FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers: The good, the bad, the ugly

When is a point not a point?

FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers: The good, the bad, the ugly
Good job good effort | Source: Brandon Farris - VAVEL USA

Ah, FC Dallas. Always such a fun road trip. A half empty stadium (on a good day), weather that can be charitably described as "awful" most of the time, and a team that nobody ever wants to face because they never drop points there. The Portland Timbers went down there and got a point, some bad weather and a lot of empty seats, so I guess it was a successful trip? At least they got to check off all the boxes.

The good

Sebastian Blanco. I mentioned in my preview that I'd love to see Blanco use Diego Valeri's absence to step up and start being more of the force the Timbers brought him to town to be, and he did almost exactly that. This is his pass chart from Saturday:

He's definitely taking a more active role in opening the field and broadening the Timbers' attack; he makes smart decisions and has the vision and skill to execute them. And while I'll probably never look to him to score 15 goals a season, having him score his first Timbers goal showed me that he's capable of finishing what he starts as well.

Resilience. This game was about overcoming conditions as much as it was overcoming a strong opponent. Kickoff was delayed 20 minutes thanks to a thunder/lightning storm, and throughout the game, the wind was gusting, the rain was blowing, and if it wasn't for the humidity it could have passed for a Portland winter day. The Timbers did have some struggles, about which more later, but overall they put in a very resilient, mostly solid performance on a really challenging day.

Taking a point. Dallas is a strong favorite to win the Supporters Shield this season and had not surrendered a point at home in 2017. So going down to Dallas in the aforementioned bad weather and walking away with a point is pretty good, except...

The bad

Finishing what you started. ...except this. The Timbers, if they are to be Shield contenders and/or deeply involved in MLS Cup, have to learn how to finish off games like this. These were two dropped points, and this isn't the first time this season they've taken their foot off the gas and let a team back in a game they should have locked down. This game was there for the taking, and they didn't take it.

Letting some air out didn't hurt them against Minnesota in the opening week, but it cost them two points against New England in week 5 and nearly cost them two more against the Whitecaps last weekend. Portland needs to discover and develop a merciless streak in their personality if they want to be able to regularly put games like this to bed. 

Darlington Nagbe. I'm basically putting him here because he's never bad and I kinda can't believe he had a bad game. File this whole entry under "you'll probably never see this again", but Nags was more than just anonymous in this game - he was uninvolved. He drifted out wide and stayed there for most of the game, removing him as a threat in any real way. Will that ever happen again? Probably not. But it wasn't great to see.

Defensive lapses.  I mean, this is who the Timbers are - they're lethal going forward and sort of...not so lethal on the defensive end. The first Dallas goal was unstoppable (and of course it was Maxi Urruti who scored it),  but the second goal was a case of not just the most visible problem - Alvas Powell slipping and falling - but of both Liam Ridgewell and David Guzmán ball-watching instead of closing down onrushing attackers. That can't keep happening.

The ugly

The whole game, really. With the conditions being what they were, it was really hard for either Portland or Dallas, two teams that thrive on quick, flowing moves to generate scoring chances, to do that. So they both just started trying to ram play down the other team's throat. It wasn't the best advertisement for MLS as a league, but it was a decent enough game, and a point in Dallas is a good point.

Even if it comes with some regret at what might have been.