Tag Archives: Portland Timbers

Backs To The Wall

The Timbers go into the second leg of the Western Conference final knowing that they need a huge performance to turn around a two goal deficit to Real Salt Lake. That this is not the first time that Portland have faced adversity should give Timbers fans some hope, and Kevin Alexander goes over three previous occasions where the Timbers have had their backs to the wall, and come out fighting.


Welcome Home?

14th April 2011, Portland Timbers vs Chicago Fire

The difficulty here wasn’t so much in the strength of the opposition – the Fire picked up one point in six trips to the west coast in 2011 – but in the occasion. This was the home opener, the first MLS match in Soccer City, and the fans were beyond ready for it to get here.

This was despite an indifferent start that had seen the Timbers outscored 2-6 in the opening three road games. Coming into the home games, they were being forced to make changes at the back with key players still missing.

So, injury troubles, tough road trips and a keyed up home crowd. This should all sound pretty familiar.

Jake Gleeson was making his second start, and in front of him Futty Danso was making his MLS debut after a David Horst ankle knock. All these guys are still around the club, in some shape or form, but this curtain raising team is noticeable more the guys who’ve moved on:

    Eric Brunner, the one solid part of a shifting and unsettled defense;
    Steve Purdy, the dependable full back soon to be adjudged to be less good than Jeremy Hall;
    Jeremy Hall, the ineffective right winger adjudged to be of less harm in defence;
    James Marcelin, the non-soccer specialist and Keeper of Secrets;
    Jorge Perlaza, the striker who ran a lot and didn’t score;
    and Kenny Cooper, the striker who fell a lot and did, but not enough.

Troy Perkins, who would’ve started had he been fit, and whose trade is turning out to be the greatest trick Gavin ever pulled.

James Marcelin replaced Peter Lowry for the draw against New England, and he held onto his place alongside Jack Jewsbury in the heart of midfield for the visit of Chicago.

Now, I mean no disrespect to either guy (both of whom have a bunch of MLS appearances and goals under their belts), but read that sentence again:

James Marcelin replaced Peter Lowry for the draw against New England, and he held onto his place alongside Jack Jewsbury in the heart of midfield for the visit of Chicago.

How far we’ve come in terms of player quality and depth since 2011.

As for the game, well, the heavens opened and 29 minutes in Jorge Perlaza delivered the first MLS goal to Portland. Rodney Wallace doubled it eight minutes later. Perlaza added a third after the break before the Timbers were pushed back by two late Chicago goals. An own goal off a Jewbury corner restored a two goal cushion and sealed the win.

It was a win which kickstarted the season, and the terrific home form was almost entirely responsible for the close run at the making the playoffs.


Meet The Neighbors

24 June 2012, Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

A little less than a month had passed since Cal FC had hammered what would later prove to be biggest and shiniest nail in John Spencer’s head coaching coffin. The visit of the Sounders was the Timbers’ first match at Jeld-Wen since that night, but having lost in LA the previous week Portland went into the derby match with more than just local pride at stake.

Spencer replaced Hanyer Mosquera, suspended, with Futty Danso, and Mike Chabala was replaced by Steven Smith, who had been spared playing in LA in mid-June. Ex-Sounder Mike Fucito made his first start for Portland, replacing Danny Mwanga alongside Kris Boyd.

Again, that last sentence should underline the difference in quality and depth from then to now. There are times we’ve been stretched by injuries or call-ups, but I’m happier knowing that there is an Alhassan or Valencia to step in and not, well, Fucito or Mwanga. That kind of depth is worth points here and there, and makes the difference over 34, or more, games.

Meanwhile, Franck Songo’o, Darlington Nagbe and Kalif Alhassan were the three attacking midfielders, with Diego Chara given the work of two men to do on his own, as usual. It was a formation that, in retrospect, seems designed to bring out the worst in his players: Chara has so much to do that at times there’s no option but to foul, even if it’s right on the edge of his own box; Songo’o, the mercurial winger and creative attacker, Barcelona and all that, was asked to defend; Nagbe, the young and inconsistent player was given a role where his tendency to drift out of games left a gaping hole right in front of the (patchwork) defence; Alhassan, who borrowed a bit from both Songo’o and Nagbe in his nature and aversion to the kind of kick-and-rush high intensity football Spencer wanted to play.

And yet, despite these glaring deficiencies, magic happened, as it does in Portland from time to time.

