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. Report: USMNT’s Mix Diskerud close to signing with Club Tijuana on free transfer

    Dec 18, 2014, 10:21 PM EST

    Mix Diskerud Mix Diskerud

    Mix Diskerud is on the move, and he may be headed south of the border.

  2. Agent insists Javier Hernandez won’t leave Real Madrid before loan ends

    Dec 18, 2014, 9:14 PM EST

    Javier Hernandez, Real Madrid Javier Hernandez, Real Madrid

    Chicharito isn’t getting games for Real Madrid, but his agent insists he won’t end his loan deal early.

  3. Paul Scholes: Thierry Henry’s legendary goal vs. Man United was my fault

    Dec 18, 2014, 7:46 PM EST

    Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry

    It may be 14 years after the fact, but Paul Scholes is owning up to his fault in one of the greatest goals of all-time.

  4. USWNT rebounds from loss to Brazil, knocks off Argentina, 7-0

    Dec 18, 2014, 6:20 PM EST

    Christen Press, USWNT Christen Press, USWNT

    Inspired by Monday’s loss, the USWNT were out for vengeance — and goals — against Argentina.

  5. Premier League Power Rankings: Arsenal, Everton rising, Saints falling

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    As we head into the busy festive season, here’s how the rankings of power look before Week 17.

  6. Theo Walcott could return for Arsenal at Liverpool this weekend

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:46 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Arsenal Training Session

    Winger set to return to full training, may return to action this Sunday at Anfield.

  7. Final rankings of 2014 released by FIFA, as USA climb one place

    Dec 18, 2014, 2:11 PM EST

    Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US AP

    Germany end 2014 on top, as the USMNT sit steady inside the top 30.

  8. Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli banned, heavily fined by English FA after offensive post

    Dec 18, 2014, 1:26 PM EST

    Balotelli

    Balotelli will now miss Liverpool’s match against Arsenal this weekend.

  9. Robbie Rogers: FIFA “insane” to host World Cups in Russia, Qatar

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy

    Rogers worries about anti-gay laws in Russia, Qatar during World Cup tournaments.

  10. Jurgen Klinsmann’s son, Jonathan, stars for US U-18’s but gets red card vs. Germany

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EST

    Source: Action Images Source: Action Images

    Klinsmann’s son make six saves, but gets second-yellow as youth side beat Germany.

  11. Soccer stadium approved in Las Vegas, as MLS expansion talk heats up in Sin City

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:50 AM EST

    City of Las Vegas

    Vegas, baby! New soccer stadium gets seal of approval from city council… all they need now is an MLS expansion franchise.

  12. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus fined $665,000 for driving without a license

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EST

    Germany Press Conference & Training Getty Images

    Reus has been speeding around in his Aston Martin without a license. Gets biggest motoring fine in German history.

  13. Ashley Cole might be returning to the Premier League

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:13 PM EST

    AS Roma v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League

    Could Cole be returning to the Premier League?

Featured video

Man United thrash Liverpool