By: Bob Kellett | July 28th, 2011
Must Should Win Game
I’ve never quite understood the concept of a “must win” game, especially one that occurs halfway into a season. I can understand that you must win when there is one game left in a season and a playoff slot is on the line, but a must win when there are 14 games after it? Why does one game matter more than another? Why wasn’t last week’s stinker in Columbus a must win?
Nevertheless, Saturday’s tilt against Toronto is being called a must win for our beloved Portland Timbers. It is a home game against a team that has 3 victories from 23 games. Not a must win. It is a “should win”.
Of course, I shouldn’t label it is a should win, either. When your own side has 6 victories on the season and has not won a league match at home since May 21 and has already lost to Toronto earlier in the season, it is perhaps a tad ambitious to say that they should win a beer league game, let alone an affair against an MLS side.
For those who are inclined to do the math, anything less than three points at home against a team that has been in a constant state of player turnover would appear to make it nearly impossible for the Timbers to suck at the teat of the bloated MLS playoffs. While it certainly wouldn’t help the cause, anything less than three points wouldn’t quite be the Titantic hitting the iceberg.
Following Saturday’s match, Portland plays seven games in August — four on the road, and three at home. Other than LA, which is a Galaxy ahead of them in the table, they face six teams that are all muddling along in the morass of mediocrity that is most of MLS. The Timbers are within five points of each of those six teams.
August could be a month of possibilities, so says the optimist (one willing to turn a blind out to the road record).
Those possibilities would be helped by a victory on Saturday, of course. Toronto enters the contest having lost its previous four league games. They are 0-7-4 away from the friendly confines of streamers, politeness, and maple syrup. They are coming off of a competitive game on Wednesday. They have to travel to a stadium with which they are not familiar.
On paper they are ripe for the taking.
Keep an eye on…
- The Formation: Will Spencer stick with the 4-5-1 that we have seen the past three games or will he play a little more aggressive against a side that has yielded a league worst 41 goals? If ever there was a time to ditch the three defensive midfielder and forward-on-an-island approach, it would be this game.
- The backline: You know by now that late goals have killed the Timbers. With the additions of Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabla the Timbers have slightly more depth with their outside backs. Will Spencer go with some defensive subs if his team is ahead late in the second half. That largely hasn’t been the case this season (of course the Timbers haven’t been ahead too often late), but hopefully we might see more than a Zizzo for Nagbe swap and a throw Cooper to the wolves approach.
- The early run of play: As we know all too from what we have seen other teams do to the Timbers, taking the attack to a struggling away side early on is a recipe for tasty MLS victories. Pay attention to how the Timbers come out of the shoot. The longer they let Toronto hang around, the worse your beer should taste.
- Torsten Frings It is not often in one’s life that you get to see Satan in person. Treat him accordingly
One lineup you won’t see
This was the Timbers squad against Toronto in April. In hindsight that is pretty sad.
Adin Brown (Jake Gleeson 46)
Steve Purdy, Eric Brunner, Kevin Goldthwaite, Rodney Wallace
Ryan Pore (Sal Zizzo 66), Peter Lowry, Jack Jewsbury, Jeremy Hall
Jorge Perlaza (Brian Umony 73), Kenny Cooper.
Editor’s note You might be wondering who is the doofus writing for this blog. What happened to the previous guy who actually knew what he was talking about? Mr. Mao has been stretched to his limits dispensing footy knowledge so he has passed the baton on to me for the time being. I’m not too much of a stranger in these parts. I was the founding editor of The Offside and used to inhabit this very space before passing the baton to Mr. Mao. I’m not sure how long I will snuggle with the baton this time, but as long as I am here I would welcome your thoughts, criticisms, corrections, haikus, and beer.