RECAP: Portland is in the Driver's Seat

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Portland's first ever MLS playoff game against their hated rival and they come away with the road win!

Before we do to much back slapping and congratulating we need to remember the Timbers are only halfway through this series. There is still 90 minutes to be played.

This game was the perfect example how different the 2013 Timbers are from all previous incarnations since 2001. The 2013 Timbers have a confidence, a swagger and the belief they can beat any team in MLS on any pitch at any given time. They are lead by someone who knows how to push the right buttons and knows how to game plan and Caleb Porter proved once again he gets it.

From the first whistle the Portland Timbers, as directed by their manager, felt comfortable allowing Seattle to dominate the possession. Seattle knew they needed to score first and pressed for the goal in the first 10 minutes of the game. Portland absorbed the pressure and took care of a few corner kicks before they landed the blow in the fight.

After a great switch Jack Jewsbury bombed down the right side of the field into acres of space. His slight hesitation and fake of a cross allowed Ryan Johnson to run right by Seattle's Center Back pair to the near post and right to where Jewsbury hit the cross. His glancing header hit off the back of Marcus Hahnemann and into the goal.

After the goal Portland continued to cede possession to Seattle and sat behind the ball as Seattle tried to break down Portland's defense. With the possession Seattle got the ball into dangerous areas but Portland's defensive rotations and team defense limited those chances to shots off target or blocked shots. The only save Donovan Ricketts needed to make was off of a free kick and it was vintage 2013 Ricketts.

The second half was much of the same as Portland took advantage of the weaknesses of the diamond formation Seattle was playing and limited Seattle's chances. The biggest weakness was the lack of width and the inability to deal with quick switches which Portland exploited for the first goal and again in the 67th minute for their second of the night.

Kalif Alhassan was the recipient of the second switch and his run into the center of the pitch was not closed down due to the smart overlapping run Jack Jewsbury made. Kalif attacked the space given to him and with his head up saw Darlington Nagbe making a long diagonal run from the left side of the field and his perfectly placed ball set up the second goal. Nagbe took one touch past a lunging Seattle Defender and turned to fire a laser into the bottom corner of the net.

Portland looked to be comfortably in the lead and started to settle into cruise control around the 75th minute. This let down, and a change in formation by adding Mauro Rosales, allowed Seattle to gain some hope for the second leg. The 90th minute goal given up by Portland was a mistake but something admittedly you could see coming with all the numbers Seattle were throwing forward and the energy they were expending.

While the goal does breath life into Seattle it might also prove to be a wake up call to the Timbers who started to look complacent at the end of the first leg. Now Seattle has to come to the fortress known as Jeld Wen and beat Portland by more than 2 goals to win the series outright.

Some interesting notes:

  • This was Portland's first win at C-Link and the first time they have every lead there
  • It took Portland 15 minutes to score their first MLS playoff game. It took Seattle 386 minutes.
  • Multiple media members remarked how much louder the TA sounded than the rest of the stadium.

Finally two tweets from two of the Timbers:

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