The Portland Timbers could become a poor man’s Barcelona for all we know. They could intimidate clubs with high pressure, flummox with passing that’s quick and intricate, and score goals in numbers only dreamed about over the first two seasons at Jeld-Wen.
But if the Timbers 2.0 cannot staunch the flow of defensive boo-boos, no amount of fancy-schmancy when in possession will matter.
And it certainly won’t matter if the club’s new high-priced veteran defender Mikael Silvestre cannot get his personal roses in a bunch along the back line in the Rose City.
I’ll get out on the limb here and say it: the 35-year-old Frenchman will be fine. (Well, so long as this, along with the inexorable sands of time, do not become quickly toxic to the man’s confidence. It shouldn’t.)
He had a bad moment on that unwise back pass against New York on Sunday. Later, the ball that got by on New York’s second goal was likely as simple as unfamiliarity with a surface on which Silvestre has almost no experience.
Not saying he’s blameless, just saying the good will eventually top the bad here.
I could be wrong, of course … but that means two coaches are wrong, too. Timbers coach Caleb Porter clearly believes in the guy. Sigi Schmid told me three weeks ago in Arizona that Silvestre could clearly defend effectively in MLS.
And this piece from Stumptown Footy makes the case as well. Geoff Gibson talks Timbers fans off the ledge on this one. A quick excerpt, on how Silvestre rebounded nicely in the second 45 minutes.
We saw it in the second half. Silvestre, for all his woes in the first half, was a completely different player in the second. He marked his men. He made daring tackles when needed. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a far better performance. We saw it in the preseason as well when Silvestre was very capable of marking and tackling MLS forwards.”
Clearly, a tiring bunch from New York, guided by the older likes of Tim Cahill, Juninho and Thierry Henry, was causing far fewer problems. Still, there was occasional work to be done, and the Timbers back line dealt with problems that needing dealing with.