Sophomore year is finally here.
It's the shortest offseason in North American sports, but for Timbers Army, this day couldn't have come soon enough. On a night eerily reminiscent of last year's opener, Portland's Major League Soccer team is ready to shed the expansion label once and for all, and get back to the pitch.
Yes, it's absolutely miserable night for soccer (or, frankly, any other outdoor activity), as driving rain, cold wind and grey skies swirl over Goose Hollow. But do any of the 20,000+ that have packed into J-WF care? Not likely, and especially not if the home team can give what is sure to be a sellout crowd what it wants—three points.
First Kick 2012. Timbers vs. Union. No freshmen allowed.
So go ahead—stay warm and click on past the jump (won't you?) to join me as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Looks like we'll have a full-stadium tifo display. I walked into J-WF about 4:15 and saw the pattern emerge. Should be epic.
Philadelphia—Zac MacMath in goal. Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Porfirio Lopez on defense. Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan, Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll at midfield. Lionard Pajoy and Josue Martinez.
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Rodney Wallace on defense. Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chará and Eric Alexander at midfield. Jorge Perlaza and Kris Boyd up front. On the bench: Jake Gleeson (GK), Mike Chabala (D), Ryan Kawulok (D), Freddie Braun (M), James Marcelin (M), Darlington Nagbe (M) and Bright Dike (F).
No surprises on the official injury report, which lists Futty Danso (broken foot), David Horst (hip) Eddie Johnson (concussed), Steve Purdy (hammy) and Sal Zizzo (ACL) as OUT and Franck Songo'o (knee) as DOUBTFUL. Players listed as PROBABLE are Kris Boyd (ankle sprain), Darlington Nagbe (ankle sprain) and Jorge Perlaza (Achilles tendinitis). For Philly, only Chris Albright (groin strain) is listed as DOUBTFUL.
Because of Futty's injury and Colombian import Hanyer Mosquera still waiting on some paperwork to clear, the rookie Jean-Baptiste gets the start at center back. In two preseason matches, two mistakes by Jean-Baptiste led to a pair opposition goals. Should that trend hold true tonight, it may take more than score for Portland to earn three points.
Timbers in their green jerseys, Philly clad in all blue.
Anthem was epic, just like last year, but pyrotechnic smoke completely covered the stadium-wide tifo display from where I was sitting. Bummer. I know Timbers Army put a ton of time/planning into it.
And away we go ...
1st minute—Timbers earn a throw, I think. Still lots of haze on the field.
3rd—Philly showing some pressure early. Really going after Portland's midfielders. Alhassan fires a shot from the right corner of the box, but it's well high.
5th—Timbers content to knock it around their back line here early. Jean-Baptiste boots a long ball, but it's through everyone and to MacMath. It comes right back to Andrew, though, and J-B goes up high to win his first MLS 50-50.
6th—Alhassan up the middle and leaves it for Palmer. Never one to pass up a shot, Lovel blasts it from 35 out. It skips toward goal, but MacMath is on it.
7th—Pajoy nearly gets one alone in the box, but Wallace is there to body him up and force a touch over the goal line.
8th—Alexander blasts one after Alhassan fakes a Philly defender out of his shoes. MacMath gets a piece of it and it goes over the goal line for the first corner of the night. Jewsbury sends it in and Baptiste gets a header on it, but Philly defends.
9th—Perlaza dragged down in the box but nothing's called. Crowd hates it, obviously, and it's easy to see why: There was contact, but the ref might have thought there was more slipping on the wet pitch. Rain still driving down.
11th—Timbers have a free kick from 45 yards out and Jewsbury plays it short to Wallace. He looks like he had something planned for Alhassan, but there's a miscommunication and a turnover.
12th—A nice counter attack sees Chará on the break. He passes it into the box for Alhassan, but it's behind him and Philly clears. Some nice action here early, with Portland the aggressor for the most part.
15th—Alexander with a nice run down the east side, but when he cuts back inside, he's unable to cross. Philly hanging in there, but Portland is throwing everything at 'em. Alhassan again jukes Lopez out of his boots and attempts a shot, but Lopez is there for the deflection.
17th—Pajoy shoots one from 30 yards out, but it's wide left. He had a teammate streaking down the right side, but must not have seen him. Goal kick comes and Palmer is leveled by Farfan. Portland free kick coming from just inside midfield.
20th—Pajoy falls into Jean-Baptiste and the rookie is called for a foul. Free kick comes in and Brunner heads straight into the air. As he's looking around for it, Wallace goes full-extension to head it away.
21st—Perlaza flicks one forward for Boyd, who runs up to crack one, but MacMath comes well out of the box to deny Boyd. Great save from the 20-year old, denying Boyd his first sniff of an MLS goal. Philly on the counter and gets a ball right in front, but Perlaza is there to clear.
