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Six Degrees: Reason For Concern

DC United 4, Portland 1

MLS: Portland Timbers at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In my last column, I requested that you not overreact to last Saturday’s loss. Now that we’ve made it two losses in a row? Maybe we still shouldn’t overreact, but we should definitely react.

1) There are three different ways we can look at Wednesday evening’s 4-1 loss to DC United. The positive way? The Timbers were playing on three days rest, they’d traveled all the way across the continent, and they were playing an opponent that was finally figuring itself out in front of supporters who were finally starting to believe in them. That’s the positive way of looking at the loss.

The negative way? The Timbers got their asses kicked. This was not a case of a one or two plays going against us. It was not a case of a little bad luck. It was a comprehensive beatdown by a clearly superior team. In all facets of the game, DC was the better side.

And the third way you can look at the result is right down the middle. DC was a little above average, while the Timbers were a little below average. Add those two things together and you get a loss that wasn’t as bad as the final scoreline would indicate.

Which of these reactions am I having? I’ll be honest, I’m trying to land somewhere in the middle, but my heart and mind keep taking me down that negative path. It felt like an ass-kicking. It felt like something to be worried about.

Maybe I can talk myself off of the ledge. Maybe by the end of this column, I’ll have come to a more positive place.

2) One reason for concern? Our offense was total crap.

Okay, wait, maybe that’s a little extreme. How about this: for the game’s opening 20-25 minutes, our offense wasn’t total crap, but they were definitely uninspiring. While the team did fairly well in the field’s middle third, they couldn’t get any movement into the box. If they were going to score, it would either be from a long-range golazo or a set piece.

Then, for about 10-15 minutes, things improved. The boys started stringing passes together, they started moving things into the box, and in the 34th minute, they produced a very nice goal.

That’s just lovely, isn’t it? If we’d been doing that sort of thing for the entire game, we’d have taken all three points. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep it up at all. The rest of the 1st half was fairly unimpressive, while the 2nd half was utterly dreadful.

I cannot overstate how impotent our offense looked in those final 45 minutes. Last weekend against Vancouver, we weren’t able to get a goal from open play, but at least we were creating chances. Lots and lots of chances. There was none of that in the second half against DC. Zero energy, zero ideas, zero questions asked of the defense, zero sweat for DC defenders.

So that’s the offense. How was the defense?

3) Pretty crappy, thanks for asking.

DC’s first two goals were the most concerning. Let’s look at the first, which happened just before halftime.

You’ve seen offside traps before, right? It’s when the entire back line’s in a nice straight line, and when an opposing attacker – in this case, Wayne Rooney – starts his run, the entire line steps forward, so the runner is suddenly offside. It’s not PhD level stuff, but it still requires discipline, communication, and trust. The Timbers back line showed none of those things on this goal.

I think Julio Cascante’s the most to blame, but Alvas Powell might be keeping Rooney onside as well. And Zarek Valentin’s showing a strange lack of urgency, too. Am I missing anyone? Who else messes up?

Want to see some more crappy defending? Then you’ll enjoy DC’s second goal.

God, that’s ugly. That’s just horrendous. How the fuck long are we going to let Luciano Acosta wander around the top of the box? First, he somehow escapes four white jerseys, then he slowly waltzes along, head up, looking for options while Cascante, Valentin, and Diego Chara calmly watch.

Diego Chara calmly watching? This is a thing that actually happened? Diego! You’re a destroyer! Destroy him!

But no, Acosta wasn’t destroyed, then he wasn’t destroyed some more, then he continued to not be destroyed, and then he made an easy pass to the unguarded Oniel Fisher, who calmly made it a 2-1 game.

A poorly done offside trap? I can handle that. Diego Chara not destroying attackers at the top of the box? I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where things like that happen. I’m not sure you are, either.

4) DC’s third goal was off a free kick. And not even that amazing a free kick.

I mean, Wayne Rooney got it up and down pretty well, but did he sneak it just inside the top corner? Not really. It was saveable. Seems to me that Jeff Attinella got a poor jump on the ball. And it seems to Bobby Warshaw that there was a good reason for that.

And because a 3-1 loss wasn’t humiliating enough, in stoppage time, former Timber Darren Mattocks decided to clown some fools.

Damn, Darren. Run the length of the field, nutmeg Alvas, blow up Zarek, and chip Jeff? That’s just filthy, man. How come you never scored a goal that nice when you were wearing the Green and Gold?

5) A few random thoughts.

  • In the 73rd minute, Tomas Conechny made his MLS debut. His first shift could hardly have been less noteworthy. At one point, he took a free kick. That’s about it. Yawn.
  • Slightly more exciting, Andy Polo got his first assist. Between that and the four shots he took against Vancouver, I’m feeling the tiniest bit more hopeful about him.
  • We’ve lost two straight games since trading Vytas. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
  • With DC’s improving form since their stadium opened, plus 10 of their final 13 at home, don’t be surprised if they make a very late, very entertaining run into the playoffs.
  • I think Merritt Paulson should hire this kid to be on our sidelines, fucking with opposing players like he fucked with Alvas. Don’t tell me he didn’t do this on purpose. He knew exactly what he was doing and I applaud him. This is world-class trolling.

6) Remember a few weeks ago when I said games in hand were a double-edged sword? How they only helped if you turned them into three points? Welp, we just played our first game in hand, turned it into zero points, and also exhausted our players with a mid-week game. So, yeah. Double-edged sword.

We have two more games in hand, mid-week games at home against Toronto and Columbus. Let’s hope we take better advantage of them.

In the meantime, our next game is Saturday evening in Kansas City. Will we crap the bed there like we crapped it in DC? Hard to say. I know we’ll be tired. Gio played pretty much the same guys against Vancouver and DC. Will those tired guys play a third game in eight days? Or will Gio have a bunch of newbies out there? Will our big-timers sit? The Dos Diegos? Seba? Sammy? Will that weaken the team fatally? Or will having some fresh legs in there be a good thing? Will it give us a little life?

Last time the Timbers were beaten this soundly was in the second game of the season, 4-0 against RBNY. That loss sparked major changes. Will Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to DC prompt the same thing? What changes, exactly? Changes in personnel? In formation?

As always, I don’t have answers, I’m just asking questions. But I do know this: if Gio wants to completely overhaul the team, this is not an easy week to do it. How much can he do when they’ve only got 72 hours until SKC? One of those days is probably travel. Another might be for rest and recovery. Will they have a single practice, with actual running and actual soccer balls?

For all these reasons, I think Saturday’s team will look a lot like Wednesday’s team. In tactics, at least. There might be a few new faces, but I don’t think we’ll see a huge change in tactics. There’s just not time to implement it. But next week, when they’re back home, preparing for Seattle? We might see changes then.

What the changes will be, I have no idea, but I won’t be surprised to see them. And after the shit show I watched on Wednesday night, I think I’d actually welcome them.