With only one really dangerous chance on goal per team, many of the biggest moments of the Portland Timbers 0-0 draw against the LA Galaxy last night came before anyone got a shot off. The game was a defensive battle featuring crunching slide tackles, last second interceptions, and Donovan Ricketts diving through traffic like a man with a death wish.
As in any 0-0 tie, the defense stood head and shoulders above everyone else (sometimes literally), so it is no surprise that our picks for the Timbers' Man of the Match come from the team's back line.
Here are our picks. Make sure to share yours in the comments and vote in our Man of the Match poll.
Will: Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Against a team that thrives on the break like the Galaxy, the Timbers needed a standout game from their defense and they got one. Donovan Ricketts, Pa Modou Kah, and Diego Chara all deserve mention here as they did their part to stifle an attack that includes two of MLS's best goalscorers in Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, but it was Andrew Jean-Baptiste who stood out in my mind. Time and again AJB was just where he needed to be thanks to a rapidly improving sense of positioning and his ridiculous recovery speed.
Ryan: Pa Modou Kah
He covered a lot of ground bailing out his fellow defenders. Three of his tackles stopped goal scoring opportunities and gave Portland a chance at a result. Getting into Landon Donovan's head and under his skin was an added bonus.
Geoff: Pa Modou Kah
Easily my Man of the Match. The way he handled both Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane was not only great, but made him one of my favorite players on the team. Certainly not a perfect night for him, but without his presence in the backline, I'm wondering if Keane doesn't have a goal or two to his name.
Stacey: Donovan Ricketts
It's hard to believe that at the end of last season, it didn't look like Ricketts had many years of soccer left in what appeared to be creaking joints and brittle bones. His tendency to look like a man reborn this year was on full display last night as he threw himself through the air to make saves and cut out crosses, then hopped back up like it was no big deal. The center backs (especially Kah) in front of him are close runners up for doing what they could to lighten Ricketts' work load, but when crafty Robbie Keane did manage to shake the Timbers defenders, Ricketts was still too much for him. Put a lot of the other keepers in the league in net for the Timbers and I think the result is a lot worse for us.
There are our picks, but what are yours? Vote in the poll below and let us know why in the comments.