The Portland Timbers made a lot of line-up changes, but the result stayed the same. Portland almost struck first but gave up the first goal, then a second in the first half. The second half proved just as disastrous as the team gave up after giving up the third three minutes into the second half.
There. I am done with the recap. I can't bear to continue writing about the rest of the game. I tried really hard to find positives in this game and had to talk it over with my older brother before finding 2 bright spots in this game. They were Mike Fucito hitting the post early in the game and Brent Richards getting some playing time. The rest of the game was a waste of time to watch.
After the jump I want to discuss prevalent three theories as to what has happened to this team.
As I perused the comments here and elsewhere on the interwebs, I saw a few themes concerning the Timbers and why they are the way they are. Essentially there are three:
- The firing of a player's manager has cut the heart out of the team, and they have quit
- There is a talent issue on this team, and it is time for new players
- The team has not been allowed to build chemistry
Usually it works the other way in sports, a team quits on the coach and then the higher ups fire the coach. The team then wins the next few games under the new/interim coach. However since Spencer was fired the Timbers veterans have seemed to have quit on the GM as if to say, "You should not have gotten rid of the coach we loved."
I don't really subscribe to that point of view, as the road woes were just as bad under Spencer as they have been under Gavin Wilkinson, but I do understand how one could make this argument.
Lack of Talent
I and others thought with the returning talent and a couple of upgrades this team had the talent to challenge for the playoffs. Of course, looking at where the team is right now and who keeps getting inserted into the line-up, it might be a lack of talent. When this team has come up against a more talented team their weaknesses are exposed over and over again.
Then again there are times the team plays so well like in games against Seattle and San Jose. Was that a talent issue or was it just a team doing everything right? Hard to answer when the performances at home and on the road are such polar opposites. I would say in some way there is a lack of talent -- or at the very least a lack of consistent play.
I sent out a stat the other day through twitter about how Portland has lined up 11 different back 4 line-ups. They have also never had the same starting line-up repeat in consecutive matches. Which means every single game someone different has been inserted into the lineup. Of course there have been a ton of injuries and suspensions which the Timbers have had to deal with, but how could 19 different starting line-ups allow for the team to build chemistry during game situations?
This got me thinking about if this was normal for other teams in the MLS, so I took a look at San Jose. Right away I noticed one huge difference: they have had two defenders play every single game, and they would have had Jon Busch play every game if he had not gotten hurt against LA. They also repeated a starting line-up at least once but have had multiple line-ups, just like the Timbers. So judging by San Jose my theory doesn't hold up to close scrutiny.
Instead of looking at starting line-ups let's look at the number of players given starts. Portland has had 22 different players get starts. Of those 22 only Sal Zizzo has had only one start. For San Jose 20 players have earned starts and of those 20 there have been two that have had only one start.
Of course, it might not be just one of the above theories; a combination of two or all three theories could be right. Either way this team needs our support at home more than ever. As Geoff said on twitter "despite all this crap. Rose City 'Till I Die"