Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Portland Timbers v. Chicago Fire: Hella Continuity

Industrious. Pointless.
The Chicago Fire played the Portland Timbers to a 1-1 draw tonight. Now, two teams knotted at ones in a preseason game wouldn't normally bear notice, but this result is different. Think about it: Chicago tied and Portland fucked up on defense.

That, my friend, provides precise thumbnail descriptions for both Chicago's and Portland's 2014. The details updated for this 2015 saw Michael Nanchoff score on a deflected free-kick, while Chicago picked up their obligatory draw courtesy of a Norberto Paparatto own-goal. (Say, the Timbers scored both goals – silver lining!)

Just some general notes to make before doing the whole bullet thing. I like Caleb Porter's approach to this one, even if I'm totally unaware as to why he adopted it. If nothing else, starting mostly bench players afforded all of us amateur scouts a chance to see what the new kids can do. And, broadly, the new kids impressed - especially the first shift. I'll lard this point below, but, all in all, Portland took the game to Chicago.

I'll get back to Chicago – after talking about the Three Big Things for Portland. Which brings us back to those new kids:

1) Re: The New Guys
When it comes to the new guys, I'm torn between Jeanderson and Nick Besler as the best of the bunch tonight. (Honorable mention goes to Dairon Asprilla and Anthony Manning.) If Jeanderson put a foot wrong, I didn't see it; he played out of trouble and under pressure at least once and looked confident – as in, Jorge Villanfana, check your rearview confident – going forward. Besler's night is trickier to explain. I liked his passing (clean, simple), but was more impressed by the Nightcrawler-esque knack for popping up where needed and when. (The other two deserve more space than I can give them, but trying to keep it short.)

2) Paparatto = Portland
He looked pretty comfortable out there and smothered attacks and cleaned till the end: Paparatto played solid tonight, a rightly coveted adjective for a defender. And the own-goal he scored will live in his memory for an uncomfortably long time. Ah, that sweet, cushioned thing of beauty. But, uh, wrong hole, capitan. The hell of it is how well that defined 2014. Last season, how many times did you say to another Timbers fan, "Well, they look good enough, but, I don't know. They just keep fucking up with soft goals"? Breaking this habit has GOT to be top of the Timbers' to-do list.

3) Jeff Larentowicz > Fanendo Adi
And that ain't good. Adi did pretty well with hold-up play, dishing a decent combo or two. While the pair of offside calls aren't ideal, they at least imply good runs or at least potential for (and one of them would have been grand had he held his line better). What gave me pause was how easily Larentowicz, a new-to-you centerback, bumped Adi off the ball every time Adi tried to turn him. Larentowicz is smart and experienced – I'm talking super-savvy in a way I've long-respected, but he's not all that fast. Seeing Adi get stymied by that kind of player speaks to a ceiling I hope to see raised a little higher.

As for the Chicago Fire...One Big Takeaway (only underlining for you!)
The scariest thing about Chicago was Quincy Amarikwa and Kennedy Igboananike running loose like a pair of maniacs. It would have gone better had they run in the same general direction, but, hey, there’s more than one way to escape the asylum, right? (Say, tricking one of the guard's into scoring an own-goal?). It was better for them when Shaun Maloney came on to provide some ideas, followed a few minutes later by Harrison Shipp who supplied some options and movement. There's one issue in that for Chicago: they still have one more big gun to pull out of the bag: David Accam. And that's just one more part to fit into a place that works in a machine that has X number of days to function. Chicago has scored just two goals this post-season. And they didn’t even score one of them. Food for thought, yeah?

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