Portland, Oregon. Tonight saw two struggling squads with Chivas USA visiting the Portland Timbers in a day full of exciting MLS action. Both the Goats and Timbers tried to secure points as quickly as possible in an effort to keep in the race for a Western Conference Playoff spot in this young MLS season. This match saw Portland capitalize on the Goats' defensive lapses for an early 1-0 home lead, before Chivas tied the game to make it 1-1.
The home Timbers opened the match's scoring in only the 7th minute when Darlington Nagbe found MVP candidate Will Johnson to put Portland ahead for almost seventy minutes until Erick Torres evened the score in the 79th after a brilliant pass from Leandro Barrera. Cubo's strike would be all that the Goats needed in order to secure a much needed road point.
Here's what we learned from tonight's match:
Trial and error. Chivas head coach Wilmer Cabrera has been willing to try players out in unfamiliar territory on the pitch. As previously discussed, Thomas McNamara, Eric Avila and Eriq Zavaleta are all being asked to play "out of position." Fortunately, all the Goats' players have responded well with relatively few growing pains. Over the last two matches, Cabrera also placed central defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste in the left back (LB) position. As any United States Men's National Team fan can tell you, LB is one of the most difficult positions to master for anyone. Jean-Baptiste has done an admirable job on the left, but will continue to need seasoning in order to master such a difficult task. This writer has little doubt in his ability to do so.
Situations such as these will need to be both addressed and remedied by Cabrera prior to advancing much further into this season. A consistent lineup should be sought, implemented and then reinforced through multiple games. Much of last season's difficulties resulted in countless players and lineups being patched together with little room for familiarity or cohesiveness to ever develop.
Talent differential. While watching the match, one cannot help but occasionally check out Twitter for comments regarding the game at hand. One of my favorite and most knowledgeable minds is Matt Tomaszewicz (@Shinguardian) who accurately tweeted the following words: "Here's the POR-CHV analysis: the Timbers have more talent."
In the most simplest of narratives, Tomaszewicz was point on. The Goats have clearly improved over last season's squad, but should not be mistaken as an upper-echelon team capable of competing for the MLS Cup just yet. Cabrera did much to maximize his talent such as utilizing Erick Torres as a primary goal scorer or minimizing shots on Dan Kennedy. However, it's very clear that Cabrera is "forced" to play individuals out of position, such as Jean-Baptiste or Avila, because of a sincere lack of viable options. Thankfully, the Rojiblancos players responded better than expected and have exhibited an enormous versatility in adapting to his demands.
The right direction? After a solid start of netting four points in their first two matches, Chivas USA faced a general decline in their results. A huge loss against FC Dallas, a nail-biting and controversial last-minute draw against the NYRB and a devastatingly lopsided 3-0 defeat to in-town rivals LA Galaxy basically began a downward spiral for our Goats. Tonight's match only adds to the fans' anxiety and fosters additional fears of a continuation of the past few seasons' dismal performances. Thankfully, a road point was salvaged with six minutes (really???) of stoppage time provided to the home squad Timbers.
After last week's horrendous defeat to the Galaxy, Cabrera stated that "since I've been here, this is the worst game." Goats' fans want that to remain the constant as nothing gets worse. Let's leave the bad games in the past and continue to develop, move forward and progress. Honestly, there's nowhere else to go.
Next weekend will at least see a return home to the StubHub Center for our Goats. Unfortunately, it'll be against Clint Dempsey's Seattle Sounders FC and all of their goal-scoring prowess. May God bless Dan Kennedy and his mustache as he'll be tested and provided a golden opportunity to display his otherworldly skills. We know that our guys are more than up to the task and now let's just show the rest of MLS.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!