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A strange night in Rose City

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From the Ebobisse trade to Diego Chara’s red card to seemingly a million yellow cards issued, it was a truly strange night in Portland.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I had said facetiously before Wednesday’s match between the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes in the match thread that I fully expected last night to be a completely normal match. The truth is that never happens when Portland and San Jose play each other. Sure, Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese’s 6-1-2 record against the Earthquakes suggests that things usually shake out in Portland’s favor, but the route the match takes to its destination is always a mystery.

Wednesday’s match was no exception. The result was normal enough — a 1-1 draw after both teams found the back of the net in the first half. But the before, during, and after were all very strange indeed.

The biggest news of the night was something that didn’t even happen during the match. Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeted before the match that Jeremy Ebobisse hadn’t suited up tonight because he was being traded to San Jose. The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio provided more details later, and you can find our summary here. Savarese all but confirmed the trade last night after the match, saying that he can’t comment until the club officially releases a statement, but he did give some more insight on the 24-year-old forward.

“He’s a player that means a lot to us,” Savarese said. “He’s a player that I saw grow in the club, he’s a player that is very dear to all of us. And I think sometimes there are decisions that are made and not all are always all in agreement, but also this league has some things in regards to the way salaries and these types of situations have to be managed. That makes it difficult as well.”

Savarese’s statement on the topic surely made it seem that Jebo is gone, which is a bummer for a couple reasons. First off, he was a just a solid player, a guy who looked to be really coming along in 2019 after scoring 11 goals in the season, who was solid during last year’s COVID-affected season, and was starting to find his form after dealing with injuries this year.

The second reason is that it also feels like Ebobisse never truly had the chance to shine with the Timbers. Ebobisse has always truly been a striker, but because of his versatility, he was always stuck on the wing under Savarese. Striker after striker came through Portland while Jebo never really had a shot to claim the spot for himself. With San Jose, Ebobisse now has a chance to really show what he can provide as a striker. It just sucks that it wasn’t with Portland.

The Ebobisse trade wasn’t the only reason this match took a turn for the weird. What happened during it was plenty strange. First, goalkeeper Steve Clark strained his groin during the first half, forcing Aljaz Ivacic to sub into the match. While it is concerning that yet another Timbers player is dealing with an injury, Ivacic did well once subbed on.

“We have seen now that [Ivacic], when he gets into these matches, he’s grown, he’s matured, he’s showing a much better performance,” Savarese said. “It was about time that we had to give him another opportunity. He was ready to be able to play. It’s unfortunate for Clark getting groin a little bit strained. We’ll evaluated and see how he’s doing, but [Ivacic] came into the game very well.”

Then things got heated. Tension was building all throughout the game, but it truly started after Diego Chara drew two yellow cards within just a few minutes and was promptly issued a red for just the second time in his career. This seemed to lead to more instances of shoving and shouting between the two sides, culminating in a bench-clearing shouting match between San Jose and Portland after the match. Multiple yellow cards were issued, thus confirming that the after would be strange as well.

Savarese said that emotions were certainly high last night, and it showed more than anything how much the players care about delivering for the home crowd. He also said, however, that referee Allen Chapman’s decision to give Chara two yellows as well as other unnamed incidents caused things to escalate.

“I also think today the referee, who is very experience and a good pro, a couple of decisions — especially the one on [Diego] Chara — I think put us in areas more complicated towards the end and built up a little bit what happened at the end,” Savarese said. “Overall, the emotions are high, and everybody wants to do well. Everybody cares and they want to give back to the fans.”

Overall, it was just a strange night in Rose City. And that goes without delving into the actual strategy during the match, a match where the Timbers actually looked really solid in attack most of the time despite only scoring once. But after everything that happened before, during, and after, it’s hard to imagine that being at the forefront of people’s minds. As always, a match day involving San Jose proved to be anything but normal.