Monday, March 9, 2015

Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake: The Late, Late (Yet Positive) Report

Nice touch on the 40, y'all!
Given my druthers, I'd like to put up a match report immediately after or, failing that, a day after the match. It spaces out my content better, for one (already struggling), but it's good to post things when thoughts are hot and memories fresh. I gave myself a pass on Week 1, based on the soft assumption/lie-I-told-myself that I would re-watch Portland Timbers v. Real Salt Lake in its entirety. Sadly, MLS Live thwarted me with its eternal national/regional broadcast delay. Just know I was willing...

I went to Saturday's opener, which was good and bad: good because I got a nice snapshot of the tifo (see?), some fireworks, saw some good moments in real time, taunted Tony Beltran ("Wallace owns you, motherfucker!"), etc.; bad because I was surrounded by people so fervently obsessed with cards that they would have given a yellow to a blade of grass for failing to curl just so. It also didn't help that I spent much of the time catching up with friends, talking about our crazy kids, downing beers, responding to texts from both inside and outside the stadium, etc. Suffice to say I was distracted.

Still, I do remember some good things. The Tour de Joi starts with Darlington Nagbe breaking Kyle Beckerman's ankles in the first half (ha ha, he fell on his bottom!) to turn toward goal and create a decent shot for Rodney Wallace (that came about the 15th minute, but shows up just after 0:45 on the highlights). It continued, however, with the most promising piece from Saturday: a (basically) four-piece defensive set of George Fochive, Jack Jewsbury, Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell who, collectively, stormed out to kick and generally smother just about everything that came anywhere near the top of the 18. For anyone who endured last season's defensive cluster-cuss that's like the Holy Grail floating over the Castle Anthrax.

Then I drank some more and got to talking about teenagers and near-teenagers and the baffling rage that percolates under some mother-daughter relationships. Shit. Where am I?

Denied a chance to re-watch the game (again, totally willing, but self-imposed deadlines), I turned to a few match reports. Happily, those confirmed some of my general impressions on the game. High as Caleb Porter was on the chances created, the attack registered as decent for me (and Nick Rimando's save on Wallace wasn't that great; CORRECTION: Oh, that save. Yeah, solid (and about 1:00 in)). That's good, honestly, but the clean sheet ranked far higher in my mind. Seeing as they got it up first, I may as well credit Stumptown Footy's comment on what brought it about (the bold part mattered most in my world):
"But the stars once again were the Timbers' centerbacks, who put in a near-perfect performance in keeping things tight in the box and, perhaps more importantly, by aggressively stepping up to disrupt RSL in their buildup."
Amen, y'all! When Stumptown turned the conversation to man-of-the-match, a couple commentators flagged Fochive's solid work in his league debut - and deservedly so. As much as Diego Chara has grown on me, I don't think Fochive obliges the Timbers to steps down too far down, which is all kinds of reassuring. In the end, I wasn't terribly surprised to see the Jewsbury/Fochive pairing work on the necessary level – e.g. stopping Javier Morales and, to a lesser extent, Luis Gil, from getting things rolling for RSL and generally limiting potential damage. That gives me faith that Portland will be solid at least, and that’s the requisite first step for success: stopping the other bunch from scoring...

...and anyone questioning the worth of that should review the highlights from the Vancouver Whitecap's loss to Toronto FC and take careful note of Pa Modou Kah's weird walk-about on Toronto's second goal (for best results, start watching this around 3:20). Wait...threw up a little watching that (still, great locker-room guy, Kah is).

All in all, Game 1 wasn't a bad start to the season. With a well fired-up crowd on hand, a win would have been glorious. And full credit to the Timbers for keeping it interesting until, literally, the death. The attack is the last thing to gel for any team, generally, so the green shoots on offer – e.g. Nagbe looking lively, Dairon Asprilla putting in a pretty good shift and almost scoring a goal, Wallace being Wallace (though the team could have used a little more of Fanendo Adi being Adi), Gaston Fernandez almost poaching a goal the end, as he is wont to do – warms the spirit just enough to sustain hope that, per Stumptown's question, Caleb Porter will pick up a win in March. Credit the defensive brick-wall for that, that marvelous "get-that-shit-out-of-my-kitchen" aggressiveness that compares most directly to basketball's blocked shot, for the most encouraging sign from Game 1.

And, as anyone sufficiently interested knows, the Timbers get a sterner test next weekend when they host the Los Angeles Goddamn Galaxy. More on that Wednesday. Honest.

Oh, and to Will Johnson? I'm the guy who said, "Go get 'em, Will," as you made your way down to the field after the game next to that little outpost of the Providence real estate empire. That tight smile you gave in return was sufficiently intimidating. Glad to see you haven't lost yer edge, son...

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