September 15, 2019 was a big day at Dignity Health Sports Park. Fans rolled in early around 2pm (7pm kick off) to enjoy Central American Night celebrations, which included a DJ, cumbia band, pupusas, a photobooth, micheladas, Cachiporras, and more. (See below for highlights of the festivities.)
At the tailgate, Academia de Futbol Juvenil Amatence (AFJA) was set up in both supporters’ groups, LA RiotSquad and Angel City Brigade, accepting both monetary donations, and new and gently used soccer equipment for kids in Central America. AFJA is a U.S. based non-profit that helps underserved communities in El Salvador, particularly by providing a fully funded youth soccer academy.
It was also Laker Night to celebrate another leading championship team in Los Angeles. Fans could bid on exclusive co-branded jerseys. The LA Galaxy Foundation auctioned off jerseys with custom Lakers kit numbers.
LA Galaxy was finally playing at home again. After the International break and a loss in Colorado.
Every game at this point is a must-win, especially with the West being such a tight race. Literally 2 points separate teams from second place and even 11th place isn’t yet mathematically eliminated.
Every Galaxy fan hoped the team would come out to play with passion, but no one could have guessed that LA Galaxy would hammer it the way they did.
But, we fans of the blue, white, and gold are scarred from the previous season(s) and held our breath until we were up 5 goals.
LA Galaxy paced themselves to beat a Sporting Kansas City side that came out hot. SKC had their playoff chances snuffed out by a final score of 7-2. See highlights from the evening below including festivities and all seven goals:
Despite MLS referees’ decisions not being in the Galaxy’s favor, the home team broke through the opposition.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick, and with his 26th goal broke Carlos Ruiz’s 2002 club record for leading goal scorer in an MLS regular season.
Joe Corona’s header was the second of the night and was his first goal with the club.
Uriel Antuna scored in the 69’ which made him the second top goal scorer, currently for the club with 4 goals.
Sebastian Lletget got a brace, scoring back to back goals. He’d been having a rough season and seemed to be in a bit of a slump, but this was just what was needed to regain his confidence.
As I type this on Thursday September 19th, the majority of the games in the Western Conference have resulted in the Galaxy’s favor to keep them within playoff standings. It’s up to LA Galaxy to solidify their place on the table. The five-time championship franchise seems to be well on its way now.
There will have to be a starting line up change as Rolf Feltscher will be suspended for the next match due to yellow card accumulation. Corona and Romney found themselves back in the starting XI. It looks like this 2019 team finally has depth, too.
Key LA Galaxy pieces come together again at home, this time against Montreal Impact on Saturday, September 21st at 7:30pm PST. Watch on Spectrum SportsNet.
Sitting above the playoffs line in seventh place with 43 points, the Portland Timbers continue the battle of the west. Despite falling to D.C. United this past weekend; Steve Clark is turning Providence Park into the House of Horrors.
Timbers’ veteran goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was sidelined due to a season-ending injury this July. And Clark has stepped up in a big by posting 1710 minutes, five shutouts, 66 saves, and currently holds a 79.5% save percentage, thus far.
Prior to assuming starting goalkeeper duties, Clark was included in the starting lineup for five of fifteen league matches and appeared in the 2019 campaign of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Mason, Michigan native is no stranger to the shuffle. On August 17, 2018, the five-year MLS veteran was waived by D.C. United while in the midst of his second season with the club. Following the Timbers’ announcement that they had picked up the veteran keeper on waivers – he went on to start eight games for the 2018 campaign.
His quick reflexes have kept the Timbers out of dangerous situations. And Clark is having a little fun with it – occasionally wearing a Michael Myers mask from the classic slasher franchise Halloween; during the Timbers’ traditional slab celebration ceremony to celebrate shutout.
“Providence Park is going to be a house of horrors this summer,” Clark said during the July 28 postgame conference. “It’s going to be a tough place to come. That’s kind of what I’m saying. This is a bunch of monsters out here.”
Fellow teammate Sebastian Blanco is joining in the fun donning a Chucky mask from cult classic Child’s Play. The Argentinian midfielder began the tradition in May of 2018 to celebrate his game-winning goal against the Seattle Sounders.
