TimbersArmy.org http://timbersarmy.org Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:25:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 Match Report: Timbers Good, Rimando Great in Salt Lake http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-good-rimando-great-in-salt-lake http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-good-rimando-great-in-salt-lake#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 07:02:10 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14632 Continue reading »]]> In many ways this one hurts the most.  With seemingly every sign pointing toward a drubbing in Sandy, the Timbers put in their best performance of the season at the Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, but nonetheless came away empty-handed in a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.

The first ten minutes looked as forecasted, as RSL dominated the ball and put the Timbers under siege early.  Portland’s defense held firm, however, only allowing a 9th minute Luke Mulholland cross to nobody from the left[1] in a sequence unlocked by the magnificent Javi Morales.

Despite initially showing some attempts to spread the field with both fullbacks getting up the line a little bit, the Timbers seemed to retreat into a more conservative setup as the opening spell of play progressed.  For the rest of the evening, the Timbers were a little bit more conservative both with their fullbacks and their defensive central midfielders, choosing to pick their attacking spots rather than try to surround Real Salt Lake with midfield numbers.

Sometimes a retreat can create an attacking advantage.  After the initial fifteen minutes, the Timbers began to get their foot on the ball.  And in the 19th minute, they very nearly put the ball in the goal.

After Darlington Nagbe ran by all of the RSL midfield and defense, he burst through on Nick Rimando and from close range put the ball in the perfect spot from a tight angle – high and over the keeper’s head.  Nagbe’s shot would beat every other goalkeeper in MLS, but on Saturday it couldn’t beat Rimando, who swatted it away.  Darlington wouldn’t be the only Timber feeling so robbed on Saturday.

As the half progressed, however, the game began to foreshadow its entertainment quality.  After RSL’s initial spell, the Timbers asserted themselves for their own quarter-hour.  The Claret-and-Cobalt battled back, however, and in the 40th minute nearly broke through.  Mulholland, who had himself a nice attacking first half, set Olmes Garcia free down the right wing.  Garcia cut the ball back into the box for Alvaro Saborio, whose finish went wide under pressure from Pa Modou Kah.

The Timbers should have been encouraged at halftime.  While they hadn’t put Real Salt Lake under tremendous pressure, they controlled enough of the play to limit RSL to one clear look at goal and created the best chance of the half for themselves.

The second half started in much the same fashion, with the Timbers holding their fair share of the ball, but Real Salt Lake presenting the greatest attacking impetus even if they couldn’t unlock Portland’s backline.

The first good chance of the half came for RSL in the 57th minute when the Timbers struggled to fully clear a corner, allowing the ball to rotate back to Morales on the left wing.  The best Argentine on the field fired a cross back into the box where Chris Schuler got free head to it, but the central defender couldn’t keep his finish on frame.

The Timbers answered back with a trio of quality chances that unfortunately fell to the ineffective feet of Maxi Urruti.  In the 58th minute, Urruti gathered a bouncing ball and drove at RSL’s defense, but his well-struck shot was denied by the crossbar.[2]  A minute later, Diego Valeri, despite having a tough outing, played a pretty chipped pass through to Urruti in the box, but Maxi didn’t have his feet right to provide the finishing touch.

Urruti really made a mess in the 60th minute, however.  After Diego Chara tackled the ball away from Mulholland, the ball fell to Urruti and set him on a free run at goal between Schuler and Borchers.  In perhaps the biggest moment of the game, however, Urruti pushed his finish disappointingly wide.  Whereas the prior two had been half-chances Urruti couldn’t quite convert, this was the type of golden opportunity a legitimate MLS striker has to put away or force heroics from the goalkeeper.  Urruti did neither.

Having failed to capitalize, the Timbers couldn’t continue their surge, and as the game neared its final fifteen minutes RSL shifted decisively onto their front foot.  In the 73rd minute, Chris Wingert ran past several Timbers defenders, including a gassed Kalif Alhassan and a momentarily lame Chara, and slipped the ball through to Javi Morales.  The Claret-and-Cobalt’s string-puller, however, pushed his finish off the post and Will Johnson cleared.

There was no post to save the Timbers five minutes later.  After Sebastian Velasquez found Ned Grabavoy in the middle, the journeyman midfielder drove toward the left corner of the eighteen-yard box, a step ahead of Nagbe the whole way.  What truly made the play that was about to happen, however, didn’t occur on the ball.  Rather, Joao Plata put Jack Jewsbury in a bind by making a decisive run wide on the left wing,[3] forcing Jewsbury to decide whether to step to Grabavoy or let Plata loose where Ned could spring Joao on the byline.  Simultaneously, RSL queued three runners up at the back post, making Futty justifiably hesitate to rotate to cut off Grabavoy’s look at goal.[4]  The result was an open lane for Grabavoy to fire at goal, where he cut the ball back under the hand of an underachieving Donovan Ricketts and inside the far post.

The Timbers didn’t go away, however, and were unlucky not to find at least an equalizer.  In the 85th minute, Gaston Fernandez found Alvas Powell on the right side of the box with a beautiful vertical ball, but when Powell looked to cut the ball back across goal toward the back stick, Nick Rimando somehow managed to keep his trailing foot in long enough to deflect the ball away.

Rimando was back to the heroics three minutes later.  After an uncharacteristically poor giveaway by Kyle Beckerman, Fernandez bought a foot of space at the top of the box and left-footed a curler toward the top corner, but a diving Rimando was there again to parry behind for a corner kick.[5]

Thus, the most complete performance by the Timbers to date went begging in Sandy.  A Portland team that managed the game very well, created a sufficient number of chances, and limited Salt Lake to a relative handful of opportunities nonetheless came away empty-handed as a result of a little poor finishing, a well-worked RSL goal, and a boatload of brilliance from Rimando.

But while Saturday wasn’t short on moral victories, it was short on points. And that’s becoming a concern.

Match Observations

GOALZ

Result notwithstanding, Saturday was a really good soccer game.

While it’s easy to look at a 4-4 match and come away thinking it was an epic, Saturday provided everything – short of a Timbers win, I suppose – to please the discerning soccer eye.  Both attacks created a fair number of chances, albeit in very different ways.  Those chances, however, usually weren’t the result of especially bad defending, as both defenses were solid, perhaps with Portland’s being the sturdier on the evening.  In addition to both sides playing pretty well, the game featured a really well worked late goal, some outstanding goalkeeping, and a genuine push for a late equalizer.

No, Saturday didn’t provide the drama that Portland-Seattle did a few weeks back; but there is no question that, considering the two teams on balance, it was a much better played game.  Goalz, it turns out, aren’t everything.

Reforming the Shield

Johnson and Chara’s Recoveries

DieJo’s Recoveries

The Timbers were a bit more conservative with Will Johnson and Diego Chara on Saturday than they have been.  And to great effect.

First of all, the two of them dominated the center of the field in front of the defense, rendering that part of the pitch a virtual dead zone for the Claret-and-Cobalt for extended periods on Saturday.  Chara and Johnson combined for 21 recoveries, a very substantial portion of which were in that crucial transition zone into RSL’s final third.

Second, Chara and Johnson did a great job of feeding the ball to the wings, where the Timbers found a fair amount of attacking joy.  Together, DieJo completed 74 of 86 passes, with Johnson’s 41 of 46 leading all 90-minute players in passing percentage.

Johnson and Chara’s Passing

DieJo’s Passing

Both of these things were key elements to the increased defensive continuity, as the central shield made it difficult for RSL to find promising attacking angles and their precision with the ball helped Portland keep their foot on the ball and away from RSL.

Timbers Grades

Donovan Ricketts, 3 – Ricketts doesn’t look right out there.  Looked awkward when he was forced to move around and, if we’re being honest, 2013 Ricketts makes the save on Grabavoy.  In a game in which his counterpart dazzled, a fair amount of the culpability for the game’s lone goal falls on Ricketts’ shoulders.

Michael Harrington, 5.5 – In a game in which RSL were primarily trying to exploit the Timbers’ right side, Harrington had a quiet but effective shift offensively and defensively on the left.

Pa Modou Kah, 6 – After giving up a horrible goal last week, Kah produced his best defensive performance of the year.  Still a couple lost runners and squirrely clearances, but on the whole pretty good considering the opposition.

Futty, 5 – A little bit shakier than Kah, but a wholly acceptable performance from Futty.  Bears a tiny slice of the culpability on the concession, but, in reality, it was just a good goal.

Jack Jewsbury, 5 – In a similar boat to Futty on the concession.  Could have made a play to potentially stop the strike, but not without opening up a different, equally dangerous play.  Solid performance from Jack, who made service difficult from his flank.

Will Johnson, 6.5 – Let his frustration out perhaps a bit too much after the game, but he and Chara put in a masterful performance in front of the backline.

Diego Chara, 6.5 – DieJo was back on Saturday and Chara should have had the best tackle/assist in recent Timbers history but for Urruti’s bad miss.  No coincidence that Chara was hampered by a knock throughout RSL’s best spell in the second half.

Darlington Nagbe, 5 – What a wonderful play in the first half only to be absolutely robbed by Rimando.  Still, hard not to notice Nagbe (again) faded a bit as the match wore on, with his redundant run with Urruti and failure to close down Grabavoy as the biggest sins.  Are we certain he isn’t still carrying that hamstring niggle?

Diego Valeri, 4 – Aside from his brilliant chip to Urruti, it was a tough night for Valeri.  For a guy who thrives on space, RSL was always going to be a tough matchup.  The concern going forward, however, is about a knock Caleb Porter referenced postgame.

Kalif Alhassan, 4 – Had a nice first half, but ran out of gas in the second and became a liability by the 65th minute.  Playing at altitude isn’t easy and he missed a few weeks in the early season, but his fitness has to improve.

Dumpster Fire

Dumpster Fire

Maxi Urruti, 2.5 – His analytics line is shocking for a player who was on the field for ninety minutes.  Sometimes strikers don’t log much in the stat column if they’re starved for service, but good ones find other ways to contribute and the Timbers weren’t without chances.  Urruti had a few opportunities fall to his feet, and by and large made a mess of them.  You have to wonder about the stability of his starting spot…

Gaston Fernandez, 6.5 – …in light of Gaston Fernandez’s performance on Saturday.  While he looks most comfortable in the 10 spot, where he was quite good against RSL, Fernandez has been solid, if not perfect, at the 9 as well.  At this point, he gives the Timbers a better chance to win than Urruti in that role.

Michael Nanchoff, 6 – What an opportunity for Nanchoff and he didn’t let it pass by.  Nanchoff just worked his way into a rotation that is very short on attacking options off the bench right now.

Alvas Powell, 6 – Speaking of working his way into a role on the bench, Powell showed why he’s a better fit as a late-game attacking substitute than as a starter at right back.  Great run and good finishing touch on his should-have-been goal.  But here’s the question in the back of my mind about Powell: Is he the next Rodney Wallace?

Preseason Prediction: RSL 1, Timbers 0.  Saborio.
Actual Result: RSL 1, Timbers 0.  Grabavoy.

Onward, Rose City!


[1] Mulholland, for what it’s worth, was playing on RSL’s right wing.  Morales isn’t the only guy in their offense with the freedom to roam a little bit.

[2] It’s worth noting Darlington Nagbe’s movement on this play didn’t do Urruti any favors.  The way the ball fell, it was essentially a 2v2 with Nagbe and Urruti against Schuler and Nat Borchers.  Rather than commit to a wide run or dovetail inside to drag a defender away from Urruti (or spring himself if neither went with him), Nagbe basically just ran three yards to Urruti’s left, doubling Urruti’s run and essentially allowing both Schuler and Borchers to defend the ball.  If you’re wondering why the Timbers offense has had a hard time getting things going, it’s things like this.