There was no getting away from the plain fact that Seattle were the better team, and looked set to finish the job that Cal FC had started in ending Spencer’s time in the top job. He must surely have known he was living on borrowed time, and aware that a bad result against Seattle could bring about the end.

Spencer put his trust in his striker, another man unaware his Timbers career was all but over. Kris Boyd delivered the opening goal after only a quarter of an hour, set up by Smith and Songo’o.

This would be John Spencer’s last hurrah in Portland. A couple of bad results on the road ended his stewardship, a 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake the last time we saw him prowling the touchline. He went out fighting though, and his team delivered a 2-1 win that was the foundation for a run towards the Cascadia Cup in 2012 – the green shoots at the end of two long, barren years.

From Boyd’s “I can’t hear a thing” celebration, to his confrontation with Fredy Montero, and the explosion of noise when Portland’s least favorite Colombian was shown red in injury time, this match provided many of the great MLS Timbers moments for fans,despite it coming during a time when Spencer’s coat was, to borrow a Scottish phrase, on a shoogly peg.

So, John Spencer won this battle, despite having already lost the war. If nothing else, he went down fighting, and took down the nouveau douche lot from up the road on the way.


This Was Not In The Script

30 March 2013, Colorado Rapids 2-0 Portland Timbers

Fifty minutes in, the Timbers were in a distressingly familiar position – they were losing.

That had been the case at this point in the previous three matches (1-3 vs New York, 0-1 vs Montreal, 0-1 vs Seattle) but they could take some heart from coming back late in two of those matches to grab a couple of points, losing only to Montreal having still mounted a fightback.

Caleb Porter’s arrival had certainly brought goals, but far too many of them were at the wrong end. With 50 minutes gone in Colorado, the Timbers had been outscored 5-8 in a little under 4 games, with the home doubleheader against New York and Montreal accounting for 5 out of the 8 goals against. The introduction of Jack Jewsbury as the deepest lying member of a three man central midfield in Seattle had seen the hosts held a 1-1 draw, with Jack sweeping up behind Diego Chara and Will Johnson. Those three remained in place for the trip to play the Rapids, with the defence patched up by replacing Mikael Silvestre with David Horst.

Fast forward to fifty minutes in and the Timbers were two goals down and had been outshot by 11-3.

The charge of the white brigade was led by The Captain who headed home Ryan Johnson’s cross, Johnson-to-Johnson resuscitation. Will’s header halved the deficit before the hour was out, then a corner in the Rapids box with 20 minutes to go earned Portland a handball call; there was never any doubt that The Captain would take care of the penalty himself.

Though Portland would have to content themselves with another hard-earned point on the road, unable to find the killer third goal, the way the team fought back in these two road games set the tone for the season to come: 2013, the year where the final whistle was merely a minor inconvenience that got in the way of a Timbers win now and then.

Jewsbury took up his place at right-back in the next match, and Wallace was restored to the starting line-up as the Timbers record their first win, and then the second, and the third…

Colorado has never been an easy place to go to, and the Timbers have had some real nightmares there, so 2-0 down with 40 minutes to play would have signalled game over in previous years, but they fought back and put another point on the board. Changed days.


France provided a great example of the value of a strong home second leg performance, overturning a two-goal lead to qualify for the World Cup. The Timbers won six of their regular season games by at least two goals, almost half, and would’ve added a couple more big wins against Seattle for late rallies and lapses. They’ve fought back time and time again in the past and there is no reason to think they won’t do so here.

Mirriam Webster defines belief as “a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone” and that pretty well sums up my feeling going in the game. I believe because I trust in every guy that takes the field on Sunday night to put in a performance that is worthy of the honor of playing for this club, in this town. My belief isn’t blind faith in happy endings; RSL are a really good team and they hold the upper hand going into the game, so I don’t expect a fairytale end as much as I hope for it. It may happen, there is certainly a chance of that because we have the ability on and off the pitch to make it happen, but if it doesn’t, my belief is unshakable that every single person in attendance will be in no doubt that there was no more that this team could do and they had already achieved more than most could’ve dared to dream for.

Timbers Draw In Chicago: Thrown Away

It was very much a good news, bad news scenario for Portland Timbers after their trip to Chicago ended in a 2-2 draw.

Good News: the unbeaten streak continues! Bad News: we threw away a lead against a team that had failed to get anything from being two goals down in their last fifteen attempts, stretching back over two years.

