For 45 minutes it looked like Saturday was going to be a day that we pointed to as a sign that the Timbers were ready to rejoin the MLS elite as a serious trophy contender.
Boy, did they put that notion to bed in a hurry.
After halftime on Saturday the Timbers were downright bad. There wasn’t really any magical tactical shift or specific weakness that undid the Timbers on Saturday. They just executed extremely poorly. In other words, the Timbers played pretty comprehensively bad soccer after halftime.
That’ll get you.
Against the Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park patience is a virtue. And, in particular, attacking patience is a virtue.
The Timbers dominated the first half not because they took every opening to create a half-chance, but specifically because they didn’t take each of those openings. The Rapids, with their hulking central defense and notoriously low defensive block, want teams to resort to sending crosses into the box.
In the first half, though, the Timbers didn’t give in. With Colorado dropping their defensive block deep, the Timbers were happy to wait until a real opening presented itself and to turn down many of the opportunities they had to whip a speculative ball into the box. And with the Rapids’ minimally-disruptive midfield minimally disrupting the Timbers, this was not only viable, but profoundly successful.
The Timbers didn’t create huge numbers of chances in the first half, but they created very good ones including Sebastian Blanco’s well-taken goal to Diego Valeri’s hard 38th-minute point-blank cross to Fanendo Adi. The former, of course, was a goal while the latter was unlucky not to be.
As the game slipped away from them in the second half, however, that patience disappeared. And, as such, the Timbers started to play right into Colorado’s hands. Notice how many more crosses from wide areas the Timbers lumped into the box in after halftime:
The Rapids’ minimally-disruptive midfield remained minimally disruptive, but the Timbers grew ants in their pants in the final third and, as a result, settled all too often to play wide and hit deep crosses that, because of the altitude, were often over-hit (welcome to the Mile High City, Vytas) and, when they weren’t, were easily cut out in a box packed with big Rapids bodies.
So against the Rapids attacking patience really is a virtue. And in the second half the Timbers gravely hurt themselves with the lack thereof. Add to that heaps and heaps of sloppy, tired-legged play and you have yourself a recipe for wasting a really positive start.
Jake Gleeson, and a day in Commerce City that pretty well sums up his 2017 season.
Aside from an ill-advised Roy Miller backpass, the Timbers had the Rapids pretty well bottled up in the first half. The only other moments of danger came from Gleeson flapping at a couple crosses, leading to nervous (albeit ultimately harmless) moments in the box. Dealing with crosses has been a matter of inconsistency for Gleeson, and has contributed to (but not been the sole cause of) the Timbers’ vulnerability on corner kicks.
But that wasn’t the only of Gleeson’s weaknesses that reared its head on Saturday.
This is the second time this season that Gleeson’s questionable decision-making coming off his line has hurt the Timbers, with Ola Kamara’s goal in Columbus costing the Timbers points in the spring as well.
And both instances highlight the same miscalculation: In both cases Gleeson came off his line for a ball at the corner of the box. In light of the distance he has to cover to get to the corner of the box, if Gleeson is going to make that play he better have a great — and I mean great — jump on the ball. If not, he’s unlikely to get there and leaves the attacking player a sizable window to loft the ball over him and into the empty net.
Moreover, in this instance, if Gleeson stays home it’s far from a simple play for Dominique Badji. His angle to go at goal isn’t great, and with Lawrence Olum closing him down, he really doesn’t have a lot of time to pick his head up and pick out a corner or a pass. Although he has a runner in Josh Gatt on the far side of the box, there are a good number of green shirts between Badji and Gatt. It would’ve still been a dangerous situation if Gleeson had stayed home, but one that the Rapids would have had to pull off pretty perfectly in order to ripen it into a legitimate scoring chance.
As he did with Kamara in Columbus, however, Gleeson made life much easier on Badji and the Rapids. Badji’s finish was maybe a point or two more difficult than Kamara’s (the ball to Kamara was bouncing, making lofting it over Gleeson quite routine), but it’s still a goal he’s going to score more often than not.
To be sure, Gleeson also showed on Saturday why the Timbers think he has a bright future as a still-young goalkeeper.
But the Rapids’ first goal is exactly the type that Gleeson can’t concede, and one he has given up twice now in what has been a difficult season for the Kiwi keeper.
Stat of the Game
Zero — The number of crosses the Timbers completed into the box on Saturday. They technically completed one of their 20 crosses, but that was a ball that came all the way through and was gathered deep on the opposite wing. Otherwise, the Timbers were 0-for in whipping balls into the box.
Seriously, that’s what the Rapids want you to do.
Man of the Match
Who was your Man of the Match against Colorado?
This poll is closed
- Altitude was certainly a factor in the Timbers’ second-half malaise on Saturday, which is to be expected in Commerce City. There’s a reason why the Rapids, an objectively bad team that is downright terrible on the road, is always tough at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. That trend has very much been the case this season, with the Rapids posting a 5-2-1 (2.00 PPG) record at home and 0-6-0 (0.00 PPG — helpful, I know) on the road. And the Timbers aren’t the first team to dominate the early portions of the match and take a lead only to give it up late. In fact, the Columbus Crew did exactly that the week before, and Sporting Kansas City famously throttled Colorado statistically before Colorado’s “human spirit” won out in the end.
- But the way the Timbers controlled the first half — in which they controlled the ball and dictated the tempo — should have put them in a good position to manage the conditions and see out the game. They didn’t, and, conditions aside, that’s on them. But doing so in Colorado is no small task, as the rest of MLS has demonstrated.