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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Portland vs. AFC Ajax — High-Pitched Live Blog Action

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Wed, May 25, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Wanna just go Dutch?

Well, you're in luck, because the Timbers welcome Amsterdam's AFC Ajax (pronounced Eye-Yax) at 7 p.m. tonight for a friendly at the House of Pane.

The game means nothing in terms of MLS standings, but Ajax is soccer royalty, with 111 years of history and a number of soccer luminaries to its name.

The 30-time Dutch Eredivisie league champions carry nine of the 11 starters from their 2011 title squad with them to the Rose City for the last match of their season, including scorers Siem de Jong and Miralem Sulejamani, along with Dutch internationals and 2010 World Cuppers Maarten Stekelenburg and defender Gregory van der Wiel. The Timbers, meanwhile, play DC United (who Ajax beat 2-1 last weekend) on Sunday, so expect to see plenty of reserves in green.

The match is streaming here and can be heard on 750 AM (the new home of formerly FM 95.5 The Game) y en español a 940 AM. Follow along after the jump, for as many Dutch puns I can sneak into 90 minutes of football.

Pregame—They just played the Dutch National anthem (which lasted about as long as it takes to eat a stack of Dutch Baby pancakes) and surprisingly, the Timbers Army did not sing along.

Your Starting XIs:
Portland—Adin Brown in goal. Ryan Pore, Sal Zizzo and Kenny Cooper up front. Adam Moffat, James Marcelin and Peter Lowry at midfield. Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, David Horst and Jeremy Hall on defense. Timbers wearing green jerseys and white shorts. Brunner is the captain. A few regular starters out there for Portland, as well as some guys returning who've been battling injuries.

Ajax—Jeroern Verhoeven in goal. Lorenzo Ebecilio, Aras Ozbiliz and Dario Cvitanich up front, Daley Blind, Siem De Jong and Eyong Enoh at midfield. Vurnon Anita, Jan Gertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Gregory Van Der Wiel on defense. Vertonghen is the captain. Ajax in their home red jerseys with white shorts.

And we're underway ...

2nd minute—Ajax controlling early, showing some good-looking passing technique. They're definitely not wearing wooden shoes out there.

4th minute—Cooper makes a run down the west sideline and is tackled in the box. Ensuing corner kick is played by Lowry and is meant for Ryan Pore but is short.

7th minute—Ajax really possessing well here. The Timbers Army is definitely getting a good view of the action early.

10th minute—Zizzo makes a nice run down the west sideline, and earns a throw-in Ajax's end. Nothing doing, though, as Zizzo goes down in a heap covering his eye.

14th minute—Moffat and Zizzo meet Verhoeven as they go for a ball the Ajax keeper put an extra touch on near the net.

16th minute—Blind runs one down the west side and crosses one in that carries just over the goal into the top of the net. Not a super chance, but Brown was certainly paying attention.

18th minuteAJAX GOAL Ebecilio punches one in from a tight angle on a cross from Van Der Weil. Not much Brown can do about that one, as the Timbers fail to clear. I almost thought offside had been called, because Ajax barely reacted to the goal. No real celebration to speak of. 1-0 Ajax.

22nd minute—Zizzo dances around near the top of the penalty area and launches one that's deflected out to give Portland a corner kick. Ensuing Lowry corner is over the pack cleared.

25th minute—A Marcelin cross is knocked out and Pore fires it from the top of the box, but it's deflected high. Ensuring corner is headed by Brunner, but it goes high. Timbers then back-to-back shots right in front, but both are deflected out. Pore had one from 10 yards out before Zizzo launched one high over the bar.

27th minute—Zizzo again breaks free down the west side and stops on a dime before crossing in. Nothing comes of it, but Zizzo showing that extra gear again.

30th minute—Marcelin plays a long ball down the east sideline for Cooper, who's more offside than any player in Jeld-Wen Field history. Or, at least, a close second.

31st minute—Ozbiliz with another dangerous cross after about 60 consecutive passes. It's headed out, but still a bit too close for Brown's comfort. Ajax starters look like they're trying to put this one away and start that offseason as early as possible.

33rd minute—Lowry plays a 40-yard free kick (earned when Zizzo is tripped from behind after a run through midfield) into a flying Brunner header, but it's gathered up.

36th minute—A Horst steal leads to a 40-yard run and a nice leave-off for Cooper. He then crosses for Lowry, who gets his head on it but sends it wide right. A good chance and a nice three-man weave for Portland.

40th minute—Moffat crosses one into Cooper, but it's deflected. Moffat then gets a shot off but it's high and left of the goal.

43rd minute—Blind nearly adds one for Ajax but Horst gets a leg on it and deflects it left. If he hadn't, a diving Brown probably wouldn't have had a chance on that one. Credit Horstache with the save.

45 minutesAnd that's the half. No stoppage time, but plenty of possession time for Ajax, who controlled the ball and the pace for the first half. Timbers mostly worked with counter attacks and had a couple of chances, but they were few and far between. Ajax leads 1-0.