Good News: seriously, 12 games unbeaten! And 3rd in the West ahead of Seattle and LA. Bad News: only two wins in the last six, and those were against each conference’s early-season whipping boys, and of the four draws, we’ve twice gone into the last 15 minutes in winning positions and dropped points.

Good News: Diego Valeri was back, he scored, had a hand in our second and was pretty, pretty good. Bad News: he went off, our night went to shit and we ended up on the losing end of a 2-2 draw.

In the aftermath, there was a seeming consensus on twitter that Caleb Porter had blown it by taking of Valeri after 67 minutes, with the Timbers 2-0 up.

There is no doubt that the fact the team lost their lead when Valeri wasn’t on is worth bringing up as the figures would seem to support the idea that when Diego starts, you take him off at your peril.

If you exclude the first few matches, which Valeri started and finished, and the Houston match which he only left due to injury, Diego has started seven and been subbed off four times. In those matches the team’s aggregate scores are 12-4 when Valeri is on the field, and 0-4 with him off.

This ignores the DC game that Valeri didn’t play in, of course, and weirdly enough the Timbers have won both games the playmaker has sat out entirely having beaten San Jose 1-0 earlier in the year.

You would expect Valeri’s withdrawal, given how he is often the creative pivot in the team, to cause a drop off in attacking potency and that is indicated by the team failing to score once in the 64 minutes Valeri has sat on the bench despite averaging a goal every 47 minutes or so when he’s on the field.

The surprise is how poorly the team defend with him off the field. They’ve conceded the same number of goals in those 64 minutes as they had in the other 566, though I doubt there is any direct link between Valeri going off and our defence losing their way.

Porter has shown himself very adept at using subs, a skill that got him out trouble early on in the year when the Timbers seemed to start every game a goal behind. To put Porter’s record in context, John Spencer’s “W-L” record after the first sub was 11-21, Gavin Wilkinson’s was 4-4, and Porter is 6-2.

However, in the last few matches his ability to work some magic from the bench when it’s needed has waned.

10GAMES CP (2)

Having a depleted squad, be it due to injuries, suspensions or international duty, limits a coaches ability to make a positive impact from the bench, and when the squad gets thin, that’s when you may look more to consolidate rather than put teams to the sword. Of the last four times the team has led when Porter has made his first change, three of the matches have finished with no further goals being scored for either side.

Chicago are the first team since the San Jose game to “beat” the Timbers post-sub, and yes, Valeri went off after scoring then too. Since the San Jose game the Timbers have been outscored 4-5 after the first substitution has been made, having “won” 6-2 over the first five games, but I see that as a product of a coach adjusting to a different squad dynamic over the past few matches than a coach who’s lost his touch. He’s managed to put a starting XI together that’s been in a losing position only once in the last nine games, and that was an injury-enforced change, so the Timbers are getting into good positions and generally if they can do that, Porter mostly calls it right to keep it that way.

The problem with taking Valeri off, and one potential reason for the side’s relatively poor showing after his removal, is that we don’t have anyone of his ability to fill the void he leaves. Perhaps Nagbe could, one day, but for now he’s not that guy, and without Valeri we start to retain less of the ball out of our half and that puts more pressure on the defence.

That’s what we saw in this game as the Fire came out firing, and got the goals that they no doubt feel they deserved or all their effort. That’s what those who railed against Porter’s substitution choice saw. The consensus seemed to be that everything had been going well up until then, and then Porter spencered it by bringing off Valeri.

The problem I have with this is, and this where I’ll respectfully disagree with the coach below and likely most other fans, is that we were already pretty poor before Valeri went off.

With the way we were playing, there was absolutely no reason for that team to get a goal. They got a goal out of nothing. It wasn’t like they had a flow or anything. It popped up in a moment, and we fell asleep.

Now, while I don’t disagree that the goal, the events that led directly to Magee making it 2-1, “popped up in a moment” when we had fallen asleep, but I don’t agree it came out of nothing. ***

For all we were stroking the ball around (somewhat) nicely and, in our mind, controlling the pace of the game, Chicago weren’t paying attention. They missed the lesson when Zemanski scored and just kept doing what they’d been doing, which was pressing hard and upping their tempo.

