Timbers, Galaxy Each Score In Final Minutes of Crazy 2-2- Draw

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The Timbers are now 0-0-2 to start the season after a wild finish on Sunday evening that saw both the home side, and the visiting LA Galaxy score in the final two minutes on their way to an exciting 2-2 draw. 

The Timbers struck first in the 31st minute, when Fanendo Adi found himself alone against the Galaxy keeper after a brilliant pass from Rodney Wallace. Adi struck a brilliant shot that whizzed past Brian Rowe and into the far side netting. It was the Timbers first goal of the season, hopefully a sign of many more to come. 

In the first half the match was very much in the Timbers favor, with the Galaxy only having a handful of chances between a very effective variety of Timbers attacks. The two teams went into the locker rooms with the Timbers up 1-0. The Galaxy would no go down without a fight though. 

Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) reacts after scoring his second goal at Providence Park. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer-Portland Timbers

Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) reacts after scoring his second goal at Providence Park. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer-Portland Timbers

After some effective halftime adjustments, the match was turned on its head during the second half when the Galaxy came out swinging and caught the Timbers napping on several occasions, leading to the eventual first equalizer by Gyasi Zardes in the 65th minute. 

Heading into the final two minutes it seemed as if things were pretty even between the two sides, it seemed doomed to a 1-1 draw. But then Liam Ridgewell delivered an absolute beauty of a ball to Darlington Nagbe as he raced towards the Galaxy keeper. Then, just as Rowe and defenders collapsed on Nagbe, he turned, skirting the ball over to a mostly open Fanendo Adi, who banked it off the leg of a Galaxy defender for his second goal of the night. 

That was in the 90th minute, and seemed to secure 3 points for the home side. A result the team, and the fans desperately needed and wanted. Unfortunately, the Galaxy had other ideas, and Alan Gordon - the Former USL Timber - scored a massive stoppage time goal at 90 +2 to equalize and bring the teams even for a second and final time. 

Shortly thereafter  Hilario Grajeda blew his whistle, ending the match, and sending both teams home on level terms and a single point each. It was a crazy end to an exciting and thrilling match.

It would be easy to be disappointed by this result, the second of two home matches to start the season, ending up in just 2 points earned. But as has been mentioned by several other outlets, and by Caleb Porter himself: The Timbers opening to the season is not an easy road. Obviously 3 points is always the goal, and desire, be to have escaped RSL and LA with some points is important - and could be relevant towards the close of the season. 

It will be interesting to see how the team responds next week in Kansas City. Another tough test, on the road for the first time this season, chasing their first win of the year. It should be a good one. 

Posted on March 15, 2015 and filed under Timbers Match Recap.

International Lady of Mystery Revealed as Genoveva Añonma

Genoveva Añonma-Portland-thorns

We have all been waiting, wondering who the Thorn's "International Lady of Mystery" signing was, and what we could expect. Well, today that story was broken wide open buy none other than Jamie Goldberg from the Oregonian

According to Goldberg, a source has confirmed to her that the 'International Lady of Mystery' is none other than Turbine Potsdam striker, and Equatorial Guinea NT captain Genoveva Añonma. This is a HUGE signing, for several reasons. 

Not only is Añonma a lethal striker, but her national team did not make the cut for the 2015 world cup, which means that the Thorns will have access to her as soon as she comes over from Germany. This could not be better news, as the Thorns top three strikers in Morgan, Sinclair, and Taylor are all going to miss time at the WWC.

Assuming the team can get Boquete to return as well, it is hard to imagine any other team in the NWSL being able to match the Thorns at full strength - assuming Riley can put everyone where they need to be and get the pieces working as a unit. 

The season is not far off now. This just made things really interesting for the Thorns...

Posted on February 24, 2015 and filed under Thorns Player News.

The Portland Timbers' Chemistry Void

They absolutely love Pa Modou Kah in Vancouver.

Doesn't matter that he hasn't played a competitive game for the Whitecaps yet. Probably helps, in fact. All bets are off once Kah steps onto the field. 

But for now, he's beloved. In one short preseason, Kah has established himself as Vancouver's director of morale, a kind of a spiritual leader of good times. 

Kah, as we know, has a personality that defies description and categorization. He's just Kah, a chattering, amusing, unpredictable, never-ending show, part joker, part savant. 

Robinson is under no false pretenses about Kah on the field. He saw both sides of #44 last year when Vancouver played Portland, in a 4-3 'Caps win in Portland it was the erratic, homicidal Kah that was a train-wreck for 90 minutes, in a 3-0 Timbers romp in BC Place, it was the strong, iron-willed back-line leader.

He's far more likable off the field than he ever will be on it, and that -- along with the hefty salary he was going to pull for the 2015 season -- was why the Timbers dumped him in November.

It was also why the Whitecaps picked him up in January. 

You can learn a lot about what a team hopes to gain from a player by how that player is sold in team press releases and advertising campaigns, and from the get-go, Kah's signing has been billed as one that could be okay on the field, but will be a bonanza in the locker-room.

Kah builds family environments. He builds camaraderie. People like being around Kah. He likes being around people.

Young 'Caps starlet Kekuta Manneh shares Kah's Gambian descent and the two are good friends. Carl Robinson is banking that Kah will get the best of his compatriot.

Chemistry isn't an accident. That's why Robinson is betting a very decent amount of a small and uncertain salary cap that Kah has more good moments than bad on the field and turns Vancouver's already chummy locker-room into the best in MLS.

Kah has that power. It's his most valuable trait. You remember 2013 in Portland -- the Great Wall of Gambia, the playoff win over Seattle -- Donovan Ricketts described that team as, "a family."

It certainly played a part in the Timbers' late-season run to the Western Conference championship.

But the decision was made about ten games into last season that the magic had worn off and neither Kah nor his merry band was a long-term answer in Portland.

Couldn't blame Caleb Porter and Gavin Wilkinson at the time. The defense was terrible. The Timbers were trying to salvage their season. 

So Futty was shipped to Montreal, and Kah and Ricketts were released at the end of the season. 

The three that replaced the Great Wall, Liam Ridgewell, Nat Borchers, and Adam Kwarasey, are easily and obviously an overall upgrade.

Question is, will the Timbers still have the spirit they did in 2013?

Caleb Porter likes the psychology of the game, and he understands the need to keep players fit mentally as well as physically.

To be a successful sports team, you need talent, coaching, and chemistry. 

Talent is often the easiest part. Either you have it or you don't, and if you don't, you can get it if you're willing to pay for it.

Coaching and management is a little bit tougher. It's hard to find a great leadership team. But get one in place, and the stars will start to align. 

Chemistry is the wild card. Its impact is least easy to know. It's the hardest to judge. But it's not an accident. And it's not to be ignored. Teams that like playing together play better. Teams that hate each other's guts play worse. It's intuitive.

It seems like Porter understands that. That's why Kah got every chance to succeed last year before the Timbers let him go. 

The question is, have they replaced the locker-room void he and Futty and Ricketts, the latter two being extremely well-liked as well, left. 

Kah was a mentor to players like Alvas Powell. He was friends with new guys like Fanendo Adi. He set the tone for the club. Who does that now?

