The Portland Timbers drew the New England Revolution in a wet and wild opener to the 2022 MLS season. The Revs twice took a one goal advantage via Brandon Bye and Sebastian Lletget, but the Timbers battled back thanks to goals from Darion Asprilla and Yimmi Chara- the latter of which was a very early contender for goal of the year.
As it was the last time the Timbers played an MLS game in MLS Cup, it was rainy and cold day in the Rose City. Wind and water drenched Providence Park well before kickoff, and the stadium was slow to fill as kickoff approached. But once the game was underway, the Timbers Army was in full voice, establishing itself as the heartbeat and bringing the stadium to life for the new season.
In lieu of the customary opening game Tifo display, the Timbers Army opted to donate the money that would have been spent on the display to organizations that support individuals experiencing domestic violence.
The Revolution would be the team to get the first chances of the game, and very early on. Within the first minute, the visitors earned an attacking free kick as well as a corner kick. The Timbers were able to handle both, with Aljaz Ivacic making his first save on a volley from Gustavo Bou in comfortable fashion.
The Timbers tried to settle into the game, and a few minutes after the early salvos they would have a golden chance of their own. Some nice quick attacking interplay between Yimmi Chara and Santiago Moreno sprung Moreno in on goal, with a glorious opportunity right in front of net to open the scoring. New England’s backup goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., starting for the injured Matt Turner, did well to get down and just block the shot. Portland couldn’t get to the rebound, and the chance was gone.
The chance showcased the quick passing exchanges that Portland’s attacking front line would prioritize in offensive opportunities. New England sought to crack open the Timbers defense with sustained possession, while the Timbers would find their best attacking chances of the opening frame via transition opportunities.
After some exciting moments, the first half settled into more of a rhythm. Both teams had sustained periods of possession, which would occasionally translate into a half-chance or two. There was a nervy moment in front of the Timbers’ net in the 31st minute, as a Revs’ corner kick wasn’t quite fully dealt with, and a New England attacker almost bungled it over line at the far post.
For the next ten minutes, the visitors pushed with a sustained period of pressure, pinning the Timbers backline bit by bit.
In the 41st minute, that pressure paid off. New England’s attacking down the Timbers’ right side earned the Revs their sixth corner kick of the game. Reigning MVP Carles Gil lofted the ball to the far post, where right back Brandon Bye rose to meet it. His header pinged off the underside of the crossbar behind the defense, and nestled into the back corner. With halftime looming, the Timbers were down 1-0 to the Revs.
Despite some earnest attempts from the Timbers to grab an equalizer right before the break, the Timbers would head into the locker room with the one goal deficit.
The Timbers nearly erased that deficit in the opening ninety seconds of the second half. Yimmi Chara and Jaroslaw Niezgoda combined very nicely at the top of the box, and Y. Chara sprung Dairon Asprilla right in front of the goal. Asprilla fired off a shot, but Edwards Jr. did remarkably well to react and save the attempt. It didn’t result in a goal, but it was emblematic of the attacking intent and energy that Portland brought in the start of the second half.
The Timbers thought that pressure had paid off in the 51st minute, when Santiago Moreno appeared to be clipped while attempting a shot. The referee however did not deem the action a foul, and no penalty was awarded. Still, the Timbers had come out the better team in the second half, and looked determined to find their equalizer.
In the 61st minute, they finally did. Yimmi Chara collected the ball and drove at the New England backline. He handed the ball off for Santiago Moreno, who expertly picked out Dairon Asprilla, ghosting in behind the defense. Moreno deftly lofted the ball in over the top for Asprilla to run onto, and this time the Colombian attacker made no mistake, as he slotted ball in for Portland’s first goal of 2022.
The chainsaw revved, the smoke billowed out, and Asprilla hit his signature backflip. The Timbers were level.
Portland’s joy was short-lived however, as New England would restore their advantage two minutes later. The Revs drove down Portland’s right side yet again, and a pass was cut back into the Timbers box. Sebastian Lletget found himself in an acre of space, and he redirected the ball first time toward the far post and into the net. The Timbers went from down a goal, to being level, to back to down a goal all in a matter of minutes.
With New England leading 2-1, the Timbers continued to keep the pressure on, once again seeking an equalizing goal. In the 72nd minute Niezgoda had a clear header on goal, but his diving attempt was rising, and flew over the crossbar. In the 74th minute, Edwards Jr. again came up big to stop Yimmi Chara after he wriggled free in the box and got off a shot. A follow up shot from Josecarlos Van Rankin was blocked. The Timbers kept knocking on the door, but it just didn’t want to fall down.
Turns out, all the Timbers needed to finally bust it down was Yimmi Chara to get on his bicycle.
In the 78th minute Josecarlos Van Rankin sent in a cross, that was deflected upwards. The ball fell for Yimmi Chara in he box, who spun, wound up, and fired a gorgeous overhead bicycle kick towards the far post. Edwards Jr. couldn’t reach this one, and the ball rolled into the bottom corner of the net. Providence Park exploded, and the Timbers had equalized the match yet again.
With the game knotted at two goals apiece, the Timbers brought on Sebastian Blanco in the 83rd minute as they kept the pressure up and tried to find a winner. Seba and the rest of the Timbers tried their hardest to push, all while weathering the final salvos from the Revs.
In the closing seconds, Aljaz Ivacic came up big to tip an Adam Buksa header over the bar, as well as punch away a follow up cross. It was a huge moment for the new Timbers no. 1, and it wound up preserving a point for the Timbers.
The final whistle blew moments later, and the dust settled over a soggy and wild 2-2 draw. The Timbers had to battle back twice, but they were able to win a point in their first game of the season.
The Timbers gave up two goals that they would could have defended better. But to see the Timbers show heart in the second half and pull out draw will give them some energy as they embark upon a new regular season campaign. Portland will next be in action on March 6, when they travel down to LA to face LAFC at 7:00PM PT.