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Stream Guide for Beginners - Updated for 2020!
submitted by PhazePyre to Twitch [link] [comments]
I decided to update my previous guide on beginning on Twitch. Hopefully this is helpful!
It'll cover a large variety of topics, with a lot of suggestions based on my observations and professional experience streaming for my game studio. It is for anyone who plans to use OBS (or OBS variants), Xsplit is a different beast and I am unfamiliar with it. So before we begin, buckle up, put on your helmet, and get your travel mug cause we're going for a rip!
Creating Your Channel
- Coming Up With A Name: Like any product, you want something that is catchy, simple, and memorable. Also, for those who really want to roll with it, you can have a theme! Your name is important because it really sets you up for having solid branding for your channel. Some people just make a channel, and their username is something unoriginal or unattractive "Jdawg2245" or "bigchonkyboi22" or something along those lines. You are trying to diversify yourself in this highly competitive market, so give thought to your channel name because it sets the stage for a lot of future decisions. Think up something that rolls off the tongue and is easy for someone to remember if recommend. For example "JackDavies" or "PapaSmurf". Those are easy to remember and don't require memorizing what numbers or symbols were in there.
- Catch Phrases: It may sound silly, but catch phrases are pretty common for content creators. They create branding, and they create a sense of familiarity for fans/viewers to recognize a channel. CohhCarnage for example has his "Good Show!!" when he receives a sub, or for Ezekiel_III, he not only has a whole spiel, he also has a thing he does that is a unique fist bump for when he gets a new sub. When I sign off, I say "Catch ya on the flipside". It feels good to say and is distinctly me. Catch phrases aren't required, but it can build a sense of consistency and fun.
- Schedule: Before you stream, know when you plan to stream. This is important in order to provide a concrete, cut and dry, timeline of when you'll be online. This is important for viewer retention. Stream consistently for generating regular viewers as they can't come to watch, if there's nothing to watch! On the flip side, don't stream too much, or you'll burn yourself out, or have no new content. Keep it healthy, and keep it consistent. There are exceptions to this like Bikeman. He didn't have a schedule, he streamed when he streamed, and people would show up. That's an exception, not the norm.
Hardware This is the most discussed part of streaming, each persons setup is unique, and it's difficult to say there is a perfect setup. What I'm going to do instead is explain to you the necessity of each component, and how it's critical to the stream and your viewers experience.
- CPU: The CPU (or Processor) is one of the most important aspects regarding the technical side of streaming. If you are using a 1 PC streaming setup, not only is it running the game, it is encoding your content as it broadcasts to Twitch (if using CPU b. What is Encoding? Encoding is the process of converting the media content that you are uploading (In this case audio-visual content) and converting it into a standard that Twitch will receive. Encoding is CPU intensive (uses a lot of CPU power) and this means you need a fairly decent CPU. I recommend some of the higher end CPUs in order to give yourself both sufficient processing power, and also some longevity. Buying an introductory processor will only mean you get a short time frame of which to utilize it. Higher end AMD/Intel processors will allow you to get the most for your money because even though it's $100 more, it may last another 2 years until needing to upgrade.
- GPU: Your GPU (or video card) is essential in running the games that you are playing. The two major players are AMD and nVidia. The better your GPU, the better your graphics will be, and the higher quality your stream will be because of how the game looks. Unless you're using the nVidia nvenc encoder, the GPU isn't super critical on the stream technical side of things, mainly just on the game side. If you are using NVENC, then your CPU doesn't have as much of a load which means more balanced. If you are playing via capture card and on a console, this will mean you can use either without concerns on how it impacts your
- RAM: Your RAM (or memory) is all about "short term memory", and the ABSOLUTE minimum I would recommend is 8GB, but I realistically, I recommend 16GB or more as Open World games and Battle Royale games are utilizing more RAM since they are temporarily storing data from servers in your RAM client side in order to display it on your machine as well as all of the visual assets you see. RAM significantly helps with multitasking as you start to run a few applications at the same time while you stream to help boost the quality of it.
- HDD/SSD: Your HDD (Hard Drive Disk) or SSD (Solid State Drive) are all about storage. SSD's are great for storing all your main programs and OS on, and running from there, and using a HDD for storing data is handy. HDD utilize mechanical components in order to run, therefore increasing the odds of fairly, so if your data is important to you, have a backup that is typically a bit larger than your current hard drive, in order to make sure ALL your content is backed up. SSD's use flash memory (the same as Thumb Drives, and this allows them to be faster, and more reliable, as the odds of mechanical failure are slim to none. If you are looking to edit your content on your computer, make sure to have a decent sized HDD so that you can record your stream as you stream it!
- Monitors: Monitors become your best friend as your stream grows. I currently use 2 monitors, although in the past I used to use three. I know right? I was insane! This allowed me to have the center monitor act as my main action monitor (the game I'm playing), my left monitor is my OBS screen so I can check my frames, uptime, and see any alerts that are broadcast (more on this later ;]), finally my right monitor was for my third party bot/chat which I now use Stream Elements for in OBS).
- Webcam: If you are deciding to use a webcam (some people stream without one, but it can help), it's worth getting a decent one right off the bat. A nice logitech webcam is around $100, but should last you for a couple years! The models I'd recommend are the Logitech C920/922 or the Logitech Brio (a 4k webcam). There are cheaper webcam, but you will notice changes in quality. I highly recommend at least something with 1080p and 30fps. A lot of the differences will be FoV (how wide of a shot it takes).
- Microphone: This is a more difficult decision. Each person has a different way they want to broadcast their audio to their viewers. Many just use a headset, and eventually upgrade to something else once they've established themselves. Others will use something with more umph right from the get go like a Razer Seiren, or a Blue Micophones - Yeti Mic. And even higher end people will use a digital audio input, a high end studio XLR microphone, and a scissor stand, to record professional quality sound, with more options for effects and the like. As a note, audio quality is a big deal. No one wants to listen to a rough sounding mic that sounds like it was bought for 10 bucks at the dollar store, so this is a good place to focus.
- Network: It is important that you have ~5mbps upload speed. This will allow you to upload at the recommended encoding bitrate of 2000kbps or higher. If you are playing an online game, while streaming, it's helpful to have a bit more speed to run. In a perfect world, a higher upload speeds means better quality for your stream if you can afford to increase the bit rate.
- Capture Card: for those of you who want to stream console games, a capture card is important. There are a variety of capture cards for old connections and for HDMI. You also have the option of internal or external capture devices. This will reduce the load on your PC as the processor or graphics card is being used just for encoding as the game is being played on the console. Search for the right capture card for you, and see how it goes! Elgato is a great brand for capture cards, as is AverMedia.
- Peripheral: This includes mice, keyboard, etc. This doesn't have a major impact on the stream, just get what you like and makes game-play more comfortable for you!
Setting Up OBS
- First, download OBS, this is the application that this guide is based off of, and while allow you to broad cast your stream to your twitch channel. There are some alternative OBS versions such as Streamlabs OBS, StreamElements has an addon for OBS, and Twitch has their BETA software, Twitch Studio.
- Second, follow the instructions to install OBS on your computer.
- Third, go to your Twitch Dashboard, go to Stream Key, and show your stream key. This is important for OBS to broadcast to your Twitch channel. Go to your OBS Settings-Broadcast Settings and input your stream key into the Play Path/Stream Key section, when you've set Mode to Live Stream, and Streaming Service to Twitch.
- Fourth, set your encoding bitrate. The golden rule for a non-partnered streamer is around 2000kbps for your Bitrate, but you can go higher, although without transcoding, you run the risk of some viewers having buffering issues. There are two encoding types, x264 (CPU Intensive) and NVENC (GPU intensive). Try testing both to see if you have any bottlenecks. I recently have switched to NVENC since I have been playing switch games, which means my GPU has more wiggle room and it's a bit higher end than my CPU.
- Fifth, set your video settings. The golden rule is 1280x720 (720P) with an FPS of 30. As your stream grows, you'll more likely get transcoding when capacity is available. If you are an affiliate, you will get priority access to transcoding for your viewers (the ability to set the resolution lower) as capacity is available, and as a partner, you will always have it.
- Sixth, set your Audio settings to how you like them (desktop audio device and what you want your default microphone to be). I personally have a higher quality, stereo microphone, so I force my Microphone to Mono.
- Seventh, start creating your scenes. There are two different squares you'll see. Scenes and Sources. Scenes are the unique scenes for say "Stream Starting", "Main Overlay", "BRB", "Stream Ending". Sources are the things that are added together to make a scene. This includes images for overlays, graphics, Browser Sources for alerts/notifications, Text, Webcam, etc. Scenes are very specific to each person, but I recommend checking other streams to see what is aesthetically pleasing to you. From there, you can either make them yourself, commission them, or you can use third party sources for scenes. As mentioned elsewhere, there are groups like Nerd or Die and Own3d.tv that sell overlays. Nerd or Die does have some pay what you want.
- Eighth, do a test stream. This is important for you to gauge if your quality settings are at the right place for you, and allows you to fine tune them.
- Logo: Your logo is your face. Find something professional, but at the same time catches the eye and helps draw a theme for you! You can check out certain sites like Fiverr to get a cheap starter logo without breaking the bank.
- Overlays: Whether you buy them online, have someone make them, or make them yourself, overlays help enhance your stream scene. Keep it simple, while still adding flair. Recently I removed some stuff from mine so there was more game space for what I am playing, while still displaying the same information for viewers regarding latest follower, donation, etc. There's a lot of Overlay sites such as Nerd or Die, Own3d.tv, and fiverr to get custom overlays. Find what works best for you.
- Information Panels: On your channel, you have information panels at the bottom. Use them to your advantage. I highly recommend having a schedule panel, links to your various social media, etc. Creating your own panels, that match your general theme, are worth it to create that Branding we are aiming for. You are the product, you don't want crappy packaging.
- Social Media: Try and match all your social media to your channel name. This breeds familiarity with all the folks you are networking with. They will recognize the name across all different social media platforms. Reddit, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. I use PhazePyre for everything.
Streaming! The Good Part! This is going to be general tips to help you on your path to becoming a great entertainer. There's ALWAYS room for improvement, even the best streamers and entertainers have room for improvement
- Don't be quiet: Talk to your viewers, whether it's 0 or 100. Talk to yourself, talk about what your doing, talk about the song, it's awkward at first but as you do it more often, you'll get used to it. Not only will this provide content and dialogue, it'll help you workout your vocal cords so that you can talk for extended periods. The big thing is you don't want to come across as boring. One way to help with this is to add very light background music to the stream. It helps fill the silence a bit in quieter games.
- Minimize off screen time: Try and minimize the amount of AFK time that you have. If you are younger, let your parents know you are streaming. Explain to them what you're doing, and hopefully they understand. Let them know how long you'll usually stream for, and if they absolutely need something, to let you know before hand, or via a text message. Nothing is worse than Mom busting in telling you to take your underwear out of the bathroom.
- Don't play oversaturated games: Try to avoid what I call the "Top 4", LoL, Dota2, CS:GO, Hearthstone, unless you are REALLY good at those games. They are competitive games, and you are competing with professionals of those games and giant tournaments. This is tough though, as it can be tricky to be found. You'll have viewers coming in and out of your stream, and depending on how you're packaged yourself, they may opt to chat and become a follower. Additionally, there's no perfect game to play. Find something that you know you can play regularly and it'll help you build
- Don't call out lurkers: Don't even get your bots to do it. It's tacky, and WILL make most people leave. Some people just want to sit back and see how you are. Lurkers are especially great as they'll help build your viewer count so you can break above the 90% of streams that are under 5-10 viewers.
- Don't ask for donations: i don't think I need to really explain why.
- Be Confident!: People like seeing someone who's comfortable, confident, and knows what they are doing, or, if you don't, "Fake it 'til you make it!"
- Network, Network, Network: The best way to network imo, is to support other streamers, and organically support their endeavours. What do I mean by "organic"? I mean don't force it. Find streamers you actually like and enjoy, who are around your size, and show your support because you care about THEIR stream, not just yours. It's tough though as you don't want to come across as only wanting to interact for their viewership.
- Create Channel Competitions: These can breed fan loyalty and help turn people from lurkers to regulars and super engaged community members! Don't worry if you can't afford it though.
Bots (The Good Kind) I'm only gonna list the major three free bots
- Nightbot: A free, web based bot, that provides moderation capabilities, song requests, and custom commands.
- MooBot: Similar to NightBot in that it is cloud based. Includes song requests and more.
- Streamlabs' Cloud Bot: If you are using StreamLabs OBS, this will be optional to enable while using it. Definitely worth it so all of your settings are in one client. Offers many options like moderation, commands, timers, giveaways, and more.
Security Doxxing, Swatting, etc, are all bad things that trolls will do to cause trouble. These are some ways to reduce the risk of having your personal information leaked, and to help keep you safe. You may not be worried, which is fine, but I know many people are concerned about their identity and safety, and these are a few tips to help
- Create a separate email, that doesn't include your name anywhere. This will create a divide between you and your online persona. Batman doesn't go around telling everyone he's [REDACTED] does he?
- If creating a PayPal, upgrade to a business account, and make sure all your information is kept private. Your address may be displayed when you purchase things, but this will protect you when users pay you money and it displays your information. I recommend using the Name of "YOUR CHANNEL NAME's Twitch Channel".
