Monday, April 9, 2012

Portland Timbers shrivel against Chivas

I can't make sense of last night's match.  The first half seemed fine for the most part.  Boyd's poise at the moment the opportunistic bounce came his way for the opening goal suggested that the full eleven had that steely-eyed view of how to pick Chivas apart and spread the remains to the wind.  But that was a mistake.  
I thought Nagbe, Songo'o, Alexandar were dangerous but there were moments of horror. On the good side Nagbe ran right at the defense and gave them heart palpitations. Elsewise,  Wallace missed a tackle at about the 30th minute allowing his many a free run and cross down the side.   The resulting shot just passed the far corner of the goal.  But at the same time, Wallace broke up several attacks with a deftly placed foot.  The second half began with an onslaught of intersecting runs toward our goal from Chivas.  The  red and white strip  came out of the locker room like crusaders of old.   Their energy, accurate passing, movement off the ball combined to apparently unnerve the Timbers and the early tie goal accelerated Portland's angst. 
Lovell Palmer was mentioned in the print media as getting beat by his mark more than once.  Brunner was not able to stop his mark from scoring on an accurate cross.  And the second goal, not Brunner's mistake,  was also the result of a pinpoint cross.  Not that another keeper might have reacted differently,  but I thought Perkins was caught flatfooted on the the second goal.  More importantly,  our crew made errant passes and as anxiety set in the attack devolved to long 'hopeful' balls.  I think Boyd is a ferociously aggressive player.  He was trolling back last night to the fifty to try to win the ball.  A large number of balls played up to him were only within ten yards or so  of  Boyd.  Nothing much he could make of those.  And a fair number were long and high lobs that took Boyd far out of the danger zone to try to collect and redirect.   
Shades of Kenny Cooper!   The fact is that we want Boyd to be swimming in the rarified sea around the penalty arc where a ball on his foot creates a high percentage chance.  And there's too much time when we're not using him that way.  the forty yard lob to someone's head isn't a great attacking strategy-- unless it's part of a mix of attacking choices.   The Timbers didn't show much versatility in picking the Chivas defense apart and making them come unglued after the first half.   The hard-nosed runs at the defense were not continued.   
The smell of fear was in the air.   And while I think we have excellent players across most of the roster,  I think they need to believe that we have excellent players across the roster.   I believe that Jean-Baptiste did as well as he could but it will help to have Hansard back in the lineup.  I was glad to see Mike Chabala back on the outside defense.  But it was Palmer's side that was most vulnerable.
I have a hard time believing that this crew is so psychologically vulnerable that they are going to fall apart in a match just because they give up a goal or have some bad calls.  That would suggest that we haven't factored coldhearted professionalism into our calculations.   On the flip side,  the Timbers have made a clear effort to recruit and cultivate very young players of promise.   A good initiative I'd say. But one that also takes time to bring to fruition.

Looking forward to seeing how the crew tighten their belts and decide to step up.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Bill Drew Tournament in Victoria BC

 The Mojos have made the journey up to British Columbia to play in the Bill Drew Memorial tourney for several years.  For many a stopover in Port Angeles and dinner at Michaels has been the standard.   For others the tournament has been more spartan--drive like a bat out of hell to Port Angeles on the Friday and make the ferry crossing with or without your car.  Hustle off to the Mojos' lodging property and then play four matches in two days.  Insert a very sumptuous dinner out on Sooke Bay courtesy of Gary Warman's family and friends.  Drive like mad to get back to Portland in time for work on Monday.   

Sometimes it pays to take a deep breath and spend a tranquil thirty minutes at Murchies for coffee and scone.  The best in western North America.  Oh..and they have tea as well.
Ultimately, though,  we're in Victoria to play soccer and so at an early hour we're out on the pitch which in our case seems more of a bog or morass than a soccer field.   We're undaunted though because we've played most of our lives in Oregon on suchlike pitches and have little fear of wobbly ankles in the mud.  The weather is persistently chill and rainy.   Like Spartans, we press on.   And the match goes well until we are afflicted with a PK which ends up deciding the match. Frustrating since we felt we dominated, particularly in the second half.

The second match of the day is more uplifting.  We win 2-1 with the difference also being a PK.  We could have had more goals but we're content with the win.
Saturday nights at the tournament have become legendary and sumptuous feasts.  Gary Warman's family's hosting of a feast fit for kings and quees on Sooke Bay are clearly part of the reason that the Mojos journeys have become so popular.   The drive out by bus is long, but the reward is great.   Excellent food, a pristine setting on the edge of Vancouver Island, and the high energy Mojo vibe and hospitality.  It's like nothing you've ever done before.  On top of the camaraderie, there's music and hijinks.   All of it ends too soon as the revelers head back to Victoria to sleep and prepare for Day Two of the tournament.  After all, this is really about playing soccer, N'est ce Pas?  
 The Sunday morning arrives very early for those who have reveled.   We journey out to the fields and find that there is a field house with showers, hot water, dressing rooms, toilets and all the amenities.   We've never in our lives had such luxury at a pitch.  We know we're in the right place because the icon on the wall is of a white-haired old boy running.  Must be our quarters.

 On the Sunday,  the weather improves toward midday.
Increasing numbers of Mojos gather in the beer garden, either to lick their wounds or to do their best to chug caffeine.   When all is said and done, the best story is that there are few injuries among the four teams,  that some of the guys from Ballyhoo came and made some peace with Roddy Coles regarding the horrorshow incident from Snohomish last July,  and that we'd by and large had another wonderful tournament experience.   Not defined by the won loss tally on the tote board.

The O60s team captained by Terry Shumaker. We lost one on a sorry PK.   We won another with a solid performance.  We lost to an O55 team with some bad luck.   And we did our best against a team who were down for their first match on the biggest field on he planet.   We did good.  And thanks to the entire crew for their patience and hard work on the pitch.  I was honored to be there.