Welcome back to the post-slab pint where I break down the good and the bad (pint in hand) from the previous Portland Timbers games.
So, what didn’t I like about the results this week?
Sebastian Blanco only played 12 minutes over the last two matches. While it could be down to rest and injury prevention as the Timbers inch closer to the playoffs, Blanco’s lack of playtime over the last two matches has me somewhat concerned. It’s not just that he didn’t play, teams leave their best players on the bench all the time. My concern boils down to how lost the team looks in attack when their best player isn’t on the pitch. And although the Timbers showed that they can, in fact, put the ball in the back of the net without Blanco in the 2-0 win against the Earthquakes, the disjointed nature of play against Colorado makes me worried about both the short and long-term attacking efficiency when Seba isn’t available for selection. With two matches to go before the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what sort of role Blanco will be able to play.
Both of Colorado’s goals came from defensive mistakes. The Timbers, as they have shown far too many times this season, were once again the architects of their own downfall not once but twice in their 2-0 defeat in Colorado. The Rapids were able to score their first-half stoppage time opener far too easily, carving the Timbers’ open in a matter of seconds after Felipe Mora saw a shot from distance saved by Rapids’ ‘keeper William Yarbrough. The Timbers failed to close down not one, not two, but three separate passes in their own final third, before Braian Galvan’s cross met the head of Dominique Badji. More worrying was the fact that Badji wasn’t marked by either Timbers’ center back and poor Renzo Zambrano was left to get dunked on by the Rapids’ target man. Colorado’s second goal was more of the same, as Larrys Mabiala’s misplayed header fell straight into the path of an unmarked Diego Rubio, who was able to strike past Steve Clark with ease.
Now that we got the bad stuff out of the way, let’s focus on the positive from the last couple of Timbers’ games.
Santiago Moreno made his full debut for the Timbers against Colorado and started again against San Jose. It’s always difficult for mid-season signings to acclimate to a new team’s culture and style of play, but Moreno’s back-to-back starts against the Rapids and Earthquakes showed us more than just a garbage-time glimpse of what the speedy Colombian winger can offer the Timbers moving forward. Moreno didn’t have a great game against the Rapids, barring Steve Clark nobody did. But his performance against the Earthquakes was more than encouraging. Not only did he play the pass that led to Dairon Asprilla’s wonder goal (more on that in a couple of paragraphs), but his link-up play and ability to float across all three of the attacking positions behind Mora showed the versatility at Giovanni Savarese’s disposal.
Despite losing three consecutive matches in October, the Timbers regained ground in a packed Western Conference. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Timbers currently occupy the fourth spot in the West and sit four points above Minnesota United in eighth, just below that dreaded red line. Other results across MLS have favored the Timbers this week, with the LA Galaxy taking just one point from six in their last two games, while the Vancouver Whitecaps dropped two points against the Earthquakes before dealing a loss to Minnesota. In control of their own destiny, a Timbers win against their next opponent, seventh-placed Real Salt Lake, would see them clinch a playoff spot. That would be ideal, because I don’t think I could handle the regular season finale against Austin FC, who’ve dished out two losses to Portland already this season, being the playoff decider.
Dairon Asprilla scores GOTY candidate, one of the best goals in Providence Park history. And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Dairon Asprilla’s outside of the box overhead kick. I’ve seen some memorable goals in my time watching Timbers games at Providence Park - Diego Valeri’s thunderbolt against the Rapids in 2014 and Kalif Alhassan’s late-season strike against the Sounders in 2013 come to mind. But being in the ground for Asprilla’s wonder goal was my favorite ever moment that I’ve been a part of at a live sporting event. Nothing else that I can type here will come close to describing what a masterpiece it was, so I’ll leave you all with the video of one of the greatest moments in Timbers’ history.
The Timbers will be back in action against Real Salt Lake at Providence Park on Wednesday, Nov. 3, with kickoff slated for 7:00 PM.