The Timbers have a lot of really good guys. It's a perk of MLS -- most players, untouched by true glamour, are down to earth solid people.

Portland's leaders, from Will Johnson, to Jack Jewsbury, to Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell, are all fantastic professionals. The hope is that this 2015 team will have the same joie de vivre as that 2013 team.

Last year, not everyone was so happy. Kalif Alhassan was unhappy. Steve Zakuani struggled. Players like Norberto Paparatto and Gaston Fernandez were transitioning to a new continent, and by the time Futty was traded, there was a sense of unease around the squad.

Kah kept things light. He kept things upbeat. Who does that now? 

This isn't an indictment of the Timbers for ditching Kah. But you do have to applaud Vancouver for picking him up. We'll see how this Timbers team shapes up off the field. 

Last year's team was a circus. Through and through. Their games were the acts.

So it's no mistake that this offseason in Portland was about cleaning out the clown car. Portland has a lot of professionals now. Let's hope they also have a lot of fun. 

The season is long. It is absolutely a grind, and as fun as being a professional soccer player is, it is mentally and physically draining. 

Kah is gone now. Vancouver can't get enough of him, and there's no question that they are going to be a fun team this year. The Timbers? We'll have to see. 

Posted on February 17, 2015 .

Simple Invitational: What To Watch For From The Timbers

The warning signs were going off long before the Timbers' 2014 early-season swoon was in full, devastating swing.

You're sick of this story by know, but the fact that it took the Timbers almost two full months to win their first game last season ultimately derailed not only the team's playoff chances, but also the chemistry and overall makeup of the roster. 

You could see the Portland's disastrous 2014 start coming as early as the preseason tournament last February -- it was just that with the title of defending Western Conference champion slung over their shoulder, no one wanted to believe that something was very wrong with the Timbers.

Yes, it was only preseason. But with their first team, the Timbers posted a pair of lackluster results -- a 1-0 loss to San Jose and a 1-1 draw with Vancouver -- without scoring a single goal from the run of play.

Portland did not win a single game over the course of the week, also drawing Jamaican side Portmore United. 

On offense, the team's spacing was a disaster. Without the injured Rodney Wallace, and trying to integrate Gaston Fernandez, the harmony that made the team so successful in 2013 was gone.

Fernandez and Diego Valeri were occupying the same spaces and squeezing each other out of the offense, there was no real wide presence, and no target forward to anchor the team either.

On defense, Norberto Paparatto was obviously struggling, both to communicate and get settled with his new team. 

These problems sound familiar because it was exactly what killed the Timbers in March and April last year. The preseason tournament didn't lie, and the deflated feeling fans walking out of Providence Park felt after those games would have been more angry had it been competitive games instead of friendlies.

It shouldn't have been a shock that the Timbers didn't just magically turn it on for opening day against Philadelphia. That drab 1-1 draw looked a hell of a lot like the drab 1-1 draw with Vancouver that closed the preseason.

The moral? Pay attention to what is now called the Simple Invitational. It's more than likely that the Timbers will give real insight into how they'll look in the first part of the MLS season in the next few weeks -- and as we know now more than ever, the first part of the season is vital.

Here's what to watch for when the Timbers take on the 'Caps, Chicago, and Stabaek.

1. Balance

Caleb Porter and Gavin Wilkinson were very intentional in keeping the core of their team together, hoping that familiarity will breed competence. Since this team's projected opening day front six is virtually unchanged, the Timbers should be very well-spaced in the attack. Everyone should know their roles.

This team is integrating new pieces at two positions, center-back and goalkeeper, that are, overall, two of the easiest places to add new players. Portland should play well at home in this tournament. They should hum.

2. La Gata In The Spotlight

Gaston Fernandez did just about as well as he could have in rocky circumstances in his first year in MLS, considering he was mostly coming off the bench and rarely played his natural position. 

But with Diego Valeri out of the lineup for at least the first six weeks of the season, Fernandez will have space, plenty of the ball, and plenty of freedom to shape the offense.

Whether Fernandez lines up as a second forward or true #10 matters less than his overall comfort level wherever he plays. Foreign players, especially those who don't come in speaking the language, always improve markedly in the second years, and the sense is that Fernandez has a level he rarely hit in a stop and start debut season. 

3. A New Goalkeeper

Donovan Ricketts' 2014 was criminally underrated -- he kept the Timbers in a multitude of games behind a circus defense that let him down time and time again. In terms of shot-stopping, only Nick Rimando would have been a clear upgrade last year.

Adam Larsen Kwarasey was brought in to do all the other stuff better -- distribution, playing with his feet, working in the air -- and that's fine. But Kwarasey has to prove that he do what is obviously most important for a goalkeeper: Make saves. Everything else is gravy.

4. Goalscoring

The Timbers' leading 2014 scorer was Diego Valeri, who directly played a part in 25 league goals last season. But Valeri is out to start 2015, as is Will Johnson, who is good for about eight goals per year himself in the Timbers' offense.

Portland also got a lot of goals from Gaston Fernandez and Maxi Urruti last year, and neither should be counted upon to be around double digits in goals again. Both had fluke goalscoring years last season.

Caleb Porter isn't necessarily worried about the goal breakdown, but the fact is that the Timbers don't have a lot of pop in their prospective opening day lineup. What's clear is that in March and April, the goals will have to come from different places. 

Darlington Nagbe clearly needs to score, and it he can get a couple of goals in this tournament, it could be a sign of things to come. Rodney Wallace needs to score too, and Fanendo Adi has twenty goals in him if he can find the type of game-to-game consistency that was about the only thing missing from his 2014 second-half.

As long as the central midfield is Ben Zemanski and Diego Chara, they'll be a lot of pressure on the front four to score enough goals until Valeri and Johnson return. 

5. Enjoy It -- This Might Be All You See Of The Timbers For A While

The Simple Invitational will be played for sure, but if there's no new CBA in place in the next few weeks, the season will not start on time. Instead, MLS will face their first true lock-out.

A similar scenario unfolded before the 2010 season, with the two sides -- helped by an arbitrator -- struck a deal just before the deadline to start the season on time. 

The disagreements this time around are over big, seminal issues like player free agency. Obviously, both sides have a ton to lose from even the shortest lockout. But it's harder now, with MLS in a sort of purgatory between being a true big-time league and a second-rate, safety-first outfit, to get a deal done than ever before.

Enjoy the Timbers while you have them. Because if there isn't considerable movement on the negotiating front, March 7th won't be the kind of day any of us have hoped for since the schedule was released more than a month ago. 

Posted on February 14, 2015 .

Morgan, Heath, Van Hollebeke Called to USWNT Duty

alex_morgan_thorns

Surprise, Surprise; the Thorns USWNT Allocations have all been called into USWNT duty against France and England. Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Rachel Van Hollebeke were all named today on Jill Ellis's roster heading into those matches. 

Full press release below...

Official Press Release

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Tobin Heath and defender Rachel Van Hollebeke were named to the 24-player U.S. Women’s National Team roster for a pair of international friendlies against France and England, it was announced today.

These matches will be the first of 10 matches leading up to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada in June. The United States takes on France on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 9 a.m. (Pacific) in Lorient with a live broadcast on ESPN2. The trip concludes with a match against England on Friday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. (Pacific) in Milton Keynes. Friday’s match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.

