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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Portland vs. West Bromwich Albion — High-Pitched Live Blog Action

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM

The Timbers have captured their first-ever MLS road win and have finally broken a seven-match winless streak.

The hemorrhaging ceased and confidence again on the uptick, Portland welcomes English Premiere League stalwart West Bromwich Albion FC tonight (8 p.m. on 750 AM, 101.1 FM and live-streamed here) for an mid-week international friendly.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time Portland and West Brom have met in Portland. On May 13, 1981, the Timbers fell 1-0 to the "Baggies" in front of 6,770 fans at Civic Stadium. I'm assuming there will be more fans here tonight for the Timbers' third exhibition of the season.

Portland has dropped both of its friendlies (to AFC Ajax and Club América) but with a winning feeling finally permeating the locker room at the House of Pane, is tonight the night to break another skid? Can Portland win its first exhibition as an MLS side?

Join me after the jump as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.

STARTING XIs:
Portland—Adin Brown in goal. Kenny Cooper, Eddie Johnson and Sal Zizzo up front. Peter Lowry, Freddie Braun and Darlington Nagbe at midfield. Chris Taylor, Steve Purdy, Eric Brunner and Jeremy Hall on defense. Brunner is the captain and it appears Portland is sporting its Rose City Red kits. Brian Umony, Bright Dike, James Marcelin, Rodrigo Lopez, Futty Danso and Jake Gleeson on the bench. Brown sporting all yellow.

West Bromwich Albion—Boaz Myhill in goal. Simon Cox at forward. Jerome Thomas, Paul Scharner, Youssouf Mulumbu, James Morrison and Somen Tchoyi at midfield. Nick Shorey, Jonas Olsson, Billy Jones and Gabriel Tamas on defense. Olsson is the captain and West Brom is sporting white shorts and blue-and-white-vertical-striped blouses. One notable absent from the 18 for West Brom: Peter Odemwingie, its leading scorer.

Pregame—Timbers Army is out in full force, and I'm seeing capos atop their stands leading chants. Stadium is slowly filling in on this lovely night downtown, though I'm certain if we're expecting a sellout.

Allison O'Neill just sang "God Save the Queen" and a Union Jack flies in the southwest end of the stadium.

And away we go ...

1st minute—West Brom forward Simon Cox goes down early after Purdy makes the match's first tackles. Slow to get up and now it appears he's tying his shoe. Take your time, bud.

2nd—Nagbe makes his first run of the match and centers to Johnson, who tries to careen it to Cooper. It's out of the big guy's reach and a goal kick coming for West Brom.

4th—A long pass to Johnson and he appears to earn a corner kick with a shot off a West Brom defender, but the ref says it's a goal kick for the visitors.

5th—A poor pass forward gives Portland possession, and the Timbers are showing some patience and control early. A long pass for Zizzo turns into a footrace, and Zizzo manages to earn a throw-in deep in West Brom territory by knocking it off a defender. Hall throw in played into Cooper, but it's over his head.

8th—Timbers taking their time and possessing pretty well early. Quick restart after Braun barrels over a Baggie leads to a shot by Tchoyi, but it buzzes left. A strong shot from distance. That should wake everyone up a bit here.

10th—Some quick passing by Nagbe and Braun and a cross-pitch run by Cooper. A pass goes into the box, but there's nobody home for Portland. Still, Timbers showing a lot more energy than their opponents thus far.

12th—West Brom showing a bit more aggression as Hall and Thomas fight for the ball on the wide left. Timbers earn a throw-in deep in their visitors' zone.

13th—Timbers throw it back and Taylor has to hustle to keep possession on a long cross-field pass. Another long ball goes to Johnson, but it's over his head.

14th—Sal Zizzo is fast. Just sayin'.

15th—Tchoyi with a nice back-footed flick to play it forward, but Hall is all over it and Portland re-gains possession. Brunner attempts a looooong switch diagonally across the pitch, but it's long past Taylor.

