Tag Archives: Fanendo Adi

This Is Fine

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Wednesday, July 19: 1-4 Loss

On Wednesday night, my beloved Portland Timbers had one of the worst showings I have witnessed in quite awhile, losing 4-1 to Real Salt Lake, losing two players to red cards in the process, and setting us up for what could charitably be characterized as a challenging match this Sunday v the Vancouver Whitecaps.

We were already short-handed going into the match. In addition to David Guzman, Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell out on international duty for Gold Cup, we also lost Darlington Nagbe as the big boys got called in for the knockout round for the USMNT. Yes, we are all very proud of their work, they are all showing well for their national teams. And yes, it is a mark of the quality of our first team that four of our starters are on international duty and that all of their respective squads have made it to Gold Cup semifinals; but it HURTS to have them gone when we have two games in a week’s time, one of them against a Cascadia Cup rival.

We also have starters Liam Ridgewell, Vytautas Andriuškevičius, and Diego Chara sidelined with injuries, as well as backup left back and sometime starter Marco Farfan. We only managed to field a team of 16 total on Wednesday, including players who typically only see time at T2 matches. Oh, and by the end of the match we had also lost both Fandendo Adi and Victor Arboleda to red cards.

This move by Adi in particular is inexcusable:

Look, we all have, um, opinions about Kyle Beckerman. And I am absolutely certain that he says and does subtle things on the field that could make a player angry. Heck, it took me about seven viewings to catch what got Adi so worked up: Beckerman’s raised forearm to Adi’s rib cage as he ran past at a full clip:

But doggone it, Adi, we need you to be better than this. If Adi were a fifth grader in my office after doing this at recess soccer, I would tell him the same thing: don’t let Kyle get to you, or he wins.

After Victor Arboleda’s ejection, the rest of the match was a 9v10 affair, with only Jack Barmby having anything to show for it with his late score keeping us from giving RSL a clean sheet on the night.

By my calculations, that leaves us with a grand total of 14 players (three of whom are GKs, by the way) who are even available for Sunday’s match. If even one of those players takes a knock at practice, we are in such dire straits that we would be eligible to sign USL players to short term contracts under MLS extreme hardship rules. I think our current situation can be summed up best as follows (hat tip to KC Green):

At this point there is naturally plenty of finger pointing, philosophizing, and navel gazing among Timbers Army faithful. Among the questions being raised:

  • Should we blame MLS scheduling, with two matches in a row in a week that would be expected to have players missing for international duty?
  • Is this situation the natural result of having done such a good job fielding a starting XI so that international call ups that hurt us so deeply are to be expected?
  • Is our shallow bench a result of MLS salary cap rules?
  • Is our shallow bench a result of wisely investing in youth at the T2 level, which unfortunately means they aren’t quite yet ready for prime time?
  • Is it instead because our academy programs and in particular our T2 squad aren’t being managed properly?
  • With so many injuries, is our training program in need of a serious overhaul?
  • When we are missing so many players who either have a particularly strong first touch (Nagbe) or a good return on 50/50 balls (Chara, Guzman), should we have had a different game plan?

I do not know the answers to these questions. I just know that at this point, with so many players out with injuries or away on international duty, we have very little in our control in order to make fundamental changes in preparation for Sunday. The best that we can hope for is that the fourteen or so players who are available can take this moment as a chance, both collectively and individually, to show us how they handle adversity.

We’ll be there, hundreds of us making the trek from Portland to Vancouver. We’ll be in full voice from before the kick til after the final whistle. Show us what you’re made of, gentlemen.

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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A Fair Result

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, April 29:  2-2 Draw

It is amazing the number of emotions you can go through in the course of watching a single match. Elation, disappointment, frustration, satisfaction, all within the course of ninety minutes (plus stoppage). That was pretty much the story of this game, which ended with what a dispassionate observer would have to call a fair result in a 2-2 draw in Frisco. And yes, if you had asked me before the game, “Hey, Sheba how would you feel about coming away with a draw?” knowing that we were missing our star player; playing against a team that hadn’t yet been defeated in the league; and against a team that hadn’t yet dropped any points at home, I certainly would have been satisfied.