Outside of the MLS, Clark has played for Hønefoss BK and AC Horsens, respectively – crediting these experiences for his development as a player, even encouraging players to “move abroad and challenge themselves.”
With playoffs starting in a few weeks, its hard to ignore that Clark was once a three-year starter for Columbus Crew SC from 2014-16, where the 33-year-old keeper ironically played against his current club during the 2015 MLS Cup; losing 2-1. Fast forward to now, Steve said of his time in Columbus:
“My time in Columbus was a long time ago now. But it was a good time for me as player. Now being with the Timbers – life has really come full circle and I’m really enjoying myself now. Portland is a beautiful place to live and a great club to play for.”
The Timbers will continue their search for the final playoff push in a midweek fixture when they host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, September 18.
By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx Sunday, October 21: Providence Park 3-0 Win
While the Portland Timbers beat Real Salt Lake 4-1 back on October 6th, thanks to a brace from Sebastián Blanco and scores from Jeremy Ebobisse and Lucas Melano (!), this game was far from a foregone conclusion. RSL had just come off a decisive 4-1 victory of their own against the New England Revolution, and that was while missing several of their key players.
And as Timbers fans know, we have had a history of big showdowns against RSL with some less than satisfactory results (see, for example, the US Open Cup Semifinal or the Western Conference Finals series in 2013). RSL has had ample opportunity to demonstrate their ability to come through in big moments against the Timbers in the past, and this past Sunday they had every motivation to do it again: a win for RSL would guarantee them a playoff spot.
Fortunately for Timbers supporters, though, Sunday was all Portland, as the Timbers kept a clean sheet through ninety minutes, scoring three of their own and securing their spot in the postseason. Match Recap
The Timbers started off strong, with captain Diego Valeri having a chance at a goal the first minute of the match. Larrys Mabiala opened the scoring, beating Marcelo Silva off a Valeri set play in the 15th minute:
Kyle Beckerman seemed to show his age (I’ll confess, my match recap notes say “JFC, Beckerman looks old, like almost Bob Dylan old but with a teeny, tiny rattail”), but he managed to get a foul called against Diego Chara early on as the two tangled. Chara had his revenge in the 68th minute, leaving Beckerman completely in the dust:
I just can’t stop watching this footrace between Chara and Beckerman. The angle doesn’t do Beckerman any favors, but still: Mercy me. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/5xq9TWOgB2
3-0 was the score when the final whistle sounded, guaranteeing the Timbers a spot in the playoffs and ending Real Salt Lake’s season. Quick Takes
Who’s our starting striker? This is a question that gets a different answer depending on when you’re asking. At the beginning of the year, it was clearly the now-departed Fanendo Adi, who, since his loan to the club in May 2014, had scored 54 goals for the Timbers and was one of the best strikers in club history. Nevertheless, gradually his star power with the club seemed to have faded in favor of newcomer Samuel Armenteros, and by July Adi was traded to USL side FC Cincinnati for allocation money.
Fast forward to fall, and the position now seems to beJeremy Ebobisse’s to lose. In his last two starts, Ebobisse has had a goal and a couple of key assists, both in Blanco’s goal in the 73rd minute in Rio Tinto and in Chara’s goal on Sunday. For my money, Ebobisse is a smart player who plays well with our South American players, in particular frequently connecting and combining well with Valeri, Blanco, and Chara.
We first had the opportunity to see this potential in action against the Vancouver Whitecaps last year, when our decimated squad had so many injuries and call-ups that we brought up players signed to three day MLS contracts just to fill out the squad and we couldn’t even field a full 18. In his first MLS start for that match in July 2017, he notched a goal and an assist and worked extremely well with Valeri up front and in the middle. For my money, he’s earned the right to the spot.
Who’s in the starting lineup in Vancouver? It will be interesting to see who coach Gio Savarese decides to put in the XI on Sunday. On one hand, it is clear that the center back pairing of Liam Ridgewell and Mabiala has been the most effective this season. At the same time, Ridgewell has not been to nearly as many away games as he has home games this season, and it is possible to envision a scenario where Ridgewell is home, rested and ready for the play-in game which will take place sometime midweek.