[3] Compare Plata’s run with Nagbe’s discussed in footnote two.  It can seem pedantic to harp on little things like this, but this stuff makes and breaks plays.  RSL did these things on Saturday.  The Timbers didn’t.  That’s ballgame in what was otherwise a very good performance from Portland.

[4] After the game, some, including Rodney Wallace in studio for the broadcast team, questioned Jewsbury’s positioning on the play.  While hindsight certainly counsels Jack should have stepped to Grabavoy, if Ned had been able to play Plata in behind, the Timbers would have been in a world of hurt with Saborio, Velasquez, and Morales all poised to make runs starting from the back post.  Simply put, because of the way RSL set that play up and because Nagbe couldn’t get goalside of Grabavoy, Jewsbury was up a creek without a paddle.

[5] Will Johnson was steamed at the time and after the game that Fernandez didn’t feed him through on the left.  While that was certainly a possibility, considering Johnson was pretty wide and Fernandez did well to steer his shot dangerously on frame, I don’t think the Captain really has much to complain about.

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The Morrison Report: Faltering Flexibility Edition http://timbersarmy.org/the-morrison-report-faltering-flexibility-edition http://timbersarmy.org/the-morrison-report-faltering-flexibility-edition#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:21:08 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14625 Continue reading »]]> The Portland Timbers are behind the eight ball.  That the results have been poor thus far is beyond debate.  But more fundamental problem for the Timbers is how easily opposing defenses have blunted the once-incisive Portland offense.

For the first five games of the season, opponents dropped their lines deep to keep the Timbers from breaking through on goal.  Lacking final third chemistry or a decisive striker to break down the backline, this strategy kept the Timbers at bay for the first four games of the season.  Time and time again the Timbers moved their way through the midfield only to stall on the edge of the box.

The results they did earn in this stretch, draws against Philadelphia and Chicago at home, came by way of balls that fell their way to the feet of Gaston Fernandez sitting at the back post.  By and large, however, the Timbers made middling backlines look impenetrable.

Portland finally put an end to this against Seattle.  Although perhaps a couple weeks later than promised, the Timbers finally produced a multiple goal effort in which the offense did its part to earn a victory.  With the Sounders doubling down on the sit-deep strategy, the Timbers drove around and at Seattle’s backline.  When they gave Diego Chara time and space on the edge of the attacking third – time and space that had also been there to varying degrees in the previous fixtures – the Colombian made them pay with a pair of strikes from the top of the box.  When Portland found a way to the backside of Seattle’s backline by way of good combination play between Michael Harrington and Darlington Nagbe to dive toward the byline, Diego Valeri planted himself at the near stick and fired into the goal.

Finally it appeared the Timbers had found a way to break down their opponents’ prevent defense.  The consequence was seemingly that Portland would force their foes to come play on the Timbers’ turf in midfield.

And that’s exactly what Chivas USA did last weekend.  Rather than sit back as their predecessors had done, the Rojiblancos flooded the midfield with Goats to disrupt the Timbers’ passing lanes and keep Portland’s one remaining potency – the attacking midfield – from finding any rhythm.

This represented a gamble for Chivas.  By deploying as many as seven or eight players at times into primarily disruptive midfield roles, the Goats would expose themselves if Portland’s strikeforce could break through and, on the attacking end, put their offense in a position where it wouldn’t be able to quickly throw numbers forward.  Chivas’s gamble, then, was that Portland’s man up top – Maxi Urruti – wouldn’t hurt them too badly while Portland’s backline would at some point gift the Goats a goal.

That, of course, is precisely what happened.  Urruti struggled to help break the midfield stalemate with his alternatively ill-placed or ill-timed runs and Pa Modou Kah masterminded a defensive mishap.  Sure, Nagbe and Will Johnson made a play.  And, sure, the Timbers had the better quality chances even if they didn’t have the better of the ball.  But for the most part Chivas got what they wanted from their midfield war of attrition – a draw in the center of the park and on the results sheet.

But the Timbers saw this tactic a few times in 2013.  So why did it flummox them on Saturday?

Because the 2014 Timbers as they stand today are not the 2013 Timbers.  Not even close.

Despite the Porterball stereotype breathlessly peddled by a nuance-averse media, the Timbers’ offense in 2013 was most remarkable for its flexibility.  Last year, if an opponent sat back and tried to absorb pressure, the Timbers smothered them with possession.  If an opponent came out pressing, however, hoping to disrupt Portland’s powerful midfield, the Timbers the Timbers bludgeoned them with a direct attack built on strong wing play and an underrated strikeforce.

The starkest example of the latter in 2013 was a June 23rd undressing of the Colorado Rapids in which the Rapids came out to pressure the Timbers in the midfield, outshot the Portland 18-6, and, in an uncommon feat at the time, split the possession.  But Portland didn’t care.  To counter, they went as direct as any team in MLS, with Rodney Wallace logging a trio of assists in the easy 3-0 triumph.

That flexibility to transform into a direct threat is a luxury Portland doesn’t have in 2014.  The players that permitted the 2013 Timbers to do so are gone, unavailable, or ineffective.  Departed are Ryan Johnson and Jose Valencia.  Injured is Rodney Wallace, whose surprising play on the wing was instrumental a year ago.  Ineffective is Frederic Piquionne, who was firmly rooted in his deserved resting place on the bench on Saturday despite two substitutions left in Caleb Porter’s pocket and a game that begged for the Timbers’ only direct threat.  Indeed, Piquonne’s exclusion was an appropriately damning indictment of the veteran’s disinterested performance so far in 2014.

And so, last Saturday the Timbers missed their 2013 offensive flexibility as Chivas flooded the midfield.  But whereas Chivas could only hope to gum up the Timbers gears by flooding the midfield with disruptive numbers, Real Salt Lake’s famed diamond acts more like a tornado than a flood.

Rather than win the midfield by attrition, Salt Lake’s “narrow diamond,” as Caleb Porter referred to it on Tuesday, wins the midfield by creating micro-advantages.  Along with being narrow, RSL’s midfield is also mobile, making it look at times like a small band of four marauders roving through the midfield.  Thus, rather than try to outnumber its opponent in the midfield on a macro scale as Chivas did last week, RSL likes to pick its spots offensively and defensively, creating three- and four-on-twos in the spots they choose to turn opponents over and establish their own passing groups.

Thus, just as Chivas did a week ago, the Claret-and-Cobalt gum up opposing midfields, but they usually do so using four players rather than the Goats’ seven or eight.  In addition, RSL boast a backline that is arguably better than the Timbers at every position and a strikeforce that carries one of the best game-for-game goalscorers in MLS.[1]

The current one-trick-pony Timbers midfield, then, plays right into RSL’s hands.  And because the Timbers lack the attacking versatility of 2013, it’s hard to see any viable alternative.  Add to that Portland’s defensive woes coming up against a ruthlessly efficient RSL frontline, and it’s difficult to envision a favorable result ripe for the Timbers’ picking in the Land of Plenty.

On Tuesday, Porter hinted at a tactical rabbit he has left to pull out of a hat.  What remains to be seen, however, is whether such a rabbit exists.  To date, however, the Timbers’ offensive flexibility has been far from magical.  If the Timbers remain limited to their one trick on Saturday, they are likely heading into a Spencer-style away loss.

Onward, Rose City!


[1] Alvaro Saborio scored a stunning 12 goals in 16 league games in 2013.

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Hey Mr. DJ! http://timbersarmy.org/hey-mr-dj http://timbersarmy.org/hey-mr-dj#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2014 06:57:22 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14593 Continue reading »]]> I think we could use a few more down-tempo songs to work into Timbers chants. Apparently our version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” always sung after the 80th minute (when soccer games are totes boring), just isn’t enough.

It might be due to the fact that it’s been covered by Elvis (yeah…he covered it…he didn’t write it), UB40 (a British reggae band…BRITISH!!! REGGAE!!!), and some Swedish pop group called A-Teens (SWEDISH!!! POP!!! TEENS!!!), and now the Timbers Army.

I say we double down and add a few more slow numbers to our chant catalog. What say ye? But instead of slow jams, let’s amp it up a bit with some power ballads. They’ve never lead to eye-rolling. Here are a few suggestions:

When Kip Winger wasn’t singing about minors, he was cranking out power ballads. If there was ever a tune where the title alone describes the decades-long ethos of a Timbers fan, it’s this one.

 

I think this is a funny one because A) it’s the band Europe, and we’ve been known to do The Final Countdown now and then, and 2) the song is called Carrie, which is also the name of a classic 70′s revenge flick where an unfortunate high school girl gets set up for love, but then get’s tricked, so she ends up murdering a lot of people.

 

Not sure why I picked this one.

 

Y’know what happens when the Timbers give up a goal late in the game, right around the time we start chanting “Can’t Help Falling In Love?” The children…they cry.

 

Y’know what I need after the Timbers give up a goal late in the game, right around the time we’re chanting “Can’t Help Falling In Love?” Someone…to be there…for me.

 

Y’know what happens every time the Timbers give up a goal late in the game, right around the time we chant “Can’t Help But Falling In Love?” We come to realize that we don’t know what we got…till it’s gooo-ow-wooonnnne. (Followed by the total realization of learning what we had…two extra points.)

 

Believe it or not, some people get bent out of shape about this stuff. They’ll scream “it’s tradition” every time I whine about this chant going down at every game. To that, I say: y’know what else was a tradition? Slavery. And we managed to end that one, so I think we can reconfigure moving a slow-tempo chant to a less-impactful point in the game. Put it in the first half, I really don’t care. I’m not asking to eliminate it. But dropping it right in the likely flashpoint of a match makes no sense to me.

Alright I’m done. Im’ma go make a snack.

hater_tots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the 107ist or the TA.

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Timbers CONCACAF Champions League Travel Possibilities http://timbersarmy.org/timbers-concacaf-champions-league-travel-possibilities http://timbersarmy.org/timbers-concacaf-champions-league-travel-possibilities#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:48:36 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14585 Continue reading »]]> Despite the slow start to 2014, the Timbers still have a chance to win all four major competitions they’re a part of this season.

With CONCACAF Champions League that fourth competition (apart from MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and the Supporters’ Shield), why not get up to speed on where the Timbers may be traveling internationally, even though the draw won’t take place for a couple months?

The CONCACAF Champions League draws teams into three pots – Pot A, B, and C – based on the strength of their competition and where they finished. The Timbers are in pot B, the “middle” pot. There are eight groups of 3 teams apiece with the winner of the group advancing to the quarterfinals. This means the Timbers will play a home and away with two other teams.

Kansas City and New York are in Pot A for winning the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield. D.C. United finds themselves in pot B for winning US Open Cup Pot B also hosts the Canadian Voyageur’s Cup champion, so the Timbers won’t be going to Canada for the group stage of this competition.

The Timbers can’t play a team from the U.S. or Mexico in the group stage, which limits the options of clubs they can be drawn against in Pot A. They also can’t play two clubs from the same country in the group stage.

POT A
The Timbers will be drawn against the champions of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, or Panama.

Because these leagues split their season up into Opening and Closing seasons (“Apertura y Clausura”), this will be the team which won either their country’s Opening or Closing season with the better record. It may not actually be the team with the best aggregate record.

In Costa Rica, Alajuelense, from a San Jose suburb, won the Apertura. Alajuelense, Saprissa and Herediano look probable to qualify for the Clausura playoffs, and Saprissa and Herediano could still overtake Alajuelense in the aggregate table, so the Timbers will be drawn against one of these three teams. All of them are from the general vicinity of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.

In Honduras, Real Espana, from San Pedro Sula, the world’s most dangerous city by murder rate, won the Apertura. They will be in Pool A unless Real Sociedad or Olimpia can overtake them in the aggregate table in the final game of the season on Sunday. The standings show Real Espana tied on points with Real Sociedad and one point ahead of Olimpia, but Real Espana have a better goal difference than either team.

