17 games on and still no road win and that duck was never going to broken last night. given the run of form this season there was nothing much surprising about that result. in fact, there was not one moment in that match when i felt the timbers had sufficient intelligence and guile to take control of the game. to believe the statistics, you would think the match was rather evenly played. and you know what? it was. well, aside from those two cheap fouls given up by captain forever.
i cannot seem to think which moment was more depressing. could it have been when jack stood smiling, with his arms raised to the ref in false supplication after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar? or was it when he grabbed morales by the shoulder to put him on the ground right outside the box because neither he nor the rodwall were capable of doing their jobs? either way, the result was the same—a cheaply given free kick finished with a goal for the opposition.
some will point to the fact morales took a dive for the second free kick as reason to say jack was hard done by the calls. sure, javier took a dive. dive or no dive, jack was penalized for sticking his leg out to impede morales’s movement to goal. the intent was enough to draw the foul when morales went to ground. jack should know better—he is the captain and must lead by example. unfortunately, his game last night was a poor example of good play and a good example of bad play.
almost as frustrating as captain forever’s decision making on those two instances was the fact his decisions were made necessary by the rodwall’s lazy play. on the first instance, where jack pulled javier morales to the ground, it was because the rodwall failed to track or even put a body on morales. his failure exposed jack’s lack of footballing intelligence. had jack simply looked to his back four, he would have seen that smith and horst had stationed themselves to intercept any threat morales presented. instead, he grabbed morales by the upper body. any attacking player with a mind for obtaining an advantage for his side would take that opportunity to fall down—it would either result in a penalty or a free kick in a disadvantageous spot.
as frustrating as jack was last night, the reality is the rodwall was the bigger liability in the midfield. But then when steven smith was pulled and dike was brought on, wallace continued his rarified defensive efforts at left back. i counted over 5 times where he was either beat severely by grabavoy and morales, or where he allowed the real right side to put in exceptional crosses into the 6 yard box. on one instance, franck songo’o, not known for his defensive hustle, ran down javier morales as he made a good run to the byline. i mention this because it was the rodwall’s duty to cut off any threat from the wing, but instead of running back to scupper that threat he lollygagged.
there were some good performances last night. franck songoo and sal zizzo put in their standard efforts. they are quickly proving to be a great tandem on the wings and, along with diego chara,the reasons why we can look forward to next season with some hope. the three best opportunities for open play goals came through zizzo’s graft. his work was rewarded with a goal after he put in a cross so good even an overweight magadh could put that thing on frame, expecting to score. it just so happens dike was the recipient of the cross and likely a lifeline to his continued existence at the club.
in the 55 minute, zizzo took control of a good pass from songoo. after having driven to the byline several times, he made another run to the byline but pulled up short. he then curled in an outswinging cross, perfectly placed for dike who was far side of olave. dike crossed his headed strike to the far post, making nick rimando’s job near impossible. 2-1 and the timbers were able to avoid what looked like another developing disaster in sandy, utah.
zizzo created another superb opportunity for dike in the latter minutes of the match. and it would have assisted in evening things up but that pesky crossbar got in the way of dike’s headed effort.
to top off what is becoming an habitually good personal effort with limited results, franck songoo was given the set piece duties on a free kick located 5 yards off the right side of the d. he put in an impressive arching shot that cleared the wall of real salt lake defenders and was located just a few inches under the cross bar. unfortunately, nick rimando determined it was time to show that short fellas with a little pudge can keep as well as tall fellas with limited body fat.
that is about that. the match was not as exciting as the scoreline might suggest. in fact, i have seen nil nil draws with better play and more excitement than this match. perhaps that comes with the newly found maturity of the timbers. after all, the 2-1 loss shows a marked improvement from the 3 nil loss of earlier this season. and if you do not believe me, ask gavin. he actually put enough faith in that concept he was audacious enough to sell it to the media in salt lake. as I remarked to a fella last night, once the trend of poor results became clear and no obvious roadbumps for the bus to hurdle exists, gavin will find positive vibes to spread. last night, only a few players showed the expected maturity needed to succeed in professional football.