Recap: Portland scores goals, yes that is plural not singular, on the road

Quick Recap

Portland scored the first and only goal of the first half and then tried to absorb pressure for the rest of the game and defend. Absorbing the pressure did not work out, as Toronto FC produced two goals and forced Portland to try and create another goal. Not only did they create -- they created a beauty of a goal in the run of play and came away with the 2-2 tie.

First Half

The first half seemed like it was played in fits and starts. Usually it looked good until Rodney Wallace or Diego Chara tried to play the final ball or decided, in Wallace's case, to be the hero and try to either beat 2-3 defenders or hit a long shot. Toronto wasn't much better, but they were helped out by quite a few defensive lapses from Portland. Luckily, for Portland at least, none of them led to a goal scoring opportunity.

The first real scoring chance went to Toronto in the 19th minute, when Donovan Ricketts showed why Montreal traded him away. Eric Hassli won a second ball battle with Hanyer Mosquera with only Kosuke Kimura left on his back. Hassli turned and shot the ball towards the net. Kosuke, who was beaten easily on the play (which would be a reoccurring theme for most of the night), recovered just enough to get a toe on the shot. The deflection went right at Ricketts, but he could only parry it just over the bar.

After narrowly missing on one end of the field, Toronto showed why they are the worst team at defending set pieces in MLS this year. Sal Zizzo won a corner kick in the 21st minute, and Steven Smith stepped up to take the corner. Smith hit a long, floating cross to the back post, where David Horst was able to get a head on it and knock it down towards the near post. The ball bounced right in front of Zizzo, who hit it first time right off the defender at the post. The rebound came right back to him, and his next shot became Portland's first goal since April 14th.

After the goal it was as if Portland blew a sigh of relief and decided one would be enough. Of course, this is probably because none of Portland's creative players -- Kalif Alhassan and Franck Songo'o -- were in the line-up. Portland looked anemic offensively as a result. The ball was passed around in the back often, but no offense was created and you could tell something was missing. After the goal, and especially in the last 10 minutes of the half, Toronto created a few half chances, but none of them were dangerous. Portland was able to limp into the half up 1-0.

Second Half

Portland came out just a flat as they ended the first half, and Toronto started to gain momentum and confidence when they were on the ball. Toronto started to create better chances, and you could just feel a goal coming for Toronto. The only chances Portland created were off of set pieces. However, the headers were usually just off target and did not test the keeper. With the anemic offense and the pressure on the defense, Toronto finally broke through and equalized.

Toronto took a long free kick in the 57th minute, and a long, high, floating ball was played 30 yards away from the touchline. Two Toronto players beat Diego Chara to the ball in the air, heading it towards the top of the box and finding two Toronto players marked by David Horst while all the other Timbers just watched.

Luis Silva was the recipient of the knocked down ball and being wide open figured, why not take the shot. The initial shot was parried by Ricketts, but, with no defender following up to help the keeper out, Eric Hassli was first to the ball for the easy goal. Almost every player but Horst stopped on the play, and while Horst was maybe a little out of position he was stuck marking two players at the top of the box.

Portland wasn't done watching Toronto players go by them to score a goal. Nine minutes after the equalizer Toronto scored the go-ahead goal, which looked like the winner, considering the way Portland was playing at the time. Left back Ashtone Morgan found himself one on one against Kimura but easily made room for a cross off to the near post. David Horst, meanwhile, watched the ball and neglected to follow Hassli's run towards the near post. Hassli put a flick-on header towards another wide open Toronto player. Steven Smith was also caught ball watching and fell behind his man Luis Silva, who scored the go-ahead goal.

At this point, after almost every road game Portland has played this year and most of last year, you would have thought it was game over. Surprisingly Portland proved me and quite a few other fans wrong. Two different subs were a big reason Portland found a renewed energy going forward -- they were Mike Fucito and Eric Alexander, who replaced the two wings. With those two replacements Portland showed improved energy and urgency.

Despite the renewed energy and urgency, Portland still lacked that final quality ball. Even without the final ball, Portland still had chances because of the hustle of Mike Fucito. He created a golden opportunity for Kris Boyd to get the equalizer with only the keeper to beat. Of course his shot hit the keeper's legs and went out for a corner. Luckily Portland did not hang their heads but kept pushing for the equalizer.

All of Portland's hard work after giving up the second goal paid off in the 82nd minute. Portland won a throw-in on the left side of the field at the half line and Smith stepped up for the throw. He threw to Fucito, who controlled the ball well and played square to an attacking Smith, who played it to Boyd on the wing. Boyd then hit it first time past the still running Smith, to the middle of the field, where Alexander played it back in front of Smith, who by that time was in the box and only had the keeper to beat. Smith looked up and to his right to see an on-rushing Nagbe and hit a perfect ball to Nagbe's chin, which put it in the net for Portland's second goal.

It really was a beautiful goal and something Portland has not shown a lot of this year. I can remember maybe two other goals that came during the run of play like this goal. After the goal there was not a lot of celebration from Portland as they all ran back to their positions and go ready to try and go get the game winner.

The most controversial call of the game came in the 83rd minute when Richard Eckersley and Fucito both went for a ball in the box. When the ball went over Eckersley's head, he stuck out his arm and did everything else to slow Fucito down. There was so much contact that Fucito was knocked to the ground, but no whistle came from the ref.

Less than a minute later Mosco, not in the box but 10 yards outside of it, got in a 50/50 tangle, which the ref decided was worthy of a yellow card. Torsten Frings took the free kick, and his shot took deflections at the wall and again in the box, but the ball luckily went wide of the goal. Portland escaped Toronto without the Wooden Spoon, with a point and their first multi-goal road game.

Observations

  • Once again defensive mistakes killed Portland, as they did not have the offense to outscore opponents.
  • Donovan Rickett's distribution is night and day compared to Troy Perkins. There were so many times he threw the ball out of the back and Portland was able to maintain possession. He not only threw the ball out but his punts and goal kicks were so far up the field it was not a large problem if Portland did not win the ball as Toronto was all the way back in their box when they finally won it. In other ways Ricketts was just the same as Perkins
  • Boyd's energy seemed to increase once Mike Fucito was inserted into the line-up and he actually chased balls down and tried to apply pressure on the defenders.
  • Zizzo and Wallace looked hungry but their skills and decisions were not up to their desire and hunger.
  • I really, really, really want Brunner back in the line-up ASAP!
  • Songo'o was sorely missed.
  • I know this doesn't sound like much but it was another small step in the right direction, as Portland finally scored more than one goal on the road and their first since April. I see progress -- not a lot, but at least we've seen late game comebacks instead of late game collapses the last two matches, and this means there has been an attitude change.
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