In Guatemala, Comunicaciones won the Apertura and currently top the aggregate table by a point over Municipal with four to play, making the Guatemala City club the likely team to come out of Pot A.

And in Panama, Tauro won the Apertura, but have struggled in the Clausura (currently 8th from 10). With 4 games to play, Tauro have the best chance of coming out of Pot A, but a number of teams could overtake them in the aggregate table, all of which would participate in the playoffs. Panama City plays host to all of these possible teams.

POT C
Pot C finds a number of interesting teams awaiting the Timbers. The Timbers could be drawn against the Clausura winners in Guatemala (from anywhere in the country), El Salvador (possibly Isidro Metapan, a rural-ish team), or Panama (a Panama City club). Nicaragua has one berth, occupied by Real Esteli, from Esteli, a three-hour bus ride north of Managua. Belize will also bring its aggregate winner to the pot, but recent developments in that country’s football association make it probable a Costa Rican team will take over Belize’s spot yet again.

The Caribbean clubs recently allocated their slots in the CFU Cup. The qualifying Caribbean clubs: Bayamon of Puerto Rico, Waterhouse of Jamaica, and Alpha United of Guyana (a country in South America, but culturally a part of the Caribbean. It’s east of Venezuela.) The Timbers could travel or host any of those teams.

Whatever the draw, it’s sure to be interesting come September, and given the Timbers’ current struggles it’s possible they won’t be favorites to advance from the group.

So, whether it be Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Belize, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, or Guyana, it’s obvious the Timbers most interesting international trip to date will happen in 2014.

And until then, beat S**ttle.

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Just a Guy With the Keys to a Blog Musing http://timbersarmy.org/just-a-guy-with-the-keys-to-a-blog-musing http://timbersarmy.org/just-a-guy-with-the-keys-to-a-blog-musing#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:00:50 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14554 Continue reading »]]> *this is just me writing and not reflective of the 107ist board or anyone but myself*

So where are we at? Five games, 3 draws and 2 losses. I’m not quite ready to toss the towel in yet and repeat 2012. We have definitely had some problems. Our inability to defend set pieces is troubling considering that was a problem last year going into it and nobody bothered to address it this year. Paparatto is looking like a huge bust at this point. Personally I’d rather The Great Wall of Gambia be back in there and to be really honest I’m not a big fan of that pairing either. I’m a pragmatist in pretty much all things and that pairing appears to be the lesser of two evils at this point. Futty has been around for years and while he is a great person we know his limitations as a defender. Kah is also a good person, but a walking red card waiting to happen. Paparatto is the new guy and there are only so many excuses one can make that he is the new guy trying to figure his way out in MLS.

Fortunately our offense seems to have found their way against Seattle. Chara, on his birthday (congrats, dude!), was nails. It’s almost like he spent 3 years luring scouts into thinking he had no nose for the goal just for this day. Maybe it was luck but if he can recreate that performance a few times a season that bodes nothing but good things for the Timbers. Urruti impressed me the entire match. He made smart runs and made Seattle’s defense pay a lot of attention to him. When he had his opportunity he capitalized with a golazo. If he is able to add on to this nothing but good things will come.

I want to point something out. History. I am not trying to go all OG on some people but I really want to point it out because I think it makes us who we are. The Timbers have never been good for long stretches. The NASL Timbers had a magical run. The USL Timbers had a great run in 2004 then crashed out of the playoffs. There was also an unexpected run in 2007 followed by another crash out in the playoffs. 2008 was a nightmare and then the push for MLS happened. Every borderline MLS player in USL wanted to be here because of where the team was going. 2009 was amazing…right up until Cameron Knowles had his leg broke in Montreal and the wheels came off. Crashed out of the playoffs again. 2010 was a weird year. It was mostly a MLS tryout for a lot of players and nothing ever seemed right as the coach played players who they felt might have a spot on the MLS roster rather than USL players that were better (cough cough Scot Thompson).

I’m not being critical to management regarding 2010. I understand their position as I’m a pragmatist. I still want to make a point regarding our history. We have traditionally had a mediocre to bad team. Sometimes we are good. What has never changed is our commitment to supporting our team. We were there in 2006, 2007, 2008, etc.

Years ago there was a message board. It was the way everyone interacted with the Timbers outside of going to games. Allison Andrews was the moderator and it was called Soccer City USA. SCUSA for short. At some point it devolved but without it I can guarantee you we wouldn’t be in MLS. One of the themes that came about when SCUSA was still around was the idea, “so what if we suck,” (#SWIWS). Yes I want to win. Yes I would prefer to trash talk my friends in Seattle rather than having to deal with their barbs about our terrible defense. You know what though…looking back I had a hell of a lot of fun in 2012 despite the fact the team was miserable in almost every regard.

Buck up. The season is long and we’re just getting on the horse. It may be a bumpy ride but I can guarantee you no matter what once you’re done it is going to be a lot of fun. We may scream a lot during the ride both in joy and pain but just let it ride. You’re a Portland Timbers fan. This is how the ride is supposed to be. Nothing new going on here. Own it.

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Match Report: Timbers Catch Fire; Crash and Burn http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-catch-fire-crash-and-burn http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-catch-fire-crash-and-burn#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 06:35:25 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14550 Continue reading »]]> Progress isn’t always a pretty process.  And Saturday afternoon, the Timbers showed significant signs of progress before crashing to a disappointing 4-4 draw against the Seattle Sounders.

Signs of hope weren’t the first thought that crossed the Timbers faithful’s mind.  Rather, it was an old foe; set piece defending.  After Seattle earned an early third minute corner, Gonzalo Pineda found Jalil Anibaba beyond the far post where he fired the ball across the face of goal for Kenny Cooper to poke it home.  With Will Johnson screened off, Alvas Powell failed to aggressively attack the ball or close down Anibaba, giving the centerback a rare opportunity for an easy assist.

The Timbers didn’t waste any time getting back in the game, however.   In the 10th minute, Diego Chara forced a giveaway in Seattle’s end and drove right at the Sounders defense.  With Chara’s reputation preceding him, the Sounders didn’t close him down and the Colombian punished Seattle by burying his shot from the top of the box inside the side netting.

The action didn’t abate.  One minute later, Cooper floated away from Norberto Paparatto and volleyed DeAndre Yedlin’s cross on frame, but Andrew Weber made a diving save.  Powell gathered the rebound, shook Clint Dempsey and Cooper on his way up the touchline, and sent an excellent long switch to Darlington Nagbe who made a fool of Yedlin and ran at the Sounders defense before ripping a shot off the post from the corner of the area.

Three minutes later, Nagbe, firmly implanted in Yedlin’s head, drove at the young right back and left the ball for an overlapping Michael Harrington.  Mikey drove byline and fed Diego Valeri at the near corner of the six-yard box where he spun and fired off the underside of the bar and in.

But the Timbers were punished for another major defensive lapse ten minutes later.  After Paparatto shanked an unhurried clearance, Cooper and Alonso combined headers to Obafemi Martins.  The Nigerian slid the ball past a helpless Pa Modou Kah to Clint Dempsey who slotted easily past Weber to level the score at two just 24 minutes in.

As the half progressed, the game settled into more of a rhythm.  That rhythm didn’t extend to the Timbers’ defense.  Seattle found a free head in the box in the 39th minute when Micheal Azira looped a long cross to Chad Marshall at the back post.  Marshall beat Powell to the ball, but his header was palmed away by Weber.

After a dreadful opening 40 minutes, Maxi Urruti got into the game in the 41st in very nearly a big way.  After the Diegos conspired to turn Seattle over and get the Timbers out on the break, Urruti stuck a left footed shot from a tight angle on the left side of the box across the face of goal, but the ball eluded a finishing touch and skidded just wide of the far post.

In one way, the second half began much like the first as Seattle earned set pieces that the Timbers struggled to clear.  Portland kept the ball out of the net, however, which is more than Seattle could say.

In the 55th minute, after the Timbers drove up the right, Kalif Alhassan played centrally to Chara.  Form there Diego – yes, Diego Chara again – ran at the Seattle backline and, feeling no pressure, let loose from 20 yards again for his second stunning tally of the game.

If Jalil Anibaba hadn’t had a bad enough game having had a hand in three Timbers goals already, Cooper made things worse for his fellow rookie Sounder two minutes later.  Cooper, under some pressure from Will Johnson, played an ill-advised back pass to Anibaba.  Cooper’s pass never reached its target, however, as Urruti stepped in, burst through, and curled a beauty of a ball inside the far post.

That should have put the nail in the coffin.  And, even if that weren’t enough, the Timbers were unlucky not to really put things out of reach in the 65th minute when Paparatto, who missed a good chance on a set piece in the first half, got head to Valeri’s corner kick only to put the ball off the underside of the bar and Yedlin’s face – which may have been in the goal – and onto the goal line, where Seattle cleared.

But, once again, old and new foes joined together to burst the Timbers’ bubble.  Throughout 2013, the Timbers struggled mightily to close out desperate opponents throwing numbers forward.  In disappointing road draws at Chicago and Vancouver, and even the 2-1 away win at Seattle in the playoffs, the Timbers looked overrun and gave up crucial goals late in games.

On Saturday, from the 75th minute to the 91st, with the Sounders hurling players into the Timbers’ defensive third, Seattle took nine shots to the Timbers zero.  Portland couldn’t relieve the pressure, and while the Timbers dodged bullets for the first ten minutes, their luck quickly ran out.

In the 85th minute, Harrington looked to have Lamar Neagle bottled up on the Sounders’ right side, but the substitute turned Harrington and made a beeline for the box.  Paparatto stepped up to contain Neagle while Kah stepped to cover Martins.  Neagle’s cross went through to Dempsey, however, whose late run was covered by Chara initially but an asleep-to-the-danger Powell failed to anticipate his arrival, and the suddenly on-form American finished past a diving Weber.

If the old demon haunted the Timbers, the new one sealed their fate.  After Diego Chara intervened on Obafemi Martins’ plans to unlock the Timbers’ defense, Ben Zemanski failed to anticipate the intercepting touch, and when Yedlin got there first, Zip clattered into Zip and Dempsey buried the ensuing penalty to round out his hat trick.  After being stingy in putting opponents on the spot a year ago, the Timbers frittered away two points on Saturday with their fourth penalty in five games.

The teams traded half chances in the closing minutes, but after eight goals and three leads squandered, the game didn’t have any drama left in it.  The Timbers’ offensive awakening soothes the nerves of those concerned that the offense may be in the throes of a long-term crisis.  But as one concern wanes another waxes and Portland’s leaky defense on Saturday begs another old question the Timbers have had to answer before.

Is the defense good enough to allow the Timbers to win games?

Timbers Grades

Andrew Weber, 5 – Certainly had a couple nice saves, but there was one to be made on the third concession.  In his two weeks at the helm, Weber proved himself competent, but far form a savior.  The Timbers defense needs a savior right now.

Michael Harrington, 4 – Nice run and cross on Valeri’s goal, but committed a cardinal sin in letting Neagle get loose on the third concession.

Norberto Paparatto, 3 – Put in as poor a first half as Providence Park has seen since Mikael Silvestre against New York in 2013 and Seattle’s tactics occasionally resembled kick-the-ball-at-Norberto.  Patched things together a little bit in the second half, however, and came oh-so-close to a goal that would have made a whale of a difference.

Pa Modou Kah, 4 – Another game, another yellow card for Kah.  When the going gets rough on the backline, Kah gets reckless.  Which isn’t an ideal reaction.

