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Six Degrees: Break Time

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MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The international break’s here, which means no game, which means we get to talk about some random shit.


1) Let’s start with a hot take: I think MLS should play through the international breaks. Not just a few teams, all the teams. International breaks should be treated just like any other week.

Would teams be weakened from all the players they’re missing due to national teams? Yeah, sure. But that just means they’d have to lean on their benches. Play their kids. See what kind of depth they’ve got. The teams with good depth would do fine, the teams with bad depth wouldn’t. I don’t see this as a bad thing.

Under my plan, the Timbers would have played this past weekend, and they would have done it without Andy Polo (who’s off to play with Peru), Cristhian Paredes (Paraguay), Jeremy Ebobisse, Marco Farfan, and Eryk Williamson (all to the US U23s). Would this have weakened us? Sure, a little. But we’d have managed.

Would a few other teams have been weakened even more? Yeah, definitely. But tough shit. Lean on your bench. Play your kids. See what kind of depth you’ve got.

And, theoretically, if you’re a team with a ton of international players, that means you’re really good. That means you’re getting lots of wins during the rest of the season. Maybe international breaks are when you take a few L’s. And maybe those L’s will incentivize you to improve your team’s depth.

2) Speaking of depth, this past weekend, Dallas started five homegrown players. Then RSL upped the ante by starting a league-record six.

This makes me very annoyed with my Timbers.

Now, let me just state from the start that the entire “homegrown” business is a complicated thing. It involves homegrown territories and academies and league-wide rules and blah blah blah. And, yes, Dallas is a much larger city than Portland, with a much larger Latino population. And, yes, RSL’s academy pulls from talent-rich Arizona, while we get talent-middle-class Idaho and half of New Mexico.

But all of the above tells only part of the story. I’d argue that the rest of the story is about commitment. Dallas and RSL play their kids because they’ve made an institutional commitment to playing their kids. The Timbers have not.

Now, I’ll grant you that we don’t currently have a lot of high-quality kids from our academy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have high-quality kids. We’ve got ‘em, but other than Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristhian Paredes, they’re not seeing the field.

Marco Farfan, Eryk Williamson, Marvin Loria, Renzo Zambrano, Modou Jadama, Tomas Conechny, and Foster Langsdorf have played a combined 16 minutes this year, and those were entirely from Conechny’s one substitute appearance. If this group were with Dallas or RSL, I think every one of them would have seen the field, and might even have started a game or two. I really believe this.

And it’s possible the players believe this, too. It’s possible they saw what Dallas and RSL did this weekend, and it’s possible it made them a little jealous. Maybe they’re wondering if they could get traded to one of those teams and see some actual playing time.

If we played a kid-heavy lineup next week, is there a chance we’d lose? Yes. But we’re already losing with our veterans. Why not lose with our kids?

3) How about this #PlayYourKids Starting XI? Think we could use this Sunday in LA?

Moreira – Tuiloma – Jadama – Farfan

Zambrano – Paredes – Williamson

Loria – Conechny

Langsdorf

This lineup’s most notable feature is the complete lack of anyone named Diego or Sebastian. Its second most notable feature is that it would be the MLS debut for Langsdorf, Loria, Moreira, Williamson, and Zambrano. Its third most notable feature is that we’d probably lose 3-0 or 4-1.

But as I’d like to remind you, we’re already doing that. At least with this lineup, we’d be playing our kids and I could stop feeling so jealous of Dallas and RSL.

4) A little too much for you? How about this one, instead? It’s a little lighter on #PlayYourKids and a little heavier on #Let’sTryAFormationWe’veNeverSeenBefore.

Jadama – Dielna – Tuiloma

Moreira – Chara – Paredes – Valentin

Valeri – Blanco

Ebobisse

The cool thing about this formation is we’d only use it when we had the ball. As soon as we lost the ball, Zarek Valentin and Jorge Moreira would drop back, and we’d suddenly have a five-man back line that looked like this.

Moreira – Jadama – Dielna – Tuiloma – Valentin

Chara – Paredes

Valeri – Blanco

Ebobisse

So it’s a 3-4-2-1 when we’ve got the ball, and a 5-2-2-1 when we don’t. If Blanco drops back, it’s a 5-3-1-1. Do I know this formation would work? Of course not. Is it an interesting idea for us to debate down in the comments? Hell yeah.

Got any interesting/batshit crazy formation ideas of your own? Let’s hear ‘em.

5) New topic: in the 79th minute of our last game, when the team was down 3-0 to Cincinnati, David Guzman came in for Sebastian Blanco and it got me thinking about team psychology.

If you’re a coach, and your team’s down a man and 3-0 in the hole, what’s the best strategy? I’m not talking about from a soccer perspective. From a soccer perspective, the game’s over. You’ve lost. But from a psychological perspective, what’s your best move? Sub in an attacker and go like hell for a goal, so the game will finish 3-1 and give everybody a lift? Or sub in a defender, because giving up more goals and losing 4-0 or 5-0 might break the team permanently?

Gio made the defensive move, subbing in Guzman for Blanco. Do you think this was the right move, psychologically? What do you think you’d do if you were the coach?

Or, alternately, do you think psychology has nothing to do with it, and the sub was made because of fitness or injury or some other reason?

6) And finally, have you seen the gif of Zarek french-kissing the crest? It’s breathtakingly awesome.

I think Timbers Twitter should use this gif for literally anything Zarek does. He scores a goal? We tweet out the gif of him french-kissing the crest.

He makes a nice tackle? The gif of him french-kissing the crest.

He gets up off the bench? The gif of him french-kissing the crest.

He takes a drink of water? Breathes oxygen? Digests food? The gif of him french-kissing the crest.

Please help me make this happen.