The Portland Timbers logged 37 shots, scoring none, in 120 minutes of football in front of a light crowd of 5,489 frustrated fans at Jeld Wen Field. Nil to nil at the end of regulation, Cal FC scored quickly in the first half of extra time. Even in the face of the Timbers' barrage, the one goal was all they needed, giving the boys in green the dubious distinction of being the first MLS team ever to lose to a USASA side in the US Open Cup.
Timbers Coach John Spencer trotted out a nearly identical lineup as the one that drew against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. The one change was David Horst starting in place of Eric Brunner, who is dealing with concussion symptoms. Cal FC Coach Eric Wynalda countered with a traditional 4-4-2 formation that played more like a 4-5-1 for most of the match, with the fullbacks readily joining in the attack in the early going.
Cal FC made a go of it in the opening 20 minutes, pushing the ball forward and giving the Timbers back line plenty to do. The Timbers had their share of chances in the opening sixth of the match as well, getting a slew of shots in and winning corner kicks. But their progress was hampered by a Cal FC side with a lot of hustle, closing down the space quickly and forcing the Timbers into frequent mistakes.
But Cal FC's early match energy faded by about the 30th minute, and the remainder of the first half was spent almost entirely in Cal's half of the pitch. The Timbers created chances at a relentless pace in the final ten minutes and seemed destined to break through eventually, but each chance culminated in a shot either off target or right at the keeper. Portland ended the half with 12 attempts, with four of them requiring a save, each one easier than the last for Cal keeper Derby Carrillo.
At half time the Timbers replaced Steven Smith, who was slowed by a knock he took in the first half, with Freddie Braun.
Portland picked right up where they left off, getting down the field quickly and forcing a corner within the first minute. From there they continued to keep the ball in the north end of the pitch. The team made a habit of playing the ball out to the right flank to Kalif Alhassan, who would play the ball in to the middle in some manner, where various attacking players would either miss the target or see their shots blocked by defenders or easily saved by Carrillo.
Cal FC continued to play a very defensive game in the second half, rarely pushing the ball past the center line. They seemed content to play to a draw in regulation, dragging their feet and slowing the pace of the game at every opportunity. The disruptive and defensive strategy appeared to work, as they clogged the middle of the pitch and refused to allow the Timbers to draw them out of their compact shape.
Spencer substituted rookie Brent Richards for Eric Alexander in the 65th minute, and he immediately opened up the left channel of the Timbers attack, getting two shots from close range within his first two minutes on the pitch. But both of them met the same fate as all the other strikes, sailing harmlessly over the crossbar.
In the 79th minute it looked like the Timbers finally got their break. Richards, who had been finding lots of room to create from the left side of the penalty area, crossed the ball in only to have it blocked by a Cal defender's hand in the box. Kris Boyd set up the ensuing penalty kick, but it too sailed high over the bar, into the second row of the Timbers Army. Not. Close.
The chances kept coming for the home side, including a last ditch effort to avoid extra time, when Richards, Darlington Nagbe, and Kris Boyd strung together a series of passes inside the box. Boyd's finish went right at the keeper, and even more upsetting, he injured himself in the process.
John Spencer made his third and final substitution, pulling injured Kris Boyd and replacing him with Ryan Kawulok. Kawulok took Freddie Braun's place at left back, who in turn took Brent Richards' place at left wing, who moved up and took Boyd's spot at the top. In practice, though, Kawulok looked more like a midfielder, and Nagbe looked more like a striker, creating a 3-4-3 formation.
Cal FC started the first extra time period with renewed energy and surprised their opposition by actually pushing the ball past the center. The Timbers defense, having little desire to waste time in their end of the pitch, relied on an offside trap set at the center of the field to prevent any runs towards their goal. It worked for the first five minutes, and then it didn't.
In the 95th minute of the match, Cal striker Artur Aghasyan perfectly timed a run past the trap and easily beat David Horst in a foot race to the penalty area, before chipping the ball over a charging Troy Perkins. Boos poured onto the pitch from the North End.
From then on it was the same old shit. The Timbers moved the ball around in the attacking end of the field, but nobody could put a shot on that challenged the keeper. In fact, the first Timbers shot that tested more than the pips on the keeper's gloves came in the 119th minute, when Jorge Perlaza got his head on the end of an Alhassan cross and pounded it on target. This time Carrillo had to dive to his left to make the stop.
That was it for the Timbers, 1-0 the final score.
- Coach Spencer said as much in his post-game presser: the Timbers can make no excuses for this result. The referee was fair, the strikers got plenty of service, and they were even awarded a penalty kick.
- Out of 37 shots, the Timbers put 15 on goal, but only one of them really tested the keeper.
- Jack Jewsbury led the team with 8 shots; I'm trying to remember if he got even one of them on the frame.
- Portland won 11 corner kicks, for all the good they did.
- The defender guarding Boyd for most of the game was 5'7" former USL Timber Mike Randolph.
- Make no mistake: Portland lost to a vastly inferior team on Wednesday, in contrast to Real Salt Lake's loss to a Minnesota Stars squad that looked like the better side for long stretches.
- Having said that, credit must be given to Cal FC. They came to town with a purpose and a game plan, and they executed. The ecstatic Cal players celebrated in front of an appreciative Timbers Army, who encouraged them by chanting, "Beat Seattle." They face the Seattle Sounders in one week.
Check out the post game comments from Spencer (again, courtesy of Brian Gjurgevich of the Portland Mercury).