Skip to content

Considering the Will Johnson effect on the Portland Timbers’ streak-ender

Jul 8, 2013, 12:12 PM EST

San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Transfer rumor roundup: Cuadrado can join Chelsea for $40 million say Fiorentina

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:39 PM EST

    ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli - Serie A Getty Images

    With less than a week left in the window, here’s the latest gossip…

  2. Queens Park Rangers’ Canadian winger Junior Hoilett on Toronto FC, relegation battles and more

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Toronto native Hoilett chats to PST about MLS, being involved in a Premier League relegation battle and much more in this one-on-one.

  3. English FA charge Chelsea’s Diego Costa with violent conduct after stamp, may miss Man City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:28 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL

    Costa could miss Chelsea’s massive clash against Man City on Saturday. All the details, here.

  4. Chelsea sweating on fitness of Cesc Fabregas, plus others, ahead of Manchester City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s injury problems are piling up ahead of their huge tilt against City this Saturday.

  5. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo handed two-game ban after red card

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:36 AM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-CORDOBA-REALMADRID FBL-ESP-LIGA-CORDOBA-REALMADRID

    After seeing red, Ronaldo will now miss Real’s next two games after ban for violent conduct.

  6. Luis Figo the latest to challenge Sepp Blatter for FIFA presidency

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Draws for UEFA Champions League Draws for UEFA Champions League

    Is Figo the man to take charge of world’s soccer’s governing body?

  7. Men in Blazers podcast: Talking FA Cup upsets with guests Spencer Lanning, Josh Scobee

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:25 AM EST

    meninblazers

    Super Bowl week brings out two NFL players for the latest podcast.

  8. Gareth Bale dismisses Manchester United speculation, happy at Real Madrid

    Jan 28, 2015, 7:55 AM EST

    Gareth Bale Gareth Bale

    Bale tells Spanish radio station that he’s hanging around in the Spanish capital for some time to come.

  9. Analyzing the Impact/Red Bulls deal: Is Kljestan worth losing Alexander?

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:01 PM EST

    New York Red Bulls v FC Dallas Getty Images

    Already it feels like Montreal has a major chance to be the winner in this deal, and that’s before they do anything with the allocation money.

  10. Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup: LVG squashes Januzaj loan, Campbell heads to La Liga

    Jan 27, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    Januzaj Getty Images

    It certainly wasn’t the wildest of days for the transfer rumor mill, but Manchester United, Southampton and Crystal Palace all said hello.

  11. Rodgers proud of Liverpool in loss, disappointed by Costa’s dirty play

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:12 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Surely Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t have been surprised to see Diego Costa’s temper flare up, but it didn’t make him any more understanding.

  12. Report: Arsenal midfielder Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility far from a done deal

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:32 PM EST

    Galatasaray AS v Arsenal FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    An ESPN FC report regarding Gedion Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility looks alarming, but is it a cause for concern?

  13. In less than five months, Diego Costa has become Premier League villain No. 1

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    He’s heinous. He’s prolific. He’s the Luis Suarez of 2015. And he’s making this season worth watching and hating. Unless you’re a Chelsea supporter.

  14. Chelsea’s Mourinho candid as usual after Liverpool win: “My Ramires is back”

    Jan 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Liverpool was the superior team in the first 45 minutes, but couldn’t find the finishing touch.

  15. Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool: Ivanovic ensures Blues trip to Cup final after testy second leg

    Jan 27, 2015, 5:17 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    The Blues won 1-0 on the match and 2-1 on aggregate to move on the League Cup final versus Wednesday’s winner of Spurs and Sheffield United.

  16. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ghana and Algeria go through to the knockout rounds

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Equatorial Guinea Soccer African Cup AP

    Six of eight knockout round slots are filled for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, and a couple well-known names are going home.

  17. VIDEO: Hosts Australia set up Asian Cup final against South Korea

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE

    The Socceroos reached the AFC final for just the second-time in their history.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22