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Six Degrees: Midterm Report Card

MLS: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

1) As you know, this past Saturday’s game with Colorado was canceled due to a spate of positive COVID tests among the Rapids players and staff. I have no idea what the Rapids are doing wrong and what we’re doing right. Perhaps it has less to do with the team and more to do with Denver itself. Maybe the city’s rife with COVID. Or not. I’m no expert on the pandemic, so I won’t say much about it here.

You know something else I’m no expert on? Soccer! But when has that stopped me from spouting off about it?

With no game to write about, how about we do a report card? I feel like we’re only a little past the midway point of this very weird season, so we’ll call this a midterm report card. A progress report, if you will. Something for the players to take home and show their parents.

Here’s my grading system:

A – well above average

B – above average

C – average

D – below average

F – well below average

MLS: Portland Timbers at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Strikers and Wingers

  • Jeremy Ebobisse – A – The Timbers are scoring a lot of goals this year, so there will be a lot of good grades up top, starting with Jebo. He’s second on the team with five goals, and has done it from both the striker and winger positions.
  • Jaroslaw Niezgoda – B+ – I like Jarek’s game. Good vision, very soft feet, very willing passer.
  • Felipe Mora – A- – One more goal than Jarek, one less than Jebo. We’ve got an embarrassment of riches at the striker position.
  • Sebastian Blanco – A- – This would have been an A or even an A+, but then he went and got hurt, so it’s an A-. Sorry, Seba. Good luck with the rehab.
  • Yimmi Chara – B – A few weeks ago, he would’ve gotten a C or even a C-, but three goals in three games has changed things in a hurry.
  • Marvin Loria – C – Not great, not awful. A pretty average MLS winger.
  • Dairon Asprilla – D – I’d completely forgotten it, but Dairon played 21 minutes in the season’s first game, way back in the Before Times. I’m sure he played fine, but I’m giving him a D simply for getting injured. Not fair, maybe, but there you go.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

3) Midfielders

  • Diego Valeri – A – Remember when Valeri was a slow, tired, washed up old man? Well, look at him now. Yet again leading the team in goals and assists. #ValeriForever
  • Eryk Williamson – A – Did anyone see this coming? He got almost no playing time last year, despite being really good for T2, and then this year, out of nowhere, he’s suddenly our starting #8 and our backup #10 and crushing it at both spots. Well done, young man!
  • Tomas Conechny – D – I have no idea why this guy still gets minutes. Maybe he’s great in scrimmages.
  • Andres Flores – Incomplete – Our midfield Swiss Army knife hasn’t played due to injury, but that could change, as he’s been on the bench the last few games.
  • Blake Bodily – C – I would have given the rookie an Incomplete, but it turns out he played exactly one minute in the MLS is Back tournament. No, I don’t remember it, either.
  • Andy Polo – B- – I’m quite torn on this grade. I can’t stand Polo as an attacker, but he’s not awful playing more defensively. Plus, he had that golazo in the tournament. Is a B- too high? It feels too high.
  • Diego Chara – A – Yes, the team’s given up too many goals and maybe I should dock the Godfather half a point for that, but come on. He’s still one of the 2 or 3 best d-mids in the entire league. #CharaForever
  • Renzo Zambrano – C – Meh. I’m not sure Renzo’s ever going to break through, but did you see that this past week someone included him in a hypothetical trades article?
  • Cristhian Paredes – D+ – Holy hell, this guy’s fallen. I thought he was the team’s future, and now he’s barely playing. Kind of sad, really. Though I guess he’s Chara’s backup, which gives him some value. Unless Zambrano is Chara’s backup. Or Flores. Or Tuiloma. I have no idea. Hell, maybe I’m Chara’s backup. If so, we’re in big trouble.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

4) Defenders and Goalkeepers

  • Dario Zuparic – C+ – I’m actually quite pleased with Zoop, but no one on this defense is getting a B. We’ve given up way too many goals for me to call any of our defenders “above average.”
  • Larrys Mabiala – C- – Larrys gets marked down for his injury. Sorry, big fella.
  • Julio Cascante – C – Julio’s clearly the team’s third-choice center back, and in this weird, compacted season, is getting plenty of playing time.
  • Bill Tuiloma – C – I almost gave Bill a C+ since he can play multiple positions.
  • Zac McGraw – Incomplete – The rookie still hasn’t made his pro debut.
  • Jorge Villafaña – C – Jorge’s has some good moments this year. Not perfect, but maybe a little better than last year. Maybe.
  • Marco Farfan – C+ – Gresham’s favorite son gets bumped up to C+ for starting games at both left and right back.
  • Pablo Bonilla – C – Kid’s got potential, and I’m pretty sure he’s worked his way to the top of the RB depth chart.
  • Chris Duvall – C – Or maybe Bonilla’s only playing because Duvall is injured. Both are pretty solid, but as I said before, the team’s given up so many goals, no one on this defense is getting a B.
  • Jorge Moreira – C- – Morge played 89 minutes in the season’s first game, then had to leave the team due to details of his loan. Since we lost that game 3-1, I’m dropping him down to a C-.
  • Steve Clark – C – Yes, he’s pitched two straight shutouts, but he was also between the sticks when we gave up four goals to RSL.
  • Jeff Attinella – C- – Only played one game, but gave up 3 goals in a loss to the Galaxy.
  • Aljaz Ivacic – C+ – Only played one game, but got the 6-1 win versus San Jose. Made three saves on one play.

MLS: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

5) Coaches

  • Gio Savarese and staff – B – I’m giving them an A- for the attack and a D+ for the defense. If I were grading them solely on the MLS is Back tournament, it would’ve been an A.

MLS: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

6) Front Office

  • Gavin Wilkinson and staff – B+ – Our new attackers (Niezgoda, Mora, Yimmi) have all worked out. The defense is a bit of a mess, but I still like Zuparic. Plus, Gavin somehow got Valeri to give up his DP status. On the whole, I’d say the GM and scouts have done an above average job.
  • Merritt Paulson and staff – A- – I bet I get a lot of pushback on this, but I think MLS has done about as good a job as you could ask for in this most bizarre and difficult of years. They shut things down almost immediately, they kept the players fit and the fans engaged during the long layoff, they came up with the MLS is Back tournament, which I thought went great, and they, for the most part, have done well organizing things since regular season games have resumed. Has 2020 been perfect? No. Could it have been much, much worse? Yes. Our federal government gets an F. Our soccer club gets an A-.

Got a problem with any of my grades? Let me hear about it down in comments.