Alvas Powell, 4 – Saturday was a good example of what to expect from Powell.  Some of it was good – even very good – such as his 11th minute marauding and long ball.  But some of it was quite bad, as Powell was primarily responsible for the first concession and secondarily responsible for the third.  Such is the nature of gambling by starting Powell over Jewsbury.  What the Timbers gain in athleticism and width, they lose in consistency and recognition.  On Saturday, Porter both won and lost that gamble.

Will Johnson, 6.5 – Rumors of Johnson’s demise were always a little exaggerated.  While his play thus far this season wasn’t bad, it was somewhat short of what we have come to expect from Will.  There was no disappointment on Saturday.  Johnson was very good.

Diego Chara, 7.5 – This would be higher for obvious reasons, but Chara gets docked just a little bit for sharing a bit of culpability on the third concession.  While, in theory, Powell should be picking up Dempsey’s run in the box and Chara should be breaking off at the top to keep the Timbers’ shape, the defender passing off an attacker shouldn’t do so unless he knows his teammate is going to pick him up.

Darlington Nagbe, 5.5 – Dominant for the first twenty minutes, but his hamstring limited him substantially thereafter.  While Nagbe popped up sporadically throughout the game, his workrate, pace, and ability to break defenders down one-on-one was clearly limited by his hamstring.

Diego Valeri, 8 – Last week was no fluke.  He’s back.

Kalif Alhassan, 7 – It’s going to be hard to take Kalif out of the lineup.  We’ve seen this in spurts from Alhassan, but on Saturday was Kalif at his facilitating best.  Chara, Valeri, and for periods Nagbe got the headlines, but Kalif was the one unselfishly presenting himself in the right spots for combinations to set them loose.

Maxi Urruti, 5 – His first forty minutes were poor, as Urruti struggled to find his role in the offense.  In his worst moment, Urruti ran down a teammate on a breakaway like he was a defender.  In his best, he curled in a beauty of a goal and showed some early signs of starting to figure out his role in the attack.

Frederic Piquionne, 4.5 – Worked a little more effectively as a target, but is still far from the form the Timbers need from him.

Ben Zemanski, 3 – Came into the game a step off the pace, which the Timbers paid for dearly.

Steve Zakuani, 5 – What a spot in which to come into the game.  Didn’t make much of a difference either way.

Preseason Prediction: Timbers 3, Sounders 0.  Johnson, Fernandez, Zakuani.
Actual Result: Timbers 4, Sounders 4.  See above.

Onward, Rose City!

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The Actually Pay Attention Blog 4 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-4 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-4#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 22:33:31 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14539 Continue reading »]]> Surprise surprise surprise (say that like Gomer Pyle) the MLS disciplinary committee has rescinded Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson’s red cards. In other news the assistant referee that decided he wanted to make his presence know is also the AR2 this weekend. His name is Kermit Quisenberry. It’ll be fun to keep an eye on him. I’m sure PRO will totally do the same thing *rolling eyes repeatedly*.

It’s cool though. Even though MLS totally agrees with Caleb Porter they’re going to fine him anyway. Gotta slow clap you, MLS. You really know how to make a point. Your representatives in the disciplinary office unanimously agreed with Porter and you’re still going to fine him. Good work. You never cease to amaze.

Good things to watch for this weekend from The Axe.

This is just too funny to not post. He says the MLS should get rid of the salary cap (cause that would be an actual disaster for every team outside of NY, LA, and Seattle). But he a wise old man who can’t spell on twitter so lets get more into his opinions, which are better spoken than tweeted. Eddie Johnson, the bro rolling around with his Louis Vuitton bags, was upset last year when MLS gave Clint Dempsey crazy money and turned into locker room cancer after that. In a sense I get Eddie’s point. He was arguably the best player they had and was making a journeyman’s salary. But it’s still hilarious to relive the temper tantrum that probably ruined their season. Schadenfreude.

This is going to draw some ire from the faithful. Kenny Cooper is super psyched on the rivalry now that he’s in Seattle. You remember him as the guy who is nice and really likes pasta. Start marking your tallies up because this could be fun. I have question that I want answered this week. Who falls down more? Kenny Cooper or Max Urriti?

Orlando City is making some news. Seems like some pretty good hires. Circle Orlando in 2015 as a destination if its available. That will be a fun trip.

If you need some entertainment Ian Darke will provide it for you.

Evan Dabby is gone. Best of luck to him.

Tons of legal obstacles with the Miami franchise. I imagine there is going to be a lot of grief when when it all comes down to it.

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One Seat + One Scarf http://timbersarmy.org/one-seat-one-scarf http://timbersarmy.org/one-seat-one-scarf#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 22:13:22 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14532 Continue reading »]]> Saturday is a big day, and, as with any derby match, emotions will be running high. We cannot directly control what happens on the pitch, but we can control what happens in the terraces.

One of the biggest areas of contention within the TA the past few years has related to seat saving. The Timbers Army has a very simple guideline on this: You can save one seat for yourself, and one for a mate. You need 6 seats for your crew? Great – make sure 3 of you are in there to save the 3 extra seats.

When someone strolls in and empties a backpack full of No Pity scarves they’re disrespecting their fellow supporters. No single issue causes more problems in the North End than egregious seat saving.

Don’t do it.

Don’t be an asshat – It really is that simple.

But, what do you do if you see someone putting themselves above everyone else in the section and saving a swath of seats? Take the time to educate them – explain the 1 Scarf and 1 Seat ethos. If they decide that they are going to be a certifiable asshat, then there isn’t much you can do at that point. Shake your head, take a modicum of solace in knowing  that karma is a bitch sometimes, and find yourself another spot.

Realize that the only thing that will be accomplished by escalating the situation is the creation of a bunch of negative energy and anxiety. Do you really want to spend the next few hours pissed off at someone who is so self-involved that they don’t give a shit about how you feel? It’s literally like slamming your head against the wall – the wall doesn’t really care, and you get a concussion.

In closing, let’s work to make sure all of our energy is directed at supporting the boys at the pitch versus creating drama by acting like spoiled five year olds who feel they’re entitled to behave in whatever way makes them feel the best.

One seat + one scarf.

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Seattle Away Update http://timbersarmy.org/seattle-away-update http://timbersarmy.org/seattle-away-update#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 17:38:34 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14521 Continue reading »]]> The Timbers make their only 2014 regular-season appearance in Seattle on Sunday, July 13th, the same day as the final match of the World Cup.  This should make for an epic event in the annals of Timbers’ away-day lore.

Although match tickets for Timbers Army travelers are not yet on sale, we wanted to provide a few likely parameters of this year’s ticket availability.

As this is the Timbers’ only regular-season match in Seattle this year, we anticipate demand for TA tickets will be exceptionally high.  Consequently, we expect to offer tickets to 107ist members only, with each member able to purchase just one ticket per 107ist membership.

Shortly after the offering to 107ist members the remaining seats will be offered to the general public. We do not expect there to be many left at that point. If you are not a 107ist member then become one here for your best chance at these tickets.

As with prior years, we expect to offer a bus/match combination package, as well as a match-only option.

We’ll post additional details when they’re available, and we hope to do that soon.  In the meantime, to increase the likelihood of joining the TA for this trip, please make sure your 107ist membership is up to date!

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Join the 107ist and shop at the Columbia Employee Store! http://timbersarmy.org/join-the-107ist-and-shop-at-the-columbia-employee-store http://timbersarmy.org/join-the-107ist-and-shop-at-the-columbia-employee-store#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 04:57:29 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14510 Continue reading »]]> Note: Existing 107ist members click here (Log in required) to learn how you can register to shop. 

Do you want to save 50% off some of the best outdoor gear around?  Join the 107ist before April 22nd, and you can take advantage of this special offer.

Columbia sportswear has generously invited the members of the 107IST to shop their Employee Store the weekend of April 25th.

Prices as the Columbia Employee Store average 50% off of MSRP, and the store features all four brands in the Columbia Sportswear family – fully stocked with current season products from Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, SOREL, and Montrail.

Pick up a new sleeping bag to go camping, a set of boots to hike the trails of Cascadia, or some great outerwear to help tackle our Spring weather.

107ist members can visit the store any time the weekend of 4/25 – 4/27 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) during regular business hours Fri-Sat 10-6pm, Sun 11-5.

Once you join the 107ist, you’ll receive detailed instructions on how to take advantage of this awesome opportunity

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Match Report: Timbers Play Little D in Big D http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-play-little-d-in-big-d http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-play-little-d-in-big-d#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 05:34:15 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14492 Continue reading »]]> The Timbers offense is a mess.  Sure, there is plenty of on-ball talent in the Timbers attack, but no amount of quality can compensate for an offense’s failure to function off the ball.  Until Saturday, the only thing keeping the Timbers in games was the Timbers’ imperfect, but still solid defense.[1]  Until Saturday.

Portland’s backline broke in Frisco on Saturday evening, as F.C. Dallas limped their way to a 2-1 win over Portland.  And as the Timbers’ backline crumbled, so seemingly did Portland’s prospects for earning results any time soon.

The first twenty minutes looked awfully familiar to Timbers supporters.  Plenty of possession, plenty of good on-ball play, and nobody doing anything off the ball to present themselves for opportunities.  The Timbers weren’t short on chances, but those they created early were typically of the type that has been the staple of the Timbers’ very bland offensive diet this year.

In the 6th minute, Maxi Urruti took a ball off of Michel’s foot after the Brazilian was caught in possession,[2] and ripped a shot well wide from the top of the box under a potentially felonious challenge.

Speaking of felonious, Dallas was very lucky not to be reduced to ten men four minutes later when Jack Jewsbury won a ball from Fabian Castillo only to be “tripped” in the face by the young Colombian.[3]  Having dodged that bullet, the only thing criminal about the Burn’s play two minutes later was the amount of space Dallas allowed Diego Valeri 25 yards from goal.  The Argentine, however, pulled his effort wide.

It was even better from the Timbers in the 22nd minute.  After Valeri and Gaston Fernadnez played a slick series of combination off of each other, Fernandez set Valeri through for a promising shot from the top of the box, but Chris Seitz saved and Urruti strayed offside to kill any opportunity of a putback.

If the first twenty minutes inspired hope, the next ten were equally disconcerting.  In the 27th minute, Dallas worked the ball nicely around the edge of the final third and released Jair Benitez on the left wing after Darlington Nagbe became momentarily entranced by the ball.  Benitez found Je-Vaughan Watson at the back post, who beat Pa Modou Kah and Michael Harrington in an aerial challenge, but his header looped off the top of the bar and was cleared away by Norberto Paparatto.

Two minutes later, Benitez was at pace on the wing again, this time with Jewsbury covering.  Benitez sent an early cross into the box for Blas Perez, whom Paparatto had somehow let loose, but Andrew Weber came off his line well to block Perez’s shot.

An up and down game turned bizarre in the 39th minute when referee Sorin Stoica sent off both Michael Harrington and Watson for a phantom fight that no camera caught and, if postgame comments are any indication, nobody may have actually participated in.[4]

If losing Harrington was bad, however, matters got a whole lot worse for the Timbers just before halftime when Darlington Nagbe pulled his hamstring making a cleverly awkward pass.  The pass was successful, but the pulled hamstring came back to haunt the Timbers almost immediately.

After Nagbe couldn’t stay with Benitez on the left wing, the temperamental left back looped a cross to Kellyn Acosta beyond the far post where Acosta squared a headed pass to Perez at the mouth for an easy finish.  Norberto Paparatto was nowhere to be found in a play in which Dallas simply created numbers advantages in the box to leave Kah and Jewsbury little chance.

Despite each team playing with ten men, the second half presented a paucity of genuine chances for each side.  While the Timbers squeezed the trigger on a lot of shots in the second half, none of them presented much in the way of danger.

