Random Thoughts – Post-World Cup Final and Clubs

… The night before the quarterfinals, I told my friend, “Whoever came out of the bracket between Brazil, Colombia, France, and Germany victorious would win the World Cup.” My belief there was that they were the four most convincing teams thus far in the tournament. They were assertive in their attack and calm and collected in defense.

… Quarterfinals were just weird. You had another match-up of the counter-attacking teams in Costa Rica vs. the Netherlands. Then you had the two of best European teams in the tournament playing each other in France and Germany. Brazil was up against their CONMEBOL rivals in Colombia. And finally, it was Argentina and Belgium.

… I thought the most interesting matchup was between Germany and France. You had two really strong, young teams battling one another. It was going to be whoever scored the first goal would dictate the rest of the game. It turned out to be Germany after Hummels scored with his (rather unusual) header. France couldn’t counter because Schweinsteiger and Khedira just sat deep and helped soak in the French attacks.

… Unless France and Germany are both in the same side of the bracket, I think they’re the teams to beat in Euro 2016, with the slight edge to France because it’s going to be there.

… The fact that the Netherlands couldn’t actually score a goal despite all the opportunities they had against Costa Rica was surprising, to say the least.

… Did you notice that anyone that three of the four teams that came out winning a penalty shootout lost the following game? Costa Rica beat Greece in PKs but lost to the Netherlands in PKs, who then lost to Argentina in PKs, who then lost to Germany in the final. Brazil was the only team that broke that trend.

… The Brazil and Colombia game was terrible in terms of officiating. That is what happens when you let physical play go too far. Players get hurt (Neymar), while other players do stupid things (Silva). They should have seen this coming since it was CONMEBOL rivals butting heads. Also, when you have 50+ fouls called with few cards being shown, it’s completely out of control.

… The consolation that David Luiz showed James Rodriguez after Colombia lost was just an example of fellowship and respect created between players through the World Cup.

… The goal by Higuain against Belgium was just sheer fortune for Argentina. A deflection plus a first-time shot for him from around the 18-yard box… Not sure if there was any way to really defend that.

… I read a bunch of analyses of the Germany/Brazil game, but they were all poor reviews except for Michael Cox’s (@zonal_marking) analysis of the game, which can be found here. It’s really good and was right on the mark in terms of what went right for Germany and what went wrong for Brazil.

… The Argentina/Netherlands man of the match should have went to Mascherano instead of Romero. Sure, Romero had the two key saves in the shootout, but Mascherano’s heroics, especially in stopping the Robben shot, were huge. It continued into the finals as well, as he played extraordinary in the last two rounds of the tournament.

… Did I mention how whoever won a penalty shootout would go onto lose the next match in three of the four matches?

… You knew it wasn’t going to be Argentina’s day when Higuain missed that sitter and then they had a goal called offside (correctly).

… Gotze’s goal was very reminiscent of the one scored by Iniesta in 2010. A pass to one of the smaller attacking players in the box, who then gets a touch before volleying it into far post in extra time. It was a great finish by Gotze.

… I still think that James Rodriguez should have won the Golden Ball award over Messi. Sure, Messi showed his brilliance at times, but Rodriguez was impactful each game (Messi just disappeared in the latter stages of the tournament). And I’m not talking about the goals that Rodriguez scored.

… The awards given out by FIFA seem to be even more subjective when the best goalkeeper award finalists are named before the final and Tim Howard, who put up a record number of saves against Belgium doesn’t even make it as one of the finalists. Did they not watch that game?

… In non-World Cup news, Alexis Sanchez became a Gunner and signed with Arsenal. I thought this was huge because he been really good and improving more and more each year after coming to Europe. He fits Arsenal’s needs of a quick striker that can score when needed, but can also create as well.

… Arsenal might also be signing Sami Khedira as well. However, if we use him as a defensive midfielder, I’d be concerned since I don’t think he fits that role. An analyst that I follow on Twitter (@mixedknuts) has a great visual that shows why. He’s done a lot of radars of other players, especially up-and-coming players for those that are interested in analytics and which young players can make an impact for their favorite clubs.

