Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hey, Everybody, It's a Clip Show Preview

I am always glad when this guy is eligible for matches with the Flounders
I can't remember the last time I got up early and watched soccer that didn't have teams I was interested in, but today ended up being the day. With my wife and mother-in-law currently at a bazaar selling hand made crafts, it's me and the kitties at home and the television has been squarely on the soccer. It's also been a bit since I posted anything here on the site, and there's been a lot of news and notes about the Timbers. In the style of some of my favorite television shows that want to put out an episode without having a clear theme or idea, I give you a clip show post. Part of this is due to being very busy in the non-soccer world, as my corporate job has been a bit of a roller coaster lately. I'm getting to the age in life I'm paying closer attention to my retirement accounts because I'm getting closer to the age of not working. This realization has really struck me in the day and age we live in with near constant corporate changes, and it's hard to feel secure at times. I've always lived with the theory that as long as I have a name plate on a cube and a place where my stuff lives during the work week, that's a good feeling. Lately, however, that's been severely challenged - but that is due to the times we live in.
  • Hey, Tuesday is election day. It's weird now since I remember a time in Oregon where I actually had to go to polling places and cast a vote in person, but all that changed with Vote By Mail. It's a truly incredible feeling to be able to research issues and candidates, vote at your convenience, drop off the ballot at secure locations statewide, and get notified of your ballot status from creation to receipt. My civics teacher always said your vote is your voice, and I've always remembered that.
  • After the Timbers qualified for the postseason with a huge win over Real Salt Lake in their home regular season finale, I had wondered about what the Timbers would do in their final match on the road in Vancouver, especially since the numbers indicated Portland was nearly locked into the knockout round matches (3 seed hosting 6 seed, 4 hosting 5). Gio Savarese chose the conservative approach with his lineup going you, and the Timbers ended up losing the last match - but it ended up actually working out better than anyone could have expected in the long run. Hindsight can be a bitch, but sometimes sticking with the gut is the right call. 
    It won't be as sunny as it was earlier this year, but there will still be bule.
  • Portland ended up in the knockout round traveling to FC Dallas, a team that has traditionally had struggles late in most seasons. FCD could have avoided the knockout round completely, but they lost to Colorado, one of the worst teams in MLS this season, by conceding 2 late goals which put them in this situation. Many might not remember that just a few years ago, FCD was just moments away from pulling off a domestic competition championship trifecta - winning the Supporters' Shield, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup in the same season - until their offense went sideways against the Flounders. It was the year that FCD fans thought they had avoided the swoon, but the team has been searching for consistency since being bounced from the playoffs that year.
  • Have you voted yet? It's really not that difficult. Seriously, I have written these words in the same time it took me to vote while researching some of the candidates. It's a simple investment into making our government work for us.
  • Playing on a Halloween night in the Dallas suburbs, Portland came into the match facing some rather difficult odds - in the previous 20 knockout round matches, only 5 times had the road team came away victorious. It certainly didn't look good early when FCD Brad Ziegler tapped in a goal off a deflection after a set piece, but the officiating caught the fact Ziegler was offside on the pass. Eventually. I know many folks said this was a pretty obvious call, but I'm convinced the assistant was a step behind the line and shaded by Jorge Villafana and Carlos Gruezo on the play, and simply didn't see Ziegler and Dominique Badji way offside. Thankfully, VAR caught the error, but that doesn't excuse why the assistant was behind the play in the first place.
    Timbers, can we have lots of this happen, please?
  • Portland turned in their own set piece magic courtesy of Diego Valeri in the 23rd minute, and I felt the momentum had really shifted from the home side. FC Dallas had to feel frustrated being just minutes from safety from the knockout round to now being behind a goal after one was disallowed. FCD certainly had chances as Michael Barrios spent most of the match running past everyone, but his shooting accuracy wasn't that consistent (as was most of his team).
  • The Timbers then put themselves in a hole when Larrys Mabiala was correctly ejected for pulling Badji down on a breakaway as the last defender when a pass sprung the speedy striker. Mabiala was beaten, and it was absolutely the right call, but Portland not only overcame the situation, but added a second goal when midfielder David Guzman put a pass to striker Jeremy Ebobisse on the counter. The youngster showed great composure to settle the ball with players moving about him, find Valeri coming in support and dropping a well timed pass, and let Diego do the rest. Valeri slammed it into goal, and the Timbers had a 2 goal lead.
