The Portland Timbers started off the 2016 season with a well-deserved win over what may turn out to be the best team from the eastern conference last Sunday. Many of the Timbers had good performances, but a few stood out to our panel of experts. Here are STF's picks for Man of the Match.
Chris Rifer - Dairon Asprilla
There were players who were better on Sunday (looking at you, Diego Valeri), but nobody was more important than Asprilla. The Colombian was Caleb Porter's surprising choice on the left wing, and rewarded his manager by effectively providing width in the attack and getting into the box to set up Fanendo Adi for the winner. The Timbers width issues were a big part of their undoing in the Simple Invitational finale, but Asprilla made the Timbers much more balanced and, ultimately, lethal.
Will Conwell - Liam Ridgewell
After successfully playing in none of the Timbers' preseason matches, Ridgewell stepped back into the center of the Timbers' defense like the offseason never happened. Not only did Ridgewell look good, he put up some very convincing defensive numbers as well; three recoveries, three blocks, four clearances, and four interceptions were all credited to the Timbers' captain. The Timbers might have looked good going forward during their repeated counter attacks down the pitch, but it was the defensive effort of Ridgewell et al that allowed them to do so.
Ryan Gates- Diego Chara
Chara's stat line from the game reads 5 tackles won, 4 interceptions, 9 recoveries, and the biggest surprise stat no fouls lost. His distribution chart below also reads into how he influenced the game with his ability to help possession and looks like he may be able to take over something Will Johnson used to perform well, the long ball switch.
Who do you think was MOTM?
Also, don't forget to give your team picture ratings.