The vision of Portland players last night was superb – I lost track on all the ‘good ideas’ I saw but at least six of them resulted in six goals.
For those new to the phrase ‘good idea’ – it’s not about assists – it’s about players having or showing vision that generates an opportunity for a teammate to score a goal. In other words ‘what doesn’t get measured‘ in soccer statistics – a pet peeve of mine’…
There’s nothing more pleasing to a Head Coach than a player who executes a ‘good idea’. And perhaps the most effective player last night was Michael Nanchoff – hence the two assists and rocket-like, inswinging, curler (he delivered from his inverted winger position) that shook the far post netting in the second half.
With the enthusiasm many will have from this game – and rightly so – I think it’s reasonable to offer some balance here about Alpha United.
It wasn’t clear to me the first time these two teams played (given the cricket pitch and not witnessing the game) just how poor the first touch and overall ball control was for Alpha United.
So I’d offer, that poor ball management, by Alpha United, had a whole lot to do with the greater volume of excess time and space the Timbers had to score those goals – what’s positive about this is that the Timbers DID score those goals – given that added time and space.
The other thing I noticed was the frequency of the United players taking minor injuries in the lower leg areas.
For me that signaled the pitch conditions were not normal for them. I have no idea if Alpha have ever played on field turf but it’s certainly not the same as playing on a cricket pitch. Just saying…
Anyhow, this isn’t to diminish the great result – never poo-poo a win; but the context merits the need to balance the difference between regular season MLS games and the run-up to a new round of CCL games…
Lest we forget, Olimpia did score two goals against the Timbers and that means the next game is not a push-over.
In between now and October 21st the Timbers really need to take some big points in order to help set the stage for a stronger side to take on Olimpia in Hondurus and finish the job!
Making the next round of the CCL (IS) critical… along with that comes prestige and a greater opportunity to convince better players to join this side next year.
I don’t offer that lightly.
(When) the Timbers qualify for that next round, in the Champions League, the pressure to perform will be even higher.
That means four things (at least – if not more) on the surface:
- Younger players will need to step up their maturity levels and performance levels on the pitch.
- Strong players already on the team will need to push themselves – or be pushed by others – to get even better.
- When – not if – two players are lost to NYCFC and Orlando, in the Expansion Draft, new players will need to be added that can excel in the MLS, while also adding significant value, as the sphincter tightens, to the Champions League effort.
- Finally, and most important – the defensive strategy and tactics will simply need to get a whole lot better… this doesn’t just include an upgrade in individual performance it most likely means an upgrade in talent/skills…
I’d almost offer that the time for waiting to see if junior squad players can play 90 minutes, regularly, in the MLS is about gone… in other words fringe players are on the fringe of non-existence…
The salary cap will go up – as will the level of competition given the talent continuously being added to MLS. Nevermind what influence comes as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players Union…
A few questions in no particular order come to mind:
- Are more players added to the non-salary cap part of the roster for each team?
- Might the salary cap level change even more than expected?
- Might the level of international slots, each team can have, increase?
- Are there any other surprises in store?
Plenty of questions as MLSNext begins –> More to follow…
With all that said I have what I think is some good news…
For the future – at least after the press field pass gets sorted out – Mr. Steven Lenhart (Nevets) will be helping to add value to my offerings as my official photographer.
Looking forward to that and hope it can be sorted by the time Real Salt Lake visit Portland on the 17th of October.