We here at Stumptown Footy are a thirsty bunch. And no, I don't mean thirst by constantly imbibing 93,000 IBU small-batch locally sourced IPAs, or thirst meaning we are uh, rather tumescent. We have a thirst in the more classical sense, the constant pursuit of knowledge for our shared passion. If you look in the comment section on any post, you'll see lots of community members put on their prognostication slacks and take their best shot at guessing line-ups or scorelines for upcoming games. Before every match, we are already blessed with Will and Chris providing excellent preview analysis.
So, as a humble new writer on the site, I ask myself, "Self, how can you add anything to this dialogue?"
"Video games," replies a voice in the distance. I make note that I should probably get out more.
FIFA16 is a lot of things, and often time lands somewhere in-between fun and frustrating (aka between 1 and 3 shots of whiskey). While it isn't as focused on American soccer as many of us would like, their team releases near daily updates on player rankings that reflect in season performances.
If we can put a man on the moon, or Taco Bell can make a $1 taco out of a giant Dorito, than surely I can try to predict every Timbers match this year using FIFA. This is the type of spirit American is built on; so, consider this a new feature going forward. For the first week, I will only run one simulation, but once I get the hang of this, we can try multiple permutations where we can explore differences in personal or formations and their effect. Your comments will help me make this into something that I hope will be fun and informative.
Or worst case, my wife will just have me committed after only being able to communicate in Martin Tyler-isms from watching hours of CPU simulated gameplay.
To your lineups:
I sought out the esteemed Mr. Rifer's input, and given the injury reports, we think this is most likely lineup. The biggest question will be around Grabavoy vs. Jewsbury, but since Caleb likes to be aggressive versus non-conference teams, I went with Grabavoy. Also a note about the formation: I have to best approximate what things will look like based on the options FIFA provides me, so it's a bit hard to exactly replicate the 4-2-3-1.
Given the beating the Revolution just took at the hands of DC United, I think they are going to try to shake things up a bit. Normally Bunbury starts up top with the potent midfield combo of Rowe, Nguyen, and Fagundez. Given how anemic the offense was in DC, let's dust off Charlie Davies and try Bunbury out on the wing, a formation they've used a few times in the past.
Diego's Ready. Are you?
The one thing that quickly becomes apparently while playing is that all of the frustrations you have watching the actual Timbers play, are about 900000% more heightened and excruciating in digital form, despite the game taking about a 7th of the time. Does Lucas Melano dribbling past everyone down the sideline like an elegant gazelle only to put up an impotent shot cause you to grit your teeth? Well, virtual Lucas Melano does the exact same thing with Martin Tyler saying "Oh, that was a waste" in a dour English accent for the commentary. Do you pull your hair when Darlington Nagbe is doing his Energizer Bunny impression of dribbling, dribbling, and dribbling only for nothing to really come of it? Well, virtual Darlington has perfected that to a T. Part of me is impressed/creeped/weirded out by how much FIFA has captured some recent trends.
The first half mostly consisted of either Nagbe or Lee Nguyen dribbling without problem down the center of their respective offensive halves, only for all of their work to result in nothing. Nagbe would pass just a second too late to someone on the wing, only for them to lob a cross that went no where. Nguyen would often setup Davies at point blank range for him to wildly crush the ball over the net without any sense of touch whatsoever. Something in my gut tells me this simulation was all too real, and that we are likely in for a bit of a snooze fest on Wednesday.
Despite my negativity, during the 29th minute, there was one amazing moment of perfection that would never again be reproduced in my lifetime. It was like seeing Halley's Comet, or getting a table at Tasty 'n Sons at noon on a Sunday with no wait.
Asprilla sprints down the sideline. He has a bit of a give and with Klute They throw it to Adi for some holdup. Back to Klute, he spins and crosses the ball to near the penalty spot.
Then Diego Chara. Diego "I'm 5'8 and has a smile that lights up the world" Chara attempts a bicycle kick. The kick is nowhere near on target. He grabs his face in shame. I both know and feel his pain. I would, however, be willing to spend a few Tubmans to see such a thing in an actual game.
Beyond that one shinning moment, the half ends 0-0.
Virtual Caleb Porter (VCP), who is not as dapper as IRL Caleb Porter, decided to go with the bold 56th minute substitution of Jack McInerney over Adi. In the game, Adi is given a 70 rating, while McInerney has a 69. While Jack has been good this season off of the bench, he's no Adi, yet FIFA seems to think very highly of him. Perhaps his entire family works there? I'll entertain your theories in the comments.
Anyway, that bold move by VCP really opened up the offense with our first legit shot on goal in the 65th minute. If only Timber crosses were actually this crisp.
A few ticks later, Asprilla and Nagbe have an awkward but effective overlap. Nagbe dribbles into the heart of the box, finds McInerney on a well placed pass, and it's one-timed into the back of the net!
Soon thereafter, Ned Grabavoy was subbed off for Jack Jewsbury and the Timbers proceeded to bunker down. Time and time again Nguyen would break through the center of the pitch, and play through for a teammate to take a shot with lethal inefficiency.
To make us feel better about how porous the defense was, here's Pat Benatar crooning over these near misses
Mercifully, after 3 minutes of stoppage time the game ends and the Timbers hold on to win a close 1-0 victory due to the other team not being able to finish for once.
While it was terrible to watch, I think we'd all be happy with this result Wednesday night.