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Six Degrees: Finally!

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Portland 3, Minnesota 2

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

We did it, everyone! It took six games, but we finally did it! A win! An extremely close win! Against one of the worst teams in the league! Yay, us!


1) It’s only April and we’ve already seen pretty much everything from the Timbers this year. We’ve seen total shit. We’ve seen not total shit, but not great, either. We’ve seen great for a half. We’ve see great for 75 minutes. And now, finally, blessedly, we’ve seen an actual win.

But you know what we haven’t seen? A pretty win. An easy win. A convincing win. A win where I felt safe with a one-goal lead. Hell, a win where I felt safe with a two-goal lead.

But here’s the thing. Maybe I’m being a dick about this. Maybe asking for a good win is a bit too much right now. What do you think? Should I relax a little? Should I put aside my worries about the defense? My concerns about the coach’s substitutions? My fear that no lead is safe? My belief that the final 15 minutes of games is where Timber wins go to die?

Okay, I’ll give it a try. I’ll try relaxing a little and just be satisfied with the team taking another baby step forward, the step into three-points-land.

2) Let’s talk about that opening goal, shall we? It was a beauty.

Alvas Powell’s had goals like this before. Usually, I call them “race into the box on the diagonal, close your eyes, and hit it as hard as you friggin’ can” goals. I’m not sure this one belongs in that group, though. It was a little better. There was real class here. To be honest, it’s probably the best goal I’ve ever seen Powell score.

He started with that great diagonal run. His speed meant the defender behind him wasn’t catching up, and the defender in front of him was so terrified, he just turned and ran back toward goal. That’s when Alvas really showed class I wasn’t sure he had, actually. He kept rolling forward, the ball staying tight on his foot, then started slaloming right and left and right, turning that poor centerback two or three times. By the time the guy was ready to fall over in dizziness, Alvas was firing a near post shot so hard it was already past the keeper by the time he flailed at it.

Was there some luck here? Maybe. If that goal’s scored by Fanendo Adi, we’d call it skill. But when it’s scored by a right back with only four career goals up to then, you can’t help thinking there was some luck involved.

Well, I for one don’t care. Bring on the luck. We deserve a little. And I hope every team in MLS sees this video and starts game-planning to stop Powell. The more attention he gets, the more room the team’s real goalscorers will find.

3) Speaking of our real goalscorers, they had some pretty goals, too.

First up was Diego Valeri. It was only three minutes after Powell’s goal, and Powell got the assist.

As you can see, whether this was a case of Powell shooting, crossing, or shrossing, his initial kick ricochets off the defender. This didn’t mess the keeper up, but it may have slowed the ball a bit, which allowed Valeri to step in and give a little toe-tap that was too much for the keeper to handle.

Do you like deflected goals? Because we had another in the second half, when Fanendo Adi finally opened his 2018 account.

There’s so much to like here. First, there’s Sebastian Blanco seeing Valeri open on the far side. Then, there’s Valeri realizing a header on goal won’t quite work, but seeing Cristhian Paredes open in the middle. Then, there’s Paredes getting off a surprisingly good shot on a difficult bouncing ball. And finally, there’s Adi, surprising pretty much everyone in the stadium by throwing his head into the ball’s path, re-directing it into goal as the keeper dives in the opposite direction. Just a first-class goal all around.

4) Let’s run through the game’s other four goals.

Wait... four goals? Yep. I’m counting the two that got called back.

First up, Minnesota’s opening goal.

That’s a friggin’ beautiful goal. Yeah, sure, it got overturned by video review, since the final guy was offside, but whatever, that’s still a friggin’ beautiful goal. Do we blame the Timbers defense or just applaud the Loons offense? Either way, the goal didn’t count, so let’s move on to Minnesota real first goal.

A few things to note here. One, ouch, Diego Chara. You kinda got dusted there. And two, dear Lord, Jake Gleeson, that’s just horrible. It’s almost inexplicable, really. How do you get that bad a jump on the ball? Quick reactions are kinda your thing, aren’t they? This is just... bizarre.

