1. It’s hard to play well fresh off the plane
It don’t know about you, but whenever I travel on an international flight I am a mess for at least a few days afterwards. Between the free booze, listening to screaming children for 10 hours, and the bad sitcoms that are part of the in-flight entertainment, it takes at least 72 hours to recover.
One can hope that the travel, lack of training, and general unfamiliarity with his surroundings will make Mikael Silvestre’s performance on Sunday a one-off nightmare and not the norm. There is a ton of pressure on the Timbers center backs to perform well. Clearly, the most decorated player on the Timbers roster fell far short of that standard in his debut. As they say, time will tell if he is the right guy for the job.
2. Diego is the real deal
We certainly saw signs of it in the preseason, but you never know how much quality a player can bring until you see him in games that count. In the case of Diego Valeri, the amount of quality is a lot. It doesn’t matter if you have watched the Timbers for two or twelve seasons, I can assure you that the club has never had a center midfielder with Valeri’s talent. Ever. It was clearly on display against New York with not only a fantastic goal, but an ability to orchestrate the attack that would make Juninho envious. The interesting thing will be to see how teams try to neutralize him. My guess is that he is going to receive hard fouls early and often.
3. Captain here, Captain there, Captain every bloody where
A lot is being said about the leadership Will Johnson displayed on the pitch. One way of being a really good leader is by working your ass off. Check out that heat map to the left. The diminutive Canadian certainly doesn’t shy away from the action. One benefit to Johnson’s output is that it puts far less of a burden on Diego Chara to be all over the field. Against New York this freed Chara up to be more involved in the attack and to successfully complete 69 of his 73 passes.
And, yes, that heat map doesn’t capture everything. Water bottles in the air, anyone?
4. Possession, passing, pressure
I am sure that Caleb Porter would tell you any number of things his team did wrong against New York, but one thing is clear, this team has taken on the approach he has preached. In the course of an offseason he has rebuilt a roster and installed a system that is very different than his predecessor’s. It is not fully there yet and statistics aren’t always the truth, but an 84% passing completion rate and 63% of the possession are numbers that one would expect to come from a Porter-managed team.
5. One game, a season does not make
Before we send Silvestre back on the first plane to France and before we erect a statue of Caleb Porter in Pioneer Square, we must be boring and remind ourselves that Sunday’s performance was just one game. Teams like New York are still working their way into shape and rosters in MLS will be flux through mid-April. This is the first step in the proverbial marathon. There are signs that this will be a fun race, but we all know by now that home openers are not always an indicator of future performance.