Sunday, August 28, 2016

Portland Timbers 4-2 Seattle Sounders: On the (Cleverly Disguised) Road Ahead

Wait...did they just score again?
I was lucky enough to get a late invite to today's game, and I couldn't be more thankful (thanks, anonymous person! You're the best!). I mean, how often does one get to live 45 minutes of happy incredulity, one of those moments where one can have a dozen coins in a row land on heads, and without being Professor Barnhouse?

It was a fascinating sequence, really: first, Vytas Andriuskevicius' goal eased the anxiety; Fanendo Adi's goal evidenced signs of the entire team's commitment, and, no less crucially, his; Lucas Melano scoring the third foretold either his personal redemption or the breaking of the sixth seal...wasn't entirely clear on that one; but, when Steven Taylor scored Portland's fourth goal and while standing on his feet, that's when a fog of sassified complacency sank onto the field to mingle with the afternoon heat.

To remind/inform, as the case may be, "sassified" comes from Clarence Carter's epic Strokin' (seriously, if you don't know this song, hit that link) and, as Urban Dictionary reminds us, it "[describes] the feeling following magnificent sexual gradification (sic)." (Guys, c'mon: it's "gratification". Does anyone even edit your copy?))

Things were going swell, I was smoking a cigarette, musing at the ceiling, etc., when a funny thing happened. That would be the Seattle Sounders scoring their second goal. Sure, there was one before that, but, in my state of bliss, that one only felt like Steven Taylor scored two goals on the day, one of them a helper for a brutally beleaguered opposition. When the Sounders scored that second goal, though, something changed. I haven't mentioned this yet, but I watched the game in the midst of Seattle’s fans. And, holy shit, does your body react when what you want to happen is the absolute opposite of what everyone around you wants to have happen. Put it this way, it borders on fight or flight, only without the irrationality.

The game ended 4-2 to the Portland Timbers in the end. After Jordan Morris nodded home from an unacceptably open space far too close to Portland's goal (and with Nicolas "Freakin'" Lodeiro  standing ready to play in the pass in the middle of a pasture with enough time to contemplate the meaning of his shot for each of the world's religions), the Timbers took a deep breath, re-centered, and like any good team (*****), they proceeded to play cool, possession soccer with an eye to bleeding the stamina out Seattle's legs.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Timbers Top SKC: Holding Together the If/Then Equations

Hold on...making my point when this cuts through a tomato cleanly.
Thoughts going in: big game for the Portland Timbers, and with a stubborn, and stubbornly ugly opponent between them and all three points.

What Happened
Until Diego Valeri slammed home his one-touch rising rocket past Alec Kann, this game had goal-less, go-home-frustrated afternoon written all over it. It looked all but certain, in fact, around the 30th and 35th minute: when the Timbers’ Diego Chara got sent off for a stupid piece of frustration stupidly early in the game (12th minute, Diego; how did you get that pissy in that little time?), that left Sporting KC 78 minutes to do the laboring lover thing – e.g. 78 minutes of fairly useless groping that impresses no one. And pleases no one.

The Hell of it was that Portland really needed those three points. With that thought merely in play, season-turning moments attached to Chara’s red card. As much as Portland looked like they could stop KC from scoring all day long that still left them needing to score against a defensively aggressive team and without an equal number of options for pushing the attack. Unless I’m not totally clear on Major League Soccer’s tie-breaking procedures and/or codicils, and those codicils’ various sub-codicils, the resulting (implied) draw would have left the Timbers even on points with the Vancouver Whitecaps, but still on the wrong side of the lush, red velvet rope that, in MLS, as with everywhere else in the world, separates member of polite society from the relatives that members of polite society never mention and who they would just as soon forget.

As it happened, KC’s Soni Mustivar went in dumb ‘n’ reckless against Valeri’s (I think) right leg, a moment that went from yellow to red – and correctly. The one thing I can’t figure out: was it just a few words and a stern look from Adi that made that happen? I swear Baldomero Toledo went from front pocket to back in the split second that Adi glowered at, what does Adi have on him? Regardless, I found both red cards perfectly justifiable. More to the point, karma/shit balanced out in the end, so...we’re good, right?

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Portland Timbers And Their Eternal Transition. And Sporting KC.

