This Week in the Mercury


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Portland vs. Real Salt Lake—High-Pitched Live Blog Action

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 6:45 PM

It very nearly resembles springtime in the Rose City, and we're LIVE at JW-F as the Timbers host Real Salt Lake. Two teams fresh off defeats of varying embarrassment look to re-focus tonight, as the injury-cursed home team hopes to forget about the early-goal debacle at supposedly lowly New England and challenge a club expected contend for the top spot out west.

But they'll have to do it without Kalif Alhassan and Hanyer Mosquera: The creative midfielder is nursing a sore groin, while the veteran defender is recovering from a fractured orbital bone/concussion. That means rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste will start at central back, while Darlington Nagbe shifts back to the midfield after starting last week up front.

Consistency in lineup out of the question, Portland looks to get back to the home form it showed much of last season, including a win here over RSL. So throw on your hoodie—retro if you got it—and follow along past the jump, as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.

STARTING XIs:
Salt Lake—Nick Rimando in goal. Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert on defense. Ned Grabavoy, Capt. Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil and Javier Morales at midfield. Alvaro Saborio and Paulo Junio up front.

Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Rodney Wallace on defense. Darlington Nagbe, Cap'n Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chará and Eric Alexander at midfield. Jorge Perlaza and Kris Boyd up front.

PREGAME:
Remember what I said about spring? Forget it. We've got heavy rain falling on the pitch now. And that's just fine for Timbers Army, much of which is sporting hoodies as a nod to both the memory of Trayvon Martin and MLS' Show Racism the Red Card campaign.

And away we go ...

1st minute—We've gotten past the 28-second mark, and no goals for RSL. This is an improvement. By the way, coming into tonight, Portland hasn't scored in 131 minutes.

3rd—Portland with a bit of early pressure. Palmer crosses one into Boyd, but it's just behind him.

4th—Wallace pokes one ahead to Chará, who forces Rimando off his line and earns a corner kick. Jewsbury sends it in far-post, but RSL keeps it out.

5th—Alexander and Nagbe go back-and-forth in the box, but Alexander slips and RSL takes over possession. Morales flips one on-goal, but Perkins goes to the air to nab it.

6th—Morales gets behind everyone, but Brunner hustles back to get in front and force it away. Palmer clears, and after RSL throws in, Morales drives one on-goal, but Perkins is there.

8th—I gotta say, the Timbers' retro-inspired all-bright-white kits look, to use a technical term, fresh as fuck.

9th—RSL possessing in their own end, kicking it around the back line, trying to dictate the pace in the early going.

10th—Wallace tries to spring Alexander up the middle, but his pass is a bit long and RSL controls.

12th—Nagbe with a takeaway at midfield and Chará and Perlaza go storming down the west side. Perlaza tries to cross into his countryman in the box, but it's behind Chará.

13th—Chará has a breakaway opportunity, but his first touch is a bit too heavy and Rimando is there. Probably elevated the RSL keeper's heart rate a bit, but nothing more.

14th—Wingert fires one on goal, but Perkins goes to a knee for it. Quality save on the slick turf.

16th—Grabavoy makes a bit of a juke on Chará and fires one low. Perkins goes to the ground to knock it over the goal line for an RSL corner. Back-to-back opportunities cleared.

18th—Nagbe gets a breakaway, but the ref calls a foul behind the action. Pretty terrible call there, and the crowd lets him have it. So does Boyd, who comes in and barks his case. Jewsbury takes the free kick just inside midfield, but it's cleared.

20th—Perlaza and Nagbe with a nice run down the west side and on a clearance attempt, it falls right to Chará. He looks for Boyd, but the pass is ahead of the striker. Probably should've put it on goal there. Missed opportunity, but the Timbers are certainly getting some chances.

22nd—Alexander with a great run up the middle and blasts a shot mid-stride. Rimando makes the save, but it's a corner for Portland. Jewsbury sends it in, but it's cleared out immediately.

23nd—Wallace crosses one in for Perlaza, but Rimando beats him to it. Still, another ball into the box the result of Portland controlling the pace and making some nice runs.

25th—Boyd takes one into the box from the right wing, but Wingert with a great defensive play to deny him. On the other end, Brunner is leveled by Saborio.

27th—Nagbe with a long run up the middle on a counter. He slips and falls, but he gets back on his feet and tries to get one into the box for Boyd. Nothing doing.

