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Six Degrees: Getting Better

Galaxy 2, Timbers 1

MLS: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

If you only count goals scored during the run of play, the Timbers won 1-0. So, yay team, I guess...

1) In my column last week, I suggested a few goofy lineups the Timbers might try in Sunday’s game against LA. They didn’t use my #PlayTheKids lineup, but they did go with my 5-3-2. Unless it was a 3-5-2. Or maybe both.

It seems like having a third center back made a huge difference. Granted, none of the CBs in question – Claude Dielna, Julio Cascante, and Bill Tuiloma – are going to make the MLS Best XI, but just having the three of them in there, clogging up the 18-yard box, helped stop our defensive bleeding.

After a horrific opening three games where we gave up 10 goals in the run of play, on Sunday the Timbers gave up zero run-of-play goals. In fact, aside from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy attackers did pretty much nothing. Do you remember Romain Alessandrini doing anything? I don’t. Same for Sebastian Lletget. Same for Antuna and Pontius. The Galaxy offense was essentially one guy. Zlatan.

Granted, that one guy is pretty fucking amazing, and he sorta kinda beat us all by himself, but regardless, I’m ready to call the 5-3-2 a success. Could it be tweaked a little? Sure. Could Gio fool with the personnel some? Definitely. But three CBs, even if they’re not world-class, seems to be a good thing for us. I hope we keep doing it for awhile.

2) With our three CBs gumming up the 18-yard box, all LA could do was send in crosses. They had 29 crosses to our nine. Unfortunately, the guy they were crossing to was Zlatan and he was genuinely terrifying. Almost had a tae kwon do goal early, was threatening throughout, and drew two penalties. Not a bad day’s work.

However, like I said earlier, he was LA’s only real threat. He had six shots. LA’s other five shots were by defenders. That ain’t nothing.

But of course, even though our new formation kept LA from scoring in the run of play, we still lost, thanks to two penalties. And I think both of them were legit. Let’s take a look.

I’m not sure there’s an argument to be made here. Dielna just lays Zlatan out. In fact, if I were coaching the Seattle Seahawks, I might try to sign Dielna as a free safety. Look how he hits the receiver right as the ball arrives. That’s perfect coverage... if you’re in the NFL. If you’re in MLS, it’s less perfect. It’s a penalty, actually. And it’s 1-0 bad guys.

On to the second penalty.

On this one, there’s a tiny bit of argument to be made. Did Zlatan go limp as soon as Jeff Attinela ran into him? Yes. But the fact remains, Zlatan got a touch on the ball before contact was made. The rules are the rules. It’s a penalty.

My question is this: should we tweak the rules a little? I mean, look at the ball. Zlatans kicks it, sure, but he kicks it out of bounds. If Jeff doesn’t run into him, the ball goes out of bounds and it’s a goal kick. So maybe you can argue that they should change the rule so the attacker’s touch has to be playable. But to my knowledge, that’s not the rule. Zlatan got the touch, Jeff ran into him, it’s a penalty.

3) The Timbers attack on Sunday wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster, either. The opening 20 minutes were rough, with our boys barely able to maintain possession, but then things improved, the one-way traffic ceased, and we started looking a little more dangerous. Jorge Moreira and Zarek Valentin started looking like genuine wingbacks, sitting deep when LA had the ball, racing forward when we had it. We didn’t look great, exactly, but not awful, either.

And then in the 44th minute, much to everyone’s surprise, the Timbers briefly left the field and were replaced by FC Barcelona.

Holy hell, that’s beautiful. Five touches. Diego Chara to David Guzman to Diego Valeri to David Guzman to Jeremy Ebobisse to the back of the net. That’s just a gorgeous goal. If the Timbers could bottle that shit, if they could do that regularly, they’d be... well, they’d be Barcelona, wouldn’t they?

So, guys? Let’s be Barcelona. Let’s bottle that shit, bring it out a few times every game, and leave nothing behind us but scorched earth. Sound good? Awesome. Good talk.

4) The Timbers have scored two goals this year against full-sided teams. Ebobisse’s scored both of them. He now has five goals and five assists in a bit over 1000 career minutes. Extrapolate that to a 2700 minute season, and he’s giving us 13 goals and 13 assists. Most teams in this league would kill for a forward who gives them 13 and 13. We do not need a DP striker.