17th—Nagbe and Lowry play a little one-two game and Nagbe then touches one to himself, goes around a defender and slams a shot from just outside the 18-yard box. Myhill forced to tip it and it's a corner for Portland. Corner is cleared, but good to see Nagbe showing some aggression and taking a confident shot.

18th—A throw-in goes to Johnson in front, but he can't find a handle and West Brom defends it well. Cleared out and the Baggies are on the attack.

20th—Nagbe with a run up the middle and leaves one for Cooper, but he's knocked to the pitch and West Brom attacks. A footrace ensues, and Mulumbu fires one from distance that forces Brown off his perch. He uses every bit of his frame to get a save on it, and Brunner is fouled.

21st—Thomas breaks down Brunner and threatens deep in the Timbers' box. His shot is deflected by Purdy, and Brown easily plucks it out of the air.

22nd—Ensuing possession leads to a Cooper shot from the left, but he mis-hits enough to make the refs discuss whether it was deflected. It wasn't, and West Brom gets it back.

24th—Hall with a long ball that's headed forward by Zizzo, but it's out of Johnson's reach and grabbed by Myhill. West Brom picking up its aggression as Zizzo with yet another nice run down the west sideline. Johnson goes down just outside the box. He squirms, but he's back on his feet after a minute.

26thTIMBERS GOAL Nagbe with a great run up the middle and dumps a pass off right to Johnson, who slams one low and hard that goes just inside the far post. Johnson's first (non-reserve) goal of the season, and that has to be a special moment for the Englishman and product of Manchester United's youth academy. Nagbe with the assist, and boy, he looks confident out there. Portland leads, 1-0.

28th—A long shot from West Brom is out of Brown's reach, but it nails the support beam and lets out a sigh of relief from Timbers Army.

29thTIMBERS GOAL Lowry takes one from Zizzo and blasts a left-footed shot from just outside the box. No doubt about that one. He got the ball about 25 yards out on the left side, took a couple of touches and no WBA players stepped up, so he let 'er rip. A clean strike and a big moment for Lowry, who's struggled with injuries all season. Love his reaction. Nothing crazy, just sort of stands there and pumps a fist. Zizzo with the assist and it's 2-0 Portland.

32nd—Fans are fired up, and so is Cox, who's spent lots of time on his backside in this match so far. Corner kick coming after a dangerous tackle in the box by Lowry.

33rd—Corner cleared out with a Hall header and it goes right to Billy Jones, who hammers one from distance. It appears to go in the net, but evidently it hit the backing support post (seems like West Brom's hit that thing three times in this half so far).

35th—Long ball for Johnson, but after a West Brom defender gets to it first, Johnson sort of gives up on the play and jogs toward the southwest corner. The Baggie defense, however, flubs the ball, and if Johnson would've been paying attention, it would've been easy pickings. Oops.

38th—A long ball chested down by Hall, who gets it back to Brown. Timbers happy to take their time with possession, but perhaps are a bit too timid as Taylor misses Braun making a cross-field run.

40th—Lowry chips one down the west sideline for a sprinting Zizzo, who gathers it in just short of the goal line. Zizzo shanks it, however, and buries his head in his hands. Would've loved to get a corner at least there.

41st—Lowry hammered twice at midfield, and the second body-blow earns a yellow card for Cox. First card of the night, and well-earned.

42nd—Zizzo pass forward to Johnson is a bit too good, and Johnson's called offside. West Brom comes right back and earns a corner kick after Lowry seems to mis-clear it, but it's played well over the pack and nothing too scary.

43rd—Cooper with a run down the east side, flanked by Taylor, who gets one into Johnson. He fires one, and it's defended over the goal line. Ensuing corner played well over the pack by Zizzo, but a foul earns Portland a dangerous corner.

44th—Bad pass from Lowry leads to a 3-on-2 chance for West Brom, but Cox can't execute and his cross is out of the reach of Thomas. No injury time expected here in this friendly.