… The Timbers/Sounders game result was unkind to the Timbers. The Timbers were undone by a shot attempt that was taken by Pappa that was going wide, only to have it somehow go through the crowd of players and find it at the feet of Dempsey. It forced the Timbers into a very offensive position to try to find the equalizer and then get caught too high up for the Sounders to find a second goal.

… Having Martins come off the bench against a Portland line-up where most of their players and their defense had played 120 minutes a few days beforehand helped tremendously. He changed the Sounders’ attack. Before that, the Timbers were comfortable defending and absorbing pressure.

… The Timbers are really struggling to get any sort of cohesion in defense. Part of it is injuries, but the other part is the lack of a vocal leader that can also lead by example. We’ll see if Ridgewell can pull it off, but I’m not exactly convinced of that from his days at West Brom.

… Another struggle that Portland’s been having to deal with is the lack of depth at specific key positions. Defense and the defensive midfield positions are the ones that are of concern. With Chara out, Timbers have a bit less control of the game. While Will Johnson can be deputized to take on his role, he’s a box-to-box midfielder and not a defensive midfielder (though he’s been playing extremely deep this year). Jewsbury can fill that role, but he’s not the same kind of presence either. Also, lack of depth in defense has resulted in the patchwork that we’re seeing with Portland at the moment.

Having depth doesn’t mean that you just have a lot of people who can play that position. Think about it. Portland currently has five central defenders on their payroll (Kah, Paparrato, McKenzie, O’Rourke, and now Ridgewell). It means you have people who can play that position well and challenge for that role. The mentality knowing that your job is always at risk if you don’t perform well means you train harder and play harder. However, this is a challenge due to the fact it’s the MLS and how much a team can pay a player is restrictive with salary caps and the limited pay.

… The Sounders, at least to me, still remain unconvincing in terms of their play. They do what they can to get the job done. But their attack still remains predictable, which is why I think it’s why they struggle to do well in the MLS playoffs. The strategy can work in the regular season and the USOC, but it helps when you’re playing against weaker opponents. Against defensively disciplined, stronger teams, it’s challenging to win games when they can clear your crosses over and over again. They’ve been more willing to be more creative, but the core concept still remains the same: Running down the sideline, cross and hope someone gets a head on the ball or score it off a deflection.

… Some Portland fans have been talking about Porter on being on the hot seat. I think his job is fine. The play that Portland has brought to the league with him around has brought something fresh to the league. The one-touch passing, the ball movement, and the thrilling goals over the past two years is refreshing to the rather static, physical, direct style of play and rep that MLS had been known for.

However, I think Porter is learning that in order to continue doing well, one of the things you have to do is evolve. It can be either through (1) adding quality players that fit your style of play to further improve your style or (2) evolving your tactics, as everyone else will be trying to adapt and defend against it. Eventually, when they figure out what works and implement it successfully, then they’ve adapted and you haven’t changed or evolved. It’s clear that option two isn’t an option since it’s been only one year after we saw the team overachieve and make it to the Western Conference Finals. But we haven’t added more quality players, so that’s also where our struggles have come from.

But I think that’s what Timbers fans also need to understand and forgotten. We’ve definitely overachieved by a lot last season. So people need to temper their expectations. There will be growing pains with Porter’s plans. However, it’s a style that can and will be successful. Rome was not built in a day. It might have went up a lot faster than expected, but right now, we’re just stuck trying to get to the next step in this building process. Patience is a virtue and the Timbers need it from us.

… Though, if Gavin keeps trading away younger talent or not evaluating players better, we might be in for an even rougher ride. I wasn’t too happy about moving away AJB in the offseason nor seeing Futty leave when we needed at least some stability in the back. I’m not entirely sure if he sees Porter’s strategy with the same vision or understanding.

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