Gavin Wilkinson wasn't expected to have all the answers. But three matches (and three losses) into his reign as interim head coach, he's running short on things to question.
After shouldering the blame for the Timbers' 5-2 loss at home vs. the Galaxy, Wilkinson wondered where his team's energy, imagination and creativity went during a lackluster 1-0 loss at Chivas USA on July 18. And following a 5-0 faceplant at Dallas last week, Wilkinson declared the team he'd assembled as general manager had "quit." As Portland looks to avoid a fifth straight loss tonight against the Goats, Wilkinson is calling the Timbers' performance "a matter of pride." But will all the gut-check talk work?
It's a button former coach John Spencer was never afraid to push. He suggested his young team might develop a "soft" reputation just weeks into its inaugural season, and is unemployed in part because of the team's lack of mental fortitude. Portland's propensity to let its focus slip, dip or simply disappear has been both an underlying theme of its MLS era and an undermining factor to its bottom-of-the-table standing.
"We must right the ship," Wilkinson said earlier this week. But has it already sailed?
Find out after the jump, and follow along as I deftly describe all the action—on and off the pitch.
PREGAME: Portland is trying to avoid a season sweep by the Goats, who aren't exactly an MLS powerhouse. They're scored fewer goals than anyone in the league and are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Galaxy in the Super Clasico. Chivas is 2-1-2 over its last five, with just three goals over that span. The Timbers, meanwhile, have scored just three goals in their last four matches, and all of those came at home against Los Angeles on July 14.
I expect at least a bit more of an offensive push out of the Timbers in front of the TA, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a Portland team that's been backed into a corner come out swinging and score early. Then again ...
Chivas USA—Dan Kennedy in goal. Danny Califf, James Riley, John Valencia and Ante Jazic on defense. Miller Bolanos, Paolo Cardozo, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski and Cesar Romero at midfield. Juan Pablo Angel up front. Califf is the captain and the Goats are without midfielder Ryan Smith, who had his fingerprints all over three goals against Portland this season.
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Kosuke Kimura, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst and Steven Smith on defense. Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara at midfield. Brent Richards, Kris Boyd and Franck Songo'o at forward. Jewsbury is the Cap'n and it's the first MLS start for Richards, the team's first homegrown player and a former Camas High School star.
It's Military Appreciation Night here, and we just had a flyover. Probably just about the only thing that could drown out this crowd during the anthem.
FIRST HALF: And we're underway ...
1st minute—Timbers are aggressive early, pushing it forward on a couple of long balls. Chivas holding it on their backline and then push it ahead themselves earn the first corner.
2nd—Perkins punches the corner away one-handed and springs Songo'o, but he's fouled for first whistle of the match.
4th—Horst with a long diagonal ball out of the backfield meant for a sprinting Richards, but it's too long.
5th—Timbers bring the crowd up for the first time when Chara gets it ahead to Nagbe. But he can't get it to Boyd. Songo'o ends up with it and tries the middle, but nothing doing.
6th—Chara plays one ahead to Boyd, who bounces it high up ahead for Nagbe. He gives chase and goes airborne in the box, but Kennedy is there to nab it.
9th—Chara draws a foul after chesting one down about 35 yards out and getting run over by Zemanski. Songo'o lines it in low, and it's right at Angel, who heads it away.
10th—Richards with a bit of room to roam along the east sideline and tries to dribble through a double-team, but his touch is a bit heavy and it's over the line for a Goats goal kick.
12th—Smith sends a cross into the box for Richards, who gets way up in the air for a header. It's not quite on-goal, but Richards makes himself known by the Chivas USA defense early.
15th—Zemanski brings it near the top of Portland's area and tries to sneak one into the box, but Chara is there to knock it away. On the counter, Kimura's pass head is too long and the Timbers give it right back. Back on the other end, Cardozo takes a left-footed shot from 25 yards out, but it's right at Perkins.
17th—Nagbe up the middle and plays it wide to Songo'o. He pulls off a few moves and gets it into the box for a shot, which is deflected down and over the line for Portland's first corner. Songo'o takes it and it's no problem for Kennedy. That's two services by Songo'o in the early going, and they both leave something to be desired.
19th—Timbers on the break after a Chivas corner kick as Chara finds Boyd running up the middle. He finds Nagbe streaking down his left side, but Darlington is offside as he gathers it in an takes a shot that bounces wide right.
20th—Perkins with a goal kick and Richards goes high to head it forward. Boyd with a great touch to set up a left-footed strike, but it's just wide. Two nice opportunities in the North end for Portland in the past two minutes.
21st—Right back on south side, the Goats hang around the top of the box and the ball finds its way to Angel, who hits it just wide. Perkins doesn't look pleased as he waves his defense forward. Timbers lucky to escape that situation after knocking on the door twice on the other end.
