The Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes play a regular season like preseason game in front of 16,118. Portland was able to score first and then scored again but this time for San Jose and the game ends in a draw.
John Spencer trotted out one the most unusual of line-ups as he elected to go with a 4-3-3 which morphed into a 4-5-1 as play went on. During the first 5 minutes both teams really came out pressing and you could see the preseason rust for some of the players as passes just did not connect. The choppiness continued which was interrupted intermittently with a sprinkling of half chances for each team.
Portland's first chance for a goal came around 6 minutes into the game as Diego Chara was on the receiving end of a great ball into the box and while he was a half step ahead of the defender it appeared he had been taken down in the box. The Referee deemed it a fair tackle and replays on the video board were inconclusive. However the Army thought it was a penalty and let the Referee know of their displeasure in a variety of ways.
After that chance San Jose really had the run of play and seemed to hold possession better than the Timbers and Portland reverted to early 2011 season form and was playing route 1 ball and lacked possession on the wings. At times Portland did show the possession and precision passing on the wings which did lead to crosses from the wings but each time the ball was lacking the quality needed.
Even with San Jose having more possession for the first 15 minutes Portland was able to strike first. Eric Alexander was able to get on the end of a long pass and with no other options he was able to hit the ball out of bounds for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner Kalif Alhassan played it short to Chara who laid it off to Alahassan. We all knew what was coming next and the only thing different this time was the fact that Alhassan finally hit the perfect curling ball to the far post over the outstretched arms of John Busch!
After the early goal Portland's formation morphed into a 4-5-1 with two destroyers in Jack Jewsbury and James Marcelin in the middle. However this formation just ceded the wings to the Earthquakes who really attacked our slower leftback Mike Chabala. Despite the ability to blow by Chabala the finally ball never challenged the defense nor Troy Perkins.
With the Army behind the Timbers and San Jose also feeding off that energy a bit of physical started creeping into the game. There was a lot of back and forth from both teams which finally bubbled over when Captain Jack Jewsbury took exception to a tackle and the subsequent delaying tactics and a minor scuffle broke out. This scuffle alone should prove that this was no minor preseason game.
For the rest of the first half Portland continued to struggle with possession but San Jose also continued to lack the quality needed in the final third. Portland entered the locker room with a one to nil lead.
No Changes were made to the Timbers lineup but a tactical change was made that pushed Kalif and Chara higher to relieve the pressure on Perlaza to play a target forward role. This change however opened up the middle of the park as Jewsbury and Marcelin drift into deep positions. While this change helped Perlaza it really made the first 10 minutes of the first half a rough patch for Portland as they seemed to be on their heels defensively.
After the first 10 minutes were Portland seemed to recover some semblance of defensive formation and tried to counter on any attack San Jose had and a back and forth game threatened to break out over the next 15 mins. This proved detrimental to Portland as San Jose finally got the goal they were seeking. Of course it came on an own goal as Hanyer Mosquera pulled a Steven Keel and hit the ball right past Perkins. Hanyer probably did not need to stop the cross as no San Jose player looked like they would be on the end of it.
After the goal the game really got tough to watch as Portland continued to have trouble possessing the ball and San Jose attacked right down the center of the field. Even with the subs coming in Portland was not able to sustain possession but they were able to get a couple of shots on frame from Captain Jack and another from Bright Dike who had no business getting his head on a cross that looked like it was way over his head.
In the end you could tell this was a patch-work lineup which will most likely never been seen in a regular season game. Portland did come away with a draw and some things to work on before March 12th.
- Chabala looked like he was laboring out there defensively and lost quite a few balls in the offensive third.
- James Marcelin and Captain Jack should never be paired together without a CAM in front of them, they just leave to much open space in the center of the field.
- Ryan Kawulok really looked good as a RB and showed some decent offensive moves.
- Kalif Alhassan had some great passes but still seemed to keep the ball too long and tried a few too many cheeky passes for my liking. He also likes to pull a few Coopers in the game.
- Perlaza's touch failed him a couple of times but did have some good runs
- Portland had 1 Offside called the whole game I think this could be called the No Cooper Affect.
- Nagbe's insertion changed the pace of the game but he still looked hesitant to take over the game.
- Dike he a physical specimen but still needs to work on his foot skills.