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What's Wrong With the Portland Timbers?

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Another disappointing loss Saturday. Worse yet it was against an expansion team: the Montreal Impact. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that this season has, so far, not gone at all what any of us had hoped. In fact, of my worst case scenario for the season, the Timbers are currently well below even that -- my worst case being ~35 points for the season as a whole.

Here are the facts and the stats for the season so far:

With 8 games played, the Timbers have just 7 points making them worst in the Western Conference and third to last over all based on games played (both Philadelphia Union and the Columbus Crew have 7 points for 7 games). Of that, the Timbers have allowed in 13 goals and only earned 9. None of that is good.

The worst part is that the Timbers looked more like an expansion team last Saturday than the actual expansion team on the field. There's no explaining that away as a "bad game." A opening season record like this doesn't just manifest itself without there being a consistent problem. So what it is?

Defensive Backline

The popular answer for both this season and last season is that the defense isn't working. That either the center backs, or wing backs aren't very good. It's my opinion that this excuse or reason is no longer valid.

Individually, our current defensive backline is relatively solid with the exception of the right back position where Steve Purdy has yet to fully prove (in his one and a half games). Eric Brunner and Hanyer Mosquera are clearly talented enough to play good defense. Additionaly, Mike Chabala, Rodney Wallace and now Steven Smith are adding an incredible amount of depth in that position. So even if the right back position is the weak link it's not enough to ruin an entire team's run of form. There will always be weak spots.

John Spencer

The savior of last year, a coach who could probably be considered as one of the most popular in the league, is now facing mounting criticism game in, game out. Naturally, it's to be expected. When a team loses consistently the head coach is usually the fall man. But could his tactics that got the team so close to the play offs last year truly be the reason behind the poor run of form this year?

Spencer was criticized and then, subsequently, lauded for his tactical formation against Sporting Kansas City. Lovel palmer in the midfield, Diego Chara on the wing? Craziness. But that initial head scratcher of a line up turned out to be pure gold as it snuffed out Sporting Kansas City wherever they went. Unfortunately, that same line up went wildly awry against a team such as the Montreal Impact.

So is this John Spencer's fault? Hard to say. Some were quick to blame Spencer for deploying the same line up as he did against Sporting KC, as if he should have read Montreal a bit better and adjusted the line up to suit their style of play. This is good advice for most teams. However, Montreal has played a total of nine games so far and their own line up and formations are constantly changing. Right now they're a very difficult team to judge so can we blame Spencer for deploying a similar tactic as the one that beat the league leaders?


I'm at a loss and I'm not really sure what the heart of the problem is. I've never been good at tactics analysis, though, so I'm turning to you guys.

What's wrong with the Portland Timbers?