First off I want to say that I am running on 1 hour of sleep so if there is anything incorrect in here I am sorry. If you want to know why just read the first comment in the match thread.
Now onto the game. While the Portland Timbers do create a great home atmosphere they can also bring out the best in the opposing team. After watching AIK play flat against San Jose and against FC Dallas, both of which were scoreless draws, they came out with a lot more energy and fire. According to their coach AIK usually has a better game against teams who have good crowd support.
Portland on the other hand did not start quite as quickly but they also did not give up the early goal. Which was a worry, especially when your starting CBs have 1 year of total professional soccer experience. While Dylan Tucker-Gangnes and Andrew Jean-Baptiste had mistakes the bigger mistakes came in the errant passes from the midfielders.
In the first half AIK pressed high up the field and looked to force Portland's defenders to play the ball over the first line of the team defense and into a physical back line and defensive midfield. The times Portland was able to break the initial press they found a lot of space for the outside midfielders and Diego Valeri. With that space and time on the ball Valeri was able to hit some great through balls and pick apart the AIK defense.
Of course when Portland was not able to break the initial press they usually passed it right to an AIK player. Once AIK turned Portland over they looked to attack the young CBs. For the most part the defense bent but did not break. This all changed in the 28th minute. Portland had just taken some control of the game and created a couple of nice chances which they were unable to finish.
Ryan Miller had initially neutralized an AIK attack but his clearance curved back into touch. AIK then took the ball back into Portland's box and when the ball was played behind the defense Donovan Ricketts came off of his line. Once committed Ricketts was unable to get the ball but did push the attacking player out wide but he was still able to hit the far corner of the goal.
After the goal Portland continued to game more and more control of the game but by halftime they had nothing to show for it. 1-0 to AIK at the half.
Portland continued to press a high line defensively and committed numbers forward offensively. Committing the numbers forward lead to a lot of shots and some of them which required good saves from the AIK keeper. However for every shot that Portland was able to get off there were three or four chances that broke down before they even became dangerous.
Most of the breakdowns in the attack came when someone tried to force a pass that was not there or just hit a bad pass. AIK sat deep and tried to counter Portland and on occasion they were able to have multiple people wide open in the box. Donovan Ricketts bailed out quite a few defensive mistakes by the CBs and by the outside backs by making saves. Granted the saves where reaction saves and not ones where he had to use a lot of lateral movement.
Portland finally equalized in the 75th minute. Darlington Nagbe made a run near the 6 yard box and Michael Harrington recognized the run and fed him the ball. While Nagbe was cut off by a defender Harrington did not stop moving and made a run into the box and was able to hit a far post shot on the ground for the goal. It was a great example of a player continually moving into open areas on the field and it leading to a dangerous chance.
After Portland's goal the game opened up even more and as a result the play turned choppy at times. Both teams had their chances to win the game but neither team was able to put the ball in the back of the net for the win. Portland's continued the offensive showcase by creating 24 shots and forcing 11 saves from the AIK keeper.
- Valeri can really pull some strings and can hit a really dangerous shot on free kicks
- KAH really has been working hard but his passes can still be erratic and momentum killers.
- AJB and DTG had some good moments but they also had some mistakes that could have been costly.
- Donovan Ricketts has some great reaction saves but ask him to move to make a save and it gets a little dicey
- Valencia is going to get a lot of playing time this year but more than likely it will be as the 12th man. In a game where offense is needed late he will be the first off the bench
- Ryan Miller needs to get his crosses up and over the first defender otherwise he will just waste most of his crossing attempts
- Portland is going to be fun to watch this year.