A significantly younger Portland Timbers lineup faced the San Jose Earthquakes' usual starting XI and finished the 2012 campaign with a 1-1 draw against the Supporters Shield winners.
Keys to the Match
Wondo-PK-owski: Chris Wondolowski scored his 27th goal of the season in the 24th minute, thanks to the team's eighth penalty kick opportunity (second in MLS) -- this one involving the one and only Steven Lenhart. Congratulations go to Wondo for matching Roy Lassiter's single season scoring record. Props go to the Timbers for preventing Wondo from getting to 28.
OMG AJB: Although many of us were looking forward to watching a duel between Captain David Horst and Steven Lenhart, the real treat was seeing Andrew Jean-Baptiste make all the right moves to keep the back line secure.
Youth get a chance: According to Oregon Sports writer Mike Donovan, with usual captain Jack Jewsbury, as well as Franck Songo'o, out of the 18, the Timbers' average age on the field plummeted to 24.3; the bench was even younger, at 22.4. Gavin Wilkinson said after the game that fans should not read anything into the lineup changes with concern for 2013 -- that the decision was intended only to get some of the young guys a shot.
They should have gotten that shot months ago, but better late than never, I guess.
We will repay you: in appreciation for the fans, who have put up with a terrible 2012 season, some of the players held up a banner with the words: "To the league's best fans: we will repay you." It was a nice gesture to a frustrated fan base, but honestly I couldn't help but feel bad for some of the players who held it up -- guys who hadn't seen much of the pitch at all in 2012.
Moment of the Match
The Timbers Army (or possibly just those in my section, myself included) needed a little extra time getting their energy up in the opening minutes of the second half, a result of the cold weather and lingering frustration over the Earthquakes' first half penalty kick.
But the players on the field didn't seem to notice, coming out of the gate fired up and ready to go at the Quakes. The pressure the Timbers sustained in those first fifteen minutes eventually broke San Jose's backline, forcing them into the blunder that led to Bright Dike's goal.
The Timbers Army sang at full voice from then on.
Around the League
Real Salt Lake managed only a scoreless draw at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, missing an opportunity to force the Seattle Sounders to get a positive result today against the LA Galaxy. Seattle now needs only a draw in order to win what little home field advantage their is in the bipedal first round of the playoffs. Seattle will, however, need a win against LA in order to reach third place overall in MLS, a distinction which, depending on how the playoffs shake out, could prove enough to get them into the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, by the way, have reached the playoffs with just one more point than the Timbers accrued in 2011.