28th—Perlaza with a run and looking for Boyd in the box on a cross, but Olave is there to deny him.

29th—Perkins with a fingertip save on on a cross meant to Saborio. It's a corner kick for RSL, but could've been much worse. The corner is cleared, and it's really starting to pour now.

30th—Portland looking very dangerous on the counter, but they pull it back a bit and Alexander is fouled about 40 yards out.

31st—Jewsbury serves it up and it looks like it was headed for Alexander, but he slips/gets pulled to the turf. Alexander pleads his case, but the ref isn't listening.

32nd—Timbers breaking again and Chará, running ahead then pulling back, finds Perlaza in the box. Jorge makes a great move to fake Rimando to the ground, but the striker's shot just misses. The best chance of the night for Portland, but Perlaza can't finish. Tough angle, but with Rimando on the ground, Perlaza could've probably taken another step or two before pulling the trigger.

35th—Some uneasy moments in the Portland box, but RSL can't get a shot off.

38th—RSL earns a penalty kick after Grabavoy gets behind Wallace and Rodney is called for a handball in the box.

39thSALT LAKE GOALSaborio goes right and Perkins go left and the Timbers fall behind for the fourth time in as many games. RSL leads, 1-0.

40th—Perlaza with another point-blank shot on goal, and this one misses by less than the first. That's a tough one to swallow, as Portland nearly responds to RSL's strike with a score of their own. A missed chance, yes, but another legit chance for the Timbers. Brunner gets a yellow card.

44th—Alexander with another on-goal strike from just outside the box, but Rimando is there to make the save. Alexander very active on both ends tonight.

One minute of extra time ... Wallace with a nice run complete with multiple jukes, but Beckerman with a nice tackle to prevent anything from getting out of hand.

HALFTIME: Real Salt Lake leads, 1-0. Some stats: RSL out-shot Portland 8-7, with four of those on goal compared to three for Portland. RSL with 58% possession and six fouls to Portland's three. Overall, Portland seemed to have the better chances, and the Timbers are looking pretty dangerous on the corner. It's all about finishing in this second half.

And we're back at it ... Same personnel on the pitch for both sides.

47th—Saborio gets a long ball just inside the box, but Wallace is there to poke it away and alleviate the danger.

48thTIMBERS GOAL It's Nagbe with a brilliant goal. He breaks down Beckerman and blasts one low and left to beat Rimando from 15 yards out and tie this one up. Electric stuff from Nagbe (Alexander gets the assist), and we're tied at 1. Green smoke pouring onto the field from the North End.

49th—Beckerman nearly answers back with a shot from just inside the box, but it's wide left.

51st—Morales chips one high and on-goal, but Perkins is there for the leaping save.

52nd—RSL nails the post and Perkins will have a goal kick. Fortunate ending for Portland as Salt Lake is really picking up their counter attack here at the start of the half.

55th—Morales with a free kick from 45 yards out. He plays it short and RSL gets it into the box, but Jean-Baptiste clears.

56th—Palmer with a run down the east side, but he just steps out of bounds.

57th—Alexander with a great move to earn possession and run up the goal line. He finds Wallace, who unloads, but right into an RSL defender. The deflection lands at the feet of Nagbe, who lasers one on-goal, but Rimando is there for the two-hand-punch save.

59th—RSL with the first substitution of the night. Will Johnson is on for Luis Gil.

61st—Wingert with a cross, but Perkins is there to grab it. Perlaza gets ahead on the goal kick, but he's called offside.

63rd—Franck Songo'o ready to check in. Looks like he'll come on for Perlaza.

64th—Indeed, Songo'o is on to make his home debut. Perlaza with a couple of nice chances tonight, but just couldn't finish. A bit of a frustrating night for him, but like any striker worth his salt, he has a short memory.

65thTIMBERS GOAL NAGBE AGAIN! GOLAZO NO. 2! This time, he takes one touch at the top of the box, gathers it in and fires a laser high to the far post. Shades of his wondergoal last year. Equal parts smooth and strong on that one and this place just lost it. Timbers lead 2-1.

68th—Jewsbury is horse-collared by Morales in the southwest corner. This place is still buzzing and the green smoke is wafting.

70th—Fabian Espindola checks in for RSL, replacing Junior.

