In the first 20' of last night's 1-0 loss, the Portland Timbers looked like a creative wrecking ball set on demolishing the San Jose Earthquakes. The demolition never quite happened, but the Timbers can take heart from a number of solid performances on both sides of the ball.
Here are our picks for the Timbers' Man of the Match against San Jose. Make sure to pick yours in the poll below.
Ryan - Gaston Fernandez
Even though he had a couple of chances he should have done better with, La Gata was a handful. His ability to play multiple positions and essentially float all over the pitch causes nightmares for defenses. He works well in tight spaces and it showed tonight when he received the ball with two or three defenders around him and was still able to find the right pass. La Gata created numerous chances with dangerous balls and combined well with all the other attacking players.
Michael - Gaston Fernandez
With a few caveats: 1. He was so much more impactful playing in between Kalif Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe than he was wide to the left in the twelve minutes after Diego Valeri's introduction; 2. It's much easier, in Caleb Porter's system, for the player in that no. 10 role to be the most involved offensive player.
That said, Fernandez was very effective. He created chances for others, chances for himself and rotated through the four attacking areas with ease. He was also dangerous when moved into Maxi Urruti's forward position after Schillo Tshuma's introduction in the 74th minute. Though Portland obviously never scored, Fernandez was involved in most of the late game efforts.
Stacey - Gaston Fernandez
The first time most of us got to see Fernandez in person, the scoreline was disappointing but the player wasn't. Fernandez looked like the player who was most likely to either create or score a goal for the Timbers. He is so comfortable on the ball and in tight spaces that San Jose often had foul him in order to stop him, the same problem Nagbe creates for opposing teams. It was also nice to see that he was dangerous whether he was in the #10 spot or up front as a forward.
Will - Pa Modou Kah
It may sound like crazy talk on a night where the Timbers gave up a goal on a set piece, but Kah was a beast on defense all evening. The best measurement of Kah's performance on the night was Chris Wondolowski's lack of one; he had plenty of help from Diego Chara and Ben Zemanski, but one of the league's best at popping up to find a goal was essentially a non-entity last night. Kah's positioning and challenge was poor on the San Jose goal as Clarence Goodson headed the ball back across the box, but I find it hard to hold that against him given Goodson's three inch height advantage and propensity for doing the exact same thing for the USMNT.
There are our picks, but what are yours? Vote in the poll below and let us know why in the comments.