AAUGGH! Connor Hallisey!
[Each week I (try to) watch three full, 90-minute games. And I write ‘em up. Part 2 of 3, for Major League Soccer’s Week 21.]

Why This Game? Because I watch the Portland Timbers every time they play. Sporting Kansas City just sort of tagged along...

And the reports that feature the Timbers games will wind up giving somewhat short shrift to their opposition, but I will try to give those teams at least some of their due.

On the Result
Yeah, yeah, they almost just scored. I still think that watching Sporting KC attack is like watching a toddler paint.”
- Conifers & Citrus Official Twitter feed during the game

“what does that say about the Timbers then!?”
- ik3, some hours after the game.
Just about everything you read below weaves in, out and between of the above exchange. I honestly don’t think that much of SKC, a strappingly, stupidly stoned-on-athletics team that only hits the broad side of the barn because they run headlong and relentlessly into the people standing between them and the barn. They’re unsubtle, inaccurate and, to my mind, mostly containable...and yet, there but for the grace of Jake Gleeson, the Timbers barely contained them. Portland came very close to forcing a draw at the end – twice, too – but they owed that opportunity to Jake Gleeson, the man who parried a ten-minute shelling with everything up to and including an artless flail-slap. The game ended at 1-0 to Sporting, and it's har...rather, it's pointless to argue with that.

Even if they got an assist or two from Good Fortune – more on this in the section below on SKC –the Timbers didn’t cough up naked chances all day or anything, and the team played all right in a broad sense. I don’t mind the goal that won it: Amobi Okugo was in reasonably good position, Jacob Peterson just got the better read on the ball, and hence contact, hence goal. And Portland’s late chances were good; Jack McInerney’s attempt would have been the more satisfying finish (is that citrus?), while Fanendo Adi’s felt like the surer, if graceless, chance (no easy to find video; sad!). Lucas Melano’s brain-freeze returned, so the Timbers lost a couple promising chances, but, all in all, the team created chances and they defended all right...and I’m pleased that the Timbers held their ground against one of MLS’s more brutish teams. And there it is, an unremarkable and acceptable result in every sense except the missing points and timing. The Timbers have only eleven games left to get everything rolling on the right track (or 15 games if you view the Timbers’ upcoming CONCACAF Champions’ League games as chances at figuring their shit out as opposed to a program designed to fatigue your team’s players). That puts a pretty simple question in play: how close is Portland to getting everything rolling on the right track? I’ll get to it...first, let’s look at SKC.

NYCFC Pummels Colorado: A Time to Adjust Expectations?

Counts just the same...just not a good look...
[Each week I (try to) watch three full, 90-minute games. And I write ‘em up. Part 1 of 3, for Major League Soccer’s Week 21.]

Why This Game? I wanted New York City FC’s attack measured against the Colorado Rapids’ league-best defense because, per reports and rumors, NYCFC has a bad enough defense that they need the offense to matter. And, going the other way, could the Rapids rack up the goals against NYCFC’s allegedly “shaky D”?

On the Result
Did not see that coming. I knew NYCFC’s offense had the mirror-image rep to contrast with their defense, but to drag the Rapids’ defensive record back into the pack with a 5-1 win? The first two goals deserve more focus, and not just because they came before Michael Azira got absolutely, totally justifiably sent off (we’re talking a text-book-stupid second yellow), but because their manner. NYCFC pushed players into the attack in a way that meant getting the ball past the first guy only meant you had to deal with the second guy, like, right away. Think World War I, only with success. They kept piling on after Azira came off and, before long, the bottom of the field dropped off on the Rapids’ side...sorta like watching Inversion. (Is that the title of that Leonardo DiCaprio joint, the one that choked on its own exposition? Crap, no, it's title Inception. Still didn't like it; goddamn gimmicks).  The thing that really struck me is that I’ve seen Colorado work an outlet ball pretty reliably in the past – when they don’t play out of the back (where they usually do all right), they’ll bomb long balls to Kevin Doyle, or maybe Marlon Hairston. They couldn’t find either player Saturday, and they struggled mightily as a result. Also, I think I saw a lot of New York’s attack go through gap between Mikeil Williams and Jared Jeffrey…often enough to wonder what the hell happened to Bobby Burling (he was on the bench, so OK, answered that one….partially). I think the real point of curiosity came with what happens if Colorado falls behind – by more than two goals, especially.