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A Second Look: Chivas USA @ Portland Timbers USOC Review

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I promised actually have this post up yesterday, but, unfortunately, work got me down. There just wasn't anytime to actually get anything meaningful down, certainly nothing I would be proud of publishing.

Anyway, this past Tuesday saw the Portland Timbers come away with their first victory in a meaningful match since becoming an MLS team. This is great news not only for the fans, but also for the team's confidence heading to Boston this weekend to take on the New England Revolution who, while thought to be fairly lightweight heading into 2011, has turned out to be a fairly comparable team in their first two games. I guess what I'm saying is that they're going to be a tough team to beat, regardless of the confidence gained by our game against Chivas USA.

Anyway, back to the review, despite our win I will say that there is definitely some issues our team faced in each half. Also, keep in mind, that I was with the Timbers Army most of the time and, as such, my viewpoints were limited, especially for the first half as we were all getting settled in.

(Both teams fielded near starting 11 sides)

First Half

Right from the kick off, the Portland Timbers were easily the better side in the first half. Our passes connected most of the time, and we generally put on most of the pressure during the game. All in all it was an exciting bout of soccer that almost produced a fantastic goal off Kenny Cooper's head in the first five minutes. Unfortunately, once things got settled in after about 20 minutes, it looked like our team was retreating back to their old habits of giving away easy passes and refusing to control the ball.

Overall, however, the first half wasn't all that exciting. It was highlighted by Chivas USA defender Andrew Boyens acquiring a red card late in the first half for a foolish tackle on Kenny Cooper. This gave the team and immediate advantage heading into the second half, one that was almost squandered.

Second Half

Seeing as how I was a bit closer to the action this time around, I'll have a bit more to comment on the second half.

Playing down a man, Chivas USA was expected to be a fairly defensive side in the second half with the hopes of going into overtime and penalty kicks where their 10-man status would no longer harm them. This was not how the second half played at all, however.

Overall I'd say that Chivas USA played the better game during the second half. Where our midfield was frantic and nerve-ridden theirs was composed and calm. It reached a head during the 70th or so minute when Chivas USA was able to successfully hold possession of the ball for two minutes in our half of the field almost securing a goal against us. Not only that but their team had a number of break aways, one of which that should have been a goal for Chivas USA had their striker picked his head up from the ball and actually cared to aim.

While it's not entirely uncommon, I will say that being a man up should give the team a definite confidence boost and advantage on the field. The way Chivas USA dominated the game for the first half hour was almost embarrassing.

Finally, in the final six minutes, our captain Jack Jewsbury scored our first legitimate, non-freekick goal since the MLS season began. With that goal it was like a mental wall had shattered. While neither Jorge Perlaza nor Kenny Cooper got the goal, it was painfully obvious both were having troubles finding the opportunities to just fire one off and hope to make it. Jewsbury did, and as such came away with the game winning goal. A few minutes later, Eric Brunner notched his first Portland Timbers goal.

Despite the win, however, our second half play was abysmal and is not something I feel confident heading to New England with.

Notable Players

Finally, I'd just like to note a few player performances that I felt were particularly strong:

Jake Gleeson: I think this kid has proven himself an able goalkeeper and one that might be ready for the starting spot even if Adin Brown were to return from injury. He's calm, composed and very athletic. Adin Brown, on the other hand, could often look a little slow and tired in the back.

Kalif Alhassan: Fantastic midfield play from our young Ghanaian. While his passes didn't always get completed, he was a constant go-getter in the midfield closing down on targets when we needed him to and streaking up the side as often as possible.

Peter Lowry: Not the best player we've had this season thus far, but he played far better in this match than his previous two. If he can continue this level of play heading to New England we may want to keep him in for Adam Moffat.

Eric Brunner: As usual, a solid center back. He's young and he'll continue to make minor mistakes, but overwhelmingly he's better than his counterparts Kevin Goldthwaite/David Horst. The fact he scored our second goal of the night is just the cherry on the top.