By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx
Saturday, March 18: 4-2 Win
What’s that, you say? The Portland Timbers are 3-0 and top of the table after three weeks in March? How in the heck did THAT happen?
It has been a crazy start to the season, to say the least. In week two, we won on the road in Los Angeles. The last time a Timbers team pulled off a March road win, I was in high school. (In related news, I am old.) And last Saturday, we managed to defeat a strong Houston Dynamo squad that was having a fine March of their own. Fortunately, the boys came through when it counted.
The first two scores of the match, both on penalty kicks, came from handballs that were so hard to see in person that I had to re-watch the highlights later to know just what had happened. The first, coming at the 10th minute off a ball that deflected off the lifted elbow of DaMarcus Beasley, certainly didn’t look intentional, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
In any case, Diego Valeri confidently jogged up to the spot and drilled it high and center for the first score of the match. The second, at the 36th minute, was a handball that careened off Diego Chará’s arm as he lifted it up to cover his face during a Cubo Torres free kick. Hard to fault Chará for trying to keep his face from getting drilled, but if you’re going to call the first one you might as well call the second one, I suppose.
There were several long minutes in the first half where I was worried about our ability to withstand Houston’s counterattack, and their score to close out the first half was a perfect example of why. During first half stoppage, we got our clocks cleaned. Alvas Powell was WAY behind the play on the counter, probably a combination of playing so far up on offense and recovering from an injury; and Zarek Valentin, our third string fullback, was playing catch-up much of the half. The result was a quick Torres to Alberth Elis flick, followed by a beautiful and deadly pass from Elis to Romell Quioto for the easy score. If this was a sign of things to come, I didn’t like our chances in the second half.
But then, the second half came, and something was different. I don’t know what adjustments they made, but Valentin and Powell looked like they were hung out to dry a lot less often. In fact, Valentin redeemed himself in the 57th minute with a BEAUTIFUL left-footed cross from the corner, perfectly placed for Valeri to head into the back of the net, and suddenly we were tied again.
Our third goal of the night was probably my favorite. David Guzmán is a beast, in every good way. I may call him Tenacious D for his work in the back (which by the way frees up Chará, thank you very much), but he also works incredibly hard on the offensive side of the ball. And he was rewarded for his efforts last night with what turned out to be the game winner in the 65th minute. With Beasley trying to clear the ball, Guzmán chested it perfectly to Nagbe, who returned the favor by making a ridiculously good spinning-as-he-hit-the-ground pass to Guzmán, who put it away, then kissed the crest following his first score in a Timbers uniform. Sebastian Blanco is definitely DP quality, but I really think in many ways Guzmán might be our most valuable signing of the season so far.
Fanendo Adi was kind of driving me nuts that night. (Okay, not kind of. He really was.) He managed to line up offside a few times, his footwork wasn’t the best, and he was looking gassed toward the end as he missed chance after chance. But just as I was turning to a friend and saying “WHY haven’t we subbed him out yet?” Adi did this at the 87th minute and put us ahead 4-2. Way to shut me up, Adi.
- I don’t want to go on and on about it, so I’ll just say that Cubo Torres was being kind of a jerk.
Alvas Powell reminded me of first-year Powell, which meant moments of brilliance followed by moments of WTF? I do not wish to watch another season of the “That’s So Alvas” show. Hope we’ve seen the last of it for awhile.
Our back line still scares me, but Roy Miller wasn’t horrible. He and Guzmán have some playing history together and it shows.
We made adjustments at the half and they worked. More of this please.
Darlington Nagbe’s ball handling is so solid that I think he might have only had one errant pass the whole first half. I remember because when it happened it felt SO out of the ordinary. I hope he gets a chance to show some of that magic during the USMNT qualifiers this next weekend.
Jake Gleeson. Holy cow, son. You had some saves that first half. Nice work.
Prior to the match, the Timbers had a ceremony to honor Nat Borchers, retired center back and amazing human. Nat took the opportunity to salute the Timbers Army one last time and we tried to return the favor. Now Nat is taking up a new position, this time in the broadcast booth. We love you, Nat. Best of luck in this new chapter.
This weekend also marked the Timbers’ Army’s participation in the Independent Supporters Council’s stand against racism. The tifo display, We Are Your Shining City Upon A Hill, spoke to the Timbers Army’s desire to continue to defend equality as a fundamental human right and to reject racial oppression. In addition to the display, the Timbers Army also sold both “Refugees Welcome” scarves and “Sanctuary” scarves, with proceeds going to charitable organizations who work with immigrants and refugees. And finally, we also held the first of many match day drives, this time collecting food for a local food pantry at Impact NW. Yes, we want to win the battle on the field; but we also want to win the battle for equality and dignity in the broader world.
Well, that was a most excellent weekend. Next stop: Columbus. Hopefully, we can manage to hold down the fort while Nagbe and Guzmán are away on international duty. See you next weekend.
Featured image, David Guzmán celebrates his first goal in a Timbers uniform courtesy: Portland Timbers
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