There are few scenarios this weekend that have the Timbers finishing above 5th place, meaning that the play-in game is almost certainly going to be an away one; and given that the play-in is a one-game-only scenario (win or you’re done for the year), it is conceivable that the Timbers might rest some players in preparation for playoffs.
Does Armenteros get a run out this Sunday, saving Ebobisse for the postseason?
On the other hand, there is the possibility that the Timbers climb to fourth place in the standings. Let’s be honest, it is pretty unlikely. In addition to a Timbers victory, either Seattle Sounders would have to lose at home to the hapless San Jose Earthquakes or FC Dallas would have to drop their final game against the 11th place Colorado Rapids; but it is at least possible.
This might argue in favor of bringing out all of the starters, in hopes of the improbable fourth-place finish happening and the Timbers getting the chance to host that midweek play-in game. (Yes, technically there is the possibility of a third-place finish for the Timbers in the standings, but since it involves making up a ten point goal difference, among other things, let’s not bother with that scenario.)
Hey, how about that Steve Clark guy, huh? I know, folks were mercilessly, if good-naturedly, ribbing the Timbers’ recent acquisition, keeper Steve Clark online, because he was the guy on the wrong end of this historic play from the 2015 MLS Cup:
When he first joined, there were tons of posts online about “See if Dairon Asprilla will give up his jersey number 27″ or “Maybe we can get him to sign the 27-second ball in the fanladen, ha ha.” Well, Clark has embraced the team and the town, is genuinely happy to be here, works hard, and sometimes has saves like this:
While Jeff Attinella recovers from that separated shoulder, we have a more than capable backup on our hands who bailed us out more than once this match. Hats off, Steve. That was a world class save, point blank and somehow directed OVER the net and safely away. Glad you’re with us. Off the pitch
Supporters Player of the Year (SPOTY) With ten goals and eleven assists on the season, it should not come as a surprise that the runaway winner of the Timbers’ 2018 Supporters Player of the Year was Sebastian Blanco. While the fortunes of the team waxed and waned over the year, Blanco remained a constant positive force, having a key role in nearly 40% of all goals scored by the club this season.
Congratulations, Chucky. We’re lucky we have you. Please stay away from pots of boiling water during the postseason.
Team, Town, Timbers Army Thanks to a very generous donation from a Timbers Army and 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST) member, we were able to invite a total of sixty local youth and family members to attend the regular season home closer, some of them for the first time ever. Most of the youth soccer players were past recipients of the generosity of 107IST members. Some, like Portland Public’s own Roosevelt High School soccer team, received uniforms, thanks to member dollars and revenue from merchandise designed and created by supporters to raise funds for 107IST work:
Others received scholarships to play in local soccer, for everything from rec league to regionally competitive teams and affiliates of the Timbers and Thorns, thanks to the generous work of the 107IST charitable organization, the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund (GCSF):
Diego plays for the Saints Soccer Academy in Portland. He wears number 8, just like his hero, @DiegoDv8. Generous donors to @107ist and the Gisele Currier Scholarship Fund have supported Saints Soccer players, allowing them to play rec soccer in PDX. #RCTIDpic.twitter.com/uv5gmkzEvQ
It felt great to have a home game after such a long break, but I certainly hope it isn’t our last one for the year. Let’s see where we stand after next weekend. Next stop: Vancouver away. See you there!
Samuel Armenteros made the most of his start for the Portland Timbers at Commerce Park, capping a jaw-droppingly powerful first regular season strike from the previous week with a lovely brace this past Saturday, leading the Timbers to a 3-2 away victory over the hapless Colorado Rapids. I think it is fair to say that I have been looking forward to a moment like this for awhile:
Me in February:
I think Adi will start but I wish Armenteros would.
I would rather see Armenteros, to be honest. I was just noting that he held up well even though he cannot currently hit the broad side of a barn with any accuracy and my GOD could he please stop getting caught offside (that is the lazy part I assume)
This is hardly rocket science or hot takes or anything. If anybody has seen footage of Armenteros’ work with Heracles in 2016-2017, it is easy to see the combination of finishing quality, power, and finesse that Armenteros brings to the pitch:
And let’s all just take a moment to enjoy that BEAUTIFUL first goal from Saturday, complete with a back heel flick to HIMSELF to set up the goal:
Good LORD that was spectacular, and yes it was the second week in a row that Armenteros won MLS Goal of the Week honors.