71st—Songo'o earns a corner with some nice possession, but he doesn't see Alexander standing wide open on the far post in time. Jewsbury corner flies in low and Brunner almost gets a head on it, but RSL clears.

72nd—Another corner, this time earned by Alexander. He makes a run and shoots one that's deflected over the line. Jewsbury bends it in and RSL gets it out, but Portland maintains possession after Nagbe blocks the clearance attempt.

75th—RSL really picking up their attack, but the Timbers are holding firm thus far. Morales finds a sprinting Grabavoy up the middle, but Perkins comes running and forces Grabavoy to shoot wide.

76th—James Marcelin enters for Chará.

78th—For RSL, kickassedly named Jonny Steele enters for Beltran.

79th—RSL pressing the Timbers defense, really holding possession over the last couple of minutes.

80th—Timbers earn a free kick as Boyd does a nice job acting like he got his in the face by Steele. Free kick comes in and deflects off an RSL defender, so we'll have a corner kick coming for Portland. And they're taking their time standing over it, trying to to milk some clock.

81st—Jewsbury sends it in and Songo'o gets a free header on it, but Rimanado is there to make the save and keep this game within reach. Nice work by Songo'o, who snuck in from the back of the pack to nearly net one.

83rd—Some nice one-touch passing in the box by RSL leads to an Espindola shot that goes wide. RSL knocking at the door again and again, but the Timbers are holding firm.

84th—Wallace earns a free kick and Brunner takes it from beyond midfield near the benches. It sails into the box and Boyd gets a touch on it, but his outstretched leg can't quite get enough on it to scare Rimando.

85th—Morales and Marcelin mixing it up a bit at midfield after Marcelin comes in with a hard tackle. He'll get a yellow for it.

86th—And now Marcelin and Olave come together, and again Marcelin is called for a foul. This one's in a more dangerous spot however, and RSL will have a free kick from 35 yards out. Morales sends it in and Perkins punches it out, but the whistle is called as Brunner takes a knock and goes down in the box.

87th—Boyd ahead to Nagbe, who goes down just outside the box. It'll be a free kick from 25 yards out for Portland.

88th—Jewsbury sends it in and Boyd lets it go past, but Brunner is there for a running stab at it, which goes just high.

89thSALT LAKE GOAL Marcelin with a giveaway in the box and Steele steers his way through the defense and gets a left-footed strike off from 10 yards out. Perkins dives to his right, but he can't get it. We're tied at 2.

90th—Songo'o nearly nets one after Wallace sends one in and Boyd pops it up in the air for Songo'o. Rimando is there and we're still tied.

Three minutes of stoppage ... Marcelin and Saborio collide at midfield and Saborio is down. Time is ticking and the fans are raining boos on the field ... Free kick comes in from 40 out and Perkins has to punch it away. SALT LAKE GOAL It's Beckerman, beating Perkins low and left. No chance for him there, and Real Salt Lake leads 3-2.

FULL TIME: Real Salt Lake steals one, 3-2. Well, that just happened. Portland gives up a pair of goals in the final three minutes to spoil a brilliant offensive night from Nagbe. Timbers Army chanting at the officials, but it's hardly the refs' fault. The Timbers are standing at midfield in shock—it looks like they know who's at fault. I'm headed downstairs for what's sure to be an interesting postgame presser with John Spencer.

Back from the locker room, which felt more like a morgue. The words "gutted" and "disappointing" were repeatedly uttered, but nothing really need to said—it was all over the players' faces. "It's the same old story," said Troy Perkins, coldly referring to the 2011 Timbers' bad habit of giving up late goals. Spencer, who seemed oddly calm during his presser (I'll bet he's rage-punching his steering wheel the whole way home tonight) said the team lacked leadership at the end, and you could tell by the looks on the faces of team leaders Jewsbury, Brunner and Boyd that Spencer conveyed that very message post-game, though I'm guessing it was in slightly different terms.

Some final stats: RSL out-shot Portland 17-15 and both teams had eight shots on goal. RSL dominated possession—61% to 39%—and out-fouled Portland 11-8.

An ugly way to lose an otherwise thrilling match that really should've been a celebration of Nagbe. This is one the Timbers will be kicking themselves over for a while, especially if they're in the hunt for the playoffs and looking up at RSL in the standings. Simply put, Portland let Salt Lake off the hook.

Spencer's full post-match presser:

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