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Six Degrees: Comeback Kids

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Portland 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I’m an emotional fan. I live and die with every bounce of the ball. So, lemme tell ya, this game was an emotional roller coaster, from the opening kick to the final whistle.


1) I’ll make a small confession. Sporting Kansas City’s my least favorite team. I know, I know... I’m supposed to hate Seattle the most, but I don’t. It’s SKC. I can’t stand them.

Why do I hate SKC so much? Well, did you watch Saturday’s game? That’s why I hate them. Because they play like that.

They foul constantly. They dive constantly. They complain to the referee constantly. They take forever on goal kicks and throw ins. They lie on the pitch feigning injury. From start to finish, they do everything they can to make the beautiful game ugly.

Did I enjoy Saturday’s game? Not really. I’m definitely glad we won, but did I enjoy it? No. I don’t enjoy any SKC game. They’re awful. They’re the worst.

I thought they’d get better when Dom Diver left the team, but they haven’t changed at all, so I think the blame lies with their coach, Peter Vermes. I think he hates soccer. Why else would his teams play like this, year after year? He hates soccer and wants to destroy it.

2) Because of all that, because I had to watch all that horrible soccer, by the second half, I was in a pretty bad mood. Then, in the 65th minute, SKC’s Benny Feilhaber – an honor student at the Vermes School of Ugly Soccer – did this.

I’m not sure we can give Benny much credit for this un-saveable goal. I’m pretty sure he was crossing the ball and it just happened to go in. Regardless, Steve Clark’s going to be re-living that shot in his dreams. Slow, looping balls that are just out of reach must be nightmare fuel for goalkeepers.

Down 1-0, I’d like to tell you that I was full of optimism and cheering my heart out for the boys, but the truth is, after watching SKC’s ugly bastardization of soccer for 65 minutes, plus thinking of all the points the Timbers have been dropping at home, I kinda gave up hope.

After seeing us draw Colorado and Orlando, then lose to Atlanta and Seattle, then look utterly mediocre in beating RSL, I didn’t have much hope we’d come back. I thought the game was lost, and with it, perhaps the entire season.

3) You know who else was emotionally checked out? Dairon Asprilla. I never thought I would hear a Timbers home crowd boo a Timber, but it happened, and it was 100% deserved.

In the 70th minute, Asprilla got subbed out for Brian Fernandez. Down 1-0 and desperately chasing a goal, you’d think Asprilla would race off the field, quick as possible, right? He might even leave the field wherever he happened to be, just to expedite the process.

But no, Dairon didn’t expedite a thing. He walked the full width of the field, as slowly... as... possible. I wish I had video to show you, because it was amazing. If an SKC player had been leaving the field that slowly, the referee would have jogged over to him, pointed at his watch, and told him to hurry up. But it wasn’t an SKC player, it was a Timber, and the referee clearly didn’t know what to do. He looked utterly perplexed by Asprilla’s slow-motion walk off the field.

We all were. The whole crowd started yelling at Asprilla to hurry the fuck up, and when he didn’t, people started booing. Yes, a Timber was getting booed at home! And he deserved it!

I don’t have video of the walk, but I can show you what happened when Asprilla met Gio Savarese.

Wow. The whole thing was amazing, start to finish. I’ve never seen anything like it, and can’t help wondering if it’s the last time we’ll see Asprilla wearing the green and gold.

4) Fortunately, Asprilla did leave the field and was replaced by Brian Fernandez, instantly improving our attack. Eight minutes later, our attack was improved again when Andy Polo was replaced by Marvelous Marvin Loria.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that Andy Polo’s superpower is invisibility. I have pretty much no memory of him doing anything during his 78 minutes on the field. My only real memory is that he hustled off the field when he was subbed out. Just as with Asprilla, I keep wondering if this is the last time we see Polo in the green and gold.

But there is a flip side to the long-term disappointment that is Asprilla and Polo. The kids replacing them are kicking ass.

