RECAP: Portland Unable to Find the Key to Unlock Montreal's Defense

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Portland was too patient in the attack and was unable to unlock Montreal's defense. Montreal did everything they wanted to do by scoring on a set piece and again on a counter. Portland was able to pull one back but it was too little too late. Portland loses 2-1 to Montreal.

From the very beginning it was obvious the Portland Timbers were going to have a tough time breaking down the Montreal Impact. Montreal was content from the opening whistle to cede possession in the middle third to Portland but did not allow Portland any time and space near the top of the box. Montreal then did everything they wanted to do offensively counter and if that doesn't work win a free kick.

Portland created the first show 3 minutes into the game but it was blocked by the huge bus parked right at the top of the box. Montreal then created the next chance off of a quick throw in that caught all of Portland's midfielders napping. Thankfully Felipe Martins pushed his shot just wide of the goal after finding himself wide open near the top of the box.

After the shot it was like Portland did not know what they wanted to do offensively and defensively they looked like 4 individuals rather than 4 man defense. Over the next 5 minutes Montreal forced Donovan Ricketts to make an amazing save when Marco Di Vaio was wide open 6 yards out. The subsequent corner was dangerous but the header went wide of the goal.

Once Portland weathered that storm they were again able to settle down and possess the ball. However possession means nothing if you cannot break the team down. Time and time again Portland would pass it from one side of the field to another. When they did work it into a dangerous position Montreal closed the door on the opening. Portland would then bring it back out and work it around the pitch to the other side where they would either pull it back out or try and find Diego Valeri and company in the middle of the field.

If the Timbers did find Valeri in the middle he was usually surrounded by 3 Montreal players. With these tight quarters it was hard for Valeri to unlock the defense with some pin point passing. He and the rest of the Timbers midfielders did their best and continually tried to make the pass behind the stingy Montreal defense.

The all in important first goal came in the 31st minute but it wasn't the Timbers who scored it. Just like opening night Portland was able to win the first ball on a set piece but almost every defender was unable to find their mark on the second ball and Hassoun Camara performed a bicycle kick to perfection to put the ball in the back of the net.

Portland almost pulled level late in the first half when Ryan Miller was able to get behind the defense. He was then taken down by Sanna Nyassi from behind but the referee deemed it a no call and the ball rolled out for a corner kick. While I felt Miller went down early I am fairly certain contact from behind like that should at least get called.

Second Half

Caleb Porter made one change at the half by bringing in Ben Zemanski for Kalif Alhassan. Portland continued their domination of the possession stats but a lot of it was in the middle third of the field. In fact neither team was able to create any dangerous chance for the first 10 minutes of the half.

The first chance of the half came in the 60th minute and gain it wasn't Portland who created it. Will Johnson made a bad pass right to a Montreal player with all but the two CB's in front of the ball. With Mikael Silvestre closing down the cross the others failed to pick up run from the top of the box. A quick backwards 45 pass and a first time shot and Montreal scored their second goal on the night.

There was no quit in Portland as they continued to try and find the key to unlocking Montreal's stout defense. It finally came in the 79th minute when Diego Chara hit a great cross field pass to Zemanski and he hit a great side volley cross to the back post. Ryan Johnson was able to get on the end of the cross and put the ball into the back of the net.

Over the last 10 minutes of the game Portland tried to replicate their opening night comeback but Montreal's defense was just too stout. Ricketts did have some late game heroics when he pulled off a great sprawling save to ensure Portland had a shot at the tie late in the game.

(I am sorry for the lack of description but my DVR was not cooperating with me tonight so I was going totally from notes)

Porter Post Game Video:

Observations

  • Portland was too patient in the final third and was looking for the perfect pass to get behind Montreal's defense. They needed to shoot from distance to create a little more space
  • Andrew Jean Baptiste is a beast and is quick. He beat Nyassi in a foot race on numerous occasions.
  • Silvestre had a much better game but the defense still looked out of sorts.
  • The first 1/3 of the season will be tough to get through as this team figures out how to play with each other.
  • I understand cheering for a former player before the game but chanting his name after he just beat your team is just crazy and little disrespectful to the current players. It is a lot like me talking about my ex-girlfriend all the time and how awesome she was.
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