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Six Degrees: San Jose x 2

Portland 1, San Jose 1 — Portland 6, San Jose 1

SOCCER: SEP 19 MLS - Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I don’t consider myself an expert on San Jose’s man-marking system, but I’ve heard smart people say that, since the system is so different, it messes your team up the first time you play against it, but the next time you play against it, you figure it out. That’s a pretty good description of what happened to the Timbers this week. First game, San Jose’s weird system messed us up a little. Second game, we figured it out. And how.

1) For most of last Wednesday’s game, San Jose was the better team. They held the ball, pinned us back in our half, and rarely let us do much on the counter. Most of the best chances were theirs and the Timbers spent much of the game stumbling around like a team playing soccer together for the first time.

I’m willing to attribute this to our playing San Jose’s man-marking system for the first time. It’s different, it’s supposed to throw you off your game, and, yep, it succeeded. We looked off.

But somehow, we kept San Jose off the scoreboard, and in the 33rd minute, against the run of play, it was the Timbers who opened the scoring, courtesy of Los Hermanos Chara.

That’s a really nice outside-of-the-boot pass from Diego Chara, but the thing you really want to watch on this goal is how Yimmi Chara uses both his body and the ball. Watch when the ball comes toward him. He totally could have collected that pass with the defender on his back, and that would have been fine. But instead, he fakes like he’ll collect the ball, and instead lets it roll past him, does the quick turn, and races after it. The defender is left behind, wondering how he got clowned, and Yimmi’s alone on the keeper. One professional finish later and it’s 1-0 good guys.

If this is the sort of thing we can expect from Yimmi moving forward, then he’ll definitely justify his DP contract.

2) Just as San Jose had been the better team before Yimmi’s goal, they continued being the better team after it. Almost all the chances were theirs, they forced Steve Clark to save a few shots, rattled the woodwork with a few others. It seemed only a matter of time before they scored, and sure enough, in the 76th minute, they did. With a little help from VAR, that is.

Can you believe how little time the ref spent at the video screen? And look at the camera angle he’s got. It’s the same one you just saw in my gif. In what world is that ball clearly and obviously across the line? Not in this world. Not to my eyes.

But you know what? Fine, whatever, I’m willing to give San Jose the goal. You know why? Because they were the better team, they’d been banging on our door all night, and they kind of deserved a goal, even if it came via a questionable VAR decision. I’m having a hard time getting upset. I’m having a hard time pretending we deserved to beat them 1-0. A 1-1 draw felt much more appropriate.

3) Some random thoughts from the first San Jose game.

  • My Man of the Match was center back Dario Zuparic. He was forced to put out a lot of fires all night long and damn near kept that Vako goal from crossing the line.
  • Another guy who had a game? Bill Tuiloma.

  • And as long as we’re complimenting the back line, I enjoyed right back Pablo Bonilla. Dude loves to get forward. He looked very confident out there.
  • Looking much less confident was left back Marco Farfan. He seemed a little overwhelmed all game. I want to think good thoughts about Marco, so please convince me I’m wrong here.
  • At the other end of the field, we came close to going up 2-0 in the 55th minute, but striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s got to do better than this weak-ass shot. The ball’s on a silver platter for him.

  • Overall, Niezgoda had an unimpressive game. He’s been so good interacting with Diego Valeri, but needs to show more when Valeri’s not out there.
  • Speaking of Valeri, why wasn’t he out there late in the game? What’s the point of having a super-sub if you don’t use him? 10 minutes at the end of the game’s not asking too much, is it?
  • As long as we’re talking about the end of the game, this is one of the cooler things #StatMan Mike Donovan’s come up with. Took me awhile to figure out who France was, until I realized this is where players were born, not where they grew up.

  • And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that San Jose’s pitch was complete and utter shit. Gio agrees.

4) Like I said at the start, San Jose’s man-marking system’s supposed to mess you up the first time you see it, but the second time? Not so much. And that’s sure as hell was happened on Saturday. Seeing their system for the second time in three days, the Timbers ran rampant, scoring a team-record six goals.

I should start by pointing out that our Starting XI was a little weird. With so many games being played in such a short period of time, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing some creative lineups.