And yet…

I know. FC Dallas is a powerful team. The weather (lightning delay followed by wind gusts and bouts of downpours) made for a game that was less finesse and more brute force. And yes, we were without star Diego Valeri, sidelined with a hip injury. In the cold light of the next day I can certainly accept the draw. But dang, a win would have been a phenomenal exclamation point instead of a full stop.

Ah well, on with the recap.

The biggest changes to Saturday’s lineup included Sebastian Blanco moving into the number ten spot with Valeri’s absence; and Dairon Asprilla lining up to the right in Blanco’s normal spot. Fanendo Adi was back in his usual spot up top, and Jeff Attinella took his second stint in goal for the injured Jake Gleeson. While OF COURSE I’d rather have Valeri on the field, I was pretty confident that Blanco would be quite capable of taking his spot, since he has played in that position many times before for Lanus and San Lorenzo. And I appreciated having Asprilla’s pace on the wing. (I did worry a bit about Vytautas Andriuškevičius‘s speed in the back against Dallas, but his experience and crossing ability made him the right choice as our left back.)

The game got off to a late start, a fifteen-minute-or-so weather delay that apparently meant no national anthem performed by the hosts. In a class move, the traveling Timbers Army (including the TA regional supporter group Lone Star Brigade) stepped up and sang it for them after the kick.

In the first fifteen minutes or so of play, Dallas did not look as sharp as their record would indicate. Miscommunication and errant passes resulted in a couple of near misses for the Timbers early on. And while the Timbers were not exactly sharp on the ball themselves, Dallas did not look particularly threatening in the first half, either.

I’m not sure why Adi was completely unmarked on the first goal, but um cool, thanks, Dallas. He played it beautifully nonetheless, heading in a free kick from David Guzmán in the 30th minute. Guzman placed a high, curving ball from well behind the 18 on the right, arcing it perfectly for an advancing Adi to head it into the back of the net for the score:

Apparently this irritated an assistant on the Dallas bench enough that he managed to get himself ejected (we have an odd history of this happening with the Dallas assistant coaching staff, by the way).

Dallas equalized for the first time in the 61st minute by former Timber Maximiliano Urruti (we still miss you, Maxi!), with a brilliant, unstoppable ball from the top of the 18 on the right to the top left corner of the goal. Ouch.

And then Blanco got to open his account, scoring a lovely team goal coming off an Alvas Powell overlap. Blanco collected Powell’s pass to the center, took a touch, and coolly fired it home for his first MLS goal:

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last score of the game. Darlington Nagbe  was uncharacteristically a step behind his man on defense (I suspect he was already injured at that point), Powell slipped in front of the goal, and suddenly Tesho Akindele had tied it all up for Dallas. In the end 2-2 was a fair result, but oh, what might have been.

Random hot takes

Where are Dallas supporters? It saddened me to see so many empty seats at the Dallas match. I know it is in Frisco, but Dallas has a talented team that is fun to watch (when they aren’t scoring on us, that is). Not sure what the solution is, but dang, Dallas, you have an exceptional squad. Hope the locals show up for you in the future.

Jeff Attinella, you have my attention. You had a couple of tremendous saves in a game that could easily have been a loss without your solid play. What a quality addition to the team.

Fanendo Adi was more than worthy out there. He took one for the team–eight for the team, actually, in fouls suffered, and with the goal and assist I’d say he put in a solid day’s work.

The Timbers Army continues to travel well. As we have done in every away game so far this season, the Timbers Army traveling supporters have arrived in large numbers, selling out every seat allocated to us in the away supporters’ section, with more of the same to come (we’ve already sold out our away allocation in San Jose, with a long waiting list of folks hoping to join in the fun). Keep it up, Rose City faithful, and TA regional supporters groups around the country.

Despite only taking a point on the road, the Timbers remain atop the Western Conference. Next stop, San Jose next Saturday. See you then!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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Last Goal Wins

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, March 25: 3-2 Loss

I will always have a special place in my heart for Columbus. Aside from the obvious in 2015, there was this moment (which made me love Savannah forever, she is an awesome human) and this lovable yet incomprehensible video from 2013 (no, please do not ask me to explain it; I cannot). Since we HAD to end the winning streak somewhere, it might as well have been at Mapfre.

