So, the world didn't end, and you suddenly have no plans. Well, things are just beginning get interesting for the Timbers, who find themselves in the thick of playoff chatter (yeah, I know it's early) thanks in large part to a flawless home record.
Portland (4-3-2) is putting perfection on the line tonight against the Columbus Crew (3-2-4), a club that's had as much trouble on the road as the Timbers have had success at home. Watch along on Fox 12, listen on 95.5 FM (for now) and follow along here as I live-blog all the action on and off the pitch from high atop my press-box perch at the
House of Pane The Mill/Bowl of the Woods/Civic Stadium.
Pregame—A lovely night, though some dark clouds on the horizon are threatening. Fans are filling in (though a few sections on the north end are already maxed out, of course).
Your Starting XI:
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper up front. Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chará, Jack Jewsbury and Darlington Nagbe at midfield. Rodney Wallace, Futty, Eric Brunner and Jeremy Hall on D. Captain Jack is wearing the band. Timbers sporting the white shorts and Perkins is in the baby blues.
Columbus—William Hesmer in goal. Emilio Renteria and Tommy Heinemann up front. Robbie Rogers, Dejan Rusmir, Emmanuel Ekpo and Eddie Gaven at mid. Rich Balchan, Julius James, Chad Marshall and Sebastian Miranda on defense. Marshall is the captain and the Crew are wearing all yellow. Not their best look.
Awesome rendition of the national anthem by Hannah Wilson and perhaps the loudest post-nationalism cheer of the year so far from the Timbers Army. The joint is looking packed and flags are a'waving as the teams huddle on the east sideline. This place is pretty jacked up. Feels like even more energy than the opener from where I'm sitting.
Aaaaaaaand, we're underway! A lovely night for the beautiful game. If Portland scores early, I get the feeling this place is going to implode.
2nd minute—Nagbe shows some fancy footwork and Cooper makes a nice run, but it's a touch too much and it leads to a Portland throw-in deep in the Crew's end. Cooper already showing more life than he did up in Seattle.
3rd minute—Awesome sign in front of the Timbers Army, in big, green letters on white sheets: "RAPTURED."
5th minute—Columbus isn't exactly aggressive with their possession. Back-line's really controlling, which is reminiscent of Real Salt Lake. Maybe that's why they haven't scored a first-half goal all season? Timbers are pretty much letting them do their thing, except for Jeremy Hall, who's getting after anyone near him should they have the ball.
9th minute—A collision in the box and Perlaza is called offside. The crowd doesn't like it. And, yeah, they wouldn't.
11th minute—Heinemann gets a header on a corner right in front, but his teammate Renteria gets in the way and the Timbers dodge a bullet early. Perkins not pleased, though I'm sure he's relieved.
14th minute—Perlaza makes a long run (Dude runs so upright!) and fires one off, but it's wide left.
15th minute—Nagbe gets into space and makes a run, and the rookie makes a nice cross that's gathered in even more nicely by Jewsbury. Nothing doing, though. Timbers are showing a bit more fire than they came out with and definitely have the advantage as far as wheels go.
18th minute—Wallace gets his pocket picked and Alhassan is called for a pretty dubious foul. Favor returned as Renteria knocks down Brunner.
20th minute—A nice tackle by Hall leads to a Nagbe run, but Jewsbury is called for a foul at midfield. The physical play has definitely picked up a bit.
23rd minute—Perlaza gets a long ball from Futty and draws a foul trying to reverse course in the Columbus' west corner. Jewsbury setting up a free kick that's essentially a short corner. Dangerous time for Columbus, but Capt. Jack's boot is long and it's a goal kick for Columbus. A good opportunity there. On the other end, Marshall picks up a yellow. Matches his ugly kit, at least.
26th minute—Renteria downed in the Timbers' end and the trainer's out to take him off the field. Shouting in what appears to be some Portland players' direction as he walks off. Not exactly endearing himself to the Army.
