Thursday, January 19, 2017

Late Tackle 01 19 2017: Questions for the Timbers, Chicago's Rebuild, and 10 Other Things (or Players) Who Excite Me

Dream big, Fire fans...could be your bandwagon...
In keeping with this site’s practice of starting local…

The Oregonian posted one of their damn slideshows (sorry, hate the things, because they feel more about the ads; yes, I’m aware of the state of the news industry) that framed the issues facing the Portland Timbers in the form of 11 questions, some more pointed than others. To quibble with the premise a little, I’d argue that, if you can come up with 11 questions – if you get that granular – you probably have 20+ questions. To hit that from the other side, with the way personnel overlaps and cross-pollinates, I think the Timbers have between three and five questions to answer in 2017.

I’ll come up with those later (tomorrow, maybe; or Monday), but, for now, the best question of The Oregonian's 11 was the last (paraphrasing): are the Timbers good enough to make the 2017 playoffs?

And they flagged the one major detail that slips my mind every time I think about the Portland Timbers: how large-scale erratic they’ve been. Or that’s just another way of admitting that the flukiness of the 2015 Run to Glory still somehow doesn’t sit right with me. At any rate, that whole “erratic” theme is something head coach Caleb Porter has to answer for.

Moving on to other pastures…

A Rebuild and a Brighter Future
Let the record show that I’m on the Chicago Fire bandwagon, even if they could very well be one sophomore slump (for defender Jonathan Campbell) or one misfiring winger (love ‘im and he finished 2016 strong, but Arturo Alvarez) from another year of frustration. So long as they set the bar at making just their second post-season in the last seven years, however, I believe that what Chicago did with its spine (e.g. Dax McCarty and Juninho), plus the continued coming together of the attacking rebuild started in 2016, PLUS holding onto David Accam, will prove to be enough.

The author of the article on that rebuild,’s Sam Stejskal slipped a statement toward the bottom that absolutely begs for a follow up:
“I’d be shocked if their current roster contends for one of the top four spots in the East…”
In my long, loose, predictive breakdown of the Timbers’ regular season, I put out a top four for the Western Conference, even as, today, after further review, I’m feeling less sure. At time of writing, though, my Western Conference top four included, FC Dallas, the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Colorado Rapids, and the Seattle Sounders.

Still feel good for the most part, but that’s more a negative assessment – i.e., at least half of those teams could very well fall out of that top four if one of several rebuilds (e.g. Sporting Kanas City, Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake) – and reviewing that “after further review” link (that’s the Armchair Analyst’s updated review of off-season comings ‘n’ goings; I’ll stop being coy) just unsettled that opinion a little more.

As for an Eastern Conference Top Four, I’m going with (and this is before rosters are completed; takes-backsies are totally allowed!): the New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and DC United. Wait…did I just list last year’s Eastern Conference semifinalists? If so, shit…slippin’…or just boring/safe. At any rate, can Chicago crack that quartet/ Wouldn’t surprise me. Still, please start kicking the ball around again, guys. Bored…

Conifers & Citrus New Signings/Situations Top 10
As I read the Armchair Analyst’s Off-Season Opus (again, see “after further review”), I noticed a little sharper thrill (entirely natural; my body is changing) when I read certain players’ names/arrangements over others. Based on those…urges, I compiled a Top 10 List of Players/Situations that feel like they’ve got the greatest potential for a satisfying finish. In the order that revealed itself as I cropped the list down from 18 items:

1) Roland Lamah, FC Dallas (replacement Fabian Castillo; think what this team could be)
2) Nemanja Nikolic, Chicago (intrigued by tales of his strike-rate, and what they mean for the Fire)
3) Abu Dunladi, Minnesota United FC (will his talent get swallowed by Minnesota’s limitations?)
4) Altanta United FC (just, Atlanta; MLS’s nouveau riche arriviste)
5) Albert Rusnak, RSL (the Utahans new brain; see notes on #3, though)
6) Latif Blessing, SKC (if he takes, can SKC take a higher spot in the West?)
7) Jonathan Mensah, Columbus Crew SC (can he be their Laurent Ciman, their Jelle Van Damme?)
8) Jay Simpson, Philadelphia Union (2nd coming of BWP? would that carry for Philly?
9) Jonathan Lewis, NYCFC (talented rookie; can he do for them what Jack Harrison did? More?)
10) Harry Shipp, Seattle (will Shipp even get the minutes to shine? Anyone willing to let him star?)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I skipped the Timbers (therefore, what kind of a Timbers blog is this, really?). I’m actually really, really intrigued on David Guzman and pray to all the gods that he pans out. Defensive midfield, while vital, just ain’t all that sexy…

As for Jeremy Ebobisse, I try not to hold my breath on rookies. Seems like a good way to die…


What Tim Howard Said
I didn’t read the original interview where U.S. Men’s goalkeeper, Tim Howard, questioned the commitment of some players in the pools of recent past, dual nationals in particular, just the attempt to temper the comment a little, if without backing out at all. Here’s the relevant sentence:
“Jermaine Jones has been a rock for our national team. He's been one of the heartbeats. Fabian Johnson has been brilliant for us. So, no, that wasn't aimed at any one person in particular."
“That” refers to the presence/lack of commitment. My one thought, yes, that was totally directed at very specific people. That’s not a gripe one makes with nobody in particular in mind.

For all that, no, I don’t mind the comment at all. And he’s right not to name names.

All for today. Check down my timeline for a fun little quiz about the Western Conference contenders (please).

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