- DON'T USE SKYPE WITH VIEWERS, heck unless you 100% trust random viewers, don't even use TeamSpeak. Discord is is a new app that secures your ip to prevents users from obtaining your ip address and causing problems.
- Don't give too many details out about your location, and if you invite friends/family (I recommend not doing that so that you create an independent identity) make sure they don't address you by your name. Get a PO Box if you'd like to send things to viewers without worrying about them get your personal details.
- Ensure your Steam Profile is changed to your new channel specific email. If you send a game to someone for a giveaway, it will show your personal email unless you change it.
How to grow your channel
- Make content on other platforms outside of Twitch. YouTube, TikTok, and other forms of content based social media are great ways to passively grow your audience. Find out your specialty and put that out there. YouTube content should try and be unique compared to what you do on stream in order
- Build a community. Get to know the people coming to your streams. If you value them, they will value you and feel wanted in your community. As a smaller streamer this is your strongest tool. I highly recommend making a discord and inviting people to join it. If you integrate Mee6 as your Discord bot, it will notify people when you go live if you'd like, and that can help build retention and viewership.
- Roll with the punches. You make get trolls, the best way to deal with them is don't take the bait. Although not super valuable, I've had some trolls follow because of how I rolled with their attempts to troll me. I never saw them again, but the less serious to take them, the better a time you'll have.
DO NOT DO THESE
- Don't do Follow for Follow. Followers doesn't mean much. You want a high conversion rate, and these bloat your followers and don't typically result in extra views. The goal is to have as many followers be viewers as possible, a 1:1 ratio. That person following you isn't likely to watch your stream. What do I mean by have as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible? You want to try and have every follow be a viewer. Is it realistic that if you have 25k followers, that you'll have 25k viewers? No, it's not. but what's realistic is to focus on converting every follower into a repeat viewer. Tools like Discord can help bring them into your fold. Some people will follow and only come back infrequently, but over time, you can work to have them become a regular. But if you do Follow 4 Follow, you'll have a bunch of followers who just want you to watch them, and aren't likely to be a regular viewer.
- Don't pay for viewers (view bots). It's bad, Twitch will find out, and you'll be hooped.
- SupportSmallStreamers, FollowForFollow, and other "growth" hashtags really aren't that great. Everyone is out for themselves. Rather, find like minded streamers and become friends with them. When you care about others, they'll care about you.
- Be wary of Affiliate programs (outside of Twitch) as they aren't super beneficial for anyone. Focus on growth to build your influence and viewership, from there revenue will naturally come and you can prepare via agents/agencies, and the like. For now, dedicate your time to building a community. Rather than affiliate programs, use things like Amazon Blacksmith and personally recommend what you want and get some kick back.
- Some small streamef4f groups can cause problems for you long term. Studios and companies will blacklist people that aren't focused on quality content creation, and instead are looking for instant fame. Usually it means the quality of your content isn't great, and your influence is not equal to your numbers.
All in all, streaming is a fun time. It's worth getting into especially if you're charismatic and love to entertain. Charisma is hard to develop for some people, and you may not succeed, that's the reality of things. Do what you can and don't burn yourself out. Additionally, find what makes you stand out in the crowd. Twitch continues to grow for streamers, so you need to stand out in a good way. A solid way to grow is by creating content on other platforms and pushing people to Twitch. Twitch doesn't have great passive growth opportunities, but other platforms do. Funnel those followers to Twitch and you'll see better growth.
This guide isn't all inclusive and covers everything. There is SO MUCH to cover, but this is a beginners guide and enough to give you some tips, hot takes, and instructions to start your journey on Twitch. I have made a previous post about 4 years ago that won some awards, and this is just updated a bit to make it more relevant to 2020 as I still see people reading my post and sending me emails. So here's something freshened up.
Feel free to pm me, or leave a comment with any additional content you'd like added to this guide, or feel free to comment if you have additional questions and I'll add to the guide! You can DM if you have any questions regarding streaming or any additional inquiries specific to you and not in general! If you were paying attention to my guide, you should be able to find me on social pretty easy as well ;)
Good luck streamers, and have fun!
2019 One of the Greatest Miami Dolphins Seasons Ever!
2019 One of the Greatest Miami Dolphins Seasons Ever! submitted by ronsone to miamidolphins [link] [comments]
“Whoa! That is a big statement! Winning five games should not be counted as a great season to anyone” I hear you shout at your screens.
But look, these were not just any old 5 wins, in any of the old greatest Miami Dolphins seasons ever discussions!
Ok, ok, excluding the Perfect season and the other Superbowl seasons, those deep Marino led playoff runs and the wildcat season oh and the mighty D seasons of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The wild cat year? I knew it could not last (it was a gimmick)? Gases 10-6 season? I was duped to be fair. I still stand by the statement “2019 being one of the greatest Miami Dolphins seasons ever”.
Firstly, a little about me. I am from the UK and first started watching the beautiful brutal game way back in 1984. The games were on in the early hours of the morning at 14 years of age, I had to sneak downstairs (we only had one TV in those days) and watch the game of the week on Channel 4 (yes, back then we only had four channels). Watching games with the volume down (so my parents couldn’t hear me), was tough but the excitement and the “violence” was new to me unlike rugby the speed was immense, my eyes darting around the screen trying to locate the ball. Those same eyes came to hate the horrible Mondays in school, where I was falling asleep, but this new game (new to me) with bright colours fanfare and cheerleaders made it all worth it. Getting to watch teams like the Bears, Redskin, Raiders, and 49ers (what was a 49er? I could only imagine some behemoth gold digger with huge hands and gap teeth). English football teams seemed rubbish by comparison, we had the “Blues” “the “Reds” or worse the “Canary’s” or the “Magpies” hardly the type of names to instill fear in your opponents. In those early days, I had not decided on a team to follow, would it be the Lions or Bengals (with the cool, tiger stripes on their helmet) or those New York footballing Giants? I just could not decide but come January 1985, that changed, I “snook” downstairs to watch this thing called a Superbowl, the team in white, a team called the Dolphins v the team in red those behemoth 49ers. As the game progressed, I wanted that team in white to come back and win, sadly, as we all know, that never happened but I felt it was my duty to see if that team in white could win it all next year. After all, they had a “quarterback” named Dan Marino who not only wore no.13, to f**k with the footballing Gods but made throwing the football look magical as well as being supposedly the best young quarterback in football. So, I became a lifelong Dolphin fan, and imagine how my affiliation for this team grew when I found out they had the ONLY perfect season. The year I was born!! I was meant to be a Dolphin fan!
So, back to that great 2019 season, I know some out there have already scoffed at the title and not bothered to read, which is shame because I’m hoping to show everyone why I think it was one of the best ever.
Let us go back to the beginning and relive it together.
New coach, new beginning, haven’t we heard that before? See, being a Dolfan, we were spoilt we had the great Don Shula (RIP) for what seemed like ever and we won consistently with perhaps only the Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, and the Patriots with the same luxury. Yes, occasionally we would drop a 6-10 or 8-8 season but those years we had excuses, an “injury” or we were unlucky against a bad team or two. But after Shula, we fell into the trap of the lower teams the ones not worthy to be in the same sentence as the Dolphins. that trap was inconsistency in the head role, did we love Jimmy Johnson really? (yes, we felt he could win us a Superbowl) but to me he replaced our mini deity. Ok, Shula had some issues like, why, why, why keep Tom Olivadotti around? I had a hard time understanding that (frankly still do), anyway love him or hate him Johnson built a good foundation then buggered off. Dave Wannstedt next, hmmm, even though his tough running program would eventually be good enough for second most wins for a head coach in Dolphins history and our first division title in the 2000s, we just did not have the same feeling for him.
Then it spiraled out of control • Jim Bates • Nick Satan • Cam Camuuurgghhron (thank you Camarillo) • Tony Sparano – RIP • Todd Bowles • Joe “wet lettuce” Philbin • Dan Campbell – My choice for the next full-time head coach, sadly not to be • Adam “Stare through a wall” Gase
A sorry bunch, no wonder we only had two winning seasons with that lot.
After all the “new head coach, new beginnings bullsh*t over the years, forgive me, if I wasn’t waving the flags for this “new beginning”. After all, how many 7-9/8-8 seasons do you have to go through, before you become cynical?
Brian Flores – new coach bringing, a wining attitude and new culture blah blah blah. Win big year one, then disappear like most of the others. I suppose I was happy we had addressed the minority coaching element. Yeah, sure, and he just helped coach that Pats defense in the Superbowl! Again, yeah, OK. Something a little different than all the Offensive minded geniuses that have come and gone over Don Shula express way piqued my interest but I certainly had lost hope that Cowher would come out of retirement, so here we go again.
Preseason woes I understood the jettisoning of older talent. Sorry, I loved Cameron Wake, I liked Kristian Alonso and Kenny Stills, but we needed a fresh start. I liked this approach, I liked the fact we were tearing it down and starting again, for the first time in over 20 years I had some optimism. I knew this coming season would be tough but at last, not the same old “overpay for a couple of names” and hope for the best approach. To be honest, I was thinking, why Stills and not Devante Parker? Weren’t you? Minkah Fitzpatrick, shocked me but hey if you do not like it here, there is the door. Laremy Tunsil? Hmmmm, not sure what is happening, let us see how it all plays out I thought.
When the preseason rolled around and new faces were churning through., I still felt its was a good thing, knew there would be painful things to come and could not understand the media giving Flores a whooping “he’s putting players lives in danger” etc. I wanted to give this guy a chance, we were finally doing something different.
Tank for Tua or Fitzmagic? I never understood the whole tanking notion. No one plays to lose and even if the coaches were coaching to lose, individual players own pride would force them to go against the coaching. I just do not get it!! No one player can change a franchise fortunes, yes, the great ones are instrumental in a franchise’s direction, but you need fifty plus players to play this game (Eighty if your Miami). Quarterbacks do not block for kicks, do not play in a 3 deep cover shells, and rarely catch their own throws. I had seen too many franchise’s push all their chips in, on a number one quarterback draft pick only to flame out and be right back where they were three years later. Was I concerned about our QB situation? Dam right, we had an unproven Josh Rosen and an aging Ryan Fitzpatrick, that could not win over 16 games. My thoughts were Fitzpatrick for 4-6 games and Rosen all the way.
Boy was I wrong.
But still, I liked what we had done, created massive cap space, acquired a sh*t load of draft picks and we would probably end up with the no. 1 pick as well. Bring the hurt, next year’s our year!
Week 1 v Ravens – 0-1 FUGLY is the only word that can be put here. Nothing to be happy about, apart from not being shut out! (I hate it when, we cannot even muster a field goal) Jason Sanders put our first points of the new season up with a 54-yard field goal. Then later some kid wide receiver called Preston Williams, scored a wonderful toe tapping 6-yard TD. The rest of the game, we will just leave behind us shall we.
Not getting shutout felt like a blessing and that undrafted free agent wide receiver showed a little. Come on guys? what did we really expect. We had newly signed offensive lineman and defensive backs playing their first NFL snaps ever! It has been reported since that half the players did not even know each other’s names for heaven’s sake.
Week 2 v Patriots – 0-2 See above but worse!! My pet peeve we did not even get a single score. Come on are we really that bad? Absofudginlutley! Bad, bad, bad game but come on, typically for us, the only game Antonio Brown plays for the Patriots is against us!
102 points given up in two weeks, how is this one of the greatest seasons in Miami history you ask? Well that is all part of it. These lows were low, like snake belly low. Somehow, I felt like this was part of the plan? Was this what tanking for Tua looked like? How would we turn it around? Fitzpatrick was being Fitzpatrick. Rosen, Rosen, Rosen, we chanted in unison. Rosen’s going to come in and light it up, I thought. Yes, massive lows but still I had optimism
Week 3 v Cowboys – 0-3 Another drubbing but signs of some life were showing, Rosen was in, though not great he seemed to be able to handle it, no interceptions even though he like Fitz before him was running for his life most of the time and we also held them to 31 points. Was there improvement? No, not much.
It was around this time the “takes no talent” war cry came into my consciousness. I had seen it all over the years, no more “fail forwards” or copied “winners within” bull, please.
I’d seen it mentioned through the preseason but watching this team I started to hear the “it takes no talent” mentioned where coaches ran with their groups, I saw the early buds of accountability show through, not the fake accountability that Gase talked about. I saw actual accountability DB’s holding their hand up owning blowen assignments, not the pointing fingers, I saw a really bad O line start to fight through to the whistle. Yep, losing felt awful for this storied franchise, especially the way we were losing but I felt this is going somewhere. Didn’t you?
Flores was growing on me.
Week 4 v Chargers – 0-4 Hmmm, liked seeing Walton out there he looked good in his little time on the field, Grant’s good return would have been great if a penalty had not brought it back. As for Rosen, doubts were forming in my mind. Yes, a fairy tale ending would have seeing him doing great things, but his play was erratic, and that interception was UUggllyyyy. On a high note, Parker and Williams were both starting to shine, and it was our second game with only allowing 30 points.
I couldn’t complain, I knew this first month would be tough, but we had a bye week coming and the Redskins were next, I felt we could take the Redskins and get our first win, excitement building, FINS UP.
