This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suddenly Dangerous Timbers Leaning Forward With Nagbe

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 2:14 PM

If the Major League Soccer playoffs started today, Portland still wouldn't be in.

But man, if you're a PTFC fan, you wish the postseason had started on Saturday night: The Timbers looked more than ever like a playoff team during their dominant 3-0 victory over New England over the weekend, proving that even if Portland fails to extend its inaugural season, it's not because the Timbers fielded anything less than a playoff-caliber club.

For the first half at least, the Timbers played like it was a must-win game, a playoff match, the MLS Cup, the World Cup final and Space Olympics platinum-medal round all wrapped into one. Frenetic on offense and soundly steady on D, Portland put it all together that first 45 minutes for some of the best soccer the House of Pane has hosted this year (until the U.S. Women come to town on Thursday, of course), and with their possible paths to the postseason in danger of dwindling away, Portland looked downright dangerous.

The Timbers attacked the net again and again (and again) and created so many legit scoring chances, fans were likely catching their breath at the same rate as the Revolution's defense. The gangbuster addition of Darlington Nagbe up front and the continued emergence of Diego Chará at midfield created the most exciting offensive flow seen from Portland all season (perhaps ever?!? Hat-tip to Portland's soccer history, but I ask in all sincerity: Have two players of such caliber ever worn a Timbers jersey at the same time?!?) and a glimpse into a bright future colored by creative, free-flowing, potentially hater-converting footy.

Granted, this all happened against New England, a team with less to play for and much less going for it than Portland.

Still, it looked like the Timbers figured something out on Saturday night, and when they take the field again on Wednesday at 7:30 pm against San Jose, the entire team will be chasing that feeling of invincibility. But should we expect to see it again? That might just depend on the lineup, which according to this tweet by The Columbian's Paul Danzer, will again feature Nagbe up front.

Spencer's statement on Nagbe was carefully worded, saying his rookie has "earned the chance," to start alongside seemingly-back-from-the-dead Kenny Cooper on the frontline. Whether that translates into the team's first-ever SuperDraft pick cracking the top of the Starting XI is up to Spencer (The O's Geoffrey C. Arnold is also reporting the 21-year-old with start tomorrow), but it's tough to deny the transformation of Nagbe's game when he has a bit more room to roam.

The playoffs may still be a few weeks out, but a new era for the Timbers may already be underway.

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