HALFTIMETimbers lead 2-0 and Portland looks pretty good. They're controlling the pace and showed patient possession, quick passing and aggression for all 45 minutes. Nagbe is looking very comfy out there, and you get the feeling he's ready to be unleashed.

Some stats: Portland out-shot West Brom 6-5, but the Baggies out-fouled the Timbers 6-3. Portland had 3 shots on goal to West Brom's 2, and Brown nabbed two saves.

Portland subs: Lopez in for Nagbe and Futty in for Brunner. Gleeson is also in goal for Brown. Lowry takes over the captain's armband for Brunner. And we're back at it ...

47th—Some pinball on the east end as most of the action's at midfield here. Looks like West Brom is hoping to net one early here as they're matching Portland's aggression out of the locker room.

48th—Cooper with a nice play to earn Portland a corner kick. Lopez brings it in near-side, but it's cleared out. Timbers maintain possession and play it back.

50th—Cox crosses a left-footer in, but nobody in stripes is there. Gleeson lines up a goal kick.

51st—Zizzo sticks a leg to to make a steal and Hall with a nice chip forward to Cooper. Not much of a threat and it's played back. Timbers showing patience here. Not in a hurry at all.

52nd—A West Brom steal and Cox is allowed to turn and make a run. Ball played just outside the box and Braun wisely clears it. Johnson hustles to it and earns Portland a throw in. Ensuing throw goes to Braun, who makes a nice pass to Taylor. He crosses to the northeast end, and nobody sees Cooper alone in the box.

53rd—A long run by Tchoyi is snuffed out Purdy, who makes a good tackle in the box. A corner is played toward the back post, and cleared, but it's a throw-in for West Brom.

55th—Another corner for West Brom, but nothing doing.

56th—Timbers possessing on their back line, taking their time. Played back to Gleeson, who dribbles around a bit and then hammers a goal kick all the way to Myhill. That's a boot.

57th—Nice defense by Portland as Morrison and Tamas go back-and-forth at the top of the area. Portland steps in front, though, and Portland takes over possession.

59th—Cooper muscles his way around two defenders and blasts one from distance. It's deflected ... or is it? Ref awards West Brom a goal kick, but that's a pretty terrible call. Fairly obvious that one was deflected. Not even a struggling Cooper's going to miss that badly.

60th—Lopez knocked to the pitch and it's another foul on Cox, who's looking a bit frustrated out there. Cooper gets ahead and is taken down, but no foul called.

61st—Cooper makes a cross-field run and is taken down from behind, but a foul is called and we'll have a free kick from 30 yards out. Brian Umony in for Zizzo and Ishmael Miller is in for Cox.

62nd—Cooper blasts it, but it's just wide right.

63rd—Cooper active here, as he draws a foul near the west sideline. West Brom gets it right back and Miller blasts a left-footed shot right at Gleeson, who knocks it away. It's not quite cleared out and Tamas is taken down by Umony as he tries to exit the box. The ref's pointing at the spot and it'll be a PK for West Brom. Tough call there.

64th—Morrison goes right and has Gleeson completely fooled, but the shot goes wide right. BALL DON'T LIE. Timbers dodge a bullet there.

65thWEST BROM GOAL Morrison gets that one the hard way. He dribbles between two defenders and fires one from the corner of the box right-footed. He beat Gleeson in the lower left corner. Assist for Mulumbu. Great shot beats a diving Gleeson, and the Timbers lead 2-1. This should be an interesting last 25.

66th—Dike in for Cooper.

67th—Braun strikes one from just outside the box, but Myhill goes high to get his second save of the night.

68thWEST BROM GOAL Tchoyi gets the equalizer right in front after catching up to a bouncing ball and beats Gleeson. He holds off Purdy and puts it home. We're tied at 2. Timbers give up two goals in three minutes after getting lucky on a missed PK.

71st—Taylor knocks a long ball to Dike, who earns a throw-in with his physical play. It's played back and Portland slows things down a bit and possesses on its back line. Portland needs to try and re-gain control of this one.