I won’t attempt too much of a match recap. Colorado is, to put it mildly, a team that is struggling mightily right now. And if we had been playing against a more capable opponent, they might have done a better job of capitalizing on both our costly errors and on the balance in possession and chances. But here are a few takeaways:
Blanco continues to be awesome. Sebastian Blanco is still as solid a player as ever. When the Timbers were struggling to find their way at the beginning of the season, with five away games and a new coaching staff to start the year, one player consistently performed, initially having a hand in every score in some fashion: Blanco.
That remained true on Saturday as well, with credit for assists on two of the three Timbers goals on the day (one by Armenteros and one by Diego “El Maestro” Valeri) and having significant involvement in the third. While I’m all for a balanced attack and spreading the scoring around, it helps to have somebody as reliably solid in the attack as Blanco.
Rookie mistakes. Poor Julio Cascante also had a hand in both scores for the team, if by “the team” you mean the Rapids. He accidentally deflected a cross from Edgar Castillo into the back of our own net, and then doubled down with a foul on the Rapids’ Dominique Badji that set up a stoppage time penalty awarded to Colorado. The 24-year-old defender stepped into the back line in place of defender Liam Ridgewell.
To Cascante’s credit, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be pressed into this level of service this quickly; and after last week’s early exit by Ridgewell following an injury, Cascante held down the fort admirably against a much more capable Los Angeles FC squad. But while youth often brings speed and agility, it can also bring inconsistency. Here’s hoping that Cascante finds his feet solidly under him this coming Saturday, and that Ridgewell also makes a speedy recovery.
DP = Designated Problem. Coach Gio Savarese has a great problem on his hands: Armenteros has clearly earned the start, but Fanendo Adi is one of three Designated Players on the team. It must be hard to have all of that money riding the bench. But it would be even harder to have Adi start, after the fantastic showing and current form that Armenteros has demonstrated. This could be a problem; or it could be an opportunity.
Recall what happened after an embarrassing loss earlier this season, where veteran player Liam Ridgewell was benched following a less-than-stellar performance that included what appeared to be a central defender checking over his shoulder then continuing simply to jog as he recovered in transition. Here’s what Savarese said at the time:
“I believe that teams have very important players, but those players need to have accountability and need to play as well and push themselves,” Savarese said. “And also everyone on the team needs to feel at every moment their effort in practice and hard work can be rewarded as well. That’s the only thing that will create a great mentality. If a player thinks they are almost a starter, he is going to push to play better and will perform better on the field. That’s the environment we have to create.”
Following a significant period of time on the bench, Ridgewell returned to the field with what looked like a renewed focus and sense of purpose, which he maintained up until the moment of his injury last week. Here’s hoping that when Savarese does give Armenteros the start on Saturday, he continues to demonstrate this philosophy with his players, including Adi, the rest of the week. If we have a healthy competition for starting spots up top, it might wind up making both players’ performance better. And if that means a healthy run up of goals and effort by them both, we all win.
Well, we have several games coming up in the next few days. Looks like you’ll get more than your fill of Sheba recaps. Next up: Los Angeles Galaxy comes to town on Saturday. See you then!
After five performances on the road that ranged from embarrassing to inconsistent (to say the least), and after two thirds of a good game at home that was just enough to allow us to cling to a win, the Portland Timbers finally put in a rock-solid performance for a full 90 minutes this Sunday, handing first-place New York City FC their first defeat of the regular season and earning three points in a decisive 3-0 victory at Providence Park on 4/22. Recap
I will admit, when I saw the starting lineup, I was more than a little intrigued. Jeff Attinella got the start at keeper, which I appreciated. After a stint in the doghouse, Liam Ridgewell was back in the lineup next to Larrys Mabiala in front of the goal, with Alvas Powell and Zarek Valentin filling out the rest of the back line. So far so good.
