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Game 8: Portland takes down the Union

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Timber Joey fires up the Chainsaw as he cuts a slice off of the victory log.
Timber Joey fires up the Chainsaw as he cuts a slice off of the victory log.

Quick recap:

The Portland Timbers used patience and some of their best possession game to crack the vaunted Philadelphia Union defense. Portland keeps the home win streak alive and win 1-0.

First Half:

Portland really came out indecisive in the first 10 minutes of the game. Every time the Timbers got the ball they either played it square or backwards without any real attacking thought or threat in any of the passes. This allowed the Union to sit back and set their defense and when they get their defense set they are very hard to break down. 

After the first 10 minutes the Timbers settled down and started trying to break down the defense. Usually using the backline to swing the ball to the opposite side and find the space. The first shot of the game for Portland came in the 11th minute from Darlington Nagbe who received the ball from Kalif Alhassan on the left side and cut the ball back into the middle of the pitch to take a shot. Unfortunately the shot was wide of the goal but the precedent was set as the Timbers continued to attack down the wings. 

The Union countered by setting 10 men behind the ball and when they did win the possession hitting an outlet pass to Carlos Ruiz and trying to run off his possession of the ball. Eric Brunner and Futty Danso were more than up to the task and won every ball in the air. 

The Timbers kept up the attack with speed down the wings but were unable to get that final dangerous ball in the attacking third. Portland did win some free kicks and corner kicks which they used to get their bigger defenders into a position to score like in the 26th minute when Futty put a header just wide of the ball off of a Jack Jewsbury Corner.

Neither team really threatened until the 39th minute when the Union had a golden opportunity after Futty over played Danny Mwanga near the sideline and let him get by. Mwanga played a great ball into the box that came out to Sebastian Le Toux who thought he had an easy shot except for a hustling Captain Jack Jewsbury who just got a toe on it to poke it away to Troy Perkins who covered the ball up.

Both teams go into the half tied. The most telling stat of the half was shots on goal, the Union had one in the first minute. Portland had 5.

Second Half:

Portland came out a lot stronger and a lot more decisive in their passes compared to the first half. The Union continued to sit back and invite the Timbers to have possession in the middle and defensive third. It was as if the Union were playing for a draw or hoping to catch Portland on a set piece.

The renewed energy from Portland almost paid off with a goal as Jorge Perlaza cut in from a wide position and  put a shot on frame forcing a save. The game continued to be a game of half chances as the Timbers still lacked that final ball into a dangerous area. Portland's defense still held strong despite some scares in the 61st and 63rd minutes. Luckily both shots were either deflected by a defender or wide of the goal.

The break through finally came in the 72nd minute off of a Captain Jack got a free kick from about 45 yards out. Jewsbury played a beautiful ball to the back post and Futty beat 3 others to the ball and headed it straight into the net. The goal was the Timbers 7th goal from a set piece this year. 

From the goal on the game really opened up and the Union looked for the equalizer and Portland looked to counter. Unfortunately the Timbers were unable to get the second despite having 2 or 3 odd man breaks. The Union almost got the equalizer in the 86th minute.

The Union were able to get a long throw into the box and the Timbers were unable to clear the ball. A mad scramble ensued as the ball bounced around before it fell to Sebastien Le Toux, who gave the ball a poke towards the goal. Perkins again did what was needed and made the initial save and then pounced on the rebound not allowing another shot. A scuffle ensued as some of the Timbers players backed up their keeper.

From that point on it was as if the Union knew the had their last chance, even though they continued to look for the equalizer. Portland killed the game off and came away with another 1-0 win.

Observations:

  • Diego Chara's integration with the team continues to pay dividends. Each game he seems to get more and more involved with the game. With the increased involvement Portland continues to look better each game.
  • Our centerbacks won 99% of the balls put into the box and didn't shut down Carlos Ruiz.
  • 7 goals on set pieces is best in the MLS and if that continues the Timbers will be dangerous!
  • Tied for Second in the West!
  • The Union had 2 shutouts all of last year, the Timbers already have 2. 
  • The Timbers are still on pace for 57 points from home games.
  • In the 40th minute you can hear they Call and Answer so clearly in the broadcast it is AMAZING.
  • Portland's Play-off chances went up 12% to 61.9%
  • The average point total for a play-off bound team has been 41 points, this year it will probably be 46. Which means we need 33 more points out of the next 26 games, 12 of those games are at home.
John Spencer's post game comments (the two best questions and answers):

Q: You got to be happy with that?

A: I think we are absolutely delighted with that. I mean obviously the fans come and want to see more goals. For us I thought we were well in control of the game the whole night. We probably controlled most of the possession, I haven't seen the stats but to be fair I thought our two center defenders when the ball got knocked long won every single header that was to be gained away. Felt first half we didn't start the way we planned to start. We were a little bit slow, playing to many short square passes across midfield and never exposing them on the flanks the way we wanted to but I said to them at halftime we are going to half to dig deep for this. This is a team that is not just going to come here and give you three points. It is not as easy as that, obviously  they lost a couple of players which helped us. Califf and Miglioranzi failed a fitness test, so I think they had a siege mentality, where they were sticking up for each other. They were getting together, I think the were basically trying to hold out for a tie or maybe sneak one on a set piece. I told the guys at half, we need to keep our heads in the game, stay focused, try and force our game on them. A clean sheet and set piece will win the game.

Q: You going to make it habit to wave the flag in front of the army?

A: I don't know I got a little emotional then. I think this maybe been understated, I don't know if people got the wrong impression when I said "Fans don't win you the games. Players win the games." I truly believe that but someone said to me tonight "Is the fans the 12th man here?" I said "No I don't think so. I think that would be an insult to the Timbers Army, to call them the 12th man. I know before pre-game I sit the office while the staff will take care of warm-ups and I hear the chanting. For me the one word I would use for the Timbers Army is inspirational. So I think to call them the 12th man is not enough. So for me I would say they inspire me to become a better coach. They inspire the players to put in good performances and for me I couldn't see myself coaching any other club in the world except for the Portland Timbers. I just love being here, the atmosphere just, it sometimes it makes you tear up, seeing that the guys got so much support for us. 


What did you guys think? Give me your thoughts on the game? Was the loss on Tuesday worth the 3 points?