Bizarre Gloom In Dallas With Seattle On The Horizon

Let's see: Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson were simultaneously sent-off for who the hell knows what, Portland's Dallas ace Darlington Nagbe succumbed to an injury at halftime, and the Timbers conceded late goals in each half in an eventual 2-1 loss in Frisco.

All in all, it was a thoroughly bizarre night in Texas that leaves more questions than answers about the direction that the Timbers' 2014 season is heading in.

It was just a strange game. The referee, Sorin Stoica, made his mark by doling out eight bookings, including two reds for a mysterious incident which somehow escaped every camera at Toyota Park. Apparently, the normally mild-mannered Harrington pulled the shirt of Watson, who took a swing at the Timbers' full-back. Maybe Harrington swung back, maybe not.

The dismissals opened up 60 minutes of lazily played soccer in wide open spaces which resembled a few Ford F-150s gently cruising around a small-town in the heart of Americana on a hot summers' day.

It was mostly a poorly played game, but both teams had their chances. Dallas put two away, one a headed play across the net as the clock struck midnight on the first half from the insufferable Blas Perez, and the second on a loose-ball scramble turned in by Mauro Diaz in the 84th minute.

The late goal was a gut-punch for the Timbers, who were dazed after Harrington's sending off but were just starting to reel Dallas in after being buoyed by Matt Hedges' own-goal when Diaz tallied the game-winner.

Diego Valeri was the key to that momentary resurgence, and he was the only Timber to register a shot on goal in the entire game. He enjoyed the space, but he was alone. Even with only 10 exhausted opponents on the field, Portland looked less than threatening.

Dallas were fine. Decent, with a few very good players. Their pace caused trouble at times, the impact Oscar Pareja has made was evident as Portland was unable to dominant possession in the way they are used to.

But it's getting worse and worse. Portland is now without Harrington and Donovan Ricketts for when it really counts - next weekend at home against Seattle - and they'll be no appealing the Harrington suspension because there's no video to prove anything one way or another.

The performance from Portland wasn't necessarily worse than it was in the 2-0 loss to Colorado last weekend, but even when the Timbers started creating offense late in the game, it was languid. Slow to develop, slow to execute. There's no electricity, or pace, or power.

The Timbers' best chances came when Diego Valeri was hitting 20 yard passes. That's not a good sign.

What now? Maxi Urruti is feisty, but totally and utterly ineffective. He doesn't do a single thing well - except run - and yet he went 90 minutes tonight. Porter even showed the true extent of his desperation for the first time: He let Frederic Piquionne see the field.

Kalif Alhassan provided some of that burst and direct play when he came on, and Steve Zakuani should be back to face his former club next weekend. Both of those guys should start. They simply play the game at a pace Portland has been lacking.

Defensively, it's nearing a crisis. Alvas Powell and Jack Jewsbury manning the flanks against the Sounders? With Andrew Weber in net? Hide the children.

It's an all-hands-on-deck moment for the Timbers. They need everyone and everything they've got. Seattle is coming. To Providence Park. Portland has bent this year, far, but I don't think their broken yet. A loss against Seattle and a real sense of doom sets in amongst everyone at the club.

Caleb Porter needs to effect the derby. He's in a bit of a tactical quagmire, with a makeshift defense, an anemic offense, and a fading idea of who his best 11 are.

Does Porter have an ace up his sleeve? He sounded totally defeated in his halftime interview at Toyota Stadium, and nothing he's said so far this year since it didn't click on day one against Philadelphia has given me the idea that he sees the key to turning it all around.

Starting two wingers - Zakuani and Alhassan - would be bold. He would have to sacrifice Fernandez, most likely, and play a false nine. I don't see him doing that.

I don't see him playing a back three, or pushing Jewsbury into the midfield, or starting Piquionne, but I don't see any reason why the main eleven players who have failed - including preseason - for seven games running should play again.

Beat Seattle, and the problems evaporate for a time. Ask John Spencer. He was staring off the edge of the cliff when the Sounders came calling in June 2012.

Portland won that day 2-1. It was a classic game with two red cards. Kris Boyd scored. Alhassan shined as bright as the beaming sun. The Timbers were awful that year. But that day, all was well. The win bought Spencer a month. He was sacked in July.

Obviously, Porter's job isn't under any threat. But a win over Seattle buys time, goodwill, and a ton of belief.

You could see the difference when the Timbers had confidence after the own goal. They ran harder. They started to dominate the game. That's how Portland need to play from the opening whistle on Saturday afternoon.

Being at home should help with that. As should the still very recent memories of what Portland did to Seattle in the playoffs last year. But the Sounders are a changed team who will certainly be licking their chops. Needless to say, this is a huge game.

March was a disaster. But here's the good news: Seattle is coming. The season starts right now.

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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