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Six Degrees: Did We Learn Anything At All?

Portland 3, Colorado 3

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how excited I was for the season to start? How excited I was to see soccer again? That was before Colorado drew even in the final moments of stoppage time, at which point, I was like, Oh, yeah, I remember now. Soccer’s an asshole, who occasionally likes to punch me in balls. Awesome. Welcome back, soccer!

1) Playing soccer in the snow is both highly entertaining and utterly awful. The entertaining parts are how the ball barely moves when you kick it, players are falling anytime they try a basic soccer move, and everyone looks like they’re silver-haired old men. The awful parts are how the ball barely moves when you kick it, players are falling anytime they try a basic soccer move, and everyone looks like they’re silver-haired old men.

So let’s start by admitting that there’s not a lot we can take from this game. Is our defense any good? Who knows? They were playing in an 18-degree snowstorm. Is our offense any good? Again, who knows? They were playing in an 18-degree snowstorm. Should we panic over the team dropping points in stoppage time to a 10-man team? Who knows? They were playing in an 18-degree snowstorm.

So, yes, we can talk about this game, but we should do it with the knowledge that the Timbers still haven’t played a real soccer game. They’ll play their first real game this coming weekend down in LA.

2) But the goal we allowed in the 16th minute, that was mostly real soccer. Yes, it was 18 degrees – the coldest MLS game in history – but the snow wasn’t thick, the ball was rolling pretty well, and nobody’s joints had frozen up yet. So yeah, it was mostly real soccer, and the Timbers mostly blew it.

That’s kind of a gorgeous team goal, isn’t it? The quick run, the through ball, the perfect cross, the finish. It’s such a nice goal, that I almost want to credit Colorado, rather than blame Portland.

That being said, I think the two people most to blame are Zarek Valentin and Julio Cascante. Valentin could have been quicker following Acosta’s run, while Cascante could have been quicker following Kamara’s.

It’s interesting that those two are to blame, since they’re also the two players whose spots in the Starting XI are most in doubt. Do you think this play will have them on the bench in our next game? Think Jorge Moreira will be at right back? Think either Claude Dielna or Bill Tuiloma will be at center back?

Or will Gio Savarese forgive pretty much everything, considering the conditions?

And, of course, the third option is that I’ve read the play incorrectly and am blaming the wrong players. What are your thoughts? Let me know down in the comments.

3) In the 25th minute, we had the handball/red card/PK, and I’m torn about whether it’s real soccer or not. Look at this footage. Is that still real soccer? Or have we moved into “shit field, shit conditions, we can’t judge this at all” territory?

I’m torn. I kind of want to call it real soccer since that’s some beautiful passing by the Timbers. David Guzman plays the give-and-go with Sebastian Blanco, then follows that by playing the give-and-go with Andy Polo, then follows that with a nice little cross to Larrys Mabiala in front of goal. Just beautiful work by everyone.

Can we appreciate this? Give the Timbers credit? Or had the snow gotten thick enough that the Colorado defenders couldn’t see what was going on? Had the pitch gotten slippery enough that they couldn’t keep their feet? Like I said, I really want to give us full credit for this, since it’s a lovely bit of passing by the Timbers, but maybe I shouldn’t.

4) From that point on, the weather went completely to shit, and I’m not prepared to judge anyone on the four goals that followed.

The Timbers goal right before halftime? A sloppy mess. The Rapids goal right after halftime? A sloppy mess. The 66th minute own goal to put the Timbers back on top? A sloppy mess. The Rapids goal in stoppage time to punch me in the balls? A sloppy mess.

Here’s a quick look at all four goals. Is this real soccer? I’m not sure it’s real soccer.

Yes, I kind of want to yell at Jorge Villafaña and Sebastian Blanco on that last goal, for just standing there while dude wandered into the six yard box, completely unmarked. But again, the field was slippery, the visibility was shit, and they’d exhausted themselves playing 90+ minutes in the freezing, mucky snow. If it’s 40 degrees and dry, they’d have been playing a whole lot better. Hell, both teams would have.

So, as I’ve said, I’m not prepared to judge anyone by what we saw on those last four goals. Maybe you are. If so, let me hear about it down in the comments.

5) Remember how pleased I was that the Timbers didn’t sign a DP striker? How excited I was to watch Jeremy Ebobisse continue his fine preseason form, banging in goals and making that DP striker unnecessary?

Welp, Jebo rewarded my excitement by being almost completely invisible against Colorado. In fact, are we sure he played? The box score says he played, but I can’t remember seeing him.

Let’s hope this is a one-time thing. Let’s hope it was because of the cold and the snow. Let’s hope he comes back with a vengeance on Sunday against LAFC. We’ll need him.

How did other players do? Here are some ultra-quick takes.

  • Andy Polo – very active, very involved. Considering this follows his Man of the Match performance in the final preseason game, is it possible he’s turned a corner? Are we seeing a new him?
  • David Guzman – also very involved, but came off injured in the 86th minute. Will he be healthy enough to play Sunday?
  • Diego Chara – slowed by an early yellow. Tried to shut down Colorado’s second goal, but slipped in the snow.
  • Jeff Attinella – hampered by both poor visibility and slippery feet. On a clear, dry day, I’m not sure he gives up either of Colorado’s last two goals.
  • Diego Valeri – took an impossible-sounding 16 corner kicks, then after the game, his leg fell off! I swear! He also had a fun moment on a free kick, counting out six steps when the ref put the wall too close. I don’t have video of it, so here’s Will Johnson doing the same thing back in the day. Good times, good times.

6) And with my final degree, I’ll remind you of what I said in my opening degree: I’m not sure we can judge the team yet. I’m not sure they’ve played an actual game of soccer yet.

Everything I wrote up above, all my reactions, all my judgments, all my hot takes, does any of it mean anything? All those gifs of people slipping and sliding around a snow-covered field, do they tell us anything about how the Timbers will play going forward? I’m not sure they do.

Will Chara be slipping the rest of the season? No. Will Guzman be making cool plays where the ball comes to a complete stop on the touch line? No. Will Jeff Jeff Jeff have slow reactions because he can’t see through the flurries? No. These things don’t happen in real soccer. None of them.

So it really does feel like next week, against LAFC, will be our first game. Our first game of real soccer, at least. What we played Saturday in Colorado, that wasn’t real soccer. It was kinda fun, it was somewhat entertaining, it was definitely memorable, but it wasn’t real soccer.