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Six Degrees: Winning Ugly

Portland 2, Dallas 1

MLS: Knockout Round-Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s long been said that there’s no such thing as an ugly win. But Wednesday night’s win in Dallas? It came close.

1) All season, the Timbers have found their best results by sitting deep and countering. Funny thing is, that’s been FC Dallas’s strategy, too. So the question entering their Wednesday night match-up was, which team would come out of their bunker and try to control the game? Which team would blink first?

Turns out, Dallas blinked first. We sat deep, and they came at us.

Dallas ended the game with 65% possession to our 35%. They had 22 shots to our five. They had five corners to our two. 29 crosses to our...

Ah, hell, I’ll just show you the stats.

Pretty lopsided, eh?

Here’s another crazy stat, pointed out first by Kim McCauley. The Timbers completed exactly one pass into the box the entire night. Don’t believe me? Here’s the graphic.

Is that awesome or awful? I honestly can’t decide. It’s something.

And finally, here’s the expected goals graphic. According to xG, after rounding, the Timbers should have lost 2-0.

So on Wednesday night, the Timbers lost essentially every stat there is. Except one, of course. The final score. We won that stat, 2-1.

As I said, the 2018 Portland Timbers have had their best results sitting deep and countering. Maybe that will change in 2019, but for now, get used to it. It can be a little ugly, but it got us the win Wednesday night and, with a little luck, it could take us all the way to MLS Cup.

And anyway, there’s no such thing as an ugly win.

2) I guess it wasn’t entirely ugly. In the 23rd minute, Diego Valeri gave us something very pretty, indeed.

What is there to say about that? Just gorgeous. Unsaveable, really. What goalkeeper is getting to that? Nobody, that’s who. Valeri may not be under consideration for this year’s MVP, but he’s still pretty damn good at soccer.

Speaking of the reigning MVP, remember how last year when Fanendo Adi got hurt, Valeri put the entire team on his back and went on a goal-scoring binge? Wouldn’t it be cool if this free kick was the start of him doing that again?

If Valeri goes supernova like he did last year, God help the rest of the league.

3) It would have been nice if the Timbers could have gotten to the halftime locker room with a 1-0 lead and nothing else, but alas, Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo decided to screw us a little by getting Diego Chara a yellow card.

Serious question: is there any way the league rescinds Chara’s yellow after seeing this video? Because this could really hurt us. In the playoffs, a player’s second yellow means a one-game suspension, so thanks to Gruezo’s flop, Chara’s going to be walking on eggshells for the rest of the playoffs. And Chara’s not the kind of player who should be playing that way. He’s a destroyer. He should be running people down and separating them from the ball. If he’s worried about a second yellow, maybe he’s only 90% the player he could be?

So, seriously, is there any chance his yellow gets rescinded? Do any of you have some expertise on this subject?

But of course, Chara’s only facing a potential suspension some unknown time in the future. Larrys Mabiala’s facing a definite suspension this coming Sunday, thanks to his 58th minute red card.

When I saw this live, I screamed injustice, just like any good fan should, but upon seeing the replay a few times, I shut up.

Yep, that’s a foul. Dominique Badji ain’t going down unless Larrys takes him down. And since there’s nothing but green grass between Badji and the keeper, it’s pretty clearly DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity).

Larrys getting an early shower meant the Timbers played the last 30+ minutes of the game on their heels, completely under siege. Playing a man down can be pretty exhausting, so this might be when Gio’s decision to rest our starters against Vancouver really paid off. Could a bunch of guys on 3 days rest have played desperation defense as well as the well-rested Timbers did?

4) And the Timbers didn’t just keep Dallas from tying it up, in the 71st minute they actually added to their lead.

The real star of this goal is Jeremy Ebobisse. Start to finish, he’s almost perfect. First, he sees David Guzman on the ball, then he makes the run, then he collects the ball despite getting banged by both the center back and the goalkeeper, and finally, he calmly, coolly, collectedly, drops an impossibly soft ball right to Valeri’s feet. How many forwards, under those conditions, make a pass that soft? Not many.

Like I said after the RSL game, Jebo’s going to be a hell of a target forward in this league. He may never score 10 goals, but there’s a chance he’ll have 10 assists each and every year. Surround a guy like that with goal-dangerous middies and wingers, and you can win a lot of games.

You know what I didn’t mention about that goal? The actual goal itself! Jebo’s pass was delightful, but it was El Maestro who actually scored.

Or did he? The box score calls it a goal for Valeri, but was it Jesse Gonzalez who actually put it in? Looking at the video, I think Valeri’s shot was going wide right, but the Dallas goalkeeper got a touch and re-directed it into goal.

I’m only about 51% sure this was an own goal. What do you think? (EDIT: Hey, y’all. Future C.I. here. Someone in the comments pointed out that, for a brief millisecond, the ball disappears as it goes BEHIND the keeper. How did I miss that? I blame a very busy morning. Or just my bad eyes. Whichever.)

5) Some random thoughts.

  • It’s always fun seeing #TimberForLife Maxi Urruti, but Wednesday’s game was especially good. Dallas is playing him not as a forward, but as a central attacking midfielder, so he was constantly on the ball, involved with everything. He was also really pissed off, jawing at the referee non-stop. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed all of it.
  • Of all the former Timbers still in the league, is Maxi our favorite? We definitely see him the most. Rodney Wallace and Will Johnson are both Eastern Conference, so we only see them once a year, if that. Next year, Fanendo Adi will be Eastern Conference, too. I can’t think of any other Timbers out there. None that are especially noteworthy, at least. Eric Alexander? Michael Harrington? Sal Zizzo? Meh. I think Maxi’s the guy we see most, so he still sorta feels like one of us. (EDIT: Hey, y’all. Future C.I. here again. How the fuck could I forget Darlington Nagbe? Honestly, how can I do that? You have no idea how bad I feel about this. I’m just praying Nags doesn’t read this. I LOVE YOU, NAGS! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!)
  • I’m contractually obligated to mention that Dallas scored a stoppage time goal against an exhausted, 10-man Timbers defense. It made the last two or three minutes a little more stressful, but on the whole felt like no big deal.

  • I’m also contractually obligated to mention that Jeff Attinella made a save with his face.

6) Wednesday night’s victory means we’re moving on to the conference semis, which is a two-game, home-and-away series. We know where the first game will be (here in Portland) and we know what day it will be (Sunday) but that’s all we know.

Kickoff time? Unknown. Opponent? Unknown.

These things will be decided by the LAFC/RSL game tonight. If LAFC wins, we’ll play SKC on Sunday. If RSL wins, we’ll play Seattle.

Do you have a preference on who we play? I’m gonna say I prefer playing SKC, and here’s why.

One, Seattle’s the hottest team in the league. SKC’s not exactly ice cold, going 6-2-2 in their last 10, but Seattle’s won 16 of their last 18, which is just absurd. So yeah. Maybe better to avoid that buzzsaw for a few weeks.

Additional reason to avoid Seattle: their stadium’s got some weird scheduling conflict, so the second game of that home-and-away series will be on short rest. Rather than a week between games, there will only be four days. That seems like something to avoid.

So, yeah. Go LAFC tonight!

Whoever we end up facing, the series will be decided by aggregate score. If the teams are tied in aggregate, the next tiebreaker is away goals. This means that home shutouts are like gold. If we get a 0-0 draw on Sunday, that means 0 away goals for our opponent. If we then go to their house and draw 1-1 or 2-2 or 3-3, we win via tiebreaker. Keep that in mind on Sunday. Home shutouts are gold.