the middle, the tactic also exposed the sounders on the wings and should have proven an easy one to exploit. unfortunately, the timbers played far more conservatively on the wings than would be expected. often songoo was found holding to the wingback rather than pushing forward into the space created by the wingback’s insistence to not keep a tight line. yards and yards of pitch existed for him to be let lose but instead he would often wait for wallace to pass him the baton before he could continue his leg of the race. if this was a tactical decision by the interim ginger, than it was a poor tactical decision, but then he has been known on an occasion to make a poor tactical decision.
as hesitant to get forward as songoo he seemed at times, he really did have some wonderful tries on goal. his cross to the 6 yard box 25 minutes into the match was an absolutely beautiful piece of marksmanship. and it would have opened the scoring but was just out reach of the timbers loveable munchkin, diego chara. he also had a couple great shots on goal at the end of the first half. a strong curling from the right corner of the 18 yard box and a dangerous 25 yarder from the top of the D both forced gspurnning to make good saves.
i felt it was unfortunate he required a substitution in the 70 minute due to excessive bruising attributable to the deliberate efforts of the sounders to kick him every time he touched the ball. if his self-esteem took any knock, franck can be assured it was nothing personal, seattle was determined to kick every timbers player when they had the opportunity and the ref was simply incapable of making the hard calls.
ricardo salazar did what ricardo salazar does—failed to make big calls in big games. in the 64 minute, chara was fouled in the sounders 18 yard box. he had picked the ball off that annoying ginger, andy rose (who runs a close second in douchey gingers to larentowicz of colorado), and was fouled in the process. did chara make a meal of it? of course he did. but that does not make the challenge any less a penalty. a potentially game changing call and salazar was yet again more concerned with his biceps than the muscular use of feet to ankles on the pitch.
despite the usual cat calls of “upgrade”, which i am sure i have been guilty of using once or twice since his arrival, ricketts stood tall against the sounders attack and threw his body into most every challenge. his clearances and goal kicks still remind of steve cronin, but his commitment on the day was appreciated. in the 56 minute he made a flying challenge for a dangerous cross in to eddie johnson. he and johnson collided in mid-air and both fell to the ground. the ball and the danger were cleared, but the greater issues were not averted. ricketts remained on the floor in obvious pain. he would have to be substituted for joe bendik. at that moment, everyone within earshot of me asked in unison the same question: where is gleeson? i am sure they had seen a good number of bendik’s mistakes in the reserves to cause their skin to turn the color of their replica kits. their concern was soon understood.
seattle was bound to score. poor defensive positioning and a terrible read from the new keeper gave fredy montero, recently ignited by the lovely ”no means no” chants, room to exploit with a nifty looper over the head of bendik. watching it live, my first reaction was to scold horst for yet again allowing an attacking player to get goal-side of him. however, putting my opinions of his usual play aside, it was clear he was occupied with eddie johnson, the other of two targets gspurning had for his long clearance. that meant it was mosquera’s job to contain montero. i am not certain whether mosquera was aware of the danger or whether he simply did not give montero enough respect, but his recovery to shield montero from goal was textbook laziness. he then made a perilously awkward attempt at a headed clearance of the ball–he failed miserably and the ball was easily at montero’s feet. seeing the danger, bendik, who was 30 seconds into his substitute appearance, committed to come off his line. that was a bad idea. it could be argued that he wanted to close down montero in order to take away the angle on goal. but that is not what happened. instead, he opened that 6 yards of space for montero to take advantage.
there are those days that regardless of what a side does they simply are destined to walk away without scoring from open play. as much huff and puff the timbers made during the first 75 minutes of the match, it was clear that a goal would only come from a set piece. in the 77 minute, that was assured.
with songoo coming into a purple patch of play, as they say, captain jack had been relegated to watching set pieces rather than delivering them. but in the 77 minute, songoo had been subbed off so jack was awarded the duty to deliver a precise corner. and he did. he drilled in one of his stiff-legged marvels that loop over the heads of the first set of defenders. every time I watch a jewsbury set piece i am confronted with the same question: how does a short back-lift get that much loft on the ball? regardless of his delivery, a team’s failure to mark a man on a set piece invariably is disastrous. exactly why alonso determined the left edge of the 6 yard box was in peril may never be known, but concentrating on that line allowed the rodwall to make a smart attack on jewsbury’s delivery and head for goal. johnson did get a body on wallace at the last moment, but clearly he was more concerned about popping his collar than defending. the rodwall gets a lot of stick from fans, and rightfully so, but yesterday he did well and that magnificent goal to draw the timbers even was deserved. given the atmosphere and the enormity of the game, he could not have chosen a better moment to break his duck.
dike is as enigmatic of a figure as the timbers may have. at the 91 minute he found the ball at his feet with the opportunity to put the timbers ahead for the win. jewsbury had just sent in another stiff-legged corner with short-back-lift this time from the sounder’s right side. the ball found its way to dike and he drilled a right-footed shot that zinged off the left post and ricocheted against the right post, never crossing the goal line.
if there was a metaphor for his game yesterday it was that shot. for 96 minutes bright dike was on the pitch, and for 95 minutes bright dike did little of what was expected of him. earlier this week gavin claimed he needed a player who was willing to chase down bad balls, to turn those bad balls into good balls, and to put pressure on defenders, not to mention make good challenges in the air. these were the justifications for dike’s continued run out in the side. and to a great degree i would agree with every word he said, aside from the fact that if you had players who could put in good balls, rather than bad balls, you would not need the player who could run down those bad balls and turn them into good balls, but all that is just balls deep in balls because dike is not the player who can do that with balls. yesterday, dike did not win a single 50/50 ball. when he had the ball at his feet he often lost the ball from his feet. it would not be fair of me to say he did not complete a pass, because he did. the problem with his pass completion is that in holding up the ball he often played back passes to players not involved in the offensive build up, which gave seattle enough time to get behind the ball and set their defense. even more frustrating is that often those back passes were at the expense of clear moves to goal. it is not hard to recognize he has difficulty with the ball at his feet, but what is so depressing about his play is that he knows he is not good with the ball at his feet. on several occasions when he collected the ball he had two choices: either turn on the defender and drive unimpeded to goal, or pass back and hope someone else could do what he would not. he often took the later. i am not going to say boyd would change the course of play, he could not, but even he would turn on those defenders when the scent of goal was in the air.
regardless of the flaws we have seen all season, their were still brightspots. chara bossed the middle as usual and darlington nagbe played a complete game. the fact those two continue to grow in stature and assert themselves throughout matches gives me some hope for what can come. but what gave me hope most of all was the fact the timbers did not rollover after conceding to seattle the way they did. where normally it would take a couple games to rebound from a similar disappointment, they were back in the match within 5 minutes. surely that shows a developing maturity?
as much as i would have preferred a win, this result was much more than what i had anticipated. that is always a good thing—being pleasantly surprised.