Bottom Line: This time the Portland Timbers started strong and finished strong. Four days after failing to hold a lead against the worst team in MLS, the Timbers put in a dominant performance against the league leaders, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 at JELD-WEN field. Playing in just his second league game since being acquired in a trade with Houston, defender Mike Chabala opened the scoring in the 25th minute by taking a pass from Darlington Nagbe and beating Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders with a blast from the edge of the box. Jorge Perlaza doubled the score in the 33rd minute after being set up by Diego Chara at the top of the box. Eric Brunner capped off the victory, heading a Sal Zizzo corner into the goal in the 68th minute. The victory is the Timbers’ first league win at home since May 21. It is the Galaxy’s first loss in 14 matches.
Bottom Line It was a familiar story at JELD-WEN Field. The Portland Timbers failed to hold onto a lead and lost points late in the game, playing to a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC. Eddie Johnson opened his account with the Timbers by taking a Diego Chara pass and beating Toronto keeper Stefan Frei in the 23rd minute. The Timbers doubled the lead in the 57th minute when Jack Jewsbury converted from the penalty spot after Chara drew a foul in the box. The Timbers were seemingly in control of the match until Peri Marosevic nailed a long shot past keeper Troy Perkins in the 71st minute. The Dutchman Danny Koevermans evened the score with a goal in the 81st minute. The home draw continues the Timbers drought at home. The Timbers have not won a league game in Portland since May 21.
I’ve never quite understood the concept of a “must win” game, especially one that occurs halfway into a season. I can understand that you must win when there is one game left in a season and a playoff slot is on the line, but a must win when there are 14 games after it? Why does one game matter more than another? Why wasn’t last week’s stinker in Columbus a must win?
The Lowdown: Eddie Gaven scissored a shot off of Futty’s chest and into the goal in the 79th minute to lift the Columbus Crew to a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in front of 11,246 at Crew Stadium. The victory lifts the Crew into second place in the Eastern Conference. The loss is Portland’s sixth in nine games away from Jeld-Wen Field. It is the Timbers’ fourth loss and five games, and it leaves them in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Odds and Ends
- John Spencer went with a 4-5-1 formation for the third straight game. This approach has included using essentially three defensive midfielders in the middle: Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, and James Marcelin. While this has helped prevent some of the defensive problems the Timbers were having in the middle of the pitch prior to the formation change, it has done little to generate much in the way of offense. The entire offensive buildup relies on the outside wings and/or desperation passes over the top to a usually offside Jorge Perlaza. Instead of killing the offense, how about getting some guys in the back line who can defend? Maybe next year.
- Speaking of which, I though Lovel Palmer acquitted himself well in his first start in green and white. You have to remember that the dude has been playing defensive mid for Houston for the past couple of years. It isn’t easy switching positions mid-season, even if he is reportedly a right back by nature. I thought he showed decent on the ball marking skills as well as an ability to push forward. I didn’t miss Jeremy Hall and neither did the Timbers.
- It was nice to see Darlington Nagbe come to life a bit. He is so smooth with the ball but so hesitant to move forward. Instead of waiting to draw contact from behind, I’d like to see him attack forward more. He showed more inclination to attack against the Crew then he has all year. Plus, his save (of sorts) off the line (of sorts) was a great reaction play that managed to full the refs.
- I am not a Kenny Cooper hater, but the guy is about as cut out to play the lone 1 in a 4-5-1 as you and I are. Talk about square peg in a round hole syndrome. I like John Spencer and have largely liked the moves he has made this season, but he must be able to see that Cooper can only thrive in a system in which he gets the ball with room to attack with the ball at his feet. He isn’t a target forward and he isn’t Jorge Perlaza-quick. Why pretend otherwise?
- It would be interesting to see Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe on the pitch at the same time. I know that neither plays much defense, but I can’t help but think that they might stretch out the other team if paired together. At this point, why not give it a try? It wouldn’t be the end of the world to give Alhassan a night off.
- The Crew certainly haven’t looked like world beaters in their two games against the Timbers, but you can’t argue with their results. They win at home and don’t concede many goals. They don’t play a style that is going to add many new butts to those bright yellow seats at Crew Stadium, but they will be competitive come playoff time.
Final Thought: After a victory last week in Chicago and a midweek trade that should bolster the lineup, it is hard not to be disappointed with the outcome of this one. What is perhaps more disappointing than the result was the quality of the performance. It was a “meh” effort from most of the lads and from the coaching staff. Inserting Cooper into the lineup at halftime was an indication to me that they were playing for a point. As has been the case for most of this season, late game breakdowns cost the Timbers.
Onward Rose City…
Up until this point in the transfer window the Portland Timbers have sat by quietly as seemingly one MLS team after another made moves to improve their rosters. That changed today. The Timbers have dealt little used (and nicely accented) Scottish midfielder Adam Moffat to the Houston Dynamo in return for defenders/midfielders Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer.
