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Six Degrees: Another Heartbreaker

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Portland 1, Seattle 1

MLS: Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s probably a good thing I don’t write these columns immediately after the game. I was hella pissed when this one was over, but I’ve cooled off a lot since then. Hopefully, I can make it through this column without blowing a gasket.


1) Even before Thursday’s game with Seattle started, there was some bad news. After playing in a club-record 75 straight games across all competitions, Jeremy Ebobisse finally had to sit one out, thanks to a concussion he sustained against LAFC.

The silver lining on that cloud? His replacement on the right wing, making his first appearance in 396 days, was Andres Flores. Flores is an easy guy to like. He’s never been a star, he’s always been a scrapper, he’s worked his way up from the 2nd division, he’s from the tiny, oft-forgotten nation of El Salvador, he can fill in at a multitude of positions on the field, and with his pointy ears, he’s got this cute, elfish look about him.

But as likeable as Flores is, there was little chance he’d come in and replace Jebo’s goal-scoring, right?

Wrong.

Sports is the best, isn’t it? Wonderfully unexpected moments like this rarely happen in real life, but in sports, they happen all the time. Congratulations, Andres. Hopefully it won’t be another 396 days before we see you again.

2) Sadly, that’s pretty much the end of the good news.

Well, no, let me back up on that. The rest of the first half was fine. They attacked, we attacked, it was pretty even. Yes, our defense bunkered a bit, but it wasn’t to an absurd level. And yes, Seattle had some chances, but they weren’t particularly scary.

Here’s a compilation of some first half chances.

As you can see, pretty even. My problem’s not with the first half, it’s with the second.

3) The second half was a mess. It was all Seattle.

My specific complaints aren’t with our defense. Our D was well-organized in the first and it stayed well-organized in the second. That’s fine. My problem is with the attack. We kept Seattle honest in the first half. We had some decent chances, we stayed dangerous, we made Seattle respect our attack.

In the second half, there was none of that. It was one-way traffic. We were packed into our box, clearing the ball, clearing the ball, and clearing the ball. Is our defense good at this? Yes. But they can’t keep it up forever. In this game and in the LAFC game, our D kept the ball out of the net for 90 minutes, but finally cracked in stoppage time.

Why was the attack so benign? To my eyes, it’s because Seattle made halftime adjustments and we didn’t. All the stuff we did in the first half, we kept doing in the second, only Seattle had figured out how to stop it and we had no backup plan.

So why didn’t we make halftime adjustments? I dunno, man. We’ve done it in the past. Just a few weeks ago, we came out of the halftime locker room and suddenly Eryk Williamson was coming forward more, giving the D something to think about. Why didn’t we do that against Seattle? Or some other adjustment, something I’m not savvy enough to know about? Something new, something that might have slowed down Seattle’s attack, given our D a chance to catch their breath, and maybe, crazy as this might sound, have given us a 2-0 lead?

4) But we didn’t do anything interesting in attack, our D never got a break, and just like in the LAFC game four days earlier, in second half stoppage time, our defense finally cracked.

Remember what I said earlier about how great sports is? I take that back. Sports sucks. Sports does bullshit like this, breaking your heart in second half stoppage. Fuck sports.

And yeah, sure, I’ll admit that we left two guys open on the back post. But if our D hadn’t been so exhausted from scrambling the entire second half, maybe that doesn’t happen. If our attack gets a little creative, maybe it’s 2-0 and this goal doesn’t matter. Despite our defense finally letting a goal in, I’m not really blaming them. I’m blaming Gio and his staff for not throwing some attacking wrinkles at Seattle. To my eyes, that’s the real reason we didn’t get the full three points. And, yes, I’m pissed.

5) Some random thoughts.

  • Though, in Gio’s defense, if I looked down the bench and saw Tomas Conechny and Cristhian Paredes, I might have felt a little hamstrung, too. We need Jebo, Marvin Loria, and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – Andy Polo back as soon as possible.
  • You know a sub who came in and looked decent? Pablo Bonilla. And it wasn’t as a right back, either. It was as a right winger. Yes, it was for only 15-20 minutes, but still, he looked decent. It makes me wonder if we’ll see him there again.
  • Speaking of right backs, Marco Farfan looked really good, didn’t he? I think he’s currently our second choice at both left and right fullback, but if he keeps playing like he did against Seattle, he might end up as a first choice.
  • Not at left back, though. Jorge Villafaña’s been killing it lately.
  • Worth noting: Seattle had exactly one shot on goal in this game. And it went in. Can’t help but be reminded of the 2016 MLS Cup when they had zero shots on goal. And won.
  • Quick reminder: Fuck Seattle.
  • Final random thought: I’m contractually obligated to make a gif every time a referee knocks a player out of the game with a vicious elbow.

  • How the hell did Elfath not give himself a red card? An absolute travesty.

6) In his postgame press conference, Gio said that our being angry with a road draw must mean that we’re a really good team. And, yes, I sorta have to agree with him. It doesn’t entirely erase my anger and frustration, though.

Yeah, sure, we can definitely hang with the best teams. We can hang with Seattle, we can hang with LAFC. But I want more. I want the full three points, and I think we’re good enough to get them.

We dropped two points to LAFC, then two more to Seattle, all of them in second half stoppage time. If we’d kept all four of those points, we’d be firmly at the top of the Western Conference right now. As it is, we’re now in second place, just below SKC.

The Timbers have scored only one goal for three straight games. Fortunately, next up is the LA Galaxy, and the last time we played them, we won 6-3. Maybe the Galaxy will let our attack get back to their scoring ways, and maybe that will help us for the rest of the year. We’ve only got four games left, you know. It’s time to leave these frustrating draws behind and get back to winning.