Friday, December 16, 2016

The Late (Late) Tackle 12 16 2016: Portland Timbers Trade Crap, FC Dallas Keeping Busy, and January Camp

I’ll be waiting, my lov…OH MY GOD, WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY FOOT!?
I’m half following a couple Portland Timbers-related things on twitter, something about Jeff Attinella (which sounds like it’s got a little traction), plus something about centerbacks at or around 30 years of age.

I like Attinella. Have seen him stand on his head in a couple games. Competition is good, so it’s good to see someone come in to push Jake Gleeson, especially when you feel good about both competitors. And they are vying for your love…

…I’m in the lounge, gentlemen, on the fainting couch. Don’t make me wait too long…

Starting elsewhere in Timbers world, however (wait, no, you just started with…never mind).

A Future Without Taylors
Because I don’t think there’s a dissenting opinion on this, I’ll just note Steven Taylor’s departure from the Portland Timbers. Here’s to wishing him the best, and a future in a league where attacking players are slower in body and thought…

…to hit this from another angle, though (and, please, tell me I haven’t already), as much as this Taylor particularly worried me, I am a little anxious about the magnitude of the turnover in the Timbers’ defense, and the roster as a whole, at time of writing. I know there’s always an argument for just ripping off the damn band aid, and lord knows the Timbers need to get younger (and faster) back there. Still…The Kick Off ran a piece from a site that covers the Philadelphia Union. The article talks about how the Union needs to manage a transition in their defensive set-up (for they did struggle), and while the particular dynamics aren’t anything like identical to Portland’s, I like the guy’s thought process.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 15 2016: The Saddest Draft of All, Player Moves, and Onalfo's Chances

Today, we all wear white dresses and sad faces.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all been bludgeoned with videos of “the save” (i.e., the only interesting moment in MLS Cup 2016), but the little wrinkle of playing broadcaster reactions over it charmed me just enough. For me, Panama (that rolling “r’) and Poland (“superman”) win it.

Moving on…

MLS Waiver Draft, aka, Sad Junior High Dance
I held off on posting this till after MLS held the Waiver Draft today, the mildly depressing annual tradition of professional athletes waiting for a team, any team, to pick them for a potentially (but probably not) life-changing slow-jam dance. SBI Soccer posted some players who might help out a team – and, going over the full list, I picked out a couple names of my own (and with the Portland Timbers at least in the back of my mind – e.g., Stiven Mendoza (NYCFC), Luke Boden (Orlando), and Phanuel Kavita (RSL) – but (what the hell? another metaphor), the Waiver Draft is the draft equivalent of closing time at a bar full of lonely, lonely people. Still, Portland needs cover at left back (Boden), wingers, even if just for depth (Mendoza), and we’re thin enough at centerback (Kavita); maybe tonight we don’t need to go home alone…just sayin’.

Still, the results are in and, ouch. Not one player picked. Nothing but a bunch of kids eyeing the dance floor and biting back tears…

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 14 2016: (Letting Someone Else) Wrap Up the MLS Expansion Draft, Player Moves, and an Apology

It's that time of year....
Working on tightening up these posts…because I wanna. So, quickly as I like…

Puzzling Out the Expansion Draft…
…is something I’ll leave for someone else, specifically Matt “Armpit Analyst” Doyle. The confusing stuff mostly surrounds the Clint Irwin/Mark Bloom situation, but, when it comes to MLS’s roster rules and accounting mechanisms, my shorthand for the whole is, “shit’s fucked up.” Doubt I’ll never do more than dip my toe into that tiny pond of minutiae; eyes glazed over while reading Doyle’s analysis. I did read long enough to see that Doyle shared my confusion that neither team picked up Jared Watts.

Happy for that Bloom kid, though. Players packed up for locales other than Atlanta and Minnesota United FC’s, of course. Some interesting stuff out there.

From the Swampy South to the Great White North
The Houston Dynamo sent right back Sheanon Williams to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and that feels like a smart move for the ‘Caps. If memory serves, savvy ‘Caps fans griped that their team let go of too many crucial players going into 2016, Steven Beitashour among them (no fullback, big cry?). Williams reads to me like one of those players who bounces around a bit, but who also always seems able to find work, if not the field. Probably leaves Fraser Aird wondering what’s around the corner for his career (exciting new opportunities? a demotion, but also a really great seat for watching ‘Caps games? so many potentialities!).

An Aging Star Arrives
Raise your hand if you figured Jermaine Jones to the Los Angeles was more or less a done deal the second they let word of the conversation slip. Whatever you thought, it happened. Because I doubted Jones when he moved to the Colorado Rapids, I’ll hold my tongue on this one…except to acknowledge that, in real terms, the Rapids did what they did this season without Jones. Going the other way, he was also the best player on the field in the second leg of the Western Conference Final. Put those thoughts together and it feels like the smart money goes on Jones doing Jermaine Jones things in LA, but how often?

On Sprucing Up the Place
Stray reports note interest in returning/coming to MLS from a couple of U.S. Men’s National Team “bubble boys” – e.g. Tim Ream and Greg Garza (respectively; did Garza ever play in MLS? Eh, better question is whether it was long enough to matter). Their personal motives notwithstanding, and even as moves like this can be interpreted a couple ways, player returns like this feel less like coming home with tail tucked between legs these days than a credible career step.

If you disagree, well, I guess I’ll have to fight you.

He Who Does Not Have Permission to Move
In Portland Timbers news, one site (just bookmarked!) reported that the Timbers message to Glasgow Rangers, and any other team that comes inquiring, to keep their filthy grasping hands off star striker Fanendo Adi. I view this as a good thing. Unless Adi’s quietly pissy about the whole thing. Anyone out there know him well enough to receive his confidences? No? Any psychics? Masters of Tarot? Messy tea drinkers?

Finally, to the Hundreds ofThousands of New Fans, Who Turned into MLS Cup 2016:

Sorry about that. MLS Soccer totally isn’t always like that. Can I forward you video from the Toronto / Montreal series?

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Late (Late) Tackle, 12 12 2016: The Expansion Draft, Data on Cup v. Shield, and an Accidental MLS 2016 Review

At least one metaphor for what MLS needs right now.
A couple items tonight, one actual contemporary commentary, the other clean up from yesterday. In order of urgency…which depends on how one defines urgency, I guess.

