Saturday, May 23, 2015

Toronto FC 1-0 Portland Timbers: The Real Meaning of #RCTID

RCTID, aka domestic bliss.
About three years into a real relationship – as in a sexual, monogamous, in-it-for-the-long-haul sort of arrangement – all the failings that you once laughed at become the grating quirks and habits that make you want to either leave, or set up a very, very active Tinder account. There's a decision to be made at this point, obviously, staying in or getting out. And, with the Portland Timbers, I, and just about everyone else who calls themselves a fan, is committed for the long haul, warts, farts, terrible hygiene, bad breath, philandering, perverse, diaper-based sexual preferences, and all.

But, lord, the Timbers try the patience of ten GGG saints...

I watched the game next to a guy who laughed non-stop all the way through the first half. I thought it was fitting, if in the spirit of a long-suffering wife laughing at her husband’s impotence. I know the feeling because, right now, I feel nothing short of contempt for my club. After weeks of having faith that Portland has a shot to get some kind of result from every game, the gears shifted after this one. My default belief going into every game is that Portland will lose.

To keep with analogy, every win will become my constantly drunk wife remembering our anniversary for the first time in three years. All together now...AWWW...

So much hate to spread around. I want to hate Adam Kwarasey because, as I tweeted during the game, every cross that flies over his box looks like the first one he's ever seen. And yet he's not the problem: not only did he make (a minimum of) three solid saves, he even improved on crosses as the game wore on. And, once again, Darlington Nagbe turned in another...let's call it a head-scratcher. The man has turning sickness – i.e. the disease one sees in wildebeests with their brains eaten full of holes where they turn in circles till they die in the dirt – and yet he probably set up Portland’s best, few chances, or the passes that led to the same. I want to fault the defense, but, after setting up a shooting gallery for Toronto FC and/or Sebastian Giovinco over the first 20 minutes, the back four shut down pretty nicely overall. And yet I did manage to hold onto a bundle clear, satisfying hatred...see talking point #4 below.

The pissed off sensation is broad-based in the end, built on the idea that, once TFC scored – oh, and to finally get to the lead, the Portland Timbers lost today, 1-0 to Toronto FC – the Timbers never once seized the upper hand. Sure, they could have stolen a goal in the end, some sloppy, accidental piece of shit with all the meaning and conscious intention of a shot after the buzzer in basketball. Portland needs to score through intelligent, deliberate play, because that's the only way to do the whole rinse-'n'-repeat thing. And that ain't happening. At all. Which feels like a good place to get into today’s talking points.

1) Making Love (Badly) to the Flanks
During his halftime interview, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter talked up the idea of trying to "create wide" against Toronto FC. He added some comments about the need to cross the ball more quickly, to switch fields in order to find the space a collapsing defense opens up. His charges either failed to hear this key piece of information or they ignored it: the worst crime committed by the Portland attack this early afternoon was stuffing the ball down the same flank again and again and again during each "attack." The Timbers broke out one time to put in a decent cross that I remember (caveat: whiskey and depression clouds the memory considerably), and, then, even the homer-commentating crew said, "Portland was a little lucky to get that through," so there's that, but TFC's defense could generally pinch Portland against the flank to produce a turnover, or force the relevant player inside where, apparently, his training dried straight the fuck up, which lead to the same thing – e.g. a Portland turnover. "Get it wide and go at 'em" isn't a bad attacking strategy, but when it stops working, it stops working, and a change is in order. Given the paltry impact this had over the first half, I was more than depressed to hear Porter talk about how the Timbers only needed to do it better in the second half. The thought recalled a late, drunken college conversation about communism and how "nobody's really tried it before." Portland tried it, it didn't work, so what the fuck is Plan B besides more of the broke-dick same?

2) A Competition Without Victors
Fanendo Adi was useless tonight. When he wasn't running offside by a clear yard or two, he was tripping over the goddamn ball, combining with ghosts, etc. etc. When it comes to sloppy play, Adi built quite the rap sheet today. Sure, he scored a goal last week – file under, thank god for little miracles – but his contribution stopped dead-cold there. Porter started Maximiliano Urruti the weekend before and he rewarded that faith by wandering around the opposition backline (whose? ask yourself, does it really matter?) on a trip to exactly fucking nowhere. Due to the whole "falling over the ball" element, I continue to prefer Urruti over Adi, but the choice between Portland’s forwards truly has devolved into choosing between favoring a booger from one nostril over the other. I wish I knew how to fix this. The simplest solution involves buying new players, but that feels like buying a new car because the old one needs a new fan belt. That's to say, I'm not sure the players are to blame, because I've seen both of them do well. Just damn sure not recently. All the same, the breakdown in Portland's attack owes no small "favor" to the shitty situation at forward.

3) The Wrong Defender Is Getting DP Money
The goal the Timbers surrendered tonight has many owners – four by my count: Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara, for letting Giovinco into so much space 25 yards from goal, and Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell for backing up, backing up, and backing up, until a player from the Italian fucking National Team could line up his shot. After that, though, Borchers was omnipresent. Before anyone argues I missed it, yes, Alvas Powell did turn in another fan-goddamn-tastic mano-y-mano defensive performance, but, for me, Borchers killed it tonight. His timing stepping forward was damn near impeccable, he read danger like a books-on-tape virtuoso (notably, the one time Giovinco slipped around Powell, Borchers' damn-near perfect step up cut out a pass of equal quality), and his distribution came in at the high end on the quality scale. Ridgewell didn't stand out half as much. While this could be down to differing roles for each player –i.e. maybe they agree that Borchers steps while Ridgewell covers – Natty Bo's more visible role simply caught the eye that much more. All in all, though, and last week’s nightmare aside, I stand by my general belief that Portland’s defense isn’t the problem. The attack, on the other hand...holy shit, it's just awful. Drunk, crazy fucking wife, awful.

4) Putting Down Gata
Gaston Fernandez needs to go. Bringing him off the bench is like playing with 10 men. He has two potential roles – midfielder and forward – and he's good at neither of them. While I'm sure he once did something well, somewhere for someone, he stopped doing any and all of it sometime in the middle of 2014. Ship 'im home, because I can't imagine there's a club in MLS that would take him.

The worst thing about today is this: Toronto hardly played a blinder. Giovinco had about a dozen moments (not remotely knocking those, either), Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou did good things with turnovers – and that's a good place to stop because, for me, TFC's man of the match was Collen Warner. Along with the rest of TFC, he spent the day cutting off, stuffing, and otherwise out-thinking, out-muscling and beating most Portland Timbers players to any given ball and in nearly every situation. If there’s a point of debate in here, it’s how the debit/credit equation washes out between Toronto and Portland – e.g. did Toronto stop the Timbers or did the Timbers stop themselves? The above should tell anyone reading this how I see the math (e.g. Portland just...failed), but maybe Toronto deserves a little more from this.

Whatever. Portland is just not good right now. As with any marriage, this is where the whole "#RCTID" starts to mean something real. It's putting up with the bad times – as in, the times we're living this sad, shitty 2015. This is where we earn it. Long and forgiving as the regular season is, I’m not sure I see the current club turning it around even in that expansive time frame.

Oh, and Diego Valeri rolled his ankle. I think that's the soccer equivalent of catching your spouse in bed. And finding out she's bisexual. And a swinger. It doesn't mean you need to leave so much as there’s shitload of acceptance ahead.

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