A wild first half and a ground out second half characterized the Portland Timbers' 2-1 victory over FC Dallas last night. As the game wound up, the Timbers successfully managed the clock, holding up the ball and neutralizing Dallas with their possession in a way that the team has struggled to do late in games with year. The win came on the back of two Diego Valeri assists, which made him the first Timbers player to reach double digits in that statistic since the team joined MLS. Despite his record setting effort, Valeri has some competition for the evening's Man of the Match.
Will: Diego Chara
The same thing that is true in every Timbers match was true in this one: Diego Chara was everywhere both on defense and in the attack. With Ben Zemanski sitting back further than we are used to seeing from Chara's usual midfield partner Will Johnson, the little Colombian was getting forward with the attack on almost every Timbers' possession. Chara had his usual contributions to the defense with four tackles made, but it was the constant pressure that he put on FC Dallas all over the field that paid dividends for the Timbers.
Andy: Diego Chara
There have been games this season in which the team as a whole hasn't done too well, and some of us have chosen Diego Chara as MOTM, because he always seems to be on even when his teammates aren't. This time, Diego Chara was really on. Even with the referee letting just about every wild challenge from either side go unpenalized, Chara didn't have the ball tackled away from him even once. His tackles won + recoveries totaled 10. And get this -- despite his diminutive stature, Chara led his team in headers, one of which provided the service to set up Diego Valeri's assist on Darlington Nagbe's goal.
Ryan: Diego Valeri
His positioning, touch and passing were sublime. The only negative about his game was the shot he pushed wide in the first half but everything else was amazing to watch. He combined with the three other attacking players as they passed it around FC Dallas' defense. He even tracked back to help defensively and took all the physical hits in stride. It was great to see him have another superb game.
Michael: Diego Valeri
The two assists are the easy quantitative measure of what he provided against Dallas, but as usual with Valeri, it was the qualitative that was even more impressive. He hasn't been amazing in every game this season, but last night, especially in the first half, Valeri was the most effective player on the field. That said, I think it's important to mention Ben Zemanski's game. Though his stats don't rank among the best on the night, he was more than adequate cover for Will Johnson in central midfield. Zemanski's consistent presence broke up Dallas attacks through the middle and allowed Diego Chara to roam in the way that makes him most effective. Valeri was the Timbers' best player on the night, but for me, Zemanski was the most important.
Stacey: Diego Valeri
Both Diegos were working hard to stake their claim to this one, but I'm giving the slight edge to Valeri, who was truly a joy to watch last night. My brother, who hardly ever gets to watch Timbers games these days, was peppering me with questions like "Who is that?!" and "Where did we find him?!" and also chiming in with very wise observation that "We should keep him around for a loooong time."
Honorably mention to Diego Chara, who was everywhere last night and simply refused to let Dallas push him around, even if they were pretty much all twice his size.
There are our picks, but what are yours? Vote in the poll below and let us know why in the comments.