Editorial (March 7, 2019) — The Portland Timbers’ inability to finish off a 10-man Colorado Rapids side in Saturday’s SnowClasico 3 draw gave fans more things to worry about.
Saturday in Commerce City, Colorado, was a strange affair. MLS record-breaking temperatures and the constant snowfall made playing soccer difficult, if not impossible. The last four goals of the match were sloppy, full of slipping and sliding around. However, just because things didn’t look great doesn’t mean we can’t take some meaning from the game.
Did Saturday show an unexpected hole in the Portland Timbers roster?
— Stupid Sexy Flanders (@skankerdude) March 7, 2019
Even with the conditions the game was played in, this should have been three points for Portland. The Timbers took the lead at two different times and was playing up a man for close to an hour.
However, Colorado still controlled much of the second half and eventually tied the game up in the 94th minute. Even though the Timbers are always dangerous against the run of play, the Rapids were consistently the team that looked the most likely to score during the second half. An impact sub could have changed the turned the match toward Portland’s favor.
That is exactly what Portland didn’t do, though. Head coach Giovanni Savarese didn’t make any substitutions until the 86th minute. An injury to David Guzman forced him to bring on Andres Flores. He then brought on Lucas Melano for Jeremy Ebobisse in the 87th minute, a move — I would argue — that was 25 minutes too late.
Meanwhile, Ebobisse really struggled in the snow and against Colorado. He only had 19 touches for the 87 minutes he played. Most of those came out wide and nowhere near a truly dangerous position. Colorado’s ability to take Ebobisse out of the game took with him one of Portland’s main ways to release pressure. Without a way to release that pressure, Portland was trapped and had to hope to ride out the 3-2 scoreline until the final whistle.
What the Timbers needed was something different. They needed someone to come on a change the game; an impact sub of some sort. Melano could have been that player, along with Dairon Asprilla and maybe even Tomás Conechny.
However, Savarese chose not to make a personnel change until the 86th minute, where he was forced to due to injury. This could have been because of the nature of SnowClasico 3. It could have been that he thought a tactical change on the field would do the trick. Or it could be that he doesn’t have a player that can affect a game like that.
Keeping in mind it is hard to judge the side based the conditions of the game, this could be a concern going forward for Portland.
If the Timbers don’t have a Plan B, if their depth doesn’t include a substitution that can change the game, they might have some large problems moving forward. They’ll face off against Los Angeles FC on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET.