Well, well. It was honors even at the JW. It might have been better but for a pretty smartly taken goal by Montero. On the other hand, coming back to claim a point, and to deny a pair to the arrogant lot from up north is no mean thing. Clearly, this is a match that we would prefer to have won. Not having done so leaves us with a pretty major ask: getting points away to Seattle. We are, however, in a better position than if we’d given up three points to them and gotten none ourselves. Apropos of nothing really, that result also saw us climb out of the divisional cellar, to be replaced, at least temporarily, by Chivas.
I’ll have more to say about individual performances when I get around rating the players individually (which I can’t do right now for reasons that I’ve already spent too much column space complaining about). For now, a few disconnected observations.
I thought Ricketts did a pretty good job for the time that he was on the pitch. There has been a lot of grumbling about the way that he was brought in for Perkins. Perkins was justly popular with the fans, having been the closest thing to a consistent performer that the team had for much of the season. This I will say about Ricketts: although he is somewhat less mobile than Perkins was, he is noticeably better in terms of ball distribution. He is, at least in most cases, less likely to simply pelt one up the pitch, or directly out of bounds. The latter was an all too frequent result with Perkins. In his defense, part of the reason that his distribution seemed aimless is that he (Perkins) was trying to work with the theory, now disproved, that Kris Boyd was the kind of guy who could win and hold the ball effectively thirty yards out from the opposing goal. We seem to be a little better about preserving possession from keeper distribution now that that particular idea has been consigned to the rubbish heap of history.
This brings me to another point. In case anyone was wondering still wondering about whether the signs of Boyd’s demise were to be taken seriously, the fact that the little-used Danny Mwanga was thrown on in preference to him is proof positive. The Boyd experiment is, I suspect, conclusively at an end. As an aside, I will say that he doesn’t look terribly svelte these days, but even if he did I don’t think he would be getting minutes. Whether he is still the kind of guy who can be successful as the target man for a professional soccer team is an open question. I tend to think that with the dropping of a few pounds he could still be effective. There are teams that can create positive results by getting deep and hitting a guy like Boyd with precise service. Unfortunately for him, the Portland Timbers are not such a team.
Sunshine and I were talking about this the other day and his view on the topic was the Boyd’s acquisition was down to Spencer, and that his shift out of active participation in the side is an element of the process of putting paid to Spencer’s construction of the team. I am inclined to agree. Spencer brought a certain, very static, approach to football to this club. I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets when I say that it simply didn’t work. This shambles of a season has been a monument to that failure and Boyd is its poster child.
One salutary effect of moving away from Spencer’s approach has been the emergence of Darlinton Nagbe. Spencer never seemed to find a way to get the best of him, or even to use his tools acceptably effectively. Since Spencer’s departure, Nagbe has played a bit further up the pitch and his functioned as the point man of a midfield formation in which he was supported by Chará and Jewsbury. This has resulted in the winning of more ball all over the pitch, and to a quicker transition from defense to offense. This has improved the situation but, as the match with Seattle showed, there is still a long way to go. There were long periods of that match (especially the first half hour) when the Sounders were able to absolutely throttle Nagbe and Songo’o.
Part of the problem, clearly, was the lack of a proper point man up front. Dike has been deputizing to pretty good effect recently, but he isn’t a long run solution to the problem. Dike works hard, and he’s definitely raised his game since his stint with the LA Blues. But watching him play I am reminded of a piece of political snarkiness once directed at Abraham Lincoln: he is a first rate second rate man. Well, I don’t know what he is like as a man (good I would prefer to think). But he is, at best, a “B” grade player. He should probably be about third down the depth chart on a team with proper personnel. At this point, we simply do not have players 1 and 2, so Dike it is for the foreseeable future. Unlike Boyd, there is probably still a place for him at the club when some better talent is brought in. When.
In closing, I will say that although the result is not exactly what we would have wanted, it is worth pointing out that it was not for lack of maximum effort by the players. Chará ran himself absolutely ragged. In fact, he ran (and tackled) himself right off the pitch. We’ve really got to hope that he is right for our tilt away to the Quakes on Wednesday, because experience shows that his absence in midfield has unfortunate consequences. In the bigger picture, I think this match said two important things about the side. In the wake of the shifts in terms of coaching, from Spencer to Gavin and beyond, this team has showed that they are ready to play hard and to give to work together. But they have also showed that they do not quite have the requisite talent level to compete seriously in this league. Until this is remedied, all the hard work in the world won’t get us up the ladder.