As they did two weeks ago, the two clubs sharing the initials PTFC went 2-o against the respective opponents this weekend. This weekend the two matches shared more than just the results.
The Portland Timbers fought out a 2-nil win against D.C. United in Washington, while up in Tukwila Thorns FC eked out a 1-nil win against the Seattle Reign. In both games the Portland clubs looked less than dominating. In both games, though, the Portland clubs looked very much the way competent soccer teams look; doing what they needed to scratch out a win even when not quite playing their A games.
The Timbers’ win at DC is well covered by the Stumptown Footy crew, and (I hope) that Kevin will have his usual piercing analysis to bear on what was for much of the match a scrappy and – at times – downright scary business. The seasonal loss of Silvestre is still being felt in back and the temporary loss of Valeri was a problem in midfield. For all that the new centerback Kah had a solid match the backline looked adrift at times and the midfield was unable or unwilling to help out much. Against a better team the Timbers might have fared much worse.
But. The point is that the Boys didn’t fare worse.
One reason is that Rodney Wallace must have heard every word we said about him last season and resolved to make us eat Every. Single. One.
Num num, Rodney. You’re having a Comeback Season to date, and I am happily chewing away.
One other was Darlington Nagbe, who had a terrific match and channeled his Inner Trencito on the goal, a lovely bit of calm skillcraft that impressed me more every time I watched the replay.
The entire side managed to play well enough to turn back a D.C. side that is a rather sad remnant of the glory years of the Nineties. This is a team in horrible disarray, and having watched our own team break down in similar circumstances last season I have nothing but pity for them.
So long as we can still beat them.
The other PTFC opponent, the Seattle Reign, is perhaps even worse off than United. Stuck at the bottom of the table with no wins and only a single point, the Reign had the misfortune Saturday to be the better of the two sides for much of the match and certainly the first half and to have come away with absolutely nothing.
Perhaps because of her form the preceding two matches Nikki Washington was dropped from the side that ran out at Starfire on Saturday, Angie Kerr getting the start in her place. Otherwise Thorns FC played somewhat similarly to the style that had worked against the other Washington club, the Spirit, the preceding weekend; lots of play through the middle of the pitch with Christine Sinclair freed from her trequartista role to do more direct attacking.
However it was the Reign that had the better chances in the first half. The Portland midfield still hasn’t really found a way to keep possession when pressed, and the Reign could easily have gone ahead in the 62nd minute, when Liz Bogus put a hard diving header on frame that LeBlanc did well to palm away – only to deflect the ball out to Seattle’s Noyola, whose well-struck shot was likewise saved. Seattle worked the ball into Portland’s 18 again within a minute and had three rapid-fire shots blocked, any one of which might have gotten past LeBlanc.
On the other end Thorns FC wasn’t able to work the ball into any sort of dangerous position; Solo, playing in goal for the first time this season, made only two saves. Of Sinclair’s six shots only one was on goal. This futility was a combination of Portland’s inability or unwillingness to spread the defense and Seattle’s tight marking and opportunistic defending, and the match looked headed for a scoreless draw and Seattle’s second point when one of perhaps the softest penalties I’ve seen in twenty years of watching soccer gave Sinclair a simple sidefoot tap-in for the away points. Solo contributed to the moment with the mawkish display of time-wasting she put on before taking her line for the PK, her most notable effort of the match.
Against Sky Blue a Thorns side playing this poorly might have lost 3-nil. Against Kansas City we might have seen no better than a draw. Against hapless Seattle the team played well enough, just well enough to win with the help of an atrocious make-up call (the referee had missed a painfully obvious Seattle handball earlier) and that was enough.
I have a lot of sympathy for the Seattle Reign supporters. The “Queen’s Guard” is suffering through a worse version of what the Timbers Army suffered last season. They, and the Barra Brava supporters of D.C. United, could probably sit on the ground and share some sad tales of the deaths of queens and former MLS kings. Their cities are suffering the worst of soccer times.
And ours, perhaps shockingly, certainly delightfully, is enjoying the best of soccer times; two teams having seasons of hope, two teams having – so far – seasons of Light. And its noisiest authorities – the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters – happily insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
There may be defeats and disappointments ahead, perhaps, but sufficient to the day will be the evil thereof; onward, Rose City!