Week 5 bye week
Week 6 v Redskins - 0-5 Bring it on! This is our week! Two winless teams, my excitement for the “takes no talent” crew against a poor Redskins team was palatable. Then BUMP! Down to earth like a stone, Rosen was like a scared kid, sacked a bunch and those picks. Fitzmagic, Fitzmagic, Fitzmagic! We chanted, oh’ how fickle we fans are. After watching our defense playing its best and Fitz back in the fold, doing his thing we were on the up. Flores deciding to go for two points was gutsy, showing belief in his players and a belief in the “process”. Maybe if we had tied that game with momentum on our side, for sure we would have won. But he went for it all and the skins knew they got away with one.
Week 7 v Buffalo 0-6 Our AFC East rivals always give us a game and we were ready! The excitement that Fitz brought from the previous week was still coursing through my blood with names rising through the ranks like Walton, Williams, Gesicki and Parker on offense and Mcmillan,, Wilkins, Biegel and Charlton on defense things were looking up. I honestly felt good, we were 0 -6 but it was coming together, and our play was improving.
Week 8 v Steelers 0-7 We traded Drake. Walton must be the guy now? The coaches must see something, maybe it was the fumbles for Drake? This season is weird every week there is a new name for the defense and O line and now it seems a new runner. The game: We were winning! Can you believe it! We are out in front against the steel curtain, alright not the “real” steel curtain but you know where I am coming from. It was Fitz v Fitz, their Fitz, our old Fitz won this battle. “tosser” (English for w**ker) with our Fitz throwing two picks, that gives me fits! A weird call from the defense allowing for a Pittsburgh touch down allowed us a great glimpse into Flores mindset. Flores response “We can second guess a lot of calls. I am not going to second guess that one. I thought we had success with the call, and they made a play." Competitive and a true belief into the process. I am really starting to like our coach. 0-7 never felt so good.
You could feel we are ready to start winning, we were close, so close. Watching no names start to play ball, seeing defensive lineman Christin Wilkins in the endzone every time we scored on offense was fun! Watching other teams rejects perform at a high level was infectious! We are doing something that never has been done before, yes there have been tear downs and rebuilds before but nothing on this scale and now we were being competitive too!
Week 9 v FTJ 1-7 The ol’ enemy, why we hate the Jets more than anyone else I’m not quite sure. They have never kept us from the Superbowl’s of the early 90’s like the Bills had and they haven’t dominated the division like the Pats either. I blame Marty Lyons and Jason Klecko for taking the best center in football Dwight Stephenson down. Yes, the Jets, we just do not like em!
What a game, our first win of the season, over the FTJs and one in the all staring eyes of Gase.
With some great plays from Gesicki, Williams (sadly Williams was injured in this game) Beigel and Needham, who for an undrafted free agent that may or may not have made it on to the practice squad in other years has really been improving each week. This was our first complete game and though not perfect we had one in the win column 1-9.
Hearing complaints that the Dolphins were not tanking right (incredulously chuckling to myself while I type this), can you believe it?
Week 10 v Colts - 2-7 8 beers, large bag of bacon crisps (potato chips to you guys) I am all in for this one. After last week’s game, the talk all week, the Indianapolis Colts will bring the Dolphins down to earth and the tank was still on. Where do we begin?
Defense, defense, DEEEE FENCE, with 3 turnovers and a stout end to the game the D kept us in it all day, on one particular interception I found myself shout “YES, PARKER, YES!! Then asking myself “Parker? Who the hells Parker? I had to check that Miami had not done a Gronk special and put Devante Parker out there but another new defensive back Stephen Parker had made a great play in the secondary! That is just how this season is rolling, unknowns stepping up and doing things that “takes no talent” (I use this on my kids now, honestly). I now am in awe of how a 37-year-old QB can move and run and duck and slide go headfirst into defenders. I hold my breath each time, thinking, get up son, get up! And he duly does with his chin strap over eyes and the beard flowing everywhere. This season is now fully infectious (bad choice of words considering the year we are having) but this was last year, and I am loving it!
Two wins, feels like 10. We are competitive, with everyone saying we should not be, everyone apart from Flores who all year talked with belief that they were sticking to the process. THE PROCESS WAS WORKING!
Week 11 v Bills - 2- 8 This game brought us back to an ugly reality, we can win but we are not quite fully there yet. Did any of us really think we would go 3 in row?
The score line seemed remarkably similar to the last game v the Bills, but the stats were not. Fitz threw for over 300 yards and Parker (the Devante one) caught 135 of them. Another player who I feel could do some great things used right, is Jakeem Grant and he showed us that explosive talent with a kick return, which to me is the single most exciting play in football (please don’t replace the kick off NFL) he then added a seven yard TD run as well as three catches. I am loving seeing him in the endzone surrounded by everyone at least a foot taller than him (I’m 5’5) go Grant!!
Week 12 v Browns 2 - 9 The Browns game was a strange game to me, all the euphoria of wining a couple of games and the recent good play seemed to fizzle out a bit in this game and it is the game I least remember. Jarvis Landry makes me cry. He scored two touchdowns against us, but I loved him when he played for us. His energy and physical play were awesome, and I would have loved to see him retire a Dolphin for life, with all the team receiving records but alas it was not meant to be.
Week 13 v Eagles - 3 - 9 Was not looking forward to this game, really needed to see the life return to the team, needed to feel renewed but to be honest I expected a hammering. So, to my surprise a bunch of cast off’s, undrafted free agents, a couple of rookies with just a sprinkle of seasoned vets put a beat down on a recent Superbowl champion, YES!! that’s my Piggin team, right there!! GO FINS!
Fitz played a great game throwing high point balls to Gesicki and Parker all day, along with three TDs. It was also time for the intern, another running back Patrick Laird was proving he could be counted on and finally we saw a glimpse of the old Albert Wilson who has quietly come on late in the season after last year’s injury. Of course, we will never forget the Mountaineer Shot! Haack threw an under-arm throw to the waiting Sanders in the back of the endzone what a play! What a formation! what the hell!! That was audacious! It ranks right up there with the other great Miami’s moments, the Miami Miracle, the Wildcat, the Clock Play, the Sea of Hands and Longest Game, you name em!
Did I mention I was really starting to like our coach!
Week 14 v FTJ - 3 -10 A team that was supposed to flop badly, who had no chance of winning a single game, a team of deadbeat and losers, anyway enough about the Jets. There we were, sitting right there with three big juicy wins. Honestly, at this point in the season, I am more excited for the upcoming game than I had been in years. We had so much to like, an aging QB journeyman, playing some of his best ball in years, a budding superstar at wide receiver, a genuine threat at tight end and a defense playing with “out any talent” and as we already know it “takes no talent”. But with all that said and done, we were coming into the dreaded December! 30 years ago, December was our month, especially at home. Lately it has seemed like December was our Achilles heel. How many times did we need one win in December? How many times where we stood with 7 wins in our pocket only to walk away with those same 7 wins? How many seasons wasted because we panned out in December? I hated December and low and behold, a game we Couda, Shouda Woulda won, we lose by a single point to those stinking Jets.
Week 15 v NY Giants - 3 -11 Staying up north, we faced a NY Giants team that hadn’t done sh*t all year, with a better roster than ours may I add but this was Mannings day and the whole team rallied around him (even though I’m sure he was trying to lose with all those picks) but we just couldn’t get over the “last home game for Manning” hype. I am not too upset about this, after all it was Manning that twice denied Brady & co, let him have this one in lieu of saving the 72-perfect season for us I thought.
Those dreaded December blues were kicking in though. It would have been a shame to flame out like so many teams of the past.
Week 16 v Bengals – 4 - 11 I had ordered pizza in, beers were chilled. I thought no way are we going to lose to the Bungals! (well, I actually prayed we would not lose to the Bungals)
WE WON? WE WON!! In December! yeah! “Ok, calm down, it was against the Bungals”, I can hear you thinking but come on, what a game, the two worst teams put on the best show this Sunday (tanking my backside). We came back from a couple of down weeks and showed that this team, this organization is now different from previous years, there was no “not playing for this coach” or “we’re not good enough” mentality anymore. There is a pick ourselves up and let us keep working attitude and I love that.
Good game from Fitz and his magic with a “big man” TD for Wilkins, yep you read it right, Christian Wilkins the defense end, Wilkins joined William "The Refrigerator" Perry as the only rookie defensive linemen with a touchdown reception in the Super Bowl era (and to see him celebrate was so much fun, love it!). Parker, Gesicki and most of all Albert Wilson who looked exactly like he did before he was injured. Our defense was playing lights out till the 4th quarter. Then we had an implode and I thought, as did all of us “here we go again” but into overtime we managed to get the wining field goal and we galloped away with a sneaky but well deserved win.
As a fan, that game gave you everything you’d want, the thrills of an offense, rolling to its own tune, a defense playing tough, the dreaded completed onside kick and finally on to the field goal to seal the win. Our ““fourth”” win of the season!
Do not forget the fans singing happy birthday that day to the” Jaw” Mr. Shula at the 72 reunion. What a day to be a Fins fan! I was all in, on the “process”.
Week 17 v Patriots – 5 - 11 You want a fair tale ending?
Well alright, I will give you one. Miami beating New England in their own back yard to finish the season 5 – 11 (feels like 11-5). How about them apples! Pats fans. We had not beaten the Patriots at home since 2008 (I do not even know how that is possible)? But yep, this win was the proverbial cherry on top. Our man Fitz led a final drive to take the win and give us all, lots to celebrate A. Our fifth win B. Force the Pats into third place (no home field advantage for later in the playoffs) C. Ruin Tom Brady’s final regular season game, with a little extra help from our very own Mr. Rowe’s early pick six!
Two massive wins in late December and the last one probably the sweetest of them all. Man, what a season, probably one of the greatest in Miami’s history wouldn’t you agree?
How does that make you feel? I feel like, this last season is the turning point for our next decade. Yes, there’s lots variables injuries, trades, rookies not panning out but to think we can win five (could easily been six or seven) with the squad we had. To feel like we finally have some direction. To see players, respond to a coach in the right way, I would say the futures bright, the futures aqua, white, and orange!
Thoughts on the future Brian Flores Have I mentioned I like this guy, we have had enough of the one hit wonders, the, lets all be friends and the downright letdowns at the head coach position, haven’t we? I think, Brian Flores is fair but hard and every report says the players like him, so yeah, he has got four more years and I would like to see those extended after those four years, if we are still trending in the right direction. Am I expecting Superbowl’s? of course I am, I’m a fan but realistically, playoff runs, consistency and an identity would suffice, just some overall stability. Bringing back the glory days, where we are in the conversation come January for a few years, A HOPE, A CHANCE, that is what fans want. A feeling that this could be our year (every year) not having to deal with the December blues, certainly not watching our division rivals every January while we lament another year of what if’s, that is for sure.
Players I would like to see in the Pro-bowl next year
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Hold on, “not Tua?” I here you say. I love Tua and the fact we did not tank and still got him is great. And yes, he could play next year, he’s certainly a more gifted athlete than Fitz but Fitz as something else, the IT factor, I would like to see him get us into the play off hunt, have a final great season and get a Pro-bowl nod then ride off into the sunset.
Matt Breida- Love his speed and it would be great if he became our feature back and puts up Pro-bowl type numbers this year Devante Parker – Well this is obvious; I would love to see him continue and get some recognition
Albert Wilson – I know some people think he’s a bust but when healthy this guy makes plays, I saw so many times, how he would give a move on someone and gain more YAC , don’t sleep on Wilson next year.
Mike Geiciki – See Parker above, he is ready to truly breakout and with more consistency from the QB position, he can make it
Ted Karras – Yes, the center, it would be great! he becomes the leader of our offensive line and it would piss Pats fans off too!
Christian Wilkins – This kid showed enough for me to think he can play up to his draft status and get in
E. Ogbah/ S Lawson – Either of these guys going to the Pro-bowl next year bodes well for our defense
Jerome Baker – He may get lost with all the new linebackers coming in but with his range, it would be great to see him get a ticket too
Kyle Van Noy – The big name at linebacker, I hope he is worth it and plays lights out all year
X Howard/ B Jones – Why not? We could potentially have the best one-two cornerbacks in the league, I would watch the Pro-bowl just to see those two white Dolphins helmets on either side of the field at the same time.
I know realistically not all those guys will get in, but any combination would be great
Players I hope continue to grow on our team
Tua Tagovailoa – Yes it would be great if he starts straight away but see “fits for Pro Bowl” above, I would be happy to see him learn and show up in spot duty giving us glimpse of what he can do and getting us hyped for 2021
Patrick Laird – Our intern, love his speed and elusiveness and it would be great if he became our primary backup to brier (I know we have Jordan) but Jordan has a different running style. Hopefully, Laird can put up decent numbers
Jakeem Grant – Probably my favorite player, please stay healthy & please keep returning kicks for TD’s. I hope Brian Flores and Chan Gailey have some ideas on how to use him in our offense properly, he could be our Tyreek hill with good coaching and the right scheme.
Austin Jackson – I hope this rookie gets it and quick, him and Hunt would be great, if they can play for ten years maybe becoming our new Richmond Webb and Keith Sims combo? Davon Godchaux - I know some of you will be saying he is already established but it would be great if he continues maybe he could be a Pro-bowler this year?
