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Game Flow: Portland Wins, Finally!

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May 3rd was the last time Portland had won at home but the Timbers got the job done against the Rapids.

Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Whistle-15': Pablo Mastroeni told the broadcast crew that he wanted to play in the Portland Timbers's half. Well, during first 15 minutes of the game his team did exactly what he wanted them to do. They played it direct as much as possible but also used Dillon Powers in the middle of the pitch, to play in Portland's half for large amounts of time. Even though the Colorado Rapids were able to play their way into Portland's half the defense, led by Liam Ridgewell, kept Colorado out of the box and limited them to long shots.

Offensively Portland looked disjointed and this was probably due to the fact that Colorado clogged the center passing lanes and forced everything out wide to Darlington Nagbe or Steve Zakuani. Once either of those two received the ball at least two, sometimes three, Rapids players boxed them in on the sideline. This pressure either led to a turnover or forced the ball back to the defense and then the attack had to be reset. When Portland wasn't going down the sideline they were playing it long to Fanendo Adi and trying to get him to hold the ball up and lay it off. Except he wasn't able to hold onto it long enough to so that the outside players could run into the space behind the defense.

All of the good defensive work went out the window when Colorado won a corner kick off of a long shot. Once again Portland's defense and marking let them down as Drew Moor was able to get wide open in the box. Donovan Ricketts made the initial save but was unable to secure the ball and gave up a rebound. After a few tries Colorado was finally able to put the past the line.

15'- Halftime: After the goal Portland did look like they picked up their energy but the quality of the passes did not also improve. The Rapids continued their inside out defense and forced the Timbers to play it wide. Despite this Portland was able to get shots on goal, which was an improvement compared to the last game, and were able to create a couple of dangerous chances but none of them found the back of the net.

After the slow start Portland started to gain traction with each passing minute. The combinations started clicking even though the final ball or shot was still not the quality needed to put the ball in the back of the net. Defensively there were still a few mistakes which lead to chances that Colorado could not capitalize on. Overall the first half was one that was indicative of how Portland has played this year, slow start and then an uphill climb to get back into the game.

Halftime-60': After the restart Portland took another step forward offensively and the passing started to show the quality that was needed to breakdown the Rapids defense. The offense also lead to a much better defensive effort because it forced Colorado into long clearances. Portland's backline were then able to win the first ball and clean up the second ball, which lead to an anemic offense for Colorado.

60'- Goal #1: The double substitution in the 60th minute further turned the screws on the Colorado defense. Instead of being able to deal with a target forward the Rapids now had to deal with a pest of a forward in Maximiliano Urruti and a false nine in Gaston Fernandez. The move also allowed Valeri to become more of a scoring threat rather than a facilitator. After the two subs it felt like a goal was coming for the Portland Timbers.

The equalizer did come and it was like the 2013 Portland Timbers were back. The possession started with Jewsbury winning the clearance, passing it back to Ridgewell.   Then every Portland Timbers player got a touch on the ball except for Danny O'Rourke and Ricketts. The possession ended after 11 passes involving 9 players and once the ball entered the attacking half there was 11 touches from 7 different players with no player touching it more than twice (Thanks Bro!). It was beautiful soccer and something we were treated to a lot last year.

Goal #1-Goal #2: Usually by this point in the game Portland has taken too much time and used too much energy to get the second goal. This game Portland left themselves a bit more time to get the game winner and they took advantage of the opportunity. In the second half Valeri was finding a little bit more space and time when he received the ball and in the 77th minute he made Colorado pay for doing so. What also helped create Valeri's Golazo were runs into the box by 4 Portland Timbers, Diego Chara, Nagbe, La Gata and Urruti. These runs pulled the Colorado defenders away from pressuring Valeri and he uncorked a wicked shot.

Goal #2-Final Whistle: Last year and even this year Portland struggled at times to play the game out. Instead of possessing the ball and killing the game professionally they would press for another goal or this year they would have a "brain of a goldfish" moment and give up the equalizer. This game was different as Portland was able to possess the ball and kill off large chunks of time at the end of the game.

Observations:

  • There was a quite a few times on the broadcast when the ball was in play but the camera switched to a close up of someone on the sidelines. Can we get some loans to Europe for some of the TV Crew?
  • Diego Valeri was doing everything he could to win this game and he really tracked back defensively
  • After the initial set piece flub Ridgewell noticed that he might have to take care of all of the set pieces himself. At least twice Ridgewell was the first Timber to the ball and cleared it.
  • Can we stop with the quick free kicks? More often than not the Timbers play it quickly only to loose it moments later
  • Urutti and Fernandez both tracked back defesively at times to help put Colorado players under pressure. This was indicative of the will to win in all of the Portland players.
  • Despite what the broadcast said you could still hear the TA over the mics and even though there seemed like some quite periods you could still feel the energy through the TV.
  • At the time of this writing (Sunday Morning at 1 AM) results, for the most part, went Portland's way. Portland is still in the playoff hunt as they are only 5 points out of second place.