The United States is 14-0-2 all-time against France and 7-3-1 all-time against England. In their last meeting, the United States and France played to a 2-2 draw on June 19, 2014, while this will be the first meeting between the United States and England since 2011.

Morgan, 25, appeared in 14 matches (13 starts) for Thorns FC after missing the first half of the 2014 NWSL season while recovering from an ankle injury. The U.S. Women’s National Team forward finished the NWSL regular season with six goals and four assists. Prior to suffering an ankle injury during the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championships, Morgan appeared in seven matches (4 starts), recording five goals and four assists for the United States in 2014.

Heath, 26, made five appearances (all starts) for Thorns FC during the 2014 regular season. At the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championships, Heath appeared in four matches (3 starts), recording two goals and two assists as the United States finished first and qualified for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. Heath appeared in 16 matches (10 starts) for the United States, recording three goals and four assists in 2014.

Van Hollebeke, 29, who spent the offseason playing with Iga FC in Japan, appeared in 12 matches (9 starts) during the 2014 regular season with Thorns FC. The U.S. Women’s National Team defender played in four matches in 2014 for the United States, earning three starts.

The U.S. Women’s National Team will return to international play in March at the Algarve Cup in Portugal on March 4 against Norway.

Posted on January 30, 2015 .

Caleb Porter, Year Three

Let's be honest. 2014 was a bad year for Caleb Porter.

His team badly underachieved, falling from first to sixth place in the Western Conference. They were knocked out in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. They couldn't attack, then they couldn't defend, and they could absolutely never get their act totally together. 

In press conferences after arguably the two most enraging games of the season - the 4-4 home draw with Seattle and the 4-3 home loss to Vancouver - Porter was so unprofessional and condescending that he deserved to be punched in the face.

Never in Porter's career had he faced the sustained adversity and sustained setbacks that he did last season. For a man pushing 40, Porter had no experience with real professional failure outside of his ill-fated one-off journey with the US Olympic team.

Porter had to learn how to lose, and it was an ugly process. 

There was a lot of whining. A lot of immaturity. And a lot of classless behavior. But Porter came out on the other side, just as his team did with a run to the end of the campaign that was deeply satisfying even if it fell short of the ultimate goal of a playoff return. 

That sophomore slump was an imperative for Porter. He learned how to take a punch. He was forced to grow up, and there's no way the Timbers don't benefit from that going forward. 

Porter is going to be around for a long time. The Timbers organization - from Merritt Paulson on down - craves stability in a way that every great sports franchise does.

Paulson has had the same general manager going on five years now through thick and thin. They settled on Porter as coach in part because of his obvious gravitas, but also in part because of his long-term vision.

For his part, Porter wants minimal turnover in his playing staff. He’s had virtually no turnover in his coaching staff. He doesn't want to tinker with his starting lineup, or his back-four, or anything. He wants a routine. He wants his eleven guys.

The Timbers’ offseason reflected that. Portland has spent the last year building a team that can be foreseeably be unchanged for the next three to five years.

Adam Larsen Kwarasey is a long-term move. He's no better than Donovan Ricketts, he's just younger. He'll be around in five years when Ricketts is enjoying the Jamaican beach.

The Timbers have, since 2013 began and the Porter era began, tied up nine of their eleven figurative 2015 opening day starters to multi-year contracts.

Overall, the Timbers are figuring out how to run the show. It’s year five for Paulson and Wilkinson. Year three for Porter.

We should get a mellower coach this year. Not on the field, of course, but everywhere else. Porter weathered the storm last year – the most trying three months of his career when Mr. Highs-Low-Lows-High-Fall-Asleep-And-Let-Me-Get-Out-Of-Here completely lost control of his emotions and best self.

Last year was full of Mickey Mouse mistakes, and for all of Porter’s talk about balance and consistency, much of the Timbers’ franticness at the beginning of 2014 stemmed from the coach’s increasingly brazen tactical game management and personnel decisions.

All of the Timbers’ success in 2013 bought Porter a lot of security and pomp and taught him very little.

Porter learned, and most likely improved, much more from the struggle of 2014 when nothing came easy.

Porter is incredibly intense. He’s incredibly competitive. Those are strengths in a coach.

But Porter has two years under his belt now, and the hope is that with an added layer of comfort and know-how comes with more management savvy.

Porter is ready to get comfortable with a rotation. Beloved players who weren’t quite up to par like Futty Danso and Pa Modou Kah – and there’s no question that Porter valued their locker-room presence and contributions – are gone.

It’s taken three offseasons, but it feels like Portland has cut all the excess off their roster. The players the Timbers have now are either proven talents or young prospects.

All signs point to 2015 being a banner year. The Western Conference, with Real Salt Lake getting old and LA not being at full strength until the summer, has lost its sense of invincibility. Even with the much-bandied additions of Houston and Kansas City and subtraction of Chivas, the Timbers have a manageable schedule this year.

There’s no reason Portland can’t be in a battle with Seattle for the West crown. They won’t fall into the trap of a slow start again. That much we know for sure. Hanging on to Ben Zemanski and Gaston Fernandez were imperative for that.

System wise, Porter has a better idea of how he wants his team to play. Portland has, without question, had the most success withdrawing their press and sitting back. Playing more direct – without Valeri and with a true #9 in Fanendo Adi – could also be on the table.

That doesn’t mean the Timbers’ style goes away. The defense should be more able to play out of the back, starting with Kwarasey, who is a clear upgrade over Ricketts in terms of distribution.

Ridgewell and Borchers are both solid on the ball – much better than the Timbers’ last two major center-back signings, Kah and Norberto Paparatto.

This is Porter’s team. Only four players are left from the John Spencer era – emeritus captain Jack Jewsbury, the irrepressible Diego Chara, the player most identifiable with Porter in Darlington Nagbe, and the player he converted into an unrecognizable attacker, Rodney Wallace.

People should be excited about this year’s team. There should be a level of maturity and intentionality about the Timbers that we haven’t seen in years past. Success should follow.

Perhaps that’s why there’s almost no panic that Portland’s best player and captain are recovering from ACL injuries and will almost surely miss the start of the season.

The Timbers are full of quiet confidence. The team, and the coach, are growing up.

Posted on January 27, 2015 .

What We Look Forward To From The Thorns In 2015...

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Ok, now that things around here are roaring back into gear, I feel like I should share what we are looking forward to from the Thorns this year. But first, lets just take a minute and note what a milestone this season is, 3 years, 3 seasons, the proverbial women's soccer league hump. 

All indications are that the NWSL is still going strong, the relationships with the federations that support it are still intact and we will again get to enjoy women's professional soccer in the Rose City. What more could you ask for from 2015? 

What We Are Looking Forward To From The Thorns 2015 Season

1. Those Kit's Be Custom!

Though it is not official yet, every indication from Merritt Paulson and the Thorns is that this will finally be the year that the Thorns have a unique and custom kit. We thought that it might happen last year, but it didn't, but this year is the year. 

We will no longer have to squint at images from Washington Spirit and Western NY Flash matches thinking - for a moment - that you missed a Thorns match. No, the Thorns will stand out, they will be unique, and they will look damn good too. 

