What a ridiculous first-half performance that was from the Portland Timbers.
If anybody thought the Timbers would come into Providence Park with a chip on their shoulder after Nigel de Jong mugged Darlington Nagbe on Sunday, Caleb Porter’s team dispelled that notion in short order by putting in a listless, sloppy effort in the first half that had Porter apologizing to supporters after the game.
Here are three questions from the Timbers’ belly-up performance against Dallas:
1. What on earth happened?
There really isn’t one answer to this question.
Did short rest play a part? Yep. From the outset the Timbers looked tired, sloppy, and slow. There is no question that having two days of rest between a grinding draw in Los Angeles made this a difficult game for the Timbers.
Did lineup selection play a part? No doubt. There were a handful of Timbers -- Jack Jewsbury most prominent among them -- that looked simply unready to play. Porter’s decision to play a handful of veterans on such a short turnaround early in the season was undoubtedly a contributor to the Timbers’ collapse on Wednesday, but, it should be noted, Porter was dealing with a short bench in light of injuries.
Did the Timbers drop the ball in their preparation for the game? No question about it. Whether it was lack of mental preparation or lack of tactical preparation (the Timbers weren’t really surprised that Dallas would press them high, were they?), the Timbers weren’t prepared. Yes, they had a short turnaround for this game. But so did the Burn. And they managed it okay.
And finally, as Porter said countless times in his postgame press conference, the Timbers made some mind-numbing mistakes. But when a team makes an inordinate number of sloppy, uncharacteristic mistakes, you have to chalk that up to poor preparation.
Each of Dallas’s goals came from horrendous mistakes from the Timbers. On the first Ned Grabavoy hung Jewsbury out to dry with a lazy back pass into two-man pressure, and Jewsbury, apparently not realizing the magnitude of the danger, tried to play out of the jam rather than just put his foot through the ball. As for the second, well, let’s just keep in mind all the good things Jewsbury has done for the club. And the third was sparked by a preposterous display of flank defending by Grabavoy and Alvas Powell.
So, to answer the question, under difficult circumstances the Timbers -- coach and team -- did an awful lot wrong. And it takes no less than that to put in a performance as baffling as the Timbers’ first half on Wednesday.
2. So what now?
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that the Timbers are six games into a 34-game season. They’ve had a number of things not go their way, and they’ve had a number of things (prominently including Wednesday’s game) that they didn’t handle well at all.
There are reasonable questions about the Timbers’ depth, whether there really are viable bench pieces on the wing and in central midfield, and whether key parts of the backline have reached their expiration date.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some very good players on the Timbers, as the fact that they won MLS Cup five months ago suggests. And they are unquestionably a much, much better team than they demonstrated on Wednesday.
What we have learned over the last two weeks, however, is that 2016 looks like it will be another struggle. But then again so was 2015, and that ended quite well.
Throughout the Porter Era the Timbers have been at their best after they get knocked down. And the Timbers are certainly face down on the mat after Wednesday’s embarrassment against Dallas.
So we’ll see how they react on the weekend. If recent history is any indication, the Timbers may have some surprises in store on Saturday evening.
But that doesn’t change just how poorly the Timbers came out of the gates on Wednesday.
3. We need a laugh. Was there a laugh somewhere on Wednesday evening?
"Sorry we don't find signing dirty players funny. But have at it." pic.twitter.com/FzuTidcvcR— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) April 14, 2016
First of all, I don’t remotely disagree that Grabavoy’s tackle was bad. It obviously came off awkwardly, but there really isn’t any good excuse for winding up with knee-high studs. If Grabavoy is ultimately suspended for going into the challenge that way, I won’t have any objection whatsoever.
But Grabavoy’s tackle was also bad in the same way that a drunk taking a swing at somebody only to lose his balance and fall flat on his face is bad. As a general matter, you shouldn’t try to punch somebody. And being drunk isn’t really an excuse for doing so. If there are consequences for the attempt -- no matter how feckless -- so be it. But in the instances of our wasted friend and Ned Grabavoy, there really wasn’t any real danger that anybody else would get hurt.
Which is why the not-so-vague comparison to Nigel de Jong’s tackle is just downright funny. Darlington Nagbe is lucky today to have his left ankle more or less in one piece. The only thing Grabavoy’s tackle was going to break, on the other hand, was his own ego.
So in the shadow of a very bad, no-good day, have a laugh courtesy of the LA Galaxy's in-house writer.