With the change in the format I am not going to be writing the quick recap because it would just be a repeat of the summary above. I will just dive into the first half here in the main body.
Portland came out with what has become their go-to formation -- the 4-3-3, with the only difference being Rodney Wallace in for Diego Chara. DC United made a change to their normal line-up by moving Andy Najar out wide on the left, using him to great effect in the first 15 minutes of the game. Attack after attack went down the left and it put a lot of pressure on Kosuke Kimura and Franck Songo'o to play defense.
The slow start by Portland was recognized by the coaching staff, as was the propensity for DC to attack the left side of Portland's defense. To combat this they moved Songo'o to the middle of the field and into Darlington Nagbe's usual role, switching Nagbe out wide. After the switch Portland's defense looked stronger and their offense started to click, as they found a passing rhythm.
Once Portland started clicking offensively, the shots came, but most of them from outside the box. With Portland looking good offensively as well as defensively, an injury to Hanyer Mosquera threatened to disrupt Portland's rhythm. Mosco tried to make a go of it but was subbed out in the 26th minute, and Futty Danso came on to replace him. Portland didn't miss a beat and continued to create plays while limiting DC's chances.
Portland was able to get the first shot on goal in the 28th minute, when a shot by Songo'o forced a save out of Bill Hamid. The shot was set up by an quick restart and a long ball from Kimura to Wallace at the top of the 18. Wallace laid the ball off to Songo'o who hit a low hard shot through traffic. Hamid read the play well and went down to save the ball easily. Just minutes later Portland threatened again.
Sal Zizzo received the ball on the wing with two defenders on him. As one defender closed the space behind him, Zizzo took advantage by splitting them. He was free and clear in the box and elected to hit a low hard cross towards Dike but it was deflected by a DC United defender towards goal. The deflection forced Hamid to make his second save of the game.
Portland kept up the pressure through the end of the half, but they were unable to get the opening goal. 0-0 tie at the half.
The second half started much like the first half ended with Portland dictated a lot of the play. DC United, on the other hand, came looking to add some physical nature to the play, with Perry Kitchen coming in hard on a tackle of Songo'o. Songo'o took exception to the tackle, and while the ball was in play they had a minor disagreement before cooler heads prevailed and the game continued on.
With Portland trying to dictate the pace of the game and DC trying to muck it up, the first 15 minutes of the second half seemed choppy and lacked a little flow to it. The game changed in the 58th minute. The Timbers had just cleared the a corner when David Horst challenged the second ball into the box. On the challenge David Horst was in the air and it appeared to have grazed Horst's arm pit. It was the weakest PK call since Kalif Alhassan's infamous red card at New York.
Chris Pontius easily put the ball in the back of the net and put his finger to his lips as if he thought Portland's crowd would be silent. It had the opposite effect on both the fans and the players -- the Timbers were just as furious with the weak call. Instead of giving up the Timbers channeled their frustration into a renewed energy and stepped up their game.
DC United, sensing they could get out of Portland with another win on a dubious PK call, tried to take the air out of the game and didn't attempt a shot for the rest of the game. With DC United's offense locked down Portland could focus on getting the equalizer. Attack after attack went down the wings or through Songo'o but the final ball never found anyone in a dangerous area.
DC United was bending but not breaking defensively and they were giving it their all. Chance after chance was snuffed out by either a bad pass or too much dribbling by a Timber. In the 79th minute Portland finally had some luck go their way. Steven Smith had the ball headed right to him by a DC player and he immediately hit a central ball to Nagbe. Both Nagbe and Smith charged up the field, where Nagbe rewarded Smith's run with a good through ball behind his defender.
Smith played the ball first time into the box, where Najar, hustling back, was able to go to ground and block the cross. The ball got stuck under the sliding Najar (under his arm, by the way) with Bright Dike in the area -- the ball popped out from under him and Dike poked the ball away from goal. The poke put Dike at a tough angle, but, having that striker mentality, he swiveled his hips and hit the ball hard into the roof of the net for the equalizer.
Usually when Portland fights back for the equalizer they have expended a lot of energy to get back even but on this night it seemed to only add fuel to their fire. Portland kept pressing for the game winner but were unable to come up with it, as Portland and DC, almost one year removed from their last 1-1 draw, settled for the same result.
- Moving Nagbe outside to combat Najar was the reason for Portland's turn around after the pretty slow first 15 minutes.
- Songo'o was strung just a little too tight tonight -- great effort and great emotion out there on the field, but it was almost too much emotion.
- Horst was irate at the call and his face is crazy scary to see on the broadcast. Very surprised Futty got the yellow and not Horst.
- Vancouver tied Seattle 0-0 which means Portland only needs a result next Sunday for the Cascadia Cup to come home!
- The PK was dubious to say the least, and let's leave it at that. The only thing that needs to be said is if Horst had kept his arms down, the Ref wouldn't have had a chance to make the crap call.
- Zizzo and Richards at right back? Umm, OK.
- Smith is wide open on the left a lot of the time but the CMs are not seeing him. Give him the ball!