Sometimes there is really nothing to analyze.
The Portland Timbers were terrible in Carson, California on Wednesday evening, and there are really no two ways about it.
Here are three questions from the Timbers’ meltdown in Southern California:
1. What went wrong?
Everything. Almost literally.
2. Who’s to blame?
If you circled every player who stepped on the field and played poorly for the Timbers on Wednesday, you’d run out of red ink before you finished. Alvas Powell was a disaster. Diego Chara had maybe his worst performance as a Timber. Jack Jewsbury - a player who has been big for the club in several important moments - couldn’t have been smaller on Wednesday. I could go on.
But let’s cast special scorn on Liam Ridgewell, who, to date in the midst of the best season any MLS Timbers defender has had, committed the only truly cardinal sin of the evening. Because a bad outing is a bad outing. It happens even to good teams. And overconfidently playing a very good, very hot team on the road is a recipe for getting blitzed. But the difference between good teams and poor ones is that they don’t let it happen again.
On a night when Powell was terrible, Diego Valeri was out of synch, and Chara was lost, it was Ridgewell who hurt his team beyond the relatively limited damage that should have been this loss in Los Angeles. By picking up a toughtless red card in the 78th minute, when the Galaxy were already up 4-0, Ridgewell will certainly miss the Timbers now-even-more-vital-than-always fixture on Sunday against the Seattle Sounders, and maybe more if MLS headquarters isn’t as charitable to Ridgewell as they were to Clint Dempsey. In a season in which Ridgewell has lifted the team up time and time again, he let the Timbers down in a massive way on Wednesday night.
So on a night in which there isn’t anybody on the Timbers who doesn’t shoulder responsibility (except maybe Michael Nanchoff, who was fine), Ridgewell stands above all others in blameworthiness.
3. Where do the Timbers go from here?
The Timbers ability to pick themselves off the mat has been the hallmark of Caleb Porter’s tenure. And they’re going to need show it again now.
Yes, the Sounders are coming into Portland shorthanded. Yes, the team the Timbers will put on the field on Sunday will be more talented than their rivals. But none of that means anything if the Timbers come into the game with the same mentality that they showed on Wednesday.
If the Timbers come out with fire and take care of business against Seattle, there is every reason to believe they can recapture a good chunk of the momentum they frittered away at the StubHub Center. If that happens, it’s very conceivable that Wednesday could wind up being nothing more than a strange footnote in an otherwise successful season.
But if the Timbers step out from beneath the North End on Sunday and lets the Galaxy beat them again, Wednesday could be the beginning of a tailspin.
The Timbers can’t look to anybody but themselves to blame for Wednesday night. And they can’t look to anybody but themselves to fix it moving forward.