1) Yeah, Saturday’s 4-4 draw felt like a loss. Even worse, it felt completely deserved. We deserved to lose.
Actually, you know what? Let’s hold off on the soccer talk. This first degree should be about last Wednesday’s San Jose game, the game that didn’t happen. And I’ll start by being pedantic. A lot of people are saying the players boycotted the game, but that’s not accurate. A boycott is when buyers withhold their money. That’s not what happened here, because the players aren’t buyers, they’re employees. And they didn’t withhold their money, they withheld their labor. So, this was a strike, not a boycott.
And it was a strike I support 100%. Our nation is a goddamn mess these days, and that’s my opinion as a white guy. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I had brown skin, was constantly being harassed by cops, and knew that any one of them could kill me at any time and get away with it. Do I have any power to do anything about it? Not really. I can vote. I can march. Does that do any good? I have no idea. But the players, they might have a little more influence. By refusing to play a game, they draw eyeballs to their cause, get the world’s attention, and maybe move the conversation in the right direction.
Did last week’s strike do any good? Maybe. If nothing else, it let us discover that RSL’s owner might be a bit of an asshole. And since it appears he’s now selling his team, MLS will get just a little less dickish. I’d call that a small victory, and small victories can add up to big ones.
So, to all the players who struck: good work, fellas. I’m behind you completely and totally.
BLM is not a political issue. Taxes are a political issue. This is a humanity issue. And if your response to the statement “Black Lives Matter” is anything other than, “Yes, they do,” you’re being an asshole. You’ve lost your humanity. Please try to recover it. We want you back.
And that’s as far as I’m going to go on that. This isn’t a news column, it’s a soccer column, so let’s leave the ugly, painful stuff behind and talk about soccer.
2) And if you’re saying, “But C.I., the soccer stuff is ugly and painful, too,” I hear ya, buddy. I hear ya. That RSL loss was pretty rough. And, yes, I can’t think of it as anything other than a loss. When you’re up 4-2 in the 90th minute, you’re supposed to win. Anything else is a loss.
I tell you what we’ll do. Let’s start with sweet and finish with sour. Let’s break down all four Portland goals, then do RSL’s.
Our first goal came in the 6th minute, from a guy who averages exactly one goal a year: Diego Chara.
Sometimes passing your way through pressure is a beautiful thing. Other times, it’s a complete disaster. This was one of those times.
Our second goal was in the 21st minute, courtesy of starting striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda.
This was the first game Niezgoda and Jeremy Ebobisse started together. Did it work? I can’t decide. Jebo was a little quiet out on the wing, but Niezgoda scored himself a goal, and that’s how we usually judge striker success. It’s possible this will be a common lineup, especially as long as our regular winger Yimmi Chara is injured.
3) Our third goal came in the 70th minute, on a golazo from Sebastian Blanco.
I love how Seba’s dribbling upfield and the defenders are just backing off and backing off, and at a certain point, I imagine Seba was thinking, Oh, you guys are just gonna let me do this? You’re just gonna keep backing up? Okay, cool. How about I send a missile into the far netting? That do anything for you?
And our final goal came in the 85th minute, via substitute Felipe Mora. It started way down at our end, when RSL got denied by the post.
Okay, you probably think I’m super-happy right now. Four goals, right? Awesome, right? Well, no, not really. Niezgoda’s corner kick header was the only goal I’d call “normal.” The only goal I’d call “replicable.” One of our goals was from the keeper giving it away in the box, another was a Blanco golazo, and one was on this crazy counterattack. Yes, the counterattack was quality, but it came immediately after we were saved by the post.
And please, look at that last goal again. When RSL’s shot hits the post, who’s covering number 10? No one. I think Jorge Villafaña’s supposed to be covering him, but he left to cover... nobody? I’m pretty sure Jorge’s covering nobody. We’re just lucky the ball fell right to goalkeeper Steve Clark.
So, yeah, we scored four goals, three of them weird, and it still wasn’t enough to win the game.
4) Why? Because our defense was complete and utter shit the entire night.
Look at this first fucking goal.
RSL gets to the first ball, they get to the second ball, and they get to the third ball. The Portland defenders are just bumbling around like the Keystone Cops. And watch the goal again, this time looking at RSL players who didn’t get to the ball, but totally could have. There are, honestly, four or five white shirts who could have put that ball into the net. The green shirts are just watching.
Want to see more white shirts uncovered in the box? Here’s RSL’s second goal.
The corner kick comes in, there are four defenders right there, but who gets their head on it? A white shirt, and it doesn’t even look hard. His header loops into the six yard box and who’s standing there, completely alone? A white shirt. Are you fucking kidding me? What happened to our defense? They were so good in Orlando, and now they can’t get to loose balls, they can’t cover people in the box, and they can’t win individual defensive plays. What happened?
5) But we’re not done. There are two more RSL goals to look at and they both happened after we were ahead 4-2 in the 90th minute.
4-2 in the 90th minute, people! This game should have been over! But apparently, with our defense, nothing’s over.
Um, I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but OH MY FUCKING GOD, WHY CAN’T WE GET TO LOOSE BALLS AND WHY ARE WE LEAVING SO MANY PLAYERS WIDE OPEN?
If I was Gio Savarese, I’d bench our entire back line. Maybe Steve Clark, too. Not for squad rotation, but for punishment. This sort of performance deserves punishment. Players need to be sent to Time Out.
Oh, wait... what’s that you say? There’s still another goal to come? Right at the death? And it’ll break my fucking heart? Sounds awesome. Let’s see it.
This is actually the least shambolic our defense looked on the night, since Corey Baird appears to have been channeling Lionel Messi for a moment there, but that doesn’t negate how bad we looked on the first three goals. Our defense was an absolute travesty Saturday night. Bench ‘em all, Gio. Shit, if you also want to bench the defensive midfielders, just to make a point, do it. A performance this bad warrants it.
6) Okay, let’s take a moment, wash our eyeballs with bleach, and leave that horrible game behind us. We don’t have to wait long for the next one, as this is another two-game week. LA Galaxy at home on Wednesday, and Seattle away on Sunday.
A few weeks ago, the Timbers were raising a trophy and the LA Galaxy were a laughingstock. Now? We’ve forgotten how to soccer, while the Galaxy have remembered. In their first game after the tourney, they shut out LAFC, 2-0. This weekend, they continued their rebirth, beating San Jose 3-2.
Seattle? All they’ve done is beat us 3-0 and beat LAFC 3-1.
Based on current form, these might be the two best teams in the Western Conference, and we’re getting them back-to-back with very little rest. So, yeah, we picked a bad time to hit a rough patch.
Will we remember how to play? Will we recover the form that had us raising that trophy a few weeks ago? I have no idea, man. The RSL game was pretty demoralizing, so I’m a bit pessimistic.
But I’ve been pessimistic before. The Timbers often find ways to prove me wrong, and I’d love nothing more than for them to prove me wrong again.
Starting XI prediction (for LA, at least):
Bonilla – Tuiloma – Cascante – Farfan (yes, I’m putting the defense in Time Out)
Zambrano – Paredes (it hurts to bench Chara, but the DM’s are in Time Out, too)
Loria – Blanco – Ebobisse