Coach John Spencer did not have a lot of positives to say in the wake of his squad's 1-0 victory over Oregon State University in a closed scrimmage at Jeld Wen Field Thursday night. Indeed, the Timbers looked a little surprised at the energy and physicality that OSU brought and have a ways to go before they are ready for prime time.
The home team dominated possession, as expected, but the energy they brought to the match was a distant second to OSU's, and lazy mistakes plagued the boys in green, while they managed only two shots on target, by my count. The deadlock was broken at long last in the 86th minute, when Hanyer Mosquera headed in a corner (the third in a series) taken by Kalif Alhassan.
The Portland Timbers started with a lot of great movement on both flanks, but the eagerness of the college boys was clearly a surprise to them. Both Franck Songo'o and Eric Alexander were able to make room for themselves but time and again failed to make that last great touch to put the ball into a dangerous area.
By about the 20th minute it was apparent that the Timbers were starting to lose some steam. The middle of the half was marked by lazy passing and careless giveaways, lowlighted by Mike Chabala's gentle tap back to keeper Jake Gleeson which was promptly intercepted by an onrushing OSU striker and almost resulted in an easy goal if not for an excellent save from the New Zealander.
The physicality OSU brought got a little scary in the 28th minute, when Franck Songo'o went down on the right side at the edge of the attacking third and had to be replaced by Kalif Alhassan. Spencer said after the match that Songo'o had tweaked his MCL and should be out for at least three days -- he was stretching on the sidelines after the end of the match, so it doesn't look terrible. Eight minutes later it was Futty Danso who went down, this time due to an OSU player's ill advised bicycle kick attempt that reportedly nicked Futty's eye and messed up a contact lens. Futty was replaced by Hanyer Mosquera.
Spencer switched out nearly the entire lineup, keeping only Gleeson, Bright Dike, and the two players who came on for injured personnel in the first half. The Timbers continued to dominate possession in the second half, but they still failed to create many chances early on. However, the intensity of the two sides were more on par with each other, as most of the Timbers players on the field at this point were fighting for starting spots.
Brent Richards, playing as the left wing, combined very well with Freddie Braun, playing as the attacking midfielder, as well as both Ryan Kawulok and Rodney Wallace, the right and left backs, respectively. But the biggest story of the second half was the combination Sebastian Rincon and Brent Richards were creating. Richards seemed to be moving the ball down the left wing with relative ease, and his service to Rincon set up several near misses, one a curling shot on target from just ouside the penalty area.
Again, though, the Timbers seemed to lose their stamina late in the half, and it took a series of corner kicks in the waning minutes to finally put a ball past the OSU keeper. The goal was straightforward enough: on the third attempt from the right corner, Alhassan finally found Mosquera, who put a solid head to the ball and knocked it in easily.
Neither team was able to do much after the goal, although Brent Richards did have one more long distance attempt off target in the final act of the match.
Chabala, Danso, Eric Brunner, Steve Purdy
Songo'o, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Alexander
Jorge Perlaza, Dike
Wallace, Mosquera, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Kawulok
Richards, James Marcelin, Braun, Alhassan
On his impressions of the game
I think we were a little bit flat. We had a hard day this morning.
We never showed a lot of quality tonight.
I am looking for us to play better than that. I know that we were quiet in the first half. I know that the guys are better than what we showed tonight. We know that, but what we are trying to do here is build a culture that when you step on the field or put on a uniform you are ready to play.You don't play half-assed or third gear out of six. It is not going to work for us here. That is what I said at half-time.
On Franck Songo'o's injury
He just tweaked his MCL. I think he'll be out for two or three days and hopefully not any longer than that. It is always the same when you dont get mentally and physically prepared. A little bit of tiredness sets in and you overrun the ball and you pick up injuries. I think he got a knee to the side of his knee so we think it is nothing too serious.
On Songo'o's performance
I think that Franck has set the bar very high for himself. Tonight we were well below the bar that we set. I don't get super-excited because someone does a step over or someone passes a ball to feet. That's what you do in soccer, by the way, pass the ball to people's feet.
He is a good player. He is expected to play well. That is why he is here.
On Futty Danso's injury
I don't know if it was a kick in the eye or the guy's lace caught him inside the lens. We were dropping like flies tonight so tomorrow we should be getting back to full health.
On Sebastian Rincon
He's got a chance, by the way. He's got a great chance, this kid. He's a very powerful young man for eighteen years. He's just getting in to the professional game for the first time and he's getting himself fitter and adjusting to the pace of the game. He's got a good chance.
He has a super attitude. When you talk to him,the lights are on. Someone is at home and you don't have to tell him too many times to do the same thing, which is very refreshing. Great attitude. I'm hoping that in the next couple of days we can announce something with him. He could be a good one for us.
On Kris Boyd's absence
He would have played tonight but he tweaked his ankle a little bit. He had a shot today just come off his toe a little bit awkwardly so we didn't want to take any chances tonight.
On his expectations for the game
I wanted them to play well. You want them to play well every game. It doesn't matter who you are playing against. Some say you don't pick and choose your times to play. We didn't turn up to play and then it becomes a difficult game. You can't underestimate anybody. That's why you have to be at the top of your game all the time.
On Oregon State's performance
They are young guys, they work hard. Steve does a good job with them. I've seen them play a couple times. He's got a good program there. They camei, they battled hard, and it was exactly the type of game that we knew we were going to get. When you put 15 or 20 college players onthe field they are going to run their socks off and try to impress.
College teams always come to prove a point. If you don't match their energy and enthusiasm you're in for a tough night. We get a little sloppy on the ball, make a few mistakes, and we are lucky not to be two goals down.
Hanyer Mosquera (through a translator)
On his goal
Kalif delivers a good ball. It went to the first post and I got a good header.
On his performance
It was good. Every time it is better and better. The preseason games have helped us get to the point where we want to be.
On the forward pairings in the game
We're just taking a couple of different looks, trying out some new guys. That's what happens in a game. That is the purpose of this game, to try out some new styles and see how it all fits together.
On being held to 1-0
Sometimes you are doing the right things and the final pass might not be there, but we still dug it out.
On if he was offside on his goal that was called off
No. I am always going to say that I'm not offside. I'm a striker.
On his level of fitness after playing 90'
I'm feeling great, much better than last year. I don't think that I could have played 90 and felt as good as I feel right now. That shows how much more healthy I am and how much better off I am than before the injury. That's something to be excited for and looking forward to when the season starts.