This was a game that played with the emotions.
From the very beginning you could sense that this game meant a lot to the Portland Timbers. Instead of the usual slow start the Timbers came out with high energy but Real Salt Lakes's high pressure and ability to trap possession based teams limited Portland's attack. When Portland was able to break RSL's high pressure they did so by switching the point of the attack and playing through the outside backs. By doing so Portland created more dangerous chances than RSL did in the early stages of the game.
Slowly but surely you could feel momentum swing towards the Timbers and the possibility of the opening goal becoming eminent. The goal finally came in the 23rd minute when Rodney Wallace earned Portland a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Diego Valeri took a perfect free kick that curled beautifully into the path of Wallace. Wallace did not even have to jump as he met the ball and then headed it easily into the goal. The goal lifted the energy of the stadium to higher levels and the Timbers played off the energy of the crowd.
Credit to RSL for not giving up as they continued to play their style. Slowly the clawed back into the game as Portland could not find the second goal and after a while the game morphed back into a back and forth affair. In the 38th minute Portland once again failed to take care of a free kick properly and the ball was not cleared by Diego Valeri. The cross after Valeri was dispossessed was headed on frame by Robbie Findlay but was saved by Donovan Ricketts. Ricketts was unable to corral the ball and the rebound bounced right to Nat Borchers and he easily poked the ball into the goal.
The bleeding didn't stop there as RSL found new life after the equalizer and they continued to press for the go ahead goal. They got their chance on a soft PK call when Javier Morales flicked the ball past Andrew Jean-Baptiste and AJB kept his arm around Morales. Morales knowing full well he was putting the referee in a difficult position fell down to earn the soft PK. Morales then sent Ricketts the wrong way on the shot and scored RSL's second of the half in less than 5 minutes.
To top it all off Diego Chara earned his 5th yellow card of the season after the PK and will now be suspended for the game against Seattle.
The Second half was much like the first with the ebb and flow of the game going back and forth. The difference this time was that Portland earned the soft PK when Wallace was sent a pass up the field and as he was cut off by two defenders the ball bounced up and hit the elbow of a defender. Ricardo Salazaar wasted no time in pointing to the spot and took no argument from RSL. Valeri stepped up and took a confident PK to equalize the game.
Once Portland equalized the game the field really started to tilt towards RSL's goal and Portland was running downhill. RSL absorbed the pressure and tried to counter attack their way to the full three points. Fortunes changed in the 78th minute when Yordany Alvarez earned a straight red for his late and crunching tackle on Diego Chara. The field really tilted in Portland's favor after the red and you could see the Portland Players knew the game was theirs.
Portland's game winning goal, or so they thought at the time, came from an unexpected place. In the 86th minute Alvas Powell played a cross into the box that was knocked down by Jose Valencia right to Kalif Alhassan. Kalif was able to settle the ball, look up and then blast the ball past the keeper into the goal.
When the fourth official raised the board to indicate 6 minutes of stoppage time you knew RSL would get one more chance. That chance came in the third minute of stoppage time. A cross was sent into the box but was blocked away by AJB but it bounced right to Cole Grossman. Grossman hit the ball first time at the goal and caught Donovan Ricketts leaning away from the shot as he was reacting to the cross.
- Let's stop with the talk about the referee. He was not the one who messed up a clearance. Nor was he the one who didn't clear the ball and he wasn't even the one who gave up a rebound right to the opposing player. This game's results is all on the players.
- Portland's center backs are a PK waiting to happen (AJB) and the other is a red card (Pa-Madou Kah) waiting to happen. Neither are a steadying force and this has affected Portland's backline.
- I hope this leaves a bad tasted in Portland's mouth and carries over to a win at Seattle
- I am really worried about the central midfield now that Portland could be missing both Will Johnson and Chara. Jewsbury is carrying a knock so he might not be available. My best guess is that Kalif will start and Nagbe will move into the center of the pitch. Portland will then play a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2.
- Valeri assisted on 7 straight goals before scoring his own on the PK. Impressive streak.
- The sky is not falling people. Yes this tie doesn't help but it doesn't kill Portland's chances of the top spot in the west. Portland may not be an elite team yet but it will come and we have to remember where this team was 1 year ago.
- Alvas Powell is going to be a very special RB if he can continue to learn and adjust. His tackle and then full field run was amazing to watch.