The good news? We’re no longer the 2nd worst team in the league. We’re #1! We’re #1!
1) I’ve been writing this column since 2013, and each time the Timbers have a bad loss, I handle it a little differently.
There are times when I try to be the voice of reason. This is not one of those times.
There are times when I try to convince everyone it’s not as bad as it seems. Sadly, this is not one of those times, either.
And there are times when I try to talk everyone off the ledge. Nope, you guessed it, that ain’t happening, either.
Feel free to walk right up to that ledge, because this is every bit as bad as it seems. Our Portland Timbers just played the worst team in the league and got destroyed. This is the worst Timbers side I can ever remember seeing, we’re horrible, and there is no good news.
Over at mlssoccer.com, Bobby Warshaw tried being the voice of reason, saying we shouldn’t panic, that it’s not as bad as we think. He was even mentioned in this week’s Power Rankings, where the Timbers were ranked... you guessed it... last.
Warshaw said that points are hard to pick up when you haven’t played a home game, which is true. But you know who else hasn’t played a home game? Montreal and Minnesota. Montreal has eight points. Minnesota has nine. The Timbers have one. And they only got that point because they played up a man for 63 minutes. In a snowstorm. Take away the red card and the snowstorm, and we’d have zero points right now. I’m sure of this.
So, no, you’re not getting the calm, reasonable, far-sighted DeMann today. You’re getting the OHMYFUCKINGGODWHATISHAPPENING DeMann. I hope you enjoy him.
2) Let’s start by doing something you probably don’t want to do. Let’s look at the three goals we allowed and try to decide if we’re merely the worst defense in MLS, or if we’re the worst defense in the history of soccer, in any league, at any time, and probably into the future as well.
God, that’s shambolic defending. I could try to break it all down, moment by moment, and player by player, but to be honest, I don’t want to. It hurt my heart just putting these gifs together. The less time I have to spend watching them, the better. So, I’ll just give some generalities.
Jorge Villafana, what the fuck? David Guzman, what the fuck? Larrys Mabiala, what the fuck? Bill Tuiloma, what the fuck? Jorge Moreira, what the fuck? Am I missing anyone?
On to the second goal.
What else can I say? All the same guys from above, Villafana, Guzman, Mabiala, Tuiloma, you’re still in my What The Fuck Club. Diego Chara, maybe you a little bit, too. And Jorge Moreira, you’re getting it in all caps this time, WHAT THE FUCK, GUY? COVER SOMEONE! ANYONE!
And then, about 30 seconds later...
Oh, cool, I’ve finally got someone new to add to my What The Fuck Club. Diego Valeri, what the fuck?
What about Jeff Attinella? Does he get to join the club? For most of this young season, the defense has been hanging him out to dry, allowing shots that Jeff has no hope of saving. But on this one, could Jeff have done better? I’m having a hard time being angry with him. After these past five games, I’m pretty sure dude’s got PTSD. Hell, I think maybe all of us have it.
3) The funny thing is, I was actually encouraged by our previous game, a 2-1 loss to LA. Our defense looked a ton better, setting up in a 5-3-2. Our three center backs gummed up the box pretty good, limiting LA to very little options beyond lumping in a bunch of crosses and hoping Zlatan could create something. Turns out, Zlatan did create something – a pair of penalties – but that doesn’t change the fact that our defense looked better than at any other time this year.
So what did Gio do? He ditched the 5-3-2, went back to the 4-2-3-1, and immediately got steamrolled by the worst team in the league. (Ahem, excuse me, I meant the previous worst team in the league. They’re no longer the worst. We are.)
Why did Gio ditch the 5-3-2? I dunno. Maybe he did it because he thought San Jose were pushovers. Maybe he did it because he had Larrys Mabiala back from suspension. Maybe he did it because he wanted to get Dairon Asprilla onto the field, because, you know... Dairon Asprilla.
Whatever Gio’s reasoning, it was wrong. At this point, there is no indication we can play with two center backs. Literally the only time this season our D’s looked good was with three CBs. So like it or not, Gio, that’s what we’re playing. Fuck with the lineup in other ways – pay a 3-5-2, play a 3-4-3, hell, play a 3-0-7 for all I care – but keep the three CBs. We can’t defend with only two. We haven’t got the personnel.
4) Think that’s a little harsh, saying “we haven’t got the personnel?” I think Gio agrees with me. Check out what he said, and didn’t say, post-game. (Make sure you have the sound up.)
That’s brutal, isn’t it? Asked point-blank if he thinks he has the personnel to turn this around, Gio clearly and obviously doesn’t say yes. Ouch. That’s a shot across the bow. That’s a message to everyone in the locker room.
Now, while I do think Gio’s right to be upset with his players, I hope he’s upset with the coaching staff, too. No one is blameless right now. Not even Gio.
For example, there were some awfully weird substitutions in this game. We’re down 3-0 and he subs Tomas Conechny for Asprilla? Then later it’s Foster Langsdorf for Jeremy Ebobisse? Weird. If he wanted as many attackers as possible, why not sub out for defenders? Conechny for Guzman, maybe. Langsdorf for Chara.
Speaking of Chara, he still looks slow. I hate this so much.
Something else I hate? Diego Valeri has taken two PKs this year and both have been saved.
And as long as we’re tossing out fun stats that are in no way fun, Jeff Attinella had a career-high 10 saves on Saturday. Making a lot of saves is never a good thing. In an ideal world, your goalkeeper has to make zero saves. Jeff made 10.
5) Moving on to the future, first, the good news. Have you seen this drone footage of the stadium expansion? It’s friggin’ awesome. When June 1st finally gets here, the stadium’s gonna be looking sweet.
The bad news? When June 1st finally gets here, the Timbers may not have a single win.
When I saw this year’s schedule and looked at the big, season-opening 12-game road trip, I only saw three games I thought were sure wins: Colorado, Cincinnati, and San Jose. We’ve played all three and have one point to show for it.
So in our remaining seven road games, who are we going to beat? Our next three opponents, Dallas, Columbus, and Toronto, they’re all crushing it. The final two opponents, Houston and Philly, they’re crushing it, too.
That leaves the middle two games, against RSL and Vancouver. RSL’s at 0.67 PPG. Not good, but better than us. Vancouver’s at 0.2 PPG, same as us, but their goal differential is -5, which is twice as good as our -10 goal diff.
Can we beat RSL and Vancouver? I’m gonna call it a maybe. Neither team is doing all that well, but then again, neither were San Jose, and they just obliterated us.
I gotta be honest, if we get seven draws in these final seven road games, I’d be pleased. That’s a pretty pathetic place to find oneself – hoping for draws, thinking of draws as wins – but it’s what these opening five games have done to me. It’s what happens when you root for the worst team in the league.
6) So if next week’s game at Dallas is probably gonna be a loss, what should our strategy be? This won’t surprise any of you, but I say #PlayTheKids.
I’d line ‘em up in a 5-3-2 like so.
Moreira – Valentin (c) – Cascante – Jadama – Farfan
Williamson – Conechny – Zambrano
Ebobisse – Langsdorf
On my bench, I’ve got Clark, Tuiloma, Loria, Paredes, Sierakowski, and Calixtro.
What’s the worst that could happen? We lose? We lose big? We humiliate ourselves? We’re already doing all of that, each and every week.
If we get blown out with this lineup, at least we’ll be giving the kids some playing time, seeing if they’re any good, and perhaps most importantly, sending a message to our regular starters: get your heads out of your asses. You’re playing for your jobs.