Marvelous Marvin Loria continues looking marvelous, Tomas “All I Do Is Get Late-Game Assists” Conechny continues getting late-game assists, Eryk “Put Me In Coach, I’ll Play The 10, The 8, The 6, Whatever, Just Put Me In” Williamson had a solid shift playing all over the field, and Renzo “I May Need To Work On My Anger Issues When It Comes To Referees” Zambrano, is... well, he’s currently serving a two-game suspension and working on his anger issues.

But my point stands. All of those players are improvements over Asprilla and Polo. Our future is bright.

Another exciting part of that future is Jeremy Ebobisse, who drew us even in the 83rd minute.

The pass deflected off a defender, so no assists were handed out, but the primary assist would have gone to Diego Chara and the secondary assist would have gone to the young gun who just got put in the game five minutes earlier, Marvelous Marvin Loria.

A tertiary assist could go to Brian Fernandez. Watch how he stops his run and backs up a few steps, bringing his defender with him, and opening up space for Jebo. Yet another win for all of us in the #FernandezAndJeboOnTheFieldAtTheSameTimeForeverThankYou crowd.

5) Did that goal raise my spirits? Yes. Did it make me think we’d win? No, not really. I was in a bad place, man. SKC will do that do you. Between their ugly brand of soccer, plus the memories of us dropping points at home, I was still kind of moping up there in the east terraces.

The Timbers weren’t moping, though. They were going like hell, searching for that winner. Fernandez was on the field, Loria was on the field, and in stoppage time, Tomas “All I Do Is Get Late-Game Assists” Conechny finally made it onto the field.

And what happened? Conechny got his late-game assist. It was three Argentines, actually – Conechny, Fernadez, and Diego “I Now Have A Career-High 16 Assists” Valeri – who got together to make a little magic.

Conechy nutmegs a dude, Valeri send an inch-perfect pass looping toward the back post, and Fernandez holds off a big center back, gets up, and heads the ball home. Cue delirium, both on and off the field.

Actually, not everyone was delirious. Dairon Asprilla didn’t seem all that excited. Check him out on the bench.

I mean, at least Polo stood up, right?

6) Let’s finish with a few random thoughts.

  • Despite how shorthanded we were last week, somehow Sebastian Blanco and Kendall McIntosh managed to injure themselves, too, so we were even more shorthanded against SKC. Whatever Gio’s been doing in practice, maybe he needs to stop. I’d like to have at least 11 guys healthy for next weekend’s game.
  • That being said, let’s give a shout out to our back line. For the second straight week, we didn’t have a single defender on the bench, and for the second straight week, Jorge Moreira, Bill Tuiloma, Claude Dielna, and Jorge Villafana carried us to victory. Well done, boys.
  • Of course, it helps having Diego Chara in front of you. That guy is a goddamn marvel. So many times, SKC would start something threatening and then – poof! – out of nowhere, Chara was there to break it up. A true master of the dark arts.
  • Two quick thoughts on the handball non-calls. On the first, I think VAR was right to overturn it. Dude’s arm was tucked pretty tight on his torso. On the second, I’d have called a penalty, because I think SKC benefited from the ball hitting Besler’s arm. However, it wasn’t clear and obvious, so it’s not a hill I’m ready to die on.
  • All that being said, every close call this year on a handball has gone against us. Every single one.
  • Here’s how the team’s doing compared to previous years. Not too shabby.

  • We’ve got a week off before our next game, but then we’ll start a 5 games in 15 days stretch, which is not at all what you want when you’ve got an absurd number of injuries.
  • Only two of the five games are against Western Conference opponents, so conceivably you could argue for resting players against DC, RBNY, and New England. However, the truth is that you can’t rest players when you don’t even have enough healthy bodies to fill your bench. Also, we’re desperate for points. At this point in the season, with playoff seeding on the line, we can’t take any games off.
  • The next few weeks would be exhausting even for a healthy team. For the injury-ravaged Timbers, it’s going to be an epic struggle. We shall see if they’re up to the task.