Game Flow: The Portland Timbers Lose a Tough One

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

The Portland Timbers dominated in every statistical category except the scoreline, which is the only stat that matters.

With the quick recap going up and essentially focusing on the timeline of the game and giving you, the readers, the major events we, the editors, felt that sometimes the "recap" was a little redundant and needed to be tweaked. So, instead of repeating the recap but in greater detail we will be writing about the flow of the game and the general feel to the game. To do so we will break each half up into 15 minute segments and give you a general flow to the game.

Please let us know what you think because are always open to suggestions and like constructive criticism.

First Half

1st 15 minutes: The Portland Timbers started the game as if it was a sprint and not the 90 minute marathon it can be. They took the kick off, passed the ball back to their defense and held possession for the first 3 minutes of the game until San Jose finally obtained possession of the ball for the first time around the 3:30 mark. The San Jose Earthquakes knew Portland was going to signal their intent to possess the ball for long stretches and they too signaled their intent from the first whistle by dropping 10 men into their own half and clogging the passing lanes. The overall pace was frenetic in the opening segment with San Jose dropping deep and allowed the Timbers to pass, move, play combinations and switched the ball for minutes on end.

Portland's attacks usually went down the left flank through Darlington Nagbe or Gaston Fernandez. When it did make it to the right flank Jack Jewsbury was the main target with Kalif Alhassan feeding him the ball for the cross. Once San Jose weathered the initial surge of energy from Portland they themselves found a rhythm caught Portland on the counter or intercepted passes from the back line going forward. By the time the first 15 minutes were over San Jose started to create their own chances.

2nd 15 minutes: We all know the best way to earn a result against Portland is to sit back, get physical, counter and earn set pieces. This is exactly what San Jose did from about the 15th minute until the end of the game. They earned a couple of fouls, due to the over exuberance of Pa Modou Kah when defending Steven "Assassinated" Lenhart, and these free kicks proved to be dicey propositions. Each time San Jose earned a set piece Portland used zonal marking and it seemed like each time the ball made its way to a San Jose player who was wide open.

Each set piece had the feel like Portland might have the trouble defending set pieces in 2014 just as they did in 2013. Corners were especially nerve racking and in the 26th minute San Jose earned the break through goal on, one could say controversial, corner. The own goal gave the Portland Timbers a little hitch in their giddy-up and they didn't quite recover their early game form until the later stages of the first half.

3rd 15 minutes: Once Portland shook of the malaise brought on by giving up an own goal they started to press San Jose and pinned them into their territory. However just like at the beginning of the half the Portland Timbers lacked quality in their scoring chances. None of the shots generated forced Jon Busch to make any difficult saves and San Jose's back 5 or 6 defensive players kept everything in front of them and thus Portland was unable to find the back of the net for the equalizer before half.

The final 15 minutes of the half did see the "chippiness" factor increase by 5 fold. It first started... well, to be honest it really started when San Jose took the field, any time they take the field you just get the feeling something might happen and Steven Lenhart might get punched in the face or somewhere else. It escalated in the final 15 minutes when Sam Cronin was given a yellow for persistent infringement, Clarence Goodson took exception to Urruti's hustle and decided to sweep his leg out from under him with is arm as he was trying to get up and when Diego Chara and Steven Lenhart came together during a tackle at midfield. Chara and Lenhart each gave each other a shove, all the while the ref is looking straight at them, until Lenhart finally backs away. If there was going to be a throw down at that point my money was on Chara, you get the feeling he would be like Dash from The Incredibles when he fights.

Second Half

1st 15 minutes: The start of the second half was much the same for the Timbers as the rest of the game with a lot of possession but this time Kalif Alhassan was a lot more active. His work on the right side seemed to unlock the defense of San Jose a little and created space on the right side of the pitch. The space translated into two good opportunities when he played a 45 drop to Maximiliano Urutti at the top of the box but his first time shot was as easy save for the diving Busch. The second opportunity was a cross from the wide area and towards the back post but Urutti had made the near post run and no other Timber was in the box.

The game continued to be very physical and almost got out of hand. Atiba Harris tackled Nagbe from behind and initially the referee signaled it was a fair tackle and let play continue until half a minute later whistling for a stoppage so that Nagbe could receive a visit from the training staff. At this point the fourth official called over the center referee and spoke briefly with him and after this the referee finally signaled it was a foul and issued a yellow card. I am glad the referee listened to the fourth official and changed his called but a little sad that a tackle from behind is OK as long as you get the ball.

2nd 15 minutes: What could have been a period in the game when Portland could have slowed down was kick started by the inclusion of the Argentinian Maestro. Diego Valeri's substitution was coincided with an uptick in energy in the crowd and on the field. One minute later Valeri reminded Portland fans why he is such a magical player when he received the ball near the left corner of the box and played a perfect pass to an open Nagbe at the top of the box. The subsequent shot from Nagbe was right at Busch, as most shots were for the Portland Timbers, and thus easily saved.

Final 15 minutes: The final 15 minute of the game and the score line holding at 1-0 led Portland to even higher pressure and to throw more numbers forward. This led to goal scoring chances but they still lacked the quality Portland needed to find the back of the net. La Gata himself had two opportunities in the last 15 to nab the equalizer but the ball could not get off his feet or his shot was off target. In the end San Jose continued to sit back and defend, which they did so efficiently enough to earn the win over the Timbers.

Observations:

  • La Gata's foot skills are beautiful and the rest of the team better be ready to receive passes they didn't expect him to be able to complete. He also hits a great set piece, too bad no one could get a head on it.
  • This was Ben Zemanski's best game as a starter for the Timbers. He filled in for Will Johnson admirably.
  • With that said the Portland Timbers still missed Will Johnson in the attack.
  • Kalif has some great moments in the game
  • At times the passing was sublime and made for a good show but if Portland can't score or defend set pieces it might be a difficult year.
  • The Western Conference is stacked.... Is it too late to join the East?
  • I expect to see a lot of other teams try and replicate what San Jose accomplished but I am not sure they will be lucky enough to only see 30 minutes of Valeri.
  • It was great to see Valeri out there for the first time this preseason and you can see just how much he means to the team by the way rest of the team reacts when he is on the field. Thankfully there will not be as much of a drop-off as last year with the added depth Portland signed.
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