Monday, August 7, 2017

Portland Timbers 3-1 Los Angeles Galaxy: Rich Kids Slumming

Looking for LA in their current home...
So, how much did your stomach sink when the Los Angeles Galaxy equalized within minutes (a minute?) of the Portland Timbers early goal in yesterday’s early morning game? Per the cliché, all’s well that ends well, but not even having enough time to tweet out a caveat fantor (not actual Latin) did leave me wondering today about the thickness of Portland’s glass jaw.

Fortunately, the Galaxy, who have been shit lately, continued to muck around their Personal Hell Sewer (TM). By game’s end, they could barely play out of their own half, never mind out of pressure. They got buried time and again in their left defensive corner; the Timbers’ pressure didn’t even need to be thorough to throw off LA; the mere sight of an opposite colored shirt saw LA give away the ball.

I set out, here, with an effort to not roll into one of those posts, one where I shit on the parade and then walk before it in unembarrassed nudity. No self-flagellation is in order because, bad as the trends have been for LA (0-6-1 in their last 7; e.g., bad), Portland had a couple bad habits to shake off as well – e.g., no wins at home since June (are you fucking kidding me?), and with a mental meltdown shit-show home loss to Real Salt Lake in that same wretched mix. Still, the Timbers did win today, cruising to a 3-1, and that’s what they needed and what we wanted, etc. But, guys, c’mon. Playing a train-wreck of a team at home? I mean, what’s the likeliest thing to happen? (Psst…LA loses. And suck it.)

History aside, though, this game will probably always be about VAR…whatever the fuck that stands for. (What? How many acronyms do you rattle off every day without knowing the root words?). As anyone who watched the game knows, the Galaxy had a Gyasi Zardes goal called back – and correctly – but I’ll be damned along with a school of the most wholesome nuns if I ever would have spotted that infringement in real time. Hell, it took many, many slow-mo replays for the commentating crew to catch the actual infringement (Zardes’ goal-hungry hands getting in front of his head (why, kid, why?) on the way to knocking the ball down to his feet to poke home.)

How obscure was the infraction? Again, Taylor Twellman and…the other guy (sorry, I don’t care enough to look this up) went on for a while about how thankful they were that the officiating crew caught Jack McInerney’s push in Liam Ridgewell’s back to invalidate the goal. One of them (look, the guy who’s not Twellman) went on to call it a good thing that Zardes got booked for a foul they had just attributed to McInerney. Why, hello, logic of the system!

I didn’t have the benefit of sound in the bar where I watched the game (FYI, Wilson’s in Hillsboro; wouldn’t recommend; weird layout, lotsa poker), but MLS, or the lackeys who do their bidding, pulled a subtle Pravda-esque slight-of-hand when creating the condensed game in that they didn’t show the “maybe foul” when Daniel Steres(?) tangled legs with Fanendo Adi in LA’s penalty area. THAT play didn’t get sent over for review, but the number of times ESPN replayed that incident in-broadcast tells me they had the same question I did: why was one play reviewed (e.g. LA’s dirty goal) but not the potential penalty nod?

I don’t care if VAR gets better. I just don’t. Perfect justice is, frankly, a stupid goal (because, not possible) and, when there’s no readily apparent criteria for what gets reviewed and what doesn’t, what’s the value of that tool? VAR is, and will remain, a solution in search of a problem. Human fallibility, no matter how aggravating, tends to reduce to a roughly steady and predictable norm. When a ref sucks too often, replace him/her (and, while you’re at it, maybe audition a few more hers). As much as I’m sure that VAR will improve over time, the whole thing still smacks of replacing one form of imperfection with another, just one with different bugs. VAR didn’t change the outcome tonight. Then again, neither did human refs all that often. So, yes, please continue the circle-jerk toward perfection. I’m sure we’ll get a beautiful baby out of this any day…OK, OK, that concludes the Luddite rant for this entire experiment.