  • I'm a little tired of the political ads, but honestly, it is the price of our democracy to allow candidates to put out their messages. I'm not sure how they come up with some of these names of who is responsible for these ads, but thankfully the Oregon Elections Manual is really good at giving background information on the candidates and measures in a measured, balanced way.
  • FC Dallas did make things interesting late after throwing numbers forward, but I thought Portland had played a well composed match even with playing 10 players. FC Dallas really hadn't shown anything until very late, and after absorbing that much pressure for that many minutes, I'm not surprised FCD broke through. But Portland rode out the storm to play another day, which ended up being the theme of the knockout round - 3 of the 4 knockout round matches in the 2018 MLS Playoffs were won by the road side, the lower seeded team. 
    Portland will need everyone to contribute in the playoffs, including these two.
  • Of course, it would be the Flounders. There is a point in every MLS season where the US based Cascadia rivals collide in a meaningful match outside of regular season action, but the soccer gods kept everyone from a Timbers - Sounders match in U.S. Open Cup play when the Sounders were eliminated in Round 3 by the Sacramento Republic. Seattle made the choice in the final weekend to play their strongest side against San Jose at home, and while the Earthquakes made it interesting late, Seattle ended up qualifying for one of the byes and avoiding the knockout round as LAFC and FC Dallas lost their respective matches. But with Real Salt Lake upsetting LAFC in the knockout round, the Western Conference semifinals turned into rivalry week redone as the Timbers would be paired with Seattle as Sporting Kansas City would battle Real Salt Lake in the other side.
  • None of the Western Conference teams really like the other sides, but if there was a pairing to rival Timbers - Sounders, it is SKC and Real Salt Lake. Their last match involved multiple ejections and several player confrontations, and I expect nothing less in this matchup. RSL have to be thanking their lucky stars, considering they didn't have a match in the final weekend of the regular season, and the Los Angeles Galaxy had a chance to knock them out by beating Houston in the final weekend at home. The Galaxy went up early, but the Dynamo charged back late to not only spoil the party for the Galaxy fans, but send RSL into the playoffs. 
    I expect SEA to focus on the Diegos, so Seba could have a huge series. 
  • A meeting with the Flounders always has some contention to it regardless of the date and time, but this playoff battle has several issues with it even before the matches have started. Portland doesn't have Mabiala available due to the ejection in the knockout round, plus Liam Ridgewell and Diego Chara are one caution away from a suspension in the playoffs due to playoff discipline rules (players can only receive 2 cautions between knockout round matches and the MLS Cup if they qualify). Having a solid defensive line is paramount for the Timbers to be successful, but as we all know, Chara's presence is nearly required for Portland to do well at any capacity. I'm fully expecting the Sounders to go right at Chara to see if they can disqualify him with the caution. Another key issue is the date of leg 2, as the Sounders' home pitch isn't available on November 11 due to a car show, so the match is actually being moved up to November 8 on Thursday. So the Timbers get 3 matches in 8 days, including 2 against one of their fiercest rivals. If they overcome this, it will be a huge confidence boost but it will only be due to a total team effort and making smart lineup choices.
  • Seriously, voting is really important. I get that might seem inconvenient, but the politicians should be working for the people and our vote is the voice that gives them direction. I'm not na├»ve enough to discount the corporate forces that influence politics right now, and many of them want the status quo to remain. However, that reality means more of the same that we've seen for the past 2 years since our last presidential election, and I, for one, want no part of that. We need true change, and many of the people on the ballots now are the instruments of that change, and they need our support.
  • I tried to get the cats to do predictions for tomorrow's match with the Flounders, but out of respect for our black cat, Moya, who we lost earlier this year to an unexpected illness, they want to wait until next season for doing their pieces. GB, however, was very excited about the Timbers' chances with a series of headbutts and purrs. He correctly predicted that Portland and Seattle would get the 2:30 PM time slot on November 4, and so I'm inclined to go with his gut on this.

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