To wit, on Saturday, Jorge Villafaña was at left back, Marco Farfan moved from left back to right back, and Chris Duvall didn’t even travel. Andres Flores was on the bench for the first time all season. Cristhian Paredes replaced Eryk Williamson in the middle, while Tomas Conechny replaced Yimmi Chara on the wing. Up top, it was Jeremy Ebobisse starting, Jarek Niezgoda on the bench, and Felipe Mora not even traveling.

Most unexpected? Steve Clark was on the bench, and between the posts, making his very first MLS appearance, Aljaz Ivacic. And, boy howdy, did Aljaz make a strong opening statement with his 42nd minute triple save.

Well done, young man! Welcome to the team.

5) Okay, enough of all that defensive bullshit. Seven goals were scored on Saturday night, six of them by the Timbers, so let’s get to it. Let’s bang them all out in one long degree.

Our first goal started with a 23rd minute San Jose handball.

Valeri sank the PK to make it 1-0 good guys.

Next up, for the second time in three games, Jorge Villafaña hit an inch-perfect cross to Jeremy Ebobisse’s head.

Per #StatMan Mike Donovan, that was Jebo’s 8th headed goal, breaking a tie with Valeri for the all-time Timbers record.

Next up, San Jose’s goal in the 44th. They’d actually had a really good five to ten minutes of keeping us on our heels, so this goal felt deserved.

Hell of a strike. Not many keepers are stopping that.

In the second half, things really got out of hand. We scored our third in the 57th minute.

Valeri pinballed that shot off two different defenders! I think you should get extra points for that. Like, if you put it off two defenders, it should be worth two goals. Three defenders? Three goals. And if you put it off a defender’s face? Four goals. Think how much fun end-of-game scenarios would be. Blowouts would actually be more fun than close games, because the trailing team would be doing nothing but aiming for people’s faces. FIFA should seriously consider this. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Next goal? 70th minute, when Yimmi Chara scored for the second straight game.

I think the San Jose goalkeeper should get an assist on that. If he doesn’t touch it, the ball rolls out of bounds and Yimmi doesn’t score.

Jeez... are we still not done? What are we up to now... 5th goal? This time it’s Julio Cascante.

Was it just last week I was writing about how Dario Zuparic, Bill Tuiloma, and Larrys Mabiala were all good in the air? Welp, turns out Cascante can score with his head, too.

And it seems very deserving that Julio got a goal in this game, because he was coming forward a lot. I read somewhere that San Jose’s man-marking system always leaves one center back unaccounted for, so bringing that guy forward in the attack can be effective. Turns out, that’s true.

87th minute and up 5-1, you’d think Gio would call off the dogs, right? Wrong. Watch how our high press leads to a turnover, then a sixth and final goal.

That’s an ugly finish from Jaroslaw Niezgoda, but his backheel pass to Chara beforehand was lovely.

And that’s it! We did it! Seven goals, all in one degree! I need a cigarette.

6) Some random thoughts from the second San Jose game.

  • Do you think 2020 will be remembered as the Year of the Global Pandemic, or as the Year Diego Valeri Kept Getting Kicked In the Face? It happened against Orlando in the MLS is Back Tournament and it happened again versus San Jose, this time by that whiny little shit Florian Jungwirth. That guy’s a real tool, isn’t he? He’s quickly rising up the list of my least favorite players.
  • In the 79th minute the commentators mentioned Marco Farfan and I realized I’d completely forgotten he was on the field. Is it a good thing or a bad thing if you can go almost an entire game totally unaware of your right back?
  • Serious question now: are we absolutely sure Niezgoda and Mora are the best strikers on our team? Yes, they’re both very good, and they’ve definitely got more pedigree than Jebo, but are they actually better? Jebo just keeps scoring. At some point, we have to admit he’s our best guy. Convince me otherwise down in comments.
  • Speaking of scoring, the Timbers have scored 25 goals so far this season, which is tied for 2nd most in the league, one behind Seattle’s 26. Alas, Seattle’s defense is much, much better than ours, which is why their goal differential is +16, while ours is +1. I heard about a coach back in the day (I can’t think of his name) whose soccer ethos was, “I’d rather lose a game 5-4 than win it 1-0.” I can never decide if I agree with that sentiment, but the 2020 Timbers seem intent on letting me live the experience. We score a lot and we concede a lot. What do you think of it? Great fun or utterly maddening?