Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seattle Grinds the Timbers

Sunday night's match Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders was not a blowout or demonstration of the superiority of one team over the other; it was a grind.  Hard and steady sending the ball through the rough field intent on planting seed. And both teams were hard at it.  Fierce in going at each other's goals.   Watching the match was so edgy that I couldn't sit in my mother's family room, but had to stand.   And my mother,  86 and trying to eat her dinner,  was continually distracted by the battle.  "why did he knock that player down?"  and then the realization that it was expediency and a gritty face-off between two excellent sides. "Oh," she'd say, "he had to stop him."  

The goal that won it was a serious disappointment.   After all,  our boys had managed to send beautiful leading passes through the Sounders' defense and onto the feet of our fleet and nimble forwards but to no avail.  Seattle's keeper read each attack and dammed our effort.  Ryan Johnson tumbling over the keeper in a one on one rush early on.   To give credit to our opponents,  they too put dangerous balls into our area,  befuddling even Ricketts the master keeper,  and leaving the outcome of the attack as loose as a toss of dice from a cup.

In my book, though,  the game was not all about Clint Dempsey, the fancy fella back from England.  The game was not about a letdown of our attack, for we were hounds to the hunt throughout the game and Valeri, Nagbe, Johnson, Wallace, and others were dangerous if not quite precise enough to take home the points.

The game was instead about the absence of Will Johnson and Diego Chara in the midfield.  For the first part of the season Johnson's canny play and Chara's non-stop energy have been disruptions to every team we've met.   Their absence was noticed.   Al Hassan played an excellent game I believe, giving his best to the defensive effort.   And Cap't Jack did as well.  But there was not the synergy in the middle that marked our efforts in the first half of the season.

The only other dissonance for me was the play of Kah on the back line.  He risked the game with histrionic reactions to the referee.  His tackle, drawing a yellow card, was not representative of the Timbers' style of play and added to the 'take no prisoners' tone of the match.   No team has won a championship through 'angry' play to my knowledge.   I hope that he can temper his behavior.  

We will be in the playoffs. I have confidence in that.  But whether we can progress in the playoffs depends on whether we can keep the core team healthy and whether we can maintain our poise.