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Post-Slab Pint: Dynamo 0–0 Timbers

The offense faltered while the backline dug in to see the Timbers escape Houston with a point.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Houston Dynamo FC Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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’ll be breaking down the Timbers dogged defensive display against the Dynamo (try saying that 10 times fast). Taking into consideration the 4–1 loss in Dallas earlier this season, and their record in Texas as a whole throughout their time in MLS, I think that the Timbers can be quite satisfied with their 0–0 draw against Houston last weekend.

So, what did I like about the performance?

Aljaz Ivacic stood on his head in net for the Timbers, making save after save to keep Houston off the scoresheet. Ivacic was the definitive man of the match for the Timbers, making four saves to earn himself the starting spot in the Week 7 MLS Team of the Week. It’s tough to pick which one of “Jazzy’s” saves was the most impressive, but for my money, the header he tipped onto the post in the second half was nothing short of world class. Although his 1v1 stop against Fafa Picault was immense too. There have been quite a few fans on Twitter questioning Ivacic’s place in goal this season, but after his penalty save against Vancouver and performance this week, those criticisms are beginning to look less and less credible.

Bill Tuiloma and Larrys Mabiala both put in imperious performances at the back for the Timbers. Alongside Ivacic, The Timbers’ center backs were instrumental in keeping the team’s second clean sheet of the season. Some of the notable stats between the pair are as follows:

Blocks: Tuiloma 1, Mabiala 2

Interceptions: Tuiloma 2, Mabiala 1

Duels won: Tuiloma 9, Mabiala 8

Headed duels won: Tuiloma 2, Mabiala 2

Clearances: Tuiloma 7, Mabiala 5

Tackles: Tuiloma 1, Mabiala 2

After a plethora of injury and international call-up-based changes to the backline to start the season, I think that the partnership Tuiloma and Mabiala have struck over the past couple of weeks has been an impressive one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that becomes the preferred center back pairing for the Timbers moving forward.

Now, what were the poor aspects of the result?

Once again, the right back position proved to be an area of concern for the Timbers, as Josecarlos Van Rankin made several mistakes that Portland were lucky to survive. As has been the case for the majority of the games this season, Van Rankin had a rough go of things on the right side of the Timbers backline against Houston. But for the brilliance of Ivacic, Van Rankin would have been at fault for two Dynamo goals in the first half. The first blunder came just eight minutes into the match, when Van Rankin made a wild clearance across the backline that Quintero latched onto before testing Ivacic twice from inside the box. The second came 10 minutes later, when Van Rankin allowed Fafa Picault a free run down the middle of the pitch, and 1 on 1 with Ivacic, who again came to the rescue. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily harsh on any one specific player, but in my opinion, Van Rankin has not shown enough to be the starting right back for the Timbers during his time in Portland. With his loan set to expire in the summer, it will be interesting to see whether or not he remains in Portland.

After their most impressive showing of the season in the 3–2 victory against the Whitecaps, the Timbers’ attack crashed back down to earth against Houston. The last two games have really shown the dichotomy between good and underwhelming that has been the Timbers’ offense in 2022. After netting three goals from open play up in British Columbia, the Timbers’ drew a blank down in Houston, managing just two shots on target out of 14 for the game. The chance that best represents the inconsistency in finishing for the Timbers was Niezgoda’s miss just before the hour mark. After his incredibly well-taken goal against Vancouver, Sebastian Blanco sent a perfect cross directly onto Jaro’s right foot inside the six yard box, but a loose touch sent the ball wide of net. I’m not writing off the Timber’s attack just yet, but with the potential addition of another striker (hinted at by Giovanni Savarese and Gavin Wilkinson over the last few weeks), hopefully they can find some form and start finishing chances on a more regular basis.