The Portland Timbers seem to have trouble with teams that play a diamond midfield and this game once again exposed that weakness.
Start- 15 minutes: The opening kick off should have been a starter's gun instead of a whistle because both teams shot out of the gate like they were springing a 100 meter dash and not the 5000 meter race that a soccer game can be. It was end to end soccer with both teams pushing the ball after obtaining possession. Portland would move it down the flanks through Darlington Nagbe or Steve Zakuani, while the LA Galaxy used the center of the park to attack Portland's defense. Neither team scored but the frenetic pace made it feel like one of them would.
15'- 45': After the initial burst of energy from both teams the game settled into a game dominated by one team while the other was just trying to hold on. The Galaxy held the ball for 60% possession in the first half and looked like they were pulling Portland's defense all over the field with runs peeling off the backline or the forwards dropping deeper into the midfield. The injury substitution of Michael Harrington unbalanced the defensive line even more with Jack Jewsbury switching over to the left to make way for Alvas Powell. When Portland did get possession of the ball they were forced into a more direct style because of the high pressure of LA and the lack of a target forward hindered the ability of the Timbers to generate much offense other than the counter. Thus the field looked like it was tilted towards the Timbers' goal for the first half and that the Timbers were lucky to make it to the half tied.
45' to 60': The Portland Timbers came out strong in the second half and started to chip away at the possession advantage LA built in the first half. The possession did have some breakdowns as Portland's passing percentage was 77% and some of those passes were right to LA Galaxy players. As the game progressed towards the 60th minute both teams started to feel the affect of the sun and playing on a turf field and the energy leveled began to dip.
60'- Goal Conceded: After the initial dip in energy both teams inserted fresh legs and slowly the game began to feel more like the first ten minutes as both teams pushed for the game winning goal. As the game approached second half stoppage time the defense looked like they were going to finally record their first shutout of the year but one fatal mistake cost them as they let one of the best strikers in MLS latch onto the end of a long throw-in for an easy goal.
3 minutes later: After the boneheaded play to give up the goal the Timbers threw everything forward, including the kitchen sink and Futty Danso, to try and net the equalizer. This left Portland very vulnerable to a counter and that vulnerability almost cost them any chance at points. On Portland's last corner of the match the ball was cleared to the center circle where Juninho was waiting with no defenders in front of him. The only Timber who had a chance was Darlington Nagbe and man did he fly. He closed the gap and right around the top of the box was shoulder to shoulder with Juninho when he nudged him to disrupt the possible shot. Juninho went down as if he was anticipating the contact and was not able to draw the foul. The no call let Portland push the ball back up the field where Futty and Will Johnson kept the ball alive long enough to allow Diego Valeri to blast a shot past the diving Jaime Penedo.
- Steve Zakuani was much faster this game than any other game. Looks like he is returning to a level he has not been at since his horrific injury. Now I just wish he would attack single coverage before the double team comes over once or twice.
- Nagbe was everywhere and did everything except when he was called upon to shoot. His lone shot on goal was a good one but wish he would do it more often.
- Donovan Ricketts was up for this game and I know some of you blame him for the goal but if you have ever played keeper you expect the defender to clear a lot of the balls unless you call for it. Especially if you can see an attacker coming hard and fast.
- 7 points from the three home games is something the Timbers can build on, now they just have to actually do that....
- Rough weekend for PDX sports fans.
- Are all LA sports teams (minus Chivas) a bunch of whiners?