We can't wait to see the new kits, how about you?

2. Defense Defense Defense

Lets face it. Probably the biggest concern for the Thorns heading into 2015 as far as the roster goes was always the defense. Simply put, the team was over matched defensively for much of the 2014 season, and the Thorns took measures during the offseason to make sure that did not happen again this year. 

They brought back Kat Williamson, who everyone in the rose city was sad to see leave just ahead of 2014. They brought in veteran  Canadian Rhian Wilkinson, and Portland native Kendall Johnson. Simply put, the team greatly expanded on the defensive talent and experience of the team and it should translate into a better defense on the pitch. 

3. New Faces, Less Seen Faces

The Thorns were pretty predictable as far as roster choices in 2014, but in 2015 Paul Riley will have to play more with his starting XI. The world cup will pull away much of the Thorns primary starters, and leave spaces open for many faces that we do not see much of on the pitch. 

We think that it will be interesting to see how the team, which is very international and national team heavy, copes with all of the World Cup losses. 

4. A Second Year In Riley's System

There were a lot of anti-riley thoughts and comments floating around by the time the season ended last year. We are excited to see what the second year coach has is store for us, and how he tweaks the system. 

We are also very excited to see how the players react, now that they know Riley, his system and what he expects of them. Sink or Swim, it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. 

So, you know what we are looking forward to. What is on your list heading into the 2015 season? What are you looking forward to seeing? Who are you excited to see? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Posted on January 26, 2015 and filed under Thorns FC.

And, We're Back!!!!

First off I just want to thank those of you who reached out in concern over the site being down the last several weeks. It being the offseason, and several personal things going haywire lead to a sort of forced hiatus for the site. 

But, as you can guess based on the title of this post, I am back. RCSP is back. We are ready to get rolling on the season ahead, and bring you even better coverage than we have before. So thank you to those who have been waiting for the return, it's now official. So let's get back to work!

 

Posted on January 26, 2015 .

5 Thoughts On The Timbers Schedule; More Offseason Thoughts

-Image from OregonLive.com

-Image from OregonLive.com

The day after the Portland Timbers were knocked out of the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 1-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake, the 2014 MLS schedule was announced. 

But after the 2014 Timbers' season ended in Dallas on October 30th, almost two and a half months went by before MLS finally released its 2015 schedule today in the midst of the Steven Gerrard signing, Mike Petke firing, CBA negotiations, and links to Jozy Altidore (more on that in a minute), Mix Diskerud, and Sacha Klijestan.

In a sentence? 2015 is going to be tough.

Portland plays thirteen times on national television, three times against LA, Real Salt Lake, Seattle, Vancouver, Sporting Kansas City and Houston, with two trips to LA, Seattle, and RSL each. 

In the already uber-competitive Western Conference, the Timbers will only play twice against weaker sides Colorado and San Jose, along with two games against FC Dallas.

Here are five thoughts on the schedule.

1. Starting Fast

Portland's slow start in 2014 has been documented and lamented exhaustively, but what has been overlooked is how soft the Timbers' schedule was in March last year. The Timbers' didn't play a playoff team until a mediocre FC Dallas at the end of the month.

Portland opened with Philadelphia and Chicago at home, then a road game at Colorado. The Timbers weren't on national TV until Seattle came to Providence Park in April, which was followed with a rebound game against Chivas USA.

It'll be different this year. The Timbers start with five straight 2014 playoff teams before playing both expansion teams and then the Sounders in Seattle before another game against Vancouver. 

The Timbers are more than focused on getting out of the gate quickly in this season. With the games they have to start the season, March and April will be a whirlwind and Portland will have to be on top of their game - perhaps without Diego Valeri and Will Johnson.

2. Ricketts' Return

It was a perfect storm for Donovan Ricketts returning to Portland: Orlando City's matchup with the Timbers is at Providence Park in April, so presumptive Orlando starter Tally Hall will still be out recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year, meaning Ricketts will be the starting goalkeeper.

He should get the biggest reception ever for an opposing player at Providence Park. Due respect to Troy Perkins, Ricketts was ten times more important to the Timbers in his two and a half years with the club, both on the field - where he was personally accountable for saving at least twenty points - and off the field, where he was a consummate pro and couldn't have been easier to be around.

Adam Larsen Kwarasey has big, big shoes to fill. Ricketts himself was able to win over the Timbers Army with a season that won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Kwarasey will have to produce something similar if he doesn't want Timbers fans pining for the Iron Lion with the Big Smile.

3. Luck Of The Draw

With the subtraction of Chivas USA and addition of New York City FC and Orlando City, MLS' balanced schedule has been thrown out of whack. In seasons past, the Timbers played each Eastern Conference team once, and each Western Conference team three times.

Which Western teams Portland would play twice at home and once on the road rotated each year, as the location of the one matchup against the Eastern Conference team.

This year, though, that rotation has been upset. For instance, for the second year in a row, Portland will play two road games at LA and Real Salt Lake, while only getting them once at home - in the first two games of the season.

On the flip side, Vancouver travels to Portland twice for the second season in a row. The Timbers will have to travel to Canada, however, to play both the Eastern Conference Canadian teams Montreal and Toronto for the second season in a row.

The biggest change in the schedule is going from one to three games against Houston and Sporting KC, and how the Timbers do against those two sides will go a long way in determining the success of their 2015 season.

4. Odds And Ends

The 2015 season promises a lot of big matchups - Portland play on ESPN networks more than any other team in the league, for instance - and an even tighter Western Conference will make each game vital.

Portland gets their last match of the season at home for the first time since 2012, playing Colorado on the last day of the season. Portland plays two August home matches at 8:00 PM on UniMas, and get ready to go to the park on Sunday - that's when all matches televised by ESPN2 and Fox Sports 1 will be played.

For locally televised home games - which will almost be entirely played on Saturdays - the Timbers have pushed the start time back to 7:30 PM. There's no word yet on what the team's local television broadcast schedule is yet this year, or whether the duo of Keith Bleyer and Ross Smith will return to call the action.

5. Get Ready

Seattle comes into town one time, and one time only: Sunday, June 28, at 4:00 PM. If you're only going to remember one date, make it that one.

Roster Notes

- The Timbers' were linked with Jozy Altidore by ESPN's Taylor Twellman on Wednesday, along with the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC. TFC need to move Jermaine Defoe and have uncertainty at the top of their organizational structure with MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke on his way out, and Jeff Carlisle has reported that the Red Bulls don't want to pay.

Portland is obviously the most stable, and quite possibly the most attractive option Altidore has. But reportedly seeking Clint Dempsey money and having such a torrid 18 months, the Timbers might not want to pay either.

Getting Altidore would mean moving one of the team's three designated players, and the promising Fanendo Adi, who just arrived last summer, would almost certainly be on his way out.

This isn't a question of the Timbers' ambition, it's a question of whether Altidore is worth the huge gamble it would take it to get him. Wouldn't the Timbers be more comfortable breaking the bank with Altidore money for a Didier Drogba type of player?

There's really no way to know where the Altidore pursuit is, but it looks like it will dominate Timbers news in the winter transfer window.

- Gaston Fernandez has been re-signed for the 2015 season. Fernandez did well in 2014, and - aside from that bizarre penalty spat against FC Dallas with Will Johnson - seems like he has a good head on his shoulders.