In the first half, the Timbers averaged 5 passes per minute, to Chicago’s 3 as they outworked and outplayed their hosts. By the time Valeri went off that situation had turned around entirely and our patient, deliberate play was being disrupted by a fired up Chicago. Our passing accuracy had dropped from 83% to 63% and the problem was that weren’t getting our attacking players involved enough because the Fire were pressing, or we were just plain sloppy and caught on our heels at times.

PT 1HBV PASS

It’s true that Valeri had two shots at goal in the second half, equalling the entire team’s tally after he went off, and of his four passes, one led to the Timbers’ 2nd goal, but the problem is that he only had four passing opportunities in over 20 minutes of play. His minutes per pass rate had gone from 2.4 to 5.4 before he went off, and having Valeri making passes every five minutes is not how to get the best out of him.

By taking off Valeri, we were losing a lot of our attacking threat, but we were 2-0 up at the time and clearly Porter felt all was well. Can’t really blame him, and really the change makes perfect sense when you consider that Valeri is coming back from an injury, and we have a big week ahead. My problem isn’t with taking off Valeri, it’s that the change wasn’t bold enough.

A lot of our play was directed towards the flanks, which allowed Chicago to press hard out wide and force turnovers from which to launch attacks.

Fire tackling
Fire tackling
Fire passing
Fire passing

The Timbers were warned a couple of times in the first couple of minutes of the second half as Magee’s movement and Jewsbury getting caught doing a dragback at the corner of the box. The Fire pressed harder, sometimes questionably so, but they also pressed higher and Magee proved a real handful with his play both on and off the ball.

In the first half, the Timbers pressing was very well organised and it snuffed out much of Chicago’s threat, but in the second half it wasn’t as effective.

PT 1H Mid Press

PT Midfield Press 2H

Meanwhile Chicago were doing a better job of closing down the space in front of the defence, and denying the Timbers space and time there.

Chic 2H Shutdown

In general terms, the triumverate of Zemanski, Chara and Johnson did well and they rotated duties very nicely, such that if I’m Darlington Nagbe, I’m maybe a little worried about what Rodney Wallace’s return from international duty means. For much of the game, Zemanski was the deeper of the three, often dropping between Kah and Jean-Baptiste to help build from the back.

PT Zemanski CB

Zemanski did his chances of starting again no harm when he did move forward and was rewarded with a goal which was a thing of beauty.

Little surprise it came from Valeri being involved, his previous touches in the second half being a pass that led to his own shot at goal, and equally, given how tight the Fire were keeping it through the middle, it came from springing Piquionne in down the flanks.

timbers goal 2

Zemanski’s finish really was exquisite, and at that point it really did seem like it would break the Fire’s spirit and kill of the fightback before it really got going.

But the home side kept on pressing, getting the ball forward and drawing set-pieces, and throwing the ball into the box.

Well, we went up 2-0, and to be honest with you, it looked like it was going to be three or four

In all honesty, at the time I was worried about how the half was playing out and I’m struggling to see where Porter gets the 3 or 4 goals from, unless he’s referring to chances in the first half cos in the second, if you were out of the room when Zemanski scored, or blinked during Valeri’s tame effort from distance, you don’t see the Timbers doing much to threaten Chicago’s goal. You could say Kocic wasn’t really troubled by all this possession and increased tempo, but all it would take is a slip here or a slice of bad luck there and suddenly it’s 2-1 and all that pressure is going to start making people a little jumpy.

There’s a good chance that if Kocic scoops up the ball and holds it, rather that it spilling to Magee, that the Timbers weather the storm and Zizzo’s pace and width are able to stretch and hurt a tiring Fire defence in the last 15-20 minutes. Games can swing on such moments.

AJB PushNow, I won’t make the case the AJB got a nudge in the back that sent him into Kocic, who then spilled it at Magee’s feet for that first goal because, hey, it’s a contact sport after all and if you rely on refs getting it right 100% of time, you’re going to be disappointed 100% of the time. Still, maybe someone will make that case here.

AJB TackleEqually, I don’t see the point in arguing that Jean-Baptiste won the ball from Magee, whose “foul” led to the free kick that made it level because when a player reaches in like that, it’s left to the referee’s interpretation, and I refer you to the stats above for how that will work out for you.

The fact is that it’s easy to lay blame for this drawtastrophe at the doors of Caleb Porter for blowing the sub, or the ref for being a ref. I’m sure these factors made a difference, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The Timbers didn’t drop points because Diego Valeri was taken off, but because Caleb Porter misread the match and didn’t make the right kind of change.

