RECAP: Portland Takes a Point on the Road

USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers started slow and the Seattle Sounders punished them for it with an early goal. Portland settled down but were unable to get any rhythm going offensively but still pulled out the late equalizer.

The story early during the 2012 season the first few games were typified by late game collapses. Fast forward to 2013, and now instead of late game collapses the Portland Timbers have a little bit of the Portland Trailblazer syndrome -- they start slow and slowly find their rhythm.

While the Timbers were the first to get a shot on target, transitioning quickly after a Seattle Sounder turnover, they looked out of sorts from that point on. Seattle meanwhile carried over their CCL energy and momentum and held a high line and a lot of pressing in the midfield. These strategies led to lot of turnovers in dangerous areas for Portland and chances for Seattle to score the early goal.

Portland were able to bend without breaking defensively while recovering from the turnovers, but in the 13th minute they couldn't recover after a terrible pass by Diego Chara. Chara had the ball in an advanced position and looked to play it back to Ben Zemanski but Zemanski was looking to overlap and the ball ended up in front of Steve Zakuani.

Zakuani advanced quickly down the field and hit a cross to the back post. Andrew Jean Baptiste was caught staring down the ball and his man Eddie Johnson broke for the back post and had an easy tap in for the goal -- exactly the kind of brain fart that has led to just about every goal Portland has given up this year.

Usually the goals Portland has conceded this year have woken up the Timbers from an offensive sleep, but this time it took at least 5 more minutes to get going -- during which time Donovan Ricketts was called upon to make a save and come off his line to smother a good through ball.

Once Portland did wake up and start to play the type of game we have come to expect, Seattle's chances started to dry up while Portland started to create their own. Of course, it wouldn't be a 2013 recap without the requisite PK non call, which is at 37 games and counting. Ryan Johnson was tackled from behind by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado in the box. Granted Hurtado did get a toe on the ball but it was 99% Johnson and 1% ball. Will Johnson was given a yellow for less.

The rest of the half was riddled with half chances for the Timbers, but none of them challenged Michael Gspurning. In fact all of them were either deflected or wide of the goal, which meant Gspurning had to make just one save in the first 45 minutes.

Second Half

Portland continued to dominate possession of the ball in the second half, and just like the first half they could not create a chance that challenged Gspurning. Portland's best chance came in the early moments of the half, on a free kick just outside Seattle's penalty area. Diego Valeri's run up looked like he was going to cross it into the box, but he instead took the shot, fooling Gspurning, but unfortunately the shot clanked off of the crossbar and was easily cleared.

The play over the next 30 minutes was riddled with bad passes by both teams and a lot of chances squandered. One could probably describe most of the offensive sequences by both teams with one sentence: (Insert team) worked the ball deep into the opposition's half and then either gave the ball up with a bad pass or a cross lacked quality, leading to an easy clearance.

While things were not going Portland's way, they did not give up. Caleb Porter recognized that changes were needed. In came Frederic Piquionne and Rodney Wallace, and out went Jack Jewsbury and a gassed Darlington Nagbe. The players brought on may not have had an immediate effect, but they did influence the ending of the game.

With the game clock approaching the 90th minute the Timbers kept on working for the equalizer. Will Johnson forced a turnover near the midfield and Diego Valeri took the ball and found a streaking Ryan Johnson. R. Johnson was not able to get his shot on frame, but he managed to win a corner.

Valeri's subsequent corner was cleared for a throw-in, which in turn was cleared for another throw-in. Finally, Ben Zemanski was able to find a wide open Valeri in the corner on the next throw-in, but his cross went right to DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin's clearance did not make it past Andrew Jean Baptiste, who was up for the aforementioned corner, hanging out near the box instead of retreating to his defensive post.

Jean Baptiste chested the ball down and hit a looping cross to the near post. The Sounders' defense failed to see Wallace sneaking in behind Yedlin, allowing him to attack the near post and hit a beautiful header into the upper V.

It was the first time since the 2011 season finale that the Timbers performed a late smash and grab on the road for a point instead of faltering at the end. Good on ya, fellas.

Observations

  • In my game notes, the third thing I wrote was "Crazy doesn't look sharp." I don't recall exactly who I meant by that, but it was the theme of the night for quite a few of the Timbers.
  • I know a lot of people will point to Seattle scoring on 33% of their shots on target but Portland scored on 50% of their shots on target. They had 2 shots on target and only had 1 goal.
  • Playing in a 4-3-3, or in a possession based system, players have to be constantly thinking about not only where they need to pass the ball next but what they need to be doing once the ball is lost. This is why some of the mistakes have been especially costly as some of the players are still learning the system and how to play with in it.
  • I was not a fan of coming out in in a 4-1-4-1 but I was a fan of the subs Caleb made and how it changed the game in Portland's favor.
  • Portland really played well defensively and seemed to be getting better every game.
  • Having played arguably the best team in the league (Montreal -- I know, weird) and one of the toughest places to play as well as one of the best DM's in the league (Osvaldo Alonso) Portland should catch a break by playing Colorado in a couple of weeks.
  • I have always said the first 1/3 of the season could be rough, but if the Timbers continue to not give up, the next 2/3rds of the season after that will be a very fun ride.
  • It always feels good to shut up 40k customers
  • Hey Seattle! Don't throw $#!^ on the pitch! Especially when you hit one of our players! See his tweet here.
  • Bonus: Check this tweet out:

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