The Portland Timbers found a way again. They found a way once again to lose is spectacular fashion on the road.
For a club that has at times through its MLS experience been mystifyingly poor on the road — and, confoundingly, at times been among the best in MLS away from Providence Park — the Timbers road form right now is perhaps the most inexplicable in recent memory.
Let’s be perfectly honest: There are no real tactical deep cuts here. It’s not that the Timbers got pulled apart or tactically outfoxed by Minnesota United on Wednesday.
In a wide-open game, the Timbers found a way to concede more than they scored. And I want to emphasize the phrase “found a way” there, because the Timbers’ concessions on Wednesday were truly spectacular.
After opening the game with an own goal they conceded after they failed to clear a corner — by far the Timbers’ best concession of the evening — the Timbers pulled one back before halftime after Loons goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth inexplicably clattered into Diego Valeri in the box and gifted the Timbers a penalty. The Timbers were somewhat flattered by the halftime scoreline, but Minnesota was far from good in their own right.
And then they came out after halftime and did this:
You’re not going to see a much softer goal from the run of play than that one. Although the early phases of the buildup suffered from the same disconnection between midfield and backline that ailed the Timbers throughout the first half, that really doesn’t explain failing to cut out (or come anywhere close to) one pass into one runner. Could Alvas Powell and Diego Chara have harassed Kevin Molino a bit more there? No doubt. But what Roy Miller was doing in stepping away from Christian Ramirez there will forever remain a mystery.
But here I have to do some self-editing, because you will, in fact, see a softer goal from the run of play than Ramirez’s. In fact, you saw it just 15 minutes later after the Timbers again equalized (this time by way of an MNU own goal — they didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory on Wednesday, either).
It would be easy to look at the last two games and simply conclude the Timbers’ backline is an irredeemable mess. On some level most goals come from errors, and even good backlines concede with relative regularity. But it’s not at all unreasonable to say no competent backline could concede the goals the Timbers have over the course of the last 129 minutes. They’ve been just that bad.
But here’s the truly inexplicable thing: Before those 129 minutes in which the Timbers conceded five times Portland went 317 minutes without conceding. That’s the third-longest such streak in MLS this year.
How is it possible that a backline playing many of the same players for much of the time could keep a clean sheet for that long and then turn around and vomit on itself with as much volume and regularity as it did in Colorado and Minnesota?
Admittedly, I’m at a loss.
Vytas, perhaps the Timbers’ lone bright spot on the day.
The Lithuanian left back came on at halftime for Marco Farfan, who more or less treaded water in the first half while getting almost no wing support in defense. After the game Caleb Porter was critical of Farfan, but when you’re asking an 18-year-old fullback to repeatedly blow up two-v-ones in space I’m not sure what else he could’ve expected.
Nonetheless, short of criticizing Farfan, the move to bring on Vytas was a justifiable one in an attempt to get more width into the Timbers’ attack. It worked immediately, as Vytas instantly became the most dangerous attacking player wearing red.
In his relatively short time in the game Vytas created three chances for the Timbers (all on dangerous, edge-of-the-box entry balls) and whipped in the menacing ball that led to the Timbers’ second goal.
Oh, and after the game he was also pretty blunt in his assessment of the team (Warning: Mild, albeit eminently understandable adult language):
Stat of the Game
Seven of Nine — No, not Jeri Ryan’s character in Star Trek: Voyager. The number of shots Minnesota United put on frame relative to their number of total shots.
That is an unconscionably high percentage of shots for the Timbers to allow the Loons to put on frame. To be sure, finishing quality has something to do with whether a shot goes on frame, but United had far, far too many clear looks at goal after carving up a meek Timbers backline.
Man of the Match
Who was your Man of the Match at Minnesota?
This poll is closed
- Just to make sure the damage from their horrific performance in Minnesota wasn’t confined to one game, two Timbers also managed to get themselves suspended for Sunday’s game against Seattle. Sebastian Blanco was correctly sent off for a foolish kick-out on Abu Danladi while Roy Miller collected his fifth yellow card of the season and, thus, will be suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Grand.
- This is a pretty damning tweet.
Last 10 games across all competitions, @TimbersFC are 2-6-2. Worst record in the Western Conference in that span. Who saw that coming?— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 22, 2017
- Not to #WellActually Matt (okay, well, sort of to #WellActually Matt), the Timbers’ record during that stretch is actually 3-5-2, but his point very much remains. The remarkable thing about that run is the Timbers’ problems have hardly been uniform. During those ten games the Timbers have gone through periods in which they’ve struggled to score goals and they’ve gone through periods in which they’ve been able to score, but not been able to keep the ball out of their own net. The only consistent thread running through this ten-game stretch is that the Timbers have been consistently dreadful on the road. In their four home games during this stretch, the Timbers are 3-0-1 while outscoring their opponents 7 to 2. In their six away games they’re 0-5-1 while being outscored 15 (!!!) to 6.