After a short break (we don’t talk about the FC Dallas game), welcome back to the Post-Slab Pint, where I break down (pint in hand) the good and the bad from each Portland Timbers’ result. This week, I’m breaking down the Timbers’ 1-1 draw with Orlando City.
I’ll start with the positive aspects of the Timbers’ performance:
Cristhian Paredes marked his return from injury with a goal from the spot and an overall solid performance. After missing the previous week because of a slight hamstring injury, Cristhian Paredes showed why he is the clear choice to partner with Diego Chara at this moment in time. Paredes drew and converted the game-tying penalty against Orlando, and his 1.34 xG was by far the highest of any Timbers players. The next highest expected goals came from Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Sebastian Blanco at 0.15 and 0.14, respectively.
On top of the goal he scored, Paredes probably should have scored the opening goal of the match in the 30th minute, but narrowly missed the net with a diving header at full-stretch from a Josecarlos Van Rankin cross. Despite the miss, Paredes’ ability to get into dangerous attacking positions from deep is an attribute only matched by Eryk Williamson amongst the Timbers’ midfielders.
Eryk Williamson’s return to fitness and first appearance of the season is obviously a welcome one, but he will have to do well to displace Paredes from the starting XI.
Sebastian Blanco still looks like the most potent piece of the Timbers’ attack. He only played 28 minutes after replacing Dairon Asprilla just after the hour mark, but Blanco reminded us all, that despite not yet being fully fit, he is still the most important attacker on the team. He nearly scored the game-winner in the dying seconds of the seven minutes of stoppage-time with a low, right-footed strike from inside the box, and accounted for two of the Timbers’ three shots on target in the match.
With the Timbers’ frontline only scoring four goals from open play so far this season, and the inconsistent play of Dairon Asprilla, the time may soon be approaching for Blanco to be inserted into the Timbers starting XI.
Savarese on Sebastian Blanco starting: "The possibility of him starting soon is there." #RCTID— Sam Svilar (@sammich923) March 27, 2022
Now, for the not-so-good aspects of how the Timbers played:
A Portland fullback was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for the second time in four games. Van Rankin’s second yellow card in the 76th minute of the match was frustratingly similar to the incident that saw Claudio Bravo sent off against LAFC just a few weeks ago. Alexandre Pato skipped past Van Rankin just as Cristian Arango did vs Bravo, and once again, the Timbers’ defender decided to drag back the opposing attacker despite already being on a yellow.
I’ll reiterate what I said in the Post-Slab Pint after the LAFC game: “Any time you pull a player back when the ball has gone, no matter how soft the contact or location on the pitch, it is going to be a yellow card.”
What makes this sending-off even more infuriating was that it happened in the middle of the pitch with Diego Chara less than five yards away, and with the rest of the defense between Pato and the goal.
After Junior Urso’s goal in the 52nd minute, the Timbers have now conceded the first goal of the match in three of their first five games. Orlando became the latest team, after New England and FC Dallas, to draw first blood against the Timbers in 2022, and in those games, the Timbers have only taken two points from a possible nine.
One chipped pass from Pato sent the unmarked Urso through on goal and nullified the Timbers’ entire backline. McGraw and Zuparic were caught ball watching after Asprilla blocked Pato’s initial pass, as was Van Rankin, whose last-ditch attempt to block Orlando’s opener came far too late.
For as well as (those of us on this site have said) the Timbers’ backline has operated thus far this season, they have to start cutting out the simple mistakes like those that led to Urso’s goal for Orlando last Sunday.