Then, there was the rest of the lineup. Andres Flores got the nod over Andy Polo. The rest of the starters were unchanged from the week before; but holy cow, was the formation different. Diego Valeri up top with Fanendo Adi? And what was everybody else doing? I’m no expert, but MAN the guys were sitting deep. On paper, it might have been 4-4-1-1 but in practice, it looked more like a 6-2-1-1 or even an 8-0-1-1 at times. It was a fascinating look at what we had always been told that coach Gio Savarese would do: change lineups and formations in response to changing opponents.
In this case, Gio adapted the team’s approach to the opposition, to incredible effect.
You know those “possession with purpose” conversations we used to have with Caleb Porter? This was “give the other team possession, but with purpose.” NYCFC had 75% of the possession, but to what end? Our back 4 (or 6 or even 8 at times) gave NYCFC plenty of opportunities to touch the ball…up to a point.
But as our opponents approached the final third, they were, time and again, forced wide and given little opportunities to punch holes in a solid, well organized back line, that held a clean sheet against the top team in the league. And with Blanco, Valeri, Diego Chara, and Cristhian Paredes ready to pounce on any mistakes, dispossessing NYCFC and setting up the counterattack, it was a recipe for success.
When we did have the ball, we made it count. Sebastian Blanco turned in his usual 110%. He berated himself after the game for having not one but two near misses, but those largely existed in the first place because he worked to make them possible. And then, of course, there was this beauty:
It is always thrilling to see a tiny player score on a well-timed header. (Fun fact, I often refer to Blanco as ArgenTiny.) And the arc of that perfectly played ball was a thing of beauty.
The second goal again came from a counterattack, as first Blanco and then Chara worked to steal the ball and transition quickly. Blanco, Chara, and Valeri made short work of the NYCFC back line. After Sean Johnson was unable to handle Valeri’s strike, Adi was there for the tap-in, and suddenly we were up 2-0:
Alvas Powell showed maturity. I know last year I often said “That’s So Alvas” in frustration, because, while Powell has always shown tremendous potential, it has nearly always been accompanied by a downside. Powell has frequently made brilliant defensive plays, followed immediately by silly fouls and/or laughably bad giveaways, sometimes within seconds of each other.
This game looked different. Besides that beautiful assist to Blanco, there was one moment in particular, late in the game, that comes to mind. Powell had the ball in the corner, running down the clock, where he held it…held it…held it…and then kicked it off the opposing player for a throw-in.
It was perfectly executed. His rookie year he would have held off the other player beautifully, then immediately thrown an elbow for a costly card or made a terrible giveaway pass. Nice work, Alvas. Here’s hoping we see more of this version of Powell on the pitch this season.
Christhian Paredes is a gem. Hard to believe he is only 19 years old. Last week, he assisted in two of our three goals. This week, you know how many times he lost a tackle? Zero. I love his work so far, and I hope he has a long and happy future with the club.
Ridgewell put in a solid performance. While I don’t particularly care for golf, and I am not in the market for board shorts, I really don’t much care about what Ridgewell posts on social media. All I care about is what he contributes to the team, both on and off the pitch.
Liam Ridgewell was a solid defender this game. He was a field general, constantly talking to the rest of the back line and mids. That back line looked extremely well organized for the full 90. I don’t know what the private conversations between coach and player are, and frankly, I don’t care. Given Ridgewell’s and Mabiala’s ages, I am far more worried about having a consistent, healthy center back pairing going forward.
Speaking of healthy, I assume that the only reason Ridgewell got the start was the knee sprain Bill Tuiloma was carrying this weekend. Here’s hoping our older center backs can stay healthy and focused, no matter which pairing is in the starting lineup.
More Samuel Armenteros, please. Yes, Adi had a decent turn. I STILL want to see Armenteros more. Would have been nice to see him around 65′ or 70′ for Adi. He looked hungry and capable during the preseason.
Well done; but it was only one game. The whole “Gio changes the lineup and strategy for each match” thing we were sold on with the new coach? This game looked pretty, pretty, pretty good. But let’s see how it goes on the road. In particular, let’s see how we close out games away from home.
In the stands
Once again, the Timbers Army killed it in the tifo department. As part of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, many supporter groups with membership in the Independent Supporters Council have carried out anti-racism displays. Since our home opener was the prior weekend, this was our first chance to demonstrate our support for ending racial discrimination, and the Timbers Army did not disappoint:
Well, that was fun! Next week we have a bye, followed by another away match, this time against the San Jose Earthquakes. on 5/5. Let’s see if we can manage to take this successful show on the road for a change. In the meantime, rest up, boys, and get ready. The next home game is 5/13 v. the Seattle Sounders. Until then, I’ll see you online!
