Recap: Timbers Survive July 3rd Tremor but No Liquefaction Occurs

PORTLAND, OR - JULY 03: Jack Jewsbury #13 of the Portland Timbers celebrates his 2nd half goal with Mamadou Danso #98 against the San Jose Earthquakes on July 3, 2012 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Quick Recap

Another great start as the Portland Timbers score first on a very quick counter attack. In the second half Portland added another goal and it turned out to be the cushion they needed as the San Jose Earthquakes pulled one back. 2-1 Win for Portland.

First Half

From the first whistle Portland looked like they actually came to play tonight. The first cross went to Portland, and the first shot also went to Portland in the 7th minute. Most of the reason for the new found attack came because of the energy from Franck Songo'o. He seemed to be every where and was a driving force almost all night long.

Songo'o's seventh minute shot was off a great run straight up the center of the pitch. As he carried out the attack the defenders were more weary of the forwards and did not close him down until just before the 18 yard box. But it was too late to close Songo'o down, and he took a shot -- a frozen rope that was just a little off target and sailed wide.

Songo'o again had a hand in a goal scoring opportunity in the 15th minute. The Timbers had won a throw-in on the right side; Songo'o took the throw quickly to Lovel Palmer, who played it back to Songo'o. Franck easily beat his defender with a quick touch around him and attacked the box. While his initial pass was deflected off target by a center back Victor Bernadez it fell to an open Eric Alexander who then cut the ball back across the face of goal and hit a shot off of the post and out.

Even with all of the action Portland was creating in the attacking end of the field, San Jose had numerous half chances of their own. Their best chance came in 28th minute. Portland turned the ball over around midfield, and San Jose immediately attacked. Lovel Palmer was caught in no man's land between two Earthquakes which forced Futty Danso to then come up out of position to try and close down the ball. The step up left a gaping hole for Rafael Baca to waltz right into, and received the ball at the top of the box with only Perkins to beat.

Perkins came up big and got a foot to the shot, deflecting it to Alan Gordon who fortunately was already in front of the ball and only could get a heel on it. The resulting deflection then found Shea Salinas, but Steven Smith was able to get his body in front of his shot to put it out of play for a corner kick.

It really felt like whoever scored first had the best chance of winning this game, and both teams were really trying hard to get that opening goal. With San Jose riding their newly found momentum, Portland set up to defend the corner. The initial ball was cleared out of the box but straight to Baca. Songo'o stepped out to close him down and waited for Baca to make his move. Baca made one step over, but misplayed his second, allowing Songo'o to pick his pocket (at the 28:18 mark).

The break was on. Songo'o passed it centrally to Eric Alexander, who took two touches to draw one of the two last defenders towards him before passing to the wing to a streaking Songo'o. Songo'o had acres of space with Danny Mwanga covered only by Steven Beitashour in the center of the pitch. He took two touches down the wing looked up and hit a near post pass into the box. Mwanga made a perfectly timed move in front of the defender toward the near post, beating Beitashour to the ball and redirecting the ball first time into the goal (at the 28:32 mark).

The ball went 85 yards and the Timbers players took 9 touches and 14 seconds to score. This was a classic counter attacking goal, and it was started and orchestrated by Franck Songo'o. Mwanga made the perfect run in the end, but Songo'o did everything right before that to get him the ball in the perfect position.

One minute later Portland almost doubled their lead off a corner. David Horst, with a defender literally dragging him down, got his noggin to the ball and was able to hit it towards the goal. The ball bounced once in front of the goal on its way toward the near post, where Rafael Baca was standing for a headed goal-line save.

With 15 minutes left in the half Portland usually starts to fade, but you really didn't see that this half, as Portland out-shot the visitors 3 to 2 in the final 15 minutes. There were some moments of angst for Timbers fans in the final moments, but Portland was able to take their lead into the half and regroup for what could be a long second half.