In fact, the only thing that seriously troubled Dallas was an ill-advised pass.  After Paparatto stepped up and headed to Will Johnson, the captain played to Valeri who hit and outstanding pass to play Urruti through between Stephen Keel and Matt Hedges.  With Kalif Alhassan making a good run to his right that was cut off by Hedges beside Urruti, the Argentine head-scratchingly tried to hopelessly play wide to Kalif.  The soccer gods had seen enough, though.  They couldn’t take any more of the Timbers’ offensive impotence, perhaps best encapsulated by Urruti’s mind-numbing impossible pass to Alhassan in a situation where he clearly just needs to take his (not insignificant) chance. Out of pure frustration, the fates deflected the ball off of Hedges’ foot and looped it into the back of the net.

There is simply no other explanation.

The Timbers couldn’t back their way into a second goal, however.  Whenever Portland found space – which was frequently as a result of the double sending off and Dallas’s makeshift central midfield – the attacker on the ball, which more often than not was Valeri, looked up to see his teammates blinking back at him, waiting for Diego to work some magic.[5]

There was magic yet to be made, but it wasn’t the type the Timbers would like to think was real.  In the 84th minute, after the Timbers cleared a Michel free kick, the ball pinged around to the feet of Paparatto.  The new centerback failed to clear, however, and Mauro Diaz made the Timbers pay with a beautiful turn and strike that sealed the game.

The Timbers’ sleepy offense stayed in hibernation Saturday, as Portland failed to truly take advantage of a severely weakened Dallas central midfield and extra space generated by both teams playing down a man.  But the Timbers’ real undoing in Frisco was an exposed defense that made too many mistakes to permit Portland to benefit from their good fortune.

Match Observations

Where’s Zemanski?

I was shocked Caleb Porter opted for Alvas Powell instead of Ben Zemanski at halftime.  First, while Powell wasn’t disastrous, he certainly wasn’t anywhere near good.  Zemanski gives you every bit of defense Powell provides with much more going forward both in situations where he is halfway forward and combining with the midfielders or when he drives to the byline.

More important, however, is putting Zemanski on the field would have poised the Timbers to make their next move without having to make a substitution.  When the Timbers needed to chase a goal, Porter went to a 3-5-2 and had to withdraw one of his better crossers in Jack Jewsbury for Frederic Piquionne.  If Zemanski were in the game, the Timbers could have pushed Ben to holding midfield and Will Johnson into an attacking role, accomplishing the same (and arguably better) result without having to burn a sub.

2013 Comparisons

It’s time for comparisons to 2013 to put up or shut up.  Yes, the Timbers were less-than-inspiring through Week Four in 2013.  But that turned around dramatically in Week Five with one of the best performances of the year.

Frankly, I think the current Timbers’ problems are very different, and arguably more fundamental.  In 2013, it was a matter of tinkering with the shape and getting everybody used to their tactical roles.  This year, however, the shape and identity are relatively clear.  There’s a chance the Timbers just don’t have the right players to execute it.

Even as far back as preseason, Porter noted that everybody in the Timbers’ attacking four is a passer.  This is exactly right.  And it’s also a huge problem.  The Timbers have shown a propensity to overpass at times in 2014, but that’s actually not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is none of the Timbers’ passers seem to have any idea what they’re doing off the ball.  The reality is creativity on the ball is only as good as the players off the ball getting in position not only to receive the pass, but also to generate genuine scoring chances.  As Valeri can tell you from his experience on Saturday, nice passes to players who haven’t done the work to bend the backline out of shape or put themselves in good scoring positions are prettier than they are productive.

Thus, it’s this lack of movement that turns backlines of Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges, Stephen Keel, and Jair Benitez into impenetrable obstacles.  Dallas’s backline isn’t bad, but it’s far from elite, and the Timbers really had no questions to ask of it despite Valeri playing well and the Timbers having their way with a makeshift Dallas midfield.

Which brings us back to our passers and the biggest worry for the Timbers in 2014.  What if moving off the ball just isn’t these guys’ game?  It’s one thing to plug a player into a slightly different role than he’s been in before or even to drill a new tactical setup.  It’s another thing altogether, however, to take an on-ball specialist and ask him to be the creative force away from the play.  The former takes a matter of weeks or a couple months.  The latter can take years, if it ever happens at all.  Unless Caleb Porter finds a way to make that light bulb go on for his passers in relatively short order, 2014 could be a very long season.

Timbers Grades

Andrew Weber, 5 – Weber was solid, if far form spectacular.  Neither goal was really his fault, although there is an argument there were heroics to be made on both that Weber didn’t come close to.  Otherwise had a couple nice moments, but, frankly, nothing extraordinary.

Michael Harrington, 4 – Was probably hard done by the sending off, though the lack of video makes it impossible to know for sure.  Otherwise, didn’t have his best game, most notably when Watson beat him for the header in the 27th.

Pa Modou Kah, 3.5 – With Paparatto struggling beside him, Kah’s been asked to be the alpha man in the middle.  Unfortunately, Kah tends to border on lunacy in such a role, as his stoppage time tackle demonstrated.

Norberto Paparatto, 2.5 – Mistakes define defenders, and Papa made them in spades on Saturday.  On the first concession, Paparatto abandoned Kah and Jewsbury to defend grass and on the second failed to clear a ball that fell to his feet.  The Timbers will want to stick with Paparatto to help him adjust to the league, but at what cost? The truth is Norberto’s fingerprints are on all four concessions that have taken place with him on the field.

Jack Jewsbury, 5 – The centerback problems have put the Timbers fullbacks in an impossible position.  They’re being asked to pinch in to help cover the middlemen, defend the flanks, and get up and contribute to the offense.  It’s simply impossible.  To the naked eye, Jewsbury looked involved in both concessions, but upon closer examination, Jack was only trying to cover for his teammates’ mistakes.

Will Johnson, 4.5 – Will didn’t have as bad a day as many suggested, as his distribution was right all night and helped the Timbers to quite a bit of midfield success.  But his finishing was just as disastrous as it looked.

Diego Chara, 5.5 – The Timbers defensive midfield was pushed deeper than usual, which resulted in six of Chara’s seven recoveries occurring within 35 yards of the Timbers’ goal.  This isn’t Chara’s best defending position, as he’s much more careful about committing fouls and therefore doesn’t sidle as aggressively or effectively.

Gaston Fernandez, 3 – Disappeared for extended stretches on Saturday, as he is wont to do from time to time on the wing.  Had the one nice moment of combination with Valeri, but otherwise had little genuine impact.  Still, I had hoped we’d see him moved up top.

Diego Valeri, 6.5 – Once it went 10 v. 10 with Nagbe coming off injured, this was Valeri’s game.  He looked like Valeri, just without anybody ahead of him being available for anything bona fide.

Darlington Nagbe, 5 – Really unfortunate he was forced off.  He would have been a disaster for the Burn with the extra space in midfield.

Maxi Urruti, 3.5 – Don’t get me going again on the goal.  That was the garbagest of garbage goals.  In seriousness, though, Urruti is one of the Timbers’ biggest problems when he starts.  Yes, it’s nice that he presses high and logs the miles.  No, his runs within the offense aren’t effective, which presents a problem considering Maxi is the player primarily responsible for that.

Alvas Powell, 4 – He came.  He ran.  He got elbowed by Blas Perez.

Kalif Alhassan, 6 – Yes, there were the usual Kalif frustrations.  But there is no question that after coming on, Kalif was the offensive player demonstrating the most intent.

Frederic Piquionne, 4 – There really should be an opportunity for Freddie to break into the starting eleven.  There really should be.  His play guarantees there won’t be.

Preseason Prediction: Dallas 2, Timbers 0.
Actual Result: Dallas 2, Timbers 1.

Onward Rose City!


[1] Extremely Important Note: “Defense” does not necessarily mean back four.

[2] There was a reason many questioned whether Oscar Pareja would start Michel in central midfield despite the Burn’s slim pickings at that position.  This play was pretty much that reason.

[3] Count me among those who don’t want to live in a world in which a goalkeeper is suspended two games for misplaying a rightful challenge under duress and catching an opponent with a boot in the thigh, but a field player is only yellow carded for kicking an opponent in the face after hopelessly raising his studs for a challenge he’s already lost.

[4] The worst thing about this is if there is no video footage to discredit the linesman, not only is there no genuine way to appeal the red card, but both players will likely be suspended for an additional match for violent conduct.

[5] When Kalif Alhassan coming onto the field noticeably improves your off-ball movement, you have a big, big, big problem.

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The Actually Pay Attention Blog 3 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-3 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-3#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 19:00:45 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14467 Continue reading »]]> This is huge people. We have committed to the largest project we’ve ever done. We can do this with all of your help. We need to engage the community and need all of you. Real talk. This is huge.

I can’t argue with any of this. It’s a pretty big honor to end up in a list with these teams. Mike Golub needs to be called out in a good way. He is as top notch as they come. We are lucky to have him working for the club. He is a top notch guy and is nothing but a service to the club. He is a guy that will rarely get the praise he deserves because he constantly works behind the scenes. I may poke a lot of fun in these blurbs because it is meant as entertainment but Mike Golub is a gem. We really couldn’t be luckier to have him here. All credit to Merritt for making an incredible hire and hopefully Mike is with the club long term. He is genuine and someone that gets it. We couldn’t be luckier.

Bruce Lee was suspended for an extra game. Despite the efforts of the FO to award him save of the week for the karate kick of the year it isn’t exactly the same competition. I imagine there was some consternation from the digital media team this week as they couldn’t produce a mediocre save to set the masses on to vote for (I kid FO if there were an award for karate kicks he would win). To them I give them this music video, which I imagine won’t go over well. Guys guys guys…at least you get to nominate him for karate kick of the year! That’s an award right!!!

(I guarantee you they’re laughing at this but they can’t say anything publicly)

Daniel Winthrow joined the club from the MLS keeper pool. Andrew Weber will be starting and Jake Gleeson is apparently still not MLS quality so he’s on loan. I hear Josh Saunders is available. Last time he took over for Ricketts the Galaxy won back to back MLS championships (I kid guys because I love).

Valid point raised from the guys at Stumptownfooty. So we have a lot of players who are very good and all like to play in the middle of the field rather than in the wings. It’s sort of hard to argue after watching the pre-season and first few games seeing everyone drifting to the center. Could be a tough year if it doesn’t get sorted soon.

Want to have a laugh? This makes me laugh. I guess they could pull it off. But it’s crazy funny considering the human rights and gay rights record in Texas against the one in Qatar. I guess they don’t just straight execute people in Texas so that’s a step up…right…RIGHT?

It’s a good question. Can MLS get past European soccer viewing?

The new stadium in Orlando made some progress. Looks like a good destination to start planning for in 2015. Kennedy Space Center is a pretty cool side trip…my 14 year old self just sayin’….

To say interesting doesn’t even cut it on this one. I don’t even want to pretend this is me being a fan of the Timbers. As a fan of the league I’d straight up call bullshit on this if it happens. In order for it to happen they have a few scenarios possible. They have to magically make Ozzy Alonzo a non-DP. I’m sure the league can magically come up with a rule to make it happen. Of course that would mean Seattle gets 4 DPs…but there would be some magic rule making Alonso a non-DP somehow cause they aren’t going to lose the best defensive mid in the league for this. They may have a rule somewhere but much like the Clint Dempsey signing they might not tell us it exists until after it happens. The other possibility is they “magically” find another club willing to take on Obafemi Martin’s terrible contract to get it off their books. Don’t think this won’t happen. Last I checked Chicago was the last sucker to take Freddie Llungberg and Alvaro Fernandez off Seattle’s hands so they could sign a bigger free agent DP. Why is this important? When big clubs make decisions they regret so far they get to pass their regret off to other clubs. Recently Toronto just passed Matias Laba off to Vancouver when they signed some more DPs with bigger names. If you’re going to sign a DP teams need to own it. If they sign an aging veteran that has a name but can’t perform then tough shit. Can you tell I am passionate about this? Contracts are contracts and just because a league wants their biggest clubs to look good on television doesn’t give them credibility. At least the NBA doesn’t reward mismanagement on the contract side. If they did the Knicks would be coasting their way to their 15th championship in the last 20 years. The NBA grew because clubs like San Antonio were able to be a smart mid-market club that made great decisions.

