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Six Degrees: Reason For Concern

MLS: Preseason-New England Revolution at Portland Timbers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Timbers started this preseason with four straight wins. They finished it with two straight losses. Bad losses. So now we’re less than a week away from the season opener and I have no idea if the team’s any good.

1) Some quick preseason thoughts from the Minnesota preseason game.

  • Started hella, hella good. Our 2nd stringers were dominant for 30 minutes, and I was riding high. Then the whole thing fell apart to the tune of a 4-2 loss. Just like in the Vancouver game, our defense kept leaving guys unmarked on the back post. Unlike in the Vancouver game, Minnesota finished their chances.
  • Dairon Asprilla only scores golazos. But let’s see him do it on a hot July night in Houston.
  • I’m surprised how much I liked Andy Polo as an 8.
  • I watched the game from home, got to hear Aljaž Ivačič’s name spoken many times, and can confirm that it’s pronounced ALL-yahz EE-va-chich. Our long national nightmare is over.
  • I can also confirm that his name has, not one, not two, but three weird little bendy bits on top of its letters. Come on, Aljaž. Three? Now you’re just showing off.

2) Some quick preseason thoughts from the New England preseason game.

  • Just like before, we started great. Just like before, we then fell apart, this time losing 3-1. Just like before, our defense kept leaving guys unmarked on the back post.
  • I didn’t like what I saw in the second half. The team looked slow and disinterested and out of ideas. I’d blame it on preseason fitness, but New England’s fitness seemed just fine.
  • Our goal was rather nice, with Diego Valeri’s high pressure leading to a Felipe Mora interception, and a Diego Chara goal.

  • Just like in the Minnesota game, Andy Polo looked pretty decent playing the 8. Wouldn’t it be something if he completely redeems himself just by switching to a more defensive role?

3) Some quick preseason thoughts on our preseason attack.

  • I’m having a hard time deciding if the attack is good or not. They really do seem to be trying some new things, especially at the start of games, and I like that. A lot.
  • The problem is, in these three preseason games, it seems like it took the opposition maybe 30 or 40 minutes to figure out our Plan A, and once they did, we didn’t really have a Plan B. We just sort of devolved into swinging the ball out wide and sending in some crosses. And, sorry, but I had enough crosses last year to last me the rest of my life.
  • Do I have answers? Of course not. I’m not the answer guy, I’m the question guy. And my question now is: once all our new attacking players get in sync with each other, are we going to play the wonderful, aggressive, attacking soccer Gio’s been promising since he got here? Or will it be another year of Death By A Thousand Crosses? (And, to be clear, the death will be mine. I’ll die, up in the stands, my head exploding when the team sends in its 35th cross of the night.)

4) Some quick preseason thoughts on our preseason defense.

  • I may be a little uncertain about our attack, but I’m downright terrified of our defense. In the three preseason games, how many times did we leave a guy wide open on the back post? 10 times? More? And the worst part is it doesn’t seem to be any one player’s fault. It’s happening on both sides of the field, and every single time, a different defender seems to be at fault.
  • Again, I have no answers, only questions. Are new center back partners Larrys Mabiala and Dario Župarić miscommunicating? Are fullbacks Jorge Villafaña and Jorge Moreira so far forward in the attack that they’re unable to do their job in the back? Are defensive midfielders Cristhian Paredes and Diego Chara blowing their responsibilities?
  • Well, first of all, how dare you suggest Diego Chara is anything other than a perfect being, and secondly, I have no idea. I have no idea why our defense keeps blowing things so spectacularly.
  • But you know who’s a lot smarter than me? The Timbers coaching staff. And I hope they’re smart enough to figure out what the hell’s going on, because preseason’s over. We’ve got a real, live game this coming Sunday and I’m tired of watching unmarked guys tap in goals from the back post.

5) Some quick preseason thoughts on our preseason newbies.

  • I’m feeling a little better about right winger Yimmi Chara than I was last week. He’s quick, he’s got good feet, and he seems aggressive. Is he as good as left winger Sebastian Blanco? No. But we should all remember that Blanco wasn’t awesome straight out of the gate, either. It took him awhile to get up and running, so I guess we should allow Yimmi some time as well.
  • I’m feeling better about striker Felipe Mora, too. I still haven’t seen him put the ball in the net, but I’ve seen him draw a penalty and I’ve seen him intercept a ball right in front of goal. Things like that make me confident he’ll be contributing, even when he’s not scoring goals.
  • I’m feeling uncertain about center back Dario Župarić, but this is because I’m feeling uncertain about everyone on the back line. Župarić looks really good out there, but I’m holding him just as responsible as everyone else for all the easy goals we’re conceding.
  • And I’m feeling mixed about striker Jarek Niezgoda.

  • Awesome that his heart’s doing well, bummer that his knee’s acting up. As I said last week, I want to see this guy before too long. I want to see if he’s as good as his highlight reel made him seem.

6) Despite all my concerns, I’m still looking forward to the 2020 season. Why? Because it’s a roller coaster. Ups and downs, joy and anger, love and hatred, we’re going to feel all those things over the next seven months, we just don’t know the when, the where, and the how. And that uncertainty is all part of the fun.

That incredible thing that’s going to happen in August? Nobody knows what it will be.

That road victory over that really good team? When’s that happening? Who’s the team? No one knows.

That awful three weeks when we look like absolute crap and I’m calling for Gio’s head? Nobody knows when that’s happening. Could be March, could be July, could be September.

That player who’s going to score the stoppage time bicycle kick goal? No one knows who that’s going to be. (I’m just kidding. It’s gonna be Dairon Asprilla. We all know this.)

But everything else? The ups, the downs, the swerves, and the dips, they’re all ahead of us, completely unknown. And I, for one, look forward to it.

Climb aboard. Let’s ride this roller coaster for another year.