The Timbers' first game of the preseason saw the implementation of Caleb Porter's high pressure, high possession style of play and it worked out well for the Timbers against a rebuilding Colorado Rapids team.
The Timbers started off the game in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with the same first team players that they have been using in practice. From the first whistle the high pressure philosophy of Caleb Porter was evident, with every Timbers player putting pressure on the ball no matter where it was on the field.
Across the board the Timbers showed a high work rate that led to the first chance of the game only minutes in. After the Rapids gave up the ball thanks to some good pressure from the Timbers, the team strung together a series of short passes that ended in Valeri playing a streaking Nagbe into the box. Nagbe got behind the Colorado defenders but was judged to be offside.
Shortly after the Timbers' first scoring opportunity came their first substitution as Jack Jewsbury was forced off the pitch thanks to an injury. Eric Alexander came on to replace him in the defensive midfield role and the captain's armband was handed off to Will Johnson.
The Timbers had another injury scare minutes later as Diego Valeri was chopped down from behind by a reckless tackle from Rapids midfielder Henry Thomas. Valeri got up from the tackle and Thomas was issued a yellow card for his troubles, although in a regular season game it could well have been a red.
Despite some good quality in the early play form the Timbers, the signs of preseason form quickly surfaced. Under pressure, Donovan Ricketts had two especially shaky clearances, neither of which got particularly clear. Alexander also had a few shaky moments as he held on to the ball too long in the vicinity of the Timbers box and was almost dispossessed.
The defense as a whole, despite a good showing when tackling the ball or intercepting a pass, looked weak when in control of the ball. The Timbers did have several long spells of possession when passing the ball across the back line, but as the half wore on they became much more likely to just lump the ball up field. After one such clearance, the Rapids almost tallied the first goal of the game as Kamani Hill got in behind Andrew Jean-Baptiste and ripped a powerful shot which beat Ricketts, but not the crossbar, and bounced back into play.
The Timbers finally broke the deadlock in the 27th minute of play after Ryan Johnson draws a foul on the left side of the Colorado eighteen yard box. Diego Valeri took the ensuing free kick, curling it around Matt Pickens and into the far post, beating the Rapids' keeper.
After the Timbers opened the scoring both teams stepped up their defensive pressure, resulting in fifteen minutes of sloppy play and fouls, broken up by the occasional bit of quality. Ryan Johnson came closest to providing another highlight for the first half when he plucked the ball out of a scramble in the Colorado box, stepped around a defender, and got off a quick shot only to have it blocked away and out of bounds.
After a first half that was characterized by short passes and defensive pressure, the Timbers brought on a unit much more suited to fast, powerful attacks in the second half. With Kalif Alhassan and Michael Nanchoff playing as holding midfielders and Danny Mwanga pushed up into the attack, the Timbers had no shortage of offensive firepower on the field.
The Timbers' 2nd team had a much more rocky start to things than we saw in the first half, with some missed passes and poor touches all across the field. In particular, Futty Danso and Mikaël Silvestre looked unsettled in the center of the defense as some poor positioning from the pair gave away a pair of early headers, both of which were easily controlled by Kocic. Silvestre showed his rust again with a pair of bad back passes, one of which put Kocic under pressure with the ball at his feet. Thankfully, Kocic was alert to the danger and dribbled around the onrushing Rapids player.
Things started to turn around for the Timbers 2nd team though as Kalif Alhassan took control of the ball in the midfield. Although he made the occasional bad pass or over ambitious dribble, Kalif pulled the strings well and effectively slowed play up from his deep midfield role. The Timbers' first dangerous moment of the half came when Kalif played in Ryan Kawulok, whose ensuing cross was narrowly missed by Sal Zizzo.
The chances kept coming as Trencito announced his presence in the game with right-footed rocket of a shot from just outside the box that was barely parried away by the Rapids keeper.
Zizzo nearly had another chance moments later as Alhassan played a well weighted through ball in behind the Rapids' defense, but Zizzo was narrowly held off by his defender.
Shortly thereafter the Timbers earned a free kick to the right of the Colorado eighteen, which Zizzo served into the box. Futty came forward for the kick and was able to get a head on it, but could not give it enough power to find the back of the net.
Finally, after keeping the Colorado defense on the back foot, the Timbers found the back of the net again. Trencito received the ball outside the box and dribbled on goal only to have the ball knocked away where it fell to Alhassan. Kalif struck the ball well, curling it around the keeper and into the back of the net.
The Timbers goal seemed to galvanize the Rapids, who started to find chances of their own to attack, but the Timbers' defense had gotten their act together. Seeking to utilize their speed up top, the Rapids played in several balls for players to run onto, particularly behind Silvestre on the left, but the veteran trialist was equal to the task as he stayed with the Colorado forwards and cut out any balls played in to them.
After a stretch of attacking pressure form the Rapids, the Timbers were finally able to break out, and quickly made the most of the opportunity. Trencito intercepted a sloppy pass after a goal kick and, after dribbling around a pair of Rapids defenders, found enough space to fire a shot into the near side corner of the net, putting the Timbers up 3-0.
After Trencito's goal the Rapids were finally able to answer back with a nicely played header from rookie Deshorn Brown. The Rapids' cross into the box was a strong one and Brown was able to out jump Silvestre to get to it, hammering the ball off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
From there on out neither team looked particularly likely to put in another goal as some nice hold up play from Bright Dike helped the Timbers finish out the game.
The full match can be viewed at MLS' youtube channel.