The Expansion Draft, and the Portland Timbers, and the Expansion Draft
As has already been discussed on twitter today, and at some length and in some depth, all of Major League Soccer clubs made their (not really) Sophie’s Choice as to which players on their rosters to protect, and which to offer up to…the Germans? (Pretty sure it’s the Germans in Sophie's Choice, but not sure on the iteration of Germans – e.g. the thwarted imperialists, or the actual dickheads (e.g. Nazis)).

At any rate, Portland cast the following to the Huns (jingo!): Dairon “On Loan” Asprilla, Jack “Not Nick” Barmby, Nat “Retired?” Borchers, Kennedy “JK!” Igboananike, Chris “Who?” Klute, Jack “What The Hell?” McInerney, Jermaine “Conifers & Citrus Player of the Year” Taylor, Steven “Please Go” Taylor, Zarek…wow, there are, like, a lot of dudes listed here. OK, the rest are Zarek “Don’t Care” Valentin, Ben “Still here?” Zemanski, Nick “Forgotte…look, never mind. I’m getting closer to “full asshole” with each nickname, so I’ll shut that off before feelings get hurt (and folks start making assumptions). The point is, the Timbers didn’t expose a lot in the way of “key” personnel. Also, that’s not necessarily a comment on the quality of the players exposed. Some of those shitty nicknames notwithstanding, on the other hand...

In all honesty, last season was bad enough that I’d like to think even the “safe players” (bar, seriously, three) experienced a little heart flutter when the list went out. Gentlemen…

As for the Expansion Draft as a whole, I guess the only thing left to ask is which players I would take if I were either Atlanta or Minneapolis FC United (gotta say, the unoriginality/overlap in those team names has its upside). And, here’s that, followed by a brief explanation for each choice.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

MLS Cup Review: Darkness and Light

Just google "shitty trophy." This masterpiece shows up surprisingly early.

[Yes, Jesus, the title is tongue and cheek.]

Today, I sat through the MLS Live’s condensed replay of MLS Cup 2016…and, for the record, my minimum charge for re-watching that one-night revival of soccer-as-rugby in full starts at $50. The face-off between MLS Cup debutantes, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, featured two teams desperate not to fuck up and, as such, it heavily favored labor over artistry. (NOTE to author: Overwritten narrative? One that you will never pick up again?) If teams won games by getting in each other’s way, this would have been a final for the ages. In soccer, though, teams win games by scoring goals - whenever and however they score them – and Seattle dragged the game to penalty kicks, where they scored five goals to Toronto’s four. That’s more goals.

And that’s also how Stefan Frei’s bear-paw save became the game’s biggest talking point…

I took the time to read other people’s articles this morning (busy as hell this afternoon; goddamn Christmas), and most sing the same notes – e.g. Seattle never managed a shot on goal, Frei’s save, and the broad argument that there’s not a lot to say beyond that. The “advanced course” of articles offer details that make sense only to those more finely-tuned to some sub-plots – e.g., that this was a particularly shitty final to present to a broadcast TV audience after years out of the spotlight; that Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso would juice the holy shit out of his knee before missing this one; and that, of course, Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio would get emotional after the loss.

After reliving the final (in condensed fashion), I’ll only say I found a couple strings to pull out a little further. One thing that didn’t show in the mini-game is something only one article (by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl) flagged. For me, this was one thought I kept coming back to, especially on Toronto’s side of the ball

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 09 2016: All MLS Cup Preview, and Nothing But

Sweet Jesus. That is Chatty Cathy and she is terrifying!
So, the 2016 Major League Soccer season reaches its long-delayed climax (srsly, entire month of November was pure whiskey-dick) tomorrow afternoon when the Seattle Sounders visit Toronto FC to vie for MLS Cup. My plans for the day include pulling on some loose fitting clothing and burying myself in blankets on a couch and challenging my body to stay awake despite all the depressants I no doubt will dump into my system in order to cope with what has potential to be, the final insult of 2016. By that I mean Seattle might win the damn game, which would be awful, while also putting an end to my dream of buying a Sounders jersey (nah, I’ll steal one; no money for them) just so I can put [___] over the crest – e.g. where the star goes after your team wins.

It’s not like it’s hard to find write-ups and predictions for tomorrow’s game – the official preview post on has about 20 of the things – because it’s the event of the annual soccer calendar. I’d still like to offer up some final thoughts, for am I a Chatty Cathy Doll, one that talks even without someone pulling the string. Hope I can touch on something novel.

I touched on this thought a couple times over the past week, but when it comes to framing the Cup, I think it’s important to understand it as something other than just the next game for either Seattle or Toronto. “Form” matters, of course, but, in a rough and real way, Seattle is a different team from the Montreal Impact (for Toronto) and Toronto is a different team than the Colorado Rapids (for Seattle). And it goes even deeper than that. Basically, Toronto confronts Seattle with entirely new problems to solve and situations to exploit and vice versa. Here, an honest man acknowledges that there’s not much hard data to work with here, because the teams met only once in 2016 (and under pretty different circumstances). With that, let’s start with what we do know…says, the guy who just gave “form” the side-eye not 100 words before. And, in another nice touch irony/self-flagellation, wherever did I leave that “how they got here” post that I gently mocked yesterday? Ah, there it is. So, fuck me from two days ago, that’s worth reading. Now, let’s take a step further back…

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 08 2016: Still More MLS Cup Crap, Players Moving, Players Departing, and an Understudy Rising?

Looks like he's been crying. Or he's just drunk.
You know the drill: MLS Cup dominates, while the 18 (or 20) other Major League Soccer teams quietly start figuring out how they’ll knock the eventual champion off its pedestal. Circle of life, etc.

More MLS Cup Crap
For all that it might not come through, I’m actually pretty excited about this year’s MLS Cup. I’ve got a clear, strong voter interest (which, my luck, spells a Seattle Sounders win, goddammit). Whatever happened with them all season long (e.g. Seattle sucking for 2/3 of it), both teams hit the final playing well and, on top of that, each team’s stars are shining. That goes for the attacking players as much as anybody, which could explain why’s predictions post sees goals, goals, goals in MLS fans’ future (to be fair, one prediction only gets to “goal, goal” and, also of interest, gives both to Seattle). A related article, this one a compare/contrast between Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris, sticks with a similar focus.

