Before last night, the Timbers' last three home games were started in impressive style by the boys in green (even if they were wearing red). Each time the team started well, only to fall apart late in the game. Yesterday's game against Real Salt Lake reversed that trend as, early on, the Timbers gave up two weak free kicks near the top of the box, both of which were converted by Real.
After their weak start, however, the Timbers turned on the juice and took the game to Salt Lake. Pulling level on a Bright Dike header twenty minutes into the second half, the Timbers looked good for an equalizer but were unable to find the back of the net again despite yet another golden opportunity for Dike clanging off the crossbar.
Wednesday's game saw an excellent first half followed by a lackluster second. Last night's game saw the opposite of that as Salt Lake ran roughshod over the Timbers in the first half, only for the team to put in a much more credible performance in the second. Like Wednesday, the diametrically opposed performances from many on the field in each half made it difficult to choose a Man of the Match, but we buckled down found a way. Here are our Man of the Match nominees:
Will - Sal Zizzo
With a few brief exceptions, all of the Timbers offense came down the right wing yesterday as Sal Zizzo burned his defender time and again. Zizzo threw everything he had forward, taking on the defense with speed, trickery, and success. It was Zizzo's inch perfect cross that Bright Dike was able to put away to haul the Timbers back into the game and it was Zizzo's cross that Dike smashed off the woodwork, only missing the tying goal by inches. On a day that Franck Songo'o and Darlington Nagbe just could not get the attack going Zizzo stepped his game up, a quality that has been rare on this team all year.
Deserving of an honorable mention is Joe Bendik. Stepping in and starting his second game of the season, Bendik came up with some big saves to keep the Timbers in the game, showing off some excellent positioning and an ability to make himself big in goal that denied RSL what would surely have been the final nail in the coffin as the Timbers struggled to get back into the game.
Check out the rest of our Man of the Match picks and vote on your own after the jump.
Andy - Sal Zizzo
Sal got the assist and nearly got a second, while taking advantage of the level of attention RSL's defense were paying to Darlington Nagbe and Franck Songo'o. On a night when the Timbers weren't playing great against a team that wasn't playing much better, he provided the opportunities the boys in green needed to stay in the game. Just wasn't enough in the end.
Ryan - Bright Dike
Hitting a goal and hitting the post on a night when scoring opportunities were few and far between can only be seen as a positive. Dike has knack for getting in the right place at the right time, now he just needs to work on his touch and his speed of thought. Hopefully he can help Portland pull out their first, and most likely only, road win of the year in the next two road games.
There are our picks for Man of the Match, but what are yours? Be sure to cast your vote and let us know why in the comments.