Second Half

Portland came out gunning for the second goal, but the San Jose Earthquakes did likewise. The Quakes were able to get the first shot of the half in a long range effort from Khari Stevenson, but it was right at Troy Perkins.

Less then a minute later Portland had their first opportunity to score in the half, when Smith found Mwanga down the line having beaten his defender. Mwanga was unable to get his own shot off before he was closed down, but he did lay it off to a waiting Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe's ensuing shot was deflected right back to Alexander, whose shot was blocked as well, and San Jose played the ball out of play. The quickly taken throw-in found Palmer, who rifled a bending long range shot right at keeper David Bingham.

The back and forth play continued over the next 10 minutes with no team able to create solid chances to score. During the 10 minutes of play the Earthquakes did look like they were the team that were going to score, as Portland were sitting back and inviting San Jose to possess the ball, daring them to break down a 10-man defense.

Ceding possession with 30 minutes to go in the game is a tactic I usually don't subscribe to, but Portland's new-found counter-attacking threat stretched the San Jose formation, leading the Quakes to rely more on long balls into the box where Horst and Futty could win the ball. Portland also looked dangerous on set pieces with Songo'o hitting a dangerous ball into the box on every corner and free kick.

In the 59th minute Portland won a free kick about eight yards into San Jose's half and Songo'o stepped up to take it. He hit a great ball toward the far post where it looked like David Bingham would get to it before Futty. Futty challenged for the ball, in much the same way as he did against Kasey Keller in Seattle last year, breaking Bingham's concentration and spilling the ball in front of the goal. Captain Jack Jewsbury pounced on the loose ball and buried into the back of the net for Portland's second goal of the night. San Jose players protested the goal but neither the assistant referee nor the center ref saw anything wrong.

Over the next 15 minutes Portland continued to allow San Jose to possess the ball around the midfield line, but they closed down any attack San Jose threw at them. In the 74th minute the game changed as Songo'o tweeked his right leg and had to be subbed out. He was subbed out on a San Jose throw in which was about 35 yards from goal.

At this point Mike Donovan -- if you don't already follow him in twitter he is a great follow (@themikedonovan) -- leaned over to Geoff and me and asked "If I found a stat and tell you guys but don't tweet it out will it jinx the team?" I jokingly said yes, and after a short internal debate he decided just to tell us: "The MLS Portland Timbers have never won a game 2-0".

30 seconds later the Earthquakes threw the ball in. After bouncing around a little, Portland cleared it out of the area but right to Marvin Chavez, who took a long shot that deflected off of Alan Gordon and into the net. I looked at Mike and said "Thanks Mike!" So I blame Mike Donovan for the goal; if he had just kept his mouth shut, Portland would have won 2-0.

The final 15 minutes of the game consisted of Portland sitting back and letting San Jose lob long ball after long ball into the area. This played right into the strength of both Futty and Horst as they won almost every ball played towards them. When it wasn't played towards them Captain Jack won the aerial battle, and Portland closed the game out.

San Jose, so dangerous late in games, was held to two shots in the final 15 minutes: one was deflected, while the other was wide right by a large margin. Great win and another tough defensive performance for Portland.

Observations:

  • Lovel Palmer did really well tonight, didn't try to do too much but helped fill a big hole left by the suspension of Diego Chara.
  • Songo'o played like a man determined to prove his doubters wrong.
  • Nagbe looked like he was channeling his inner Chara and was breaking up San Jose Attacks.
  • 4-0 all time against league leaders at home. Now they need to play like that on the road.
  • There is one thing Seattle fans and Portland fans agree on, Steven Lenhart Douche with a capital D.
  • Why do the Timbers torment their fans? Great results at home and absolute crap on the road?
  • John Spencer in his post game comments told us Merritt is flying 15,000 fans on his dime to RSL to help the Timbers win. Great quote -- look for it at the very end of the video I will post soon.
  • One of the better Refereed games and for only his 5th game ever in the MLS. The ref really showed some promise.
  • I got my Geology nerd on for the title.
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