I’ll put up more thorough personal theories tomorrow (good lord willing), but part of me wonders how much faith in high scoring grows from a form of recency bias. Some articles talk about loosely about how either team attacks (great!) and defends, but without much discussion/acknowledgement of particular circumstances. For instance, how much of the “vulnerability” in Toronto FC’s defense grew from the Montreal Impact series alone? Isn’t it just as important, if not more important, to note that they shut out New York City FC in their first round series, while also allowing 19 fewer goals through the length of the regular season, as was noted in a write-up on Drew Moor’s move to/upgrading of Toronto’s “rugged” defense. (Alternately, is it rugged and vulnerable, y’know, like how Daniel Craig played James Bond in the last Bond flick?) The point could be right or wrong, but the basic assumption tracks a logic similar to writing up a “what happened to Lodeiro” piece based on Seattle’s series against the Colorado Rapids (related: Have you watched that tape, Toronto? Can you watch that? Please?).

Or, to crawl out of the other side of the rabbit hole, maybe Nick Hagglund will give away a cheap goal, as noted in a “young players to watch” post I read (Hagglund made the cut and, in fairness, he is genuinely of interest). By the same token, maybe he scores a goal and gets an assist, too. (Or maybe Montreal didn’t game-plan Hagglund fer shit?)

At any rate, yeah, looking forward to MLS Cup Saturday. Now, looking elsewhere…

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 07 2016: More MLS Cup Crap, Portland and Expansion, Plus Expansion (and Sad Mix)

No, please. Throw away my shit for me.
For anyone who cares about such things, I’m trying to choose how many items to cover in these daily things. I’m hung up between three topics and five. Split the difference today. But one of ‘em feels weak. Shit. Anyway…

More MLS Cup Crap
The work of hyping a cup final takes many shapes and runs from good to bad (not to pick on that last one but it's only of interest to someone who hasn’t paid attention at all for the last month). As for the good stuff, I bumped into a couple today: one a tactical preview (but with a shitty title, at least on mobile: “Jordan Morris Poses Problems for TFC,” which really sells it short), which dives decently deep into things (personally, I found the Armando Cooper stuff enlightening); the other, which also didn’t promise much by title, looks at how the MLS contestants, (again) Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, built their rosters. It’s more of a how-to than it looks, especially the stuff about both club’s academies. If I had to give a long-term edge of any kind between the two teams, it’d go to Toronto. Take away Jordan Morris (please!), and I’d rate Toronto’s pool higher.

On a note that relates only because these two teams are in the Cup, I read somewhere that Nick Hagglund has “become a force” on set-pieces. I’m hung up on “maybe” for now, because I don’t think TFC can count on the absolute shit marking that Montreal put on Hagglund in the first leg.

One more on MLS Cup, and those participating in it. It’s cool to see TFC’s Jozy Altidore pick up a littlehype, because he’s playing out of his goddamn mind right now. I’m thinking back, specifically, to a back-heel that he used to set up one of Toronto’s goals against Montreal. Next-level shit, kid. and from a guy I still call the smartest man in MLS.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 06 2016: Picking at MLS Cup News, (A) Goalkeeper Theory, and Johnny Foreigner

I object! Not Seattle!
MLS Cup will dominate the headlines through Sunday I figure (for they will still speak of it the day after, even if it sucks), but it’s also that time of year when the post-mortems start to roll in. posted a sort of weird early edition, something they called a “tactical review” of each MLS club. I’ve read better, but I’ve also read worse; call it “of interest.” Almost started my own reviews last night (true story), but. 1) I’m still processing, and 2) not everyone’s done and that felt like driving away from a wedding just because all involved didn’t respect your objection to the proceedings. (Also, I’ll need something to do over the off-season.)

Getting back to MLS Cup, I’m short on things to say about Saturday’s match-up for some reason. That Toronto FC v. Seattle Sounders sure looks like a solid match-up only makes that a little weirder. Maybe it’s simple as the notion that, regardless what’s said going in, those two teams will meet on Saturday and something will happen. No one knows what, either, which I suppose is the hallmark of a good final. Dunno, still working on it, I guess. Maybe inspiration hits tomorrow.

Others are trying, of course, but most of what I’ve read so far interests me only tangentially. For instance, a write-up on Seattle’s Stefan Frei got me thinking about how to best evaluate a ‘keeper. When Frei went to Seattle, I remember telling a couple Sounders-loving friends that they landed a good ‘keeper. Frei got shelled when he played for TFC, but that only made the argument for looking past something basic the number of goals Frei “allowed,” because, when it comes to letting in goals, ‘keepers typically have “helpers.” Frei typically came off looking like the best part of a bad system, and that was enough to recommend him. Timbers fans should have a comfortable grasp on after 2016…not that Gleeson didn’t let a couple slip (see, Vancouver).

One other take, one that has less to do about either team in MLS Cup, but about the league as a whole, came from Matt Doyle, The Armchair Analyst. He (or someone else) crunched the numbers on the balance between foreign and domestic players in MLS. The headline contends that Toronto leaned more heavily than most into their domestic pool, a perfectly respectable choice, but the more interesting details point to league-wide trends. One point of interest is that the decline in domestic v. foreign players isn’t linear (e.g. it ticks down one year, then bounces back up), but it’s also worth noting the rate of decline. On the one hand, it’s slower than I expected (e.g. from just over 60% domestic in 2010 to about (never mind, precisely) 53.66% last year), but the more interesting wrinkle comes from elsewhere – specifically, the 2016 MLS Best XI, as chosen by the lackeys in the Bureau of Information (aka, (And maybe others. Didn’t check.) Regardless, the extent to which that Starting XI is ‘Murican should catch the eye, because that says something else about the international/domestic balance, and where teams seem to look when they need next-level guys. Back to the original piece, it’s worth checking your own team to see where they fit into that whole scheme.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Timbers Update: Begging for Scraps (and Dreaming of LA)

Argentina...Argentina...shit, did I leave the map behind?
Starved for Portland Timbers news? Well, don’t count on the hunger pangs going away any time soon (also, how long did you think “hunger pangs” was actually “hunger pains”?). The best post I’ve read since the Timbers’ season died an untimely death came with just awesome speculation that Instagram photos of Alvas Powell’s apartment, shots that showed boxes and bare walls, indicated that the Timbers’ right back du jour could be moving on

I’m not even sort of being sarcastic, either. That’s semi-investigative journalism at least. And Instagram-stalking at worst. And who doesn’t do that? (Me. Can’t really sort out Instagram.)

