The Portland Timbers visited Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on St. Patrick’s Day hoping to be a little luckier than the week before, where they were humbled by Carlos Vela and LAFC by a score of four to one. Unfortunately, they didn’t fare much better in Cincy, losing 3-0 to a team that had never won a match in Major League Soccer before.
With holding midfielder Diego Chará suspended after receiving two yellow cards a week earlier, Head Coach Giovanni Savarese surprised everyone by starting youngster Cristhian Paredes and usual-center back Bill Tuiloma together in the holding midfield. Gio also gave new offseason signee Claude Dielna a start at center back in place of Julio Cascante, who had been sub-par thus far.
Let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan. The Timbers gave up three goals to an inspired Cincy side determined to give their fans a taste of MLS success. The match was so ugly that committing further words to it as a whole would be a disgrace.
With that being said, let’s get to all the negatives and almost-negatives of the Timbers on Sunday:
Jeff Attinella: D-
Portland has conceded 10 goals in three matches. That’s more than any team in MLS. Only three other teams have conceded seven or more goals thus far. It’s tough for Jeff to come up with any stops the way his back line is playing, but he was definitely not doing much to help the cause on Sunday.
Zarek Valentin: F
There wasn’t much good to say about Valentin’s performance, especially on the defensive side of things. Valentin’s effort is still there, but effort can only go so far when being outclassed. There was no better example of this than being absolutely embarrassed by Allan Cruz, and this goal felt like the demoralizing end that was only a matter of time.
Vote Allan Cruz's backheel for @MLS' Goal of the Week!
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) March 20, 2019
Larrys Mabiala: F
A second yellow card from poor defending was the last thing the Timbers needed in the 70th minute with the match already three goals out of reach. It certainly isn’t what they need for their next match at the Dignity Health Sports Park against the L.A. Galaxy at the end of the month.
Claude Dielna: D-
Dielna had a decent game from a passing standpoint, but his inability to defend Kendall Waston handed FC Cincinnati the opening goal 15 minutes into the match. Whether or not he is an upgrade from Julio Cascante remains to be seen, but Dielna needs to have better matches than this if he expects to become a consistent starter for the Timbers.
Jorge Villafaña: D
History should have favored Villafaña being able to defend former Timber Alvas Powell along the left side, but Powell definitely had the better match, linking with midfielders in the attacking half at 84% passing accuracy and clearing the ball six times—by comparison, that’s five percent more accurate and five more clearances than Villafaña.
Cristhian Paredes: C-
Paredes played the way he usually does for the Timbers—that is to say, you may forget he’s out there if you’re not looking for him. He made no crippling errors, yet produced no important attacking moments either. Paredes did get forward and pass, though, and he should be seen as a viable backup in this position going forward.
Bill Tuiloma: C
Tuiloma had never played this defensive midfield role for the Timbers before, but he actually put in a decent shift, blocking a team-high six shots—all inside his own box. Tuiloma also produced maybe the Timbers’ best shot of the day, a 25-yard worm burner that required a full stretch from Cincy goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Overall, though, Tuiloma was not able to produce enough quickness to dispossess attackers with Diego Chara’s capability.
Sebástian Blanco: C-
Blanco did not do nearly enough to penetrate Cincinnati’s back line, but his lack of support was definitely part of the problem. Blanco did not play well individually though, either, losing possession four times and heading his lone shot off target.
Diego Valeri: C
Valeri had a better match than last week’s wreck at LAFC, but he was still far from himself, producing three mediocre shot attempts and being out-dueled by Cincy stoppers Victor Ulloa and Leonardo Bertone. Valeri is still the team’s leader, and the responsibility of poor play does fall on him to an extent. He needs to show more effort if the rest of the squad is looking to him as a leader.
Dairon Asprilla: D
Asprilla looked like the least-lethal finisher in MLS history on Sunday (which he is), including botching the best chance of the match for the Timbers. I’m not sure how he was much of an upgrade to the starting lineup over Polo, considering Polo replaced him after completing a grand total of zero passes in the second half.
Lucas Melano: D
Melano was just as ineffective as Ebobisse had been up top, but he’s still the one getting targeted allocation money, so I guess it was better to start him and hope for the best. Melano had a very predictable game, with no big chances and a few mediocre attempts.
Andy Polo: D+
Polo was brought on with the match already out if reach, but didn’t do much to remedy it. He recorded only 15 touches and had no real impact on the match.
Jeremy Ebobisse: D+
Replacing Melano and Asprilla with regular starters Ebobisse and Polo was a pretty clear indication that Savarese is not confident in either set of attackers, and Ebobisse was unable to reach double-digits of touches in roughly 26 minutes of play.
David Guzmán: D+
Guzmán’S Inclusion in this match was, like the other substitutes, largely forgettable, but this highlights a larger theme of complacency with the Timbers’ substitutions this season. Subs are brought on to try and alter the match in some way, but they have not taken their chances well.
Most Premier League managers would be sacked after a three-game stretch this bad, but that is an extreme and isn’t realistic for Major League Soccer. Rather, the Timbers just need a change of attitude. The spurts of effort were few and far-between on all sides of the ball for the Timbers. If this week’s lineup was unpredictable, I can only imagine what Gio has in store for us next weekend.
All stats from whoscored.com