To be fair to the coach though, his hands were tied. Four players off on international duty to add to an injury list meant that Porter didn’t really have the tools at his disposal to change the game when it began to slip away from him.

We really missed Rodney Wallace, whose presence would’ve offered more than Nagbe and Zizzo combined, and without Ryan Johnson available, Porter probably kept Piquionne on a good 10 or 15 minutes longer than he’d have liked. His reluctance to bring on Valencia is understandable in that the youngster is much more mercurial presence than Piquionne, and when the team need someone who can hold up the ball in attack to relieve pressure, you stick with the guy who is handing out masterclasses in doing just that right now. Valencia is stuck in the margins for now, though I’d expect he’ll have a second chance to shine against Tampa. I just hope it is as an attacker than in midfield.

The Timbers Front Three
The Timbers Front Three
Zizzo tried his best, and got involved, but he’s not Valeri, and the methadone is never as good as the real stuff. His presence, rather than give us a good diagonal outball and keep the Fire defence pinned back a little, unsettled the balance of the front three as big gaps opened up between the all.

The tight interplay and close movement and understanding between the front three, with support from behind, that is a big part of why the Timbers have been so successful in attack this year.

PT Movement Creating Opportunity

With a key, arguably THE key, part of that attack on the field, it suffered and the Fire were able to force pressure under it told. Even a late chance which came off Kah’s surprised right foot from a Will Johnson free-kick, and could’ve grabbed all three points wouldn’t have masked a second half performance that left us hoping for such a last gasp effort in the first place.

The sky isn’t falling though. Bad news: it’s one of those draws that feels like a defeat. Good news: we went to Chicago and outplayed them for 45 minutes with at least six first team players unavailable and were a few inches from coming away with all three points.

It’s a huge fortnight ahead, with three of four games at home, and a trip to play the Galaxy. The US Open Cup match perhaps isn’t the ideal timing with Dallas and LA next up in the league, so we will get a better look at just how deep Porter’s squad really is, and it’s a brave man who backs against Portland when they’re still grinding out results on the road with a half a team missing.

Good News: we’re still not Seattle. Bad News: seriously, there is no bad news there.

Keep the faith, and stay the course.
#RCTID

Six Degrees: Kansas City

A few quick thoughts on the Portland Timbers  3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City.

1) Man oh man, it’s good to be a Timbers fan right now, isn’t it?  Each and every week, it seems we prove something new.  This time, we proved we can win on the road.  And not against some chumps, either.  This was against one of the best teams in the league.  And we didn’t steal those 3 points.  We earned them.  We were the better team.

Absolutely amazing, isn’t it?  Such a change from last year.  We’re no longer the loveable losers.  We’re contenders, now.  Legitimate contenders.

2) In last week’s column, I was a grumpy old man, up in arms over the team’s late-game bunkering.  Since then, enough people have argued against me, trying to teach me something about soccer, that I’m starting to question myself.  Yes, maybe our “bunkering” is really just the other team getting desperate and throwing numbers forward.  Maybe our boys are doing the best they can, surviving the onslaught.  I may be willing to concede this point.  Maybe.

But there were still a few times against KC that I thought the Bunker Monster had returned.  Not as bad as at San Jose, but still, it felt a little bunker-ish.  I’ve got one more thought on this matter and then I’ll move on: Frederic Piquionne is an excellent late-game sub, especially if we’ve got the lead and our defense is under siege.  He’s a big target and he’s outstanding 1v1.  When the other team’s sending everything forward and our defense is just trying to clear the ball out of danger, Freddy gets on the end of those deep, desperate clearances, then has the strength and skill to hold onto that ball a good long while.  Heck, he even gets close to a few shots on goal.  The other team has to give him a little attention, which means a little less pressure on our tired, besieged, late-game defense.  I’m not sure we should be starting Piquionne, not when he’s this valuable as an end-of-game sub.

3) Since I’m talking about Piquionne, let’s do some quick hits on a few other players.

Diego Valeri – He sees things other players just don’t.  It’s like he’s playing in slow-motion or something.  Smooth as silk.

Ryan Johnson – I love his work rate, I love his first-goal header, and I want to marry his second-goal assist.

Darlington Nagbe –  Could his goal have been any cooler?  That pass was slightly behind him and he somehow throws his feet backwards to tap it in.  Backwards!

