Jul 8, 2013, 12:12 PM EST
It takes so much, so many elements in synch, to assemble the kind of showy streak that we just saw end for Portland.
So while we cannot make too much of any single element, an obvious place to start is the absence of captain Will Johnson. He was away, performing for Canada, during Portland’s loss Sunday to Columbus in Ohio, a setback that snapped the team’s club record 15-game unbeaten streak.
Timbers manager Caleb Porter wanted – strike that, knew he needed – a leader like Johnson for his reconstruction project around Jeld-Wen Field. And Johnson’s presence has been no minor ingredient of the Timbers’ surprisingly quick success under their first-year MLS manager.
The captain had been available to the Timbers for every MLS match before Sunday’s, starting all and also starting the team’s toughest U.S. Open Cup contest. Johnson’s two-way contributions and all his leadership have initiated (some very reasonable) conversations about whether the Canadian international should be considered for league MVP?
Well, we are adding some fodder for that debate in looking at a lesser version of the Portland Timbers without his significant contributions. Because what I saw early Sunday was a team that needed some leadership on the field.
The thing about a leader like that, he helps keep people accountable, helps keep things wired tightly. And in doing so, he helps the Timbers avoid things like the marking collapse that saw Bernardo Anor completely unchallenged to score on an early corner kick for Columbus.
That was all a depleted Columbus team could manage – but it was enough to snap the streak. Portland eventually found its feet – but who could help but wonder if they looked a little rudderless early specifically because they were missing their captain.
By the way, I’m not the only one who noticed this early lack of balance. This from Stumptownfooty.com’s observations on the streak busting defeat.
From the first whistle Portland looked tentative and unsure of what to do with the ball when it was at their feet. Which lead to an early corner in the 5th minute of play. On the corner the marking was atrocious as multiple Columbus Crew players were left unmarked in the box. Bernado Anor, one of the aforementioned, said “thank you very much!” as he buried the ball into the back of the net.
“Usually when Portland gets scored on early in a game it wakes them up and they start to play their game. This time the poor passing and lackadaisical play continued. The team looked slow of feet and of mind. Kah in particular was having trouble.”
“Having trouble” was putting it mildly, as Kah left the team to play a man down for almost 80 minutes. The Timbers’ overall quality showed as the visitors were equal or better, even a man down and on the road, through the game’s final hour.
Ben Zemanski is a good, young player – but he’s no Will Johnson. Not in technical quality, not in midfield drive, not in experience and certainly not in leadership. But then again, there could be big moments where Johnson isn’t around.
Learning to get along, to start strong, to finish even stronger, to ride out tough moments, etc., without their clear leader will be another step in the learning curve for Porter’s group going forward.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:38 PM EST
Manchester United needed a gift from opposing goalkeeper Tim Krul, but Louis van Gaal loved his club’s performance on Wednesday.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:37 PM EST
After their 12th defeat of the season, the Toffees after sinking towards the bottom three.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:10 PM EST
Burnley’s loss leaves them 19th, in the drop zone with 22 points.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Swansea sit ninth with 40 points, while Spurs sit 7th place. Tottenham is four points behind No. 5 Liverpool.
Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Potters continue to climb up the table, as Toffees head in the opposite direction.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:53 PM EST
Chelsea stay top after hard-fought win at Upton Park.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:50 PM EST
It’s now five goals from his last five games for the Frenchman.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EST
Citizens grind out home win to stay in touch with Chelsea.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
Jonas was given the all-clear from cancer in November.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:40 PM EST
Manchester United remains fourth, one point behind third place Arsenal, while Newcastle is still comfortably in 11th place with 35 points.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:49 PM EST
Seven games are going on in the PL on Wednesday, watch the second half of every match right here.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:48 PM EST
The guy seemed to bend a bullet, real “Matrix” stuff.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:09 PM EST
Swansea’s French striker carried off the pitch after appearing to collapse at White Hart Lane.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:07 PM EST
Dani Alves is all but out at Barcelona, but where will the Brazilian back end up?
Mar 4, 2015, 2:28 PM EST
The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 league matches, a run they will look to continue against a Burnley side sitting in the drop zone.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:16 PM EST
Only one spot separates the two sides on the table, giving every point some added value at White Hart Lane.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:15 PM EST
Who will win the battle of the USMNTers. Geoff Cameron or Tim Howard?
Mar 4, 2015, 2:07 PM EST
Can the Citizens keep their faint title hopes alive? Watch live online, here.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:04 PM EST
It’s a top-three vs. bottom-three battle as the Gunners travel to Loftus Road to face a QPR side fighting for Premier League survival.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:01 PM EST
A ding-dong London derby at Upton Park. Can the Hammers derail Chelsea’s title charge? Watch live online, here.
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- Watch Live: West Ham United vs. Chelsea (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
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