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Six Degrees: Everybody Ready?

MLS: Mobile Mini Sun Cup-Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little hard to believe, but we’re just three sleeps away from seeing our boys in green take the field in a real, actual, this-one-counts soccer match. Are we ready?

1) Since my last post, the Timbers had two preseason games. In the first – a 1-0 loss to USL team Phoenix Rising – the team looked not at all ready for the regular season, but I don’t think we can read too much into it, since it was a mix of starters and scrubs.

Here are a few quick, bullet-pointed thoughts.

  • Preseason goal-scoring machine Jeremy Ebobisse had yet another goal. VAR called it back, but still, Jebo’s killing it.
  • We finally saw Modou Jadama, Foster Langsdorf, and Eryk Williamson. Jadama impressed me with a couple nice, long, Ridgy-esque passes, one straight up the middle to Jebo, another long diagonal switch to the right winger. Williamson wasn’t terribly involved. Langsdorf spent most of his shift in an offside position.
  • Jorge Villafana’s been a bit off this entire preseason. People are getting behind him and scoring goals. Is this because he’s been bad, or is it because Gio’s asking him to get forward and opponents are playing into the space he leaves behind? Gimme your thoughts down below.
  • Speaking of disappointing defenders, Claude Dielna got beaten 1v1 on the Phoenix goal. I’ve seen very little of Dielna this preseason and don’t really have an opinion on him. Do you?

2) Saturday’s preseason match against RSL was much more informative so I’ll break it down in a bit more depth.

The main thing I loved about the 3-0 win was that it was essentially our first choice lineup vs their first choice lineup, and everyone was going 90. Essentially, it was the first “real” game of the preseason, and we won it, handily.

The defense looked generally okay. Or at least, there were no horrible breakdowns, no one getting behind us with one or two passes. So that’s progress.

That being said, Jeff Jeff Jeff Attinella made three or four (or five) really tough saves. If he doesn’t stand on his head, this might have been a 3-3 draw and we’d be having a very different conversation. But who’s to say Jeff Jeff Jeff won’t kick ass like that on the regular this year?

Here’s our opening goal. I love how Jebo stays onside, then adjusts to an imperfect cross, then finishes it.

You saw who assisted Jebo’s goal, right? Andy “Holy Hell, Is This The Guy We’re Gonna See All Year” Polo. In what I think we can call his best game as a Timber, Polo had an assist, a hockey assist, and a goal.

Is this the start of something great for Polo? Is he finally going to live up to expectations? I have no idea. If you remove this game from the equation, Polo had a pretty weak preseason. But after this game, we’re all suddenly much more enthusiastic.

But maybe you could say the same for the entire team. Without this 3-0 win, the preseason wasn’t all that impressive. But with it? Suddenly, the team looks fantastic. Suddenly, we look like contenders.

So which team do you think shows up in Colorado this Saturday? The scufflers who scuffled around this whole month, or the badasses who just took RSL to the woodshed? Let me know down in comments.

3) As you’ve probably seen, Jeremy Ebobisse won the Golden Boot at the Tuscon preseason tourney/league/whatever, with 3 goals in 4 games. Not bad work for a guy the team’s been desperately trying to replace with a DP striker.

I, for one, am glad we didn’t sign any of those expensive strikers we were looking at. This is partially because I want Jebo to get tons of minutes so he can grow into whatever he’s going to be, and it’s partially because I like the idea of the team having an open, unused DP slot when the summer transfer window opens. At this point in the season, we don’t really know what the team needs, we can only guess. But when mid-summer hits, we’ll know exactly what the team needs, and we’ll be able to go out and get it.

So, yeah, all our disappointment that we didn’t sign any of those bright, shiny strikers? Maybe that will turn out to be the best thing that could have happened.

4) Or maybe not. Maybe Jebo doesn’t rise to the occasion. Maybe he finishes the year with a measly 9 goals.

Wait, a measly 9 goals? Would 9 goals be measly? Or would that be totally acceptable for a young guy who’s currently sitting on just 3 career goals? Maybe a 9-goal season would be just fine. What do we want from Jebo this year?

