Let's get this out of the way first: Portland lost because of Portland -- not because of the Ref. The Ref sucked and should have made New York take the PK, instead of blowing the whistle and then saying he didn't blow the whistle. Also, the first yellow was on Chara? Not the late tackles and reckless tackles from McCarty and Tainio? Apparently this guy also refereed a game for the LA Galaxy without his badge on the front of his shirt. These guys are supposed to be reffing professional soccer?
The Timbers came out with confidence and wanted take the game to the New York Red Bulls early. The confidence paid off, with two goals early in the first half. New York then slowly took over the game and scored twice at the end of the half, then once more in the second, to earn the 3-2 win.
It really looked like a U-12 game broke out in the first five minutes with the ball pin-balling around and no one able to actually corral it. Once it did settle down, Portland started to possess the ball mostly in their offensive half and were coming close to creating dangerous chances. Of course, New York also looked dangerous moving forward with all their offensive firepower.
Most of the chances came from putting Sal Zizzo through behind the defense of New York, and thankfully Portland recognized this was working and continued to try and feed Sal. Finding the weak spot and attacking it paid off in the 8th minute, as Sal Zizzo was once again behind the defense with only Bright Dike and a couple of defenders in the box. Sal Slowed it down once his attack was cut off, and Dike took a couple of steps back behind his defender to get open. Sal then fed Dike and his first time shot hit the old onion bag.
Just like against Toronto, Portland scored the first goal and then let off the gas a little bit. However, this did not last long, as the Timbers then reasserted themselves on the game and took a little more control, continuing to feed Franck Songo'o and Zizzo on the wings. But even with Portland trying to take the game to New York, you could tell New York was just getting warmed up. Possession and momentum slowly started to swing in favor of New York.
Even with most of the possession in favor of the Red Bulls, Portland created more shots in the first 25 minutes of the game and looked like they created the most dangerous chances. Usually, the chances came from a breakdown in New York's attack, resulting a giveaway, which then allowed Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe to find the wings, who would then be able to get behind the defense.
Portland doubled their lead in the 32nd minute with great inter-play from the midfielders. Zizzo forced a turnover in Portland's half and hit a great long ball to a streaking Songo'o. Songo'o brought the ball into the middle of the field in the attacking half and found Zizzo just outside the 18 yard box. Zizzo took a touch to hold the ball just for a second, to allow a slashing Nagbe to get into the box behind the defense. Nagbe hit his shot to the far post on the ground for the second Timbers' goal.
Again, these types of goals coming from the run of play have been few and far between for the Portland Timbers, which is a great thing to see after such a dismal season. Once Portland scored, Hans Backe had seen enough of Sal Zizzo terrorizing the wing, and he made a tactical adjustment by bringing in Kenny Cooper for their left back Roy Miller.
With the tactical switch by Backe, New York started to control the wings, which allowed New York to be able to hold onto the ball for longer periods of time. We all know how good the Portland defense is at staying awake and keeping on top of runners when they don't have the ball for long periods of time. Right?
As a complete aside, is it me or does Portland always get burned by someone with ties to Portland either through U of P or a former Timber (USL or MLS)? It happened again tonight as Kenny Cooper was wide open in the middle of the box to receive an uncontested cross from the wing. I think the fault can be given to one of three players, Franck Songo'o, Hanyer Mosquera or David Horst.
Songo'o was caught ball watching on the wing and let his runner get too far ahead of him. Steven Smith was trying to defend both the ball and the runner and could not get out to the cross fast enough. Mosco was in position in the middle of the box but not fast enough in stepping up to challenge Cooper for the ball. Of course, the reason Mosco was not able to get to Cooper was because he was the back post CB, while Horst was the front post CB. Horst had moved towards the cross to try and cut it off rather than marking the man. I would say Horst is at fault, with Songo'o a close second. Mosco had no chance at all and neither did Donovan Ricketts.
After that the controversial call happened. I am not going to say anything about it other than what I did at the beginning, because it still irks me that a ref at the professional level can be so piss poor.
Well, this half started exactly like the end of the first half -- with a lot of New York possession. The Red Bulls were able to get an amazing chance on goal from a long cross, which found Thierry Henry, who got his header on frame. Ricketts was able to stop the header and then got up to stonewall Sebastian Le Toux on the rebound. It was a great effort to keep Portland level with New York.
After New York's first good chance of the half, Portland had the more dangerous chances, including three one-on-one chances with the keeper. Each of the chances came from speedy players getting behind the defense and Portland actually hitting the through ball. On most other nights Portland hasn't hit that ball, instead just playing it out to the wing for the cross.
Each of the one-on-ones with just the keeper were shots right at Bill Gaudette, with almost not thought to going around him or putting a dinky chip over him. Portland really made Gaudette look other worldly tonight and should have scored at least once more if not more than that.
With Portland not converting their chances and slowly running out of gas, the game turned into a battle of attrition. It didn't help that Tim Cahill looked to have reared back and elbowed Kosuke Kimura in the face while "protecting himself" and thus breaking Kimura's nose and giving him a concussion. Which forced Portland to send in the only other RB who made the trip into the game, Lovel Palmer.
Portland didn't win the battle -- they gave up the winning goal in the 82nd minute, as they were unable to fully clear a corner kick, and the second ball was headed home by Heath Pearce. See, another Portland-connected player. Man, just can't stop them from hurting the Timbers, I guess. To Portland's credit, they didn't give up, but they did not have the right subs to effectively go after New York in the final minutes.
- Sal Zizzo was on tonight, and the through balls by the rest of the team to Chara, Nagbe, and Songo'o were great to see. Now they need to do that for Kris Boyd too.
- David Horst needs to take a seat on the bench and let some other CB show they deserve the spot next to Mosco. (I love Horst's effort but sometimes he makes the wrong decision and it costs the Timbers every time.)
- Great to have Songo'o back
- Wasn't Diego Chara suspended for the first Vancouver game?
- Another baby step towards respectability. It's still going to be a long and slow process getting back to it.
- I could hear the traveling TA at times, and it was awesome!