Halftime—Not sure if this one's a sellout, but there are definitely some empty seats in the stands and in the press box. Saw lots of tickets for sale on Craiglist and out front from scalpers, and figuring they'd see an international reserve game, some season-ticket holders probably decided to stay home. A lovely night here, though,

Some halftime stats: Timbers out-shot Ajax 8-1, though only one of those Portland shots were on-goal. Ajax out-fouled the Timbers 6-1 and Portland led the corner kicks 3-1.

Ajax is staying with the same first-half lineup. For Portland, Futty, Freddie Braun, Brian Umony, Chris Taylor and Eddie Johnson are now in there. Definitely a different look for Portland, as Wallace, Zizzo, Cooper, Hall and Brunner head to the bench.

Second half—And it looks like we're ready to (Van) Gogh...

49th minute—An unforced error by Futty on a cross-field pass that curls into the Nether regions of his own side gives Ajax a corner kick. It's defended but Ajax maintains possession.

52nd minute—Ozbiliz takes a cross and heads inward before blasting a shot right at Horst's chest. He plays it like Happy Gilmore in a batting cage and the Timbers clear.

54th minute—Ajax is so crisp with its passing and its players do a great job finding space. Constant motion with no real formations, but still very fluid. Pretty cool style of play,

56th minute—Marcelin fires one from 25 yards through traffic, but it's gobbled up by Verhoeven. Ajax brings it down and Blind finds space and strikes one from 25 yards that hits the cross-bar. Brown leapt for it, but didn't get a finger on it.

58th minute—Braun earns Portland a corner after his cross is deflected out. Ensuing corner is headed by Horst to Johnson, who volleys one into the post. The rebound is taken by Lowry, who fires one from close range, but it's saved. Two great chances for Portland there.

62nd minute—Rodrigo Lopez in for Lowry, who played a solid game in his return after battling back from an injury. For Ajax, midfielder Demy De Zeeuw enters for Van Der Wiel.

65th minute—Brown nicely reads a through-ball that has an onside Ebecilio bearing down on it. The Timbers keeper slides to it and gathers it up.

68th minute—For Ajax, Oleguer enters for De Jong.

69th minute—Timbers catch a break as Cvitanich gets behind the Timbers defense, but a long pass trips him up.

71st minute—De Zeeuw gets ahead of everybody but Taylor makes up some ground and forces De Zeeuw to run out of room on the goal line.

73rd minute—De Zeeuw fires one from straight on, but it sails over the goal. Second half feeling very similar to the first: Lots of Ajax possession, with the Timbers picking up scraps on the counter-attack.

79th minute—Timbers earn a free kick from about 30 yards out to the right of the goal. Lopez lining it up.

80th minute—Andrew Ooijer in for Cvitanich. Timbers' corner cleared out after a header and Ajax brings it the way down to the other end. After the whistle is blown, Ebecilio fires on toward the goal, but Brown knocks it away before throwing his hands up in offense. A nice save that won't count, and a little bit of chippiness. C'mon, boys, it's a friendly.

82nd minute—Announced sellout of 18,627. Not all of them showed, though.

84th minute—Alhassan entering for Pore. The team's leading assist man enters late here to try to help Portland get the equalizer as Timber Joey fires up the chainsaw. The Dutch fans who made the trip have to be wondering what the hell's going on every time that happens.

86th minute—A couple of blasts from Ozbiliz in front, but Ajax is called offside. Horst, who's been outstanding tonight, comes up limping. The Timbers definitely don't want to see anyone hurt tonight, especially Horst, who's nursing an ankle injury already.

88th minute—An Alhassan cross, a Lopez cross then a Alhassan shot that's deflected. Lopez then crosses one from the left side for Umony, but it's just a bit too far.

89th minuteAJAX GOAL Cross from Ozbiliz is roundhouse kicked in by De Zeeuw to put Ajax up 2-0. That'll do it.

Full TimeAjax wins 2-0. Portland can't make the most of the few opportunities they had tonight and Ajax shows their why their possessive style won the Dutch Eredivisie league this year. Lots of jerseys being exchanged at midfield and a nice ovation from the crowd for both sides. No rounds will be cut tonight, as the Timbers lose for just the second time at The Mill. But it wasn't an MLS match, so it shouldn't sting too much for a team that hosts D.C. United on Sunday. Heading down to the locker room, I'll have video of Spencer's presser and a bit more shortly.

No hanging heads in the Timbers' locker room, as the general consensus was that Ajax was one heck of a tough team and the experience was worth it, especially for guys coming back from injury. Tough to deny the former. I noted Zizzo's continued strong play early and Horst's outstanding all-around play on defense as positives for Portland as both guys show they either deserve to start or the Timbers don't sacrifice much with bringing them off the bench.

Anyway, here's a link to a video of coach John Spencer's full post-game presser, in which he talks about what, if anything, the Timbers can take from the exhibition heading into a return to MLS action on Sunday against DC United.

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