Portland went up early but couldn't hold onto the lead as Chicago equalized in the first half. The second half was much of the same as Portland got the first goal but this time held on for the win. 2-1 Portland win.
The Portland Timbers looked to show off their offensive talent early and often and it almost created the early goal. Mike Chabala had a long throw-in find Kris Boyd, who was able to flick it on towards goal, but Sean Johnson was able to make the save and prevent the early goal.
Portland's pressure continued and it really looked like Chicago was slightly rattled by the amount of pressure Portland was putting on them, especially the young central defenders. However after the initial surge from the Timbers the game settled down to a little back and forth as Chicago slowly gained possession and momentum.
As Chicago gained confidence, more and more of the play was in Portland's defense third. Portland seemed so intent on attacking that they found themselves out of position once the ball changed possession. It also almost looked like Portland panicked when the defenders got the ball and would pass the ball backwards or square instead of forward.
Even with all of the momentum Chicago seemed to be gaining, all it took was hard work and a little bit of luck to turn the tide. Franck Songo'o won a free kick in 18th minute, and the ball on that free kick caused a corner kick. On the corner Songo'o stepped up to hit a great ball to the back post which found a wide open Hanyer Mosquera, who headed the ball back across the goal. Boyd found himself in the right place at the right time but with his back to the goal, and all he could do as he was falling down was flick it on towards goal. Boyd's flick found Eric Brunner who buried a side volley into the back of the net.
The goal energized the crowd and energized the Timbers and their attack. Half chances and dangerous passes followed for the next 10 minutes but Portland was unable to connect on the final pass. In the 27th minute Dominic Oduro went down like he was shot after Mosco tried to tackle the ball away, but the replays showed that if there was contact it was a slight touch and not the hard foul Oduro tried to make it look like.
As Portland continued to push forward, any time they gave the ball up Chicago tried to counter attack with their speed. It almost cost the Timbers in the 31st minute, but Troy Perkins beat Patrick Nyarko to the ball and cleared it away outside of his box. Portland again almost gave up a goal in the 34th minute, off a deflection from a free kick by Marco Pappa. However Perkins made a reaction save but could not hold onto the ball, spilling it. Luckily Brunner got to the ball first and cleared it away for a corner kick.
On the subsequent corner Portland cleared the first ball away, but the second ball was played back into the box and found a Chicago player wide open in the middle of the box. His shot from 15 yards out was parried to the side by a diving Perkins. All the work Perkins put into keep Portland on top almost paid off 1 minute later as Rodney Wallace was played through to the end line and hit the ball back to Boyd, but his shot was blocked and then cleared away.
The wide open first half continued and Chicago again threatened with a free kick, and this time found the equalizer. Steven Smith was unable to clear the second ball past the waiting Pappa, who easily found Anibabba for the simple shot past a sprawling Perkins.
After such a good first half Portland went into the locker room exactly how they started the game, tied.
Portland made one change at the half, with Sal Zizzo coming on for Franck Songo'o. Portland came out just like they did in the first half with a lot of pressure and it created multiple chances. On one of the free kicks Gonzalo Segares and Mosco came together and Mosco pushed Segeras. Segares then decided to go down as if Mosco took a swing at him but the ref would have nothing of it and waved at him to get up.
The pressure continued, and Portland added a goal off a Zizzo corner kick. A charging Boyd got his head onto the low cross, and the ball deflected off of Logan Pause and into the back of the net. The ball was not going into the goal after Boyd flicked it on, so it will go down as an own goal. But after not having a goal off a corner all year, Portland will take any goal they can get off a set piece, especially two in one game.
With the addition of Zizzo, Portland could attack behind the back four of Chicago and not in front of them. At around the 60th minute the game sped up, but not in a good way. The ball was pin-balling around the pitch, which was not conducive to Portland's attack, and it created more confusion for Portland's back line and led to numerous half chances.
Chicago had two chances over the next couple of minutes, and when those chances didn't go as they wanted they started to play "Cooper Ball 2011" (Cooper is doing this a lot less so I put the 2011) -- you know, fall down at the slightest contact and pray for a foul. The ref was not buying any of it, and as they continued to flop he continued to swallow his whistle. The more he swallowed the whistle the more Chicago focused on the ref and not the game, which was good for Portland.
Even with the lead Portland was not content to sit back and see the game out but continued to attack and it led to some chances for Portland. It also led to some counterattacks for Chicago -- and some anxious moments in the back for Portland, but those anxious moments were dealt with.
In the 76th minute Austin Berry had some words with the ref about Boyd's physical play. He wanted the ref to know Boyd was always grabbing a hold of his jersey and had a 12 inch tear to prove it. As the camera showed the tear Kris Boyd was right next to Berry and gave him a wink and a look as if to say "This is a man's game."
Once the match reached the 80th minute Portland switched into "see the game out" mode and sat back and defended. Chicago meanwhile continued their tactic of earning free kicks, and Sebastian Grazzini even tried to earn a PK, but the ref again spotted the dive and wrote his name in the book.
With Portland sitting back and inviting pressure it allowed them to counter attack with speed down the wings once they did gain the possession, and it really made Chicago weary. Even with Chicago not able to go fully forward they still had their chances for the equalizer but Portland defense was able to snuff the Fire out and keep Portland in the lead.
Chicago became more and more desperate as time continued to wind down, and Portland's defense continued to get just a desperate. The three minutes of stoppage time were agonizingly long as Portland was looking for the win and the ability to climb out of the cellar in the West.
In the end Portland was able to see the game out and get the win. What a sweet win it is, and Portland continues to be perfect against Chicago, with three games played and three wins.
- Portland finally scored a goal on the South Goal.
- Perkins played a great game again and kept two sure fire goals out of the net.
- Sal Zizzo is exactly what Portland has been missing, the ability to beat players with speed down the wings.
- Rodney Wallace is a midfielder -- can we acknowledge this now?
- Hopefully this game finally opens the flood gates for goals.