Vince Beigel – I loved this guy’s motor from last year and I really hope he does not lose out on reps with all the new additions at linebacker
Nik Needham – This is another player like Beigel that I’m rooting for, to me, his name was coming up all season (some not great) but most of it solid play and again I hope he doesn’t lose on out reps due to other players that have joined the team.
Erick Rowe – He moved around last year filling in where needed but with a full year at safety it would be great to see him evolve his game to the next level
Come back players Preston Williams – If he can come back and at least be the same player as last year, we can all expect big things from this undrafted player
Bobby McCain – Is he a slot guy or a safety? It would be nice to see him really get his teeth in to one role that would really benefit the team
Andrew Van Ginkel – Was injured for most of the year but managed to comeback late in the season. It will be interesting to see if he can fit and keep a roster space, he did flash at times, so, here is hoping.
Well there you have it, my breakdown of one the greatest seasons in Miami history, a season full of highs and lows, despair, and incredulities. This team showed the media types that they have no idea what goes on under the bonnet of an NFL team.
We as fans, finally had season worth investing in and we should have genuine hope that we have turned the corner. A season, that saw us break records both good and bad, a season that will live long in the memories, lasting longer than any other in recent times.
A 5 -11 season that does not leave us dreading next year but has given us instead, a euphoric sense of pride and anticipation for what next year brings. I for one feel the best about this team since Ricky Williams 1800 yards season! Yes, we have been given hope before only to be let down, but I do not get that sense this time around. Do you?
Thanks for reading.
How to Start your OWN Online Casino?
Want to know some key steps to starting your own Online Casino? submitted by ALT_OFFICIAL to u/ALT_OFFICIAL [link] [comments]
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DarkTower7899's list of best free Software.
submitted by DarkTower7899 to Craptopgamingadvice [link] [comments]
An article on seo
Lots of businesses run websites, but they are not all good ones. The point of search engine optimization really is just to make your website stand out. The more your site is seen, the more likely your business will be successful. Get the help you need with SEO in this piece. submitted by traffic234 to u/traffic234 [link] [comments]
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Chihayafuru 3 Companion Guide - S3E23
<-- Previous (S3E22) submitted by walking_the_way to anime [link] [comments]
| Next (S3E24) Poem of the Day: Broken
The Japanese title of S3E23 is わたるふなびと / かぢをたえ or "Wataru funabito / Kaji o tae" (Crunchyroll: Like a boatsman adrift), which refers to the third and fourth lines of Poem 46
by Sone no Yoshitada
, a member of the Thirty Six Immortals. It's interesting that these two lines are used for the Japanese title: "Wataru funabito" roughly translates to "A boatsman crossing", but more importantly the "kaji" in "Kaji o tae" is a multi-faceted pun on rudder, oar, and fire while "o tae" means to disappear, to die out, to go away, to break, or to endure.
Combined together, some of these potential translations are much harsher interpretations than others, and one of them can be seen in Mostow's translation of the poem
Like a boatman, crossing
the Strait of Yura,
whose oar-cord has snapped,
I'm lost and know not my way
on the road of love!
Mostow chooses to use the verb "snap" rather than the verb "lost" used by MacMillan
and he explains his more aggressive choice:
The biggest debate, however, concerns the phrase kajhi-wo tae. The dominant interpretation among One Hundred Poets commentaries is that wo is an object marker and hence the line means "he loses his oar" (kajhi wo tae). However, some commentators argued that wo means "cord" and thus kajhi-wo tae means "the oar-cord snaps." That this latter was also Teika's interpretation is supported by two poems contained in the Fuboku Waka Shò (ca. 1310), compiled by Fujiwara no Nagakiyo, a follower of Reizei Tamesuke. One poem is attributed to Ono no Komachi; the other is by Teika's own son, Tame'ie, and is clearly an allusive variation (honka-dori) on Yoshitada's poem:
Not just our vows, but This poems suggests that musubi and tae are antonyms, the latter then meaning "to break" rather than "to lose." Given Teika's authority, we may presume that his son's usage reflects his father's interpretation of this classic poem.
I am unsure of!
Without binding once again
the oar-cord, shall I cross
the Strait of Yura?
While translating from Japanese to English is never perfect and poems can be interpreted in many ways, understanding this wordplay helps reinforce that Taichi has not just lost his direction or had his passion extinguished after his failed confession to Chihaya, but that something inside of him has truly snapped and broken -- it is a pain much more than just not being able to play karuta. This is made even more tragic, as finding the courage to face himself and confess was everything he had been working towards throughout all of the series . His parting words of "Do you think… I'm made of stone or something?" are doubly sad, as they show how much he's endured to this point, but also that after he's shaken off all the chains (insecurity, expectations, inferiority, etc.) that have tied him down -- living his own life finally -- his true feelings were rejected.
S3E23 has a sister episode that shares Poem 46 in S2E19
. In that episode, Taichi defeats Emuro to help Mizusawa overcome Fujisaki and win the national team karuta championship. The Japanese title of that episode was "Yukue mo shiranu / Koi no michi kana" (Crunchyroll: I know not where the depths of love will take me) and saw Taichi send all his cards representing stagnation to Emuro, representing his change and acceptance of himself, even if he doesn't know where karuta and his feelings for Chihaya would take him. In that way, S3E23 almost seems like a cruel answer to that hopeful question: that Taichi simply was broken at sea.
Looking back at that rewatch thread, some
of the comments
that were written about Taichi, his chances, and Yuki Suetsugu are really amusing. How time flies and things change...
Ultimately, S3E23 is the climax to many things that Yuki Suetsugu has been building towards, so I think it's appropriate to end Poem of the Day by looking at some of her interviews (they're safe to read, we've passed these volumes already) to understand her thoughts behind writing Chihayafuru and Taichi's character. In particular, Suetsugu has expressed her enjoyment in developing certain characters
[...] Taichi was set as a supporting character to Arata, as Suetsugu continued drawing the manga, her original intended storyline had shifted because there was a strong attraction to repay hardworking characters like Taichi. That is why she decided to make Taichi an important character.
She feels that it was the characters themselves that chose to stay in the storyline. The characters seem to tell Suetsugu things such as "it should be that way" or "we can do it this way and this way, it doesn't seem like a bad idea…". It is as if it is no longer her alone who is directing and shaping the story but rather, the characters themselves who start telling her how the story should go on.
Moreover, regarding the relationship between the main characters
So I think is that [sic] the thing to look for will be how Taichi changes and the actions he takes. The love triangle between them is rather delicately poised―there's a sense that once one of them moves, they'll never be able to go back to how they were before; it's quite tense for me, depicting this. I'd like to be able to convey the sense of 'a love that cannot be undone'. Episode Composition
03:17 - Chihaya: "Any karuta player who's willing to celebrate Taichi's birthday is allowed to participate. (All classes welcome.)"
This line, introducing the inaugural Taichi Cup, makes one very stark omission clear -- despite Chihaya being the one to set it up, she was savvy and perceptive enough to make sure that Arata was never sent an invitation to the Taichi Cup. But the flashback to the S1E3 Genpei match in the middle of the Taichi Cup definitely highlighted Arata's omission, especially since he was the "middle" of the group of three at the time, ie the one with the most advantageous position to win the most cards.
Still, while Arata is not present this time, the composition of this episode frames the main characters as a "group of 3," with Taichi in the middle. What we mean is, we have Arata's only non-flashback appearance being at the very start of the episode, before the OP, and Chihaya and the Taichi-less Mizusawa team in the last few minutes, "flanking" a large Taichi-focussed segment in the middle. Because Taichi is "in the middle", he uses this to play, capture, win, and lose a number of "cards" -- that is to say, Taichi's plot is advanced a remarkable amount in this episode, while the other characters are there largely for support.
The episode calls this to attention in a couple ways, firstly with the name cards determining not only the players on each team but highlighting that their positions were important, and also with Chihaya's words about how "a lot of [the cards] read will be out of my reach." (06:24). They also invoke the motif of eyes, which has been used frequently this season, to support this point -- with Taichi's eyes looking right at 04:57, and looking left at 08:19, perfectly bookending the start and end of the Genpei tournament, from the opening teams to his final bow.
Both sets of eyes look "inward" at the game in the context of the episode timer for S3E23, and while that represents him searching his inner self as well (with questions like, "Have I... managed to get stronger?" (08:50)), the bookending done here is similar to what Madhouse did in S3E8, where our writeup noted that the light at the start and end of the episodes seemed to show Madhouse playing with a mirroring effect within the episode composition, with Chihaya and her class "looking inwards" at the light shining from Arata and Taichi, who each had an 8 minute segment, and how the two 8 minute segments were split in the middle by a scene of Chihaya looking down at the ground.
Here they do a similar thing with Taichi looking inwards at the Genpei game -- and for those that might think this is unintentional, we can calculate the mid-point between Taichi's two "eye scenes" at 04:57 and 08:19, which is 06:38, and then check out the rather meaningful shot there!
But for the moment, we'll start with Arata's segment.
00:02 - Arata wins the #95 (o-ke) against Murao. 00:04 - Arata wins a card from his middle right row. #29 (ko-ko-ro-a) and another card go flying. 00:23 - Arata wins #77 (se) from his bottom right row.
The first couple cards don't seem to mean much, especially since we don't see one of them and aren't sure which one he wins anyway, but the last card at least, coming right after Kuriyama-sensei talks about the Twin Four-eyes, is the iconic #77 (se), the poem about a river's path splitting into two, but with both paths still eventually ending up at the final goal. That plays into the episode in a fairly obvious way, with Chihaya having to deal with Taichi's confession after having to deal with Arata's one earlier in the season, with Taichi making the decision to confess and then leave the team to focus on his studies, and finally with Arata in a physical sense here.
01:00 - Taichi dives for the #17 card. 01:07 - Arata: ""Impassionate" ended up not being read in that match. What would've happened if it was? That was the card Taichi was targeting the whole time. If it had been read, could I have defended it? Or would Taichi have taken it and changed the flow?"
The discussion around the #17 card is also very, very obvious here, with the reveal that neither of them won the card being symbolic of how both their confessions turned out to be. It also probably sets up some future game between the two of them where the #17 will be read and one of them will lose it.
And finally, because Arata has been portrayed as a deep blue sea, Taichi diving for the card portrays his efforts to get Chihaya back from Arata after sending him the card. But while we get a whole bunch of doubting questions from Arata's point of view, ultimately he still was able to walk away with the game. What were Taichi's thoughts, and what specifically did it mean for him to give away Chihaya and NOT be able to get her back?
01:30 - Arata: "I want to play him again. As many times as I can..."
This line is why it seems Arata was not sent an invitation to the Taichi Cup, as opposed to being sent one and rejecting it. He would only have been a couple hours away by bullet train, and Taichi's birthday was during spring break, so logistically it was certainly possible. He would probably have accepted if he were offered the chance, since this shows that he had a desire to play Taichi again, on top of how it would have been a rare chance to be able to be around Chihaya.
01:46 - Shun: "Arata-niichan, Hiro and I got into Fujioka East! We're going to the same school as you! Let's start a karuta club!"
And finally, we get more mirroring going on here with the reveal that Arata's club was probably going to come to fruition (this season, perhaps?) after all. Not only does this reflect the Mizusawa club fair at the end of this episode, but this scene in the second last episode of S3 also reflects Arata's presentation on stage at the start of S3E2.
We'll deal with the actual lineups and scores in the bonus section at the end of the writeup. In terms of the actual tournament itself, these cards were read and/or exchanged:
05:48 - Sudo recites Naniwa Bay (Episode: 1, Season: 20, Total: 69). 06:16 - Sudo recites #02 (ha-ru-su). 06:18 - Sudo recites #55 (ta-ki). 06:29 - Dr. Harada wins #09 (ha-na-no).
There's not too much going on here, and we definitely didn't try mapping the Genpei boards because not only do they not stick with any of them long enough, there's not much in terms of analysis that can ever be done on them (and my board template is too small to fit all 100 cards anyway!). About the only thing interesting here is Dr. Harada winning the #09 (ha-na-no), last episode episode's card, highlighting the wilting floweforlorn years in this world theme that applies to him and his age, yet contrasted with how he's shown to still be able to have fun in this tournament despite just losing the Meijin match a couple episodes ago (granted, it's been three months by now in-world).
Sudo's recital of Naniwa Bay here is the first time the card has been recited since 14:21 of S3E18, the start of Game 4 of the Meijin Tournament. Sudo's words here are:
05:25 - Sudo: "This tournament is a farce. All it's going to do is mess up everyone's play styles."
Whereas in S3E18, right after Naniwa Bay is read, Chihaya and Taichi make the observation that, "Dr Harada's placement... is different from the previous matches." There's no particular epiphany to this, but it does highlight that in this season alone, we saw Taichi try a different placement, but lose to Chihaya in Yoshino. We saw Arata try a different placement, but lose to Harada in the Meijin Qualifiers. Then we saw Harada try a different placement, but still lose to Suou in Meijin Game 4. The innovator got close, very close, in all three games, but to no avail.