La Gata will be key as long as Valeri is absent, and he has more than earned a second season with the Timbers. 

- Liam Ridgewell's loan to Wigan is a no-harm no-foul proposal. Ridgewell is only set to be with the Latics for a month and a half, and this move more shows how desperate Wigan is than anything on the Timbers' end.

As long as Ridgewell stays healthy, the chunk of cash coming the Timbers' way with the loan deal makes it well worth it. 

The 2015 season is coming into focus. The countdown to March 7th can begin in earnest. 

Posted on January 8, 2015 and filed under MLS, Rose City Soccer News.

Portland Timbers' Ten Greatest Games

   

Below is my list of the Portland Timbers’ ten greatest games. Before you start reading, there are a few things you should know.

First of all, only MLS games were considered. The sheer number of games the Timbers have played at other levels, along with the lack of highlights, quotes, and first-hand experience I had with many of those games made it impossible to include them. That’s a list for someone else to do.

Some of the games on here were no-brainers, others required more thought. There are nine home games and just one away game. Darlington Nagbe and Jack Jewsbury both started eight, Futty Danso and Kalif Alhassan seven.

There are four games against the Sounders, two against the Galaxy, and four against other MLS teams.

There are two games from 2011, two from 2012, and six from 2013. There are none from 2014, which should tell you something about how that season went.

I went back and forth on the order – especially numbers two and one. I settled on my rankings the way you see them now because while game number two had more importance, number one was the much better game.

It’s a trip down memory lane – a little holiday nostalgia, if you will – but it’s also a reminder: Each time you go to the park, you hope to see one of these games. It’s always in the back of your mind. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a great game.

Without further ado, here is my list of the Portland Timbers’ ten best.

 

1. Portland Timbers 1, Seattle Sounders 0: A Derby For The Ages

October 13th, 2013

Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Alhassan, Nagbe, Valencia, Urruti

The wins had started to pile up for the Portland Timbers in September and early October as it became clear that the Timbers were headed for their first ever trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, the once formidable Seattle Sounders, with the league’s newest and most polarizing star Clint Dempsey, were floundering.

This was Seattle’s only trip to Portland during the 2013 regular season, both teams didn’t like each other, and both teams desperately wanted to win. It was as big a game as the Cascadia Cup had ever seen.

The drama started with the team news. Portland’s Diego Valeri hadn’t passed a late fitness test, meaning Kalif Alhassan played, and with Rodney Wallace away with Costa Rica, Jose Valencia started on the wing.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, meanwhile, dropped his starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, and replaced him with Marcus Hahnemann, who hadn’t played regularly for almost five years.

In part because of the Dempsey signing, in part because of the sudden competitiveness of the two sides, animosity was at an all-time high. The Timbers Army’s spendthrift, three-part tifo had the punch-line, "money can’t buy me love."

The Timbers were confident, but also, clearly, nervous – and they were all over the place in the first ten minutes as Seattle pinged the ball around the Portland penalty area.

Donovan Ricketts, in the midst of an MLS Goalkeeper Of The Year winning season, tipped a powerful header from Lamar Neagle onto the bar, and moments later, Dempsey slammed a free header from three yards of that same crossbar.

That calmed the Timbers down, and as the first half settled in, the Timbers started to take control with long spells of possession and menace from two players particularly: Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe.

As the game approached half-time, Jack Jewsbury sent in a long, teasing cross that Hahnemann started to come out to catch before changing his mind and retreating into the goalmouth. The half-clearance that his defense could muster dropped to Alhassan, who smashed his low shot into the back of the net.

His celebration was one of the worst in Timbers history, but that didn’t matter. Portland had the lead.

As Seattle couldn’t find a goal in the second half, they began to unravel.

In truth, the tone for the game had been set in the opening minutes, when Diego Chara’s open-field tackle on Clint Dempsey separated the US captain’s shoulder and went without a card.

In the 72nd minute, Nagbe was felled on a fast-break by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. While referee Hilario Grajeda was booking Hurtado, Will Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso went racing after the loose ball, because, well they’re both maniacs.

Alonso slide-tackled Johnson, who was rightly incensed, and got in Alonso’s face. Alonso’s reaction, then, was to elbow Johnson in the throat.

Half the stadium saw it. Caleb Porter saw it. And most importantly, the assistant linesman – who Michael Harrington, who also saw it, went racing after to plead the Timbers’ case – saw it as well.

After a quick consultation with Grejeda, Alonso was sent off. From there, Seattle pressed the self-destruct button. Alonso, Adam Moffat, Dempsey and others all went charging after the AR. Mauro Rosales came off the bench to get his two cents in, as did Schmid, all while Alonso had to be dragged off the field by Leo Gonzalez.

It was the most beautiful of sights.

Still, though, there was bound to be a final chance in the game, and it fell to Steve Zakuani in stoppage time. A knocked-down cross fell to the future Timber, and he smashed a volley from six yards that would have gone in, if not for Pa Freaking Kah flying at the ball, deflecting it onto the crossbar. The ball spun to Andy Rose, but his attempt on goal was cleared off the line by Jewsbury.

When the final whistle sounder, Porter turned to the crowd pumping his fists. It was Portland’s sweetest ever victory. Seattle had disgraced themselves, and the soccer gods had punished them for it.

What was great about that team, and this win? Part of it was the sense of destiny that kicked in as Jewsbury cleared Zakuani’s final volley off the line. But the magic was more in the camaraderie, the chemistry, and the togetherness that the 2013 Timbers lived for.

Go back and listen to Caleb Porter’s press conference after this game. It was the happiest he’s ever been post-match as the Timbers head coach. Everyone was bought in. And he said it right off the top – he knew that his team would win. He just knew.

That, in one of the most fractious, angry, high-stakes derbies ever played, was the pinnacle of the Portland Timbers’ MLS existence.

 

2. Portland Timbers 3, Seattle Sounders 2: Fish Gutted

November 7th, 2013

Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Valeri, Nagbe, R. Johnson

The Timbers were never going to lose this game. It didn’t make winning it any less sweet.

Coming in off of a spectacular run to win the Western Conference and a defeat of Seattle, in Seattle, in the first leg of their first ever playoff series, with the Sounders’ mentally and physically holding on by a very thin thread, Portland had all the confidence in the world on a cold Thursday night at Providence Park.

The Sounders were reeling. Sigi Schmid had once again changed goalkeepers, reinserting Michael Gspurning in place of Marcus Hahnemann, and had bizzarly chosen Shalrie Joesph to play up top alongside Eddie Johnson.

Both Obafemi Martins, who was banged up, and Mauro Rosales were left out of the Sounders team.

Portland had their eleven set and ready to go. The Timbers didn’t just feel like they had a better coach, better stars, a better stadium, a better field, and better fans. They knew it.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the most tense this game ever really was was in the first 30 seconds when DeAndre Yedlin scampered ten yards past where a ball went out of bounds deep in Sounders territory before unleashing a throw-in.

From there, the Timbers sunk their teeth in. Rodney Wallace had two early chances, pushing a clean look from ten yards wide on the slick turf, and being blocked off by Gspurning on a bouncing ball in the box that was the result of Diego Chara deflecting a clearance.

