This is going to be a bit of an odds and sods type of column in preparation for our away match later today against Vancouver. Before getting down to the more substantive content, I thought I would just return for a moment to something I mused about a couple of weeks ago. What makes football so fascinating (at least for me anyway) is its blend of simplicity and complexity. It can be a very simple game. Pass the ball and move, play with conviction, and David can beat Goliath on any day of the week. But it also is a game of myriad complexities. We come into this match in what is, for us, a novel situation. A competitive away match on the heels of hammering a team that we were expected to hammer.
If memory serves (and regular readers of this blog will know that it doesn’t always), the last time we won 3-0 was our shockingly unexpected battering of the L.A. Gals in August 2011. [See reader comment below for the correction that we actually beat the Revs by a similar score six weeks later] At this point that feels as historically distant as the Battle of Gettysburg. And, let it be said, that was not a match that we went into with any expectation of getting the sort of result that we did. We are now in undiscovered country. In this new land we are expected to do the business against clubs of lesser quality. Having done so, we now have to put aside any feeling of accomplishment and approach the 90 minutes tonight at BC Place as if it were the only match of the season. Only in this way can we maintain the kind of focus that it is going to take to get us where we really want to go.
On to more concrete matters. Pa-Modou Kah is in the house. And by in the house I mean he has got his visa issues sorted out, arrived in Portland, and started training with the squad. He’s only been about for a day and a half, but CP says he expects Kah to make “a big impact with the club.” While he’ll be on the bench for the match against Vancouver, the team want to be careful to bring him along at a reasonable pace:
We have to be smart with how we acclimate him...He’s not been with the group. He’s going to take a bit of time to get his fitness up to speed. He’s been working on his own, but he hasn’t played in a competitive game in almost a month. So we have to be smart with how we integrate him in the group, but he’s going to be a nice addition to the backline.
It’s too early to tell how this will turn out, but the signs are promising. He’s 32, which for a center half is not too long in the tooth. He made 189 appearances for Roda JC in the Dutch Evedivisie, so he’s seen football at a pretty high tempo, even if his last couple of season have been spent in lesser leagues in the Middle East.
Ok, so clearly we won’t be seeing him tonight, but this match should give him the opportunity to see just how electric the atmosphere can get in this league. We should have a pretty decent traveling contingent up in B.C., and that should give the atmosphere an added edge. The match itself presents the prospect of a intriguing battle in midfield between our resident hard men, Johnson and Chará, and the Caps’ similarly hardnosed duo of Reo-Coker and Gershon Koffie. Vancouver is coming off a grueling match in midweek against the Montreal Impact, while we’ve had a week to recover while savoring our well deserved spanking of Chivas. If I had to predict, I would guess that the physical hangover of a tough match in the eastern time zone will be an issue. Teams tend to play better in their home park, but midweek matches tend to leave teams leggy. The Timbers are the kind of team that demand an energetic response in midfield. Granted, the Caps are a counterpunching side, but they’ve been playing a bit more aggressively in midfield of late, and I would expect them to want to be aggressive on their own patch. This could work well for us.
Much as they should be well up for it due to the implications of the Cascadia Cup®, they also have a couple of other irons in the fire that might prove distracting. Thus the following quote in this week’s MLS preview in the Guardian:
A lucky win against LA may have papered over cracks in the squad, but a winning gamble in Montreal is distraction enough from our generally poor league form. A visit from Portland should bring it back into sharp focus.
No matter, though. A smart if dull draw in Montreal has us back in the final of the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup. A home win (and our home record is still quite good) means a cup. I'll gladly sacrifice a loss to Portland if it means a better chance at the cup.
I suspect that the team itself will probably be rather less distracted than their supporters, but it’s an interesting sidelight nonetheless. They’ve looked pretty good in their last couple of matches, but their overall form this season hasn’t been terribly strong, I seem to recall that there were rumblings as recently as a few of weeks about the need to fire Martin Rennie. It’s getting to the time in the season when the supporters will be getting nervous that the team only one point out of the divisional cellar.
It would be so very nice if we could do the business in the Cascadia Cup© early this year and let the other sides chase us. Too, this is a week in which we can make up some of the ground on Dallas, who will have to cope with a visit from the slime green horde for up north. Much as I would like to see the Flounders lose any and all matches, their getting at home would not be the worst outcome for us just at the moment.
That’s my bit for this morning. I’ll be back on Farcebook this afternoon with news, notes, and tunes for those of you not making the trip up to BC. Come on the lads!