Maxi Urruti, he scores when he wants.
This strange season just got a whole lot stranger on Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, where the Portland Timbers somehow beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1 thanks to a brace from their Argentine striker.
There’s just no predicting MLS results, especially when the Timbers are involved.
All sings pointed towards Portland being demolished on the road – Caleb Porter called in Rauwshan McKenzie to replace Futty Danso, just to show how little faith he has in Norberto Paparatto.
So it makes sense that Paparatto had to come in and make a heroic late block to preserve this most unlikely win. With Urruti, the Timbers’ early-season goats came up big.
It’s the kind of win the Timbers had to get to keep their season afloat. It wasn’t the greatest advertisement for MLS, but it didn’t need to be. Portland has their second victory of the year.
Meanwhile – how far has New York fallen? Last season’s Supporters’ Shield winners were horrific after an opening fifteen minutes in which they could have scored five goals.
That’s about how long it took Bradley Wright-Phillips to go from world-beater to beat. Thierry Henry didn’t last much longer on the top of his game.
It didn’t matter that Lloyd Sam was beating Jorge Villafana at will, McKenzie’s most notable contribution was almost one of the most skilled own-goals in recent memory, and four of the Timbers’ back-five were on yellow cards.
The Red Bulls had two goals scrubbed out for offsides, one shot off the post, and in this wacky game, their only goal that counted was dubious at best: An incredibly strange penalty called on Pa Moudu Kah that Wright-Phillips put away.
Credit to Porter and his team – after the halftime intermission, they came out and took the game to the Red Bulls.
In the end, they got their reward when Maxi Urruti smashed home a low, hard Villafana cross. If Urruti didn’t score, the Timbers might have had their first penalty of the season for a handball on Armando.
Will Johnson was arguing for that call, even though his team scored.
Talk about brain of a goldfish.
It was Urruti’s deflected shot that flew past Luis Robles on the stroke of halftime that kept the Timbers in the game, after New York went up from the spot.
The Red Bulls attacking intent and vertical agression on the ball made for a wide-open game, and New York is going to have trouble beating teams if they can’t put their chances away. Against a back-line with Villafana and McKenzie, they should have done better, but they didn’t, and they were punished for it.
By no means was it a vintage Timbers performance. The defense was a horror show for much of the first half, and there’s a very real element of disbelief to this victory. But Portland got a little luck and a good result in the end. About time too.
Longterm, there are still problems. Portland’s center-back mess gets messier by the game. Futty Danso appears to have fallen down to fourth in the pecking order. Is McKenzie really going to play going forward?
Up top, Urruti delivered. His finishing has improved, and he’s playing a very tolerable brand of soccer. While Portland will hardly ever again find the space they had against New York, Urruti appears to have broken out of a season-long slump.
Steve Zakuani was once again ineffective, and with Gaston Fernandez playing well and Kalif Alhassan with no minutes in three games, we’ll see how long he lasts. Rodney Wallace is coming back too, and he’ll be available Wednesday night against Chivas.
Where’s this Timbers season going? Who knows. An off-kilter Red Bulls team may be among the easiest to play in the league right now, but take nothing away from the Timbers performance. They were the less bad team, especially in the second half.
This one is a morale booster. Four games remain before MLS breaks for the World Cup. If the Timbers turn this momentum into a few more wins, they’ll be right back in playoff contention.
It’s been a strange year. Tonight, strangely enough, the Timbers got a road win.
Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.