Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire in the Good, the Bad & the Ugly style.
The Good: Timber Nation looked great. Portland, its fans and its team are great additions to MLS. Marco Pappa's goal looked very good. His confidence continues to grow. Dominic Oduro racked up the assist. It's positive to see Oduro connect with other players. Orr Barouch's pass into the middle ended up being an own goal. Don't forget Barouch is just 19 years old. He played a midfield position outside of his usual forward spot. It was a positive night for him.
The bad and the ugly are after the break... yes they amount to so much that there is a break.
The Bad: Chicago could not contain Portland's energy. Marko Maric came in for Michael Videira at halftime and then had to be subbed out due to injury shortly after that. We not only lost a sub but we didn't get a look at another player and Maric might have re-injured something. Carlos de los Cobos ran out the same exact lineup that started in Seattle. It was a gamble to try and overpower Portland and it didn't work. Now we go in front of the home crowd against a LA team that might be just as weak given their problems.
The Ugly: Sean Johnson. The back line. The playing surface. Going 0 for 15 on corner kicks. Some people said the piece earlier this week on benching Johnson was looking good. It could have looked equally as bad if Conway started because Conway would have been playing with the same back line. Johnson did flub the third goal and his inability to grab the ball in the air is causing all sorts of problems. Simply punching the ball away is getting the team nowhere but down. Opposing corner kicks are absolutely nerve wracking at this point. That said any goalie playing with Jalil Anibaba and Dasan Robinson on the right side is bound to be put in a situation where a goal is going to happen. The lack of depth among defenders and what Carlos de los Cobos does to manage his formations should make or break him coming back next year in my opinion. So far, I'm not impressed.
The team is built around playing a 3-5-2 with two defensive midfielders, let's see that happen even if it means trying a back line of Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, and Gonzalo Segares with Davis Paul playing on the left wing where Segares has been playing. What's the worse that could happen? We would have lost 5-2 tonight? I'm not ruling a worse result out either. I'm legitimately asking you the reader. This Sunday I'd like to see Yamith Cuesta at RB, Kwame Watson-Siriboe at CB and Robinson filling out his substitution role. Let's let Jalil sit this one out completely. Again, that is if CDLC wants to play with a 4-4-2 instead of a 3-5-2.
The number one area the team is missing former Fire players Brian McBride and WIlman Conde is corner kicks. Those two were dynamite in the air and Chicago does not have a single player like that this year. Gaston Puerari is great on the ground but he is 5'7. Diego Chaves is only 5'10. Patrick Nyarko is a mess on headers. At 6'0 Jalil Anibaba is one of the tallest players on the team and as long as the attack is centered around Pappa, Nyarko, Chaves, and Puerari, he is one guy who needs to start coming up big on these set pieces.
Quick conclusion: Overall I am more confident about this team than I was about last year's team. This game in itself is not one where you should go out and hit the panic button but I'd be concerned for the defense. The Fire were going into Portland where the city been building up to their opening for years now. I still don't understand why MLS scheduled us to open New York Red Bulls stadium, this stadium and Sporting KC's stadium later in the year. These events have a completely different environment. Why stack all of them on one team to face every time?
Pappa, Puerari, Chaves, Nyarko, Oduro, etc. all looked like they had good ideas but perhaps not the extra step to get it done. I blame the short rest for Chicago versus the atmosphere the Portland players had going for them. The defensive line is in crisis mode and we need Josip Mikulic back right away. If he has a serious injury or this is going to be recurring, we need to figure out a much better Plan B than what we have right now. We should be searching for it internally first. Right now the answer is not playing Robinson and Anibaba together. I'm not against bringing in the right player to be a defensive DP if it's going to be top quality. There are many more things that could be said and this is not a full recap. Our preview material for Sunday's Los Angeles Galaxy game will start to overlap with the Portland recaps just given the fact that LA plays in about 60 hours from now.