29th minute—Perlaza gets one in the box from Alhassan and fires one left-footed from 15 out that doesn't get through traffic. Caught it well, but the Crew's defense is there to deflect it out for a Timbers' throw-in.
32nd minute—Timbers passing is crisp, but the first touches are somewhat clunky. Cooper gets ahead on a counter and makes his way just outside the penalty area to fire a shot. It's wide left and high, but a good idea to get the keeper thinking.
33rd minute—Timbers called offside. Interesting interpretation.
35th minute—Brunner plays a long ball into the box on a free kick and Jewsbury is knocked down as soon as he plays it off his chest. Goal kick for Columbus and Jewsbury continues to be upset at the referee. Cooper then gets ahead and is taken down from behind by James. He's about as pleased with the Columbus defender and Capt. Jack is with the refs.
37th minute—A collision at the top of the box earns Cooper a yellow card. Looks like a retaliatory move after he was fouled just outside the box.
38th minute—Andres Mendoza is coming in for Renteria. Mendoza sporting the Paulie Walnuts wing-tips. Wow.
39th minute—Free kick taken by Cooper, who blasts it low and into the wall. Cleared to safety by Columbus.
41st minute—James gets another shot on Cooper and it's another free kick for Portland. Jewsbury mis-strikes it a bit (first time we've seen that all year) and it floats into the box and into the waiting arms of Hesmer.
42nd minute—Wing-tips plays a beautiful cross after a throw-in and Heinemann has a flying header that Perkins deflects with an outstanding diving save. Whoa. A corner leads to nothing but the Crew may have caught the Timbers' D sleeping a bit there.
44th minute—Columbus has definitely been the aggressor the final 10 minutes of this half. A couple of good chances late and Portland's on its heels.
45 minutes—One minute of injury time.
Halftime—We're scoreless. The Crew appear to be playing their game and are in the familiar position of being nil-nil at the half. Portland had its chances, but appeared to downshift in the final few minutes of the half. A very physical game, and Mr. Referee is letting plenty go. Columbus isn't afraid to mix it up. Perlaza has caught my eye the most in the first half, though I like what I'm seeing out of Nagbe, as well. Only a matter of time before the rookie does something spectacular.
Second half—We're back at it. Sal Zizzo gets an early check-in, coming in for Nagbe at the half. Nagbe still nursing that sore groin?
46th minute—TIMBERS GOAL! Jewsbury free kick on a quick re-start played by Alhassan into Brunner, who heads it into the back of the net from straightaway. Another goal on a set piece for Portland, and a PERFECT start to the second half for the home team. 1-0 Portland. Well, that certainly didn't take long. And, almost on queue, the rain begins to fall. Brunner's first goal as a Timber (against his old team) and Alhassan's team-leading fifth assist.
48th minute—Another free kick for Jewsbury and it's a hard cross sent for Futty, but Hesmer makes the save.
52nd minute—Zizzo plays a nice cross for Alhassan, but it's cleared out. Ensuing corner kick is headed by Brunner, but gathered in by Hesmer.
54th minute—I tell you what, Timbers fans have to love seeing Nagbe develop, but Zizzo is again playing at a very high level. Start-worthy stuff, for sure, but Zizzo's definitely a great guy to have coming off the bench.
55th minute—Free kick for Columbus doesn't lead to anything as Wallace is knocked down in the box for a foul.
57th minute—Another guy who's playing well? Jeremy Hall, who just made a couple of nice tackles in front of the east grandstand.
60th minute—Wing-tips takes a left-footed shot in front, but Perkins dives to his left to gather it in. A decent chance there for the Crew.
61st minute—Interesting stat via the Timbers' twitter account (@PortlandFC): "The Timbers have scored first in all five home games and conceded first in all five road games this season."
64th minute—Perlaza crosses from the right side and gets it to Alhassan, who settles it in and fires a shot that goes just wide and high. Good chance for Portland, who got exactly what they wanted but just couldn't convert.
