To say that the season opener was anything less than riveting would be selling it short. The Portland Timbers kicked off last Sunday at home vs the Red Bulls of New York, and the 3-3 draw was breathtaking to watch.
Then, Saturday had a completely different feel to it. The consistency of the Timbers Army was the extent of the consistency inside Jeld-Wen Field as Portland failed to string together consistent attacks (despite majority possession) and lost to Montreal Impact 2-1.
Here is some love, and a little hate for the new look Timbers in 2013. Whatever changes need to be made, need to be done quickly as MLS rivalry weekend ends with Portland at Seattle on Saturday night.
1. Caleb Porter, head coach
“Porterland” is a wonderful place. The soccer is possession based, attack-minded and hard set on finding the back of the net. Yes, this leaves the Timbers in terrible position for counters and such, but watching this offense compared to the last two seasons is like watching single-A baseball and the Major leagues.
That’s how different it is.
On Saturday, down 2-0, Porter made two subs that really surprised me, and it nearly worked. He put in F/M Jose Valencia for RB Ryan Miller, and M Rodney Wallace for LB Michael Harrington. Porter showed the fans in Portland that the point differential meant nothing and the points were the most important thing. Subbing two offensive players for two defensive backs meant we were either going to score or be scored on, with little in-between. The move nearly paid off as Portland came close to equalizing.
2. Darlington Nagbe
Perhaps this would have happened no matter the situation, but in his third year of MLS (and with college coach Porter), Nagbe has changed from a good player to a smart, strong, and great player.
His play has always been fast, but an increase in strength in the offseason and confidence on the pitch is making the team better.
3. Diego Valeri
The Timbers new designated player has shown brilliance on the shot and the ability to see the future with his passes. A frustrating night Saturday will only make him work harder–a valuable asset a year after DP Kris Boyd ended the year riding the bench.
Everyone wants to blame one defender or another when a goal is given up, but this is a collective effort. Yes, it has only been two games, but the lack of communication between keeper (Donovan Ricketts) and whoever is playing defense has been infuriating. 5 goals given up over 2 games is unacceptable and will not set up victories.
Mikael Silvestre thought he would get off easier than that, but that cannot happen. The former Manchester United defender looks out of sorts with his new teammates. He is also having trouble adjusting to the field turf, which has caused him to miss a few balls that every other defender in the league would get too.
3. Offense Defender
Andrew Jean-Baptiste has shown great strength and improved skills as the defensive center back. His ability to keep people out of the box is a testament to his physical build.
But Saturday night, his inability to take the ball he had gotten back and make an efficient pass to a teammate really stalled the offense. There were multiple times he had the ball for 5-10 seconds without resolve or confidence to make the right pass. That must change.
Portland makes the trip to Seattle this weekend and if the defense shows up for the derby, the game will be exciting. If they don’t, expect a shootout that does not end well for PTFC.