22nd—That leads to a Portland counter, which ends when Perlaza is again knocked down in the box. No call, much to the dismay of Boyd, who was standing right there. We're getting pretty chippy out here, as neither team has appeared to settle in.
24th—Jewsbury plays a long one for Boyd, who goes up with Valdes for it. Their heads come together and Valdes looks like he gets the worst of it. Boyd back on his feet and the trainers are coming out for Philly.
26th—Valdes still down as the stretcher comes out. Fan holding a "NO DRAMA" scarf flashed on the screen. Nice. Valdes back on his feet sans stretcher. No sub at midfield for him, so it looks like he might be back, given he passes a concussion test.
28th—Timbers play a man up for a moment, but nothing comes of it. Valdes back on.
31st—Brunner clears one high to Perlaza just past midfield, but Jorge can't control and loses it out of bounds. Philly on the counter has their best opportunity of the night, but Farfan waits too long to find Williams. By the time he gets it to him, it's out of position and rolls harmlessly over the goal line.
33rd—Alhassan pops one up in the corner for Palmer, who knocks one off a Philly defender for a Portland corner.
34th—Jewsbury sends one in near post, but it's immediately rejected. Timbers throw comes in, but Palmer loses it out.
36th—Califf kicks one of Gomez's face at midfield. LOLZ.
39th—Philly really taking their time and passing along their back line. They finally get it forward, but Brunner is there to safely knock it out.
42nd—Alhassan dribbles a bit too long in his own end and Philly looks to take advantage, but Alexander is there to knock it away.
43rd—Palmer drives a running cross into the box, but it's too hot to handle. Portland earns a corner in the ensuing skirmish, but it's cleared out.
45th—Palmer sends one in for Boyd, who goes up the header but isn't quite tall enough. Alexander gathers it in right behind him, but he's called offside.
Two minutes of extra time ... Union with a long throw into the Portland box and Palmer clears. Alexander tries to play one long for Boyd, but it's long.
HALFTIME: We're scoreless. Some nice action in the first half, but neither team can put one on the board. Timbers had more chances, but Philly had a pair of better-quality looks at goal they couldn't capitalize on.
Some stats: Timbers out-shot the Union 4-2, with two shots on goal compared to none for Philly. Three corners for Portland, none for Philly. Portland led the possession battle 56.5% to 43.5%. If those numbers hold up, Portland has a real shot at taking three points tonight.
And we're back at it ...
47th—Long ball played for Boyd, but it's long. Chará gives chase and tries to save it before it skips over the goal line, but he just can't get to it in time. Alexander with a cross for Boyd, but it's just in front of him. Alhassan is there to attempt another cross, but the Philly D is there to clear while MacMath is hanging in no-man's land.
48th—Another chance in front, this time when Perlaza plays one into Alexander. But Eric isn't expecting it and the ball harmlessly drifts over the goal line. Portland really aggressive at the start of the second half.
50th—Adu taken down by Jewsbury (sort of) about 45 yards out and it's a foul. Dangerous free kick coming and the crowd doesn't like it one bit.
51st—UNION GOAL Gomez plays a great ball into the box and Jean-Baptiste heads it into the goal. They're giving Gomez credit, but the replay clearly shows an own-goal by the rookie. Timbers came out of the locker room like a house on fire and Philly steals the momentum right back.
52nd—Timbers come racing back and Alhassan fires a shot, but it's just over the net.
54th—TIMBERS GOAL It's Jean-Baptiste redeeming himseslf, and we have green smoke in the North End. Jewsbury with a free kick into the box and Jean-Baptiste gets a header on it and sends it to the far post. It just gets past MacMath, and after giving up an own-goal minutes before, Jean-Baptiste has a huge goal in his first MLS match.
57th—Shit's getting hectic in the Philly end as Wallace breaks down a defender and centers it. Perlaza takes a crack, but MacMath is there to defend. Philly forced to dump it over the line and it's a Timbers corner.
58th—Jewsbury sends it in, and after Philly attempts a clearance, Chará gets it to Wallace, who fires one off MacMath and over the line for another corner.
59th—Same situation, and again Wallace tests MacMath from deep. But instead of punching it away, the young Philly keeper dives to gather it in. Great action here, as Portland has responded to Philly's goal by ratcheting up the pressure.
60th—Oregon State grad Danny Mwanga (Go Beavs) is on for Martinez.
61st—And there's the official correction: Jean-Baptiste credited for the own-goal in the 51st. Boyd cracks one from distance, but it's wide right.
63rd—Palmer earns another corner after Perlaza cuts inside and finds him streaking up the right side. Jewsbury sends it in and MacMath goes flying for it, colliding with Palmer and going down in a heap. Dangerous play by MacMath, and Boyd nearly makes him pay with a shot, but it's just over the net.
65th—A flurry of activity in the Union box as Portland keeps throwing jabs. Alexander and Wallace at the center of it, but Philly stands firm and is able to clear.
