What have we established thus far?
We have a team of talented guys who’ve been hung out to dry.
We’ve got a black hole where a coach should be.
We’ve got…I don’t know what else we’ve got.
And where do we go from here?
We’re being set up to believe that our savior is coming, that Caleb Porter is the answer to all of our problems, our roadblocks, our inadequacies.
Guess what? He’s not.
He’s a guy who was offered a job, a seemingly pretty good job, and he took it. He thinks he knows what the job is but I imagine he’s going to be very surprised at what he finds. I have never wanted to be wrong about something more than I want to be wrong about this.
Someone asked me the other day what I would like to tell Porter before he gets here.
I’d start with two words: I’m sorry.
I’m sorry because this mess has been getting messier for a very long time and there’s little chance you’ll be able to get it cleaned up before the Kiwi finds a way to blame you for it. In fact, all signs point to him already finding ways to pin his poor decisions to you, Mr. Porter, before you’ve even arrived.
We’re coming up on the end of the season and, as I told the gentlemen at TheAxePDX yesterday, I’m not sure I have much more to say about the Timbers that hasn’t already been said. This, of course, was right before I wrote 1,200 words in the dead of night.
And it was before the next rounds of quotes came out. No, not yesterday’s video clip from The O. Newer.
When I was in high school, I took my first journalism class. I hated sportswriting. There were so may cliches and all the quotes from coaches were the same, regardless of what questions you asked them. I started to see patterns. A running joke among my friends and I – that continues to this day – is “Well, it’s a young team. It’s a growing year.”
So, here’s Gavin:
“We’re the second-youngest team in MLS and we hoped some of our younger players would mature a lot quicker this year.”
It’s a young team. It’s a growing year.
The end part of that quote is Gavin talking about how they, perhaps, should have been looking for older players, more rugged players. I take this to mean players with a bit more experience.
And then the train leaves the rails.
“Bright Dike was given the opportunity to play and he scored. Then we had a decision to make and decided to reward performance.”
Okay, let’s rewind a bit.
)Feel free to stop reading at any time. I’ll be straying into my fan-crush territory here. I willingly admit my biases lest they be pointed out to me later.)
Kenny Cooper. Older. More experienced. Perhaps not exactly rugged, but he’s turned out to be quite the goal-scorer, hasn’t he? Picked up by Man U, played in the reserves when he couldn’t quite make the first team, a couple years with Dallas, a couple with 1860 Munich. Ten international caps and four international goals and, after a bit of a bumpy period midseason, finished as the Timbers’ leading scorer last year.
So we trade him and use that pile of cash to buy someone with even more experience who is decidedly more rugged: Kris Boyd. (Yes, I know the most recent injury is not an indication of ruggedness, so here, remember this.)
Do I need to recite his resume? Again? Kilmarnock, Rangers, eighteen national team caps (if you don’t count the B squad or U21s). Here’s the big one: all-time leading scorer of the Scottish Premier League.
So, we brought him here and, like Kenny, sent him out to work by himself and then just couldn’t understand it when he wasn’t getting it done.
And then we went back to youth and (arguably) less experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I dig Dike. I dig Dike as a late-game sub who, freight-train-like, runs at keepers and scares the crap out of them and barrels over defenders who dare get in his way. But, despite his time with the Timbers (both USL and MLS), he’s still shockingly green.
This will be the question going into the offseason. We have all these forwards, young and green as well as older, experienced and, sigh, rugged. Will we follow the formula and blame the failure of the team on the biggest name and shuffle him off somewhere in January (or, more likely in this case, simply cut him loose)? Or will we stick with what we’ve got and try to make it work? Because it can work.
The Cascadia Cup.
Do you remember the anticipation, the expectation you felt in the preseason? I do.
The preseason tournament was a homecoming, a gathering of the tribe. I felt…lovestruck. There was such possibility, such joy, such hope. The preseason tournament, the first home win, such promise.
And the slide began. But it wasn’t that bad. It was early. Everybody just needed to calm down. We had a couple stupid losses, but we had them in between beating teams we had absolutely no business beating.
And then CalFC turned everything. We turned. We shouted down our own players. I hope I never see that have to happen again. I choose those words carefully. I know it had to happen.
I watched that game alone. Looking back, it feels less like a game I went to and more like a trial I endured and survived. It will become, perhaps already has, one of the legendary matches we look back to and tell new fans about for decades to come. Frustrating and necessary for the development of the team and, for me as a relative newcomer, for my understanding of the culture that surrounds the club.
A win against Seattle, losses at Colorado and RSL and then the world imploded.
Like many of my fellow bloggers, I’m looking back, rereading old posts and news articles and other ephemera. I’m listening to old soundbites and rewatching interviews. I’m trying to piece it all together, to make some sense out of what’s happened over the course of the season.
And I can’t. When Gavin implied that the importance of the Seattle match two weeks ago had somehow been lost in translation, he may as well have said the importance of the entire season had been lost as well.
The curve as I see it was confidence followed by disbelief followed by frustration and then confusion. Confusion lead the way for more frustration and then resignation.
I saw some sparks along the way, times when individual players spoke up or acted out in such a manner as to remind me that they were just as troubled on the pitch as we were in the terraces.
But mostly what I see when looking back is a team without direction. A team that could never figure out how to work together in a cohesive manner, most recently lead by a manager that had absolutely no desire to see them succeed.
I don’t understand that at all.
So, here we are, on the eve of our last derby, our last road match and our last shot at salvaging anything of tangible value from this emotionally wrenching wreck of a season.
And I have no idea if we’ve even got a shot at it.
I woke up early one morning this last week completely convinced that Boyd will be in the eighteen in Vancouver. And I woke up this morning knowing the boys would be flying out today and, for a brief moment, I considered camping at the airport in an attempt to find out who’s making the trip.
But I didn’t. I’m looking forward to the surprise.
Will our fate be sealed by Wallace and Palmer? Or will we find hope in Smith and Alexander?
Three points will salvage this season. Does this team have what it takes to get them?