So here we are, at the first true turning point of the inaugural MLS season. Sure, there have been ups and downs before this week, but this feels like the first time this season there has been legitimate concern about an extended slide.
The first five minutes on Saturday started encouragingly. Portland controlled possession and showed some early promise going toward goal. Unfortunately, for the first half, that was about it.
Possession remained fairly even through the first stanza – with neither team doing a fantastic job of stringing passes together. Chivas USA, however, looked by far the more dangerous team going forward – three times forcing Troy Perkins into serious action. Chivas repeatedly asked questions of Portland’s Brunner-less defense, and nobody but Perkins seemed to have any answers.
The Timbers best chance came in the 19th minute from a Jack Jewsbury set piece from 30 yards out on the right wing. David Horst was able to get a head to the ball, but it was deflected away by a flailing – and perhaps a bit lucky – Dan Kennedy.
The Timbers started to apply a bit more pressure on the Chivas defense in the second half. Through the first twenty minutes, Portland controlled much of the possession and largely played in their attacking half. The Timbers couldn’t reap the benefits of their possession, however, as shoddy service thwarted Portland’s attack time and again.
Finally, in the 70th minute, Chivas broke what looked more and more like a stalemate, as Paulo Nagamura sent a bending cross in past a disorganized Timbers defense for Marcos Mondaini, who easily tapped it home. The Timbers lack of shape and miserable marking were all the more embarrassing considering the run up to the play consisted of Chivas meekly passing the ball around their own half, then jogging into their own half past a shocked-looking Portland defense.
Portland’s search for an equalizer was largely in vain, as two Jack Jewsbury shots from distance were the best the Timbers could muster, forcing Rose City to limp out of The Home Depot Center for the second time in this young season.
- After a heartbreaking loss to D.C. United and a reported good week of practice, this effort was a little bit shocking to me. The Timbers seemed listless and at times even a little disinterested. The backline was disorganized all day, the midfield looked overwhelmed, and the strikeforce looked like they were on an island and didn’t care much to get off.
- Eric Brunner might just be the most important player to this team. Saturday it was clear how much he was missed. The guy is the anchor of the Timbers defense, and without him the backline looked completely adrift. There were some nice individual plays, but the shape was awful and the marking was nonexistent. If you can stomach it, go back and watch the Chivas goal. Here is what the shape pretty much looked like: Rod Wallace at striker, Futty playing left wing, Jack Jewsbury at left back, David Horst and Jeremy Hall and center back, and Sal Zizzo at right back. Other than Jewsbury applying some pressure to Nagamura, everybody else that was involved wasn’t marking anybody. Point is, if you have a spare moment today, take Brunner some orange juice and chicken soup.
- Okay, so there is no such thing as a must-win in early June, and anybody who says otherwise is either exaggerating or dumb, but Saturday’s game against the Rapids is definitely more important than your run of the mill regular season match. Portland is coming off of two losses against teams that, frankly, they are better than. A loss on Saturday and the Timbers would be staring a long losing streak right in the face, with fixtures against New York and FC Dallas coming down the pipe. In the grand scheme, dropping two in a row isn’t a big deal, but going five in a row with little to speak of in the way of points would be devastating to the Timbers’ playoff hopes.
Troy Perkins, 7 – The best performance Portland has had from a keeper this year. This match could have easily been 1- or 2-nil at half but for Perkins’ heroics. By far the man of the match.
Rod Wallace, 4.5 – The Chivas offense was going up his side much of the night, but probably not because of him. Defensive mistakes in the midfield meant Rod had to play a lot of defense a long way from goal with acres of room behind him. That’s a tough spot for an outside back, so Rod doesn’t get all the blame here, but he also didn’t exactly handle it brilliantly.
Futty, 4 – Again, had to scramble for much of the night, often forced to play out on the left wing because of Rod being pulled upfield. Still, he was the guy that the defense was looking to provide some leadership in the absence of Brunner. Made some nice individual plays, but as the leader of the defense, a couple nice plays isn’t enough to warrant a positive grade.
David Horst, 4.5 – Also had a few nice individual plays, but is also partially culpable for the disorganization of the backline. Made a couple more plays than Futty, and also doesn’t bear as much of the cross for the failure of leadership.
Jeremy Hall, 4.5 – Remember last week when we talked about Jeremy’s propensity to disappear on the pitch for periods? About that…
Kalif Alhassan, 4 – I really like the guy, but he played really poorly. Didn’t do a whole lot offensively in the midfield and was brutalized defensively a number of times.
Diego Chara, 5 – Created as much offense as anybody in the midfield, and wasn’t bad defensively, but he and Jewsbury didn’t do nearly as good a job controlling the game in the center of the pitch as they have the last few weeks.
Jack Jewsbury, 5 – Had a couple nice strikes at goal, and was maybe even a bit unlucky that one didn’t find net, but doesn’t get much of a reward due to the inability to establish much control over the match.
Sal Zizzo, 4.5 – Could never establish himself a good position, partially because he was being flipped every 25 minutes and partially because he was pinned in defense for extended periods.
Jorge Perlaza, 5.5 – Perlaza was really the only guy that brought much in the way of urgency to the match. His final ball betrayed him a few times, but at least he was getting himself in a position to send a final ball in.
Kenny Cooper, 4 – Holy overcompensation, Batman! Last week he was all ants in the pants in netting 4 offside calls. This week he was barely on the pitch. Remember when this guy used to work his butt off to get the ball at his feet – even if that meant tracking back into the midfield? He drew fouls, created opportunities, and even scored a few goals. Coop needs to get back to those days.
Darlington Nagbe, 6 – I thought this was actually one of Darlington’s better outings. He brought a dimension on the ball that had been sorely lacking earlier in the game, showed a desire to go at goal, and successfully created a few chances.
Eddie Johnson, 5 – Had a couple nice moments, but ultimately didn’t make much of a difference. Was much more active than Cooper, though, which is as much as anything a sign of how big a funk KFC is in right now.
James Marcelin, 5 – Sort of a weird substitution, but in Spenny’s defense, there really weren’t any good options.
Onward, Rose City!