No worries, though, because Adi scored a late goal, putting us up 4-1.

Except, of course, it didn’t count because supposedly Adi was offside. And I emphasize the “supposedly” because, while Minny’s called-back goal was a clear and obvious error, I’m not sure Adi’s was. Look at it. Maybe he’s offside, but maybe he’s not. It’s certainly not clear and obvious. If you show that to 50 neutrals, will all 50 say, “Yep, he’s offside?” I’m not so sure.

Clearly, this whole VAR thing is still a work in progress.

And finally, Minnesota’s second goal, which was notable because, one, it actually counted; and two, we were kind enough to score it for them

Sigh. Not much to say about this except how bad I feel for Bill Tuiloma. That’s two goals in two weeks for the young Kiwi. One for the good guys, one for the bad guys.

Okay, is that it? Did I cover all the goals? And all the own-goals? And all the overturned-by-VAR goals? Yeah? You sure? Okay, let’s move on.

5) Some random points.

  • I am really high on 19-year old Cristhian Paredes. The kid plays much more box-to-box than I was expecting, he’s a bigger offensive threat than Andy Polo, and he never looks intimidated or overwhelmed. He look like a veteran. Like he belongs. We’ll see if Polo or Samuel Armenteros do anything to change my opinion, but right now, Paredes is the team’s best offseason addition, and it’s not even close.
  • I’m still not happy with our substitutions. Very late, very defensive. Hell, two of them were in stoppage time, for crying out loud.
  • This was my first time seeing Gio Savarese on the sideline, and I gotta say, there a bit too much yelling for my tastes. It wasn’t angry yelling, it was more “do this, go there” yelling. Did Caleb Porter do this just as much, but was less demonstrative about it? Personally, I think coaches should yell that stuff in practice. In the games, you should mostly let the players play.
  • Speaking of Caleb Porter, I miss driving home listening to his post-game pressers. He actually broke down the game. He gave details. Gio mostly just give cliches.
  • Moving away from coaching styles and into the really important stuff, apparently, the Timbers have a new company in charge of the stadium’s food and drinks. There were issues with lines, there were issues with credit cards, there were issues with those little cardboard trays you need to carry all your shit back to your seat. But let’s be clear, all of that pales in comparison next to this: no tater tots. Let me repeat that: NO. TATER. TOTS. I cannot overstate how big a problem this is. I flippin’ love tater tots. In fact, I don’t understand why anyone would cook a potato in any way that is not a tater tot. Last year’s rotating selection of deluxe tots was not just the best food choice at the stadium, it was usually my best meal of the week. So be assured, my friends, I will be sending a strongly worded letter to Merritt Paulson letting him know that this cannot stand. Give me tots or give me death.

6) After opening our home schedule against one of the worst teams in the league, on Sunday the Timbers welcome one of the best teams in the league, the Indomitable Pigeons of New York City FC.

Personally, I love watching NYC play. They string together a million passes and they always, always want to play out of the back. So how will the Timbers deal with this?

Since we’ll be seeing a ton of passes from their goalkeeper and center backs, do you think Gio will start Armenteros at striker? Sammy’s got more speed than Adi. He can chase that ball and make trouble. Likewise, will Polo be played a little higher up the field for exactly the same reason? He may not have a nose for goal, but Andy’s got young, fast legs. He could cause some trouble.

On the opposite end of the field, will a Timbers back line that’s conceded at least two goals in every game but one finally put together a rock solid game? Against a team that’s scored at least two in every game? And is a favorite to win the Supporter’s Shield?

That last paragraph was pretty pessimistic, but it’s also realistic. NYCFC is good. Very good. I have a hard time believing this is the week we put together that so-far-elusive pretty win. And, to be honest, against a team of NYC’s caliber, an ugly win would be just fine with me. Baby steps, right? Baby steps.