The Timbers have been hospitable hosts this season to their international exhibition opponents. Maybe a bit too hospitable.
Ajax, Club America and West Brom—each left the House of Pane with wins, but on a picture-perfect night in the Rose City, Portland hopes to claim victory in its final friendly of the season, an 8 p.m. match against Independiente of Argentina (750 AM, 101.1 FM and live streamed here).
With a "massive" slate of two Major League Soccer home matches upcoming (you know, the ones that count?), don't expect to see (m)any starters tonight, but with the possibility of going 0-for in friendlies staring them in the face, expect the Timbers to come out aggressive and show some pride against "El Rojo."
Click past the jump as I deftly describe the action, on and off the pitch.
Independiente—Hilario Navarro in goal. Leonel Nunez and Facundo Para up front. Cristian Pellerano, Hernan Fredes, Nicolas Cabrera and Ivan Perez at midfield. Julian Velazquez, Eduardo Tuzzio, Cristhian Baez and Maximilliano Velazquez on defense. Tuzzio is the captain and Independiente is sportingblue shorts and red tops.
Portland—Adin Brown in goal. Eddie Johnson and Kenny Cooper up front. Brian Umony, Freddie Braun, Peter Lowry and Sal Zizzo at mid. Mike Chabala, David Horst, Steve Purdy and Jeremy Hall on defense. Horst is the captain and the Timbers are sporting their usual green jerseys.
Pregame—It's starting to fill in here at Jeld-Wen, and there was some tension on the sidelines after someone in Timbers Army put up a sign that apparently didn't translate into something an Independiente staffer wanted to read. He yelled up to the Timbers fans in Spanish then ripped the sign down. A JW-F staffer came over the convene, but the sign was balled up and it's no longer there.
And speaking of TA, its section is packed to the brim and flags are waving. I'm told seven of Indy's starters are regular. Also, tonight marks the debut of Chabala, who just came over in the Houston deal.
And away we go ...
1st minute—Indy came right after Portland's backline after the kickoff. A long ball for Cooper goes into the box, but he can't get control of it, collides with Navarro and goes to the turf. Weird.
3rd—Timbers slow to close and Nunez fires a shot that's deflected out by a Portland defender. Indy's first corner kick and played out and Umony gets ahead, but is knocked down to draw a foul.
4th—Zizzo turns on his extra gear and earns a corner. He takes it, and it's knocked out. Second chance goes near post and Horst heads it toward Cooper, but it's defended well. Ensuing Indy possession cut short after an Indy foul.
5th—Cooper is fouled hard and on a quick re-start, Johnson gets a nice cross from Chabala, and what looks like a handball isn't called. Well, it wasn't called the ref, though everyone in green certainly called it.
7th—Indy with a couple of chances. Two crosses from Cabrera, and his second one leads a full-footed shot, but it goes wide left. Timbers fortunate to not yield an early goal there.
8th—Johnson with a little flick to Zizzo, but it's over his head and into the corner. Timbers try to pin Indy back in its own end.
9th—Through-ball to Parra looks promising for Indy, but Horst out-muscles him for the ball and saves a one-on-one opportunity.
10th—Fredes shows skill to get off a cross, but it's right to Brown. Ensuing Timbers possession leads to some nice touch passes from Braun to Cooper to Umony. Ball actually sneaks past Navarro, but it's not a threat.
12th—Zizzo looking as speedy and dangerous as usual. His quickness appears to be surprising Indy a bit here. It's early, but I'm also liking Purdy's aggressiveness. Chabala looks pretty comfy out there, as well.
13th—Braun plays one forward to Umony, who blasts one that's immediately deflected. Not quite far enough to lead to a corner, though.
14th—Ouch. Cooper just got nutmegged in a major way. When it rains, it pours.
16th—Best sequence so far for Portland. Lowry is tripped but somehow gets the pass off. It finds its way to Hall, who crosses in front and forces the Indy D to concede a corner. Ensuing corner is waaaaaay over the pack.
17th—A close call for Indy's D as Chabala chips one ahead to Lowry, who one-touch dives/shoots but it's well over the goal.
19th—Indy knocking it around with ease and creeping into Portland's half. It lulls the Timbers' D to sleep and a nice pass sneaks just out of the reach of Nunez.
20th—Parra fires one from 40 yards out, but Brown is all over it. The Portland keeper then wags his finger at the Indy striker as if to say, "Nada."
22nd—Hall presses forward and finds Zizzo on a nice ball. Corner kick upcoming for Timbers, their fourth of the night. Corner is well over the pack again, but a handball from 30 yards out gives Portland a free kick.
