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Six Degrees: How Worried Should I Be?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Austin FC Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

In which I give some reasons why everything is bad and will be forever, then give some reasons why that’s wrong, everything is not bad, and we should chill the fuck out.

1) A reason to worry: Los Dos Diegos are looking old. We’ve been wondering for years when it would happen, and this may be the year. With Diego Valeri, there’s no real doubt. His numbers are off and he doesn’t pass the eye test, either. It’s harder to tell with Diego Chara, but my gut’s telling me that he’s just a bit less dominant this year. My gut’s been wrong before, so I don’t always listen to it, but still... I’m concerned.

And if we don’t have top-level Diegos, can we succeed? When have we succeeded without them? They’ve been the very foundation of this team for the last decade. Do we know how to win without them? Can we figure it out? This seems like a damn good reason to worry.

Would this problem be fixed by making Valeri a super-sub? Possibly. Would he like this? Absolutely not. Does Gio Savarese have the stones to force it upon him anyway? I have no idea. None. It hasn’t been an option here at the start of the year, what with all our missing playmakers, but once they’re back? We’ll see if Gio’s does it. And we’ll see if Valeri can swallow his pride and keep a good attitude if it happens.

Is it time for Chara to be a super-sub? Probably not. But is it time for him to sit out mid-week games? Yes. And maybe even leave games early if we’ve got a lead. The math ain’t perfect, but it seems like every minute of rest he gets now is a minute he’ll be a little fresher at the end of the season and into the playoffs.

Los Dos Diegos can still be incredibly valuable to this team, but only if Gio saves their legs for when it really counts. Will he do it?

2) Another reason to worry: we keep getting pounded on the road. Not just beaten. Pounded.

A 4-1 pounding at Dallas, a 3-0 pounding at Philly, an ugly 2-0 first-half pounding at Houston, a 4-1 pounding to an expansion team in Austin. The only road games where we didn’t get pounded were our opening day 1-0 loss at Vancouver (which was played in Utah, so both teams were on the road) and a 2-0 win at San Jose (which was against San Jose, and honestly, I can’t tell if their coach is going to make it to the end of the year).

It’s one thing to lose road games. It’s another to look absolutely overwhelmed. If we continue doing this, we should be very worried.

3) A third reason to worry: our defense has been sketchy as hell. Last year, we gave up late goals. This year, it’s early goals. Seems like we start every game down 1-0, and in soccer, that changes everything. The defense has got to figure this out.

Another thing our defense does this year? Give up a ton of set piece goals. Everyone deserves blame for this, since everyone – forwards, middies, and defenders – are back there in the box, playing D. Or rather, not playing D, as we’ve seen. I’m not sure who on the coaching staff is in charge of set piece defense, but it might be time for a change.

And finally, are our center backs any good? I honestly can’t tell anymore. This season, Dario Zuparic, Larrys Mabiala, and Bill Tuiloma have vacillated between “mostly competent” and “mostly incompetent,” very rarely venturing into “clearly and obviously good” territory. I like all of them on a personal level, but professionally, I can’t tell anymore. I need them to start banging out clean sheets. I need them to be so clearly and obviously good that I’ll owe them a big giant apology.

But we’re not there yet, so I’ll continue to be worried.

4) And one more reason to worry: our best player this year has been Eryk Williamson and he’s at the Gold Cup until August 1. The earliest we could see Eryk back in the Green and Gold is our game vs San Jose on Wednesday the 4th. Though maybe not. If he plays a lot for the USMNT, he might sit out that San Jose game and rest up for when we play RSL on the 7th.

Yeah, Eryk’s just one guy, but he’s currently our best guy. Will losing him lead to a miserable July? We just had a miserable June. How many miserable months can we have before the season is lost?

Missing Eryk is reason to worry.

5) But now we leave behind our worries and get to the one big reason we should not worry.

Actually, it’s five reasons, and their names are Sebastian Blanco, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Yimmi Chara, Felipe Mora, and Cristhian Paredes. All were gone, but will soon be back.

Any team missing that many players – plus Jeff Attinella, Ismaila Jome, Andy Polo, and a few others who’ve been banged up along the way – is gonna suffer. Any team missing all three DPs at the same time is gonna suffer. We’ve gone through all of that and are somehow not at the very bottom of the standings. This alone is reason to cheer. We’ve dealt with a biblical plague of injuries and absences and stayed afloat. Mostly afloat. Taking on water, yes, but for the most part, afloat.

So, yeah, all those reasons to worry I listed up above, they were things to survive, and we did it. We survived. Now we’ll get some guys back and see what happens.

If we get our shit together and roll into the playoffs as a Very Dangerous Team, all our worries will seem foolish. If we continue struggling for a few games, well, let’s not freak out too much, it might just be us working out some kinks. If we continue struggling into August? Into September? At that point, yeah, we can definitely worry. But now? Let’s wait and see.

6) But because I’m a dickhead who refuses to be happy, here’s one final thing to worry about.

Is it possible our medical staff sucks? All these injuries we’ve had, all the setbacks we’ve seen from Blanco and his ACL, would these have happened if our physios were better? I’m not saying yeah, I’m not saying no, I’m just saying it’s a worry I keep in the back of my head. Because I’m a dickhead who refuses to be happy.