Just under 5,000 fans got their Portland Timbers fix at Jeld-Wen Field, as they watched the reserve side draw 3-3 against Bryan Jordan and the Los Angeles Galaxy Reserves. The Portland Timbers Reserves fell behind twice, but Darlington Nagbe's brace helped the team secure a draw. For the second consecutive match the reserves sealed their comeback with a second half stoppage time goal.
The announced 4-4-2 setup looked a bit more like a 4-5-1 for much of the first half, as Darlington Nagbe started the match in more of an attacking midfield role, along side captain Peter Lowry (wearing the Brent Diskin designed armband). With the help of wings Rodrigo Lopez and Eric Alexander, Nagbe and Lowry did well at controlling the ball in the Galaxy half early on, setting up some quality chances for Bright Dike.
The tide slowly turned during the course of the first half, though, as the Galaxy began to assert themselves. Both teams' defense kept the other's attack in check, until the deadlock was finally broken in the 42nd minute. Galaxy's Miguel Lopez fired a beautiful shot from the outside the left corner of the area, perfectly placing it in the top corner of Adin Brown's goal.
The Timbers Reserves came out with the same lineup but switched to a 4-4-2, as Nagbe and Dike played almost side by side up front. In the 50th minute an aerial pass fell to the feet of Nagbe, who took it out toward the left wing. Dike smartly kept himself behind the play, with the Galaxy backline racing to stay even with the ball. Nagbe halted his forward run, passing back to a waiting Eric Alexander, who continued the ball along to Dike, wide open on the right side. Dike took a touch and fired the ball past LA keeper Ryan Perk.
The Galaxy reserves would quickly turn things around and take advantage of the Timbers' fatigue, scoring two goals in the span of six minutes. In the 66th minute, Ryan Thomas found himself wide open, again on the Galaxy left flank, and fired a perfect strike into the top corner from distance. In the 72nd, Paolo Cardozo easily beat Ghanaian guest center defender Douglas Nyame on a run down the middle of the pitch. Brown was able to block his first strike, but Cardozo put in the rebound.
The Timbers pulled one back six minutes later, when Lopez found space for a cross and found Nagbe's head in front of goal. The Timbers kept up their relentless attack that produced 23 shots on the match until Nagbe finished his brace in the first minute of stoppage time, cleaning up the rebound from Dike's ninth shot of the match.
- Nagbe, Dike and Lowry worked well together up front but were often a bit tentative in their finishing. Nagbe often frustrated the crowd with his signature pauses, while Dike and Lowry had a habit of taking one touch too many, before putting a lower-percentage shot on. The number of chances they created for themselves was encouraging, though. 23 shots -- did I mention that?
- The Timbers had three guest players on the backline, and their disorganization showed at times. Nyame and Taylor Mueller played with a lot of heart in cleaning up some of the crosses into the middle, but their fatigue was a liability in the second half. Both of the Timbers' substitutions were for defensive players.
- We got our first good look at Eric Alexander, as he played the full 90 minutes. He was partially culpable for at least one of the goals -- giving Ryan Thomas far too much time on his 35-foot strike -- and he had a few too many sloppy touches for my liking during the course of the match. Still, he positioned himself well on his assist of Dike and contributed well on several other chances.
- Note that two of the Galaxy goals came from the right side of the Timbers' defense; Lopez and Chris Taylor paired together well at patrolling the left side.
- Alex Nimo fans will be disappointed to hear he played only four minutes of the match, replacing Nyame in the waning minutes.
- Freddie Braun didn't have his best game at center mid, but he was still one of the most reliable players on the ball. I'm looking forward to him contributing to the first team on a regular basis in 2012.
- If you think the officiating is bad during first team matches ... oy vey. The Timbers were called offside six times; maybe two of them were legitimate.