The LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers keep the MLS season going this fourth of July with a cracker of a match at the StubHub! Center. To find out what's been going on in Stump City, I asked three questions of Michael Orr about the Timbers' season. This week's vocab words are hamartia, ersatz, and Brobdingnagian. My answers to his questions will be posted later today.
1) What is the Timbers hamartia this season, and how have opponents exploited it?
1. This one's easy. By far the Timbers' hamartia has been its poor and porous back line. Opponents have either forced extra cover on the part of holding midfielders Will Johnson and Diego Chara, preventing Portland from employing its full attack, or caught exposed center backs when those holding midfielders dart forward. Between weak performances, injuries, bad chemistry, trades and the recent Designated Player signing of Liam Ridgewell, but not exactly rushing to get him on the field, the Timbers have had one of the most consistently bad defenses in MLS this season. Exploiting the defense usually comes easily on set pieces or on counter attacking.
2) Every team has an ersatz storyline or two. What's being said about the Timbers that really has no substance?
2. One storyline that seems to have very little basis in reality is that the Timbers' defensive problems are somehow easily correctable. To be fair, this line of reasoning is really only put forward by Caleb Porter. However, through seventeen league games Portland has kept a single clean sheet, and that came against Chivas USA. The team has finally signed another center back to join the clown crew that has played in front of Donovan Ricketts but even that decision (the aforementioned Ridgewell signing) has not exactly been hurried to correct the personnel problem. Meanwhile, the positioning, ball-winning, marking and communication issues that have dogged the Timbers throughout the season remain perfectly in place, regardless of the particular center back pairing. Porter continues to asset that an easy fix is available, but he is either lying or choosing not to implement the fixes necessary.
3) Teams need Brobdingnagian players if they are going to rise above the crowd. Who has been huge for Portland this season?
3. Well Fanendo Adi is literally Brobdingnagian, though his performance last week against Sporting Kansas City wasn't his best. His initial impact on the team has been very important, scoring four goals and recording two assists in his first five MLS appearances. He's provided a back-to-goal option Portland has lacked as well as an aerial threat. A strong start to his MLS career was immediately rewarded with a Designated Player deal, buying him out of his contract at FC Kobenhavn. Otherwise, Diego Valeri has finally rounded into great form after a long return from offseason groin surgery.