In the 27th minute, after another piece of terrific inter-play, Jack Jewsbury popped a ball up onto the outstretched arm of Djimi Traore. Jewsbury went flying towards the referee with his arms raised, but Hilario Grajeda missed it.

It was up to his assistant linesman, who took one beat, then another, and then another, before running down the touchline towards the byline to signal the penalty.

Will Johnson dispatched it with relish and unleashed another wild celebration.

Portland’s second goal was a thing of beauty – a tic-tac combination through the midfield and on the edge of the area between Jewsbury, Wallace, and then Valeri, who took the ball charging into the area and sent a sliding finish past Gspurning to make it 2-0, and 4-1 on aggregate.

But the best moment in the second half was when Futty Danso, charging into the penalty area on a solo run, headed home a cross from Rodney Wallace – not coincidentally, it was the Timbers’ third goal of the year on a quick free kick, and it was the old college #9 Futty who profited.

But it was Pa Modou Kah who pulled his fellow Gambian out of the celebration, and the two center-backs sprinted down the field towards Donovan Ricketts for a group hug in front of the Timbers Army.

It was pure and unbridled joy. The greatest of great moments.

That was as good as it got in 2014. As good as its ever gotten for the Portland Timbers, really. The Great Hug of Gambia.

Seattle pulled two goals back to give the Timbers a nervy finish, but the game was really never as close as it felt. The Sounders would have needed two more just to tie the score on aggregate, and three more goals to win it outright.

When the final whistle sounded, the Army danced long into the night. It was hardly a competitive game. The fish weren’t the story. The Timbers were.

 

3. Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 1: "The Loudest The Old Stadium Has Ever Been"

July 14th, 2013

Ricketts, Jewsbury (C), Jean-Baptiste, Futty, Harrington, Zemanski, Chara, Nagbe, Valeri, Alhassan, R. Johnson

In the beginning of August, when the LA Galaxy came calling for the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field, there were cracks beginning to show in the Timbers’ armor.

Portland was coming off of a frustrating 1-0 loss in Columbus that saw Pa Kah get sent off in the fifth minute with the Timbers having already conceded. A brave effort wasn’t enough to get a point, and when Crew manager Robert Warzycha said that it’s difficult to play up a man, Mikael Silvestre wondered on Twitter whether the Crew had been playing up a man all year.

Luckily for Portland, LA was also staggering. With Landon Donovan gone on international duty, Carlo Cudicini wearing out his welcome in goal, and Robbie Rogersstruggling to find his groove in midfield, the Galaxy weren’t in any better possession than the Timbers.

Both teams wanted to win. That much was clear from the get-go.

And both teams came to play. That much was clear too.

There was a reason that The Guardian would later call the match, to paraphrase, "the best spectacle in MLS history." Both teams were committed to playing soccer the right way – moving the ball around, at tempo, letting skill players make plays, and, in this case, defending shakily.

In the 17th minute, Marcelo Sarvas, who was unmarked, headed a deflected cross in to make it 1-0. It was the first goal the Timbers had conceded at home in six MLS games, eight in all competitions.

The drama was just starting. After Rogers hacked down Nagbe outside of the box, the Timbers executed a clinical quick free-kick which Nagbe slid in front for Ryan Johnsonto tap home as the Galaxy protested for offsides and the NBC broadcast scrambled to get out of its replay of the foul.

At 1-1, Donovan Ricketts would be called upon multiple times throughout the rest of the game. After Omar Gonzalez hit the post with a header, Ricketts produced an absolutely sublime series of saves to deny a free kick from Juninho and a breakaway opportunity for Gyasi Zardes.

Before the game, Bruce Arena had called Ricketts the best goalkeeper in the history of MLS. It took me back to a US Soccer writer telling me that Ricketts was the best goalkeeper CONCACAF had ever produced.

Portland had their chances too in the second half, including a Nagbe shot that produced a sterling double-save from Cudicini after he blocked Ryan Johnson’s rebound attempt.

Ricketts was again called upon to deny Zardes in the 84th minute, and it appeared as the match was headed for a well-fought draw. Little did we know what was to about to happen.

In the last minute of stoppage time, Portland won a corner. Diego Valeri swung in a beauty, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste spun off of his mark, got his head to the ball, and scored the latest goal in team history.

Portland Timbers 2, LA Galaxy 1.

The roar from the crowd at Jeld-Wen Field was deafening. The stadium shook. It continued to sway all the way until full-time a minute later, when a furious Arena engaged Caleb Porter in a shouting match that saw the two jawing all the way across the field where the match referees were standing.

Jean-Baptiste’s celebration – ripping off his shirt – was nowhere near as good as Freddy Piquionne’s. The substitute striker grabbed the ball, and with his tongue out and Ben Zemanski in tow, kicked it high into the Timbers Army.

It was a Hollywood finish against Hollywood’s team.

The loudest the old stadium has ever been.

 

4. Portland Timbers 3, New York Red Bulls 3: The Porter Era Begins

March 3rd, 2013

Ricketts, Miller, Silvestre, Jean-Baptiste, Harrington, W. Johnson (C), Chara, Alhassan, Nagbe, Valeri, R. Johnson

There were signs before opening day of the 2013 season against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field that nothing was the same for the Portland Timbers.

Flashes of brilliance in preseason, exciting offseason acquisitions, and a clear and poised presence from new head coach Caleb Porter suggested that there might not be a long rebuilding and recovery process from the failed John Spencer era.

There was a great anticipation, not just for another home opener on ESPN, but for the next phase of Portland Timbers soccer.

And it couldn’t have started worse.

Eight minutes into the game, Donovan Ricketts mishandled a back-pass from Mikael Silvestre, and Fabian Espindola pounced to give New York the lead.

But that’s not what you remembered from this game. You remembered the feeling that you got very early on that things were very different. In less than five minutes, the Timbers were level.

A terrific passing move led to Diego Valeri’s circus-act first goal in a Timbers uniform, which was followed up by a celebration almost as intricate as his dance through the New York defense.

Both teams were off to the races for a thrilling game.

In the 23rd minute, Silvestre misplayed a long ball which Espindola again took advantage of for his second goal. It was 3-1 just moments later, as the circus at the back this time resulted in center-back Jamison Olave running free in the goalmouth for a tap-in.

But there was just something about the Timbers – especially their attack – that suggested the game was far from over. There was the purpose and intricacy of play that completely new to Timbers fans. Not coincidentally, the Timbers were fielding their most talented lineup at any level of soccer in club history. They just needed to click into high-gear.

The galvanizing moment, as it turned out, was the double whammy of Andrew Jean-Baptiste being bear-hugged to the turf in the penalty area as his shot was cleared off the line with no penalty call forthcoming.

From there, it was a shooting gallery. Diego Valeri’s scorcher was only parried down in front of the net to Darlington Nagbe – more intense than he’d ever been before as a pro – who cleaned up the rebound to make it 3-2.

The Timbers were pouring players forward in search of the equalizer. It was a zoo. And when the equalizer came, courtesy of a Jose Valencia cross that hit Olave and went in, there was hardly a celebration. Portland wanted a fourth.