The rest of the genpei segment is pretty self-explanatory, though again, it's extremely noteworthy that Arata isn't here even though many of the players (especially the younger ones) remark on how fun the afternoon was, and even though many of the other people from the previous Genpei game -- Retro, Chihaya, Taichi, Dr. Harada, and likely some of the other Shiranami regulars -- are. All of the players from different schools being here, and wearing the same t-shirt, also help to highlight, and perhaps wrap up, the idea of allegiances that has been trending through Season 3 -- here they're playing a form of team karuta that doesn't care what their affiliation is, and allows them to cycle through playing with many other players that they'll never get to play with again, all in the name of creating fun memories.
It's cathartic in a sense for Chihaya and Taichi, since in S1E3, young Arata "limited" Chihaya to the one-syllable cards and Taichi to the "long shot" cards, and still was shown to barge in on both their territories to "help" them win the cards assigned to them, much to their joint consternation. Here, without Arata, it turns into a measure of revenge, with both Chihaya and Taichi winning joint first place. This answers the question that he has,
08:50 - Taichi: "Have I... managed to get stronger?"
We know that a large part of Arata's strength is him being able to visualize himself in "fun" situations, like when he was playing against Chihaya, and the Genpei match has been one of the sticking negative points in Taichi's memories that he's flashed back to several times in the season, largely when thinking about how inferior he was to Arata. Chihaya's gift to Taichi here, and all the other players too, is to try to replace that memory with a fun version for him, and hopefully cheer him up that way. This is reflected by a lot of the comments by other random players after the match,
08:26 - "Since our coach is always telling us to set goals and have a theme in mind, I thought karuta was really tough and not much fun." 08:33 - "Today was ridiculously fun!" 08:35 - "It was a blast!" 08:37 - "I guess there's more than one way to play karuta!" 08:40 - "Let's play with weird rules like this again sometime!" 08:41 - "Let's take a picture!"
Most of which are topical to Taichi specifically, referring to his mom, him chasing Suou's methods of playing, the need for having fun and making good memories, and even him seemingly leaving the Mizusawa team later on (more than one way of playing!) in some respect.
We never did find out if Chihaya and Taichi went blossom-viewing, or if Madhouse/Suetsugu bungled the days of the week from the previous episode, but we do at least get an unintentional flower-blossom scene sometime after Taichi's birthday on Tue Apr 02, and before school reopened on Mon Apr 08, on a day when there was no scheduled practice, so it's reasonable to assume that this might have indeed been around the promised date on Sat, Apr 06, that Chihaya had mentioned last episode.
There's probably some things that can be read into the symbolism of replacing the curtains here, but the most important scenes here by far are Taichi's confession of his sin, and once he's gotten that off his chest, his confession about his love to Chihaya as well, and her subsequent rejection. With both the points of view being that of high school students, this was an extremely jarring scene, and even the viewers are probably meant to be left confused and drifting a little bit with all that happened here. Fantasy and reality mix, as thoughts and words are conflated with each other and all pour out together. For example, neither of
13:07 - Taichi: "I'm just kidding, Chihaya." "That was just a joke." "Just a joke." 13:54 - Taichi: "But... Not everything about you. I don't like who you become when you think about Arata."
was ever said out loud, as his lips don't move, as opposed to the subsequent lines he makes about her fingers and hair. So even as he puts on a brave front to make his confession, bubbling just under the surface are both his self-doubt, as well as his burning jealousy. It's a very raw scene, and Taichi's fear is palpable here -- one might argue that he's "drowning" in the emotions that he doesn't want to express to Chihaya, and trying to stifle the urge to back out or lash out. Similarly,
14:05 - Chihaya: "Arata said... " 14:09 - Arata: "If you want... let's play karuta together. Let's live our lives together."
Never happened as well, as Arata got up and left after the "let's play karuta together" line at S3E14 16:32, and Kana and Sumire both overheard the entire conversation and didn't react to that part of it. Kana did allude to this in S3E15 though, when she predicted Chihaya's thoughts with,
S3E15 03:25 - Kana: "To people who take karuta as seriously as they do, "let's play karuta together" must mean... "
Which shows that this was in Chihaya's imagination, and not just something the show skipped over for later dramatic effect. Therefore, from that, we get these lines,
15:17 - Taichi: "I didn't know Chihaya was capable of speaking quietly enough to be drowned out by the bell. My game sense sucks, so I couldn't hear you." 15:32 - Chihaya: "I'm sorry."
And despite him claiming to not being able to hear Chihaya, we hear him hear Chihaya reject him, but we are left to wonder if that is something that Chihaya actually said, or if that was what Taichi, who has been shown in previous episodes to be a bit of an unreliable narrator, imagined Chihaya saying. That 15:32 line comes from Taichi's point of view, after all, since it plays just as he walks off and the blackened #46 (yu-ra) episode card [falls across the screen(https://i.imgur.com/cdlywJp.jpg), complete with a Shinobu "silence" sound effect and a ear-ringing echoing effect. And just as it is unclear whether Chihaya outright rejected Arata, we also are left with uncertainty as to the extent of which Chihaya actually rejected Taichi and what all exactly she said, because she sure was shown to say multiple things, not just a single "I'm sorry".
But either way, it was a rejection, and it sets Taichi adrift and lost. His cards turn black -- like dark ashes left after a fire has burnt out -- and they fall to his feet in a scene that's reminiscent of a younger Arata in S1E5 11:40 or so, just before Arata kicked the karuta cards in front of his grandfather's shrine.
18:19 - Miyauchi: "Mashima-kun submitted a request to leave the club. He said he wants to focus on studying for entrance exams." 19:33 - Kana: "I'll continue. The true appeal of competitive karuta is its focus on the Ogura Hundred Poets. Poems that have survived for a thousand years, that sing of joy, sorrow, and love... are laid out before you in all their glory. We would love to share that magnificence with you." 20:38 - Taichi: "Chihaya... Do you think... I'm made of stone or something?" 20:57 - Taichi: "I can't play karuta. Right now... all hundred cards look pitch-black to me. All of them."
We then have a scene where Komano discovers that he started the new school year at the top of his grade instead of second or third, implying a slip from Taichi, and the audience quickly discovers that this means that Taichi will be leaving the club. Lost in all this is Komano's vow from last year, around the same time where Kana was mulling over what Arata's confession meant, in S3E17:
S3E17 04:45 - Komano: "If I do make it to the top of our grade... maybe I'll tell Kana-chan... that I like her."
And perhaps that's something to look forward to soon. For this episode, however, the Mizusawa team has to deal with the fallout of Taichi leaving, although it's unclear if he's leaving due to the proximity to karuta and Chihaya, as the blackened cards suggest, or if he's leaving due to mother pressure from his grades dipping (and how much it dipped specifically -- or if it was even self inflicted since his purpose for coming in during the day of the confession was to "study," so he might have given up on studying and the club the same way that he seemed to be giving up on Chihaya).
Whatever the case though, there are definitely things to compare and contrast here between Taichi leaving, and Arata's inability to play after his grandfather passed away -- Taichi walking across the train tracks away from Chihaya at the end, for starters, contrasts how the moving train pulled Taichi and Chihaya away from Arata in S1E5 and the whole idea, as the screenshot shows, of one person not wanting the others to see what they've become, but hurting those near them in the process.
We also can note that while Arata's darkness was him disrespecting the game of karuta by kicking over the cards, as well as upsetting Yuu enough to make her cry, Taichi's parallel is kicking over the Mizusawa team, and abandoning their potential new cohort of first year players, as well as upsetting the girls on the current team. This will be even more stark if, as suggested earlier in the season, Yuu ends up joining Arata's team as well whenever that finally forms.
And finally, while Arata abandoned the game because he inadvertently hurt someone to attend a tournament, with his grandpa suffering a stroke because he went off to play in a tournament, Taichi's darkness shines through here because his reasons for leaving are that people hurt him instead (Chihaya with the rejection, and/or Komano beating him in grades), and there's a selfish aspect here of him being a poor mentor figure for others since he's the president of the club. Especially since his original stated goal for forming the club with Chihaya was:
S1E5 21:08 - Taichi: "If Arata's coming back, we'll need to make the best karuta club in Japan, and wait for his return."
Moments before we see Kana as a potential recruit for the first time. And now, in an episode where Arata seems to be gearing up to finally form his club, it's Kana that has to grab the oar (microphone) in order to save the club's next potential recruits when Taichi, and then Chihaya, abandons them!
There's a huge contrasting mirror here that simply cannot be understated, between Chihaya making the girls come together for a secret plan to make a stage for Taichi to be happy, and to spread the joy of karuta even if they end up embarrassing Taichi a little, and Taichi making the boys come together for a talk which ends up with the girls crying, on stage, because he was too self-absorbed to think of a better time to make his announcement, and because the other boys (minus a mysteriously missing Akihiro) somehow decided that it was better to keep it a secret from the girls, too. It's a Valentine's Day proposal plus White Day rejection, played out a month later than normal!
This is the other half of the answer to his question on whether he's managed to get stronger or not. He never even makes his announcement in person, but instead does it through a proxy, Ms. Miyauchi, a proper mentor figure in her own right. But what does it mean to get stronger? That's always been part of his personality, and that comes through in this line of his,
20:38 - Taichi: "Chihaya... Do you think... I'm made of stone or something?"
This, plus the episode card talking about a boatsman drifting on water, brings two images to mind -- firstly, stone-skipping, where Taichi has been balancing two conflicting viewpoints, that of wanting to support Chihaya while not liking the side of her that wanted to get close to Arata. It's all well and good, but because they cause an emotional conflict within him, the stone can only skip for so many times before it gives up.
And what happens when it gives up? It sinks. We go back to the earlier scene where Taichi is shown diving for the Chihaya card, forever out of reach. To keep chasing Chihaya, he'd have to turn into a stone, to be able to continue sinking, into a void where there's no light and sound, and it's impossible to breathe. But then how will he get out afterwards? Unlike Arata having Murao to pull him out of his blackened cards scene, or Shinobu having Chihaya to save her, Taichi ends this episode with no saviour.
He does, however, relieve himself of a particular weight on his heart that's been holding him down like a stone -- his guilt over stealing Arata's glasses, and not having the courage to tell Chihaya until now. But in turn, while he's freed himself from that, he seems to have hung that burden on his clubmates instead, and like a boatsman without a rudder, the Mizusawa team, now lacking its president, is drifting!
Back when I was young, I loved both soccer and doing math puzzles, among a myriad of other things, and there was a certain genre of puzzles that combined the two. I don't know what the proper name of that puzzle genre was, but it involved soccer league tables, and figuring out the scores of every game that took place based on a subset of information. Here is an example, or here. I have endearing memories of finding a whole pile of puzzle books in our public library and working through them one by one. It's actually one of the only memories of that library I have left.
Anyway, about that genpei match. I was hoping they had given us enough info to work out all the games -- the matchups, results, and scores -- but they didn't. It was close though, they did give us a fair amount to draw conclusions from, and I'll demonstrate some of that here. But first, it's worth pointing out that what probably got lost in the fact that Chihaya and Taichi both scored 105 points to tie for first, is that my favoured ship, Kana and Komano, both also scored an identical number of points to each other at the bottom of that screenshot -- 55!
I was curious what all could be figured out with the scores and attendees, because we are shown several shots of the score list as well as many of the attendee's faces. I compiled what I could and made a table -- see below for what I have. Unfortunately, we do not ever see the entire score list, so bits and pieces of information are missing, and there are also a few people there for whom I don't know the name of, but it was pretty interesting to put together the lineups anyway and have a textual view of who all came. So, here is the genpei scoreboard:
Transcribed and translated S3E23 Genpei scoreboard
Where GX = Points they got in Game X (1-4), W is number of wins they got (5 points per win), and T is the total number of points each player picked up.