23rd—Songo'o makes his way past two defenders and gets a pass off in the box for Nagbe, who makes a good run but can't quite get to it. Timbers keep knocking, but nothing to show for it yet.
24th—Boyd gets behind the defense and is called offside. He plays it out, however, getting the fans all riled up by running around Kennedy and sneaking it into the goal. Flag is up, however, and though Boyd and the fans hate the call, it'll be Chivas ball.
26th—Songo'o and Chara team up to undress Riley and Songo'o dribbles it into the box and nearly to the goal line before crossing. Richards is there on the receiving end, but his shot goes wide. Another opportunity for Portland, which has had its way with the Goat defense over the past few minutes.
30th—Chara leads a break with Boyd and Horst streaking on his flanks. Chara with a weak pass into the box for Boyd, who turns back and fires a left-footer right at Kennedy. If he passes back to Chara, it's probably a goal, but instead Boyd lets out a grimace and pulls on his shorts as if to give himself a wedgie. Yet another good look for Portland. Feels like it's only a matter of time before they break through here.
33rd—A determined Songo'o dribbles down the line and fights his way through the Chivas defense to draw a foul. He takes a free kick from just inside the midfield line and Richards is there to head it down to Boyd, but it's knocked away. Boyd calling for a handball in the box, but no whistle.
36th—Mosquera with a long ball just outside the box for Boyd, who heads it forward for Chara. It's a bit too long and Kennedy is there to grab it, but just as Chara is knocked to the turf by Valencia. Fans want a call, but that ball was all Kennedy's—even if Chara had stood on his feet.
39th—Richards with a rocket from the top corner of the box and Kennedy is forced to knock it down. Richards is there to chase his rebound, but a Chivas defender slides to knock it over the line. It'll be a corner for Portland, but it's cleared away.
41st—Chivas send in a cross for Angel, but Mosquera is there to head it away. Another cross comes in, but this time Perkins is there to grab it.'
42nd—Chara gets past a falling Califf and moves it into the box. He crosses to Boyd, who whiffs on the open net and pops it right into Kennedy's arms. Tough break there for Boyd, who didn't quite have his footing. Another great opportunity for Portland, which has been one good touch away all night.
45th—Chara called for a hard foul on Riley about 25 yards out. Not the best timing, and Romero lines up the free kick. It's sent in and the Timbers get it out for a moment, but Jazic pops it back into the area looking for Angel. He's hanging all over Horst, and is called for a foul.
HALFTIME: We're scoreless after a half that was chock-full of chances for the Timbers. Not sure about the possession numbers, but from where I'm sitting, the Timbers' offense dominated the first half, with strong performances from Songo'o and some serious, leaping athleticism from the rookie Richards. Portland looks like the more dangerous team out there tonight, but so far it hasn't translated.
Some stats: Portland out-shot Chivas 6-5, with a 3-2 on-target edge. The Timbers won 60% of the duels and the Goats possessed 52.6%. Still, Portland's possession was much more worthwhile, leading more legitimate opportunities. Can the Timbers continue that trend and finall capitalize?
SECOND HALF: And we're back at it ...
47th—Chivas taking their time with some possession. Timbers content to let them pass along their backline.
48th—Mosquera leads a bit of a break and finds Richards ahead. He gets it to Songo'o who tries to chip one in the box for Boyd. Nothing doing.
49th—LaBrocca with a cross to the far post for a unmarked Bolanos, who's left-footed touch sails high and wide. Perkins a bit upset at his defense for letting Bolanos freely explore a dangerous spot, and lets them know it.
51st—Richards runs with it along the top of the box and cracks a shot, but it's immediately knocked away. Good aggression, but the young fella's got to keep his head up a bit more in that situation.
53rd—Songo'o leads a break up the middle and finds Boyd, who stops and pops looking for the far corner from 25 yards out. His left-footer is high and wide, but Portland is picking up the momentum a bit here.
54th—Romero with his attempt at a left-footed bender, but like Boyd's, it's wide.
57th—Things getting a bit chippy as Songo'o is fouled by Riley. It'll be a free kick from 35 yards and Songo'o sends it in on a frozen rope for Horst, who gets a head on it but not before climbing over Califf. Foul on Horst and we'll go the other way.
59th—Jewsbury picks off a pass to nobody from Valencia and finds Boyd on the break. He dribbles twice and lines up a shot, but it's well high of the target. Might have taken that one a bit too quickly, and it's another missed chance for Portland.
61st—Cardozo gets it at the top of the box with a bit too much time and unleashes a shot, but it's wide right. Perkins goes flying for it, and it'll be a goal kick for the Timbers.