66th—TIMBERS GOAL Boyd makes it look easy as shepherd's pie! Alhassan with a great cross from the east side and Boyd is there to head it in to the far post. It looks simple for the Scottish Premiere League's all-time leading scorer, who barely turns his head to knock it in. Almost nonchalant. Timbers lead 2-1.
68th—Darlington Nagbe on for Alexander.
70th—Adu dancing around the top of the Timbers' box, but Portland is able to keep him out. Smoke wafting into the press box. It's green and smells like a high school anatomy lab.
72nd—Jewsbury with a free kick deep to the back post, but Alhassan can't get to it in time. Philly clears for a moment but Portland stays aggressive and keeps it in Philly's end, earning yet another corner kick.
73rd—Jewsbury sends it into the penalty spot and Boyd gets a head on it and sends it right into goal, but Adu is there to knock it away just before it crosses the line. Farfan gets a hand on it (no call) and Boyd doesn't like the no-call. Timbers are really pressing to get their third goal and put this one on ice.
76th—TIMBERS GOAL Alhassan chips one in! Was it a cross or was it a shot? Doesn't matter, as Kalif runs into the box and lofts one far-post into the goal. Shades of the AIK match as Alhassan nets another brilliant, lofting goal. Timbers Army might be running out of green smoke.
80th—James Marcelin comes on for Boyd, who acknowledges the crowd. He scores in his debut and makes it look easy. Dude's gonna score a lot of goals here.
81st—Nagbe with a run and cracks one, but it's knocked away. McInerney comes right back for Philly and fires a shot past a diving Perkins, but it's wide left.
83rd—Philly is playing as desperately as a team down two goals should be expected to, but Portland is calmly maintaining possession and keeping the Union at bay.
85th—Palmer with a bad pass from midfield all the way back to Perkins. He has to sprint to beat Mwanga to it and knock it away.
86th—Nagbe makes a run down the right side after Jean-Baptiste stands tall in the box, but Darlington is tripped about 35 yards out and it'll be a free kick for Portland.
87th—Jewsbury slams it through the wall and on-frame, but MacMath is there to field it.
89th—Philly trying to mount something, but Portland keeps pushing them and forcing them to pass back. Nowhere to go for the Union and Perlaza forces a turnover.
90th—Timbers Army chanting "I can't help falling in love with you." And after Portland responds to an early second half goal with three of their own, it's easy to see why. Timbers take their time in the Union end and turn it over, but it's nothing doing for Philly.
Three minutes of stoppage ... Perkins plays a long ball for Alhassan, but Philly pokes it away. He slides to get it back but knocks it out. ... Timbers earn a free kick as Williams is wearing Chará like a cheap suit. Portland taking its time trying to bleed clock ... Palmer knocks one into the North End. He wasn't being pressured, I'm just thinking he wanted to give someone a souvenir.
FULL TIME: Timbers win 3-1. A gutsy, runaway victory for Portland, which responded to a quick second-half goal to stun Philly. Would we have seen this kind of performance out of last year's squad? Not sure, but I'll certainly ask that question as I head down to the locker room.
Some final stats:
Portland out-shoots Philly 17-5 and wins the shots-on-goal battle 8-2. Timbers get seven corners to Philly's one and Portland possesses 55.5% of the time. Truly a dominating second half, as Portland responds to a 51st minute goal (which they are now crediting to Gomez) with three scores in 22 minutes. Could the 2011 Timbers have done that? Not likely—they lost every game they fell down 1-0 in, a stat Portland fans are happy to vanquish after just one match in 2012.
Some choice quotes from a happy Timbers locker room:
Jean-Baptiste: "We all make mistakes—every defender has probably scored an own-goal in their career. The first thing they want to do is try to get it back for the team." ... "After I scored, I saw the Timbers Army right there, in front of my face, and I was just like, 'let me go celebrate with them in the corner.' To have them behind my back and see me score my first goal, it feels so good."
Boyd: "It's always good to get your first goal, because that's always the hardest one to get, to get off the mat. It's one thing to score in friendlies, but you need to start doing it when the real thing starts." ... "[The atmosphere] was magnificent from start to finish. I think it's the biggest compliment you can pay. Even when we went a goal down, they were still behind us, still singing. We could've crumbled when we went a goal behind, but the fans stood up and got us through a difficult period."
Brunner: "I thought we defended really well all game. We knew we weren't content with giving up that one goal, it was kind of like a fluke, how it happened. And that's when we kind of turned it on a little bit. We knew if we'd get one really quick, we knew we could score bucket loads here."
Alhassan (on his goal): "I would say I was trying to chip it, but I got it."
Alexander (on PTFC's response to Philly's goal): "We knew we needed to score. We just bombarded them."
OK, that's all for now, but I'll have a FULL RECAP tomorrow, along with FULL VIDEO of coach John Spencer's post-match presser. Until then, Timbers fans, stay dry, enjoy those three points and check back in the morning.
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