The Portland Timbers got two second-half goals from forward Ryan Johnson and overcame two devastating first-half injuries to get their first victory under Caleb Porter; a 2-0 shutout victory over the Houston Dynamo on a cold, rainy night at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday.
Here’s three quick thoughts regarding last night’s impressive victory:
* Trust in Porter’s plan
Last night’s lineup announcement certainly raised some eyebrows and had Twitter buzzing (Rodney Wallace getting the start as a forward/wing player and Jack Jewsbury at right back), but in the end it was really quite a brilliant coaching decision. Over the last few matches, I’ve sided with the recent school of thought regarding the idea that Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara should not be on the pitch together. I’m happy to admit that I was wrong, although I will state that if they are going to play together, last night’s lineup is the only way to do it.
The moral of the story is that Timbers supporters (including myself) may just need to be patient and trust in Porter’s plan.
* Rodney Wallace
I’ve been on the Rodney Wallace “Bandwagon” with Mike Donovan and a few others for awhile now. My only caveat to being a part of the RWB is that I was only on the RWB when Wallace wasn’t playing left back, where I think he is not at his best. Wallace began to turn the corner as a player as he started getting quality minutes for the Costa Rican national team. His rise coincided and possibly was jumpstarted by his winning goal against the United States national team back in September of 2011. With increasing call ups and opportunities, Wallace has shown he can be a positive contributor either as a sub or a starter. Last night, we saw a Rodney Wallace brimming with confidence and he shined. Credit to Porter for putting Wallace in the position to do so.
* A benchmark victory
After last night’s victory, Portland Timbers supporters are finding themselves in some very new territory. The Timbers have a positive goal differential (that’s never happened this late into a season since joining MLS). They saw a team playing with confidence and showing a very strong resolve and character in overcoming two brutal and discouraging first half injuries. They saw the Timbers play with absolute dominance in the second half and was probably the best 45 minutes I’ve ever seen this club play. They saw the Timbers control possession and create multiple scoring opportunities. They saw an opposing club wilt under the weight of being trapped in their defensive half for lengthy periods of time. Hopefully this is the first of many more wins, but I think this is a match which may be looked upon as a benchmark. Obviously it’s early, but it’s hard not to be optimistic; yet another new and uncommon feeling for Timbers supporters.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
Thoughts on the win:
“It feels good winning our first of hopefully many, proud of the guys. They had a bit of adversity in the first half, but as the half went on we just got rolling. The guys that came into the game did a great job.”
On unlocking the Dynamo defense in the second half
“We shifted Darlington Nagbe in his role, and we put Kalif [Alhassan] on and I thought those two guys played fantastic, and really everybody. I thought it was a comprehensive performance on both sides of the ball. It really looked like what we want our identity to be. Tonight I think you saw what could happen when we get up on teams. They had a hard time getting on the ball because we kept attacking and kept moving the ball. It’s important to get results for the players to realize what they’re capable of doing. This was a big step in the right direction, this was that breakthrough that I was looking for. It is one thing to know you’re playing well and know you’re a good team, but to get three points, that reinforces it.”
On the performance of Ryan Johnson
“He was very good. This team is predicated on working hard; running, pressing. He’s a workman-like player and he did that tonight. He worked them hard running, pressing, and making things happen – he played well.”
On the play of the Timbers backline
“It was very good, and it wasn’t just the backs that were tremendous. I thought Jack Jewsbury did an unbelievable job. He played like I’d hoped he would; smart positionally, balancing our team out. He’s a mature player, and you could see that tonight. Mikael Silvestre was class tonight, he won a lot of air balls in that second half. Michael Harrington has been very consistent. Again, it wasn’t just them, it was the entire team. The pressure that we put on when we got going was relentless.”