My friend from Los Angeles doesn’t care about soccer. He has no ties to the L.A. Galaxy or LAFC, and has probably never even heard of Chivas USA. Yet he greeted me with a hearty dose of shame after the Portland Timbers were dealt a 4-1 loss at Banc of California Stadium:
“Ha-hah! You guys suck! Like, for real, four to one?? Embarrassing!”
The second half was one of the worst performances from the Portland Timbers since joining MLS. Most players seemed more like liabilities to the team’s success than catalysts. It was so bad that I felt compelled to be brutally honest with every player on the pitch. Here are my player grades for the Timbers in week two:
Jeff Attinella (GK): C-
Letting in four goals is never acceptable from a goalkeeper’s perspective…unless the back line was as bad as the Timbers’ on Sunday. Attinella had a strong save in the 13th minute on a big chance from Diego Rossi, but also made an obvious error on Christian Ramirez’s go-ahead goal just before halftime. Overall, Jeff could have made some big saves to keep the Timbers in the match, but LAFC scored four goals from seven shots on target instead.
Zarek Valentin (RB): D
Valentin’s weaknesses in positioning and technicality glared throughout the match, and his best moment may have been his takedown of Rossi that earned him a caution in the 67th minute. He left Jordan Harvey wide open on the Ramirez goal and posed no threat in the attacking half.
Larrys Mabiala (RCB): D+
Mabiala wasn’t necessarily the best defender for the Timbers on Sunday—he was just the least horrible. He was rarely quick enough to stop an attack in the box, and completed less than 80 percent of his passes. His mediocrity contributed heavily to that same Ramirez goal that demoralized the squad.
Julio Cascante (LCB): F
There aren’t enough negative things to say about Cascante’s performance on Sunday. His positioning, effort, and awareness were all extremely poor. It is clear that the Cascante-Mabiala pairing is not working, and that Cascante is the weaker link. Claude Dielna should have a crack at the starting lineup next week considering Portland has conceded seven (!!!) goals in only two matches thus far, the most in MLS.
Jorge Villafaña (LB): D
Villafaña was one of the bright spots for the Timbers during the first half, linking passes in the midfield and successfully challenging the dangerous Carlos Vela one-on-one in the corner. But his second-half complacency contributed more harm than good, and his signature accurate crosses were nowhere to be found.
Diego Chará (RDM): D-
If going down 4-1 in the 68th minute wasn’t the final nail in the Timbers’ coffin, Diego Chará’s second yellow card four minutes later definitely was. The first half was a typical one from Chará—crunching tackles, solid passing, and a yellow card—but in the second half his frustration boiled over in the form of … an ear flick?
!! Diego Chará got sent off for FLICKING AN OPPONENT'S EAR. (his second yellow) pic.twitter.com/7rcuDG5vjN
— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) March 11, 2019
Despite the horrendous flop, the match was basically over after Chará was gone, all thanks to the most unnecessary of second yellow cards.
David Guzmán (LDM): D+
Guzmán’s atrocious passing was in full force on Sunday, and he frequently left space for a cutting Vela to dissect Portland’s shaky defense. He was a non-factor offensively, recording two shots that didn’t need to exist, and exhibited no control over the midfield. He will need to make drastic improvements if the Timbers want to perform well next week without Diego Chará.
Sebastián Blanco (LAM): B-
Blanco was often Portland’s only hope going forward, but he was unable to exploit usual-attacker Latif Blessing at right back. He was also ineffective in his shooting, as none of his four shots were on target. Although he didn’t necessarily play poorly, Blanco played much too reluctantly to get the Timbers back in the game once they were down.
Diego Valeri (CAM): C-
Valeri’s form since his 2017 MVP season has had its ups and downs, but his lack of effort Sunday afternoon was so rare that he was offered a seat on the bench by manager Giovanni Savarese. The captain provided the best play of the match for the Timbers from a perfect free kick assist, but other than that he was virtually useless. “El Maestro” demonstrated no strength on the ball and was constantly dispossessed quickly. In a match where the Timbers were desperate for any attacking prowess, Valeri’s lack of movement left him looking like a shell of his former self.
Andy Polo (RAM): D
Polo’s best moments came from chasing down long balls along his right wing, where he was able to use his pace to get behind the LAFC defense on multiple occasions. The problems were that these were his only moments and that they never amounted to anything. Polo only touched the ball 32 times, providing next to nothing for Portland’s barren attack. Polo is playing like he wants to be replaced by Lucas Melano, which doesn’t seem like a horrible idea considering he has only scored one goal in 30 appearances for the Timbers in MLS play.
Jeremy Ebobisse (CF): D
With the Timbers yet to sign a DP striker, Ebobisse has been logging all the starting minutes and will likely continue to do so. Although “youth” and “potential” are great words, they are still mere thinly-veiled excuses for not being good enough. Ebobisse’s elephant in the room (or on the pitch, rather) is that he’s still not a starting-caliber forward in MLS. His headed goal in the 28th minute showed some promise, as did his cutting diagonal runs, but he still poses a minimal threat to any decent defense. If not for the goal, his grade would likely be an F.
Dairon Asprilla (Sub, RM): C-
Asprilla was ineffective as a replacement for Andy Polo, squandering his only half-chance but playing decent defense. He played all but six minutes before Portland was reduced to ten men, so there wasn’t much he could do—that being said, he still didn’t step up to make any meaningful plays.
Tomás Conechny (Sub, LM): C
The 20-year-old Conechny was brought on for Valeri into the worst game situation possible to log some developmental minutes, but was a non-factor in the match. If Valeri continues to play like he did Sunday, it would be nice to see this replacement regularly to work Conechny up to first-team speed.
Lucas Melano (Sub, FWD): C+
Melano came on for Ebobisse when the match was already far out of reach, but it’s worth noting that he possesses similar strengths and weaknesses as Andy Polo. Melano’s work rate has been higher, though, and his less-worse on-ball skill deserves him a starting spot considering the way Polo is playing.
Overall, the Timbers showed their worst qualities in Sunday’s loss. Not a single player took charge of the match to make an extraordinary play, save Valeri’s cross to Ebobisse’s header. Savarese needs to ensure that any player can be replaced if they put in the type of minimal effort that was on display Sunday.
All stats from whoscored.com