I have to give them props for keeping the league afloat during some dark years but its about time they got called out. Since Jorge Vergara was run out of Chivas the Krafts are actually the worst owners in the league. Do something…anything…act like you care for the good of everyone or find someone that does care and sell.

Hey they won’t fly you to Israel. It doesn’t even exist to them. But they’re now a league partner. Makes sense since they’re basically blowing money on NYC2. They even do racial profiling as a part of their training. It does beg a certain question from MLS front brass that I guarantee Don Garber will never actually address. Simon Borg might actually yell about it though since he’s good at that but it probably won’t make any sense. Serious question to the brass at MLS HQ. What happened to your actual souls? Are they at a party in Dubai you just can’t take yourselves out of?

So Arsenal is playing in the US for the first time since 1989. That’s pretty cool and a good send off for Thierry Henry. Sort of begs the question as the American owner who also owns the Rapids doesn’t have them playing there to promote the game…but the boss is the boss.

The Timbers play Dallas this weekend. Want to watch Darlington shred Dallas over the years? Well here is your opportunity. Let’s hope he does it again.

Ok that’s the blurb for the week. Have fun kids and please realize the sarcastic nature of most of my posts. Have a laugh and kid around a bit…except for that stuff about Ethihad. Some things aren’t worth the money.

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Our Next Big Community Project Revealed! http://timbersarmy.org/our-next-big-community-project-revealed http://timbersarmy.org/our-next-big-community-project-revealed#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 18:48:02 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14469 Continue reading »]]> It just seems like yesterday we announced successfully funding the largest project the 107 Independent Supporters Trust and Timbers Army had undertaken to date: Bless Field. It was a remarkable moment in our organization and one that would not have happened without you.

However, the demand for places to play the beautiful game in Soccer City USA doesn’t rest and neither does the Timbers Army.

Today we are very excited to announce that, through the 107ist, the Timbers Army has agreed to be the primary community partner with Portland Public Schools for the Jefferson High School field and track replacement.

Located in NE Portland, Jefferson High School is an historic high school in a diverse community. In recent years 107ist/Timbers Army has helped the Boys and Girls soccer programs at Jefferson through direct donation of uniforms and equipment and volunteer coaching.  During that time it became obvious that the field facilities at Jefferson were badly in need of an outright replacement.  Last year the 107ist approached Portland Public Schools about working together on a project and this opportunity seemed an obvious fit for our organization.

What does primary community partner mean?
As the primary community partner for the Jefferson project we have committed to raising $50,000 towards a new all-weather field. Portland Public Schools has agreed to make the Jefferson High School field the home of the Timbers Army Football Club’s current 13 teams and allow for more teams to play under its umbrella. As a community partner we also plan to utilize field time for 107ist and our partner organizations who facilitate after school camps and programs in the neighborhood.

When will this happen?
Pending approval from Portland School Board, construction is slated to start in mid-June and scheduled to be completed by Labor Day.

What does this mean for you as a member?
Over the 2014 season we will be hosting a number of opportunities to donate to this project from special fringe scarf sales to fundraising events.  We hope you will participate in one of those opportunities to fund this unique project.

We also have an upcoming opportunity for you to show your support!  Next Monday, March 31 at 6:00 p.m. 501 North Dixon Street, Portland, Oregon, 97227 the Portland Public School Board will be voting on this proposal (Jefferson is one of three high schools proposed to get new fields this summer).  Show up, wear your Timbers Army scarves and show your support for our next big project!

Team. Town. Timbers Army.  The golden triangle.  This is what makes us the best supporters in North America.

 

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Match Report: Timbers Can’t Catch a Break in Colorado http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-cant-catch-a-break-in-colorado http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-cant-catch-a-break-in-colorado#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 23:40:25 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14437 Continue reading »]]> The last thing the Timbers needed on top of their tepid form was bad luck.  While the Timbers were less than overwhelming on Saturday, bad luck is exactly what they got from the linesman’s flag, the referee’s whistle, and even Mother Nature herself.

In subzero temperatures with occasional snow flurries, the Timbers’ high-speed offense was asked to operate in cold weather on a slick field; the worst conditions imaginable for Portland’s ground-based attack.

All things considered, however, the Timbers managed the match well.  Aside from two early Deshorn Brown shots that should have been routine for Donovan Ricketts, but posed a challenge for the frozen Jamaican lion in the cold and wind, the Rapids had little to speak of in the attack.

After weathering an initial 10-minute spell from the Rapids, the Timbers warmed into a nice rhythm and began to put their foot on the game.  While they predictably didn’t create much in the way of chances, the Timbers’ control kept Colorado at bay.

After some patience and persistence, the Timbers eventually found some opportunities.  In the 30th minute, Diego Valeri got head to a poor Rapids clearance 40 yards from goal and nodded into the path of a through-on-goal Gaston Fernandez, but the linesman incorrectly raised his flag for one of seven times against the Timbers to nullify the advantage.

The Timbers couldn’t blame the linesman two minutes later, however.  After Portland set up their corner attack high in the box, most of the Timbers hung deep while Will Johnson streaked near post and Futty dove to the mouth of goal.  The plan worked perfectly, as Futty was free to get on the end of Valeri’s corner kick but put his open header wide.

Sitting deeper in the attack opened up a number of spaces for the Timbers to operate in the final third, perhaps never more than the 52nd minute when Valeri found Nagbe driving toward the byline where he laid the ball in front of goal for Fernandez.  Fernandez slowed his run to the near post, however, and Marvell Wynne stepped in for the emergency interception.

No matter how well the team is executing, however, in soccer things can fall apart in a hurry.  And boy did they ever on Saturday.

In the 68th minute, moments after Ricketts made a nice save on a Drew Moor shot off a corner, Dillon Powers played Deshorn Brown through with a ball over the top.  The ball skipped away from Brown, however, and Ricketts looked to be in position to clear or gather, but bracing for the impact of Brown coming in hopelessly with studs flying high, Ricketts missed the ball on his flying clearance attempt and caught Brown in the thigh with his boot.  Referee Mark Geiger, unmoved by Brown’s recklessness, whistled for a penalty and issued a straight red card to Ricketts for his karate challenge before the goalkeeper required a stretcher after taking Brown’s boot to his knee.  Vicente Sanchez chipped the ensuing penalty past Andrew Weber for a commanding opening lead.

It only got worse for the Timbers moments after the ensuing kickoff.  After two Timbers slips freed Sanchez down the right side of the box, Weber came out to challenge for the ball.  Sanchez scooted the ball wide of the keeper, dragged his back foot, and caught Weber on the way by.  Geiger unmercifully, but correctly whistled for another penalty, which Weber saved off the foot of Brown only to have the penalty taker put back the rebound.

The remainder was academic.  A man down and trailing two goals, the Timbers never had an opportunity to claw back into the game.  What in many respects was a demonstration of good game management went very awry on Saturday for a Timbers team that can’t seem to catch a break.

Match Observations

Ricketts’ Penalty

I covered this subject in full in a post on The Morrison Report, so I won’t go into significant detail here.  Suffice to say, however, while I don’t blame Geiger for what I think was an incorrect judgment on a nearly impossibly difficult call, I think it was the incorrect judgment nonetheless.

Match Management

Saturday was always going to be ugly for the Timbers, as their attack is poorly suited to operate in such conditions.  Nonetheless, for the vast majority of the match the Timbers did a nice job of managing the game in midfield, holding the ball a little bit deeper to limit space in behind, and holding Colorado shotless for the better part of 40 minutes on either side of halftime.  In fact, aside from the penalties, Colorado’s only legitimate goalscoring chance was Drew Moor’s 66th minute header that Ricketts saved.  In conditions that heavily favored Colorado’s direct attack, the Timbers rendered the Rapids relatively punchless for much of the afternoon.

Preseason Prediction: Timbers 1, Rapids 1.  Moor, Valeri.
Actual Result: Rapids 2, Timbers 0.  Sanchez, Brown.

Onward, Rose City!

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The Morrison Report: Absolutely Wrong Edition http://timbersarmy.org/the-morrison-report-absolutely-wrong-edition http://timbersarmy.org/the-morrison-report-absolutely-wrong-edition#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 05:45:07 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14375 Continue reading »]]> Mark Geiger got the red card on Donovan Ricketts absolutely wrong.[1]  The correct call was a yellow card on Deshorn Brown.

After Dillon Powers played a 68th minute ball over the top in the direction of Deshorn Brown, Ricketts and Brown were placed on a collision course to the ball.  The first bounce in unkind to Brown, however, and the ball skipped away from him and toward Ricketts.

In this split second, both Ricketts and Brown had crucial decisions to make.  Brown could either pull out of the play and try to evade the collision, or he could challenge for a ball he really didn’t have a realistic chance of winning.  Ricketts, on the other hand, had to decide how to go in for the ball.  One choice was, in traditional goalkeeper fashion, to dive in headfirst and gather with his hands.  This option presented a better chance of securing the ball, but carried substantial risk for the goalkeeper.[2]  The other option was to jump in feet-first and try to clear the ball away.  This option, while safer for the keeper, is much more dangerous for the attacker as a high boot is inevitable when the ball is bouncing.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 8.30.59 PM

Take a step back. Who was issued the card here?

Brown chose to challenge with his boot in the air for a ball that, by the time Ricketts arrived, is the better part of a yard away from him.  Ricketts chose the self-preservation option and went in feet-first, perhaps getting unlucky to catch a hard boot to the knee.  The elder Jamaican got there first, but, because he tried to tackle a bouncing ball with an attackers boot bearing down on his head, whiffed or perhaps got only a very glancing touch on the ball on its way through his legs.[3]  Ricketts’ high boot catches Brown in the thigh on the way by and Geiger accordingly pulled a red card for the keeper.

Geiger apparently adjudged Ricketts made the wrong choice.  But this decision is betrayed by two indisputable facts.  First, Brown had not made a touch on the ball when Ricketts arrived; the last player to touch the ball was Dillon Powers when he hit his pass over the top.  Second, the ball was Ricketts’ to win – he’s clearly there first.  So Geiger effectively punished Ricketts for making an impossible decision between risking serious injury to himself or to Brown.[4]

Thus, the last person to make a choice was Geiger.  On one hand, Geiger could have imparted a duty on Ricketts to choose to sacrifice himself, increase his chance of making the play, and mitigate the danger for his opponent.  On the other, he could have imparted a duty on Brown to avoid going in for a hopeless challenge that brings to the fore Ricketts’ catch-22 between self-preservation and making the play.  Geiger chose the former.  The latter, however, is the only option that protects a helpless goalkeeper in this situation.

Onward, Rose City.


[1] Granted, I changed my mind from Geiger’s persuasion after watching the replay a dozen or so times in slow motion, so I’m not really one to be moralistic here.

[2] Coincidentally, the opposing goalkeeper in that game was Donovan Ricketts.

[3] If you watch frame-by-frame, it looks like the trajectory of the ball may have changed very slightly.  In any event, if Ricketts got a touch, it was only nominal one.

[4] And a catastrophic erroneously issued card for Ricketts.

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The Actually Pay Attention Blog 2 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-2 http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog-2#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 19:00:37 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14369 Continue reading »]]> Hey NYC launched their new badge. It’s actually a great design. It doesn’t look like a cartoon. Yes I am picking a scab.

