This was not the prettiest of games, nor was it the ugliest of games. It was a game that the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas both needed and it showed. From the start both teams were physical and expending a lot of energy. They were also trying to force the other team out of playing the style they wanted to play. Portland was pressing high and playing their outside backs way up the field to try and force Dallas' central play makers to cover them.
Dallas was clogging the passing lanes and trying to turn Portland over so that they could use their team speed to counter. The battle in the central part of the field was intense as Diego Chara tried to shut down David Ferreria. Ben Zemanski was doing his best to imitate Will Johnson and Alvas Powell was once again thrown to the wolves. A few years from now we will be very thankfully for the time Powell is earning now because he looks like he will fit the system nicely.
With all the back and forth Portland and Dallas combined for 6 shots in the first half. Most of them were off target and only two of them were saved. Both saves were by Donovan Ricketts and they both occurred in the first 15 minutes of the half. Once they recovered the Timbers seemed to get over a mental hurdle by not conceding early and started to combine through the middle of the pitch.
The combinations lead to a number of chances with Diego Valeri involved in almost all of them. Valeri first missed a sitter in the 21st minute as he was passed the ball in the box but his first touch failed him and he had to scramble to get the shot off, which went wide right of the goal. While the shot was indicative of how anemic the offense has been since the start of July, the mental fortitude the Timbers showed the by not letting the miss effect them is also indicative of the 2013 season.
Over the next 5 minutes Portland had Dallas pinned in their own half and earned three corners over that time. One corner was earned after a great switch of the field by Chara (which is what Will Johnson usually provides and one of the reasons Portland misses him when he is out). The subsequent ball was then played out off of a Dallas player by Ben Zemanski for a corner kick. On the corner Valeri, who hit a lot of great corners but didn't do so well on his free kicks, served it up nicely. Ryan Johnson then skied into the air over George John, almost like he was doing a posterizing dunk in the NBA , and met the ball his head for a great goal.
When I played in High School my team always used to say "90 seconds" to each other after we scored. This was to remind ourselves to not lose focus and let the other team get a goal because teams/players have a tendency to sometimes let the guard down after they score. While this might be the case for Portland I chalk this goal up to the inexperience of one Alvas Powell.
In 28th minute Andrew Jean-Baptiste stepped up from his CB position to challenge a pass made to Blas Perez. He was unable to get the ball but he did force Perez to play the ball away from goal to Fabian Castillo. Meanwhile Mauro Diaz ran into the space that AJB just vacated. Powell not reading the play did not pinch in to cover for AJB and it allowed Diaz an easy run behind into the box for the equalizer.
Even though the crowd seemed let down by the quick equalizer the Timbers were not. They just kept attacking FC Dallas with combination passing through the feet of Valeri. His feet had the Midas touch as his passes were perfect and his touch we sublime. In the 33rd minute Chara won a 50/50 header in which he headed it up the field to Valeri, who turned up the field to attack a now exposed Dallas defense. Darlington Nagbe jogging back up the field as the ball was bouncing around saw his opportunity to once again to place a dagger in the hearts of FC Dallas as he raced up the pitch. Valeri's pass was perfectly placed and weighted just past the retreating Michel, who could only throw up his hand in a futile attempt to convince the assistant referee to raise his flag. Nagbe's shot was a blast which Raul Fernandez had no chance stopping.
The first half ended in the 2-1 scoreline and when the second half began the referee decided it was time to put his stamp on the game. Similar to the first half when all the goals were scored in a 7 minute span the Referee handed out all of the yellow cards in the game in a 6 minute span. Once the 6 minutes were over it was back to business as usual as both teams went back and forth looking for a goal.
Portland had the upper hand forcing Raul into making 4 saves in the second half while Dallas could only muster one shot on goal that was right at Ricketts. Portland saw the game out with possession over the final 15 minutes of the game and sent the crowd home happy.
- What is up with FC Dallas? They haven't won since May and didn't score at all in July. They are in danger of missing the playoffs after having a 10 game unbeaten run early in the season.
- Powell could out to be something special. He speed and attacking ability could be a perfect fit for Porter's system.
- Kalif and Valencia played well and fit into the game seamlessly. Their effort helped keep Dallas from being able to completely pin the Timbers back and get the equalizer.
- A couple of funny moments in the second half: A foul was called and the ball was rolling towards CP near his technical area. When it got close he stepped as if he was going to tackle Castillo who was running after it. Another moment had to do with the first sub of the game for both teams. Portland subbed in #20 Valencia for #9 Johnson. Dallas subbed in #9 Ramon Nunez for #20 Mauro Diaz. Not sure why but I find that amusing.
- While last week the results did not go the Timbers way this weekend they did. Well all except the Colorado win but they have played a lot more games than everyone else. Next Wednesday should be a battle and from the sound of it Portland is looking for some pay back for the USOC loss.