Game 20: Portland 2 Toronto 2By: Bob Kellett | July 31st, 2011
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.
- Another late game meltdown from the boys in green and white. This has happened enough times to warrant some questions. First, are the Timbers mentally tough? The answer is clearly no. Almost every time the team has faced adversity this season it has folded up its tent. Saturday night was no exception. Second, is there a fitness problem? This one isn’t as clear, but Magic 8 Ball says: likely. The team almost always seems gasped during the final 20 minutes games. Guys like Jewsbury, Brunner, and Chara were exceptional in the first half. Where were they during the final stretch? Out of position, sucking air. Third, does the manager make the right moves to protect leads? Rare has been the time when John Spencer has made late game defensive substitutions. How does one go about protecting a lead by inserting Kenny Cooper into the left side of midfield? He had Marcelin, Futty, and Wallace on the bench. Would have been helpful to see one of those players – especially Marcelin – come in after Toronto’s first goal.
- Who would have predicted that starting lineup? Nagbe and Zizzo on the pitch at the same time. No Perlaza. No Wallace. Chara as an attacking midfielder. In a game that he labeled a “must win,” Spencer rolled the dice. It worked for 70 minutes. Also worth noting that the meaningless exhibition against Independiente might have had meaning after all. Notice how the guys who played well in that game got the start on Saturday?
- I saw a 4-1-4-1 formation out there with Jewsbury playing a sweeper role. I thought this was a pretty good setup. It freed Chara up to go forward and to generate some offense. For the most part Jewsbury did a nice job destroying Toronto’s advances. Johnson worked hard as a lone forward, making some decent runs and drawing fouls. It was still a defensive minded approach, but better than what we had seen the previous three games with Marcelin, Jewsbury, and Chara in the middle.
- The new guys did well. Palmer wasn’t spectacular, but he was steady. He was able to push forward and thread some through balls to guys making runs. He didn’t seem to be out of position after going forward. Chabala was excellent on the ball. He has the makings of being a true defender. Unlike Wallace, he favors contact and is good at blowing up plays. It is still early to say they will be the answer, but at this point they seem at worst as capable as the guys that have been back there all season.
- I know the crowd loves him but Sal Zizzo has a long way to go before he is a complete player. He made a couple of great runs, but he also disappeared for most of the game. He also plays no defense. The talent is there, but at this point that talent is one dimensional.
- Chabala took the corners when they were on the right side of the pitch. Jewsbury took the corners on the left side.
- For all the criticism that Chara has received, he was responsible for both goals. He calmly set up Johnson on the first one and drew the penalty on the second one. I love how he uses headers to attack forward in the box.
- It really is a game on inches. Toronto hits the post and then the Timbers countered right back, resulting in Johnson’s goal. In the second half, Brunner hit the post. If that went in we’d be talking about a different result.
Final Thoughts If soccer were a 70 minute game the Timbers would be a playoff contender. It is not and this team is not. Too many squandered opportunities at home. Too many late game blowups. There was a lot of encouraging play on Saturday. There was good possession, some nice buildups on the attack, and steady play in the back, but this game is all about results. And a one point result against a team that has stunk all season and whose players have to wear name tags to remember each other’s names is not a good result at all. A lot of season remains. At this point it seems like the Timbers are playing for future years.