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Six Degrees: An Up and Down Week

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Galaxy 3, Timbers 2 — Timbers 2, Sounders 1

MLS: Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a two-game week, so I’m gonna have to squeeze a lot of action into just six degrees. Let’s get to it.


1) Last Wednesday’s 3-2 home loss to the LA Galaxy was a game of two parts. The part where they smashed us, then the part where we smashed them.

LA’s smashing started with the opening whistle. They were playing their A-team, we were playing our B-team, and it did not go well.

I don’t know if you remember, but at some point in the last month, I threw together a Starting XI made up of just our bench players and was like, That’s a good lineup. I’d go to war with that lineup.

Welp, looks like I was wrong, because that lineup was completely outclassed by LA’s starters. Here’s a very quick gif of LA’s three goals. They got one in the first half and two in the second, but all were scored against the same defense, our second-choice defense.

That’s a lot of highlights to throw at you, but with a two-game week, I kinda gotta rush. My apologies.

My main takeaway from all those goals allowed? Slowness. Sometimes slowness of foot, sometimes slowness of thought, of decision, of action. The B-team did almost everything just a little slower than our A-team. It wasn’t just the defense, though. The B-team’s attackers were slow, too.

2) You know how I know this? Because when the A-team attackers finally came on, holy hell, did things speed up. In the 56th minute, Sebastian Blanco, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Eryk Williamson all entered the game, and we immediately saw faster legs, faster brains, and faster actions. All that A-team energy rubbed off on the B-teamers, they started playing better, too, and it led to this Felipe Mora goal in the 67th minute.

That wasn’t even the best we looked on the night. We went up another level in the 78th minute, when Yimmi Chara checked in. Holy hell, did that push LA back on their heels. This was undoubtedly the best I’ve seen Yimmi look in Timbers green.

Just one minute after entering the game, he almost scored a beautiful goal. I can’t find video of it anywhere, but it was ruled offside, and I remember the call being correct.

However, just one minute after that, Yimmi continued his scorching play with a beautiful assist to Jebo, which was again called offside. This time, I’ve got video.

This is a tough thing, because as I’ve pointed out many times, a replay has to clearly and obviously overturn the on-field call. In this case, while I think Jebo was onside, I don’t think the replay is clear and obvious enough to overturn the call on field. Which sucks.

Well, the scorching-hot Yimmi Chara didn’t get the assist there, but he did get the assist on Diego Valeri’s stoppage time goal, closing out a very short but very busy shift for our newest Chara.

3) Some random thoughts on the Galaxy game.

  • I dunno, man. I’m just about ready to give up on Tomas Conechny as our future number 10. That guy showed me nothing against LA.
  • Renzo Zambrano was hit or miss. Some nice moments, other times not so much. I think I’d say the same for Marvin Loria.
  • Cristhian Paredes was pretty unimpressive. I can’t believe how much that guy’s fallen. I really thought he was the future. Maybe he’s still got a future at the six, but Eryk Williamson’s taken the number eight role from him, fully and completely.
  • Andy Polo is Andy Polo. Yes, I know he scored that banger in Orlando, but it hasn’t changed his overall play. No attacking instinct at all.
  • But you know a guy who does have an attacking instinct? Diego Valeri. With his stoppage time goal, he became only the 3rd player in MLS history to have 80 goals and 80 assists. Will he catch Landon Donovan and Jaime Moreno? Probably not. Those guys came into MLS when they were super-young. Valeri came in when he was, like, 26 or 27. He just can’t match them for games played.
  • All in all, the Galaxy loss didn’t upset me as much as the RSL draw, and I think it’s for these three reasons: one, yes, the Galaxy scored 3 goals, but they were all high-quality shots, while RSL scored mostly due to Timber incompetence. Two, RSL ravaged our A-team, while LA did most of their damage against our B-team. This somehow seems more acceptable. And three, the last 30 minutes of the LA game were hella fun, since our starting attackers came in and looked so incredibly good. Especially Yimmi.

4) Okay, that was a fast review of the LA game, but it’s time to move on, because on Sunday, we traveled to that little fishing village up north to play the Sounders. Just like against LA, it was a game of two parts. Seattle owned the first half, while we owned the second.

That’s not to say we didn’t have moments in the first. We got the opening goal, after all, and it was a beauty.

Fucking shit, that’s nice. Great career-first goal for Eryk. It takes a ton of confidence to try a give-and-go through that much traffic. How many guys does he slip through, five? And the pass from Valeri? Absolutely indecent.

