It just gets worse and worse.
After the preseason, you could sense that all was not well with the Timbers. After the opening night draw against Philadelphia, there was a mooted sense of worry. After that draw against Chicago, that sense was palpable, and now, after a miserable performance in and result against the Colorado Rapids, the Timbers are clearly in deep trouble.
Their play against an average Rapids team was languid, insipid, and all-too-familiar.
In the end, it was a Murphy’s Law two minutes which saw the Timbers give up a penalty which was scored, Donovan Ricketts get red carded as he was being stretchered off injured, Andrew Weber give up a penalty in his first minute on the field which he saved – only to see the rebound scored – that lost the game.
But the Timbers could have played into tomorrow and not won the game. They were just that indifferent. No one played well, and a general feeling of hopelessness had set in by halftime.
The game promised to be a memorable occasion. Not only was Snow Classico II a possibility, but Caleb Porter finally got the hint that the 4-6-0 sink-pit the Timbers were running to start the season needed changing. Porter dropped Maxi Urruti, replacing him with a true winger in Steve Zakuani, which moved Gaston Fernandez up top.
It was the obvious change, but Porter has had few answers early in the season.
He had no answers once the game started. Portland couldn’t keep the ball and had zero presence up top once again – except for a stretch when the team was caught offsides every 30 seconds for five minutes.
Certainly, the conditions messed with the Timbers a little bit. The promised snow didn’t play a huge role, but swirling wind and mid-20 degree weather didn’t do Portland any favors. Still, it was pitiful stuff, and the Rapids had plenty of chances on the other end.
Maybe now would be a good time for that rematch with Cal FC.
Because Portland’s schedule only gets harder from here. March saw the team get two non-playoff Eastern Conference teams at home, and then two Western Conference teams in Colorado and Dallas that figure not to make the playoffs this early either.
And I don’t think anyone needs reminding that Seattle comes to town in 14 days.
At some point, the Timbers have to start the season in earnest. Against Philadelphia we waited for the Timbers’ supposedly vaunted offense to explode. It never did. Against Chicago, you could feel multiple goals there for the taking. They never came. Against Colorado, the Timbers were always going to be lucky to get one. They never did.
As for the two incidents that decided the game, they were two clear-cut penalties.
After three Timbers defenders got beat on a long ball over the top, Donovan Ricketts came flying out and leapt two-footed at the attacking player. Any contact and it’s a penalty and straight red in that situation. Ricketts made contact, and while it seemed a tad inhumane to dismiss a player as he was being stretchered off the field, the red was the right call.
The second penalty was also clear-cut, and the yellow was the right card to give to the replacement ‘keeper Weber. Had a red been shown, a Timbers field player would have had to pull on the gloves.
At least that would have been worth watching.
Will Johnson was useless – except when he became unhinged screaming at Mark Geiger for a handball penalty call. His dynamic play was crucial last year, and he hasn’t been good enough in 2014.
Diego Valeri is also in a deep funk. Is he fully fit? It’s almost more worrisome if he is.
When will this team respond? These guys were on cloud nine and a little bit full of themselves coming into the season. After all, they were a consensus pick for the Western Conference championship.
That sentiment is fading fast.
There’s no use in sugar-coating it. Including preseason, the Timbers’ first team have played five bad games in a row. Comparisons to last seasons start – which also included two draws and a loss – are misguided.
Portland scored three times more goals and had a general electricity after three games last year.
Also: Why should we care that the team hasn’t given up any goals from open play? Is it better to concede from set-pieces?
Porter put the right team on the field today. They need to play better. But there are a few questions.
Like, how bad can Freddy Piquionne possibly have gotten over the winter? He was a weapon last year, and the team paid decent money to re-sign him. So far he’s been on the field for five minutes this year despite Portland chasing goals with zero forward presence in each game.
And how is that decision to release Mikael Silvestre looking right now? Pa Kah and Futty Danso are generally good players, and Norberto Paparatto should be as well, but Silvestre would easily be the best center-back on this team be a much needed sea of calm on the back-line.
Not for the first time, Gavin Wilkinson isn’t looking too good right now. This team has little depth and appears to be poorly constructed. But this is the Timbers’ squad, at least until the summer.
Last year, Portland won at home and drew on the road. So far this year, they’ve drawn at home and lost on the road. The spark is missing, and for the first time since Porter took over, it feels like it could be gone for a while.
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.