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Six Degrees: Progress

Dallas 2, Portland 1

Portland Timbers v FC Dallas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A week ago, I was angry with the Timbers. This week, I’m angry with the referees. I’m gonna call that progress.

1) Man of the Match for Saturday’s game in Dallas was clearly the referee, Marcos de Oliveira. No player affected the game half as much as he did, and his work began on Dallas’s opening goal in the 9th minute. Let’s take a look.

I was prepared to be completely outraged about this goal. I mean, the dude was clearly offside! Yeah, sure, the pass came off a Timber, but the rules are clear; the defender’s touch needs to be deliberate, and in no way was Diego Chara playing the ball here. It just clangs off his shins. Outrage, right?

And then I saw this freeze frame. Turns out, when the original pass was made, the goalscorer was onside.

Well, dangit. All my outrage was for nothing. Hopefully, I can find something to be outraged about later in the game. Think I will?

2) Oh, here’s a chance. Dallas’s second goal, in the 60th minute, came on a penalty. Outrage!

Well, hmm, I guess I’m only sorta half-outraged. Let’s break the goal down.

First up, great work by Jeff Attinella. He had a heck of a game. He wasn’t under siege to nearly the degree he was in last week’s debacle in San Jose, but he still saved us at least two or three goals. Fine work, sir.

Secondly, I’m still extremely underwhelmed by Jorge Moreira. Last week, he stood motionless and watched a goal being scored. This week, he gave up a penalty. Maybe next week he’ll do something positive.

Thirdly, I’ve come to believe that anytime a defender makes a play, then immediately comes up wagging his finger, it’s a penalty. Have you noticed this? Go back and look at film of every Timbers penalty. Hell, look at any penalty, on any team, anywhere. I’m pretty sure you’ll see wagging fingers in at least 80% of them.

Finally, this penalty reminds me a lot of Zlatan’s penalty two weeks ago. Just like with Zlatan, yes, the Dallas guy got the final touch, but he was kicking it straight out of bounds. This is clear and obvious bullshit, and it’s screwed us twice in three weeks. By the rules of the game, this is a penalty, but as I said two weeks ago, the rule is bullshit and needs to be changed.

3) The only good thing about us going down 2-0, is that it finally made the team come out of their defensive shell and put their foot on the gas. Check out the game’s expected goals chart. Quite a change after the 60th minute, eh? Dallas flatlined, while we came up and up and up.

And in the 67th minute, the Timbers got on the board, when a pinpoint cross from Sebastian Blanco found Cristhian Paredes at the back post.

Lovely run from Paredes, eh? And he wasn’t Blanco’s only option. Jeremy Ebobisse and Andres Flores were in the box, too.

There’s this funny thing I’ve noticed about soccer: when you put a bunch of attackers in the box, good things happen. I think the Timbers should do it more often. This concludes my TED Talk.

4) Okay, all that outrage I didn’t get to use earlier? Let’s use it now. Time to get pissed. Check out what happened in the 77th minute.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a penalty. Blanco sends another perfect cross into the box, Ebobisse has inside position on his defender, the defender catches up, puts a forearm on Jebo’s back, and Jebo goes crashing to the ground. His speed changes, his trajectory changes, and he even picks up a slight spin from the shove.

But did the ref call a penalty? No. Did he go over to the replay screen to take a second look? No. Was the VAR talking in his ear, telling him to take a look? I have no idea. All I know is that if a play like this doesn’t qualify as “questionable,” then nothing does. If a play like this doesn’t get a second look, then why even have a VAR?

5) But that might not even be the day’s worst refereeing. Check out what happened in stoppage time.

What the fuckity fuck? How is that not a handball? How do the Timbers not get a PK there? The ref went to the screen! He looked at the replay! How? How does he not see a handball there?

Watching at the bar, we had no doubt it would be called a penalty. In fact, we were already discussing who should take the spot kick. Diego Valeri’s been a bit shaky, you know. Should someone else take the kick? Well, whoever took it, surely they’d hit it, and surely we’d be tied 2-2, right?

But then the ref came back, said no penalty, and everyone in the bar lost their friggin’ minds. We weren’t even screaming words at the TV, just caveman noises. So much hate was being sent toward the TV, I think the ref probably felt it in Dallas. I hope we gave him 2nd degree burns.

It took some doing, and I had to call in a favor or two, but I finally got footage of the referee’s post-game press conference. I’ll give him credit, he didn’t duck the hard questions.

6) The truth is, all of my anger up above, all of the vitriol I just spewed at the referee, that’s actually a really nice change. It’s fun writing about awful refereeing after so many weeks of writing about our team’s awful defense. But sadly, the defense still isn’t fixed. We still gave up 13 shots, five shots on target, and our 16th and 17th goals of this young season. None of these numbers are good.

Did the team look better than last week? Yes. Did three center backs look better than two? Yes. But is this team in any way fixed? No. And it might be awhile before we get there.

This coming Saturday we visit our former coach Caleb Porter in Columbus. The Crew are currently sitting second in the Eastern Conference with 1.86 PPG, which is exactly the same PPG Dallas has. We deserved a point in Dallas. Maybe we’ll finally get it in Columbus.

When a season starts as badly as ours has, you celebrate whatever baby steps the team manages to take. This week, we celebrate the defense looking a little less shambolic. We celebrate keeping the game close. We celebrate how we’d have taken a point if not for the shitty ref.

This coming Saturday in Columbus, maybe we’ll get to celebrate a few more baby steps. Maybe we’ll celebrate a genuinely good defensive performance. Or maybe a draw on the road against a good team.

Dare I hope for the year’s first win? No, not yet. Let’s prove we can get a draw first. Baby steps, everyone. Baby steps.