The Good

I was happy to see Dairon Asprilla get the start. He has had a second chance and a new beginning with us this year after last season’s loan to Colombian side Millonarios, and this weekend he made it count. In the fourth minute, in his first start for us this year, Asprilla had a beautiful right-footed cross to the left of the net. I was worried about Asprilla’s ability to fill in for Darlington Nagbe when it came to possession and ball handling, but I looked forward to his more aggressive stance when it came to shooting.

Fanendo Adi worked his usual magic, scoring in stoppage time at the half to pull the Portland Timbers level at 2-2, tying the Timbers all-time scoring record in the process. I watched the replay, and I can only describe what Columbus Crew did in response to Adi as “the campfire defense,” something I would argue that our back line was notorious for carrying out in 2011 and 2012. The Campfire Defense occurs when three or four guys in the back more or less make a circle around the opposing player, much like huddling around a campfire, and watch the ball in fascination as the offensive player shoots and scores; and that’s pretty much what Columbus did for Adi’s goal.

The Bad

Speaking of Campfire Defense: we were hurting in the middle and the back in this game. Ultimately we got burned because Columbus REALLY owned us in the middle. We had two key players out for international duty (Nagbe for the US and Davíd Guzmán for Costa Rica), and it showed. Without Nagbe for possession and Guzman for the 50/50 balls, when Columbus threw everything and the kitchen sink at us in the middle of the field, we were unable to respond (a little over 35% possession, which is definitely NOT okay with Porter).

And once again, with a back line consisting of mostly second stringers, our defensive unit did not handle the pressure well. While we were always in the hunt, our back line did not react well in general. We got burned in the 11th minute by Justin Meram cleaning up after a corner kick for Columbus’s first score; Ola Kamara  took advantage of some flat-footed defense at the 19th minute to chip Jake Gleeson; and the final goal by Niko Hansen in at the 84 minute mark ultimately did us in. All three of these goals made our defensive unit look disorganized, to say the least.

Other Stuff

Once again, the Timbers Army on the road represented well. This is the second away game that our road support has purchased pretty much every ticket available in the away supporter allocation. Win, lose, or draw, our away support makes me proud.

I’m also proud of our work off the field. Locally, supporters in Portland and Beaverton put in shifts at the Oregon Food Bank on game day, packing food for the hungry before heading out for watch parties. Team, Town, TA is still in full effect. Well done, folks.

On the field, our strength this year will be the counterattack, the control in the middle, and our attacking line in general; and our biggest challenge will be our, er, less than stellar back line. As I’ve said before, our season will probably best be summed up as “Last Goal Wins.” It’s been true so far, for better or for worse.  See you all next week at home as we battle New England Revolution on Sunday.

Featured image Fenando Adi to tie game courtesy: USA TODAY Sports Images

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Top of the Table

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, March 18: 4-2 Win

What’s that, you say? The Portland Timbers are 3-0 and top of the table after three weeks in March? How in the heck did THAT happen?

It has been a crazy start to the season, to say the least. In week two, we won on the road in Los Angeles. The last time a Timbers team pulled off a March road win, I was in high school. (In related news, I am old.) And last Saturday, we managed to defeat a strong Houston Dynamo squad that was having a fine March of their own. Fortunately, the boys came through when it counted.

The first two scores of the match, both on penalty kicks, came from handballs that were so hard to see in person that I had to re-watch the highlights later to know just what had happened. The first, coming at the 10th minute off a ball that deflected off the lifted elbow of DaMarcus Beasley, certainly didn’t look intentional, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

In any case, Diego Valeri confidently jogged up to the spot and drilled it high and center for the first score of the match. The second, at the 36th minute, was a handball that careened off Diego Chará’s arm as he lifted it up to cover his face during a Cubo Torres free kick. Hard to fault Chará for trying to keep his face from getting drilled, but if you’re going to call the first one you might as well call the second one, I suppose.