As of this past Sunday, the Western Conference was still anybody’s for the taking. And even now, it’s down to the wire in the west. Coming into the final week of regular season matches we STILL don’t know who will finish on top, and there is even one playoff spot yet to be decided. I think this actual screen shot from awhile back sums it up best:
The Portland Timbers definitely had some other results fall their way this weekend. Thanks to both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting KC drawing on Sunday against their respective opponents, and with their final two games at home, Portland was poised to make up some ground in the table in their matchup last Sunday against hapless DC United. My only fear going into the game was that perhaps the boys would overlook this match in expectation of the showdown next weekend against Vancouver. Fortunately, while it took them a half to get sorted, the Timbers took care of business, at times in spectacular fashion.
The first half was mostly less than remarkable. While the Timbers had most of the chances, DCU did a serviceable job of frustrating the Timbers’ offense, leading to presses that went nowhere in the final third for most of the half. And then…
Welcome to your nightmare
Poor Steve Clark. He had already been on the receiving end of the fastest goal scored in MLS Cup history when he played for Columbus Crew in 2015, thanks to an all-too-casual back pass from a Crew teammate that Diego Valeri scooped up and sent to the back of the net in the 27th second of MLS Cup final that year. History repeated itself for Clark when Chris Korb sent him an errant back pass, which Darren Mattocks was ready to pounce on. Clark had no choice but to take down Mattocks, which earned Clark a yellow and earned the Timbers a penalty kick, which the maestro coolly slotted home for a 1-0 lead going into the half.
Off to the races
Once the Timbers had scored, DC United was forced to come out of their defensive stance a bit in the second half, and the Timbers made them pay. At 50′, Valeri spotted Alvas Powell open on the right and switch played the ball to him at the top of the 18.
I will readily admit that not five minutes before this, I had been grousing to a seatmate, wondering why Powell was starting and not Zarek Valentin. I’ve talked plenty here about the “That’s So Alvas” show, about Powell’s tendencies to follow a brilliant defensive maneuver by a laughable giveaway, sometimes within seconds of each other. And I thought Valentin had earned the starting spot with his consistent performance over the last stretch of games. I had theorized that maybe putting Mattocks and Powell in the game was just to build their confidence before a possible playoff run or something.
I saw it unfold right in front of me, and I still couldn’t believe the magic I had just witnessed: Valeri’s three juggles to maintain possession and get the perfect touch on the ball; the tap to Blanco, who took two quick touches and tapped it back to Valeri, who one-touched it back to Blanco, whose next touch was a brilliant strike to the top of the far corner of the net. The beautiful game, indeed.
Blanco sealed the deal at 86′ with brilliant solo work threading through several defenders, including Clark:
It was a beautiful second half of footy from the Timbers. A Chilean friend next to me watching the match watched as the boys moved quickly through a series of quick, short, one-touch passes, tilted his head and observed almost quizzically, “Tiki…taka?”
I know, right? Who’d have thought it from watching us earlier this season?
Next Sunday is for all the marbles. If we tie or lose, we will ensure that the Cascadia Cup goes to our hated rivals, the Sounders, and we will finish somewhere between 2nd and 4th in the West, depending on all kinds of scenarios involving a bunch of other teams.
If we win, though…
If we win, we win the Cascadia Cup, we win the west and a first round bye.
We know from experience that you can go all the way from a knockout round to the Cup, so a tie or even a loss will see us through. But I know the simplest scenario:
Week two, and time for our first road game of the regular season, this time against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Last week’s home opener/smackdown was delightful, but what did we have in store today? With an already thin back line plagued by injuries midweek, I wasn’t sure what we were going to see. Would the dazzling offense put on another show? Or would we continue our road woes of 2016?