A backup striker? We may not need one of those, either. We’ve got one, his name’s Foster Langsdorf, he’s a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, he scored a team-record 14 goals for T2 last year, and for the first team he’s played a grand total of... hold on, let me check... ah, here it is... zero career minutes.

Who’s playing instead of Langsdorf? Lucas Fucking Melano.

I’ve searched around and can’t find video of the atrocity Melano committed in the closing minutes of Sunday’s game, but trust me, it was brutal. Imagine all Melano’s moments of ineptitude over these past five years, and distill them down into one play. That’s what he did on Sunday. It was awful, it was typical, and it nearly broke Twitter. In fact, if I had to summarize #RCTID’s reaction to the play in one tweet, it would be this.

So here’s my question: if Gio Savarese continues to play Lucas Melano, while continuing to not play Foster Langsdorf, at what point is it a fireable offense?

And it’s not just Langsdorf who’s buried deep in a hole. None of our kids are playing. Did you know Eryk Williamson’s leading the USL in assists? Neither did I, until I saw this exchange.

This is the second straight week I’ve complained about us not playing our kids, but as long as I keep seeing Melano and Dairon Asprilla in the Matchday 18, and as long as Langsdorf and Williamson and Marvin Loria and Renzo Zambrano are tearing it up in USL while not getting even a whiff of first team minutes, I’m gonna be bitter. And if, at the end of the year, Melano has 20 appearances and Langsdorf has zero, then you might hear me talking about “gross negligence,” and you might hear me calling for someone’s head.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

5) Let’s bang out some random thoughts.

  • Dielna did not impress me. Right now, Larrys Mabiala and Bill Tuiloma are the CBs I want to see. And since I’m liking the 3-CB setup, I guess we flip a coin between Dielna and Cascante.
  • Moreira didn’t impress me, either. To be honest, he made no impression whatsoever. Utterly anonymous, which I can’t say I’m happy about. Let’s hope he crushes it this weekend.
  • Here’s some good news regarding Diego Chara.

  • That’s all the good news I’ve got regarding Chara, though. I’m a little worried about my favorite Timber. He isn’t bossing the midfield like he has before. He isn’t destroying dudes. Diego Valeri’s a little off, too. Is this the year the Diegos finally lose a step? Are we seeing it happen? (Please say no.)
  • For the first time this season, a Timbers game ended with 22 players on the field. But since assistant coach Carlos Llamosa got tossed, does that sorta maybe count? Who gets tossed in our next game? My money’s on Merritt Paulson. Don’t let me down, big fella!
  • You know who didn’t get tossed? Zlatan. Think he should have? Julio Cascante’s face does.

  • I’ve gotta be honest, I’m not sure I like the new uniforms. Too busy.
  • Someone on Twitter (I’m not sure who) came up with the perfect chant for when Jeremy Ebobisse scores. “Hey! Ho! Jebo!” sung to the tune of Blitzkrieg Bop. Capos, please make this happen. Perfect chants don’t come along every day.

6) Let’s finish with a quick look at Saturday’s game in San Jose.

San Jose is objectively terrible. They’ve giving up a league-worst 14 goals, including a 5-0 loss this past weekend to LAFC. That 5-0 loss, by the way, was at home. In fact, their 0-4-0 record includes three losses at home. They’re a mess.

But does that mean we’ll beat them? There’s no guarantee. When I first saw our season-opening 12-game road trip, I thought there were only three games we should definitely win: Colorado, Cincinnati, and San Jose. Welp, we’ve already played two of those games and have one point to show for it. So, you know, that’s not good.

I’m gonna go ahead and call this Saturday’s game a must-win. Not a draw. A win. The full three points. Because after San Jose, we head to Dallas, then Columbus, then Toronto, and I don’t like our chances against any of those teams. Leave points on the table this weekend in San Jose, and we could finish April without a single victory.

I want the 5-3-2 formation again. I want Melano and Asprilla to stay in Portland. I want Langsdorf and Loria to see the field. I want the Diegos to look like the Diegos again. I want Hey! Ho! Jebo! to ring out multiple times all across our fair city. I want Merritt Paulson to get red-carded. I want the boys to finally come home with the full three points.