Saturday, September 02, 2006

To win you have to score one more goal than your opponent

Any remaining illusions the Timbers or their fans held about squeaking into the playoffs were dashed Thursday night as the Montreal Impact were able to do what the Timbers were not: score a goal, and in the 88th minute.

Sure, there were calls by the ref that didn't go our way, but in the end I kept hearing the Scottish brogue of Bobby McMahon on the Fox Soccer Channel saying "They just haven't got the quality," and he'd be right. Whether the players or the coaching or some combination thereof was to blame, the Timbers were unable to maintain any consistency this season. Often, individuals on the pitch played very well but simply did not come together as a team.

We gave up too many goals this year. One wonders--and it pains me to say this, because I was a big fan of Josh Saunders' goalkeeping--if the season might have turned out differently if we'd gotten late-season revelation Bayard Elfvin in the net earlier. Of course, you can't hold a keeper responsible without taking a hard look at the defensive line first, but really, let's not ignore what truly did us in this season: a little-known phobia called Fear of Shooting. Johann Cruijff had it right, of course, and you can't score if you don't shoot, and we seemed strangely reluctant to do that over the last few months. What was it? Some weird attempt at catenaccio, Rose City style? Did we really get so beaten down this season that nil-nil began to seem "a decent result"?

As I mentioned above, one particularly frustrating aspect was seeing some real talent on the pitch that somehow never translated into a cohesive team. The handful of games in which we were on were very good indeed. I wonder how many of this year's players we can expect to see coming back? Most of these guys are better than the scoreline and standings reflect; it's hard to imagine they won't seek better offers.

It's been a weird, unsatisfying season. And in less than a week we settle into seven long months of rumor, innuendo, conspiracy theories, dark mutterings about inside dealings, fraught and baseless predictions, and occasional bouts of hysteria. Pity us. (Wait, there's no pity in the Rose City! We're screwed.)

In the meantime, there are still two games to go, and I intend to enjoy every one of the 180 minutes left to us. Sunday at 6 pm the Timbers play the Charleston Battery, and next Thursday at 7 pm (that's Thirsty Thursday for all you alcoholic types out there) we close the curtain on the season with a match against the Atlanta Silverbacks.

Match report, pictures, and video from Thursday's game here.


Zach Dundas said...

The thing I dislike most about the Timbers' set-up is the utter lack of a coherent off-season existence. The team effectively goes out of business for five months every September, then throws together a side every April. I recall that First Division contracts don't pay players in the off-season (thus freeing them to play in indoor leagues or wherever else they can scratch up work). Even if that is and remains the case, I wish the club would throw up some kind of Amateurs or Reserve side in the winter to scout new talent, give the boys who aren't working elsewhere a chance to stay match fit and lend the club as a whole some continuity.

Lynda said...

I know! I was complaning about something similar last night--that even next April, we won't know who's actually on the team yet.