A trade of fringe MLS players? Yep, but also an on-paper good move for the Rose City.
Moffat has been dinged by injuries since joining the Timbers in January. He will perhaps be best remembered for giving delightful “football-sounding” interviews and for serving as a worthy wrestling partner for Thierry Henry. His absence will not be felt.
In return the Timbers pick up Palmer, who until last month featured regularly in a pretty decent Houston midfield. He has been playing a defensive mid (think Marcelin) role but the word on the street is that he is more naturally a right back (think the opposite of say Hall, who isn’t a right back but has been forced to play that role). Fair to say that he might not be the second coming of Scot Thompson, but he could be a decent body for the rest of the season in a position that could use a little, um, Lovel.
Those who have been around these parts a while might recall the name Mike Chabala. He came to the Timbers on loan in 2006, the Year of the Agnello. Five years is enough time to remove the stench. He is a guy who everyone seems to like, but who never has been able to move from the fringe to the lineup. He can play on the left side so at least there will be someone around to give Rodney Wallace a kick in the butt.
Perhaps the best part of this trade is not the players the Timbers have received (although they provide depth/competition at key positions), but the international slot they have picked up. This offers some flexibility for future moves and/or trades.
Jeld-Wen Field was nearly full to witness Portland Timbers lose in a friendly match with Mexican giants Club América, 1-0 on Thursday night. Star forward Ángel Reyna got the game’s only goal as América seemed happy to bombard the Timbers early, get their goal and spend the rest of the game sitting back, waiting for counter attacks. Starting goalkeeper Adin Brown was peppered with shots in the game’s first half-hour before the game slowed to a more mellow pace. The story of the game for the Timbers was the return of Bright Dike from a ruptured achilles suffered in the first half of the team’s first pre-season game. Though he played just nineteen minutes and had no real impact on the match, Dike’s presence in the team was a welcome sight and brief reprieve from the disastrous run of late.
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Portland failed to win at home for the fourth consecutive game in a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. Only a stunning goal from Darlington Nagbe could give the Timbers any semblance of hope in a mostly dire effort against a compact and talented Sporting side. Portland did have three key chances in the second half to equalize and relied on several fine saves from Troy Perkins to keep the Sporting tally at just two, but ultimately it was not enough to prevent a sixth game from passing without victory. The woeful month of June, with one point gathered from four matches, extends into July with Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders due to arrive in eight days time.
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Portland Timbers suffered their worst defeat in the MLS era with an embarrassing 4-0 loss away to FC Dallas on Saturday evening. The Timbers allowed two goals in each half and easily could have surrendered more as Jackson twice hit the post for the home side. It appeared as though Portland were utterly unprepared for the Texas heat and were constantly outrun, second to loose balls and seemingly incapable of tracking back defensively. Dallas repeatedly took advantage of Portland’s penchant for sending outside backs forward and were able to isolate Jackson and Marvin Chávez on the Timbers’ retreating central defenders. So easily did Dallas batter the Timbers’ defense in counter attacks, John Spencer was forced to substitute Darlington Nagbe in favor of Adam Moffat, despite trailing 2-0 at half-time. Not only was the deficit the worst of the season for Portland, the four goals was a season high and the first time any Timbers team has allowed four goals in a game since a 4-0 loss to Atlanta Silverbacks in 2006.
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Sal Zizzo created both goals as Portland Timbers reserves defeated the reserves from San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at Jeld-Wen Field. Nearly 1400 were in attendance on a beautiful morning as Eddie Johnson opened scoring in the second half, Chris Leitch scored a stunning equalizer and Zizzo forced Brandon McDonald into an own-goal for the match-winner. The Timbers featured trialist Cillian Sheridan at forward as well as former Timbers Tony McManus and Ross Smith in defense, the former playing all ninety minutes before sprinting off the pitch as soon as the final whistle blew. Johnson continues to impress in the reserves while Zizzo was more involved in the score sheet than any previous appearance in either the first team or reserves.
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Two more points were thrown away on Sunday night when Portland Timbers gave up a 3-1 lead in the final seventeen minutes to draw 3-3 with visiting Red Bull New York at Jeld-Wen Field. Though New York started strongly and controlled the first half, the Timbers were the better side throughout most of the second half. Goals from Jack Jewsbury, Kevin Goldthwaite and a Stephen Keel own-goal put Portland ahead 3-1, energizing a crowd starved for any goals after a 230-minute drought. But Thierry Henry pulled one back in the 73rd minute for New York before Rodney Wallace’s handball in the box on a Dwayne De Rosario cross gave Red Bull a penalty deep in injury-time. De Rosario, just back from international duty in the Gold Cup, converted the penalty on the game’s last touch leaving the Timbers with just one point.
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