Game 25: Timbers 3 – Palace 0By: mao | August 30th, 2010
Portland Timbers put together their first complete game since April in a 3-0 rout of Crystal Palace Baltimore. A third home sell-out in four games saw Portland dominate from start to finish against one of the league’s worst sides. Of course Palace had beaten the Timbers in each of their previous match-ups, so the clean sheet was a bit of revenge for Portland. Ryan Pore scored his league leading fourteenth goal and Bright Dike recorded his first brace, his fifth and sixth goals in the past seven games. Goalkeeper Steve Cronin was rarely tested as three important home points take the Timbers four points clear in fourth place.
With their win on Sunday, Portland have now gone five straight games without a loss. Three wins and two draws have brought the Timbers back toward the top of the league, a position that surely is appropriate given their roster. The win against Palace was a chance to remember how to dominate a game, but also to give several less often used players in key roles. Johan Claesson had his best performance in more than a year in central midfield, assisting on a goal and generally controlling the supply to Dike and Doug DeMartin up front. Quavas Kirk started at left back and played well, not conceding any chances on defense and sneaking up into the attack on occasion. Scot Thompson came on as a second half substitute and supplied both solid defense and a dangerous cross or two. Ibad Muhamadu came on late, ending his streak of starts, but adding wonderful touch in the final third. And finally, new boy Khalif Alhassan, the Timbers’ 19-year old signing from Ghana, made his first appearance for Portland. While his time was limited to ten minutes, Alhassan displayed fine touch, keen awareness and a creativity that the Timbers often lack.
Quite obviously, a 3-0 win over a side as poor as Baltimore (regardless of the previous results in this series) does not necessarily mean Portland are truly back among the top clubs in the league. But it does instill a sense of confidence and continues a nice streak as the regular season winds down. In 2009, Portland accrued most of its points before August and then slipped quietly down the stretch, despite ultimately winning the Commissioners Cup. With the monumental struggles of May and July behind, perhaps Portland are rounding out this final season in the second division on a positive streak. Five more games remain with just one coming at home, Thursday against Puerto Rico. If the Timbers can keep picking up points and increasing their goal differential, it is very well within reach that they could finish the season in fourth place.