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Six Degrees: Good Teams Beat the Bad Teams

Portland 2, Colorado 0

Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse ‘bout to clown some fools, 8 September 2018
Kris Lattimore, Instagram: kris.lattimore

It was a fun night and a good win, but let’s not get too excited. Colorado’s pretty bad.

1) Saturday night’s game started ugly, and I actually thought Colorado was the better side for the opening 10-15 minutes. When we had the ball, Colorado pressed the hell out of us and we didn’t respond well. Then when Colorado had the ball, they were playing some very well-timed through-balls that looked offside but actually weren’t. If Colorado had better finishers, I think they would have been up a goal or two early.

The most exciting moment of the opening 40 minutes was probably this offside call.

What’s your take? Was surprise starter Jeremy Ebobisse offside? Remember, if his shoulder’s past the last defender, he’s not offside (since he can’t play the ball with his shoulder), but if his knee is past, then he is offside. So is that Jebo’s white sock that I’m seeing there? Or is it Larrys Mabiala’s white sock? And where is the last defender’s last body part? It’s hard to tell. What do you think?

The AR thought he was offside, and apparently the VAR agreed, since head referee Drew Fischer never went over to the replay screen. Do you think he should have? Or is this not a “clear and obvious” enough error to justify stopping the game to check?

My take? It was super, super close. So close that it’s probably not getting overturned. And, yes, you could say “the AR should’ve kept his flag down and let VAR decide” but if that’s what had happened, then right now Colorado fans are having this exact same conversation. So really, your opinion on this topic is entirely dependent on which team you’re supporting.

My second take? Even though it didn’t count, I’m glad Ebobisse sank the shot. Young players building confidence is always a good thing.

2) And in the 45th minute, the young man built even more confidence, putting us up 1-0.

The thing that amazes me about this goal is that Sebastian Blanco even got to that ball. I was sitting in 103 and had a perfect angle on Diego Chara’s pass. It was terrible. It was way too far in front of Blanco and I could tell Colorado’s Edgar Castillo was going to eat it up. There was just no way in hell Seba was getting to that ball.

Except he did get to it. And up in the stands, I couldn’t figure out how. Speed? Hustle? Dark magic?

Turns out, the problem was Edgar Castillo. Watch him. First he’s going for the ball, then he kind of stops, then he goes again. He never commits. What’s he afraid of? Seba’s dark magic? Did my dark magic hypothesis turn out to be correct?

Whatever the reason, Seba got the ball and delivered a perfect strike to Jebo. In fact, the pass was so reminiscent of his perfect strike to Chara two weeks ago, and also his perfect strike to Lucas Melano last week, that I felt compelled to make another MEGA COMPILATION. Enjoy.

For the record, if Melano finishes that one chance, I think Blanco’s MEGA COMPILATION gets upgraded to a MEGA COMPILATION!!!!

3) Speaking of Lucas Melano not finishing chances, have you seen this chart? It’s amazing.

This is a screen shot of an interactive chart. You can click on those dots to get names, or enter a name to see where somebody lands. I highly recommend you go there by clicking here, but if you don’t want to right now, let me give you the most relevant fact: according to this chart, of the seven worst finishers in MLS history, three have played or are currently playing for the Portland Timbers.

Lucas Melano’s the seventh worst finisher, Kalif Alhassan’s the second worst finisher, and the number one worst finisher in the entire history of our league is... Dairon Asprilla.

Dear God in heaven, three out of seven? What are we doing wrong? Is it our coaching? Is it our scouting? Is it random bad luck? Is it Seba’s dark magic? What the hell is going on here?

And another good question: why the hell has Dairon Asprilla started six games for us this year? Will he start more in the future? Has Gio Savarese seen this chart? Is Gio addicted to Asprilla and won’t give him up, even in the face of numbers like this? Is it time for us to stage an intervention?

For the record, Ebobisse hasn’t played the 3,000 minutes required to make this chart, but according to my math (which could be flawed, please let me know down in the comments), Jebo’s two career goals on nine career shots gives him a finishing rate of 22.2%. Now obviously, you should always beware of small sample sizes, but nevertheless, 22% puts Ebobisse way up in the yellow section of this chart. He’s not at the very top with Josef Martinez (28.3%), or even Obafemi Martins (24.4%), but he’s in the same neighborhood as Cyle Larin, Jozy Altidore, Christian Ramirez, and... wait for it... wait for it... Giovanni Savarese!

I guess my point is that the kid finally got a start, he bagged a goal, he almost bagged two more, and moving forward, if I see him sitting on the bench while Melano or Asprilla are on the field, it’s very possible that I’m gonna burn Providence Park to the ground.

