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Six Degrees: Total Mystery

Portland 0, Dallas 0

MLS: FC Dallas at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Fair warning, if you want answers, turn back now. All I’ve got is questions. This team’s becoming a total mystery to me.

1) Saturday night’s 0-0 home draw against Dallas was about as ugly a soccer game as you’re ever going to watch. The opening 10 minutes were pretty good. Fairly open, lots of action from both sides. The rest of the game? A miserable slog.

Now, before I start ripping into our offensive performance, I want to acknowledge that Dallas has a very good defense. They’ve shut down a lot of teams. So it’s not like we were facing San Jose or Colorado. Dallas is good.

That being said... damn our offense sucks these days.

As far as I can tell, the Timbers do one thing well: counterattack. Take that away from us and we’re screwed.

The team seems to think they can cross well, but I’m less convinced. In the first half, pretty much all we did was cross. Someone would be bringing it down the middle, they’d face a little resistance, then send a pass over to the side of the field where someone would send in a hopeful cross. The key word being “hopeful.”

In the second half, the team tried to build through the middle more, which I applaud, but there was no real effectiveness. The Timbers just seem unwilling or unable to make the difficult passes into the box. Are the runners not making the runs? Are the passers not making the passes? I genuinely don’t know, but whatever’s the root cause, it’s been going on for a good two months or so. Ever since our long unbeaten streak ended, our attackers are unable to come up with any ideas beyond “let’s send it out wide and try a cross.” And as ideas go, that’s not a terribly interesting one.

With Sebastian Blanco suspended Saturday, we tried a two-forward setup. It didn’t improve things at all. Instead, Samuel Armenteros and Jeremy Ebobisse looked like two guys who’d never played together before.

Earlier this year, after watching our offense overwhelm teams down in Tuscon’s preseason tournament, I predicted the Timbers would have four double digit goalscorers. With Fanendo Adi no longer on the team, we’re clearly not getting four players, but what about three?

I’m going to say no. Diego Valeri’s already there, but we’d need Blanco to score three more goals and Armenteros to score two. I’m not sure the Timbers can score five goals as a team in the remaining three games, much less those particular people.

Our offense is broken and I don’t know what it’s going to take to fix it.

2) You know how, after each game, I like to put together gifs of all the cool shit the Timbers did? I can’t really do that this week because the Timbers didn’t do any cool shit. Hell, Dallas didn’t really do any cool shit, either. It was a 90 minutes almost completely devoid of cool shit.

Larrys Mabiala’s back pass? Was that cool shit?

No? Not cool shit?

How about when Lawrence Olum and Andy Polo ran into each other?

No? Still not cool shit?

Wait, I’ve got it! That time when Lucas Melano almost scored!

An almost-goal by a guy who’s scored a ton of almost-goals for us? That’s gotta be cool shit, right? I’m desperate here, folks. Work with me.

The point I’m trying to make is that I think the Timbers owe us a refund. If they play an entire soccer match with zero cool shit by either team, the entire fan base is owed a refund, right? There must be something about this in the fine print. Surely.

3) I’m going to dedicate this next degree to questions. Not answers, mind you. Just questions.

  • Why is Gio addicted to Lawrence Olum?
  • Why does Gio insist on playing Diego Chara – the Platonic ideal of a central defensive midfielder – at any position other than central defensive midfielder? (Post-publication edit: just today, Richard Farley took a crack at answering this question.)
  • Do we have anyone on our roster who can step in if we lose Sebastian Blanco or Diego Valeri? Or – God help us all – both?
  • Is the two-forward experiment worth trying again?
  • Switching to the other end of the field, after giving up 4 goals to Houston, 2 goals to Columbus, and 3 goals to Minnesota, our defense pitched a shutout against a very good team. Should I quit my complaining and celebrate this a little bit?

There you go. A bunch of questions. Got any answers for me?

4) We’ll be missing some players against RSL next week. Maybe just one, but possibly as many as three.

The one we’ll definitely be missing is Liam Ridgwell, who got red carded in stoppage time. I’ll be honest, when they showed the play up on the big screen, I saw no foul whatsoever, and therefore, as is my duty, booed lustily.

Upon arriving home, though, I saw this clip, saw Ridgy kicking out, and figure the red will stand. It’s a light kick, but it’s a kick nonetheless.

This is the second red card of Ridgy’s MLS career. The first one, back in 2015? Also for kicking out.

It would seem that “kicking out” is Ridgy’s signature move. As signature moves go, I’d call it a poor choice.

5) So Ridgy’s out next week. What about Jeff Attinella? After many weeks healing a thigh injury, Jeff Jeff Jeff finally got back into the starting lineup and played a damn nice game. Then in the second half, he took a spill and ended the game on the bench, a huge ice pack strapped to his shoulder.

Is he out next week? Probably. Is he out past that? I’m not sure. But I do know one thing. No way does Kendall McIntosh start. Not when he’s stinking it up for T2 like this.

So we’ll probably be down one Ridgy and one Jeff Jeff Jeff. What about Alvas Powell?

I gotta be honest, folks, Alvas’s injury was genuinely scary. Not the collision itself, but the way he literally couldn’t stand up afterwards. Did you see it? He laid on his back for a good long while, then tried to stand, looked lightheaded and off-balance, took a knee, tried to stand again, still looked woozy, and had to be helped off the field by two trainers, looking as shaky as I’ve ever seen a guy look. It was scary as hell.

I’m no doctor, but that looked like a major concussion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Alvas misses multiple games. I hope I’m wrong. Brain injuries are no joke. Send good thoughts Alvas’s way.

6) Our next game is Saturday at RSL.

The bad news? RSL has the best home record in the Western Conference.

The good news? Well, actually, there is no good news. I was hoping I could come up with some, but no. All the news is bad.

Let’s look at the current standings.

Obviously, if RSL beats us on Saturday, they’ll jump us in the standings. After that, they get New England at home (an extremely likely three points), then finish the year playing us here at Providence Park (which is in no way a fortress). I’m already penciling RSL into the playoffs.

Seattle, they’re already above us in PPG, and are finishing their season with Houston, Orlando, Houston, and San Jose. That’s as soft a schedule as you can get, so just like with RSL, I’m penciling them into the playoffs.

Which brings us to the team we’re truly competing against: the LA Galaxy.

After a woeful month and a half, I thought the Galaxy were done, but in the past two weeks they’ve beaten Seattle and Vancouver by identical 3-0 scorelines. Their offense was clicking the two games before that as well, scoring three goals at Toronto and two goals at RSL. How does their remaining schedule look? At SKC (hella tough), at Minnesota (hecka tough), and home to Houston (I cannot figure Houston out at all).

And the Portland Timbers? Your Portland Timbers? Their remaining schedule is at RSL (hella tough), home to RSL (who friggin’ knows), and at Vancouver (again, who friggin’ knows).

I have zero predictions moving forward. Zero. We may win our last three games, we may lose our last three games. We may look great next Saturday in Utah, we may look like 11 strangers. After watching this team all season, I know less about them than I did when we started way back in March. What about you? Do you understand this team? If so, please enlighten me down in the comments. I need all the help I can get.