Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Portland Timbers-hard truths

Okay I gotta get down to the nut here. The Portland Timbers have excellent players and passionate coaching staff.  The Timbers are not winning.  Why?  I'd be laughable as a once or twice a week observer to try to answer that question.  However, I can claim some rights to comment as a longtime observer who's played the game as well as watched the game.  

Perlaza was recruited as a blistering fast forward who could beat defenses with his speed.  It isn't happening.  For whatever reason.   Boyd was recruited as a shark who could prowl the box and turn any pass he got into an opportunity.   It isn't happening.   Most of the balls to Boyd were long lobs to his head, the lowest percentage play we can use him for.  Shades of Kenny Cooper.  I like Chris Boyd as a shark.   We aren't playing to his strength.
In my community the buzz is to put Nagbe up with Boyd.  Nagbe's creative and fit and totally different in his mental focus.  I'd say play it as a wild card.   Chara is a demon crazed workhorse-encourage him.  We need to have Songo'o fit enough to start, if for no other reason than to find out if his pedigree is valid.  The guy's shown some poise and moves.  Let's check it out.   We have a stable of stellar midfielders.   Figuring out the inside is the hardest.  I think Capt. Jack can be a settling influence but needs a strong partner.  And clarity as to who is the holding mf.    Truth be told, we have more outside midfield candidates who can jet down the outside--so I'd like to see Chara, Jewsbury, and Songo'o as the inside trio.  

Defense is still at risk.  We've had serious knocks to our best guys-and that is going to continue to be an issue. Honestly, I think Brunner is generally solid except when he makes a move and misses.  Sweeping the ball and not getting it is a cardinal sin in front of goal.  Perhaps the return of Futty will help steady that.   On the outside, I think our new Scots' defender was solid.  I like Chabala.  I like Hanyar.  I like anyone except Wallace as outside back.
I admit to my biases.  

In the hole? I hope Perkins is back.  The  foul raking him in the face with cleats was grim.  And deserved a more stern penalty.  So it goes.

We've got a season still to win.  No one has to agree with me.  But 52,000 of us are watching and care about how the team goes.  Some are watching from the Jeld Wen Park and some are watching from Lostine Oregon.  But they all want to see their crew succeed.   

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Questions of impact after Montreal.

A fair number of the guys who congregate on Saturday mornings for the 'old guys' practice' enthusiastically caravanned to Wild Wings on Lower Boones Ferry Road after play was over to watch the Timbers early match today against Montreal.  The mood was hopeful.   I don't want to make this an ad for Wild Wings but their modern building with yellow and black signage seemed made for a Mojos excursion.  And they had lots of beer.   Slightly cheaper than at Jeld Wen Field.   So it was that a crowd sat through the first half of the match on a giganto screen--no several screens.   The teams going off the pitch with a nil-nil tie on the board.

In the break,  many of us headed home.  Saturdays can't be all indolent football, beer, and chatter.  I logged back into the match just as Troy Perkins took a boot to the head and went off.  After which,  the ref awarded a PK as the ball bounced up onto new man, Steve Smith, and caught him under the arm.  In the replay he's clearly facing away from the ball and couldn't have seen it coming.   Regardless,   Montreal broke the stalemate with the PK and the game became more stressful.   The Timbers struggled to establish a rhythm.  Errant passes kept that from happening.  And in a horror show moment a crossing ball from Montreal's left flank sailed past Bendix,  the subbed in keeper,  and onto the toe of an unmarked blue shirt who squirted it home.   Best as I could tell,  Lovell Palmer was the Timber who was four steps behind the shooter.  

Much of what the Timbers did in this match was admirable, but they still seem like a turbocharged V8 that is only firing on five cylinders.   For most of the match,  the team didn't give away anything defensively but the PK unwound the elements of poise and the ultimate result was worse than needed.  Kris Boyd got few balls that he could do much with; his intensity was great as he came all the way back into our turf to try to strengthen the connections going forward.   Capt. Jack and Chara worked hard.  Nagbe looked better and better.   Steve Smith was solid, particularly for a walk on,  and became increasingly valuable putting in balls as the game progressed.
Hanyard and Brunner were largely solid in back.  Steve Purdy's substitution with clear reinjury was a setback but Braun filled the slot well.  I continue to be unsure what Perlaza is contributing.  He was called offside a half dozen times and in the rare moment when he was in a footrace to win the ball he didn't. 

Bad luck afflicted us today but we also allowed Fortune to kick us in the teeth at critical moments.  I think hard decisions still need to be made about who starts.  I think the players who are quoted in the press saying that 'the veterans need to provide leadership' need to tell the press they have nothing to say until things change and then need to hunker down and win games.   

I think they can.  Question is whether they will.