I’ve just watched the Galaxy match, and I have to say that there is not enough beer in the world to make that ok. I suppose that between the two of us, sunshine and I have really beaten this thing to death, but I thought I would just give the carcass a final poke for good measure. I’ve watched Beckham’s first goal over and over and I would like to stake for the record my view that it was a direct result of the defensive system that Portland were playing.
Let’s break it down, shall we? The action starts when Donovan shifts the ball to Keane and makes a left to right diagonal run into the box. Keane slides it over to Beckham. At this point, Portland’s defensive set up is as follows. Jewsbury has stepped up to mark Keane. Palmer has marked Donovan’s run into the box. Smith has neutralized Jiménez on the right wing. Alexander has recently noticed that there is something going on that he needs to get involved in and has run back twenty yards into the vicinity of Beckham, but then dropped off him.
Beckham is left in a pocket of space in just the sort of place from which he has, historically, been most dangerous. You can see Palmer frantically gesturing to Alexander to close him down. At the same time, Horst starts a vain move forward that has no chance whatsoever of stopping the shot, but does create a lane for Donovan which could very easily have resulted in an open scoring chance. In the event, Beckham potted an easy opportunity and rendered the point moot.
After discussing the matter with sunshine, I think that there are two ways of looking at this. You could look at it and say that Palmer should have stepped up on Beckham. From the body language of the players, I think that this is what Jewsbury and Horst were expecting him to do. Another way to look at it, and this is the analysis that I favor, is that Alexander should have closed Beckham down. There were no other Galaxy attackers on that side of the pitch. Smith had Jiménez well in hand. But Alexander suffered a moment of confusion because, and I think this is the key point here, he’s just not used to playing this system. There is a horrible moment on the video where you can see Alexander realize what’s about to happen and take a couple Fred Flintsone steps in Beckham’s direction. In any case, the one guy who is not responsible for shutting down Beckham is Horst, and he must have had a real sinking feeling as he saw the seas part and Beckham line up an open shot from that kind of position. I think we all have some insight into that feeling.
At least the subsequent goals are a bit easier to analyze. Responsibility for goals 2, 3, and 4 lies with Kimura, Kimura, and (wait for it) Kimura. Ok, Kimura wasn’t responsible for the cross that led to the fourth one, but he did allow Keane to get goal side of him, resulting in the latter getting a tap in from something like two feet away.
Perhaps it’s all for the best that we let that particular horror show fade into the past. Tonight sees the Timbers away to Chivas. Whatever else might be the case, these guys are unlikely to put five past us. They’ve only tallied more than one goal in a game on two occasions this season. There’s an article by John Strong currently up on the Timbers website bearing the headline “The Immovable Object Versus the Irresistible Force”. With all due respect to Mr. Strong, I’m afraid that describing Portland’s offense as an irresistible force is a bit rich at this point. True, they did score three against the Gals, but that hardly reflected the team’s current run of form.
If you want my opinion (and I suppose you must since you’re now more than 600 words into this post), this would be an excellent opportunity for Portland to revert to the 4-4-2 formation that they have used for much of the season. The Timbers now have two fullbacks who are interested in getting up the pitch and giving the team some width. One positive that could be taken from the match against L.A. was that the Timbers did create a goal from the flanks. Not very deep on the flank, mind you, but nonetheless a ball put into the middle for Boyd to attack. This is the kind of thing that will allow Boyd and Mwanga to work together. Of course, the thing that would really allow them to work together is to actually get them on the field at the same time.
Chivas bear the informal moniker of “The Goats”. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this refers to their stinginess in defense rather than too some collective propensity to eat old sweatsocks and other garbage. Their matches must really be a hoot, given that they’ve only managed to score 11 goals all season. Of course, they’ve only given up 18, which is second only to K.C., the current leaders of the Eastern Conference. Lest we become too enamored of our own prospects, they did manage a rare two goal haul against us at the JW back in April. That was, however, before we got the defensive problems that had dogged us early in the season sorted out. Now we’ve got different defensive problems, but I think that there is every reason to believe that we can put things right in this match.
The second half of the season is going to be important for several reasons. Obviously, the chances of making the playoffs look pretty remote at this point, but the capacity of professionals to keep fighting for this goal should give us some insight into what we’ve got on our hands here. Perhaps more importantly for the long term future of the club, this is now a chance for GW to show us exactly what sort of talent he has brought to the team. If they don’t manage to get it right in which as left of the season, the argument that this was a good group merely employed to poor effect by John Spencer rather loses some of its substance. It has been the view of this blog that the problems extend a bit further up (and down) the food chain. Now we’ll get to see that proposition put to the test.