Game 14: Timbers 3 – Red Bull 3By: mao | June 20th, 2011
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.
Portland’s first half effort was poor as New York passed right through the Timbers’ midfield and defense. An Henry-De Rosario-Austin da Luz combination gave New York it’s first goal in the fifth minute. David Horst had a difficult time keeping track of De Rosario, who floated across the front line throughout the first half. Henry, though listed as a forward, tended to drop into his own half and played much more as a central midfielder, serving as the hub of Red Bull’s potent attack. Portland did actually possess the ball to a much better degree than in previous games but it seemed to be possession for possession’s sake. Though passes were strung together by the half-dozen, the possession did not lead to any real offensive movements. Rather the ball just passed to and from the wide midfielders with no real purpose. Horst caught a forearm to the head on a freekick and was temporarily knocked to the ground, though he did come back and complete the first half.
At the half, manager-for-the-day Trevor James replaced Horst with Goldthwaite to give the former New York defender first team action for the first time since the Toronto match on March 26 and a chance to play against the team that released him late in the summer of 2010. Goldthwaite did not take long to get intimately involved, though Jewsbury started the scoring for Portland. Collecting a loose ball just outside the box the Timbers’ captain ripped a shot through a number of bodies that skipped into the back left corner of the goal for a 1-1 score in the forty-eighth minute. The goal was the first from the run of play since the Dallas match on April 17 and Jewsbury’s fourth of the season. Not even two minutes later, Jewsbury sent a long free kick to the back right corner of the box where Eric Brunner headed down directly in front of goal. Goldthwaite, drifting forward as the free kick lofted away, was in perfect position to score but over ran the ball by a half-step. Rather than a frustrating miss, the much-maligned defender stunningly flicked out his back heel and poked the ball past Greg Sutton for a 2-1 lead and the least likely scenario imaginable for Timbers supporters.
With two goals in two minutes the Timbers went on the all-out offensive, pounding New York’s broken defense with runs and shots. In the sixty-seventh minute Brunner sprung a barely onside Jorge Perlaza on a breakaway. With Kenny Cooper to his left, Perlaza tried to pass across the face of goal after drawing Sutton out of the net. Instead of finding Cooper, the ball was deflected by a sliding Keel and dropped nicely into the net for a 3-1 Portland lead. Henry answered just six minutes later when his neat passing with Joel Lindpere and da Luz resulted in a wonderful shot and goal that pulled one back for the visitors and set up the dramatic final fifteen minutes.
Khalif Alhassan sent a perfect through ball to a streaking Perlaza, who instead of poking over to Cooper for a sure goal, drew a tackle from Sutton in the box, resulting in a yellow card for the New York goalkeeper and a penalty for the Timbers. Jewsbury stepped up to take the penalty, a certainty after Cooper’s fiasco against DC United three weeks ago, but pushed the shot too far to the right, sending the ball ricocheting off the post and out of bounds. Rather than taking a commanding 4-2 lead with just fifteen minutes left, the Timbers were left to defend their one-goal lead.
Rather than trying to rehash Henry’s strange exchange with the suddenly re-bearded Adam Moffat, this space will skip straight to the final act. A long, hopefully ball came from New York’s midfield, roughly toward De Rosario on the right. Goldthwaite mishit his clearance, leaving the ball at the feet of De Rosario with literally seconds left to play. With Lindpere in the box, De Rosario crossed, hoping to find an equalizer, but Wallace’s arm blocked the path of the ball and resulted immediately in a penalty for New York. The silence at the stadium was almost as impressive as the volume after the Goldthwaite goal earlier in the half. Of course De Rosario blasted the penalty past Troy Perkins, who guessed correctly, and gave the visitors a shocking 3-3 draw.
For all the antics and oddities of the DC match several weeks ago, this match was by far the strangest, most exciting game the MLS Timbers have played to date. To lose two points against the top team in the Eastern Conference after leading by two goals as late as the seventy-third minute, and not to mention missing a penalty, is a difficult blow for a Portland side that seemed to have finally regained some of the momentum lost over their three-game losing streak. While a point against New York is certainly not a bad result when viewed without context, the failure to finish out a second straight home game against a top level club will eat at John Spencer and his players.
After starting the season by giving up goals early in matches the Timbers have become a side that allow late goals. Six now have been scored after the eightieth minute this season with DC United, Colorado Rapids and now New York Red Bulls scoring game-winning or -tying goals after the eighty-fifth minute, just in the past four games. After winning their first five home games of the season the Timbers have not won any of their past three. The point from New York was the first since May 21 and Portland are now winless in four straight. However, the point did take the Timbers back within a point of a playoff position while holding two games in hand against tenth place Houston Dynamo.
In the end, Portland is proving to be exactly what it is, a first year side with a number of young players in important positions. What success has come this year has been mostly attributable to gritty performances by the likes of Jewsbury, Brunner and Perkins while the youngsters are still learning how to play together and keep their composure. There is no denying the talent on this Timbers team but there has not yet been a complete game played this season, the closest being the victory against Real Salt Lake. The hope for Timbers supporters is that Spencer and James can use games like New York to teach their players the importance of paying attention and completing games where points should be the deserved result.