|Name ||お名前 ||Affiliation ||G1 ||G2 ||G3 ||G4 ||W ||T |
|Harada Hideo ||原田 秀雄 ||Shiranami ||21 ||16 ||30 ||23 ||2 ||100 |
|Tsuboguchi Hiroshi ||坪口 広史 ||Homei ||15 ||20 ||21 ||10 ||2 ||76 |
|Mochida ||持田 ||Hokuo ||7 ||10 ||20 ||8 ||1 ||50 |
|Amakasu Nayuta ||甘糟 那由太 ||Hokuo ||12 ||11 ||7 ||20 ||2 ||60 |
|Mashima Taichi ||真島 太一 ||Mizusawa ||17 ||20 ||28 ||25 ||3 ||105 |
|Ayase Chihaya ||綾瀬 千早 ||Mizusawa ||25 ||19 ||26 ||20 ||3 ||105 |
|Ishikawa Kaori ||石川 かおり ||(??) ||16 ||10 ||10 ||8 ||1 ||49 |
|Sasa Suzuka ||佐々 鈴香 ||Homei ||9 ||16 ||15 ||18 ||1 ||63 |
|Nanami Megumi ||名並 恵 ||Homei ||12 ||5 ||8 ||8 ||2 ||43 |
|Takei Eita ||武井 永太 ||Homei ||7 ||9 ||12 ||10 ||2 ||48 |
|Mori Kenjiro ||森 健二郎 ||Homei ||11 ||10 ||9 ||15 ||1 ||50 |
|Komano Tsutomu ||駒野 勉 ||Mizusawa ||16 ||11 ||9 ||9 ||2 ||55 |
|Oe Kanade ||大江 奏 ||Mizusawa ||18 ||10 ||7 ||10 ||2 ||55 |
|(Nishida Yusei) ||(西田 優征) ||(Mizusawa) || || || || || || |
|(Shiranami Girl 1?) || ||(Shiranami) || || || || || || |
|(Shiranami Girl 2?) || ||(Shiranami) || || || || || || |
|(??) || || || || || || || || |
|Yamashiro Rion ||山城 理音 ||Fujisaki || || || || || || |
|Yamai Makoto ||山井 真琴 ||Fujisaki ||16 ||16 ||14 || || || |
|Yoshihiko Hyuga ||日向 良彦 ||Fujisaki ||18 ||13 ||15 ||17 ||1 ||68 |
|Itose ||糸瀬 ||Minor spoiler ||8 ||10 ||9 ||11 ||2 ||48 |
|Kawashima (Akira) ||河嶋 (啓) ||Minor spoiler ||19 ||12 ||13 ||12 ||0 ||56 |
|Harano Miho ||原野 (美穂) ||(Kid) ||16 ||17 ||13 ||14 ||2 ||70 |
|Suzuki Yuri ||鈴木 (ゆり) ||(Kid) ||12 ||16 ||12 ||11 ||2 ||61 |
|Kondo Mirai ||近藤 未来 ||(Kid) ||9 ||12 ||9 ||14 ||2 ||54 |
|Inagaki Noriko ||稲垣 典子 ||(Kid) ||13 ||15 ||8 ||8 ||1 ||49 |
|Hirota Takiko ||廣田 多希子 ||(Kid) ||16 ||8 ||10 ||12 ||0 ||46 |
|Hanano Sumire ||花野 菫 ||Mizusawa ||10 ||10 ||11 ||15 ||1 ||51 |
|Tsukuba Akihiro ||筑波 秋博 ||Mizusawa ||12 ||12 ||13 ||14 ||1 ||56 |
|Tsukuba Fuyumasa ||筑波 冬政 ||Shiranami ||10 ||10 ||8 ||8 ||2 ||46 |
|Tsukuba Haruomi ||筑波 春臣 ||Shiranami ||9 ||7 ||12 ||5 ||0 ||33 |
|Tsukuba Natsusou ||筑波 夏総 ||Shiranami ||8 ||7 ||8 ||6 ||1 ||34 |
|Kinashi Hiroshi - Retro ||木梨 浩 ||Hokuo ||12 ||18 ||17 ||16 ||2 ||73 |
|Ota ||太田 ||Minor spoiler ||16 ||17 ||19 ||17 ||2 ||79 |
|Kameda (Yasuhisa) ||亀田 (精久) ||Hokuo ||15 ||14 ||10 ||12 ||2 ||61 |
|Takuma ||宅間 ||Hokuo ||15 ||11 ||13 ||11 ||3 ||65 |
See below for notes on those minor spoilers.
There are certainly some players there who were not shown or mentioned at all (the Hokuo players besides Retro and Amakasu for example, who were added in right at the bottom as fillers). I also don't know who or where the extremely cute kids belong to, but they don't seem to be Shiranami Society recruits (they weren't there during Dr. Harada's call to arms in S3E11). They definitely represent the next generation of players though, and why it's important to nurture them -- especially Kondo Mirai, whose name literally means (a homonym of) present and future.
We are not shown four missing names in the list, but Nishida is not in the list that we see, so he is one of the four. I have no idea who the other three missing players are, though.
About those three marked minor spoilers in the list above -- they seem to be minor S4 spoilers? This screenshot back to minor spoilers!
Next up -- the teams! We are shown seven of the twelve teams for the first game, and I'll use Crunchyroll's names and Madhouse's order of showing for them:
1st team: Team Pheasant - Komano, Tsuboguchi, and that Shiranami girl we see a lot. Game 1 total score: 16 + 15 + ??
They played the 7th team: Team Double-Flowered Cherry Blossom - Taichi, Harada, and Retro. Game 1 total score: 17 + 21 + 12 = 50
2nd team: Team Magpie - Mochida, Chihaya, and ?? (Mirai Kondo?). Game 1 total score: 7 + 25 + ?? (9?)
They played the 3rd team: Team Plover - Amakasu, Makoto, and Kana. Game 1 total score: 12 + 16 + 18 = 46.
We aren't really shown the opponents of the other three displayed teams, nor the makeup of the remaining five teams.
4th team: Team Cuckoo - Nishida, Fuyumasa, and Haruomi. Game 1 total score: ?? + 10 + 9.
5th team: Team Deer - Akihiro, Natsusou, and Sumire. Game 1 total score: 12 + 8 + 10 = 30.
6th team: Team Katydid - Sasa, Rion, and Hyuga. Game 1 total score: 9 + ?? + 18.
There were 12 teams, so 6 matches, and thus 6 winning and 6 losing teams. One team between Pheasant and Cherry Blossom definitely lost (probably Pheasant, since Cherry Blossom got 50), as did one team between Magpie and Plover (probably Magpie). Teams Cuckoo and Deer definitely lost as well, because Haruomi didn't win a single game, and a total score of 30 cards won is far too low to win a game. So that's four losses out of six, and Katydid's fate depended on how Rion did (we never see her scores).
But then we have everyone else's round 1 scores, so assuming Chihaya's other partner was Mirai, we can subtract all the scores from the players we know above, and we end up with: 19, 16, 16, 16, 16, 15, 15, 13, 12, 12, 11, 8, 7, ??, ??, ??. Out of those remaining 16 scores, either a 16 or an unknown belonged to Team Pheasant's Shiranami girl, but the other 15 needed to make up the scores of 3-4 winning teams, and 2-3 losing teams. Even worse, the 19 belonged to Kawashima, and a 16 to Hirota, both of whom won 0 games out of 4, so they could not have participated in a win here.
So, discounting the unknown scores, even the best possible winning score out of that list is 16 + 16 + 16, which is only 48 out of the 50 cards needed to win a game. And the actual numbers had to be a lot lower, since they'd have had to factor in all the lower point tallies and give some of them wins as well.
Anyway, the only way this works is if there were a LOT of faults (or improbably high scores by all the unknowns). Which isn't unlikely, due to the chaotic nature of the strange rules and having new partners for each game -- as Chihaya said, she "could lunge at cards without holding back." And supports what Sudo had predicted about the game being a farce (though I perhaps wouldn't word it as strongly as that) that would mess up everyone's playstyles, even if he came to recite for it anyway like the dear tsundere he is.
Still, even though they don't seem to give us enough information to also figure out the next 3 games, it was a fun thought exercise to work through. There were also only 32 players in this shot -- 4 were excluded. Can anyone figure out who? I believe some of the Hokuo players at the bottom of the roster left, for starters, but I can't really tell who some of the players at the back are anyway.
And who are the three missing players in the roster? These two Shiranami Society ladies are unaccounted for, but we've seen them a bunch through the seasons, in S3E7 for example. Is one of them the unknown Kaori? Or is Kaori a new fifth Homei player? Do the two mysterious Shiranami girls together take up two of the unknown slots? Even the end credits don't help -- even though both ladies speak, there's just one credit for "Shiranami Society Woman" (白波会女子) -- voiced by Wakana Kingyo (美波わかな) -- who actually also has a voice credit role for S3E7 but for a different side character. But anyway she lacks an actual character name! And what's the story behind the five children?
Going back through old episodes might be a way of figuring that out. As well, what might be really interesting is going back through old tournament rosters as well and seeing if some of those names have ever appeared before (I did a cursory search and found nothing, though). Either way, there's a lot of analysis that can be done with a bit of digging!
Oh, and while we're on the topic of names. 3-1's new homeroom teacher, Taichi Shinkai? His given name is Taichi, and his family name, Shinkai, is made up of the kanji for Arata plus the kanji for ocean/sea. His name literally reads "Arata, Ocean, Taichi." He even has a named voice acting role in the credits despite having all of two lines. What is he even supposed to symbolize? Suetsugu plz!!
by walking_the_way and ABoredCompSciStudent
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Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers
submitted by NewRCTID22 to MLS [link] [comments]
Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers
Basic Info: Club Name: Portland Timbers
Location: Portland, Oregon
Stadium: Providence Park. Beautiful timelapse of the recent renovations.
Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese (3rd year)
Captain: Diego Valeri
CEO/Majority Owner: Merritt Paulson
USL Affiliate: Timbers 2
2019 in Review Final Standings: 14-13-7 (W-L-D), 49 pts, +3 GD, 6th in the West
In one word, the 2019 Portland Timbers season was draining. It was an endurance test for the players. It was an endurance test for even the most ardent supporters. And it was certainly an endurance test for a Front Office that invested serious capital into organizational infrastructure. Bookended by snowy affairs in the Rocky Mountains, a year filled with tantalizing potential melted away, leaving a passionate (some might say capricious) fanbase searching for explanations. So, what went wrong?
Well, it was always going to be an uphill battle from the opening kick. Starting with the coldest game in MLS history in Colorado, the Timbers faced a daunting 12-match road trip to accommodate the impressive renovations to Providence Park’s East stand. After accumulating 1 pt from the first six matches, including blow out losses to both FC Cincinnati (!) and then-winless San Jose, the fanbase collectively smashed the panic button entering a match against ex-coach Caleb Porter and his Columbus Crew. However, for the next few months, we witnessed a different team and a different mentality. Three consecutive quality victories against Columbus, Toronto, and RSL brought the team back from the abyss. And a subsequent win against upstart Philadelphia saw Portland finish its road marathon at a respectable 14 points.
Suddenly, the narrative flipped. Pundits consistently listed the Timbers at the top of their power rankings, and with 17 of the final 22 matches at one of the best home-field advantages in MLS, it seemed the positive momentum would prevail indefinitely. More importantly though, the Timbers had found their final piece to the puzzle: an elite, ruthless, and fiery DP striker in Brian Fernandez. Fresh off an impressive campaign with Necaxa in Liga MX, the Argentine became the first player in history to score in five consecutive regular-season games to open an MLS career. His clinicality and intensity raised the level of the squad, leading Steve Clark to don the classic Michael Myers mask from Halloween, declaring Providence Park as a “House of Horrors” for the opponent.
But as it turned out, the team never truly reacclimated to the friendly confines of its home pitch. After four months (incl. preseason) away from home, the squad’s lethal counter-attacking style was far more suited for road matches which provided no impetus to play attractive soccer. Away victories at elite opponents including NYCFC, Seattle, and LAFC provided a stark contrast to disheartening home performances against the likes of Colorado, Orlando, and 10-man Chicago. And soon, the atmosphere off-the-field began to match the team’s sudden struggles on the pitch.
Political viewpoints aside, the Iron Front protests and Diego Valeri’s contract impasse ignited an already contentious relationship between the Timbers Army and FO. Meanwhile, as the squad racked up disappointing home results due to uninspired offensive play, home attendance began to waver more so than years past. While the home sell-out streak remains to this day, the increased number of empty seats in Providence Park was a pretty blunt indication of increased apathy towards the organization.
And then, there was the cherry on top. After missing consecutive matches due to a reported “stomach bug,” it became pretty clear Brian Fernandez was not the same player he was in the early summer. With a complicated and somber family history, Fernandez had struggled with substance abuse issues in the past but seemed to be on the path to full recovery during recent years. However, in October, Fernandez entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and just as his story arc in green-and-gold faded to black, the Timbers season finished with a whimper. Jefferson Savarino’s 87th-minute goal in snowy Utah knocked the Timbers out of Cup contention. Eleven months following an exciting run to MLS Cup, Portland entered the 2020 offseason weary, drained, and searching for a new beginning.
The Coach Giovanni Savarese
I expected 2019 to provide more clarity on Giovanni Savarese’s coaching aptitude, but as I sit here one year later, I’m still left with more questions than answers. Gio’s passion and fervor was a refreshing juxtaposition to Caleb Porter’s often smug demeanor, but his far more conservative style still ruffles the feathers of fans who yearn for the days of “Porterball.” While Savarese implemented a high-pressing, dynamic, and open style during his time at the Cosmos, he has yet to find similar success doing so in the Rose City. The past two seasons have exhibited nearly the same progression: start the season trying to play pressing-style soccer, get beat badly, and then resort to a conservative, counter-attacking approach.
The truth of the matter is the conservative style fits the Portland Timbers. When the defense is solid, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are talented enough to win the game on the counter by themselves. However, this tactical inflexibility is essentially the sole on-field contributor for why the team struggled so mightily down the stretch. When teams packed it in and eliminated the possibility of counter-attacks, Portland could not break down the opposition, resorted to launching an MLS record number of crosses, and got scorched on counters going the other way. A taste of their own medicine if you will.
In 2020, Savarese has no excuse. There’s no road trip to start the season, he has a loaded arsenal of complimentary attacking weapons, and now it’s abundantly clear the Timbers must learn how to control games from the front foot. An identity is useful, but flexibility is a requirement to be great. The club wants to (has to) win now, and they’ve invested significantly into personnel and infrastructure to do so. Now, it’s up to Savarese to lead the team to silverware.
