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Six Degrees: Embarrassment

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Red Bulls 4, Timbers 0

MLS: Portland Timbers at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Remember in last week’s column when I was all like “New York might be playing their backups, so this is a really good chance for a road victory.”

Welp, New York played their backups, and their backups blew the Timbers out, 4-0.


1) I’ll get to the game in a bit, but I want to start with a big-picture observation.

Either preseason wasn’t long enough or Giovanni Savarese did a bad job of getting this team ready, because we don’t look like an organized team. We look like 11 individuals, all trying to play soccer in 11 different ways.

Maybe Savarese has a plan, but I don’t think the players know what it is. They look disorganized, indecisive, slow in both thought and action. And when things go wrong – which has happened too often – they all look around at each other in confusion and frustration.

The Red Bulls showed us what a team should look like. They were confident, they were organized, they worked as one. And, to be clear, this was almost entirely their second unit.

After the first game, I was upset with the players. Now? After 180 minutes of watching us wander aimlessly around the pitch? I’m thinking this stinking pile of poo should be laid at the coach’s feet.

Does Gio have a plan? I have no idea. And neither do the players. Gio needs to fix that. Immediately.

2) Now, looking specifically at this game, I guess a good place to start would be with the starting lineup. There were huge changes from the first game.

At right back, Alvas Powell was out, Zarek Valentin was in. At defensive midfielder, Cristhian Paredes was out, Lawrence Olum was in. At winger, Andy Polo was out, Dairon Asprilla was in. At forward, Fanendo Adi was out, Samuel Armenteros was in.

Not a single one of those changes was due to injury, (except maybe Powell, which was pointed out to me in the comments below) which implies they were all due to poor performance. Unless they were due to something else. Or nothing at all. Maybe they were due to nothing at all.

Is this what we can look forward to under Giovanni Savarese? Constant changes in the lineup? And is this a good thing? In theory, I like the idea of having guys held accountable for poor performance, but I also wonder what it does for a locker room. Will players play better, knowing they might get benched? Or will it have the opposite effect, making everyone play tight, always looking over their shoulder, seeing every teammate as a rival? I’m not asking these questions rhetorically. I genuinely don’t know if this is good or not. What do you think?

And do you think it continues? Do you think our next game will have another four changes? Will the extremely ineffective Larrys Mabiala and Liam Ridgewell be replaced by Julio Cascante and Bill Tuiloma? Will the equally ineffective David Guzman and Lawrence Olum be replaced by Andres Flores and – fingers crossed – Diego Chara? What about Marco Farfan? He hasn’t covered himself in glory. Hell, no one has. Will Gio replace the entire Starting XI?

I have no idea. No one does. We’re two games into a new regime and have no idea what to expect. If the team was 2-0, I’d call the lineup changes exciting, but at 0-2, I find them more than a little concerning. What about you?

3) Okay, let’s break down the goals.

The first goal was scored by a 17-year-old. At least, they say he’s 17. He looks more like 13. I won’t break the goal down, since the guys at mlssoccer.com did it for me. But be sure you check out what Chris Rifer had to say in his Timber Cruise. He eviscerates Liam Ridgewell, and for very good reason.

Ridgy has some ‘splainin’ to do on the 2nd goal, too.

Actually, there are many questions here. One, why is Mabiala not better in the air? He got beat on a header in the first game, as well. Two, who is Ridgy covering? And three, why is Adi going for that ball with his foot, when BWP is going with his head? You’re big and tall, Fanendo. Act like it.

Had enough? The Red Bulls hadn’t.

I see Farfan, I see Olum, I see Valentin, I see Mabiala. Maybe that’s Victor Arboleda at the top. Anybody see Ridgewell? He’s gotta be somewhere, right?

And then in stoppage time, just to make the capitulation complete, we gave up a 4th.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what it looks like when a soccer team plays against 11 individuals.

4) So, the defense sucked. What about the offense?

Erm, I’m not really sure. I hardly saw them. Surprise starter Armenteros had a nice breakaway, but he put the shot wide. Deserved starter Asprilla nearly got us a goal with his head, but got Rimando’d by Luis Robles. Diego Valeri? Sebastian Blanco? I hardly saw them. Nobody on the offensive side of the field stood out in any way.

Want me to write more about you, offensive players? Do something worth writing about.

5) Remember how I said the changes to the starting lineup were weird? You know what else was weird? The substitutions.

Winger Victor Arboleda came in for Armenteros? Does that mean he was our striker, or did it mean we were playing a 4-2-4?

We eventually got to Adi, but he came in for Blanco. The game was still 1-0 at that point. Why pull an offensive player? Why not a defender, or at least a defensive middie? Were we waving the white flag at 1-0?

And our last sub was Paredes for Olum. What the what? We’re down 3-0 and we’re switching CDMs? Andy Polo’s on the bench, Coach! Throw him out there and tell him to go like hell for goal!

I was writing this column the last time we had a new coach, way back in 2013. I didn’t know Caleb Porter too well – none of us did – but on the whole, even in those early days, the stuff he did made sense. I could kinda see what he was doing.

Giovanni Savarese? After two games, I’ve got no idea what that guy’s doing. None. And I’m not sure the players do, either.

6) If I was going to end this column with something just the tiniest bit optimistic, it would be this: maybe it’s good these opening five games are on the road. Maybe with the new coach, the team was gonna suck anyway. Maybe between getting to know new faces and getting to understand the new system, maybe we were alwats gonna lose the first five games. So maybe it’s good we’ll be losing them all on the road, you know? It’s better than losing them at home, right?

Diego Chara played 60 minutes for T2 this weekend. We’ve got two weeks until our game against Dallas. Maybe that’s enough time for Chara to be game-fit. And maybe that’s enough time for Savarese to finally get his system in place, to finally get the team playing as one.

But if it doesn’t happen in the 3rd game, maybe it’ll happen in the 4th. Or the 5th. Or even the 6th, when we’re finally playing at home.

I don’t know what Gio’s doing, or when he’ll finally have the team playing like, you know, a team. I just hope it all comes together soon, because if it doesn’t, this is going to be an absolutely miserable season. It’s going to make 2012 look like sunshine and daisies.