Going the other way, barring something absolutely monstrous – and, here, imagination fails me (but, all the same, inviting a challenge from @GusRachels) – I couldn’t care less about what the Timbers wear when they take the field (still, guys? Too green. Can we slip some rainbows into that shit, or something?). The new stuff looks fine, based on the “glimpse” we’ve all been given (marketing, guys, that’s just knowing who you’re talkin’ to), but the Timbers could be clowns dressed in business casual and I’d still be fine with everything so long as they win enough games and in more style than the way they’re dressed…

…that’s a good rule for going forward, actually: the Timbers should always play above the quality/aesthetics of their kits, because, yes, broadly speaking, the team does good kits (shut up). If anyone has access to the team bylaws, kindly slip that in. Might have a salutary effect.

The point is, all the news is speculative just now and that’s…just how it is. There’s still MLS Cup to play (next Saturday) and that’s a helluva shadow. The Timbers announced their preseason training camp and schedule, plus where they’ll play their earliest preseason games, and that’s a kind of real news.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 01 2016 - MLS Cup Finalists Finalized (Plus Everyone Else's Crappy Consolation Prize)

Like that, only with a couple consolation goals...
MLS Cup: Conference Champions...Revealed!
I never heard what Greg Vanney had to say just after halftime.

The 20-minute mini-game cut off the highlights right as Vanney, Toronto FC’s coach, was about to reveal his secrets – e.g. maybe that they’d channeled demons into Jozy Altidore (for he did play possessed), or that someone finally explained to Nick Hagglund, at long last, that he enjoys the freedom to score goals, as well as keep them out (or maybe that he was much bigger and faster than the Montreal Impact’s Marco Donadel). Vanney’s words could have explained everything, or nothing. What was clear from the start, though, was that Toronto hit the field turned up to 11 (shit, used a cliché). Nothing made that apparent quite like Michael Bradley’s slashing/manically-determined run into Montreal’s penalty area inside the first minute. (NOTE: Due to where and when I post, I only have the capacity to link to the match highlights; sorry for the inconvenience!)

Toronto simply never let up; if they ran over the Impact, they did it slowly. Or, rather than ran them over during the game, then backed over them in extra time. Count me among those shocked by Montreal’s set-piece defending (assuming such population exists). Hagglund got crazy-free twice (at least) and those lapses led to a panic/assist on (was it?) Toronto’s first, cleaned up by Armando Cooper (if memory serves), and the goal that forced extra time. At least Montreal had an excuse when it came to Hagglund – no one saw him coming – but, because they were warned about Altidore (see?), one has to ask just what the goofy fuck Montreal was thinking by letting Altidore run completely unmarked right before half; that was one hell of a tricky goal, but Jozy was good for it (again, possibly due to possession; there was no other word for how he approached the game all day, other than “surging”).

Montreal didn’t so much lie down, as protect its vitals for as long as it could while slipping in a couple pokes with a shiv. Dominic Oduro – who quietly put in a very credible year, as well as a rock-solid playoff run, which breaks his famous every-other-year pattern (congrats, kid!) – set himself up for the goal that could have won the series (against anything but a freight train) with the kind of touch he pulls off once every cycle of the moon. Piatti stuck in another one when he wrestled Montreal’s second goal over the goal-line. It was a brave performance, but Toronto was in what some folks call “a mood.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Late Tackle, 11 30 2016, Bargains, Roster Construction Theory and Unicorns

Shit. Where’s the other goddamn shoe??
Trying to time the Late Tackle a little better (earlier), maybe not take the player (me) out of the game when I go in...

Of Bargains and Busts
On Monday (yeah, laggin’), Four Four Two put up a list of Major League Soccer’s Top 15 (mostly young) bargain players. It’s a respectable list, but the players come in a couple ways, as I see it. Some fit the bill on just about every level (e.g., DC’s Steve Birnbaum, Dallas’ Matt “Not Chris” Hedges, NYCFC’s Tommy MacNamara, and Orlando’s Cyle Larin), while others come in because, at their price point (e.g., low), they don’t need to produce raw stats, so long as they can tilt a game a little (e.g., Colorado’s Dominique Badji, for under $60K). Another group features regular starters and decent players who play positions, like fullback or defensive midfielder, that pose mildly depressing questions of how much they’ll ever be able to pull down; their teams get a good player at a good price (see, New England’s Scott Caldwell or San Jose’s Fatai Alashe), but one has to wonder how much higher each player’s salary can go at any point in their careers.

One little thought to float: a good attacking fullback should be worth more than what most teams are paying (think low $100,000s are the ceiling). At any rate…

The one player on the list who really caught my eye was Columbus’ Wil Trapp. And a whole lot of questions roll into that, starting with one I haven’t been able to shake for a couple days. What are the odds that Trapp falls into the same sort of professional slough as Colorado’s Dillon Powers; in other words, will fans see Trapp fielded as something close to a stop-gap in the not-to-distant future, as Powers was in last Sunday’s Western Conference final? As much as I like some things about Trapp’s game – e.g. quality long-range passing – he strikes me as one of those players who drive me crazy – i.e., one who needs a support system in order to function. Trapp’s qualities are real, but he’s not a great tackler (and I think that mattered for Columbus this year), and that obliges Crew SC to stick another player alongside him or risk getting overrun. With that in the equation, how can that $178,250 price tag not look a little more dear?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Late Tackle, 11 29 2016: Riding the Coaching Carousel

All carousel horses should like exactly like this...
Outside a couple fairly specific places, this wasn’t a big day in the domestic soccer world. From my tiny corner of it, it feels like most people are waiting for Toronto and Montreal to kick off – and, there, the most interesting thing I read today posed the pertinent question of which of those two teams would give fans and neutrals the best game (no spoilers…).

Coaching Carousel (Note the One With a Shot at Grabbing the Brass Ring)
Peter Vermes signed a contract extension with Sporting Kansas City, something that would have pissed me off were I an SKC fan (related: I’d really like to poll that fan-base, ‘cause I don’t like Vermes at all; maybe they do, though). Elsewhere, Minnesota…hold on, I wanna get this right…there it is, Minnesota United FC hired former Orlando City SC head coach Adrian Heath to guide them into their first season. The most this one gets out of me is a shrug; I had a hell of a time caring about Orlando over the last couple seasons, but, when I did check in on them, Orlando looked like a team with a rock-star set-up (e.g. Kaka & The Other Soccer Players) and issues with in-game discipline. Heath seems middling, basically, pending further evidence…

…though let the record show that I’d like to see Minnesota do all right in MLS.