Rodney Wallace – When the guy brings it, he brings it in a big way.  Huge shot from distance.  Fabulous goal while being crunched forward and behind.  Tons of energy.

Diego Chara – He’s short, he’s hard, he’s got a yellow card, and he’s tied for the league lead in assists.  Who’da thunk it?

4) So let’s talk about the improvements we’re seeing from so many players.  The guy next to me at the bar was talking about how everyone looks “so much smarter” this year.  I agree completely.  But why?  Have they really learned so much more from Caleb Porter and his possession-based style?  Or did they already know all this, they just didn’t have a chance to show it?  I imagine it’s a little of both, really.  But whatever the reason, we Timbers fans are the beneficiaries.  This is a team that is fun to watch.  The style of play is so much more attractive.  Even better, when we win, it doesn’t feel lucky.  We’ve become a team that should win.

5) Now, I’m gonna say something a little dangerous here, so please don’t freak out, but I think we have to give some credit to general manager Gavin Wilkinson.  Yes, yes, we may not like him much, but we have to acknowledge what he’s done.

Our current success didn’t begin on opening day.  It didn’t even begin when Caleb Porter finally left Akron and landed at PDX.  No, our team started changing almost as soon as we fired John Spencer mid-season.  From that point on, everything Wilkinson did was about building a “Porterball” team.  Caleb Porter, still coaching at Akron, was able to watch our games, analyze the tape, and tell Wilkinson what kind of changes needed to happen and what sort of players he needed.  Gavin could have fought him, but he didn’t.  Instead, he broke down the old and built up the new.  I am perfectly prepared to give Caleb Porter most of the credit.  He’s the architect.  But he couldn’t have done it without a lot of front office help.  Thanks, Gavin.

6) Maybe the biggest thing I love about this year’s team are the intangibles.  Let’s count them off: We’ve got leadership, both from the coach and from the captains.  We’ve got a united locker room.  We’ve got young players making strides.  We’ve got cagey veterans, showing them the way.  We’ve got an over-arching philosophy, and we stick to it.  We can adjust tactics, whether it’s week-to-week or half-to-half.  We’re even-keeled.  We’re scrappy.  We never, ever give up.

A few weeks ago, I predicted playoffs for this team and got a little guff about it.  “Playoffs?” they said.  “So soon?  I’ll be happy with just improving.”

Well, I’m making the same prediction now, folks, and I don’t see how anyone can argue against me.  Barring a major slew of injuries, this team is going to the playoffs.  And I don’t they’re sneaking in, either.  I think they’re a top-3 seed.

With our new coach, new system, and new players, everyone thought we’d have a rough time of it early.  We’d take our lumps, slowly improve, and then start climbing out of the cellar.  By the end of the year, maybe we’d be a mid-table team.

Well, here it is, people.  We’ve taken our lumps, yes.  We’ve slowly improved, yes.   But we’re not in the cellar.  We’ve got the sixth best record in the league.  And we just beat KC on the road.

You’re not rooting for a loveable loser anymore, Portland.  You’re rooting for a contender.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

Portland Timbers “rain” supreme over the Dynamo

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.

* Quotable:

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.”

* Highlights:

Five quick comments on the Timbers/Impact match

The Portland Timbers failed to mount a comeback for the second straight week, falling to the Montreal Impact 2-1 last night at Jeld Wen Field in Portland.

Here’s five quick takeaways from last night’s match.

* Focusing on the positives

While I’d prefer the Timbers to actually get a lead in a match, the fact the team has shown some heart and resolve to mount comebacks these first two matches is already markedly different than what has been shown since the club’s entry into MLS. This and the fact that the team is infinitely more dangerous and entertaining to watch is helping keep me a bit grounded despite the fact the club has only garnered one point after the first two matches at home.

* Donovan Ricketts

Listen, I still don’t think Ricketts is the #upgrade the Timbers front office and coaching staff thinks he is, but I saw a lot of tweets blaming Ricketts for the loss and that’s just not the case. In a nutshell, turnovers in poor positions, some epic ball-watching and failure to track back all led to the Timbers’ demise. I’ll have to watch the replay but if I remember correctly, I thought Andrew Jean Baptiste might have been at fault on one goal and Michael Harrington and Will Johnson were both in no-man’s land on the second Impact goal. Mikael Silvestre seemed to  be caught in no-man’s land much of the night but that’s a different thing altogether. Again, Ricketts actually came up with some huge saves last night and the score might have been worse. Still, I’d love to see Milos Kocic get a shot when he’s healthy but Caleb Porter has been quite open about the fact that Ricketts is his guy.

