What a wild weekend in Portland Sports. Amazing!
First Whistle - 14': One of the biggest issues with the Portland Timbers this year has been conceding an early goal. In the first 40 seconds of the game the Timbers ensured they would not concede first. An early turnover, forced by the high pressure of the Timbers, allowed them to quickly go on the attack, and an early cross from Diego Valeri was converted by Gaston Fernandez after a nice move to flick the ball over a diving Bill Hamid. D.C. United didn't hang their heads and they too forced Portland into some turnovers as both teams appeared to come out with high energy. While the energy netted Portland a goal in the first 30 seconds, it also almost gave D.C. a goal in the first 5 minutes. They had numerous chances and one of those included a header off the crossbar, as well as two saves from Donovan Ricketts.
The frenetic nature of the game continued past the ten minute mark and neither team seemed like they had a lot of continuous possession. However D.C. United did feel like the team that was in control of the game as most of the game was played in Portland's half.
14' - 21': The first 14 minutes of the game the Timbers had yet to string together more than 10 passes but right before a quarter of an hour had passed the Timbers spent the next two minutes playing keep away from D.C. Even with the solid possession D.C. absorbed it and had some of their own around the 18' mark as they tried to take the sting out of Portland's attack. The fastest goal in Portland's MLS history and 22nd fastest in MLS was wasted in the 21st minute when a deflected D.C. shot found the back of the net.
21'- 37': After the initial shock of conceding a goal the Timbers started to show signs of the type of attack we are used to seeing. The ball was whipped from side to side and after they broke the initial pressure of D.C. they were able to find players behind the defense and in front of the defense, and they started to cause D.C. problems. As we have seen before, possession does not always lead to goals but sometimes it does lead to set pieces and these can be dangerous. Early in the year Valeri's delivery of the set pieces left a lot to be desired but in the 36th minute he hit a great ball that Futty Danso was able to get on the end of and half volley into the back of the net for Portland's second goal of the game.
37'-Halftime: D.C. ended the half with quite a few free kicks and each of them looked like a mad scramble in the box. On one Will Johnson decided to play it like the Timbers were attacking and played a great ball back across the goal, thankfully D.C. was unable to punish the mistake. Portland did weather the final storm and made it to half soaked and ready for the orange slices.
Restart- 55': The Timbers and D.C. started the second half like they did the first with a burst of energy but a few stoppages of play due to fouls. The fouls were due to the escalation of the physical play which carried over from the first half and to the fact that Ricardo Salazar was in charge of the game. Portland did start to slowly take over the game as they were able to dictate the run of play more and more.
55'- 59': D.C. turned the table in the 55th minute and started to find their own rhythm and looked dangerous going forward. The Timbers had a scare in the 58th minute when a ball in the box was played back and looked to have glanced off of Futty who had his arms raised. Salazar took this to mean that it was a handball in the box and blew the whistle and immediately pointed to the spot. Futty sprinted to the sideline pointing to his face as he pleaded his case with the linesman. The linesman did call over Salazar and the call was justly changed and the PK was waived off.
59'- 75': The PK scare did two things: it galvanized Portland and it got in D.C.'s head, especially when calls did not go their way. Their anger turned to energy as they wanted to stick it to the referee and this coupled with what looked like tired legs of Portland made for some hair raising moments on the defensive end. None of the attacks ended in a save or even made it to Ricketts in any other way than a goal kick, but they were dangerous and easily could have.
75' - 78': By the 75th minute D.C. United had used all of their subs looking for the equalizer while Portland had only used one, and this was evident in the fresh legs that eventually found their way down the side of the field to earn a corner. The corner was then converted with a header that equalized the game on an own goal.
78'- Maxi Time: The game turned into an end to end affair when Jack Jewsbury was subbed out of the game and Maximiliano Urruti came onto the pitch. The three man backline left Portland exposed in the back but the numbers going forward helped them create attacks that were non-existent 5 minutes prior to the sub. The end-to-end action was captivating, but the impending tie loomed large when the Timbers took a corner in the last minute of stoppage time. Once again with a 9 on the clock a team from Portland pulled the rabbit out of the hat.
- Steve Zakuani still does not look 100% and is not as fast as he once was. He also looked less than 100% fit because on numerous occasions he was walking back on defense and Valeri was the one who was out wide covering for him,
- Not sure what happened to Ricketts on the goal but it looked like he could have saved it. However deflections are very hard to judge as a keeper so I am not going to blame him, I think...
- After struggling early in the year with his set piece delivery, Valeri has hit some decent balls (Of course as I was typing this he hit a lame duck right to the first defender... grrr)
- Portland looked like they had tired legs around the 60th minute and this is a disturbing trend this year.
- This year's improvements have been slow and steady instead of lighting speed, hopefully this team continues to gel and pulls off a Seattle and makes the playoffs after a terrible start.
- 20 game home unbeaten run in MLS regular season still going strong!
- I think the win will allow Portland to play with more confidence and a little looser.