In the end, they almost got it with a lung-busting run and cross from Silvestre, who after his only bad half as a Timber was already rehabilitating his image, that Ryan Johnson took on a bicycle kick that went just wide.

It finished 3-3, but it really just went down as a hell of a game.

There was giddiness in the potency and skill of the Timbers’ attack and a confidence that great things were just around the corner.

It was soccer on a level we’d never seen before. On that night, the Portland Timbers started playing a new game.

 

5. Portland Timbers 4, Chicago Fire 2: Soccer City, USA

April 14th, 2011

Gleeson, Purdy, Brunner, Futty, Wallace, Marcelin, Jewsbury (C), Hall, Alhassan, Perlaza, Cooper

Although the Portland Timbers played their first MLS game in Commerce City, Colorado – in an all-green strip, no less – and proceeded to lose to Toronto and then draw New England on the east coast, their MLS journey really started when the Timbers hosted their first ever game in April 2011 against the Chicago Fire.

It was Soccer City, USA’s coming out party, and the grand unveiling had everything. The revamped PGE Park, renamed Jeld-Wen Field, sparkled – that sleek new west side of the stadium jiving with the familiar, cramped old concourses that harkened all the way to the first days of Civic Stadium.

It was raining – pouring, actually – and the Timbers Army rocked the stadium with their entrance 107 minutes before kickoff and a spirited a cappella national anthem. There wasn’t a party in Portland so much as a jungle, and as the US Soccer public was just taking in the spectacle for the first time, it was intoxicating.

There was only one question: Would the team provide the game the scene deserved? The Timbers were having a rough go of it. They’d gotten a measly one point from three games and scored only two goals.

The defense was shaky. Diego Chara hadn’t arrived yet, and the team was having difficulty keeping possession and stringing together passes. Troy Perkins was still out, and third-string goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was in the net for the biggest game in franchise history. It didn’t look promising.

But from the opening whistle, the Timbers were unrecognizable. Incisive, eager, and threatening, they looked like they could score every time they came down the field.

And after just ten minutes, Kenny Cooper headed home a Jack Jewsbury corner – but it was inexplicably ruled out for a phantom offense. Instead, the opener would come in the 29th minute as Jorge Perlaza bounded onto a Kalif Alhassan pass, cut back in the area with the help of the slick surface, and fired home the first goal in the history of the new stadium.

It would get better ten minutes later, when a partially cleared free-kick fell to Rodney Wallace who laced in a volley from twenty yards to make it 2-0. By the time Sean Johnson spilled a cross allowing Perlaza to tap in his second, it was a Portland coronation.

Things got serious quickly though, when an effervescent Marco Pappa pulled the game back to 3-2 with a superb effort after an own goal from Eric Brunner made it 3-1. But the game was sealed shut when Portland scrambled home their fourth goal in front of the Timbers Army on an almighty goalmouth scramble led by Futty Danso.

John Spencer was giddy. His post-game press conference was a thing of beauty. Gavin Wilkinson, unfortunately enough, had to issue an apology after being caught on national television screaming at the officials from behind the advertising boards.

All in all, it was a perfect night – and the best thing was the knowledge that there’d be many more nights like it to follow.

 

6. Portland Timbers 2, Seattle Sounders 1: Spencer’s Last Stand

June 24th, 2012

Perkins, Jewsbury (C), Horst, Futty, Smith, Chara, Alhassan, Nagbe, Songo’o, Fucito, Boyd

John Spencer must have known he was living on borrowed time when the Seattle Sounders came calling on a beautiful June day in Portland with England losing on penalties to Italy in Euro 2012.

The Timbers’ season had already turned sour, with more and more mediocre players being signed and thrown into the mix with no direction or long-term plan. With Spencer, it was all an emotional appeal – a fiery want, a need to win.

And was endearing, but not destined to be successful very often. But in rivalry games like this one, that fire that Spencer instilled made for a hell of a show.

After the dust cleared, six yellow cards and two red ones had been handed out, the Timbers had gotten two of their best ever goal celebrations, and, at last, their first ever win over the Sounders. It was to be Spencer’s final hurrah.

Portland came out with their hair on fire after the unveiling of the Clive Charles tifo that stands as the most impressive in MLS history – although there were hearts in mouths everywhere around the stadium when the right side of the tifo snagged and ripped while being rigged up.

Just minutes into the game, David Horst sent an open header screaming off the crossbar. But it didn’t take long for Portland to take the lead, with Kris Boyd tapping in a Steven Smith cross and pointing and laughing at the Seattle fans in the away end.

Horst made amends – this time directing his header into the turf and past Seattle, now Portland, goalkeeper Andrew Weber – to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute.

Tempers flared in the second half, as Kalif Alhassan – having himself a vintage performance – was crocked and forced to come off with injuries.

The loss of Alhassan came at a crucial time, as Seattle was pulling themselves back into the game. Osvaldo Alonso had forced consecutive saves out of Troy Perkins, but a fantastic solo effort by Eddie Johnson made it 2-1 with 35 minutes to go.

But as Seattle struggled to find the equalizer, their frustrations – stop me if this sounds familiar, apparently became impossible to contain.

Freddy Montero’s push of David Horst – who went down much easier and with much less contact that Will Johnson did when Alonso elbowed him in the throat two years later – sparked a massive brawl in the 90th minute.

Boyd stuck a finger in Montero’s face, Futty and Eddie Johnson shared a shoving match, and when the dust settled, Montero was sent off, as was Portland substitute Lovel Palmer.

After the resulting eight minutes of stoppage time, Portland had their victory, which Futty celebrated lying on the turf pumping his fists. It was a total Spencer win – as it turned out, his last of consequence.

 

7. Portland Timbers 2, Seattle Sounders 1: Welcome To Your Nightmare

November 2nd, 2013

Ricketts, Jewsbury, Futty, Kah, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Valeri, Nagbe, R. Johnson

There was something slightly surreal about this game for the Portland Timbers, from the Seahawks lines that covered CenturyLink Field’s turf, to that confidence feigned by the Emerald City Supporters when their pre-match tifo read, "Welcome To Your Nightmare."

It should have, "Welcome To Our Nightmare," because the Sounders were in the midst of their worst ever season, and it was about to get a whole lot more ugly over the 180 minutes of soccer that were about to unfurl in front of them.

Until this night in November 2013, Portland had never won in MLS in Seattle, let alone had a lead. That all would change.

Caleb Porter opted to place his faith in Ryan Johnson up top, instead of young-gun Jose Valenica, the barely-fit or serviceable Maxi Urruti, or Frederic Piquionne.

Seattle, meanwhile, was without starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who had gotten himself sent off in the team’s wild card win over Seattle for bounding out of his penalty area and catching a long-ball.

In the 15th minute, Diego Chara sprayed a ball wide for Jack Jewsbury, who took a touch, and sent a perfect cross towards Ryan Johnson streaking in at the near post.

Johnson’s flicked header would have been a save for most goalkeepers, but Seattle back-up Marcus Hahnemann was hopelessly out of position, and it was 1-0.

Portland was mostly content to play on the break and rely on their defense, and while Seattle had a couple of chances through long Clint Dempsey free-kicks, they were mostly held in check.

