The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Well...I suppose the interpretation of Game #1 is dependent upon whether one is a 'glass half full' or glass half empty' sorta person. Keeping in mind, of course, that this was the first game of the season so there's not much point in reading too much into it.

However...overall, this game was very messy, both sides of the ball. Period. This certainly wasn't the game to take your visiting foreign soccer friend to, to give them an example of how soccer is alive and well here across the pond, or equator.

My overall impressions, first from a critical standpoint:

1) If this was supposed to be illustrative of coach Caleb's new 'system'...I think he and his assistants might wanna get back to the drawing board. Because, I am not sure exactly what sort of game this new version of the Timbers was supposed to be playing out there.

It wasn't a possession game, it wasn't a counter-attacking game; and nobody is gonna convince anyone it was a 'speed' game.

Yes, it looked a little different from last year. But passes arrived late, defensive marking was lax, a few cherry strike opportunities were missed very badly, and there were way too many times where the player with the ball was not being supported/given options for passing by his teammates; thus left to either make a poor pass or lose the ball to a tackle. What it was...was messy and hella unstructured, like watching a boxing match between two mediocre club fighters who were just slugging it out by heart alone.

Probably what we were witnessing was just a gameplan which went by the wayside very early ...due to a very sloppy gift goal knocking the T's off of their game. This happens in all pro sports, so isn't unusual. But loss of focus isn't a particularly good sign, either....

2) If the ostensible argument for jettisoning half of last year's roster was because those players either didn't fit the 'system', or were not talented enough to be playing on the squad....then the jury is very 'out' as to whether this crop of players fits the bill. Across the field, it would be hard to argue that there was any stand-out player which makes us say 'boy, I am sure glad HE is here instead of XX". Once again, this may be by virtue of the fact that MLS has a limited talent pool to begin with, and most players in that pool shuttling from one squad to another tend to be 'lateral moves' as opposed to 'vertical' ones.

I, for one, question whether this squad is, talent-wise, any better than 2012's. Now before you go saying "hey, all of this is because they have only been playing together as a team for a few weeks !", let me note that THIS was by design. The new regime made a conscious decision to put a team out there that doesn't know each other yet. It may prove wise, or may not.

Now, the good:

1) The Timber who absolutely shined last night was ...Jean-Baptiste. THAT is what a professional center-back is supposed to look like, and I am glad the team finally has an anchor back there. Am not sure if Horst and Mosquera are injured or whether Porter just has the good judgment to realize how flawed they both are...but despite the two major screwups by Silvestre (which folks are probably focusing on way too much today), the back line was in much better order than with the other two fellows in there.

2) It was nice to see Alhassan get substantial playing time. I am sure it is a relief for him not to be looking either over his shoulder or ahead of him at 2 other guys who deservedly played/shared his position for most of last year. Once certainly cannot say 'look, see, I told you he's really good !", but he does have something to contribute, at least for around 60 minutes/game. With that said, he is still a small guy who gets knocked around and from time to time exhibits questionable decision-making.

3) Getting back to system, I can see that the squad did a lot more switching the point of attack and also serving the ball in from more varied points that last year. So....with a team made up of players who can pass and move crisply, that can have tons of potential. Again, the question becomes whether this team is that team.

4) The two Johnsons had some good opportunities; against certain teams they could be potentially dangerous. They were however, regularly muscled off of the ball out there. They also blew most of those opportunities and against a stronger and more physical NY back line, Ryan couldn't penetrate often. But, considering Bright is out for probably the year...Ryan may be a respectable replacement. One wonders whether Will may be better suited as an early substitute (like RSL wisely and successfully used him) as opposed to a starter, however.

5) The electricity changed substantially when the substitutions came on. Vets Zizzo and Wallace particularly helped pick up the pace and the attack actually began to show some semblance of structure in the last 15 minutes; Valencia not so much, he had some real clunker passes...but he's a young'un still. Something for Coach to remember for next time.

Hard again to say exactly whether what we saw was significant or just a slow-starter MLS team...but one hopes there's much prettier and smarter soccer ahead for the PDX fans. Reason to hope but also to worry.

And we should all be VERY thankful that NY, with 2 brand-new defenders starting their backline and seemingly unlcear on how to balance their attack now that Cooper has been dealt away...played as sloppily as the Timbers.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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