The situation in Los Angeles, on the other hand (see note), positively teems with possibilities good, bad and franchise-busting. Only now do I realize that I tracked Bruce Arena’s re-ascension to the U.S, Men’s National Team without ever really finishing the thought. Arena leaving must feel at least a little like a “dad has a second family, and they are better” moment for Galaxy fans – and with good reason. It’s not so much that there aren’t a lot of coaches like Arena in U.S. circles: it’s fair to ask if there are any. With Robbie Keane departing, the next year in LA has a very real “without-a-net” quality to it. Soccer By Ives’ write-up flagged a couple worthwhile talking points as well – e.g., the preference/philosophical discussion for a domestic coach, rather than a foreign one; an intriguing list of names for building blocks (e.g. Giovani dos Santos, Jelle Van Damme, Gyasi Zardes and…wait for it, Sebastian Lletget). At any rate, that whole transition ought to be fun…and with reasons for falling in some truly fascinating places.

The Transfer Tracker (and Its Discontents)
Today, teased fans with a headline/photo combo that reads, “The Tracker: Four Clubs Announce Roster Moves.” This isn’t an issue of passing on bad information – it’s actually great to have all those details in one place – so much that it’s almost impossible to find those four particular moves amongst, well, all those details. Maybe just put the word “UPDATE,” or even just an asterisk in front of the new ones, yeah?

Again, Why I Started Doing This
A young American (of whom I knew nothing, and know only a little now) played for Italy’s Fiorentina this past weekend – and against AC (Freakin’) Milan. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Josh Perez.

And, finally, yo, where was The Kickoff this morning, MLS? I mean, I’m just a one-man shop and I’m posting crap…wait. Goddammit. I forgot something. Screw it. Tomorrow. I'll get it tomorrow...

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Late Tackle, 11 28 2016

Decent likeness of Seattle, there...
[Welcome to what I want to make into a regular feature. It looks like me posting stuff – because it is - but it also more or less me taking notes as I go, so’s I can stay current on all this shit. It’s just a round-up of the day’s MLS/U.S. Men’s news, curated for “worth” by me, and it’ll go up any day I get to it. And, yes, the title is a play on’s, The Kick Off. I’ll go for most of the content and, feels fair to point out, you can get to it there first…but without my notes. Your choice, no judgment.]

Satan Nears His Throne
I already lamented the Seattle Sounders punching their ticket to MLS Cup 2016, but thought I’d also pass on The Armchair Analyst’s more…careful review (and his doesn’t end with an argument for/celebration of the Supporters’ Shield, as mine does). Two items of interest in there: First, heading into the game I kept wondering when Colorado would press for the one goal they needed and, as Matt Doyle (said Armchair Analyst) noted, Colorado opted to press from the get-go; decide the wisdom of that however you wanna. Second, he breaks down Seattle’s lone goal in a way that I’d call both thorough and overly deterministic – i.e., the Rapids faced the pressure, but the sequence of bad breaks/decisions could have been broken at any time even as it unfolded. Even at the death, the whole thing could have been averted had Jared Watts played a smarter clearance (and what the inevitable have become evitable?).

He also flags Sam Cronin’s absence through red card accumulation and, like me, asks what might have been?

A Wily Veteran Moves On (But What Open Pastures Remain?)
My guess is that players of a certain stature can find a place to play up based on name recognition/the “gander-factor” (e.g. “Come see the freak, two bits a gander!”), at least up the point where a medical professional got involved. I don’t think Jermaine Jones has that, even within the States, but, with him talking about moving on from the Rapids, it’s worth wondering who takes him. Jones showed that he has at least 45 rock-star minutes left in his legs – he was a dominant force in the first half yesterday – and that was after recovering from injury and a U.S. call-up under a fitness psychopath like Jurgen Klinsmann. Still, to clarify the question a little: how would all y’all feel if the Portland Timbers picked him up?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

MLS: Seattle Clips Colorado (and Re-Ranking MLS Shields/Trophies)

Presently going for foreign language Emmy for this site.

I’m about to stomp on an enormous vat of sour grapes, but you, you are my guest. It would be rude to talk about anything other than what we came to talk about. Come. Come inside. Sit.

So, the Seattle Sounders did it, they beat the Colorado Rapids over two games and in two venues, 1-0 in Colorado today and 2-1 in Seattle last…whenever that happened. The score-line speaks the truth: the Sounders were the better team, even if just at this point in the season (wait for it). A list of reasons unfolds below, and it’s the same list that gets at why Seattle feels like a decent horse to back for lift MLS Cup on…December 10? (Jesus fucking christ, Major League Soccer, is this the playoffs or tantric sex? Can we…you know? I mean, is there some kind of award for dragging this shit out, an Emmy for delayed gratification?)

I’m going to start with Seattle, because flow (oh, I have plans, plans for all of you!). However you feel about it, Seattle is a well-constructed team. Finally. In defense, Roman Torres and Chad Marshall make for a solid, sufficiently dynamic, yet big central defensive pairing, and they have rock-solid starting fullbacks on both sides in Tyrone Mears (who is, quietly, one of MLS’s better right backs) and Joevin Jones (a fucking fast defender, and a smart one). Cristian Roldan and Osvaldo Alonso have set up a pretty sound shop in front of that back four, a shop that, as I saw it, first contained, then pushed back against Colorado’s central pairing, one hobbled today by the absence of its brain and body – e.g., Sam Cronin (could he have mattered today? Mm….look where Nelson Valdez was when he released the ball to Morris…link below).

The above list of players provides as a good foundation as any team could want in that it absorbs all the failures that the people in front of it make on their grasping way to goal; better still, it can also absorb and channel 50 minutes of pressure from another team into other, more useless gulleys, as it did in the first half today when Colorado posted 11 shots to Seattle’s one. Did any of those shots sincerely threaten the Sounders’ goal? Nope. One or two came close, but there’s a lot of good and bad rolled up into shooting through (or over) traffic, but most of it bad. Bodies in the way are, after all, bodies in the way.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Portland Timbers 2016: Patterns and Pratfalls (and Possibilties?)

No, think harder. What do you NEED?

I had plans to duck Darlington Nagbe entirely in this review (what do you mean, “you don’t believe me”?), but Stumptown Footy posted something last week about Scottish giants Celtic FC comin’ a’-courtin,’ and it sums up Nagbe’s game really well, so, y’know, what the hell?