24th—Cooper strikes it on-frame, but Navarro plays it safe and knocks it over the cross bar. Second free kick defended easily.
27th—Nunez with an attempted through ball, but it's long and out of reach. Timbers throw-in goes to Johnson and Umony is up-ended to earn another foul.
28th—Cabrera with a long run, but once in the box, he's defended well by Hall, who calmly holds him off and clears it.
29th—Nunez with a shot, deflected by Chabala, and it's a corner for Indy. And whoa, after a nice service finds a wide-open Parra in front, his free header flies just high. Timbers dodge one there.
31st—Cooper takes on two Indy defenders after switching sides with Zizzo and he's immediately rewarded with a foul in the northwest corner. Perez earns a yellow and Chabala's lining up the free kick from the corner.
32nd—Kick swings in and after Purdy gets a touch on it, Umony heads it off the right post. Didn't get much on it, but enough to get past Navarro and give TA something to yell about. A close call there and nearly a goal for Portland.
34th—Johnson dances around the box and crosses toward Zizzo, but Navarro jumps on top of it.
36th—PORTLAND GOAL A quick throw from the wing and Johnson with a great backdoor pass to a cutting Zizzo. He right-foots it under Navarro and the Timbers lead 1-0.
37th—Timbers Army chanting "ZI-ZZO!"
38th—Another free kick, and Chabala lines it up just inside midfield, about 40 out.
39th—PORTLAND GOAL A perfect service goes right into the front of the scrum and Umony finishes it with a header that floats over Navarro. It's 2-0 Timbers and they're not letting up one bit.
41st—Another yellow on another Indy handball. Julian Velazquez gets this one and Chabala lines one up about five yards in from where he delivered the last free kick. This one's defended much better by the Indy D, but Portland maintains possession.
44th—After Portland pretty much dominated possession over the past few minutes, a stunned Indy sort of wakes up and tries to work their offense. Good defending by Portland, though, which is keeping its shape and staying calm.
45th—Velazquez crosses for Parra, but Purdy steps in front. Lowry controls despite being on his back and it leads to a nice cross from Hall for a streaking Cooper. Indy defends it and a corner upcoming. One minute of extra time. Corner played in but Purdy commits a foul and the whistle blows.
HALFTIME—Timbers lead 2-0 after an impressive offensive flurry in the final 10 minutes. Indy players meet at mid-field and don't look happy. An aggressive, impressive first-half performance from the Timbers, who've been in this position before. Can they hold a lead this time? Looks like Gleeson is warming up, meaning he'll get another chance at holding a lead. That didn't work out so well against West Brom, but this looks like a much more focused Timbers team at the moment. Zizzo, Chabala and Hall are particularly impressive from where I'm sitting.
Some stats: Portland out-shot Indy 8-5 and had six corners to Indy's two. Portland won the shots-on-goal tally 3-1 and both cards were on the visitors.
And we're back at it ... Gleeson is indeed in goal for Portland. A grip of subs for Indy.
47th—Umony picks up the handball as both teams are slow to attack early here.
48th—Umony with a steal and nice run into the area, but he's double-teamed before he can get a cross off to Cooper.
49th—Ferreyra with a blast on-goal that fools Gleeson a bit, but he knocks it away. Portland quickly recovers and plays a long ball to Johnson, who gets a nice strike on it but Navarro gathers it in.
52nd—Lowry almost gets kicked in the head, then backs Julian Velazquez all the way to his own goal line. Somehow, a corner is not called. Zizzo plays one forward to Lowry and with Johnson getting all the attention in the middle, Cooper is able to sneak down the left side. The pass is too long, however, and it's picked up by Navarro.
53rd—Braun knocked down and it's an Indy foul. He's back up and a free kick 10 yards inside Portland's half is played forward and taken by Indy.
55th—Velazquez plays a cross in that's on-frame, but Gleeson's all over it.
56th—Zizzo with a nice steal at midfield, and Rodrigo Lopez checks in for Sal before a Timbers throw-in. Another great performance for Zizzo, who picked up his first goal with the first team tonight. A bit surprised he came out at all in the second half. To me, he's earned some time on for Saturday's match against Toronto.
58th—Chabala plays one long for Johnson, but he's offside. A good idea, and if you're a Timbers fan, a good sign of Chabala's comfort with these guys already.
59th—Braun is hammered at midfield by Cristian Pellerano, who picks up a yellow. Indy showing a lot more aggression that they did in the first 45 thus far.
60th—Ferreyra works his way around Hall, and centers it. But Gleeson is there and he takes his time bringing it out. No need to rush with a 2-0 lead.