There were several long minutes in the first half where I was worried about our ability to withstand Houston’s counterattack, and their score to close out the first half was a perfect example of why. During first half stoppage, we got our clocks cleaned. Alvas Powell was WAY behind the play on the counter, probably a combination of playing so far up on offense and recovering from an injury; and Zarek Valentin, our third string fullback, was playing catch-up much of the half. The result was a quick Torres to Alberth Elis flick, followed by a beautiful and deadly pass from Elis to Romell Quioto for the easy score. If this was a sign of things to come, I didn’t like our chances in the second half.

But then, the second half came, and something was different. I don’t know what adjustments they made, but Valentin and Powell looked like they were hung out to dry a lot less often. In fact, Valentin redeemed himself in the 57th minute with a BEAUTIFUL left-footed cross from the corner, perfectly placed for Valeri to head into the back of the net, and suddenly we were tied again.

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Smoke after a goal. We had a lot of those that night. (photo by Sheba Rawson)

Our third goal of the night was probably my favorite. David Guzmán is a beast, in every good way. I may call him Tenacious D for his work in the back (which by the way frees up Chará, thank you very much), but he also works incredibly hard on the offensive side of the ball. And he was rewarded for his efforts last night with what turned out to be the game winner in the 65th minute. With Beasley trying to clear the ball, Guzmán chested it perfectly to Nagbe, who returned the favor by making a ridiculously good spinning-as-he-hit-the-ground pass to Guzmán, who put it away, then kissed the crest following his first score in a Timbers uniform. Sebastian Blanco is definitely DP quality, but I really think in many ways Guzmán might be our most valuable signing of the season so far.

Fanendo Adi was kind of driving me nuts that night. (Okay, not kind of. He really was.) He managed to line up offside a few times, his footwork wasn’t the best, and he was looking gassed toward the end as he missed chance after chance. But just as I was turning to a friend and saying “WHY haven’t we subbed him out yet?” Adi did this at the 87th minute and put us ahead 4-2. Way to shut me up, Adi.

Hot takes

  • I don’t want to go on and on about it, so I’ll just say that Cubo Torres was being kind of a jerk.
  • Alvas Powell reminded me of first-year Powell, which meant moments of brilliance followed by moments of WTF? I do not wish to watch another season of the “That’s So Alvas” show. Hope we’ve seen the last of it for awhile.

  • Our back line still scares me, but Roy Miller wasn’t horrible. He and Guzmán have some playing history together and it shows.

  • We made adjustments at the half and they worked. More of this please.

  • Darlington Nagbe’s ball handling is so solid that I think he might have only had one errant pass the whole first half. I remember because when it happened it felt SO out of the ordinary. I hope he gets a chance to show some of that magic during the USMNT qualifiers this next weekend.

  • Jake Gleeson. Holy cow, son. You had some saves that first half. Nice work.

Other stuff

Prior to the match, the Timbers had a ceremony to honor Nat Borchers, retired center back and amazing human. Nat took the opportunity to salute the Timbers Army one last time and we tried to return the favor. Now Nat is taking up a new position, this time in the broadcast booth. We love you, Nat. Best of luck in this new chapter.

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We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill (photo by Sheba Rawson)

This weekend also marked the Timbers’ Army’s participation in the Independent Supporters Council’s stand against racism.  The tifo display, We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill, spoke to the Timbers Army’s desire to continue to defend equality as a fundamental human right and to reject racial oppression. In addition to the display, the Timbers Army also sold both “Refugees Welcome” scarves and “Sanctuary” scarves, with proceeds going to charitable organizations who work with immigrants and refugees. And finally, we also held the first of many match day drives, this time collecting food for a local food pantry at Impact NW. Yes, we want to win the battle on the field; but we also want to win the battle for equality and dignity in the broader world.

Well, that was a most excellent weekend. Next stop: Columbus. Hopefully, we can manage to hold down the fort while Nagbe and Guzmán are away on international duty. See you next weekend.

Featured image, David Guzmán celebrates his first goal in a Timbers uniform courtesy: Portland Timbers

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Team. Town. Timbers Army.

Official Portland Timbers Reporter
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

It is impossible to sum up the events surrounding this weekend’s opening MLS game – Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC, but I’m going to try anyway. Here goes:

Team

Now that it’s in the books, I’ll be honest, I was excited but a little nervous for the season opener. In the leadup, I was worried about our opener turning into a trap game. Pretty much everyone I talked to beforehand expected us to crush the expansion side, MNUFC, like bugs. As a Timbers supporter, of course, I had heard this story before (see, for example, Cal FC and Hollywood United), and had a grim appreciation for a surprise ending. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.