“As fans in the Rose City know well, however, Nagbe provides much more than goals, assists, and tackles won. Although it’s a role that is typically far from glamorous, Nagbe is an elite shuttler who facilitates the Timbers’ transition and possession play in often spectacular fashion.”
To draw out a point: does what Nagbe bring to the team provide “much more than goals, assists, and tackles won?” And what the hell does “elite shuttler” even mean? The phrase implies that the Timbers transition better than all other teams in MLS, or even most of them, but do they? (By way of a quick comparison/name-drop, Ignacio Piatti starts and finishes his transitions.) Basically, I credit Stumptown for as tidy a summation of how Nagbe uses his considerable talents, but the actual productive value of that contribution remains an open question in my mind. And I hereby leave it open for anyone who reads this to answer…according to his or her judgment/conscience.

One final, preliminary comment: Timbers fans strike me as a fairly sentimental bunch. They connect to (most of) the players with genuine interest and a kind of familial fondness. I didn’t have a deep connection to any team for much of my soccer-viewing life, not a real one, and I have only one year in as an actual member of any supporters’ group and didn’t do anything meaningful with it when I did have it (nothing personal; I’m just not much of a joiner*), I’m not clear as to how normal this is among fans. (*That said, on this Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am genuinely thankful for having found a motley collection of people to watch games with. Yay!)

I don’t care if Timbers fans are unusually…clingy, honestly, but, when it comes to really cleaning a house, sentimentality often just sort of gets in the way. Sometimes one has to view grandma’s wish to be buried with her collection of cat statuettes for what it is: a little bit of madness. Those statuettes are worthless junk, so let’s bite the bullet and get rid of them…

…speaking of Lucas Melano. Guys, I’m kidding! Not that mean (am I?). Still, whether by fate or sub-par performance, he offers a good starting point for the story of Portland’s 2016 season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The MLS Conference Finals, Phase One Review

The only apt metaphor for the MLS Playoffs.
Between both Major League Soccer Conference finals, I missed at least 1/3 of the total action and exactly 3/7 of the goals. For details, see my twitter feed (@JeffBull5) where I bitched and bitched and bitched.

All the same, both final results – each of which featured away goals – set up intriguing second legs for both series. Sure, the Seattle Sounders could fuck it all up right away with an early goal, and Toronto could very well ruin every last thing by doing the same, but they might not. I won’t dwell too much on what I think will happen, not least because that’s bit me on the ass again and again throughout 2016. Think that clichéd saying about the weather and sticking around…

Montreal 3-2 Toronto FC
How Much I Missed: Came in around the 29th minute for this one.
The note above means that I only saw Montreal’s first two goals in replays, not real time. As such, I have no clear sense of context – and ESPN’s halftime notes didn’t give me context; they gave me detailed breakdowns of what went wrong, but not a sense of Montreal blitzing at Toronto again and again and again. Montreal did do that later, certainly during the time I watched, even that dried up eventually, if not totally. On Montreal’s first goal, I’d say nothing went wrong in any pure sense beyond Patrice Bernier making the absolute most of a split-second to pivot and provide an inch-perfect pass to Dominic Oduro (seriously, that was a helluva pass). The second goal, though, coming as it did only minutes later and featuring bad positioning from a fullback and a TFC defense that had clearly fallen asleep (otherwise, how does Matteo Mancosu beat two defenders to the ball?), put Toronto in a hole that they barely crawled out of.

Then Montreal scored a third, just a weird thing that saw Ambroise Oyongo dribble from the depths, then into scoring position, then to scoring. A big hole, in other words, and one that involved a lot of digging.

C&C Daily: On the MLS Conference Finals, Jurgen and Bruce

To think, it was there all along and we never saw it.
Interested parties can find a programming note down below, but I’ll just jump in…with regrets for

The Conference Finals
First, the Major League Soccer Conference Finals kick off in just over an hour (good time to post, dumbass), and it’s about damn time. I have only the briefest of notes on either match up.

Regarding Montreal Impact v. Toronto FC: I don’t think Montreal will be able to do to Toronto what they did to the Philadelphia Union and, in particular, the New York Red Bulls. The climax of the regular season laid bare both teams’ capacity for defensive lapses, which only left it to Montreal to expose them, with Ignacio Piatti tugging at the drawstrings. Toronto will/should be better balanced, and they’ve got Jozy Altidore (who has been good and is always large and strong) and Sebastian Giovinco pressing matters on the other end, but that’s why they play the games, right? To see how things pan out?

As for Seattle Sounders v. Colorado Rapids, I’m expecting the Rapids to bunker, especially over Leg 1. If Seattle can’t break ‘em down – and this could be without Jordan Morris available – the Sounders will just become another patsy for the trick that the Rapids have pulled all season long…

…and, like all good Portland Timbers fans, I’m hoping they do it, even as it will mean me struggling to stay interested in/awake over the fourth straight hour of soccer I watch tonight. It would have been that little bit cooler if Shkelzen Gashi wasn’t Shkelzen Gimpy, but the thing that happened to his ankle happened to his ankle, so…it’s all down to Sebastian Le Toux?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

MLS Conference Semifinals Wrap: On Joining the Chess Club

This would be better, more epic, but we live in the world in which we live.

Well, that happened. The games started, the games ended, stuff happened. The end. For four teams, anyway.

The better question is, was I entertained? Going in, Colorado Rapids v. Los Angeles Galaxy looked like the tallest order entertainment-wise – i.e., could LA muster enough attack on the road to make Colorado sweat, and can the Rapids even freakin’ score? – but, for people with an appreciation for watching chess played very, very slowly, and, at times, badly (see; the Marlon Hairston wing experiment*), it wasn’t torture or anything. Colorado answered their question and LA didn’t, so the Rapids roll on with a 1-1 home draw, finished off with penalty kicks.

As for the games involving both of Major League Soccer’s New York franchises, my kids still have questions about those that and, as a loving parent, I’m not sure I know how to answer…

…I kid. Both New York teams got rolled like white-collar drunks (would that the world worked the same way). Because I had daydreams of MLS’s first subway series, yeah, I’m a little pissed that neither New York team managed to get a toe-hold in either game. No, not even a pinky nail (and disgusting) The New York Red Bulls had the better chance, see, the kick; penalty, for Sacha Kljestan. But he shanked it, got tagged in his considerable proboscis for his efforts, and, after two Ignacio Piatti goals landed on either side of a goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips that was almost two games too long coming, the Montreal Impact handed the Red Bulls their second loss in a row, 2-1 this time and in New York. Montreal deserved the series, no question, especially after New York had some serious good times late in the season (e.g. the streak without a loss), the kind that, for all the cracks, fill people with belief that good will triumph over evil…

…yeah, not so much out there in Harrison.

