The Portland Timbers took one step closer to their March 3rd opener by kicking off their home tournament against the reigning Supporter's Shield holders San Jose Earthquakes. Caleb Porter wanted to treat this game as close to a regular season game as possible and so he played what could be Portland's starting 11 on March 3rd. San Jose also trotted out a line-up you might see during the regular season.
Two minutes into the game Diego Valeri lost the ball in the middle of the field when Portland had numbers forward. San Jose immediately took the turnover down the field and hit a cross into the box. Mike Fucito botched his volley and instead of hitting it on goal he hit it into the ground and then up into Andrew Jean Baptiste's hand. The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the spot.
I know this is probably the right call but I really think it is a weak call. The ball was not hit hard and AJB had his hand in a natural position, meaning it was close to his side and not flailing in the air, and the ball played his hand and not the other way around.
Chris Wondolowski stepped up for San Jose and calmly put the ball in the back of the net. Last year Portland would have taken some time to recover from this set back, however this year it might be different. Two minutes after giving up the PK Portland had an attacking sequence which the fans may have seen once or twice all of last year.
The play started with Michael Harrington winning a header off of a long clearance from San Jose. His header found Darlington Nagbe and he controlled the ball off of a bounce. Nagbe took a touch and then passed it to a central Kalif Alhassan who hit it first time back to Will Johnson. Will saw a streaking Ryan Miller down the wing and passed the ball out wide. Ryan Miller picked his head up and passed it first time in front of Kalif Alhassan who was behind the defense. Kalif hit a first time cross into the box where Ryan Johnson was able to flick the ball towards the far post.
In all the sequence of passes to score Portland's first goal took 15 secs and 10 touches, 4 of those came from Nagbe. If this is the type of attacking sequence we will see this year Portland fans will be treated to some great goal sequences.
Portland's invigorated the team and over the course of the next 12 minutes Portland was able to settle the ball down and pass it around the park. They were also able to create chances and created 5 shots but only one of those was on target. Defensively during the 12 minutes San Jose did not even register a shot and did not even get close to Donovan Ricketts.
Portland did create chances but the game still looked choppy with a lot of missed passes, fouls and giveaways. In the 27th minute Portland was able to take a long searching ball from San Jose and punish them quickly. Ricketts collected the long ball and instead of clearing it like Portland used to do he played it short and quickly to Michael Harrington. The ball was then played to Diego Chara who played it back to a very deep Nagbe. When Nagbe received the ball he was 10 yards into Portland's half and he had a San Jose player closing in on him quickly.
Nagbe easily went around the closing defender and then turned on the after burners and went from 10 yards in his own half to 20 yards into San Jose's half in seconds. With his run and Harrington's run down the wing San Jose committed a lot of players towards the edge of the field. Which left Valeri wide open in the center and this is where Nagbe played the ball. Valeri looked up the field and hit a through ball to Ryan Johnson, who had beat San Jose's offside trap.
Once Johnson was behind the defense he calmly waited for Jon Busch to commit and easily slotted the ball past him and into the net. After Johnson has scored his and Portland's second of the night the game once again became choppy and neither team was able to create many chances. However San Jose was able to create one and it came off of a foul by Kalif Alhassan.
The ball was on the right side of Portland's defense when Kalif made a clumsy lunging tackle on Shea Salinas . Kalif had no business trying the tackle was he was already behind the play and could have stayed on his feet and recovered to help Ryan Miller. The Subsequent free kick resulted in an easy goal courtesy of a Victor Bernandez header.
Portland entered the half tied 2-2.
Once the whistle for the second half got the game under way again Portland came out aggressive. The aggressive play lead to possession and some attacking opportunities but no solid chances materialized. During the 52nd minute after some possession by San Jose Dylan Tucker-Gangnes read a play beautifully and stepped up to win a pass intended for Wondo. DTG immediately played the ball up the field to R. Johnson and he turned and started up the field.
In a stroke of luck Johnson looked like he was trying to cut past a defender but hit the ball too hard and it ended up at the feet of Valeri. Valeri took one touch towards the center of the pitch and hit a through ball to a sprinting R. Johnson. Johnson just beat Busch to the ball and hit a shot which deflected off of Busch and into the goal for his third of the game.
Portland was looking good after the goal and continued to be aggressive and apply pressure. San Jose continued to try and squeeze Portland's back line and look to turn over Portland deep in their half and it worked as they were able to force Alhassan into a bad clearance. After the clearance the ball was played into the box and at the top of the box Justin Morrow was able to cut it back to his left and in the process DTG and Diego Chara both went to ground.
Morrow then shot the ball and forced Ricketts to make a save. Unfortunately Ricketts was unable to hold onto the shot and the rebound bounced right to Mike Fucito who easily put the ball in the back of the net. After going up twice Portland twice conceded the equalizer.
After San Jose's third goal of the night the made multiple changes and so did Portland which devolved the game to choppy preseason type play. To Portland's credit they did not stop pushing for the winning goal and almost got it in the 88th minute when Rodney Wallace hit a good cross to the back post and Jose Valencia was able to head the ball on target but right at Busch.
The game then ended as a 3-3 tie.
- Kalif Alhassan was feisty and all over the pitch and it was great to see but two of his mistakes lead to two San Jose goals.
- Some of the attacking sequences were so pretty and make this team a dangerous team going forward.
- Portland's CB's looked out of sync and lost (Did Seattle's price for Silvestre just go up?)
- Portland seemed to create more of their chances from the run of play while San Jose punished Portland's mistakes rather than creating. (At least that is what it felt like)
- Diego Valeri can really open teams up with his passing
- Hopefully Ryan Johnson didn't expend all of his goal scoring mojo in a meaningless game.
- Will Johnson can hit some long switches and puts them on a dime.