* Diego Chara

Has Chara been the Timbers best overall player over the first two matches? Maybe. While Diego Valeri and Will Johnson have been grabbing most of the attention, Chara has been pretty spectacular. Last night, his beautiful switching cross to Zemanski led to Ryan Johnson’s goal in the 80th minute. It’s worth noting that the addition of Will Johnson has definitely had an incredible impact on Chara’s play.

* Andrew Jean-Baptiste

I’m very excited about the potential for Jean-Baptiste. Remember, he’s only 20 years old (he turns 21 in June) and while he still makes mistakes, he is extremely gifted and is only going to get better.

* Some surprising statistics

It’s early, but these really help reinforce how different a team the Timbers are in 2013.

After two matches, Portland leads MLS in:
– Shot attempts (40)
– Shots on goal (16)
– Corner kicks (12)

Still, it’s time to start converting these chances, which seems awfully familiar to characteristics in past Timbers teams. However, I’m hopeful and optimistic that this team will get better.

 

Official: Portland women named Portland Thorns FC

PrintAfter weeks of anticipation, the new Portland women’s team finally has a name: Portland Thorns FC.

The Thorns FC crest was created by Portland artist Brent Diskin, an ardent local soccer supporter and member of the Timbers Army.

“Portland Thorns FC quickly emerged as a natural choice that was appropriate for the city and the culture of Soccer City, USA,” said Merritt Paulson, owner and president of the Timbers and Thorns FC. “And a nice side benefit of the name is the Army’s P-T-F-C chant doesn’t need much re-scripting for the women’s team.”

With some help of their friends from Girls, Inc., Thorns FC showed off their new logo and name in the video below.

In conjunction with today’s announcement, Thorns FC introduced the club’s official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PortlandThornsFC).

The unveiling begins

While Thursday is slated as the official announcement of the the Portland women’s soccer team name and logo, the Portland Timbers are providing fans some clues on their Facebook page.

Here are the first three clues:

logoclue1

logoclue2

logoclue3

I love how the unveiling includes young girls from  Girls Inc. of NW Oregon holding the pieces of the new logo. Kudos to the Portland organization on involving the local community in not only the logo design itself, but especially involving these youth in the unveiling.

Girls Inc. of NW Oregon is partner in the Portland Timbers Stand Together program. Their mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

To follow the clues, visit the Timbers Facebook at: www.facebook.com/portlandtimbers

 

 

 

Timbers acquire Ryan Johnson, Milos Kocic from Toronto FC

The Portland Timbers continue to be incredibly active during the MLS silly season as they announced another trade this morning. The Timbers traded Joe Bendik, their 3rd pick in the 2013 Super Draft and allocation money to Toronto FC for forward Ryan Johnson and goalkeeper Milos Kocic.

Additionally the Timbers announced that they have acquired the No. 2 spot in the allocation order from Chivas USA in exchange for the No. 3 spot in the allocation order and either an international slot for the 2013 season (through Dec. 31, 2013) or a second-round draft pick in the 2013 SuperDraft, should Portland acquire a second-round pick.

The Timbers are Ryan Johnson’s fifth stop in MLS. Discussions about Johnson’s abilities usually revolve around ‘potential’. In two seasons the Timbers haven’t had a player hit double digits in goals. Johnson did it in 2009. Can he do it in 2013 for Caleb Porter?

Milos Kocic got his opportunity to be the starting goalkeeper for Toronto FC after Stefan Frei went down with a season-ending injury. Like Frei before him, Kocic fared pretty well despite being plagued by horrific backline play and team defense. If Kocic stays, he can definitely contend for a starting goalkeeper position on the Timbers.

While there’s no doubt this is a move which improves the overall talent level of the Timbers, the intriguing part of this deal is the trade for the second spot in the allocation order. Does this mean that a U.S International/Men’s National Team player is coming back to play in MLS? In his Extra Time Radio interview Gavin Wilkinson mentioned getting another forward (Ryan Johnson apparently) and wanting another center back. Does this portend a Carlos Bocanegra return to MLS? Let’s hope so.