Departures Brian Fernandez (ST): This one hurts. There are no two ways about it. Fernandez truly convinced GM Gavin Wilkinson and TD Ned Grabavoy that he was past his struggles, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be the case. As Wilkinson stated in The Athletic, “if we could go back and do it again, we wouldn’t have done it,” adding “what I will say is the word fraud exists for a reason.” Rumors suggest Necaxa covered up a failed drug test, and MLS is currently launching a lawsuit to help the club recoup the transfer fee. While Wilkinson suggests Fernandez was a bust, the truth is he scored 15 goals in ~25 games in all comps, showing a ruthlessness in front of goal that rivaled the Martinez’s and Ruidiaz’s of the league. As people who have met him can attest, he’s a vibrant and kind individual regardless of the fact he continues to face difficult obstacles off the field. It's just such a disappointment that it didn’t all come together, and I pray for his health and safety.
Zarek Valentin (RB): This one hurts too. Zarek was a staple of the community, someone who embraced Portland as his home, and was as approachable as any professional athlete. With initiatives like wearing a rainbow ribbon in his hair to fundraise for homeless LGBT+ youth, Zarek was an ideal steward for the club and community. With our lack of fullback depth, leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft was far from a popular decision - one that strained an already frayed relationship between the Front Office and some fans. That said, as amazing as Zarek is, his lack of athleticism was starting to catch up to him. He even admitted some struggles down the stretch, and as more talented/athletic wingers enter the league, his minutes might soon reflect it. Zarek’s versatility, eccentricity, and civic involvement will certainly be missed though. Houston, you’ve got a great dude.
Claude Dielna (CB): The most puzzling move of 2019, it didn’t take an acute observer to recognize that Dielna struggled in MLS. Wilkinson and Grabavoy took a one-year flier on Dielna to be the 4th-stringer, and the outcome was fairly predictable. He possesses a silky left foot which allows him to pick sharp passes out of the back, but he can’t run, can’t jump, and can’t defend 1v1. All of those attributes are pretty essential requirements for playing CB in any league, so it’s no surprise to see the organization not renew his contract. In the end, I wouldn’t suggest Dielna self-immolated like many horrific Timbers CBs of yesteryear (see McKenzie, Raushawn), but I highly doubt anyone will be pining for his return.
Foster Langsdorf (ST): Langsdorf may be used as an example of a Homegrown the Timbers failed to move through the ranks, but letting him go makes sense (unfortunately.) In a 2019 season essential for his development, he failed to make any significant impact at the USL level, and at 24, he would’ve entered the 2020 campaign in the exact spot he did the previous two seasons. Despite some clever finishes in the 2018 USL season, he’s not a legitimate option for the first team in this day in age - especially when similarly-aged strikers Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Jeremy Ebobisse boast far more developed skillsets.
Modou Jadama (CB/RB): Jadama made two total appearances for the first team over two seasons, including one start at RB at Montreal in 2019. To be frank, he didn’t particularly shine as an MLS-caliber player during that time, so his opportunity to cement himself in the organization’s plans came and went. Now at Atlanta United 2, I think he’ll be a good fit for a full-time USL position, although we probably could have used CB depth with Bill Tuiloma’s injury.
Kendall McIntosh (GK): McIntosh was an undersized goalkeeper whose frame and athleticism is reminiscent of the likes of Nick Rimando. For the most part, he was a career T2 netminder that was far too raw in some areas to mount a challenge against experienced keepers like Jeff Attinella and Steve Clark. Now a member of the Red Bulls via the Re-Entry Draft, I doubt McIntosh finds many more minutes outside of the USL, but he seemed like a good dude and we all wish him the best.
2020 Outlook: So, where does that leave us for the 2020 season? Well, pretty close to the same spot we found ourselves last year. In the preceding two seasons, it was clear the Timbers possessed enough talent to capture silverware, yet surpassing the final hurdle proved to be too much. As a result, continuity in terms of roster management remains among the league’s most stable. Ultimately, Portland took the field March 3 in Colorado with 10 of the 11 starters from MLS Cup the previous December, and this season, the only departure considered a surefire starter was Brian Fernandez.
However, the main difference in 2020 comes down to the acquisitions. The Timbers FO utilized the abnormally long break to load up with an arsenal of talent, providing a stark divergence from the quiet transfer window in 2019. As much as I want to compliment the FO for its hard work this offseason, acquiring fresh blood was essential. Key pieces of the core including Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, and Diego Valeri are all exiting their prime window, and the Timbers must capitalize before that window slams shut. Consequently, four of the five names you’ll see listed in the acquisitions section below were brought in to have an immediate impact and elevate an already talented squad.
As a result, in terms of pure on-paper talent, this is a Top 5 caliber MLS team. Whether Savarese can coalesce that talent into a functioning, dynamic, and successful unit is an entirely different story however. It honestly feels like a boom-or-bust type season, and I’m worried about how they’ll navigate the natural roller-coaster swings that MLS’s parity generates. So, I’ll leave you with this: if the Timbers figure out how to maintain defensive structure without resorting to a conservative shell, they’ll be one of the best teams in the league. If not, all bets are off.
Acquisitions: Jarosław Niezgoda (ST): The Polish DP doesn’t have to single-handedly replace Brian Fernandez’s goal contributions, but make no mistake about it, the Timbers brought Niezgoda in to make an immediate and profound impact on the scoresheet. At only 24, Jarek arrives with a high pedigree having notched double-digit goals in multiple seasons for one of Poland’s powerhouses in Legia Warsaw. Ultimately, it makes sense European clubs like Bordeaux and Torino were sniffing around the striker, as he’s quite mobile for his size, can finish well with both feet, and is clever with his movements inside the box. And say what you will about the Ekstraklasa, it has a strange knack for producing efficient goalscorers, including Niezgoda’s Legia predecessor Nemanja Nikolic.
However, there is a massive catch: Niezgoda has struggled with injuries throughout his career. In a league famous for physical play, and on a team that has experienced its fair share of injury-riddled seasons, Jarek’s fitness is a legitimate concern. While his congenital heart issues seem to be held in check, Legia fans are quick to mention “he's made of glass, and it's hard to keep him in shape for the whole season.” The Timbers’ physio staff will have their work cut out for them to keep Niezgoda on the pitch and scoring goals.
Note: Niezgoda has yet to feature in preseason due to the recovery timeline from a heart ablation procedure during his medical. We likely won’t see him in the XI for the first few weeks of 2020.
Felipe Mora (ST): Niezgoda’s injury-checkered past is an important factor for why Mora’s arrival is such a critical addition. The 26-year-old Chilean seemingly fell into the Timbers lap in a series of fortuitous circumstances, as they acquired him on a TAM loan deal from Pumas in Liga MX. Normally, Mora would be a DP caliber acquisition, and in fact, he was considered a serious target for the final DP slot last year before the club opted for Fernandez. However, after falling out of favor, Pumas were willing to let him go in a manner that accommodated Portland’s limited remaining budget space. Mora provides a divergent style from Niezgoda’s channel-running and Ebobisse’s hold-up ability. He operates on a true poacher’s instinct, and his industrious approach will provide a complementary presence to any of the other strikers.
Dario Župarić (CB): If there’s one offseason acquisition that is more critical to the team's success than the others, Dario Župarić is that guy. Throughout the Timbers MLS history, CB has easily been their most troublesome spot, and they’ve yet to replace Liam Ridgewell’s contributions since his departure last year. Say what you will about Liam’s off-the-field persona: his magnetism, leadership, organizational skills, and distribution were undoubtedly influential to the club’s performance.
Župarić, for lack of a better statement, is essentially the true Ridgewell replacement. At 27-years-old, the Croatian arrives with 90+ matches under his belt at Pescara in Italy and Rijeka in Croatia, a club that has already produced productive MLS players like Héber and Damir Kreilach. Early reports in training regard him as “smooth and confident,” and even if that confidence has gotten the better of him occasionally, those characteristics exemplify why Gio had never received “more messages from friends saying you’ve brought in a very good player.” In the end though, the pressure is on Dario to perform on the pitch. MLS athleticism poses a unique challenge, and there’s little flexibility to compensate for any struggles. His adjustment to MLS must be quick.
Yimmi Chara (RM): Recognize the last name? In a courtship that has lasted as long as the Timbers MLS era itself, Wilkinson finally brought the youngest Chara brother to the Rose City. Acquired as a DP from Atletico Mineiro, there is concern about whether Yimmi’s G+A output will justify the reported $6 million transfer fee. Throughout his career, he’s never been the type of player to light up the scoresheet, but it’s difficult to dispossess him and he provides lightning-quick pace that this roster lacks. With multiple attacking options, I honestly don’t anticipate much pressure to fill the stat sheet, and his familial connection to the organization should facilitate a more seamless transition. Plus, it’s difficult enough for the opposition to face one Chara - it’ll certainly be a pain in the ass to confront two.
Blake Bodily (LM): The HG left-footer is a fairly highly-regarded prospect coming out of the Pac-12, and he showed flashes of quality during his time at T2 a few years ago. With the depth on the wings, I can’t imagine he’ll see much of any first-team minutes. I could be wrong, especially if things go south for any reason, but let’s revisit this signing a year or two from now.
A word on everyone else: Goalkeepers:
Steve Clark (GK): Without a doubt, Clark was the surprise player of 2019. Boasting the highest save percentage and second-lowest GAA in the league, Clark made numerous highlight-reel saves after taking over for Jeff Attinella in late April. While the occasional mental lapse defined much of his career up to this point, the 33-year-old was nearly flawless in all phases of play last season. However, there’s legitimate concern that this outstanding form is not replicable throughout the next campaign. After Attinella’s regression to the mean following a career year, one can understand why the Front Office might have been apprehensive to give him a sizable pay raise - even if his performances warranted it. That said, Clark’s got the new deal in his pocket and will certainly be the starter opening day vs Minnesota.
Jeff Attinella (GK): As highlighted above, few Timbers had a more ill-fated 2019 campaign than Jeff Attinella. After a torrid 2018 season, Attinella’s performances were marred by poor decision after poor decision until his year concluded with season-ending shoulder surgery. You have to feel for the guy too, as for the first time in his career, he entered an MLS regular season as the unquestioned starter. We’ll see how he recovers from the shoulder injury, but if Clark’s consistency remains and Aljaž Ivačič shows promise, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Timbers move him while he still has some value.
Aljaž Ivačič (GK): If there’s a Timber who had a more disastrous 2019 than Jeff Attinella though, it’s probably Aljaž Ivačič. The 26-year-old Slovenian was acquired last offseason to be the goalkeeper of the future, but a significant leg surgery last February took him out of team activities for most of the year. When he did return with T2 in late summer, things did not look great to say the least. It is undoubtedly difficult to adapt to a new country, but Ivačič’s struggles were worryingly apparent. Most of his goals conceded for T2 looked similar to this, where he was either in the wrong position, extremely hesitant to come off his line, or strikingly late to react to the opponent. These are fundamental issues that can hopefully be chalked up to rust and then addressed with a full preseason. If not, Aljaž might go down as one of the worst signings in club history.
Jorge Moreira (RB): Moreira possesses the talent to be the best RB in the league, but sporadically found himself a liability last season. After years spent with Argentine powerhouse River Plate, the 30-year-old Paraguayan was naturally inclined to push up the pitch since his teams had often dominated the game’s flow. As a result, the Timbers’ conservative style and league’s athleticism caught him off guard, as he had an unfortunate propensity to be out of position early in 2019. However, he mostly adjusted over the course of the year, and his power, crossing ability, and dynamism are crucial to the team.Even with the occasional poor clearance, Moreira is a lockdown starter and few RBs in MLS have his offensive weaponry and pedigree. His loan only lasts until June 30 however, though I’d fully expect the Front Office to lock him down on a permanent deal.
Update: the Timbers right-side defense has been tragic this preseason, and much of that has to do with Moreira’s play. He’ll have to re-adjust or else he’ll revert back to being a liability again
Larrys Mabiala (CB): With his pearly-white smile, cool demeanor, and commanding aerial ability, the big French-Congolese CB is one of the most respected players in the Timbers’ locker room. In a position that is a perennial revolving door of underperforming wreckage, Mabiala has been the one “written-in-ink” starter since mid-2017, and his veteran savvy is integral to the squad’s success. But at age 32, Larrys’ value is not embodied by his individual qualities but more so the partnership he forms with Župarić. His physical presence will always be vital to an otherwise undersized team, however, he lacks the turn of pace and distribution ability that would place him among the elite CBs in MLS. As a result, Larrys and Dario must discover how to paper over each other’s weaknesses by performing to their unique capabilities: Župarić covers ground well and can initiate attacking movements while Mabiala handles physical strikers and cleans up loose balls in the 18. In the end, his consistency will be as influential as any player on the roster. If for any reason he performs below the norm, there is simply not enough quality depth behind him to overcome it.
Bill Tuiloma (CB): Tuiloma is not spectacular by any means, but he’s an ideal player to provide sporadic minutes. The 24-year-old Kiwi is cheap, versatile, and possesses enough technical quality to score the odd banger. It’s a shame a calf injury will rule him out for the next few weeks, as the team could use his flexibility for spot duty at CB, RB, and even defensive midfield. If he recovers fully and Župarić struggles to adapt to the league’s athleticism, expect him to mount a challenge for starting minutes.
