The last 7 games have been a roller coaster ride for the Portland Timbers and their downward trend in the standings was a cause for concern. This was one game they really needed in order to pump the brakes and halt the downward momentum. Once the final whistle was blown the Timbers received more than a halt to downward momentum, they received a huge boost in confidence.
Just looking at the line-ups and you could guess it was going to be a different game than the previous 7 games. All because Diego Chara and Will Johnson were both in the line-up together, which had not occurred since the Philadelphia Union game on July 20th. With those two in the middle of the pitch the Timbers are a very different team, which Caleb Porter touched upon in the post game conference.
This system, your three center players... those players make you go, they make you tick, they allow you to control games, which is what we try to do on both sides of the ball. So I thought it was huge having them in there.
It was a huge boon for Portland as they were able to control the game and Portland returned to the possession style we loved to watch early in the season. The ball pinged around the pitch and Will Johnson's long switches opened up a very defensive oriented Toronto FC. However Portland's quality in the final third was lacking as they never forced Joe Bendik into a difficult save in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Portland continued to probe and swing the ball from side to side looking for the opening goal. They almost had it in the 31st minute when Kalif Alhassan's shot pinged off the near post and back into play and again in the 34th minute when Darlington Nagbe skied in the air to meet a looping Sal Zizzo cross but his header was right at Bendik.
The break through came the first half stoppage time and this time Portland was able to punish a team on a set piece rather than getting punished. The first ball played into the box from the sideline free kick was easily won by Toronto but the second ball was chased down by Darlington Nagbe. His pressure forced the clearance to go right to Alhassan at the top of the box. With pressure coming from a defender on his back Kalif masterfully chested the ball down and before the ball bounced on the ground he volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
The second half of the game started out with a lot of Portland possession in their own half but very little possession in Toronto's. The game changed as Toronto slowly emerged from their defensive shell to probing attacks with numbers to try and score the tying goal. This lead to some nervous moments and quite a few corners, Toronto ended up with 7 corners in the game.
Each time a corner would be given you could feel the nervous energy in the stadium. Portland played the corners well enough to finally keep the opposition from scoring on a set piece much to the relief of every Portland fan in the stadium.
As the game approached the 80th minute Caleb Porter surprised a lot of people by subbing in Diego Valeri. The inclusion of Valeri immediately changed the game and swung the momentum in Portland's favor. This coupled with Toronto sending numbers forward broke the game open like a pinata.
Portland's second goal was all due to the high pressure of Jose Aldofo Valencia and Diego Valeri. They were able to force a turnover of Toronto's last defender as he tried to juke Valeri. Valeri stuck his boot out and poked the ball away and into the path of Rodney Wallace. Wallace calmly finished the 1v1 with Bendik for Portland 2nd goal of the evening.
The next two goals were created by the hustle of Jose Valencia as he was constantly running the channels. In the 87th minute one such run was rewarded by a pass from Chara into the box. Valencia was not able to get the first time shot off and when he tried to cut the ball back he slipped but he quickly recovered and play the ball centrally looking for Wallace. Wallace dummied it and let the ball roll past him and right into the path of Will Johnson, who easily put the ball into the back of the net.
Valencia's next contribution came in stoppage time and this time he showed his strength. While near the corner of the field Valencia played the ball past a Toronto defender who tried to muscle Valencia off the ball or at the very least foul him before he got into the box. Valencia shrugged off the defender and dribbled towards the 6 yard box. Another Toronto defender closed him down and instead of taking a shot or passing the ball back to the top of the box he nutmegged the defender. The ball deflected off the defenders leg and right to a crashing Valeri for the fourth and final goal of the night.
- Portland is a very scary team when they have Valeri, Johnson and Chara all on the pitch together. It has been over a month since that has happened.
- Kudo's to Porter for bringing Valencia into the first team the right way and not throwing him to the wolves. This is the reward he gets.
- Kocic was timid in his box and only came out to challenge a cross/corner once the whole night. A little more than that and I would have less of an ulcer.
- The scoreline doesn't reflect how tough it was for Portland to breakdown Toronto
- This was a scoreline Portland desperately needed.
- All I could think about when I was driving home was "finally a recap I can't wait to write."