In his first column for Prost Amerika, Timbers fan Jim Boussios tries to balance the traditional fatalism accrued by years of watching the club, with the heady excitement of the league position of the current side.
Fan Op Ed: Timbers Fans Trying to Putting Fatalism Aside
by Jim Boussios
Being fatalists at their core, Timbers supporters can perhaps be forgiven if the results of the last month or so had them, if not worried, than at least concerned, about their club’s recent run of play.
One win in their last six matches, including elimination in the Open Cup semifinals by RSL, left some with at least questions as a certain amount of sheen seemed to have come of Porterball. Possession wasn’t maintained and what purpose existed, was betrayed by a lack of finishing in the attacking third.
Some of that was due to Gold Cup call ups. Adding to the angst due to this dip in the run of play was the news of that poorly dressed team from the fishing village to the north bring gifted some guy named Clint Dempsey. It wasn’t hard to imagine the wheels coming off in dramatic fashion, as they seem to tend to do in Portland.
This was silly because despite the fun in getting carried away by the fifteen match league unbeaten streak, and visions of domestic trebles dancing through our heads (we’re never losing again!), the streak included a fair share of points dropped like the late goal that San Jose scored to sneak off with a point back in April or the two goal lead that was coughed up against Chicago in June.
In hindsight it seems amusingly naive to believe that Porter could have stocked the roster with enough depth in just one offseason to handle the injuries the Timbers have suffered this year plus players lost to international duty without a hitch.
After losing in Salt Lake City and having their last weekend off, the message from Timbers camp was to get away for awhile and not think about soccer and come back and prepare for the stretch run.
The matchup with Dallas on Saturday was a big one. Even though Dallas has entered something of a free fall, having failed to win in their previous eleven league matches, they were still within three points of the Timbers and had been tough in previous meetings.
With a win, the Timbers and their supporters would be feeling pretty good about themselves going forward. A draw or even a loss and those creeping doubts would begin to linger for crucial matches against RSL and Seattle. As it would happen the Timbers dispatched FC Dallas 2-1 in a quietly impressive fashion that might not show up in the scoreline but still should serve to dispel plenty of doubts in the Rose City.
After shaking off some rust the Timbers midfield did manage some pretty combinations in the first half especially between Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe the likes of which have been sorely lacking around these parts in the first half.
The scoring was limited to a seven minute stretch in the first half that saw Ryan Johnson convert a well taken header over Dallas defender George John, from a Valeri corner.
Even before the celebrations had died down Dallas had caught the Timbers flat footed with some nifty passing when new signing Mauro Diaz equalized barely two minutes later.
It could have gone badly from here any number of ways, most of which are probably familiar to Timbers supporters.
But as they have mostly, the Timbers have responded well to adversity and it only took five minutes for a response from the foot of Nagbe ‘the Dallas Slayer’ to put them back in the lead for good.
This goal was set up by a classy through ball from Valeri who had received a header from Diego Chara who, as always, was found near the ball in midfield.
The first half was a much more free flowing affair than the 2nd as referee Allen Chapman pulled the usual MLS official trick of swallowing his whistle in the first half and attempting to make up for it by calling fouls excessively in the 2nd. The first quarter hour of the 2nd half saw each side get booked twice for cautions as the play veered towards chippy.
The Timbers were the aggressors however and seemed to impose themselves on Dallas in the 2nd half, constantly disrupting the flow of Dallas’ attack.
Diego Chara especially, continued his walk down the line between hard and dirty play, but Ben Zemanski also filled in admirably for an injured Will Johnson and was often found intercepting passes and sparking counter attacks.
No one could accuse Caleb Porter of bunkering when his 2nd half subs were forwards Jose Valencia and Kalif Alhassan and it worked brilliantly as the Timbers kept their pressure on for the whole game.
I don’t think I have ever been that serene upon the announcement of five mins of added time while holding on to a one goal lead. The game of keep away in the Dallas corner that killed several minutes of stoppage time was a thing of beauty and another thing that I am not sure I have seen the Timbers do either. Certainly not with that poise and confidence.
While Valeri and his two assists might be the obvious choice for Man of the Match my vote goes to the other Diego.
His work rate and tenacity was greatly missed when he was gone and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Valeri seemed to regain some of his mojo when Chara was back cleaning things up in the defensive midfield. Not only did he lead the Timbers in passes completed but the shortest player on the field also lead the team in headers with seven.
Chara’s stand off against George John after knocking him down with a foul in the first half epitomizes his game for me and only served to make me fall for him even harder than I already have.
I don’t know if it’s hanging in the wrong circles, but I feel as if Diego Chara is dreadfully underappreciated, but I am a Chara partisan. In my mind, his face should be all over banners and two-sticks and I might fight the next person I meet who speaks ill of his finishing ability.
Whoever came up with “He’s short, he’s hard, he’s got a yellow card, Diego Chara, Diego Chara” I’d like to buy you a beer because you seem like my kind of person.
I feel like “keep the highs low and the lows high” is about as inane as coachspeak gets, but there’s a reason why CP is the gaffer and not me.
The ability to keep on message and stay the course (speaking of inane trite sayings, bahh) is going to be what’s impressive about this team, more so than any draw laden unbeaten streak.
The matchup on Wednesday against RSL is for first place league and there doesn’t have to be any playoff implications for derby matches to be huge.
If that doesn’t get your blood flowing I don’t know what will.
It could very well end in heartache like the successful regular seasons that ended in early playoff defeats in the 2nd division days with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy rolls on.
However until it does I don’t care how, I don’t care when, I still say we’re going to win the league!