Julio Cascante (CB): The Costa Rican CB is best described as a high-ceiling, low-floor player whose ceiling continues to lower year after year. As far as backup CBs go, he’s probably adequate, but the guy went from a fringe national-teamer to virtually off-the-radar since his arrival in Portland. Though his height and build forge a formidable aerial presence, he’s yet to resolve occasional mental lapses and improve his subpar distribution. But Julio’s most maddening characteristic is his inconsistency. Perhaps the best thing you can say about a Cascante performance is that you didn’t notice him. Unfortunately, he tends to stick out for all the wrong reasons. Maybe a little more familiarity with the league will help the 26-year-old raise his level in 2020. I’m not exceedingly hopeful though.
Jorge Villafaña (LB): El Sueño hasn’t been the same player since his departure to Santos Laguna after MLS Cup 2015. Still an excellent crosser, Villafaña really struggled with pacey wingers towards the beginning of the season, although there are some whispers he was often gutting through minor knocks. Even with an uptick of form over the course of the campaign, there is legitimate concern he’s lost a step and will be a liability in the backline. I love the man as much as the next guy, but I’d say the uneasiness is valid. Let’s hope he proves us all wrong.
Marco Farfan (LB): The lack of confidence in Villafaña would be less of an issue if Zarek Valentin were still suiting up in the green-and-gold because Marco Farfan is as fragile as a potato chip. The HG LB is not the most athletic individual, but his technical quality is probably proficient enough to play at this level. Farfan still has to evolve as a 1v1 defender, though he’ll certainly get looks this year if he can manage to stay healthy.
Note: We still need a backup RB. It could be former NYRB, IMFC, and Dynamo player Chris Duvall. 20-year-old Venezuelan Pablo Bonilla is another option, but he’s at T2 for the meantime.
Diego Valeri (CAM): When all is said and done, I hope MLS fans and media take a moment to appreciate just how good Diego Valeri was. Since 2015, we’ve witnessed impressive names take home the Landon Donovan MVP award including Giovinco, Villa, Josef, and Vela. Sandwiched in between those names you’ll find Diego Valeri. Only the ninth MLS player to reach the elusive 70G, 70A Club, Valeri took the Timbers from a hapless expansion side to a perennial playoff contender. And from my admittedly biased perspective, I don’t think he gets enough credit for doing so. But don’t take it from me, take it from Albert Rusnak, who accurately captures the true essence of the Maestro in this interview. For the miracles performed on the pitch, his importance and presence in the community are just as admirable.
However, times are changing for Valeri, and it’s best exemplified by the fact we almost lost him over a contract dispute this offseason. By taking a TAM deal, Diego not only affirmed his commitment to the organization but allowed them to make moves to best ensure he doesn’t retire with only a single major MLS title to his name. I’d expect the Timbers staff to exercise more load management with him this campaign, but by no means does that change his status as a pillar of the club and community. Build the statue.
Sebastian Blanco (LM/RM): Sebastian Blanco is one of those guys who never seems to score a bad goal. The fiery Argentine may not be the face of the franchise off the pitch, but the decision to extend his DP contract over Valeri is a hint towards Blanco’s importance on the field. After posting his second consecutive double-digit assist campaign, Blanco’s quality across all attacking midfield positions is unquestioned. That said, 2020 is a pivotal season for the Timbers’ oldest Designated Player. Soon to be 32, the clock is ticking on Blanco’s heyday, and he’ll certainly aspire to outperform 2019’s underwhelming tally of six goals from 106 shot attempts. Now surrounded by a wealth of complimentary attacking pieces though, I’d expect a rejuvenated Seba come March. Bet the over on six goals.
Diego Chara (CDM): If there’s anyone who can conquer the inevitability of fathertime, Diego Chara is the guy. Soon to be 34-years-old, Chara’s performance metrics — involving areas such as speed and distance covered — reached all-time highs last year. His importance to the club over the past decade cannot be overstated, and we were all ecstatic to see him finally partake in an MLS All Star Game last season. The Colombian possesses a pillowy first touch, an immense soccer IQ, and a fearless presence in the middle of the park, and there simply will be no replacing him when he finally does choose to retire. But to be honest with you, I think he’s still got a few more Best XI caliber seasons in him. He just ages like a fine wine.
Andrés Flores (CM): Hell, I’m just gonna copy and paste exactly what I wrote last year because it’s still just as applicable. Andres Flores is like a Toyota Camry - solid if unspectacular. He doesn't have the sexy style that will garner all the attention, but when push comes to shove and you need to get from point A to point B, he’ll do the job (at a very low price too!). Look for him to assist in spot-duty once he returns from injury, but his most important contributions will likely be found in the little things off the pitch.
Cristhian Paredes (CM): At only 21 years of age, the full Paraguayan international started over 30 matches the past two seasons and has also emerged as the surefire midfield partner to Diego Chara. After a 2018 campaign that saw a significant adjustment period, Paredes looked far more composed in 2019, adding late-runs into the box into his arsenal midway through last season. However, no longer on loan from Club America, Paredes will face more organizational pressure to be a day-in, day-out starter this campaign. His ranginess and ability to break up play are unquestioned, but he needs to become a bit cleaner on the ball and more confident playing out of tight spaces. That said, there’s a reason the club has invested more capital into the promising midfielder: he has the potential to be a significant contributor for years to come.
Marvin Loría (LM/RM): In the next few seasons, I’d wager Marvin Loría will become the poster child for the Timbers youth development structure. With a comparatively underdeveloped and shallow Homegrown talent pool, Portland picks up guys like Loría out of foreign youth programs to develop through the Timbers pipeline. The 22-year-old Costa Rican international showed significant promise last season, and he can play a true inverted winger role - a unique style in terms of this roster. While he may see time at LM and CAM, I love him cutting in from the right, as he can deliver bangers like this and allow Jorge Moreira to bulldoze forward. At a league minimum salary, Loría provides the cheap and talented depth which makes this attack’s outlook so promising. I can’t wait to see what strides he makes this season (once he returns from an underpublicized/undisclosed injury).
Andy Polo (RM): Not many people in the Timbers fanbase understand why Andy Polo is still on the roster, let alone competing for starting minutes. In 2,860 MLS minutes, the Peruvian winger has only managed a dismal one goal and three assists - a statline that is considerably worse than ineffective wingers of the past including Kalif Alhassan, Sal Zizzo, and Franck Songo’o. He’s not an outright liability, and occasionally puts in a shift defensively, but he essentially exists solely to occupy space. Now entering his third season, Polo’s best string of matches came as the third CM in a 4-3-2-1 just before the 2018 World Cup. He’s since gathered looks in preseason as a #8 in a 4-3-2-1 and showed flashes but is still incomplete. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tomas Conechny (CF/LM/RM): The 21-year-old Argentine enters the 2020 campaign a relative unknown, and though the club thought enough of him to exercise his full-time purchase option from San Lorenzo, his fit on the squad has yet to be fully discerned. Rumored to be one of the better headers-of-the-ball on the team, he showed occasional creative sparks in late-game situational appearances but has yet to prove he deserves starting minutes. We hear quotes akin to “he doesn’t yet know how good he can be,” but it still isn’t obvious that a particular position suits him well or if he even possesses a skillset that allows him to be a difference-maker at this level. For all intents and purposes, he’s likely to end up Diego Valeri’s understudy even if Conechny has yet to show the same precision and danger at a playmaking second-forward role. As a result, it remains to be seen if the high-rated prospect grows into a significant piece of the puzzle or if his lack of positional clarity ultimately hampers his development.
Dairon Asprilla (RM): Dairon Asprilla plays at an all-star caliber level if one of two things are true: the Timbers are on the verge of postseason elimination or he’s playing on T2. If neither of those two things are true, he’s often more useless than a turn signal on a BMW. Some wonder if he possesses compromising pictures of Wilkinson or MP, otherwise there’s very little to explain why he’s one of the longest-tenured Timbers - especially considering he’s been in-and-out of the doghouse almost every year. Word out of training suggests he’s been one of the best players in camp, but we’ve been down this road before - if it’s not Oct. or Nov., Asprilla often looks lost on the pitch.
Sidenote: 99% of Dairon’s shot attempts get thwarted due to his foolishly long windup, but when he does get a hold of one, they stay hit.
Eryk Williamson (CM): The HG midfielder (by way of D.C.) found starting minutes in spot appearances last fall, and he looked competent if unremarkable. For T2, Williamson often occupied more advanced positions, but I think he projects best as a ball-shuttling #8 in this squad. In particular, I can see him fitting into Andy Polo’s old role as a CM next to Chara and/or Paredes in a 4-3-2-1, as his passing and combination play provide a diverse look from the other two. Overall, Williamson finds himself in a decent situation to get game action this year, and I’m interested to see how he develops and grows in confidence in 2020.
Renzo Zambrano (CDM): Another international brought through the T2 pipeline, Zambrano is essentially Diego Chara’s backup at the #6. Since George Fochive left following the 2015 season, the Timbers have struggled to find a suitable defensive backup in the central midfield. Renzo is now that guy. The 25-year-old Venezuelan appeared in 10 matches last season and struggled immensely in fixtures against Colorado and Atlanta, but showed flashes of positivity in thrashings of Houston and Vancouver. 2020 will require more consistency from Zambrano who doesn’t possess the same physicality or power as Chara - but then again, few do. As a result, if I were Savarese, I’d try to mold Zambrano into a fulcrum/anchor type midfielder in the form of a Uri Rosell or Scott Caldwell. He’s a capable passer, and if he simplifies his game to shield the backline, he’ll be an asset to the team. If not, he’ll likely over-extend himself, and his midfield partner will be forced to work more tirelessly to maintain solid defensive shape. Renzo is likely the first option off the bench whenever Chara or Paredes are unavailable, so his growth is critical to the team’s success this year.
Jeremy Ebobisse (ST): Since Niezgoda and Mora’s arrival, some fans and media have denounced the organization for burying the 23-year-old American on the depth chart and hindering his development. Here’s why I think that’s an overly-sensationalized viewpoint:
But the one factor people must acknowledge is this: Ebobisse still hasn’t developed the it factor that other MLS strikers have - at least not yet. When Fernandez arrived, his ruthlessness was a stark contrast to Ebobisse’s often less-goal-hungry runs and occasional lack of clarity in the final third. Jeremy is a decent finisher, even with a few missed sitters, but he’s still not consistent enough with the direct runs off the shoulder that separate good from great. He’ll hopefully continue to develop a wider range of skills, but he’s not yet the guy to put this team over the top.
- As Wilkinson has correctly identified, Ebobisse will miss a good chunk of the early season for Olympic qualification, and with Niezgoda’s injury history, there needs to be other legitimate options to start upfront (i.e. not Dairon Asprilla).
- In 2018, Ebobisse entered the season ‘stuck’ behind two DP-type strikers in Fanendo Adi and Samuel Armenteros. Guess who emerged on top? Ebobisse. There will be multiple competitions, two-striker formations, and rotations that allow him to earn quality minutes.
- This idea that the organization is almost trying to sabotage his development is an outrageous claim. Ebobisse was the only player on the squad to play in every match last season and only finished behind Chara, Blanco, and Valeri in terms of total minutes played. Granted, he played a fair few matches at LW (not ideal, but he wasn’t outright terrible), but the team did have its best stretch of success with him and Fernandez on the pitch together.
Predicted Starting XI:
Other likely options: 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2
Best Case Scenario:
A top playoff seed and a challenge for either the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. Savarese effectively implements tactical flexibility, Niezgoda and Mora combine for 20+ goals, and Cristhian Paredes takes the next step forward in his development. While Župarić locks down the defense, one of Valeri or Blanco mounts a Best XI campaign, and Diego Chara makes a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. Sprinkle in a Cascadia Cup alongside a harmonious relationship between the Front Office and Timbers Army, and you have a damn successful year.
Worst Case Scenario:
Pretty much the opposite of what you see above. Niezgoda can’t stay healthy while the core pieces’ form collectively falls off a cliff. Those in the Army who hold a personal vendetta against Merritt Paulson blow a trivial issue out of proportion causing a full-on revolt from the supporter’s group. Savarese proves to be an average coach with exploitable flaws, and the team fails to qualify for the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. Significant spending, no tangible results. A wasted year.
Well, either of those two scenarios could qualify as realistic. But like all Timbers seasons, it’s most realistic to be somewhere in between. There’ll be stretches of outright panic, and there’ll be other times where we all convince ourselves the Timbers will win MLS Cup. Some of the signings hit: let’s go with Župarić - while other signings underwhelm due to extenuating circumstances: probably Niezgoda (and his glass skeleton). The team finishes in the middle of the pack - a team that no one wants to face in October - but one that is equally liable to beat themselves.
Even for someone as pessimistic as I am, I won’t predict the worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the discouraging feeling that the Timbers will squander its immense talent again. A disappointing 6th or 7th place finish is in store after another taxing roller-coaster season. However, I’ll go out on a limb to say Portland does win a Cascadia Cup or USOC - some sort of silverware that convinces everybody the obvious flaws can be overcome in 2021. Blanco has a great 2020 season. The other pieces show flashes brilliance, yet can’t quite string together enough consistency to let the attack fire on all cylinders. Savarese will keep his job but enters the 2021 campaign on the hotseat. It’ll be another case of “close, but not close enough.”
Online Resources Official Links: Website | Twitter
Local Coverage: Oregon Live | Stumptown Footy
Best Twitter follow: Chris Rifer
Best Read: Jamie Goldberg’s article on Fernandez didn’t age well, but it’s extremely important to understand his tragic life story.
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