4) Speaking of burning Providence Park to the ground, our starting goalkeeper on Saturday night was Steve Clark. Do you even know who Steve Clark is? I won’t blame you if you don’t. He’s been with the team for, like, three weeks. We signed him when Jake Gleeson went down. At the time, my inner voice was all like, Why not just promote Kendall McIntosh? He’s been with the team a couple years, he’s kicking ass for T2, why not make him Jeff Attinella’s backup?

But no. Gio made Clark the backup and kept Kendall at T2. I was a little frustrated, but my inner voice was all like, Well, hmm... okay. Maybe this makes sense. After all, McIntosh needs playing time. He won’t get that sitting on the bench for the first team. It’s better that he gets playing time with T2. And if Jeff Jeff Jeff gets hurt, surely it’ll be McIntosh who takes over, right? Surely, they wouldn’t make Clark the starter, right? Right?

Wrong. Jeff Jeff Jeff did go down and instead of rewarding the guy who’s been busting his ass for T2, instead of giving the young man some quality MLS minutes, Gio went with the 32-year-old journeyman who’s been with the team for less than a month. My inner voice seethed.

So... how did Clark do on Saturday? Well, he had a clean sheet against a very bad Colorado offense. He made a couple decent plays. He worked hard, looking for outlet passes. He had one really impressive diving save on a shot that I’m pretty sure was going to hit the crossbar anyway. And he also did this.

If you watched the game on TV, with replays and commentary and stuff, you probably had a much better sense of what was going on than we did in the stands. All we knew up in section 103 is that it looked like the Rapids player got to the ball first, then Clark cleaned him out. Seemed like a pretty obvious penalty, Colorado would sink the PK, and the game would be tied up 1-1.

But, no, that’s not what happened. After an interminable delay while the ref stood with his finger in his ear, he went to look at the replay, then waved off the penalty. Getting home and seeing the replay, I can see exactly why the penalty was overturned. Check out that gif again, but don’t look at Steve Clark. Look at Liam Ridgewell. He gets absolutely steamrolled. That’s how the attacker got open and that’s why the penalty was overturned.

Good job, VAR. Maybe be a little quicker next time?

5) Losing that penalty turned out to be a double whammy for Colorado, because just a minute or two after it was waved off, the Timbers made it 2-0.

There are many things to enjoy here.

One, what a run from Blanco, straight into the teeth of the defense, all the way the end line. Dude was busting his ass the entire game.

Two, look at Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse running with him. At first, I thought it was a two-on-six break, but no, it was three-on-six. Jebo serves a purpose here, too. You can see at least one, maybe two Colorado defenders pulling off of Valeri so they can cover him.

Three, look at Blanco’s heat-seeking missile straight onto Diego Valeri’s forehead. I’m not sure Valeri had to move his head at all. I’m not sure he had time to move his head, the ball was on him so quick. I just hope he didn’t get brain damage.

Four, that goal makes it 10 goals and 10 assists for El Rey, which puts him in some very select company.

6) Wait, we’re already at our sixth degree? I still have lots more to say! You know what this means, right? A bulleted list!

  • Blanco had two assists. He also had two assists the first time we played Colorado. This means half of Blanco’s eight assists this season have been against Colorado. Is there any way we could play them a third time? Please?
  • I know I was ripping on Steve Clark earlier, but how adorable was he at the end of the game, getting his first log slice? It was so cute. Now take a seat, Steve, and let Kendall play.
  • I’m pretty sure Gio only owns one suit.
  • Can I get some pronunciation help on Ebobisse’s nickname? I’ve been pronouncing it JAY-bo, but the guy next to me was pronouncing it JEE-bo. And I suppose there’s also a chance it’s something like jay-BO or juh-BO or something. Does anyone have any inside information on this? Maybe you know him?
  • Listening to the radio on the drive home, I learned that the reason Samuel Armenteros didn’t start was because he went to Europe last week. Did anyone know about that? I didn’t hear a thing.
  • Another bit of news you may have missed, Alvas Powell hurt himself with the Jamaican national team. This means we should get used to Zarek Valentin at right back.
  • There are many things I love about Zarek, but God help us all when he decides to shoot the ball.
  • Andy Polo continues to grow on me and I think it’s because he’s being more aggressive. But then he gets near the box and his decision-making is terrible. Help me out, everyone. What do we think of Andy Polo? Is he good?
  • The Capos should never start us Tetrising that early. We hadn’t even hit the 90th minute when they started and then we had six minutes of stoppage. One, that’s far too long to Tetris, and two, how can we tempt fate like that? Tetrising early is just asking the soccer gods to punish us. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t Tetris unless the final whistle’s been blown. Who’s with me on this?
  • Our next match is Saturday on the road against Houston, a team that started the season okay, but is now a slow-burning tire fire. Seriously, they’re 0-8-2 in their last 10 games. They’re a mess. I know this is a road game, but I’m still calling it a must-win. We don’t have many bad teams left on our schedule, so when we face one, we better get the full three points.