Thursday, March 19, 2015

Portland Timbers, Review/Preview, Week 2/Week 3

Hey...I'm getting titles for these things...

I pride myself on a willingness to admit to errors in thought and judgment. It's important to be open to things. Or to anything. With that in mind, let's talk about last Sunday’s post-mortem for the Portland Timbers draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

It's possible that the late collapse/draw narrowed my perspective a little. Or closed it completely. To give one example, maybe I didn't praise Darlington Nagbe's performance enough...because gods know other people did. Some internalized gripes about the state of Diego Chara's fitness didn’t make that post – he looked totally tanked to me and I would have pulled him around the 60th – but 5 Minutes to Kickoff (uh, twitter handle, I guess; the link went to The Columbian) made a statistically-based argument that Chara brought balance to the Timbers midfield. Sort like a short, corn-rowed embodiment of the Force. (Besides, who the hell do I think I am, bitching about fitness like that? Jurgen Klinsmann?)

In my defense, the sweet nothings I whispered about Jack Jewsbury picked up a little amplification. Nice.

I have done a lot of reading and reflecting since then. Whether it changed my mind or not (for instance, I still found a way to whine about Nagbe; incorrigible; then again, it's worth noting that, when given a clear opportunity, the man simply cannot bring himself to so much as scowl), it's all food for thought. If nothing else, I learned that Jorge Villafana was somehow assigned to mark Alan Gordon on that final penalty kick (in here somewhere). And that seems like a bad idea...

With all that in mind, how does Portland look heading into their first road game of the 2015 regular season – e.g. this Saturday's away game at Sporting Kansas City. Not too shabby, in my estimation, though that has as much to do with Sporting KC as it does with the Timbers.

First, we tend to play KC tough, as shown by some epic, deeply-satisfying wins over the past couple seasons (eh, maybe not).  There is, however, something deeper. Pundits world over (OK, OK, just the nation) have chattered about the alleged evolution of Caleb Porter – particularly, his shift to a more direct approach in 2015. I'll confess that I don't see these things all that well – by which I mean I can tell when the team looks comfortable, even if I can't explain why. Assuming, however, these rumors are true and/or not exaggerated in the service of making people look smart, a more direct approach should fluster KC's Primary Weapon: that is, chasing after the ball like greyhounds on amphetamines after metal rabbits.  Ideally, then, Portland will be pushing the ball down KC's collective throats, leaving the chasing the ball toward their own goal.

OK, that’s the general. I'll close by highlighting the following areas/persons of concern:

1) Our defense has to show and be locked the fuck in.  Dom Dwyer has been snake-bit for 2015. Blame it on his recent marriage (as half the podcasts I listen to can't stop doing), or, I dunno, his new shoes or something; the point is Dwyer has missed at least half a dozen great chances this year. Forget all that. Just file it away, or burn it if you have to. Dwyer is very much a New Model MLS forward – a strong, stocky little fucker who will never, never stop trying to score. He has very good players feeding him chances from all over the field – e.g. Graham Zusi, Seth Sinovic, Benny Feilhaber (who, so far, KC coach Peter Vermes has inexplicably opted to play deep)...uh, whoever it is KC starts at left back (is Chance Myers back yet? No, it's that De Jong guy), etc. And all these guys can score on their own. KC is dangerous. They're also playing well, in spite of that record. So, yeah, that defensive spine has to do everything except buckle.

1a) I really liked what I saw from Krizstian Nemeth in preseason. Against that, everyone loved what they saw in Dairon Asprilla in preseason.

2) KC won't be easy to break down, either.  Bossing the midfield won't come easy for the Timbers, not with Roger Espinoza roaming around with nostrils full of red, red blood. KC will have Matt Besler back for this one, who, with Ike Opara, forms a strong, smart and mobile central defense. And all the guys noted above for lobbing in crosses (that's Sinovic and, for now, and thankfully, De Jong), defend just fine as well. If they have an "X" Factor, it's their 'keeper, Luis Marin.

3) What I hope doesn't happen. Pretty simple: I want Vermes to keep playing Feilhaber deep. Unless the pre-game line-ups lie to me, he has Paolo Nagamura lining up closer to the forwards. This is fine by me. Long may it continue.

OK, that's it. Very much looking forward to Saturday's game. Here's to hoping the club picks up their first March win under Mr. Porter.

No comments:

Post a Comment