65th minute—For Columbus, Dilly Duka (yeah, Dilly Duka) enters for Rusmir.
66th minute—Dangerous free kick from Gaven has a bit too much heat on it and sails through the box. Timbers get the throw-in and continue to control the action in this second half so far.
69th minute—Alhassan again looking for the upper right corner, but again his shot goes high and wide. That scoring chance? Brought to you by Zizzo.
70th minute—Correction: Mendoza's hair is not dyed wing-tipped. It is, in fact, a 'do rag on his head meant to look like wing-tipped stripes. Not sure if that makes it better, but I figured I should clarify.
73rd minute—Perlaza is bowled over by Marshall, and the Timbers will have another free kick about five yards in from the corner. Jewsbury fires it in, but Hesmer is there to nab it.
74th minute—Heinemann has a dangerous header that catches Perkins off-guard, but it goes wide left. Heinemann, who's caused the Timbers plenty of problems tonight, is then promptly taken out for MLS' second all-time career scorer, Jeff Cunningham.
78th minute—Another corner coming for Portland after Wallace tries to cross and knocks it off Miranda. Jewsbury's on it, but there's too much juice on it. The captain's corners haven't been as crisp tonight. You have to think his sore groin is playing into that a bit.
80th minute—Columbus plays a sneaky one in, and Perkins comes bounding out and jumps on top of it. The Crew are beginning to wake up here.
82nd minute—Perlaza gets ahead and is again taken down from behind, which earns James a yellow card. As James rolls around on the ground a bit, Brunner casually walks into the goal and much to Hesmer's chagrin, takes a drink from his water bottle. Awesome. Free kick is taken by Alhassan, but it's knocked down.
84th minute—Ryan Pore in for Perlaza. No points on the stat sheet for the Colombian, but he stretched the Crew defense all night. A performance worthy of a big ovation, which is just what he gets from the crowd.
86th minute—A couple more chances for Portland, including a shot from straight on by Jewsbury. But it's swallowed up by Hesmer.
87th minute—Columbus nearly nets one from the top of the box, but it slides just past the right post.
88th minute—Attendance is 18,627. The fifth straight sellout here.
89th minute—James Marcelin enters for Alhassan.
90 minutes—Three minutes of stoppage.
Stoppage—Timbers keeping it in the Crew's end so far and making some long passes to kill time. Portland earns a free kick from inside of midfield and continue to play keep-away.
Zizzo is brought down after Cooper shows some fancy footwork to get it to him. Free kick played back as the Timbers look to run the clock out.
FULL TIME—TIMBERS WIN, 1-0. Portland is still perfect, 5-0 at home and is now in second place in the Western Conference. A dagger to start the second half took Columbus completely out of its rhythm and Portland held on for the victory. Headed down the locker room. I'll be back in a few with more thoughts and a link to Spencer's post-game presser. I imagine he'll be pleased.
Back from the locker room, and yeah, the team is pretty pleased. Tried to pry some gloating out of Brunner, who scored his first goal as a Timber against the team who let him get away in the expansion draft, but to no avail. Spencer was as bubbly as I've seen him and relayed a story about texting Brunner last night that a Crew player was "going to kick his ass." I chatted with Brunner about that, along with Ryan Pore, and will have both those audio interviews during my re-cap tomorrow.
But, final thoughts: Fifteen points in five home matches. Yes, this team needs to show it can win on the road. But it's no fluke the Timbers are in second place out west. They're downright dominant at home and whether it's the crowd, the home cooking or the shitty weather, it's working. Little expansion Portland has certainly come a hell of a long way since tentative, less-than-confident squad that opened with a dud at Colorado and sleepwalked through Toronto. This team looks dangerous, and if you're a Timbers fan, dangerous is good.
Oh, and as promised, here's Spencer's presser, in all its full, unedited, *shaky* glory.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!