Recap: Portland suffers a relapse, gives up a late goal

Jay DeMerit, Kalif Alhassan ________________________________ (ball)

Quick Recap:

The Portland Timbers came out with guns blazing but did not get the early goal and had to cool their heels for a short weather delay at half time. Portland continued their first half momentum and finally broke through, but the Vancouver Whitecaps got a late goal to equalize.

First Half:

John Spencer made some surprising changes to the line-up for this game. He decided to go all out and play an attacking brand of football, instead of the defensive style we have seen the last 5 games. Essentially Spencer was playing a pseudo 4-3-3, and in the end it looked more like a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the midfield.

The offensive infusion into the line-up really seemed to help Portland early, as they continually looked to Kalif Alhassan to manage their offense. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, were setting the tone physically and looking get bodies on Darlington Nagbe and Kalif Alhassan whenever either touched the ball.

Even with the physical play, Portland's wings and Nagbe were showcasing their possession skills and passing it around the park for the first 20 minutes of the game. However, all that possession gave the Timbers just 3 shots, only 1 on target for an easy save by Joe Cannon. The possession also won numerous corners, 7 in the first half to be exact, and really put pressure on Vancouver in their defensive third.

Defensively, Portland was able to handle Vancouver's speedy counters because of the dominant play from Eric Brunner and Hanyer Mosquera. Vancouver's only chance of the first half came in the 45th minute and it was a dangerous one. Sebastien Le Toux found himself on the end line, with Troy Perkins out of position and retreating back into the goal mouth. He played the ball back to Camilio Sanvezzo, who had a wide open goal to shoot at, but thankfully he missed the goal completely.

Portland played well at times but just not enough offensively to get the opening goal in the first half and had to settle for goose egg on the scoreboard.

Second Half:

With the weather not cooperating the second half was delayed by a good 20 minutes, but the weather cleared quickly, and the second half resumed. Portland picked up right where they left off offensively, with a lot of pressure early earning a corner kick. Four minutes later Portland had their best opportunity of the night.

Troy Perkins gathered a long ball up and threw a great ball to Captain Jack Jewsbury. Jack played the ball to Kalif who immediately turned and hit a long through-ball to a sprinting Jorge Perlaza. Perlaza's speed allowed him to get behind the defense and to the end line, where he hit a perfect cross to a wide open Nagbe in the box. Nagbe's touch failed him, though, as he was unable to keep the half-volley down and on frame.

The shot did seem to galvanize the Timbers and add energy to them and the crowd. It also served as a wake-up call to Vancouver, and despite the added energy to the Timbers and the fans, the game started to settle into a battle in the middle third of the pitch with a lot of half chances between the 50th minute until the 60th minute.

Once the 60th minute rolled around, Portland found another gear offensively, and Kalif Alhassan became more involved in the offense. Ball after ball found it's way into the box through the creativity and vision of Alhassan, but no one was able to get on the end of the crosses. When Vancouver did gain possession, they really wanted to take the sting out of the game and seemed content to pass it around, before sending a handful of players forward.

In the 65th minute it looked as if Portland was going to get their goal. Referee Jorge Gonzalez had other ideas. Eric Alexander had some nifty moves to get off a cross into the box, but Boyd was unable to get a clean head on the ball, and it bounced high to the back post. Kalif was at the back post and hit a first timer that was blocked by a sliding Alain Rochat, which bounced the ball back to Kaif. After deftly playing the ball past Rochat, he was immediately taken down by Jay DeMerit. DeMerit got no where near the ball and got nothing but Kalif, and yet both the referee and his assistant on the sideline felt it was a clean play.

Portland, thankfully, did not hang their heads and continued to push for the opening goal. In the 69th minute they finally got it. Portland won a deep throw-in, and Captain Jack tried to hit Kalif for the flick on, but instead his header went straight up. Alain Rochat was the first to the second ball, but he was unable to control it. Kalif was able to stick a toe out and poke the ball away, at which point he controlled the ball and passed it back to Captain Jack. Jack one-touched a goal-bound cross into the box, which forced Cannon to desperately parry the ball away. His punch was not enough to clear the ball from danger, though, and Kris Boyd, his body between the ball and the goal, volleyed home the opening goal.

For the next three minutes Portland continued to apply pressure to get the second goal, and had a few opportunities to get it. However, Portland was not able to get it, and the game changed in the 72nd minute, when Vancouver brought on Eric Hassli. The inclusion of Hassli seemed to change Vancouver's mentality and the attacking light was flipped on.

Portland, meanwhile, was thinking offense for so long that the defensive switch was slow to come on, and it allowed Vancouver to slowly gain more and more confidence going forward. Portland was trying to plug the leaks in the dam but it turned out to not be enough, as again they gave up a late goal.

In the 84th minute Portland gave up a free kick around the center of the pitch. The subsequent free kick was a long ball to Hassli who easily won the header against Hanyer Mosquera and flicked it on towards the goal. Darren Mattocks found himself wide open at the top of the box and pushed the ball past an onrushing David Horst and then easily past a hung-out-to-dry Perkins.

In watching the replay, Captain Jack originally had Mattocks but inexplicably ran backwards away from the play as the ball got to Hassli, rather than tracking Mattocks. The ball was then played into space away from Jewsbury and towards Mattocks who needed just one touch (and a possible handball) to create space for the shot.

Portland again settled for only 1 point after playing such a good game for 75 minutes.....

Observations:

  • Jorge Gonzalez has officiated the Portland Timbers 5 times and Portland has earned 3 points, with draws at Seattle, At Dallas and tonight's game. Portland has lost twice with losses at home to RSL and away to Montreal. It was a terrible no-call on the PK.
  • Portland has given up 18 goals in the last ten minutes at JWF and only scored 4.....
  • Palmer was set to come in and was walking to the fourth official when Mattocks scored
  • I can't stand writing the same thing over and over again concerning late game collapses.
  • Brunner's injury really cost the Timbers
  • KAH had a great offensive game but there were times he left Captain Jack out to dry defensively.
Post Game Comments that might cost John Spencer:
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