Good points here from 5mtko. I disagree with Toluca’s manager because they played San Jose who plays some of the worst football known to the human race. But I guess they can kind of win in MLS and obviously almost win in CCL. It would be wise of all the hype boys at MLS to start cramming the awful football played in San Jose down their face. Goonies never say die. That was shot in Oregon and it never coincided with a bunch of people who got glory calling themselves the Bash Brothers. Eff you San Jose, you suck and you are doing a disservice to football in America.

This is going to prove interesting. The Sounders have ended business ties with the Seahawks and appear to be headed in their own direction. Let’s hope this is for the best as we haven’t exactly been treated great in Seattle the past.

Two games in we have one of the most hilarious MLS hype stories already. It’s hilarious because there are only like 30 more games to go. Cue the sarcasm thing where I roll my eyes.


Steve Zakuani is definitely a curious case here
. He’s a terrible rapper. Anyone that looked at anything remotely related to the MLS website in the last year probably had to sit through that awful commercial from XBox. His on field abilities are definitely better than his in studio abilities and while I am conflicted with him as a former Sounder I definitely feared those moments he came in the game against us. Dude is a game changer and can do good work. If you’re reading this, Steve…kiss the badge when you score. Just some friendly advice.

Rifer wrote a match report that is better than anything anyone is paying for…again. So you should probably be paying attention to them.

Chalk this up as a laugh. Jurgen is complaining Deuce is getting fouled too much. Sorry, bro. I think Darlington Nagbe has a much longer record of being fouled in the league rather than the goldenboy the league probably spent WAY too much money on.

And that’s your weekly.

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Match Report: Timbers Limp Out of the Gates and Into Another Draw http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-limp-out-of-the-gates-and-into-another-draw http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-timbers-limp-out-of-the-gates-and-into-another-draw#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 05:57:18 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14335 Continue reading »]]> The wait for the Timbers to find their offensive mojo continues for another week.  In a game of two distinct halves, the Timbers sleepwalked out of the gates in the first half to fall behind then rediscovered some of their form in the second to earn a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire.

The Timbers’ best chance of the first half was also indicative of their biggest problem.  In the fourth minute the Timbers broke out and Diego Valeri magnificently fed Darlington Nagbe through on the left side of the box in seemingly promising shooting position.  Rather than pull the trigger, however, Nagbe inexplicably fed the ball wide to Diego Chara where the Fire put it behind for a corner.

The Fire showed no such reluctance to go at goal.  In the 9th minute, Alex gathered a long goal kick at the top of the box, spun, and fired a volley that looked momentarily destined for the upper corner before Donovan Ricketts palmed it just wide of the post.

Seven minutes later, Quincy Amarikwa took on Norbert Paparatto one-on-one and won, freeing himself on the byline to rip a dangerous cross across the box, but nobody could find the finishing touch.

Paparatto wouldn’t be so lucky in the 19th minute.  After Amarikwa out-maneuvered Papa to another long ball, he cut in front of the Argentine and stopped, causing Paparatto to bowl over the much-obliged forward.  Jeff Larentowicz stepped to the spot and slotted the ball home in the bottom right corner for the opener.

The concession didn’t immediately wake the Timbers up, however, as they continued to mope through most of the first half.  Even in the rare instance an opportunity presented itself, the Timbers were maddeningly reluctant to seize the moment.  For the most part, however, Portland was outplayed by a team that, even to the naked eye, was its technical inferior.

As halftime neared, however, the Timbers stared to right the ship.  And on the brink of the intermission, they nearly found their equalizer.  After Valeri played a Jewsbury throw to Urruti in the box, the young striker’s shot was deflected.  Not giving up on the play, Urruti managed to squeeze the rebound through to Will Johnson on the left side of the box, but Sean Johnson kick saved his dangerous low shot.

Out of halftime, the Timbers looked like a different team.  In the 56th minute, after being moved to great effect to the right wing, Valeri played a magnificent ball across the box where both Urruti and Gaston Fernandez had a chance to get a finishing touch on it.  Neither could get his feet right, however, and the once-dangerous ball skidded sheepishly through the box.

Ten minutes later, after Sean Johnson could only deflect a Valeri shot from the right side, Steve Zakuani gathered looking at an open net beyond the far post, but Lovel Palmer blocked his putback and Will Johnson’s bicycle effort – under a little push from Gonzalo Segares – found nothing but air.

It got worse for Will in the 71st minute, as Chicago did their best to gift the Timbers the equalizer.  After Bakary Soumare and Sean Johnson combined to make a mess of what should have been a routine recovery, Will Johnson found the ball at his feet with nothing but net to look at.  In a wildly uncharacteristic moment for the unflappable Johnson, he put the easy finish just wide of the post in the sort of moment that seemingly only happens to the snakebitten.

But snakes weren’t the only things biting on Sunday.  Turns out there was a cat bearing teeth, too.  In a goal reminiscent of his equalizer a week ago, Gaston Fernandez was sitting at the back post in the 79th minute when Sean Johnson spilled a hard Nagbe shot.  Though he used his feet this time, just like last week La Gata slotted the sitter into the open net to pull his team level.

Despite further help from a Patrick Nyarko red card, however, the Timbers couldn’t put together a genuine push for an equalizer.  Of Portland’s three must-finish chances in the second half, they could only capitalize on one in a backend performance that, but for finishing folly, entitled the Timbers to a win.

Unfortunately, however, that “but for” has been a hulabaloo for the Timbers in the very early going of 2014, resulting in four dropped points at home to start the campaign.

Match Observations

Spring Struggles

While comparisons to 2013 are easy to draw with the sluggish start – and they certainly aren’t without merit – it’s worth noting that the Timbers opening homestand this year was much more favorable than a year ago.  Although Philadelphia looks poised to surprise some people this year, the Fire are not of the quality of the 2014 Union or 2013 Impact or Red Bulls.  While a pair of draws is far from a disaster and disappointing dropped points are inevitable to some extent, it’s reasonable to think the Timbers left more on the table as a result of their spring struggles this year than in 2013.

Tactical Tweaks

Rarely have we seen Caleb Porter’s tactical moves pay such dividends as they did on Sunday.  After a disappointing first half in which the Timbers really struggled to create any genuine chances, Porter’s halftime switch of Valeri to the right and Nagbe in the middle immediate changed the Timbers’ tempo, as putting Nagbe in the middle opened up space for him to drive at the defense rather than move laterally looking for central space.

The shift had an even greater effect when Steve Zakuani came on and moved Gaston Fernandez up top.  With a creative engine of Valeri and Nagbe aided by solid overlapping play from Jack Jewsbury, the Timbers dominated the second half and put together their most potent spell of offense of the young season.

Porter spoke postgame about the improved chemistry of the attacking group including Zakuani.  “It’s worked better chemistry-wise the last two games, certainly.  Whether it will work better chemistry-wise long-term, I think that remains to be seen.  But it’s a real positive that when we’ve inserted Zakuani, Gaston has found two goals in that spot.  Hopefully Zakuani continues to progress to where he’s able to start.”

Stay tuned.

Set Piece Defending

Caleb Porter’s frustration at having to repeatedly answer questions about set piece defending has been thinly veiled over the past several weeks.  After an improved performance in that respect against Philadelphia – with one significant exception – the Timbers were quite good at winning the first ball on Sunday.

And Porter wasn’t about to let the assembled media forget it.  “Didn’t give up a set piece today.  I know some of you guys call PKs set pieces, but it’s really not.  It’s a penalty kick.  But we didn’t give up a goal on a corner or a wide free kick, so I feel good about that.  I hope you guys do, too.  And I know you talk about it all the time when we give up one, but it’d be nice to hear you talk about it when we do well on those.  So I’m pleased about that.”

Although an endorsement from this space is certainly little – if, realistically, any – consolation to Porter, the Timbers’ improvement defending set plays since the preseason game against San Jose has been marked.  Whereas against San Jose, the Quakes were able to get their head to seemingly every first ball, against both Philadelphia and Chicago the Timbers won the vast majority.  There is still some room for further improvement in this respect, but what was once a serious liability looks to be well on the road to mitigation.

Timbers Grades

Donovan Ricketts, 6.5 – Although he didn’t get as much love this week as he did last, Ricketts put in an even better performance.  Had a couple shots from distance that required some of his usual quality goalkeeping, and his save to deny Soumare in second half stoppage time was textbook.

Michael Harrington, 5 – Didn’t have a whole lot to do defensively, as the Fire largely targeted the centerbacks.  Also didn’t do a whale of a lot offensively, though he had a couple nice moments when he tucked inside a little bit and played back into the center.

Futty, 6 – Solid performance from Futty.  The Fire tried to go at him a couple times, but the dean of the Timbers was more than up to the task.  His partner on the other hand…

Norberto Paparatto, 3 – Had a pretty horrible five-minute spell in the first half in which Amarikwa de-pantsed him twice.  While the penalty was largely of Amarikwa’s own creation, Papa is responsible for getting in that spot.

Jack Jewsbury, 6.5 – A sneaky candidate for Man of the Match.  Could have lent an additional hand or two defensively, but his offensive play in the second half was quietly fantastic.  By providing a consistent touchline presence, Jack stretched the Fire defense and opened spaces for Valeri and Nagbe to operate.

Will Johnson, 4 – The obvious need not be rehashed.  Johnson screwed up. Valeri did it last week. It happens – obviously even to great players.  While Johnson had moments in the late-first and second halves where he was able to contribute in the attack, his holding role for much of the first half limited his influence when it could have been handy.

Diego Chara, 7 – There was a decent amount of sidling on Sunday, but more important for purposes of his grade were two expert switching balls that set up two great chances – one of which was La Gata’s goal.  Sending him instead of Johnson forward in the first half didn’t seem to work, but that’s no massive surprise.

Gaston Fernandez, 6 – Quiet until he moved up top, Fernandez looked much more comfortable at the nine.  While poaching back stick isn’t fancy, as the last two games have demonstrated, it can be fruitful.

Diego Valeri, 6.5 – Absolutely dominated Chicago after his move to the right.

Darlington Nagbe, 5 – A tale of two halves for Nagbe.  Reverted to some of his old passive ways in the first, as when he picked the ball up on the right side Nagbe frequently took negative or unproductive touches searching for a preferred channel rather than using his ample capabilities to drive at the defense.  Found his keys in the center in the second half, however, which put Chicago’s defense on its heels.

Maxi Urruti, 3.5 – It’s just not working right now for Maxi.  The finishes aren’t there and, more important, the runs aren’t there.  This offense relies on excellent and unselfish movement from its striker to open up lanes for the midfielders.  That’s not happening.

Steve Zakuani, 5 – Zakuani is going to get a lot of credit for the Timbers second half resurgence, but that’s a confusion of correlation and causation.  Zakuani was fine, but the Timbers’ improvement was more about his attackmates shifting to positions in which they were more effective.

Frederic Piquionne, 3 – Came in to be a target.  Frittered his precious minutes on the wing.

Preseason Prediction: Timbers 1, Fire 1.  Nagbe, Magee (penalty).
Actual Result: Timbers 1, Fire 1.  Fernandez, Larentowicz (penalty).

Onward, Rose City!

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The Actually Pay Attention Blog http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog http://timbersarmy.org/the-actually-pay-attention-blog#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 19:00:31 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14329 Continue reading »]]> I’m going to try to do this at least once a week during the season. It’s going to be full of stuff you should probably pay attention to as a fan of the mighty Portland Timbers. No I am not going to flaunt endorsements of keeper of the week, which is one of the biggest jokes on MLSSoccer.com. As we all know the winner of that is going to be us, Seattle, or whatever other team is able to activate (drink!) their fan base. Mostly Seattle but we’re definitely in that hated world over at MLS HQ by everyone employed there that looks at the comments sections (real talk hurts doesn’t it?). I’ll try to repeatedly drag this on every weekend with snippets of stuff you should look at..

