Welcome back to the post-slab pint where I break down the good and the bad (pint in hand) from the previous Portland Timbers game.
The Timbers extended their unbeaten streak to 8 games by beating 2020 MLS newcomers Inter Miami 1-0 at Providence Park.
So, what did I like about the result?
The Timbers get a rare clean sheet at home. The 1-0 win against Miami was the Timbers' seventh clean sheet of the year, and just the third time that they have held their opponents scoreless at Providence Park in 2021. Inter Miami have had a relatively up and down season thus far, but to stifle an attack that featured Rodolfo Pizarro and Gonzalo and Federico Higuain is something that should be celebrated with how shaky the Timbers’ defense has looked throughout large portions of the season.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda continued his ludicrous form in front of goal. For the second time in as many games, Niezgoda came off of the bench and did what all good Designated Players do: put the ball into the back of the net. It was also the second game in a row that he scored with his first shot, and against Miami, he did so with his first touch after coming on just 44 seconds (!!!) prior. To put it simply: the man is a goal machine. In his time with the Timbers, Niezgoda has scored nine goals on 13 shots, 11 of which were on target. Insanity.
The Timbers Army, buoyed by the Rose City Riveters, continued to show why they are the best fans in the country. In normal circumstances, the post-slab pint will focus solely on what happens on the pitch. But it would feel wrong if I didn’t mention how proud I was watching the Timbers Army do what they do best after the horrendous news surrounding former Thorns coach Paul Riley surfaced earlier in the week. The outpouring of support for the players of the NWSL through chants, signs, and the pre-game protest truly reminded me of how thankful I am to support teams whose fans care as much, if not more, about justice off the field as they do the play on it. Systemic abuse can only be eradicated by continuing to fight against it and the Rose City faithful once again showed that they are committed to doing so.
Now for what I didn’t like.
The Timbers’ attack looked toothless for the first two-thirds of the game. Much has been said about Sebastian Blanco’s impact on the team since his return from injury and the first 68 minutes of the game against Inter Miami showed why all of Blanco’s plaudits are justified. Before Blanco entered the game, the attack looked lost and were extremely wasteful with the abundance of chances they created. In total, the Timbers’ expected goals was three on the day and out of 17 shots, just three were on target. But in his 22 minutes of action, Blanco had the second-highest expected assists on the Timbers at 0.61 (behind Yimmi Chara’s 1.22) and sent in the corner for Niezgoda’s winner. It didn’t help that Diego Valeri, who would have been the obvious starter in place of Blanco, was suspended for the game, but it’s still concerning how disjointed the team looked without Seba.
Steve Clark papered over the defensive cracks shown throughout the match. I know that I just waxed lyrical about the clean sheet and how it should be celebrated, but part of that is due to the fact that it probably shouldn’t have been a clean sheet but for some Steve Clark heroics. Clark was called into action to the tune of five saves, which included big stops against Gonzalo Higuain, Brek Shea and Lewis Morgan. Miami’s expected goal number was also one and on another day with another ‘keeper, they probably would have scored at least that many.
The Timbers are now the beneficiaries of a much-needed and deserved two-week break from action after playing seven games from Sept. 3 to Oct. 3. Their next match is a road fixture against the LA Galaxy at 7:30 PM PST on Saturday, Oct. 16.
Leave us a comment and let us know what you liked and disliked about the Timbers’ 1-0 win against Inter Miami.