Back to the game…

More than anything else, Diego Valeri continues to write his name into the local history ledger. How can that guy not be, say, the Timbers’ Clyde Drexler? (Wait. Wait. I know. That’s a dumb analogy.) LA’s defensive cocks ups on that play aside (and they did happen), the likelier ending to a shot from as far out as Valeri fired today flies well over the bar. For Valeri, though, that’s just the 12th goal of his season. If there’s a happy counter-narrative to my “Valeri Does Everything” thesis, it’s the numbers – e.g. he’s scored just 12 of Portland’s 42 goals for the season – a solid contribution, absolutely, but that says some of the other kids are special too. All the same, he’s the clear team MVP, he’s been unexpectedly healthy (fucking pound on the nearest piece of wood RIGHT NOW!) and, in the event Portland goes anywhere at all this year, he does strike me as an intriguing candidate for league-wide MVP.

Alvas Powell scored a sharp goal today, as well, this one a gift birthed between a great back-heel by Adi (father?) and stupid defensive cover by LA (mother? Or vice versa?), but good goal all the same. For what it’s worth, I think the additional buffer (e.g. two goals) helped steady Portland’s nerves. At any rate, call it a good win because the team absolutely needed it. Just caveat holius shitius teamus opposinius est tire fieri (roughly, “holy shit, the opposing team was shitty”). By that I mean, the last three games have been promising, but what came before that…less so.

Toronto FC on the road will be a big ask; that’s next. Hosting New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids back-to-back at Providence Park feels better, a nice opportunity puff a little wind into the collective sails. Basically, if the trends keep going the right way, I’ll feel better about things generally. And I guess that’s the bottom line for all this: the Timbers have had a very distinct pattern so far this season – and, yes, we all know this: good attack, dodgy defense. And, as 2015 taught us all, this can change anytime, and without formal notice. If the team gets on any kind of a good run, confidence breeds confidence, and then MLS Cup. Think it’s that linear…

At any rate, I did not design this universe. Men with lots of money and severely risk-averse contracts did. I just watch. And wait.

OK, that’s that. What I intend to do this week, and every week until this blog goes “poof,” if jot down a handful of relevant notes from when I watch the rest of the MLS condensed games. And, caveat lector (actual Latin), that’s the extent of what I intend to do every week on MLS, as a whole, going forward.

DC United 1-1 Toronto FC
- Victor Vasquez: among the best off-season signings?

- Nick DeLeon: a clear demonstration of a person who is good at soccer, only not to MLS’s level….which means MLS has a level…

- DC United v. Toronto FC had the stank of a deeply boring game, but the kind where TFC has to fret about the potential for the reverse of the trend the Timbers hope to ride: winning becomes endemic, but when does the same happen in a losing streak? (Also, LA might be able to answer that one.)

Philadelphia Union 3-1 FC Dallas
- GOTW, Ilsinho, right? He played a big part in Philly beating FC Dallas - and the way the Union's individual players play erratically spells the tale of their woe. That's one reason why just about no one would have called Philly beating Dallas in any venue heading into the season - or even as the season progressed? But, assumptions change…

- Haris Medunjanin is quite good as a deep-lying playmaker. Just sayin’. Again, probably. He's been steady.
- Related: they obviously don’t feel great about the last two games, but does FC Dallas still carry the same “team to beat” rep they brought into the season?

Minnesota United FC 0-4 Seattle Sounders
- Even if it seems premature, Clint Dempsey to Will Bruin should be a combination to watch – not least because Bruin makes good runs.

- So, to follow up on the thesis, why bother with VAR when you don’t review the bogus offside call against Abu Dunladi? Why does this craving for fairness only make sense in specific times/situations?

- Minnesota put a disproportionately large number of shots to the same spot (e.g., soft placement shots (‘loopers”) directed toward the far post). They need more ideas. Or just not that one.

- As much as I’m the tank for Sam Cronin, Clint Dempsey did, in fact, leave him looking foolish on Seattle’s 4th goal. Turns out that skillz gap can matter,  yeah? Also, Dempsey feeling good is bad.

- If anyone out there still knocks Bobby Shuttleworth, I guess I just don’t get why.

And…that’s when I nodded off. I only made it through three games, obviously (well, I went back and made that obvious), before running out of steam. I’ll continue updating this post with notes as I sit through the rest of the condensed games going forward. The notes won’t be more extensive than what’s above – even if I get a wild hair up my butt and watch a whole game.

Do hope they’ll be a little more coherent, tho. Work in progress. Always…

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