62nd—For Chivas, 19-year-old U.S. International Juan Agudelo checks in for Romero.
63rd—Songo'o fouled hard by Bolanos and they have words. Songo'o takes a free kick from 45 yards out and Mosquera goes up for a header, but it's knocked behind him. Boyd goes to it, but Chivas clears over the east sideline.
64th—Richards with a long throw all the way into the box, but Kennedy is there. Timbers with an immediate steal and Nagbe ends up with it up the middle. He runs into traffic and gets a shot off, but it's wide left.
66th—Timbers with a steal at midfield and Nagbe leads the break. He finds Chara running down the flank and Diego looks to cross, but it's knocked over the line for a Timbers corner. Songo'o sends it in for Richards near-post, but Angel gets there first to head it away.
68th—Songo'o called for a yellow card after he grabs Cardozo's jersey. Zemanski sends the free kick into the box and it's a CHIVAS USA GOAL! Califf beats Perkins to the ball and heads it in before the two come together in mid-air. An ugly collision, but a beautiful result for Califf—his first MLS goal. 1-0 Goats and this crowd is stunned.
73rd—Zemanski picks up a yellow after colliding with Kimura at midfield. Songo'o sends it in for Richards, and Portland will have a throw deep in the Goats' end after it's knocked away. Richards sends it in long between Nagbe and Horst, but neither of them get a piece of it. Chivas USA clears.
74th—Eric Alexander enters for Richards and Kalif Alhassan enters for Songo'o. I assume this is a fitness decision, because Richards and Songo'o have been the best players on the field for Portland tonight.
76th—Alejandro Moreno enters for Cardozo.
77th—Alhassan attempts a chip shot from the top corner of the box, but Kennedy is there for the easy grab. Nagbe leads a break after Portland wins a second ball, but nothing comes of his pass to Alhassan.
79th—Timbers with a very methodical build-up in the Goats' end and Alhassan fires a shot into the box for Nagbe. It's just out of his reach, but Portland will have a corner. Chivas brings Casey Townsend in for Angel.
80th—Songo'o sends the corner in quickly, but Chivas clears.
81st—Chara gets one ahead to Boyd, who cuts back and fires left-footed. Kennedy just gets a fingertip on it, though and it's over the line. Alexander with a corner kick for Horst, who gets it on-goal before Califf rises to knock it over the line. Another corner for Portland.
82nd—Alexander again sends it in for Horst, who gets a solid header on it. Too solid—it sails over the crossbar for a Chivas USA goal kick. Califf stays down inside the six-yard box and the trainers walk him off the field.
84th—Alhassan craftily earns a corner with a quick shot off a Chivas defender. Crowd really getting into it as Alexander sends it in, but Kennedy is there to cut through traffic and grab it out of the air.
86th—Nagbe pushes forward and finds Alexander and Chivas clears it all the way out of the stadium. After the throw, Alexander tries to spring Chara, but he's offside. Timbers make their final substitution, and it's Danny Mwanga coming on for Kimura. Kitchen sink time.
88th—Smith with a switch and Alhassan with a nice one-touch pass to find Nagbe in the box. He's 1-on-1 with the defender, but opts for the quick shot. It's high and wide and I'm betting he wants that one back.
89th—Timbers possessing in Chivas' end and Chara sends a long ball into the box and comes up limping big time. Alexander earns a corner off a shot and sends it into the box for Mosquera, who heads it off a Chivas defender. Another corner.
90th—Alexander sends it low for Boyd, but LaBrocca clears.
Four minutes of stoppage ... Alhassan with a nifty move to earn yet another Portland corner ... He sends it in and it bounces off the back of LaBrocca's head and right to Boyd, who whiffs again. Didn't quite have his feet set and he misses on a solid connection. Might not have mattered since he was in heavy traffic, but a frustrating sight for Timbers fans, without a doubt. Chara rips Agudelo and knocks it back Mosquera as Diego is really limping. He can barely run. ... Smith plays a long ball ahead looking for Boyd, but it's well long.
FULL TIME: Chivas USA wins, 1-0. Boos abound as the final whistle blows. Lots more as Wilkinson leaves the pitch. It's a disappointing loss for Portland, which dominated much of the match offensively but just couldn't finish.
Final stats: Portland out-shot Chivas USA 19-8 and had six shots on target to the Goats' three. The Timbers won 58% of the duels and had 54% of the possession, holding Chivas USA without a shot for the final 22+ minutes. Portland, meanwhile, fired 11 shots in the final 15 minutes but simply didn't have that last touch.
"When it's going against you, it really does pile up at times," Wilkinson said. "We're creating chances and getting into good areas. On a different night, maybe we put a couple of those away."
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