Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fan's Perspective - Charleston vs. Timbers 8/9/08

You might say we scored a goal at home, which hasn't happened in a while. You can also say that we got a point for our troubles in drawing with Charleston last night. You can also say that we played with heart and character, but in the end, this game still feels like a loss to me. Simply put, we needed 3 points badly and an elementary defensive mistake gave them a point. I should know about mistakes, because I joined our TA outdoor team for a bit of workout today. While I made some nice plays, I also got schooled on some fundamentals as well, like when you have opposing players that are faster than you, you shouldn't let them get behind you.

In reading the recap from the Oregonian, it was apparent that we didn't play good defense on a corner and let Charleston get the equalizer. Never mind this was a team that doesn't play well from home, never mind they are on a long road trip out west, never mind that we badly needed a win, never mind there were a couple of questionable calls from the ref, we simply didn't do enough to win. How can you outshoot your opponent 20 to 5 and run them around the pitch all night and draw, especially since both teams were banged up and were missing key players. I'm not sure I believe in superstitions, but it does appear that we might be snake bitten as a club. The breaks that we got last year as a team aren't following us this year at all, and we are basically an average offensive, somewhat better defensive club but not elite in any stretch.

The Timbers Army was in good spirits, but unlike Thursday's absolute wall of noise with 12,000 strong, it was a smaller but just as loud crowd. It reminded me of the Shed in the 2005 days before the section exploded and people filled all the seats, as there were pockets of empty seats about but yet people were chanting and singing all night. While the TIFO display wasn't as elaborate as Thursday, there were still signs a plenty, as you can see in Allison's match report.

It certainly seemed that when offseason moves were made to the Timbers, they were addressing the team's weaknesses last year, basically finishing. We had our team leader, Andrew Gregor, back with most of the players from our top rated defense. We even had Leo Griffin return to the team, and other new players were signed, such as Taka Suzuki and Chris Brown. It seemed like we had the recipe for success on our side with a great 3 - 0 start in April, only to struggle in May and then really struggle in June and July. And now, Gregor is in Rochester, Brown has been out with a suspension, and Suzuki hasn't done much since his early season goal.

I'm not convinced that Gavin Wilkinson needs to lose his job right now, some of this I don't think you can blame on him. Injuries happen as part of the game, but couple that with the talent base brought in and the system of play, and it's apparent some changes need to be made. We are 23 games into the season and have a grand total of 18 goals scored. You aren't going to win many titles scoring less than a goal a game, unless your defense is awesome and ours is just average right now. The crazy part is that with the existing parity of the USL, we are still in 7th place and would make the playoffs if the season ended today, and we've not come close to playing any of our best soccer lately. So it's important to either have the guys play more cohesively in an offensive strategy that works, or find a coach that can bring some offense to this team. I like Gavin's GM skills, he finds players very well, but can he mix them together and coach, that's the question that I think gets answered in the next 7 games.

Last night was a start, with Bryan Little playing some of his best footy all year with pinpoint passes and some great corners/crosses, and Lawrence Olum with stellar work in the controlling mid. And Bryan Jordan's goal was a sight to see, as he made a few moves and made a sweet shot. He played tirelessly all game, and was a huge catalyst for the offense. Miguel Guante, Cameron Knowles and Byron Alvarez were also very serviceable in their respective position. The problem was that we didn't have enough of that consistently, and we gave away points tonight.

On a lighter note, I'd also like to point out our kit sponsor this year, Nike. Their newest design is flashy, form fitting and apparently made of rice paper. These kits must be tear away, cause I can't explain how many games guys get shirts torn and it appears quite easily. Chris Bagley was in the game for less than 2 minutes, and his name went from Bagley to Ba in that quick of time. I know kits get tugged on a lot, but seriously, unless you want our team looking like Captain James T. Kirk battling the Gorn, do some quality control here and choose another design. Cameron Knowles had his 13th kit destroyed and we resorted to our wonderful add number with sharpie tactic for the second half. At least that was better than Larry Olum's taped on number that lasted 10 seconds during one of our friendlies.

But all we can do is lace them up again, and go after Montreal on Saturday. They've traditionally played well here, but in an ironic twist, we tend to beat them at their home. Right now, 35 points probably gets you into the playoffs, and the Timbers have 25 points with 7 games left to play, so there is a potential of 21 points left for them. We just need to take a game at a time, and it starts on Saturday, the 16th. Hope to see you all there, ready to stand and chant. Rose City Til I Die!

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