As it turned out, it was a perfect way to open the season. The Timbers’ 5-1 victory over Minnesota United FC on Friday delivered on the promise of the preseason and then some. New additions David Guzmán & Sebastian Blanco had particularly auspicious MLS debuts. (My new nickname for Guzmán is Tenacious D.) And Blanco–oh my. He runs, everywhere, on both sides of the ball, and fast. I haven’t seen his heat map yet from Friday but it is probably a field-sized red rectangle. He plays smartly, simply, and quickly. And when the offense is moving, he is mentally a step ahead. As soon as Blanco knows that a ball is about to be sent his way, you can almost see him instantly calculating all available options for the next ball, more than ready for the quick one touch and on the run again.

The whole front four was as entertaining as advertised. Diego Valeri made mincemeat of MNUFC’s middle. He started the second half with a graceful header fed by Blanco that included a beautiful buildup by Alvas Powell and Fanendo Adi; and even though John Alvbage guessed correctly on the penalty, he was unable to stop Valeri’s clinical shot slotted to the lower left corner. Adi’s calm footwork up top was not only poetry, it directly led to his bagging two goals in stoppage time.

Darlington Nagbe and Blanco shredded MNUFC’s defense out wide. Nagbe dominated the left side, blowing past defenders without seeming to break a sweat. There were too many moments to love in this beatdown for me to list them all. If the front four plays like this every week, we might be in for a heck of a ride this year. It will be interesting to see how the team handles a challenging defensive line, though; I hardly think that e.g. a Nagbe-Taylor matchup is a fair predictor of our wing play overall this year.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lawrence Olum’s score to open the bank for the Timbers this season. Welcome back, Larry. I genuinely worry about that CB spot, but not only were you not terrible, you hustled. Thanks for holding down the fort until the next new Spinal Tap drummer–er, I mean Timbers starting center back–joins the squad.

Town

One of the things I love about the Timbers Army and its nonprofit arm, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST), is that we take the positive energy directed at supporting our boys on the field and direct it to good work in the community. This Saturday marked the first day of futsal practice for a group of immigrant and refugee teens` sponsored by 107IST. Thanks to 107IST support, these recently arrived teens from countries throughout Africa and South Asia now have a regular, safe place to hold soccer practices.

Timbers Army fans donated preseason tickets to allow thirty IRCO teens and family members to attend. And 107IST member dues have now also paid for the teens’ futsal fees for March and April. A Timbers Army volunteer who works with the teens told me that Saturday’s futsal practice was the first time in a long time he’d seen his immigrant teen mentee smile and just be a happy kid. ❤

Timbers Army

I love our supporters. So many work so hard to make sure that the match day atmosphere is second to none. That Bob Ross tifo? I don’t even know how WE’LL follow that one. And the front stand banners included an Arabic saying of Syrian origin (“When Danger Approaches, Sing To It”) as well as a “Spread The Love” banner in Arabic in the second half. Timbers Army supporters make their love for the more vulnerable among us evident, both in the community and in the stands.

And speaking of supporters, major props to MNUFC supporters, Dark Clouds and True North Elite. At least 150 supporters came out to stand and sing for Minnesota’s first MLS match on Friday, and we tried to treat them right. We invited them to our preseason opening party, including a chant off, on Thursday; and we hosted futsal pickup for both Timbers and MNUFC supporters on Saturday. Our love of beards, microbrews, politeness and bad weather probably binds us together more than we care to admit.

At the end of the afternoon on Saturday, the Africa House teens finished their practice and joined the Portland/Minnesota supporters for a joint scrimmage across two fields. It was absolutely beautiful.

I’ve had my share of soccer weekends, good, bad, and ugly. This one ranks among the best. See you next weekend for the Galaxy match!

*Team, Town, Timbers Army in the title refers to the three things that the nonprofit 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST) celebrates and supports when it comes to the city of Portland and the Portland Timbers. For more information about the 107IST, click here or drop me a line.

Featured image courtesy: Sheba Rawson twitter

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