72nd—Tchoyi tries to cross, but Purdy is there to block it. Ball goes high (infield fly rule) and Gleeson runs under it.

73rd—Tchoyi with another nice run, but Portland defends. He's really stepping up late here and showing a different gear.

74th—Braun knocked down at midfield by Mulumbu and takes a moment to gather himself. Good idea to slow West Brom's momentum a bit. Not that he'd do that on purpose ...

76th—Pass goes into the box for Tamas, who attempts to put one into the six-yard box. Timbers are on it and Gleeson lines up a goal kick. Portland weathering the storm a bit here.

77th—Marc Antoine Fortune in for Thomas. George Thorne in for Scharner.

79th—Braun nicely reads a pass and steals one at midfield. He and Dike lead the charge, and Braun fires one from outside the box, but it's harmlessly wide right.

81st—Miller tries to get one past Braun, but he defends it well. Jones then tries to play one into the box, but it slides past everyone and Gleeson will have a goal kick. Long ball then played for Miller, who fires one from the right corner of the box. It doesn't go far, as Taylor knocks it down.

82nd—Tchoyi nearly nets one and Gleeson gets enough of a fingertip on it to send it to the post. Rebound fired from just outside the box, but it goes wide left. Gleeson wouldn't have had any chance at it.

83rd—Marcelin in for Johnson. Long ball for Miller looks dangerous, but Gleeson comes out and slides to grab it.

84th—Miller's left-footed shot is deflected and a corner's coming. Sellout crowd announced, but I see some empty seats. Corner played right at Gleeson, who bobbles it a bit but maintains control. Didn't matter: Ball went over the end-line and it's whistled dead.

85th—West Brom really controlling this one now. After a Portland giveaway, Miller fires one off from 25 yards, and Gleeson is forced to the air for a save. Corner coming. It comes in back-post, and Morrison gets a shot off that hits the post. Phew.

87th—Wow, West Brom has arrived. They're peppering Gleeson right now. A Jones cross sends Gleeson flying and another cross finds an un-marked Tchoyi, who blasts one just inside the near post. Gleeson goal kick quickly taken away by West Brom, who look like they're on the brink of stealing this one.

88th—They announce the Sounders-ManU score (7-0 guess who) and the fans let out a roar.

89th—Timbers holding on for dear life. Gleeson goal kick headed forward to Umony, but he can't get to it. Ensuing West Brom run leads to a Miller shot, but Gleeson goes down and gets it.

90th—One minute of stoppage.

Stoppage: WEST BROM GOAL Holy shit, what a goal. Tamas absolutely blasts one past Gleeson with just 15 seconds left in the match. The Portland keeper gets a fingertip on it, but it gets by him. And he's not happy: The Kiwi's head is buried in his towel, and man, you can't take anything away from Tamas on that one. He just went into Beast Mode and fired that one with world-class precision. PKs? Nah. Tamas ends it with a screamer from 30 yards out. Wow.

FULL TIME: West Brom wins, 3-2. Portland gives up three unanswered second-half goals, including one in the final seconds to let this one slip away. What a finish, though Portland fans hoping to see a PK shootout were send home disappointed. A tough loss for Portland, but certainly an exciting finish for football fans. Still, that's three exhibition losses for the Timbers, who don't have much time to dwell on this one, as they travel tomorrow for Saturday's match at Columbus.

Back from the field, and both West Brom coach Roy Hodgson and Timbers coach John Spencer were pleased with how this exhibition went. Lots of praise for Tamas' goal, and the feeling among Portland players Eddie Johnson and Peter Lowry (the only two Timbers to come out of the locker room and speak to media—though most of us wouldn't have minded hearing from Gleeson) was that the positives outweigh the GIANT negative of blowing a two-goal, second-half lead. Spencer also noted Nagbe's excellent play, saying it was the best performance he's seen out of the club's first-ever SuperDraft pick. Can't say I disagree.

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