The other New York game…hold on, are the kids gone? OK, it was bad. Early, often, late…it was watching your best friend vomit and pee on himself while he’s crying about his break up…

Monday, October 31, 2016

MLS Conference Semifinals: An Assessment at the Break

As much as I like the playoffs better (and with how much more I’d like with the Portland Timbers still in it now officially noted), they don’t provide much space for analysis. A bunch of things happen over each 90-minute stretch (plus stoppage time), generally/interchangeably the same kinds of things that happen over 90-minute stretches (plus stoppage time) throughout the regular season, but there’s not a hell of a lot to say about coughing up three goals in 20 minutes than, “well, guess they’ll have to score four goals next Sunday.”

That’s FC Dallas’ situation, of course, after having a team-wide episode of “The Vapors” against the Seattle Sounders to start the second half. Sure, you can explore what went wrong on each of the goals (rough night for Maynor Figueroa, but the central defense wasn’t central on Seattle’s first two), but even if Dallas can fix those glitches on the return leg, it’s likely to have the same effect as pouring a glass of water on the ashes of your house after it burned down. I’m not a Dallas fan, so I’m left imagining how slowly time passed for them as Nicolas Lodeiro’s long run outside their defense reached its inevitable, agonizing climax. Personally, I had enough time for a sip of beer on either side of thinking “he’s not gonna miss that.”

That’s a huge win for Seattle, obviously, and a huge hole for Dallas. The only question left is, can Dallas make up the scorched ground? Not based on what they gave last night. Seattle held the edge all night, for one, but the blunter reality came with how much trouble Dallas had going forward. To borrow a term from’s Matt Doyle, Dallas is missing their unicorn, Mauro Diaz. Things didn’t look great when Mauro Diaz went down or anything, but his absence didn’t kill them all on its own. Now, however, when they need to find a way forward and a minimum of three times, too? No better time for magical beasts.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Portland Timbers Get Too Damn Drunk Before the Party. Also, the Party (aka, The MLS Postseason Hurrah!)

GUYS! There are better uses for this!

I’m not going to dwell too much on the specifics of the Portland Timbers 4-(WHAT?!)-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, not least because it doesn’t matter just now. The only thought I really have is, the team needed this. The fan-base might have needed it even more. The Timbers community, as a whole, spent the second half of summer 2016 waiting on a turn-around in the team’s fortunes. Not pining for, but waiting for it – as in, expecting it, knowing it would come. I know this is how fans talk, but still, it didn’t come. Plainly.

Overwhelmed; supine; the sick, limping lamb laying down with an exceedingly hungry, possibly scientifically-bred wolf: quality of phrasing notwithstanding, they all work. No Portland Timber player really shined yesterday, the (arguably) second unquestionably decisive game of the season (the midweek hairball against Deportivo Saprissa being the only truly clear first), and when you can’t show up for games like that, well, things like missing the playoffs happen. Empty-handed seasons happen. If I had to name anyone, I’d go with Darren Mattocks and Jermaine Taylor, each role players for the team, and not stars, but each player’s game let him down in some way (long touches and the usual lack of…finesse, respectively). When the results continued souring down the stretch, the refrain from Timbers Brass spoke to what this team can do when their backs hit the wall, so I guess the question is, their backs are against the wall now, so…when’s that change kick in?

That’s the Timbers 2016 in a nutshell – i.e., the persistence of hope against all available evidence. I haven’t yet reviewed my work for this past season – that’s part of the research of The Big Post-Mortem – but I’ll pick through every (agonizing, misguided) thing I wrote this year soon enough. The dominant idea of the Timbers, though, bought into the Caleb Porter October Miracle, the idea that Ol’ Caleb gets ‘em up for the end of the season, every season. Except this year. That theory made some sense (I checked; see? see? see?), but it omitted a major reality from that myth’s defining year, 2015: Portland turned things around then because they could defend. The Timbers had at least one end of the field figured out in 2015, something that showed not just in their defensive stats, but also in road wins. (7-8-2?! Auggghhh! My heart!)

What changed between this year and last goes deeper than a change in personnel. Well, maybe. It might be closer to argue that the issues with personnel, and even inj…fuck it. Every time I try heading down that road, I get nothing. My point is, it shouldn’t have mattered as much as it did. Wait, no. Should it have mattered as much as it did? Based on Portland’s now complete 2016, and off the top of my head, post-mortem pending, I see three big tasks ahead for the Timbers:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Vancouver v. Portland: One Game and A Whole Lotta Marbles

When life gives you grapefruit, make grapefruitade.
In my brief (won’t lie) researches for this post, I noticed the’s injury page lists Diego Valeri as “OUT,” with an “undisclosed injury.” On reading that, I hit up twitter, where @KipKesgard helpfully informed me that Timbers Brass will decide Valeri’s fate/health on game day. Now, personally, I’m guessing that Brass’ll slip a little “happy, numb, numb” into Valeri’s veins, and pray his hamstring doesn’t explode during or after the match. After all, Sunday’s game, when the Portland Timbers will face the Vancouver Whitecaps in BC, will be that most exotic of creatures in Major League Soccer, a decisive game.

I think Valeri will make it, and it’s fairly important that he matters out there (so whatever drugs they use better include active ingredients that confer at least the belief in god-like strength and self-belief, e.g., whatever Tom Cruise is on). For the reasons why, I’m going to pass on @Shotboxer told me when I asked him for notes (because I didn't watch it) on the Timbers’ midweek draw-that-was-a-loss to Deportivo Saprissa (the bit I’m fixating on in bold):
“I think we played well enough given the circumstances. In the first half it felt like our passing was crisp and in form. I think part of that was Saprissa played like a team with a point lead on the road on a weird and wet pitch. It was fairly clear that we couldn’t break them down. Regardless petty good effort for a team with little depth and its two best players out.”
When you need to win, you need to score and Valeri sure seems like the guy most likely to make that happen (see: 13 goals, 7 assists; and, holy poop, how did Portland win 2015 with Valeri at those numbers?!). Aside from Fanendo Adi, not a lot of other Timbers have posted the kind of numbers to steel fans’ spines, but Adi will be busy bodying up against the ‘Caps Kendall Waston, one MLS’s bigger defenders, so, yeah, now would be a great time for Lucas Melano to come good on the investment. Or for Darlington Nagbe to channel his inner rage demons (think about all that time on the U.S. Men’s bench, darling, and let it make you powerful!) and post a hat-trick. Speaking of Waston. And Vancouver…

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

On Nagbe, and Rallying the Wounded

Klinsi v. Nagbe
A nice, very Will-Parchman-esque post went up yesterday asking whether the Portland Timbers Darlington Nagbe sabotaged his chances of playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team for so long as Jurgen Klinsmann may reign thereover by refusing an invite to the friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand. First, confession time: I totally missed this whole chain of events; honest, I thought Nagbe was not only in camp, but also on the roster; turns out he wasn’t and, factually, I still don’t care. Second, I think Nagbe made the right decision, because 1) bullshit friendlies; 2) he would have played chump minutes, assuming he played any minutes at all; 3) Nagbe’s club very much needed him more, trust me on this.