You know who you didn’t see on the field during that goal? Sebastian Blanco, who went down with injury just two minutes in. I can’t find video of it, but it looked fairly non-contact, and those are rarely good. I’m worried he did his ACL.

I’m with you, man. I’m with you.

So, I said earlier that Seattle owned the first half, and it’s because, other than that Williamson goal, they had us on our heels the entire time. And there were so many almost goals. Moments where Seattle got into a very dangerous position and our back line was scrambling and it may not have turned into an actual shot on goal, but it was still scary as hell. Here are a few of those moments, including the goal they actually scored.

It’s hard to get too upset by a long-range banger like that, but trust me, as much as Seattle had us scrambling, 1-1 seemed like a very generous halftime score. We could’ve easily been down a goal or two.

5) But then the second half started, and we looked like a completely different team. That scrambling defense? Gone. The midfield that couldn’t win possession? Gone. The silent attack? Gone. The entire team came out buzzing and we owned the game’s final 45 minutes.

Here are two chances we had in the first couple minutes of the second half.

Stefan Frei denied us on those, but we kept banging away, and in the 83rd minute, Felipe Mora finally broke through.

That’s just an exquisite pass from Eryk Williamson, and he was without a doubt the Man of the Match, but if I may offer a slight suggestion... I’d like to see him and Yimmi turn on the afterburners there. If they’d sprinted toward goal, rather than jogged, they could have cleaned up a potential spill.

But let’s not let that get in the way of a great goal that gave us a deserved lead.

That’s three goals in three games for Felipe Mora. I don’t know how this happened, but the Timbers suddenly have three starting-quality strikers. Ebobisse’s a known commodity, having led the team in goals last year, Mora was great in preseason and is building momentum again, and every game Jaroslaw Niezgoda looks utterly clinical and dangerous. I have no idea who will, or should, win the battle to start, but keeping them all happy is going to put Gio’s man-managment skills to the test.

I’ve seen people giving Jebo grief as a winger, but I’m not sure I agree. I think he’s been decent out there. He tracks back on D, he stays dangerous in the attack. Sure, he might be better at striker, but he’s more than passable on the wing. Which is good, because like I said, I’m worried Blanco did his ACL. I’m worried he’s done for the year.

LATE TUESDAY UPDATE: Yep, he did his ACL.

If so, that might put Jebo on the wing. Then maybe Mora and Niezgoda could alternate starts at striker. Or one of them could be a supersub.

Or should we try to get Mora and Niezgoda on together? Maybe losing Seba would inspire Gio to try a 4-4-2? I’m not sure how that would play out, but maybe sort of a diamond midfield, with Dos Diegos at the front and back, and Yimmi and Eryk on the sides? I guess that puts Jebo on the bench, doesn’t it? He’d make a hell of a supersub.

I’m just spit balling with all this. What do you think? What’s your ideal lineup/formation going forward?

6) Some random thoughts on the Seattle game.

  • I loved how aggressive Eryk was on the counter. It seemed like every time he got the ball in the defensive midfield, he practically sprinted upfield with it. Really exciting.
  • Yimmi wasn’t as game-changing as he was against the Galaxy, but I’m still excited to see what he has to offer as a regular starter. If Blanco really is done, we need Yimmi to step up in a big way. To be that guy who looked so amazing coming off the bench against the Galaxy.
  • Speaking of Charas, Diego Chara got his fifth yellow on Sunday night. Is he going to miss our next game for yellow card accumulation? Keep an eye on the league’s disciplinary report page.
  • Another guy who might miss our next game? Larrys Mabiala. I mentioned Blanco’s injury already, but Larrys had to be replaced at halftime. How badly is the big Frenchman hurt? Stay tuned.
  • It’s possible I’m mishearing the announcers, but I’m pretty sure the Sounders have players named Neymar, Handball, and YooHoo. And, clearly, I love this very, very much.
  • We’ve got a week off before our next game, an away game on Sunday against LAFC. Since we drew them 2-2 at the MLS is Back tournament, LAFC has one win and three losses. The three losses were against two of the hottest teams in the league, Seattle (1x) and LA Galaxy (2x). Their one win was a blowout, beating cellar-dweller San Jose 5-1. So the question to ask is this: are the Timbers at San Jose’s level, or are we closer to LA and Seattle? Well, considering we just beat Seattle, we’re clearly on a level with them. The Galaxy, yes, we lost to them last week, but they mostly beat our B-team. When our A-team entered the game, we looked damn good. So, all in all, I like our chances against LAFC. I’m not bold enough to guarantee a win, but I think we should be able to hang. And if a few bounces go our way, we could get our second straight road win.