Was this a bye week? US Open games don’t feel like full games to me. More like sorta-games. Which I guess this makes this a sorta-bye week. I’ll treat it accordingly.
1) When the Starting XI came out for last Wednesday’s US Open Cup game, I was excited to see both Brian Fernandez and Jeremy Ebobisse starting. Were they lined up how I wanted them, with Jebo a striker and Fernandez a winger?
Erm, well... maybe? Soccer can be a real pain in the ass when it comes to formations. It’s just So. Damn. Fluid. I’m always like, “Would you guys just hold still for a second so I can see where everyone’s playing? Just for a second?” But no, they refuse. On Wednesday in Tacoma, Fernandez would be on the wing for a bit, then he’d drift to the middle, and the next he’d be dropping back into midfield. Same for Jebo. Hell, same for our entire front four. Jebo, Fernandez, Diego Valeri, and Sebastian Blanco were moving like one big fluid mess out there.
Truth is, I’m thinking this is a good thing. If it confuses me, maybe it confuses the defense as well. Maybe they’re also saying, “Hold still! Let us figure you out for a second!” But nope. Our Timbers won’t hold still. Four dangerous attackers, constantly moving between all four attacking positions. Let’s see opposing coaches game plan for that!
I think I’m ready to embrace this new, mega-fluid look, and I think I wanna call it “the Amoeba Offense.” Yeah? Good nickname? Worthy of a t-shirt? Maybe a two-stick?
2) And as long as we’re talking about nicknames, we’ve gotta come up with something for Brian Fernandez. The way this dude’s playing, he needs a nickname, post haste.
I’ve seen some of you trying out “Brifer” and, I gotta tell you, that is SO UNACCEPTABLE. Everything about it is wrong. Everything.
Do I have a better idea? Well, there’s a side of me that wants to go with BFF, because it has two possible meanings. It could stand for Brian Freaking Fernandez, which is a nice allusion to Timbers legend Rodney Freaking Wallace. But if you want to retire the “Freaking” sobriquet in Rodney’s honor, that’s cool, because BFF can also stand for Brian Fernandez Forever, which might be even cooler.
Don’t like BFF? Let’s check Spanish-language Wikipedia to see if Fernandez already has some nicknames.
Our choices appear to be, in order, the Tan, the Scorpion, the King of Thunder, and the Northern Spit.
Okay, first of all, “the Northern Spit?” That must be referencing his last game in Liga MX from just a couple months ago. But if we’re going to reference that game, we might as well call him “The Guy Who Was Substituted For, Then Wasn’t Substituted For, Then Was Red Carded For His Troubles, And Then Got Into A Bit Of A Kerfuffle On The Way To The Locker Room,” which if I’m being honest, isn’t that great a nickname. A bit cumbersome, you know?
Secondly, “the Tan?” This is seriously a thing you would call a player? Are there also LigaMX players nicknamed “the Pale” and “the Freckly?”
Next up, “the Scorpion.” That’s a perfectly acceptable nickname, and would probably be tops on any other list...
...but on this list, it comes in second place, because literally every nickname in the history of nicknames comes in second place to “the King of Thunder.”
The King of Thunder! He eats lightning and craps golazos! The heavens shake when his shots hit the back of the net! Bow before your new king, Babylon!
So, yeah, I’m thinking the King of Thunder it is.
3) How’d the King of Thunder do in Tacoma? Thunderously, thanks for asking.
Blanco got the assist on that one, but most of the heavy lifting was done by the Notorious KOT. His second goal was much more of a team affair.
All four members of our Amoeba Attack got in on that goal. It was Blanco to Valeri to Jebo to His Royal Highness, the King of Motherfuckin’ Thunder.
Worth pointing out, Jebo’s got a pretty good left foot, doesn’t he? Damn, I’m getting all excited by this attacking foursome. If Gio puts Andy Polo back in the lineup, Imma be really annoyed.
Also worth point out, the King of Thunder actually scored three goals in this game. Two for us, one for them.
