After missing the opening weekend’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution (curse you moving), I’m happy to say welcome back to the first Post-Slab Pint of 2022, where I break down (pint in hand) the good and the bad from each Portland Timbers’ result.
This week, we have the Timbers’ 1-1 draw away to LAFC to talk about, and what a game it was. Seeing as this is the first installment of the season, I’ll start out with what I liked about the game:
For the second week in a row, Zac McGraw has looked like a center back that the Timbers can build around for the future.
Yimmi Chara was given the man of the match award and a place in the MLS Team of the Week for his performance against LAFC, but for my money, Zac McGraw was the most impressive Timbers player on the pitch. McGraw put in an imperious display at the back and seemingly won every challenge, and the stats tend to back that sentiment up.
Against LAFC, McGraw won 75% of his duels (nine), made five interceptions, one defensive block, and four defensive recoveries. He also commit zero (!) fouls throughout the match, and had a whopping 15 clearances.
For a player who has only started four times in MLS, that is one very impressive display. With news of Dario Zuparic being ready to play a role against Austin FC this weekend, and Larrys Mabiala set to return some time soon, Giovanni Savarese will have a hard time withdrawing McGraw from the starting XI.
Yimmi Chara continued his perfect ‘bicycle kick goal every game’ record for the 2022 MLS season.
What can I say about Yimmi’s second consecutive bike that hasn’t already been said? The skill, technique, and speed of improvisation required to score a goal like that is outrageous, and he’s done it two weeks in a row.
It’s definitely not reasonable for Y. Chara to score an overhead kick every week, but then again I would have told you that after the goal he scored against New England in week 1. Even so, Chara is living up to his Designated Player contract this season, and I very much hope that continues.
Now for the not so fun part, what I didn’t like about the game:
Claudio Bravo was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 62nd minute of the match.
Based on quite a few tweets I saw when it happened, I seem to be in the minority of Timbers fans when I say that I think Claudio Bravo’s sending off was completely warranted and extremely unnecessary. Was it soft? Absolutely. Was Arango clever and did he know exactly what he was doing in the moment? 100 percent. But, having already been shown a yellow, Bravo has to be smarter in that position. Any time you pull a player back when the ball has gone, no matter how soft the contact or location on the pitch, it is going to be a yellow card.
The suspension will see Bravo miss the Timbers next match against Austin FC, who gave the Timbers nightmares last season, and have already scored 10 goals through two games to start the 2022 season. Seeing as Bravo is the only senior left-footed fullback on the roster, the suspension also means that the Timbers will either have to play rookie Justin Rasmussen at left back, or move another one of their defenders out of position to fill the gap in his absence.
The Timbers conceded a goal in the third minute of stoppage time, scored by an unmarked center back in the middle of the six-yard box.
I’m going to cut the team a little slack here, seeing as they had to play nearly a third of the match down a man and defended quite well during that time, but 18-year-old Mamadou Fall’s stoppage time equalizer was as frustrating as they come.
LAFC’s Brian Rodriguez took Marvin Loria to task down the left wing as George Fochive neither backed Loria up or tracked back into the box, and Yimmi Chara, who was moved to left-back after Bravo’s red card, didn’t follow the run of Fall, who was right at the doorstep to tap in an inch perfect cross.
Like I said, the defensive effort from the Timbers was a massive one for the majority of the match, but allowing opposing attackers to freely run at your defense while simultaneously not tracking the runs of their intended targets, will always be an issue despite the number of players you have on the pitch.
The Timbers are back in action against Austin FC at Providence Park on Saturday, March 12, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. PST.