Monday, April 4, 2016

Thoughts on Portland vs Orlando City SC

1. If you knew nothing about either of these teams, I'm betting you would not have been able to determine that the Timbers are the reigning league champs by watching this match. Orlando City just absolutely blew the doors off the Timbers last night, and the biggest reason was their big #10, Kaká. The Brazilian playmaker did not disappoint last night delivering a pinpoint free kick delivery to set up the first goal, a nifty 1-2 with Brek Shea for the second, and then coolly slotted home goal number three for good measure. Even better, when Kevin Molino was tripped up in the box, he made sure the young Trinidad and Tobago speedster got to take the spot kick for his first MLS goal. That's more than a world class footballer, that's a leader, and if Kaká is healthy and productive like that all year, the rest of the league should watch out. What's even more impressive was that City lost two starters to injuries in the opening 45 minutes - rookie of the year Cyle Larin and young center back Tommy Redding - and you couldn't tell. That's how good Orlando City was last night.

2. Lucas Melano is crazy fast... BUT, he continues to struggle to turn that speed into something productive. I remember watching him in last year's playoffs and while he was able to use his speed to get into good positions, he seldom capitalized on the opportunities he was given. Melano is still young (he just turned 23) so there's still time for him to clean up his finishing, but you have to wonder how long he can hold off Jack McInerney and Darren Mattocks if he doesn't start producing.

3. Where was Darlington Nagbe last night? I don't know if it was Orlando City's tactics, or Caleb Porter's lack of adjustments, but Darlington Nagbe was a complete non-factor in last night's blowout loss. There were extensive periods of the game where he just wasn't involved to the point where you almost forgot he was on the field. Everyone has bad days, but I expected more from the USMNT darling. And maybe that's our fault seeing how much hype Nagbe has gotten in recent months. We've built him up to be this world beater and maybe that's not him. Still, I'm hoping it was just a bad night for Nagbe and the Timbers, and that we'll see him bounce back next week.

4. Holy crap, Brek Shea. That goal was absolutely ridiculous. Is someone making a case for the U.S.'s left back job? If he can stay healthy (big if for Brek), he has to at least be in the conversation, right? I would venture that offensively speaking, there aren't a lot of left backs in the player pool who have the offensive skill set that Brek Shea has (once upon a time you could make a case for DaMarcus Beasley, but he's past his prime). Shea did, after all, score 11 goals for FC Dallas in 2011 and we saw him deliver twice for the U.S. during the 2013 Gold Cup (both game winners in 1-0 affairs) and two more times just last year against Chile and Switzerland. If he can shore up the defending, he'll at least be exciting to watch if nothing else.

5. Is anyone else surprised by how little love Jack McInerney gets? Jack Mack won't turn 24 until August, but he already has 40 goals in his MLS career. In his last 8 regular season MLS matches (following his trade from Montreal to Columbus), despite playing just 258 minutes (less than three full games) he has four goals and an assist. He has two goals this season despite logging just 87 minutes without the benefit of a start. So why no love for the guy? Despite his gaudy numbers, he's on his fourth team since 2014 and he hasn't been a regular starter since making 25 starts between the Union and Impact that season. Is the guy a huge jerk? Bad locker room guy? Whatever the issue, at some point, I'd like to see him get some more playing time.

6. It's obvious that Portland really misses Liam Ridgewell (and Jorge Villafaña). Jermaine Taylor is a solid defender, but he's not the game changer that Ridgewell has been for Portland, and I feel like Ridgewell's partnership with Nat Borchers was much more cohesive. That said, Taylor and Borchers haven't been together that long and things can change, but obviously this isn't the start to the season that the defending champs were hoping for.

7. Almost forgot to mention this, but Joe Bendik's denial of Fanendo Adi's first half penalty kick when the score was still 2-0 was probably the biggest play of the night. No disrespect to any of the amazing stuff Kaká did, but if Adi scores there right before halftime, it's a huge momentum changer and maybe City doesn't run away with this game early in the second half. It's an even bigger deal when you consider that Bendik had only stopped one kick out of 12 in his MLS career before that one, and bigger still because Bendik made his MLS debut with the Timbers in 2012 before getting traded to Toronto.

8. I thought it was somewhat comical when Alexi Lalas was talking about the chances of Brek Shea returning to the USMNT roster this summer, and he said something to the effect of: I know not to rule anyone out, except Benny Feilhaber. Poor guy. I do think Feilhaber has been treated just a bit harshly by Klinsmann. Granted, he's been injured so the recent qualifiers weren't up for debate, but to say he's not at an international level,' or whatever the language Klinsmann used, is a little harsh, right? We're talking about a player who scored 10 goals to go along with 15 assists last season in MLS. Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe COMBINED for 10 goals and 11 assists. Lee Nguyen and Mix Diskerud COMBINED for 10 goals and 11 assists. With chance creation an issue for the U.S., wouldn't you at least bring him in to push the players 'ahead of him' on the depth chart?

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