All the Diegos. People say “box to box” all of the time like they know what it means. I have only been closely following this sport since maybe 2003 and I hear that term thrown around a lot. Today Diego Chara put on a box-to-box clinic at StubHub Center. The last time Chara’s head was involved with a score, also in Carson, it inspired this wonderfully unique tribute video by the Tokyo contingent of the Timbers Army, Tokyo Yosaku. This time, Chara started the run behind his own six and sprinted downfield. As Sebastian Blanco made a long, beautifully chipped aerial pass, Chara barely broke stride as he headed the ball expertly to Diego Valeri on the left, who graciously squared it back to Chara for the score. I could watch this perfect sequence all day. Way to go, Diegos.
Sebastian Blanco. He is indeed All That. That dude is EVERYwhere. When the ball was banging around in the box early on, it was Blanco that cleared it off the line. He hustles back on D, and is just as quick to capitalize on the counter (see “All The Diegos” score above, for example). Maybe it’s just me; he still looks like he mostly connects best with Valeri. When he learns what it takes to feed everyone in the front, I like our chances.
Reaction save. I have a soft spot for Jake Gleeson ever since his magical unbeaten season with the U23 Timbers; but I have always wondered if he would be able to live up to his potential. And I will readily admit that I was not delighted to lose Adam Kwarasey. But Jake did well to keep a clean sheet on the road this match, especially with that reaction save in the 94th minute. It is hardly fair to judge him on a performance behind a back line held together with mostly chewing gum and baling wire, but he did the job today.
Marco Farfan. The Centennial HS senior had his debut MLS start today, and he did not disappoint. He largely owned the sideline in front of him. The bar where I watched the match started serious conversations about what the Timbers Army should get Farfan as a graduation present. This response on Twitter was my favorite.
The game plan. All right, I Know Nothing About Soccer, but goodness sakes, what was that game plan today? Even my cats knew going into this match that we were stronger up top and in the middle, and weaker in the back, where we had Alvas Powell at fullback; two new starters (Roy Miller & Marco Farfan); and Lawrence Olum in the center, who is an acknowledged placeholder for “Awesome Centerback We Are Totally Bringing In During The Summer Transfer Window, I Promise.”
So. When we go up 1-0 and we are also miraculously up a man, do we play to our strengths in the middle and up top? No. For some reason we mysteriously sit back, leaning on the acknowledged weakest part of our lineup, for the better part of the match. I cannot remember the last time I was more nervous and full of dread when we were ahead and up a man. Somebody can maybe explain to me in the comments why, instead of pressing when were were up in points and people, and had the clear advantage in the center of the field, we seemed to be parking the bus, especially when the back line was less of a bus and more of a Yugo.
The red card. I’ll say it. Jelle Van Damme should not have been sent off. I don’t think David Guzmán was simulating, he was genuinely injured, but it had nothing to do with Van Damme. I watched that play a dozen times, and while he was late to the tackle, I really don’t think it warranted a card. Yes, he was hard done by referee Baldomero Toledo, but Van Damme should only have been sitting on a yellow for (legitimate but still cardable) dissent for the first call. I shudder to think what the game would have looked like with Guzman out and Van Damme still in the game. I think Toledo got the call wrong, though as we all know what goes around comes around.
Speaking of Toledo: I hate it when refs become the focus in any match. And, while I have complaints about him, Toledo’s early red to Van Damme actually seemed a bit out of character. I sometimes compare Toledo to that substitute teacher who is terrible at classroom management, who lets everything go to heck in a handbasket until about 1pm, then suddenly starts sending everybody to the office for ticky tack stuff like tapping their pencils on their desks.
My Toledo complaint is usually that he fails to establish control of the match early, then makes up for it with Oprah-like card awards late in the game. This match was kind of the reverse of that pattern. Still a bad call IMO, but as a Timbers partisan it is hard for me to be sympathetic (especially because it was Van Damme). Nonetheless, it was the wrong call.
The 225+ Timbers Army away traveled well. The Southland Irregulars are a large and active branch of Timbers Army away support, and they did an excellent job. In addition to setting up the prefunk and bringing the noise in the stands during the match, they worked with the LA Galaxy front office to organize a Books and Boots drive to benefit local kids. Props, Southland Irregulars. Way to represent.
Ugly wins are still wins, and somehow we still sit at the top of the table with that road win monkey off our backs. I’ll take it. Next stop: Houston at home. See you all Saturday.