Sam I Am: Timbers Make It Six in a Row

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 26: 2-3 Win

Samuel Armenteros made the most of his start for the Portland Timbers at Commerce Park, capping a jaw-droppingly powerful first regular season strike from the previous week with a lovely brace this past Saturday, leading the Timbers to a 3-2 away victory over the hapless Colorado Rapids. I think it is fair to say that I have been looking forward to a moment like this for awhile:

Me in February:

Me in March:

Me in April:

Me in May:

This is hardly rocket science or hot takes or anything. If anybody has seen footage of Armenteros’ work with Heracles in 2016-2017, it is easy to see the combination of finishing quality, power, and finesse that Armenteros brings to the pitch:

And let’s all just take a moment to enjoy that BEAUTIFUL first goal from Saturday, complete with a back heel flick to HIMSELF to set up the goal:

Good LORD that was spectacular, and yes it was the second week in a row that Armenteros won MLS Goal of the Week honors.

Quick Takes

I won’t attempt too much of a match recap. Colorado is, to put it mildly, a team that is struggling mightily right now. And if we had been playing against a more capable opponent, they might have done a better job of capitalizing on both our costly errors and on the balance in possession and chances. But here are a few takeaways:

Blanco continues to be awesome. Sebastian Blanco is still as solid a player as ever. When the Timbers were struggling to find their way at the beginning of the season, with five away games and a new coaching staff to start the year, one player consistently performed, initially having a hand in every score in some fashion: Blanco.

That remained true on Saturday as well, with credit for assists on two of the three Timbers goals on the day (one by Armenteros and one by Diego “El Maestro” Valeri) and having significant involvement in the third. While I’m all for a balanced attack and spreading the scoring around, it helps to have somebody as reliably solid in the attack as Blanco.

Rookie mistakes. Poor Julio Cascante also had a hand in both scores for the team, if by “the team” you mean the Rapids. He accidentally deflected a cross from Edgar Castillo into the back of our own net, and then doubled down with a foul on the Rapids’ Dominique Badji that set up a stoppage time penalty awarded to Colorado. The 24-year-old defender stepped into the back line in place of defender Liam Ridgewell.

To Cascante’s credit, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be pressed into this level of service this quickly; and after last week’s early exit by Ridgewell following an injury, Cascante held down the fort admirably against a much more capable Los Angeles FC squad. But while youth often brings speed and agility, it can also bring inconsistency. Here’s hoping that Cascante finds his feet solidly under him this coming Saturday, and that Ridgewell also makes a speedy recovery.

DP = Designated Problem. Coach Gio Savarese has a great problem on his hands: Armenteros has clearly earned the start, but Fanendo Adi is one of three Designated Players on the team. It must be hard to have all of that money riding the bench. But it would be even harder to have Adi start, after the fantastic showing and current form that Armenteros has demonstrated. This could be a problem; or it could be an opportunity.

Recall what happened after an embarrassing loss earlier this season, where veteran player Liam Ridgewell was benched following a less-than-stellar performance that included what appeared to be a central defender checking over his shoulder then continuing simply to jog as he recovered in transition. Here’s what Savarese said at the time:

“I believe that teams have very important players, but those players need to have accountability and need to play as well and push themselves,” Savarese said. “And also everyone on the team needs to feel at every moment their effort in practice and hard work can be rewarded as well. That’s the only thing that will create a great mentality. If a player thinks they are almost a starter, he is going to push to play better and will perform better on the field. That’s the environment we have to create.”

Following a significant period of time on the bench, Ridgewell returned to the field with what looked like a renewed focus and sense of purpose, which he maintained up until the moment of his injury last week. Here’s hoping that when Savarese does give Armenteros the start on Saturday, he continues to demonstrate this philosophy with his players, including Adi, the rest of the week. If we have a healthy competition for starting spots up top, it might wind up making both players’ performance better. And if that means a healthy run up of goals and effort by them both, we all win.

Well, we have several games coming up in the next few days. Looks like you’ll get more than your fill of Sheba recaps. Next up: Los Angeles Galaxy comes to town on Saturday. See you then!

Featured image of Armenteros: @TimbersFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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