RSL Soapbox) How is former RSL man Will Johnson's form been now that he is back on the field?
Stumptown Footy) Well, you can't put it all on Johnson, but the Timbers are so far 4-0-0 when he is on the pitch this year. Johnson is the emotional core of the Timbers, but more than that he is a skilled player both on defense and in the attack, and his ability to transition from one to the other is among the best in the Timbers line up.
How Johnson fits in tactically also comes into play. For much of the last three years, the Timbers have played a game that is very dependent on creating holes and space in which to work by overloading certain parts of the field then switching the ball away from those areas. Johnson, and his pinpoint long range passing, make those tactic work much better as he is able to do precisely in one pass, what others might take two or three passes to accomplish.
So, yeah, pretty good so far, but you probably won't see him in this one as he is still limited by his recovery from the tibia-fibula break he suffered in September of last year.
RSL Soapbox) What is the difference between the Timbers of March and the Timbers currently?
Stumptown Footy) The Timbers of March were a strong defensive side who were prone to the occasional mistake but had a consistently misfiring attack. They were missing some steel in their game and some creativity going forward. In short, they were missing Diego Valeri and Will Johnson and nobody was really stepping up to fill that void.
Now, the Timbers have ironed out the kinks in their defense, Valeri and Johnson back, and a number of players have stepped up their game, giving the Timbers an absurd number of realistic lineup choices for this packed in run of five games in two and a half weeks. The team is in a great run of form, aberrant loss to the LA Galaxy notwithstanding, and there is every expectation here that the Timbers are capable of this level of play for the remainder of the season.
RSL Soapbox) What was going through your mind and the minds of Portland fans during the Clint Dempsey referee debacle and how much does Caleb Porter care to win this tournament?
Stumptown Footy) Disbelief. Amusement. Schadenfreude. Mostly schadenfreude. It was just such an unreal moment and there was so much going on that the fact that Dempsey tearing up the ref's notebook seemed like it couldn't possibly have happened, until you watched the replay and saw that, yup, that just happened. It was really a magical moment to witness, knowing that the Seattle Sounders had gone completely off the rails. The only thing better would be if the Timbers were to subsequently put an absolute beat-down on the Sounder in league play...
Anyway, Caleb Porter wants to win this thing because A) Caleb Porter wants to win everything and B) the Timbers are starved for hardware. The team's trophy cabinet is looking pretty bare and to win the U.S. Open Cup would certainly be a good start. Plus, it is within grasp: four games to play in a single elimination tournament is very doable, as opposed to sixteen remaining games for the Timbers in the regular season if they want to somehow take the Supporters Shield off of D.C. United who are essentially playing NASL/USL-level teams over in the Eastern Conference, or sixteen games plus at least five more to make a run through the playoffs for the MLS Cup.
Questions from Stumptown Footy to RSL Soapbox can be seen at Stumptown Footy