So now that we've all had a couple days to stew on the bitterness that was Saturday's last few minutes, I think it's time for some optimism. I was in the front row of 108 for the loss, and left feeling almost catatonic. However, after rewatching the match a day later, I felt strangely okay with the whole thing. After thinking about it, I think it's because there were a whole mess of positives in that match, excepting the two heartbreaking goals against. So let's talk about the good parts! Feel free to join me in discussing what went right, and how we can continue improving as we move ahead.
1. Nagbe hero-turn
Is there anywhere else to start? Darlington was the Man of the Match for either side, and the best player on the pitch for long stretches. His first goal was wonderful; his second is an early front-runner for Goal of the Year in my book. Both were excellent individual efforts after some great Alexander set-ups (more on him later). His confidence should be high, with more goals in four games (and only three starts) than he had all last season. His speed, confidence on the ball, and incredible strikes are going to be huge for us this season, and in all honesty, were huge for us this weekend. His development is going to carry us at points this season, and as we fine-tune what our best XI is, he established himself as one of the few players who, barring injury, will unequivocally be on the pitch. Period.
2. Alexander's emergence
Alexander has been enigmatic this season, to say the least. Spencer's continued selection and the strong reviews in practice have been met with continued confusion from many (including myself) as he seems lost during many matches, passing when he should shoot and missing golden chances seemingly once a game. Saturday, he was all over the pitch, with several runs to the corner to beat RSL's outside backs and delivering at least one (if not two) assists to Nagbe. While his spot on the pitch is tricky with our strength at outside MF, he proved that he can be effective here in our system, and make us a more dangerous squad. It's worth mentioning that his best two games in a Timbers shirt have been against RSL (at least in my estimation), as last season's finale, he looked dangerous as well. If he can be as effective as he was for stretches last night, we are going to be all the better going forward.
3. Songo'o's second strong showing
Songo'o played the role of super-sub again, but I doubt that's a role he'll be playing much longer. He had two very strong chances on goal, one with his head when he slipped his marker, and a second with his foot from outside that wholly tested Rimando's reflexes. That's the second straight game with a huge blast right on target from Songo'o. He also had some Kalif-esque dangerous runs that resulted in free kicks or corners. Really liked what he brought to the pitch, and think he's rapidly showing his quality. We threaten all-the-more when he's on the pitch, and his skill is something to watch. However, it's more than just his service and skill; it's his willingness to shoot and shoot on frame. I think we need a lot more as it creates chances for rebounds, which Boyd and Nagbe both can pounce on. Watching the match again on Sunday, Boyd was calling for Chara, Perlaza, and others to shoot, even when they may not have the best chance to beat the keeper, as he charges the keeper to look for the rebound. We really could use Songo'o's ability to not "Kalif it" over the crossbar and put strong, hard shots on frame.
4. Our continued ability to come back
Lastly, this is huge. We may have gone down a goal in every match this season (a trend that is certainly worrying), but we have fought back in three of them, taking points in two. While this weekend wasn't one of them, we not only fought back, but fought back for the lead, and against (arguably) the best squad in MLS.
These points are just a few of the bright spots from Saturday's match. Seattle lost at home to SJ, and LA lost by two, at home, to NE, who we lost to by one on the road. Not so bad! So let's have a bit of "the good parts" chat, since there were good parts.