62nd—Indy taking its time on possession here and trying to lull Portland to sleep. Not happening so far. A bleeder finds it way to Gleeson, who boots it on the roll to midfield.
64th—A steal at midfield leads to a run with numbers for Indy, but Ferreyra tries to be a bit too cute with a cross and Hall easily heads it to Gleeson. Should've shot it, especially against a fresh keeper.
65th—Bright Dike in for Johnson.
66th—A foul in a dangerous spot leaves Indy with a free kick from just under 35 yards out. Kick goes right into the Timbers' wall.
68th—I've said it before and I'll say it again. Even from way up here in the press box, Bright Dike is a large man.
69th—Fredes does very well to control a pass and plays a great ball forward to Perez. He has an angle, but his shot is hammered high. A better first touch, and he scores.
71st—Chaos in front as Gleeson makes a big save on a Fredes shot through traffic. Dike breaks down the field and beats one defender, but the second forces his shot out and it's a corner. Nothing doing on it, and possession changes hands.
73rd—Cooper is taken down heard just outside the Northwest corner of the box. Free kick from Lopez is low and not exactly threatening, and it's played out.
74th—Umony appears to have a path in the box, but he came from an offside possession. Indy ball.
75th—Chabala with a great tackle in the box and then plays it off an Indy forward. Initially called a throw-in for the visitors, but Chabala's (and Timbers Army's) lobbying pays off and Timbers get the throw.
77th—Indy doing lots of switches and Timbers are starting to fall for it a bit and losing their shape. Hall with a nice run down the west sideline and it leads to a Lopez throw deep in Indy's end.
78th—Timbers Army doing an encore presentation of its Tetris dance. Moving in unison while hopping up and down. TA provides a great show while some desperate, ugly soccer plays out on the field.
81st—Horst taken down near the east sideline. Free kick from just outside of midfield finds Dike, but he's offside.
83rd—Some chippy play at midfield here as this one winds down. Purdy fouls Defrederico but Hall gets a yellow for arguing. Horst and Hall are arguing with some Indy players, and things are testy.
85th—Free kick from about 25 yards out, straight on. It goes right at Horst, who knocks it down.
86th—Lopez picks up a yellow as Indy gets another free kick. It's sent in deep and well over the goal as Timbers Army is really raising the volume here.
87th—Lots of physical play at midfield as Indy looks to get something—anything—going here.
88th—Nunez tries to chip one into the box, but Horst gets a head on it to slow it down and Gleeson gobbles it up.
89th—Chabala with a steal (what a great debut for him tonight) and Portland has a midfield throw-in.
90th—Dike shows some moves and after a Lopez steal, RoRo fires one from distance that's deflected out. Short corner to Cooper, who immediately picks up a smart foul to bleed more time. Two minutes of stoppage.
Stoppage—Defrederico chips one weakly to Gleeson, who has no trouble with it. Long ball played for Dike, but it's just out of his reach.
Ferreyra tries to cross one in, but it's on-goal and Gleeson gets to it. He then punts it all the way to the other end of the field. Dike picks up a yellow with a hard tackle on Julian Valazquez. Pretty unnecessary foul, but Dike is quick to help him up and apologize to Valazquez's teammates.
FULL TIME—PORTLAND WINS, 2-0 Timbers pick up their first friendly win of the season in their final chance. A great performance from the Rose City's reserves, who show plenty of grit against a team that likely wasn't expecting much of a battle tonight. Zizzo and Umony with the goals, and it's the first win at home for Portland since May 21. Wow, times flies. Lots of jerseys traded at midfield as the Timbers take a victory lap, and I'm headed downstairs.
I'll be back in a few with some more thoughts/stats.
Some final stats: Each team had 10 shots and Portland out-fouled Indy 15-12. Portland had eight corner kicks to Indy's two and were called offside six times compared to none for the visitors. Brown had one save for Portland Gleeson had two—a much-needed confidence boost for the young Kiwi after giving up three goals in 45 minutes against West Brom.
Portland's starters would do well to follow the example of tonight's reserves: Start fast, stay together on defense and get physical in the second half. It spelled victory tonight, and with a crucial stretch of home matches upcoming, it'd be a good pattern to follow if the Timbers hope to make a playoff run.
Zizzo was the man of the match from where I was sitting, as his play of late is begging for more time with the first team. The question remains, where? Spencer seemed pleased with his team's performance, while Indy coach Antonio Mohamed was very complimentary of Timbers Army: "Very much like South America," he said through an interpreter. "But a lot more respectful." That got a big laugh out of the press room.
Locker room was open (Thanks, Stephen!) and I got a bit of video from Zizzo and Chabala.
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