In hockey, a “Gordie Howe hat trick” is when you score a goal, get an assist, and get in a fight. Maybe we should create a “Brian Fernandez hat trick” for when someone scores two for his team and also has the opposition ricochet the ball off his head and into goal. It’s just an idea.
4) We’ve had a couple weeks off – or at least sorta-halfway off – but the schedule’s about to get a whole lot busier. In fact, we’re about to enter the busiest two week stretch of the entire year. In the next 12 days, the Timbers will have, not one, not two, not three, but four games.
It starts Wednesday the 19th with a US Open Cup home game against LA Galaxy. Then we’re back to our MLS schedule, hosting Houston on Saturday the 22nd, traveling to Montreal on Wednesday the 26th, and hosting Dallas on Sunday the 30th.
How should the Timbers handle this, roster-wise? We can’t play our first choice XI for all four games. They’d completely break down. Some rotation is needed. But which games should get our starters and which should get our backups?
In my opinion, the two most important games are Houston and Dallas, while the least important is Montreal. With Montreal over in the Eastern Conference, we’re not competing with them for playoff position. But with Houston and Dallas, every game’s a six-pointer. Three points for us is like negative three points for them, and vice versa. And since both games are at home, I’m kinda ready to call them must-wins. Lose to an Eastern Conference team on the road? No biggie. Lose to a Western Conference team at home? That’s a huge, huge loss. And to be honest, after our long season-opening stretch of road games, we need to get as many points out of these home games as possible. Home draws are a recipe for missing the playoffs.
So if we’re playing our first choice XI in the Houston and Dallas games, what about the Montreal game? I think we should send our T2 roster. Seriously. Don’t even put our first-teamers on that long, long plane ride. Let them stay here in Portland, resting, recovering, and getting ready for Dallas on the weekend. If Foster Langsdorf, Modou Jadama, and company lose in Montreal? No biggie. If they get a point? Huge success.
Which leaves this Wednesday’s US Open Cup game against LA Galaxy. Who starts in this one? Probably a mixture of first-choice and second-choice. Maybe start a bunch of depth pieces and see how things go. At halftime, Gio can look at the score and decide whether to throw some of the big guns in for the second half.
That’s what I’d do, at least. What about you? Let me hear your lineups down in comments.
(One last thing: the Timbers are lowering some of their food prices for Wednesday’s US Open match and I think we should make an effort to buy as many $2 hot dogs, $2 nachos, and $5 Coors Lights as possible. Why? Because if the team makes money hand over fist on discount nights, maybe they’ll decide to lower food prices at every game. So if you see me Wednesday, I’ll be gorging on dogs, and possibly even suffering through a Coors Light or two.)
5) Okay, since this was a sorta-bye week, I’m gonna spend these last two degrees on goofy bye week stuff. Stuff we can all talk about down in the comments.
The other night, for no reason whatsoever, I decided to figure out my All-time Top 10 Favorite Timbers. Now, before I show you the list, check out that word “Favorite.” This is not a list of best Timbers, or most valuable Timbers, or any of that. This is just the 10 guys who, for whatever reason, I’ve loved the most. And sometimes I’m not ever sure why I loved them, I just did.
Starting with my all-time favorite...
- Diego Chara
- Diego Valeri
- Fanendo Adi (I don’t understand #YouPeople who don’t love Adi. He was awesome.)
- Sebastian Blanco
- Rodney Freaking Wallace
- Jack Jewsbury
- Futty Danso (How many of you remember the Great Wall of Gambia?)
- Zarek Valentin
- Bright Dike (I have no idea why I liked Dike so much, I just did.)
- Darlington Nagbe
Honorable mention: 2013 Will Johnson. I was less fond of 2014 Will Johnson and 2015 Will Johnson, but 2013 Will Johnson was absolutely delightful.
6) And now, my Bottom 5 MLS Players That I Will Go To My Grave Loathing And Despising With All My Heart.
- Dom Diver (playing for SKC)
- Dom Diver (playing for Orlando)
- Dom Diver (playing for the USMNT)
- Dom Diver (not even playing soccer, just making breakfast or something)
- Steven Lenhart
Okay, those are my two lists. Let’s see yours down in the comments.