this morning i feel as if i had dreamt a montage of movies when all their best parts were left out. if i recall, the holy grail featured heavily. as much as i knew the neck biting rabbit would soon come out and dash my hopes of finding the grail, i tried to push on with the quest. the same can be said about the timbers last night.
mad scramble after mad scramble after mad scramble was required to win to win last night's match. unfortunately for the timbers, the last mad scramble ended up wide of the mark. as much of a disappointment as the result may seem, it was more than i anticipated. in the end, the we were able to see a player we have not seen in two months score goals like we all knew he was capable of scoring. while it makes one ask why gavin has failed to play mwanga for the length of time that he has, that question is best left to be answered by another post. today, we talk the draw in san jose.
last night, it was clear the line-up was not only about giving a few overused players a rest, but also about certain players showing their worth to the side. as we know, there are several players likely to not find a kit in their locker at the end of this season. Last night, some players showed their true worth, others showed exactly why they should not be on this team currently and in the future.
gavin suggested changes were in store, and, true to his threat, changes came. four new names went into the starting 11 from the team that lined up against seattle. while pleased to see danny mwanga and chris boyd start next to each other, trepidation entered my heart when i viewed lovel palmer’s name listed next to hanyer mosquera. there are players loved by the timbers faithful, and there are players who are divisive among the fans, and then there is palmer. very few supporters are brash enough to suggest having confidence in his play—he simply does not instill that sort of trust. and true to form, he pulled hanyer mosquera out of position all night. i would not be so disappointed in his veiled efforts to work his way back into the midfield if his play as a midfielder last night was not as poor as it was.
steven lenhart rather than chris wondolowski or alan gordon found himself in san jose’s starting eleven. lenhart is a nightmare for many teams, not simply because he can score but also because he gets under the skin of most every player he comes across--you might remember the mls posterboy’s post game blow up against san jose—it was steven lenhart that instigated that response. the thing about lenhart is that he puts his body into everything he does. he is a physical player that gives defenders fits with his sideshow bob hairdo. given the defensive issues suffered by the timbers it was a given lenhart would be given a start to help break down the timbers defensive resistance.
no mls side has given up more goals per game than the timbers. much of that can be attributed to the positioning of the defenders and their read of the game. while I think david horst is football illiterate and his illiteracy often places several of his teammates at a disadvantage, last night he was a beast. he did everything he could to prevent san jose from scoring. it is an odd observation, but one i will make anyways, horst always seems to improve his game against better talent and bigger teams, perhaps he is the jim leyritz of the mls, perhaps he is still learning his trade, or perhaps my patience is so thin due to this dismal season that i have overlooked some of his qualities.
the first half saw a great deal of back and forth, forth and back, with little else to show for the game. frankly, i may have yacked due to motion sickness. It looked as if the sides would go back to the high school locker rooms all even at nil until danny mwanga decided it was time to audition for timbers reboot 2013. in a great bit of counterattacking, danny mwanga put jon busch on the turf and opened the timbers lead at the 45 minute. the play began with a facepalmer clearance won by dike. mwnanga chested down the headed pass and passed the ball back to the rodwall. wallace had the wherewithal to slip in a great through ball to mwnaga, who had turned and began his run to goal. mwanga stuck the ball with his right foot, switched to his left and put opara and busch on their bums. he then slotted the ball into the net to make it 1 nil at that the half.
the second half began and the only thought i had was oh, the timbers are going the opposite way on the television. that annoying change is rather hard to accept and really makes watching on television difficult. though i could not manage to follow the game for the first bit following the switch, i could only hope the timbers would manage the play of the game, keep a tight defensive posture when on their back legs, and use that posture to spring into the san jose final third. the biggest concern i had was that the timbers would be reluctant to get forward.
and sure enough, for a good portion of the second half the timbers sat back and booted the ball up the pitch without any other game plan. the first time i watched man on wire i was nervous. i know philippe petit made the crossing. i know he is still alive in some cabin in vermont or northern new York where he cooks endlessly. but even knowing that bit of information, the thought of walking upon a thin cable strung between the two towers of the world trade center terrified me. that was some insane business. and that is what the timbers chose to do last night—they walked a thin line. their reluctant tactics prevented a good bit of football from being played and allowed san jose to dictate the majority of play in the second half. do not be fooled by the overwhelming amount of possession held by the timbers, because even if they possessed the ball the entire second half it would have been as meaningless because in the second half they did little to nothing with that possession.
that said, the timbers can thank danny mwanga and franck songoo for the draw. in the 62 minute, songoo took it upon himself to run the length of the pitch, fighting off san jose defender after defender. in fact, i think he had every defender on him as he slid mwanga in on goal. danny picked the ball up and belt in a screamer from 20 yards out to make the game 2-0.
at that point, you knew gordon and wondolowski were coming on. and they did. and you knew wondo was going to score. and he did. he is good. as big of a dick as he can be, he is good. i do not even care to describe what a good poacher of goals he is, but that second goal was his bread and butter. he waited from an offside position until an errant header from either eric brunner or mosco (i am too disgusted by the clearance and the goal to go back to review the tape) found its way to him to slot home from the edge of the 6 yard box to even things up.
5 minutes added and the thought was not whether the timbers could score, but whether they could last. they did the later, but failed to the former in glorious fashion. again, songoo with magnificent work on the ball broke open for goal. he had nagbe, captain jack and dike for support. dike was in the middle, nagbe and jack were following to the right. songoo chose dike and, as the old templar informed indiana jones, he chose poorly. dike took the ball in stride and with the only the keeper to beat, he put the ball wide. frankly, his wide shots are becoming as common place as facepalmer’s shanked rocket launches from 35 yards out. they are not helpful and really indicate the composure he has in front of goal. if the disappointment of the timbers faithful was not already articulated on the twatterverse, songoo’s facial expression said it all. i think dike will soon find out what it was like to play with michael jordan after missing a shot.
in the end, the disappointment most supporters felt following the match was likely due to how close the timbers came from breaking their road duck. certainly, making the same defensive errors did not help, nor did the negative tactics employed by gavin. but the reality is the timbers walked away from a very difficult road game with a point when before the match it was not considered likely they would do even that.