Actually, let’s expand this question. How many goals do we want from the forward position? Last year, we got 15 goals from our forwards. Samuel Armenteros had 8, Fanendo Adi had 3, Jebo had 2, Lucas Melano had 1, and Dairon Asprilla had 1. That’s 15 goals total.

I would argue that 15 goals was enough last year, since we also got 10 goals from Diego Valeri, 10 from Sebastian Blanco, and 5 from Larrys Mabiala. All of those numbers added up got us into the playoffs, then eventually into MLS Cup.

But 2019’s a new year. Everyone’s a year older. Maybe some people drop off. Maybe some people rise up.

What are your thoughts? How many goals do we need from Jebo? How many from the forward position as a whole?

5) Okay, as long as we’re playing this little game, here’s a new question. How many points do we want from the opening stretch of road games? As you know, we start the year with a breathtaking 12 straight road games. When June 1st arrives and we’re finally playing at home, how many points do you think the team will have?

A bit of googling tells me that MLS teams average less than 1.0 PPG on the road. And with 17 points in 17 road games, the 2018 Timbers were a tiny bit above average, hitting 1.0 PPG right on the head.

A useful team to look at is last year’s DC United team, since they had a fuck ton of road games to start the year, then a fuck ton of home games to end it, just like we will this year. (By the way, is it fuck ton, fuckton, or fuck-ton? And what if we’re in England? Is it then a metric fuck ton? A metric fuck tonne, perhaps?) So, how did DC do? They were 1-9-7 on the road, which comes to 10 points in 17 games, or 0.58 PPG. Ouch.

But despite that ouch-inducing PPG, DC made the playoffs. They got crazy-hot during their long late-season stretch of home games and not only made the playoffs, but grabbed the 4th seed and hosted a wild card game (which they promptly lost, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good narrative).

So how many points do we want from the Timbers in this 12-game road trip? Is 12 enough? Because that would be 1.0 PPG, or a bit above the MLS road average. 12 seems acceptable, right?

What about 7 points? Because that would equal DC United’s 0.58 road PPG last year. Would that be acceptable?

For me, no. It may have worked out for DC last year, but if the Timbers are sitting on 7 points come June 1st, I’ll be freaking out.

10 points, and I’ll be a little nervous.

12 points, and I’ll be cautious, but mostly okay.

15 point, and I’ll be thrilled.

What about you? What point total do you want the Timbers to get out of this 12-game road stretch? Follow-up question: what point total do you think they’ll actually get?

6) For my last degree, some housekeeping.

As you may know, this is the first time I’ve ever written in the offseason. Turns out, I kind of liked it. It was fun having a consistent publication day (Wednesdays), it was fun writing about whatever the hell I wanted (rather than just the most recent game), and it was fun being able to write some stuff ahead of time (rather than banging the whole thing out the day of publication).

So, after talking about it with my editor, I’ve decided to keep doing it this way. This year, instead of publishing a day or two after the game, I’ll keep doing it on Wednesdays. Instead of using all six degrees for a detailed breakdown of the previous game, I’ll mix things up, with some breakdown and some random Timber thoughts.

You’ll definitely still get some analysis, maybe just not as much. You’ll definitely still get some gifs, maybe just not for every goal. You’ll definitely still get some stupid jokes and gratuitous obscenities, maybe just a little fucking stupider and a little fucking gratuitous-er.

Will this work? I have no idea. Will there be some amazing game with ridiculous drama and I’ll be desperate to write about it and will say “to hell with this Wednesday nonsense, I’m publishing now”? Conceivably.

And what am I going to do when there’s two games in a week? Again, I have no idea. Maybe the Wednesday column will work with two games. After all, we covered two games today, didn’t we? They were preseason games, but still, it worked.

Fear not, though, Stumptown Footy will still have the usual post-game write-up from William Conwell, so you can go crazy in the comments there, debating how awesome or how shitty the Timbers played. Then, a few days later, I’ll show up with my new-style, let’s-hope-it-works Six Degrees.

And if it doesn’t work, if I hate it and you hate it and everyone hates it, then we can always go back to the old way of doing it. Sound good? Awesome.

First game’s Saturday, folks, so strap in. We’ve got seven glorious months of soccer ahead of us. And if things go well, maybe that will turn into eight or nine glorious months, with some silverware at the end.