Parchman’s piece dwelt on the lose-lose nature of this dynamic – i.e., Nagbe screwed himself due to Klinsmann’s essentially vengeful (petty? let’s go with petty) nature, while Klinsmann hurt the National Team by losing a player of Nagbe’s…particular set of skills – but there was one phrase in the whole mess that, me being me, I zeroed in on:
“…it’s fair to say Klinsmann was still attempting to figure out where Nagbe fit in his ever-shifting tactical construct.”
Isn’t this universal, really? Or, to phrase this as an actual question, have the Timbers figured out where Nagbe fits, really?

In spite of playing one of his better attacking games of the season last weekend, this space has argued, and probably will always argue, that Nagbe isn’t a winger. There are multiple reasons for this (e.g. disposition, proclivity, where Nagbe makes the most difference, etc.), but, yes, I believe Nagbe’s best in the middle and I’m good sticking to that argument. Dissuade me if you wanna.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Portland Timbers Survive, Plus The 2016 Season's End Days

The Portland Timbers had just one job this past weekend: getting the result they needed. Well, two technically: the other involved prayer, meditation, counting the rosary, listening to a god-awful goddamn sermon, flagellation, fasting, e.g., the devotional act of each Timber’s choosing. The Timbers got that result (guys! it was my lucky shirt!), and in a weird one (two penalties in one game, nay, one half? Are the soccer gods making up for 2014 all at once?) with a1-0 win over the till-then Supporters'-Shield leading Colorado Rapids. The game could have ended 2-0 to Portland, 2-1 to Colorado, or even 1-1. It didn’t and good for all of us.

Resisting the urge to explain new formatting concepts…resisting…resisting…winning…let’s, uh, dig into the details of Portland’s win, shall we?

Yep, this is the one!
Nice win and all, even if about as inspiring as watching a basically average team pick up three late-season points. (Wow, literal and really close to home.) As for a big take-away, you can I was right, you can see I was wrong, you can say I don’t take MLS’s capacity for whimsy even sort of seriously enough; fuck it, I’m happy that I low-balled Portland’s chances pretty severely in this post (my only defense: severe is what I do). I’m not saying the Western Conference end-game is pretty. Think Bum Fights, only less desperate and disgusting (ugh, can't use this as an image). More on that later.

There are some grim take-aways. First, raise your hand if you think the Colorado Rapids got the better chances (in case the implication’s not clear, my hand is up). All in all, the Rapids look like a team that knows what it wants to do – or, more clearly, that defense knows what it’s about and that only leaves the offense needing to get lucky. And the defense buys them a lot of time. (Anyone else recognize that recipe for success? Something about 2015?)

That said, credit Portland’s defense (mostly; think what might have been if it was Marlon Hairston, or even Dominique Badji running onto that ball in the 5th minute instead of Caleb Calvert) for giving the Timbers enough time to find a little inspiration. The perky little wellspring who brought the required aggression when it was needed was Vytas Andriuskevicius (from Lithuania with love?). He bustled into the box twice and picked up a PK on each trip, but I do think the cosmos weighed its scales about right in the end. I don’t think Vytas was fouled on the first call, the one Fanendo Adi scored, but he was fouled on the second – e.g., the shot Adi missed. Twice (The second time certainly looked like the gods shitting all over hubris.) Vytas is growing on me. He could have big upside, provided Portland can provide cover for his forays ahead; maybe Porter can find a way to cheat with him the way Columbus Crew SC cheats with Harrison Afful (though hopefully, like, better, and without the defensive liability).

At any rate, that one goal got Portland there. As I tweeted at the end, at this time of year, it’s not what you do to earn the result, it’s just getting it. A couple other Timbers helped make that happen, or failing that, kept Colorado honest just long enough. I like Darlington Nagbe in the latter category; he looked 2015 in transition and he forced as many smart, controlled turnovers as anyone but Diego Chara (still the king), and a healthy number of them came in the attacking third; he also showed a rare interest in the attack, which was nice, even if the quality and/or advisability of the shot added up less and less as the game wore on (shut it, Bull, or the kid might stop shooting again). Diego Chara did stand a little taller for me, though, stacking up the slick little steals and the only person I’m pissed off about that soft (soft, soft) yellow is Silviu Petrescu. Chara will be missed…even if I didn’t catch that till after the game.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Portland Timbers and the Quest for Sick, Wounded Animals

That's close to the perfect visual for Portland's pursuit of the post-season.
Remember the days when Portland Timbers fans smothered their worries about an ever-flagging 2016 season under assurances that, under head coach Caleb Porter, the team always ends strong? When the results didn’t come, the received wisdom (elsewhere and here, too) shifted to the idea that Portland would at least make the playoffs – an idea that most people rightly treated with all the enthusiasm that comes with getting a “Participation Ribbon.”

Even that final, fatalistic consolatory assumption broke down, though it’s unclear as to when (each fan probably holds a personal breaking point in his/her wounded heart). And, so, here we are, facing the embarrassing possibility of a year without even a fucking participation ribbon – e.g. no playoffs. And the situation is bleak: for Portland to make the playoffs, Sporting Kansas City will have to fuck up, the Seattle Sounders will have to fuck up bad, and Real Salt Lake will have to fuck up real, real bad. And those are just the teams within reach: neither the Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas, nor the Colorado Rapids can fuck up badly enough to save Portland. No paths to glory, in other words, only narrow, overgrown trails to bare competence.

Anyone searching for a draught of something real nasty should take a swig of this: the San Jose Earthquakes could leapfrog the Timbers, even if neither of them make the playoffs (not seeing it, but still). That’s not the point of this project, however. Rather than bury the Timbers, my goal here is to find The Team Likeliest To (Fuck Up, that is). So, whose gonna fuck up?