I have a strong urge to linger over today’s column. Pretty much the minute that I hit “send” I have to head off to a meeting which in all likelihood will be just about as pleasant as my last dental visit, but without the good natured civility. Actually, if I was given the choice between attending this meeting and an immediate root canal I cannot be 100% certain that I would pick the former. All I can say is that they’d better have donuts.
Suffice to say, I am in a very grumpy frame of mind just at the moment. With apologies to those people, among whom I usually number, who like to try to see the glass as half full, I really don’t have much hope that we will get a result tonight. You know that moment in the original Star Wars when they are heading into the Death Star and Han Solo says, “I have a very bad feeling about this”? Well, that particular clip has been on a repeating loop in my brain for the last 24 hours or so.
The Quakes are leading the division by a long length and this is not a fluke. They one of those rare teams that has both size and technique. We, on the other hand, are not leading the division, and while we are not in the cellar for now this is only really because Chivas currently has a game in hand on us. The match tonight is going to be a hard fight for us, and I’m having a hard time seeing how we are going to rise to the challenge. Apologies for the pessimism, but one would have to squint pretty hard to miss the ill omens.
They are as follows:
As mentioned above, San Jose are a top notch attacking side. We, sadly, are not a top notch defending side. We looked pretty good for a lot of the match against the lads from up north, and truth to tell their goal was very well taken, but our performance against the Sounders is not really an appropriate basis for prediction. It was at home, where we have a much better record and, in fact, simply play better overall. Moreover, it was a derby match and you could really tell that the team was well up for it. There is nothing like playing an opponent that one hates from the old neighborhood to get one’s talents engaged. Tonight’s match will be away, and I don’t think that anyone who follows the team will have any illusions about what that portends. The Timbers simply have not managed to get it together on the road this season. Much as I love the team, I must admit that I do not have the imaginative required to see that changing in this particular circumstance.
It is true, and fans will certainly remember, that we gave these guys a nasty shock round the JW back in August. And it must be said that that particular result happened in the middle of that wretched run of form that saw Spencer’s career at the club spiraling the bowl. But, as the saying goes, that was then, this is now. We are very unlikely to sneak up on San Jose in the way that we did this summer, and since this match is going to be played at their gaff it is a pretty big ask for our guys. Moreover, since we are now coming down to the pointy end of the season, at least for teams with some kind of championship type aspirations, we are most likely to find the Quakes focused and ready in a way that they were not in our earlier encounter. It occurs to me that we sort of snuck up on them in June. We can have few illusions that we will do so again.
It looks as if we will not have the services of Diego Chará for this match as well. Given this lack, and the general tenor of our approach on the road so far this term, I suspect that this will be one of those matches when we look to pack back, clot up the midfield, and try to nick a goal. This is what we seem to try week in and week out on the road. Away to Colorado it resulted in a 3-0 result and a match in which we never really looked much like competing. Against San Jose, whose vigor and skill in attack is far superior to that of the Rapids, I don’t think that we’ve got much choice other than to try this again. At this point, we simply do not have the kind of personnel in the middle of the pitch that would allow us to compete playing in a standard attacking formation. I wish the situation was different, but it is what it is. Given that we will be without Chará’s services as well, it is hard to imagine that Nagbe will be given the time, space, or supply of the ball that would allow him to drive the offense forward effectively.
Well, my apologies for being so glum. I guess that we should try to be hopeful. It’s not like there haven’t been weirder results in the league, and perhaps the advent of a new managerial team will spur our current playing staff to greater efforts. I feel like I have predicted that this might happen on a number of occasions and been proven wrong in practically every instance. This is a team that needs to be very extensively rebuilt. What I am looking for in this match is some indicating from the current playing staff that they want to be a part of this rebuilding.
Anyway, I know this is later (and grumpier) than usual. Now I'm off to watch people shout at each other.