I think that title can probably be slotted under "most obvious statement of the month." Still, it's something that needs to be discussed, but, for whatever reason, has not been. As two of the Portland Timbers' more expensive players at this point, I'm more than a little worried that they're not putting out what the FO has invested.
But first let's first review the obvious. Yes, Jorge Perlaza scored a goal off his head against DC United. That happened and it's a completely legitimate goal. Set piece and crossing goals are both very important to the game and they're both something that has currently helped get the Timbers to where they are today. My worry stems not from a complete lack of goals, but rather a lack of competent attacking plays that lead to goals, of which we've seen exactly zero since the April 16th game against FC Dallas.
Without those clever plays, without the constant threat of a strike breaking through, and without any of those offensive qualities being played through to the opposing team's goalkeeper it drastically affects the rest of the field. Suddenly, as we saw with DC United, their defenders are becoming attackers. Their midfield doesn't have to worry so much that there's going to be a break away. It's not just important for our strikers to score goals off decisive attacking runs, but it's important for them to bring legitimate threats. Ultimately it sets the mood for the entire game, especially at home.
But enough criticism and analysis of the effects. Let's turn instead to what's missing.Back in March the Timbers were facing a similar situation, although the team on the field was fairly different. Back then many pundits, myself included (if I can so be called) had lain the blame squarely at the non-existent feet of a missing creative midfielder who could generate the kind of passing through balls to both Perlaza and Cooper.
Today's team, despite having different players in different positions in both the midfield and defensive back end still seems to suffer this same problem, but I'm not entirely convinced that this is what ails the Timbers.
Currently the Timbers have a dynamic midfield with Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe/Sal Zizzo. Looking at these players one by one, it's easy to see where each player contributes on the field. Kalif Alhassan, for example, is one of the squirmiest players I've ever seen. And I mean that in a good way! He's able to break through countless defenders with seeming ease. Sure each player has their bad days, but I'm not convinced that bringing in another player into the midfield would radically change things.
Instead, this time, I'm more likely to believe that Cooper and Perlaza are to blame. Whenever one or the other gets the ball it almost looks like they're just so willing to pass it back to somebody else, like it's a game of hot potato. Either that or they stumble over themselves or they're off sides (of which the Timbers currently lead the league in).
There's something amiss up top when the Timbers' strikers aren't even taking the time to actually put shots on goal. It's a very serious problem when both Jack Jewsbury and Kalif Alhassan has more shots on goal than Jorge Perlaza. And Captain Jack isn't too far behind Kenny Cooper either...The scoring change percentages don't fair any better for the duo up top either, with Rodney Wallace coming in ahead of both.
So what's the deal? Both of these guys are talented enough. We know that Kenny Cooper can score in MLS and Jorge Perlaza seemingly had no trouble back in Colombia, which has a healthy first division league. I honestly can't say... all I know is that if these guys keep faltering in the final third we'll keep losing. It was a nice five game winning streak the guys had there, but it was pretty clear that after FC Dallas they started struggling again.
What do you think? Where's the disconnect? Sound off below! And feel free to deviate from my theory entirely if you have a better one. We're all just fans here.