The Timbers pounced again in the 65th minute, when some neat work from substitute Kalif Alhassan on the wing freed Darlington Nagbe in the middle to fire past Hahnemann and make it 2-0.

In fact, the game would have been perfect had it ended one minute earlier than it did. Because at the edge of stoppage time, Osvaldo Alonso finally fired home the Sounders’ goal.

You could feel it coming – Ricketts was forced into a world-class save on a Dempsey header just minutes before, and Seattle was playing with a desperate franticness.

It finished 2-1, and there was no way to know that that goal would be nothing more than academic after the Timbers pasted the Sounders in the second leg five days later at Jeld-Wen Field.

Then, it hurt. It hurt that it was Alonso who scored it. That it came off a long throw-in didn’t help.

Still, the achievement couldn’t be dimmed. The Timbers had come to Seattle in the club’s first ever MLS playoff game, outplayed the home team, and won.

It more than set up the euphoria that was to follow on November 7th.

 

8. Portland Timbers 3, LA Galaxy 0: Total Domination

August 3rd, 2011

Perkins (C), Chabala, Brunner, Horst, Palmer, Chara, Marcelin, Nagbe, Zizzo, Perlaza, Cooper

As the calendar turned to August 2011, the shine that had coated the Timbers’ expansion season was wearing mighty thin.

After their magical unbeaten home run to start the season had kept the team afloat in the playoff race and secured plenty of goodwill amongst its burgeoning fan-base, the summer had put a major dent in the feel-good story.

Portland hadn’t won a home match since May, in addition to their ever present road struggles, and just three days before the midweek match against the Galaxy had blown a two-goal lead in the last minutes against laughing-stock Toronto FC.

Meanwhile, LA were riding a league-record fourteen game unbeaten streak with the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan, and for the first time in Timbers MLS history, there was real, city-wide pessimism surrounding the home team.

To add the woe, there were injury problems. Talisman Jack Jewsbury was out, as was Eddie Johnson, an English forward who had just recently won a starting place and scored against TFC the previous weekend.

Johnson, as turned out, had suffered what would end up being a career-ending concussion in the pregame warm-up, and only that gave Kenny Cooper a ticket out of the doghouse and back onto the field.

So it shocked everyone when the Timbers stepped out onto the field, and stepped on the Galaxy’s throats.

Mike Chabala opened the scoring with a laser from the top of the box and Jorge Perlaza two after sealing off AJ DeLaGarza and rifling past Josh Saunders. At halftime, the Timbers had outshot LA 9-0.

It only got better. Eric Brunner made it 3-0 off a corner kick to put the icing on the scoring, while Chabala, clearly enjoying the Timbers Army, karate-chopped his already cracked log at full-time.

The Timbers left the Galaxy admiring their work-rate and desire. It was a proud moment – LA would go on to win MLS Cup, but they’d come to Portland and been absolutely destroyed by the rag-tag Timbers.

Soccer wise, it was the best 90 minutes of the inaugural season.

 

9. Portland Timbers 3, Philadelphia Union 1: What Might Have Been

March 12th, 2012

Perkins, Palmer, Brunner, Jean-Baptiste, Wallace, Jewsbury (C), Chara, Alexander, Alhassan, Perlaza, Boyd

Before the 2012 Portland Timbers season went off the rails and we were presented with a lot of Kosuke Kimura and #GWOut movement, there was great hope for the Timbers’ sophomore season.

The thinking was logical, if a tad naïve. The Timbers team that missed the playoffs by two points in their first year would add Kris Boyd, take advantage of their experience, and make the team’s first playoff run.

Boyd, of course, was supposed to be a star. And for one night, he was.

In a monsoon, in front of an ESPN audience, the Timbers dominated the first fifty minutes, but went behind when a 35 yard free kick hit Andrew Jean-Baptiste and skipped past Troy Perkins.

It was then that the Timbers kicked it into high gear. Jean-Baptiste nodded a Jack Jewsbury free kick through the dive of Union goalkeeper Zach McMath to make it 1-1.

Ten minutes later, Kalif Alhassan hit Boyd for a ten-yard flick on header that was perfection. Not only was it the essence of what John Spencer wanted Portland to accomplish in his one and a half years here, but it also might have been the finest piece of center forward play in team history.

Alhassan, who was the best player on the field, chipped McMath with a cross to make it a 3-1 final. It was a jazz-hands symphony from Kalif, one of those games when the Ghanaian just had a gleam in his eye and a bounce in his step that made him unplayable.

Spencer was pumping his fists, Boyd was all he’d been billed as, and anything was possible. The Timbers put on a show that night. Unfortunately it was to be the most false of dawns.

 

10. Portland Timbers 1, San Jose Earthquakes 0: "If There’s A Fight…"

April 14th, 2013

Ricketts, Jewsbury, Silvestre, Futty, Harrington, Chara, W. Johnson (C), Wallace, Nagbe, Alhassan, R. Johnson

The Portland Timbers were just getting used to winning. Caleb Porter’s first victory as a professional head coach had come the weekend before against the Houston Dynamo, and as the Portland Timbers’ defense was finding its footing, the team’s 2013 season was beginning to take off.

San Jose, at the time, was an especially moody bunch of a meagerly talented players who aggravated their opposition to self-destruction and got the most out of their meager talents.

They liked to play chippy, tight, closely contested games, and within minutes of kickoff against the Portland Timbers on this cool April night, it was clear that one goal would enough. It was also clear that things might get ugly.

The first half saw Futty Danso injure Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon savage Diego Chara who completed ten-barrel roles and get Gordon booked, and few chances fall to either team.

Every inch of space was being contested. There was a certain claustrophobia about the game, an uncomfortable air filling the stadium.

In the 68th minute, Silvestre, with blood pouring out of a gash on the side of his face, went charging at Gordon claiming an elbow.

Silvestre, who endeared fans in his short time in Portland with a general joie de vivre and easy air, was more incensed than injured, in an enraged disbelief that Gordon had elbowed him in the face.

What Silvestre, and the stadium that had seen events unfold on the scoreboard didn’t know, was that the elbow was completely unintentional.

It didn’t matter. Gordon was shown his second yellow. Then, on his way out Gordon sent a homophobic slur at Will Johnson. San Jose were down to ten.

Like that mattered. San Jose had sunk their teeth in, and it was going to take a moment of magic to win the game.

That’s what Portland was thinking when Will Johnson stood over a free-kick, twenty-five yards from goal in the middle of the field in the 77th minute.

His take was perfection. Jon Busch had no chance. The Timbers’ captain went berserk, sliding into the advertising boards and screaming at the Army.

The Earthquakes would get one chance to level the match – a free header that Chris Wondolowski hit straight at Donovan Ricketts.

It was the best game in an increasingly and then suddenly intense rivalry between the Timbers and Earthquakes.

The 1-0 propelled Portland up the standings, and may just have helped trigger the demise of San Jose, but it set up a theme for the 2013 season that Caleb Porter would sum up after beating Seattle 1-0 at home in a similarly tight match at the end of the year.

"If there’s a fight, we’re up for a fight. There’s no problem with that. We can out-football teams, but we can also out-fight teams. They made it a fight, and that was no problem for us."

Posted on December 15, 2014 and filed under Rose City Soccer News, MLS.