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Let’s Keep it Together

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The Timbers were dealt a 3-1 loss at home in the season opener but if we look closely, the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers
Luis Amarilla of Minnesota United FC wheels away after scoring the second of the Loon’s three goals.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The 3-1 scoreline doesn’t lie. We won’t make excuses. I’m not going to say that the Timbers didn’t deserve to lose—they did—but it wasn’t a comprehensive lesson in soccer dealt by Minnesota. They had a plan: soak up pressure and spring counter-attacks. They executed.

On the first goal Moreira made the most half-hearted attempt to track back on a player who would obviously be clear through on goal if Minnesota were able to find an outlet. Villafaña, on the other hand, recognized the danger far too late and his efforts in tracking back were better but incredibly late. As Mabiala stepped into midfield to win a header the danger should have been sensed by Moreira and Villafaña but it seemed both fullbacks were hopeful that the ball would be won and the Timbers attack could continue. Wishful thinking that we were punished for. Clark did brilliantly to save the initial shot but it was followed up by Kevin Molino and the Loons went 1-0 up.

After a deserved penalty put us on level terms, we found ourself 2-1 down from more questionable defending. Villafaña was the culprit to begin with. A penetrating pass from Blanco was cut out by Ike Opara of Minnesota and, Villafaña was again caught too high up the pitch without safe cover. The clearance found Ethan Finlay who beat Villafaña in a foot race and clipped in a cross to the back post where Luis Amarilla headed home. Mabiala can take a bit of blame as well but again, our problems began much higher up the field.

The third goal of the night was another calamity of errors. First, the ball was allowed to bounce in front of a back-peddling Dario Zuparic who had fallen far deeper than the rest of the defensive unit. Amarilla backed into the Croatian and won the subsequent header and from there, Zuparic seemed to lose interest. Molino was first to the second ball which allowed Finlay to flick the ball over his head for an oncoming Molino, completely free from Zuparic’s marking and in the space of two minutes we found ourselves down 3-1.

So there’s good news and bad. The bad news is, we allowed three soft goals from poor anticipation. The good news is, these things are easy to address. The night was a gift from the Timbers to the Loons. Yes, their plan to counter attack worked, but more so, we allowed them to do so with embarrassing ease. In a season opener you hardly expect there to be any lapses in confidence, and that’s troubling. But if Gio addresses these things by making sure Moreira and Villafaña defend first and attack second, then we will most likely see a very different outcome in coming games. If schoolboy mistakes persist for several consecutive games, alarm bells should ring. But for now, let’s see if we can make the small adjustments that will certainly prevent nights like this. For now, let’s take Frank the Tank’s advice...