Anyway. Here’s your weekly.

Ummm 5mtko podcast. Why are you not subscribed and why are you not listening by now? It’s possibly the best podcast out there by anyone following the Timbers. Nevets and Roberto give you humor and have been kicking around the north end since pickle buckets were the preferred percussion method. Rumor has it they also still have Roger Lavesque’s phone number from when he stayed at the Double Tree written down on a napkin.

On another side Toronto FC is going to be fun to watch this season. It will either be a fabulous success or a GIGANTIC train wreck. Considering Toronto’s last 7 years I’m not so sure which side I’m going to lean to considering the historical ineptitude. Honestly I do feel for their supporters. Poor bastards!

Our captain signed a new contract that will keep him here long term. Are you excited or are you excited? I am always a fan of the good players that can piss everyone off because they’re just good. As an example I hate the Seahawks yet love Richard Sherman. Will Johnson is just my kind of guy. Everyone hates him but us. That isn’t a bad thing.

There is absolutely no place for discrimination of any kind. Thankfully MLS agrees. I am glad MLS is at the forefront of this. They will be on the right side of history.

Obviously he was a fan favorite. I also liked running into him at my local grocery store. David Horst seems to be off to a good start in Houston. Good for him!

Kip Kesgard gives an always in depth preview of the match against Chicago.

As always Rifer’s match reports are better than you’ll find in most of the local papers. If you aren’t tuned into him start now.

The more you know about our players the better. Here’s a nice little bit on Gaston Fernandez (La Gata).

Life happens. We celebrate the life of Conner Firstman (Kim Sung Ho). A dedicated fan and friend to many. May you rest in peace!

As always be well!

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Help Make the 107ist Lending Library, Booked!, a reality http://timbersarmy.org/help-make-the-107ist-lending-library-booked-a-reality http://timbersarmy.org/help-make-the-107ist-lending-library-booked-a-reality#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:58:19 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14311 Continue reading »]]> Hey Timbers Army supporters! The official soccer library of the TA, Booked!, is collecting footballing books and other media (mags, vids, dvds,…) at the fanladen before the match this Sunday (3/16) and before the 4/3 match vs the fishing village to the north.

Lending for 107ist members will begin 4/12 before the Chivas USA match! We will also have a monthly Booked! Night! once a month at the fanladen (date TBA) for lending and other literary events.

So bring your media to the fanladen (1633 SW Alder) on Sunday and help make the Booked! library awesome!

To check out our list of current titles, see the Booked 107 Library Thing webpage: https://www.librarything.com/catalog/Booked107

You can also follow them on twitter at @Booked107

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Match Report: Same Problems, Improbable Savior http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-same-problems-improbable-savior http://timbersarmy.org/match-report-same-problems-improbable-savior#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 05:34:41 +0000 http://timbersarmy.org/?p=14306 Continue reading »]]> Sometimes preseason performance is indicative of early regular season performance.  Just as the Timbers dominated the ball, controlled much of the game, and came away disappointed against San Jose and Vancouver, Portland failed to earn a result despite an on-paper advantage and dominating possession against the Philadelphia Union.

Like Vancouver, Philadelphia put on a performance at Providence Park that surprised many.  Rebuilt with Austin Berry in defense, Maurice Edu in defensive central midfield, Vincent Noguiera in a central attacking role, and Cristian Maidana on the wing, the Union side that walked into Portland on Saturday bore no resemblance whatsoever to the listlessly direct side the Timbers battled to a stalemate last year.  And for much of the game, the Timbers looked surprised by what their opponents presented.

Things could have been very different for the Timbers, however, if Pa Modou Kah knew he was allowed to use his feet.  After Will Johnson flicked a header off a Gaston Fernadnez corner kick across the box in the 4th minute, Kah dropped to his knees at the back stick to inexplicably try to head a ball one foot off the ground.[1]  Not surprisingly, it didn’t work.

In many ways Kah’s blooper reel attempt at a submarine header was typical of the Timbers’ day in the box, as time and again Portland was foiled by last minute Union defending or their own clumsiness.

Like Vancouver a week before, Union came to press, but the Timbers’ ball movement forced them to drop off.  That, however, didn’t make Philadelphia any less dangerous.

After a 20th minute ball pinged around in the Timbers’ defending box off a hopeful cross from Edu, Maidana picked it up at the top with his back to goal, turned Diego Chara, and fired a low shot toward goal, but Ricketts reacted well to parry away.

Fifteen minutes and another spell of Timbers possession later, Jack McInerney found his way onto a long chipped pass on the left side and turned on the byline under little defensive pressure.  He chipped the ball over a stranded Ricketts, but Norberto Paparatto cleared off the line at the far post.

The end of the half belonged to the Timbers, however.  In the 39th minute it was the ball bouncing around the Union box where Nagbe controlled and fed Maxi Urruti twelve yards out on the right side of goal, but Amobi Okugo made the first of a number of saving interventions on the day to deflect Urruti’s goalbound shot away.

Four minutes later, the Timbers got out on the break after a timely Diego Chara interception where Gaston Fernandez fed Valeri thirty-five yards from goal.  Valeri took two touches and whipped a hard shot toward the near corner that had Zac MacMath at full stretch, but the shot buzzed just wide of the near post.

All told, the game at halftime looked a lot like San Jose two weeks before.  The Timbers had a lot of the ball but the poorer of the chances, as Portland repeatedly showed reluctance to pull the trigger in the final third.  And when possession isn’t turned into goals, games that should be filed into the win column can slip away in a hurry.

After dodging a bullet a moment before as Ricketts picked up a Noguiera shot late and could only push behind for a corner, the Timbers got their just desserts.  In the 65th minute, Maurice Edu caught the Timbers flat footed in attacking the ensuing corner and nodded to the back post where McInerney was waiting for the finish.

The Timbers came right back, though.  Off the ensuing kickoff, Nagbe drove to the byline and put Urruti in goalscoring shape inside the box, but MacMath was quick off his line to get his body in front of Maxi’s finish.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, the Timbers looked like they might be starting to figure it out.  Whereas they had previously been unable to generate anything genuine in the final third, the Timbers started to play teammates into promising positions.  But every time they did, the Timbers would always find a foot between them and the goal, even if sometimes one of their own.

But as the game progressed into stoppage time, the Timbers looked out of gas.  But oh the value of one last gasp.

After a dangerous Steve Zakuani shot was deflected out for a corner well into the third minute of stoppage, Will Johnson’s quick corner deflected off Brian Carroll’s foot and straight to the head of Fernandez at the far post where he nodded into the open net.

On one hand lucky and on another deserved, the Timbers had their equalizer.  On Saturday night the Timbers showed some of the flaws that caused hands to wring in preseason as well as some flashes that perhaps suggest light at the end of the tunnel.

Just how quickly those flashes turn to flames, however, will go a long way to determining the Timbers success in 2014.

Match Observations

While it’s easy to look at finishing as the problem for the Timbers – and indeed, on Saturday it was contributory – Portland’s offense has not done a good job of keeping pace in the transition from middle to final third.  In many respects, the middle of the field has looked as good early on as it did in 2013.  While Will Johnson and Diego Chara each had a little bit of an off day on Saturday, recent experience suggests that was more fluke than trend.

But Nagbe, Fernandez, Valeri, and Urruti have been wonderful…until they get 30 yards from goal.  They’ve been effective at moving the ball quickly through the midfield, cutting defenders out of the play and finding the spaces the defense gives them to put them in prime position to attack the box.  But then, for some reason, the Timbers have shown a tendency to slow down.

Once the Timbers have launched into their midfield run, opponents have learned to back into a tactical retreat to their own box; giving Portland plenty of room outside, but nothing inside.  Slowing down, then, often undoes the advantage gained by stellar work through the midfield, as cut out defenders recover and pack the final 15 yards – leaving the Timbers, already without a genuine direct threat, looking for an inch of space to pass their way into a decent shot.  Even when that space is found, however, more often than not somebody like Okugo is there to make sure it never gets anywhere near goal.

There really isn’t any remedy to this problem short of improving the transition from middle to final third.  The good news is fixing this problem is probably just a matter of time – once Urruti, Valeri, Nagbe, and Fernandez all get on the same page, they should be able to markedly improve their transitional efficiency. But the bad news is it’s probably a matter of time.  Time, now that the regular season has begun, comes at a cost.

Timbers Grades

Donovan Ricketts, 6 – After the game, a funny story started spinning around the press corps about Ricketts once again being a hero.  While, yes, his first save was good, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a good goalkeeper like Donovan.  Of the Union’s other five shots on goal, only one troubled Ricketts, and that was because he picked a ball up late.  In the end, it was a solid, but far from heroic outing for Ricketts.[2]

Michael Harrington, 4.5 – Harrington was quite good for the first sixty or sixty-five minutes, but struggled in the late stages.  Mikey fluffed a couple crosses he normally whips and even had a couple defensive lapses that – while ultimately not costing the team – were uncharacteristic.

Pa Modou Kah, 4 – Decent defensively, but making a mess of the finish on the corner in the 4th minute was a big missed opportunity.

Norberto Paparatto, 4 – Had the clearance off the line, but that was partially precipitated by a lack of communication between he and Jewsbury in handling a 2-on-2 situation.  Also shares some culpability for the concession, as he let Edu come across him.

Jack Jewsbury, 5 – Made the mistake in letting McInerney go down the left on what ended up the clearance off the line, but otherwise had a passable game defensively and contributed nicely on the offensive end after Alhassan came on to give the Timbers more of a threat down that right side.

Will Johnson, 5.5 – Was in some respects the Timbers’ biggest offensive threat for much of the day, as his late runs were one of the few things the Timbers did that required emergency defending from the Union.  Joined his midfield companions in having a couple loose passes out there.

Diego Chara, 4 – It’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody get the better of Diego like Noguiera and Maidana did.

Gaston Fernandez, 5 – Rescues his grade – and the team – with the finish at the death, but otherwise was a step or two slow in offensive movement for much of the day and had a number of loose touches and passes.

Diego Valeri, 4.5 – Had a frustrating night, as his touch betrayed him and seemed perpetually out of synch with the attack.  Probably mostly a matter of getting in rhythm, but the Timbers would really like to see Valeri back in form soon.

Darlington Nagbe, 6 – The only guy that really asked questions of Philly all night.  Led the team in key passes and kept up his stellar completion rate in attacking areas. Also have to admire his lack of bellyaching after suffering another five fouls.

Maxi Urruti, 4.5 – Had moments where he was presenting himself nicely in the box, but with a bunch of self-proclaimed passers around him, Urruti needs to be the guy providing the direct threat or pulling defenders out of position to give his teammates no choice but to take the space he creates.  He’s done neither consistently since Tucson.

Futty, 5.5 – Spelled Kah nicely after coming on in the first half.  Classic Futty performance; solid defending, a couple sprayed passes.

Kalif Alhassan, 6.5 – Brought a new dimension to the Timbers attack when he came on, as the right side opened up a lot more than it had been.  Won more than his fair share of corners, too.

Steve Zakuani, 5 – Took a few minutes to settle into his Timbers debut, but did nicely to pop up in a nice spot on the shot that led to the equalizing corner.

Preseason Prediction: Timbers 3, Union 1.  Johnson, Urruti, and Nagbe.
Actual Result: Timbers 1, Union 1.  Fernandez.

Onward, Rose City!


[1] I would make a substantial donation to Stand Together to be in the video session when they go over this.

[2] Caleb Porter, for his part, seemed a little bemused by the story.  Asked about Ricketts’s play, Porter shrugged “Yeah, I mean, that’s his job.  The goalkeeper’s job is to make saves and he did that a couple times today.  So I think that’s what the goalkeeper’s there for – right – to keep the ball out of the net.”

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