MLS: Woes Continue for Portland Timbers

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIJuly 3, 2011

Kalif Alhassan is a bright spot for the Portland Timbers
Kalif Alhassan is a bright spot for the Portland TimbersBrandon Wade/Getty Images

Losers of five of their last six games, with a tie to New York as the lone bright spot, the Portland Timbers are nursing a losing streak that is in danger of turning into a hemorrhaging gusher.

For the second week in a row, they just played badly, against Sporting Kansas City. Giving up two easy goals in the first twenty minutes before losing 2-1. The lone bright spot was a goal by Darlington Nagbe in the 44th minute that might go down as the goal of the year. Absolutely brilliant strike in the top-left shelf after he juggled it twice on his right foot. That goal alone had Portland stadium rocking, after many of the crowd had actually started to boo the Timbers.

Portland is unimaginative right now. They're playing scared on defense. They're not making creative or hard runs. They're not running at the defense.

John Spencer, trying to infuse some life into the club, benched both Kenny Cooper and Jeremy Hall in favor of Eddie Johnson and Steve Purdy, respectively.

With Seattle coming to down next weekend, this was a game the Timbers had to win to gain some kind of momentum going into their biggest match of the year. Instead, there seems to be a pall over the club and fans, as if they've accepted their fate.

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I was afraid of this kind of letdown after the Colorado and New York games. The boys played their hearts out, only to lose to Colorado and tie to New York in the closing seconds of injury time. Those kinds of losses don't go away quickly or easily.

The Timbers defense' is so bad right now, I don't think they can stop anyone. They were continually confused on Kansas City's run, not communicating, stand flat-footed, and not marking tightly. Aurelien Collin, the right back for Kansas City, continually ran up the wing and found blankets of space for devastating crosses. Three or four times Kansas City could have easily scored. 

This defense has now given up eight goals in their last three games.

In the midfield, I would shake things up a bit. They should bench Diego Chara, as he doesn't contribute anything. Put Captain Jack Jewsbury in a defensive midfielding position. Perhaps he continue infuse some leadership in the defense. Move Kalif Alhassan to an attacking midfield position and have Sal Zizzo and Nagbe on the wings.

I'd almost given up on Nagbe until last night's strike—simply amazing. The word out of the Timbers' camp is that Nagbe has tons of talent, he just hasn't been showcasing it in games.

I can't be too hard on the strikers. First, someone needs to explain to Spencer that Cooper is not a post-up player. Yes, he's 6'3", 210 lbs., but he plays much better facing the goal.

Go and watch some tape of his days at FC Dallas to see how he played. Jorge Perlaza has speed to burn, and he's making good runs, but he's a counter-attacking player, and the other players need to start looking for him immediately upon a turnover. He almost looks lost in a half court offense.

But let's face it, the service has been awful and who else do the Timbers have to replace Cooper and Perlaza? Johnson looked very average and Ryan Pore just looks overmatched in MLS. I don't know, maybe you do give Pore a starting shot to see what he can do. He does make sneaky little runs that the Timbers are sorely missing right now.

The losing streak will be forgotten if the Timbers can get by Seattle. It's the game everyone cares about. I have no idea how Spencer infuses confidence into this team? How does he get them back to playing like they did against New York and Colorado?


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