Is it 2013 yet?
Granted, there are nine Major League Soccer matches and a Cascadia Cup to be settled, but with Timberland's focus on the future this week (a new coach, wider pitch, stagnant season-ticket prices, and blessed lack of Ticketmaster), there's a distinct feeling Soccer City USA is utterly over 2012.
And can you blame it? Portland enters tonight's match with "desperate" Colorado 16 points removed from the playoff pack, and with the majority of the remaining schedule on the road (where the Timbers are winless), hopes aren't exactly soaring for a miracle postseason run. Ah, but the foundation for next year's success could very well be built tonight, and with a strong win at their sails, even futile footy makes for a fine Friday night.
So click past the jump and follow along (won't you?) as I deftly describe all the action—on and off the pitch.
The Rapids walked into the Jelly to rousing rendition of "Go Home You Bums" from Timbers Army. A few players smiled and pulled out smarty phones to video the scene, and a few popped out earbuds to have a listen.
A scheduling quirk positions tonight as the opener of home-and-home series with Colorado, which has beaten Portland in every one of its MLS meetings. Portland heads to the Rockies on Wednesday, where they'll face this very team again at 6 p.m. for another NBC Sports-televised meeting. Portland stumbled to a 3-0 loss to the Rapids on June 30 behind goals from Jamie Castrillon, Conor Casey and Jamie Smith.
Some bright spots for Portland heading in? For one, embattled Timbers interim head coach/general manager/reviled ginger Gavin Wilkinson and new keeper Ricketts were named to MLS' best 11 last week. And better still, Nagbe is "flying high," with goals in three straight matches. If he gets his fourth straight tonight, he'll tie Cap'n Jack for most goals in Portland MLS franchise history.
Colorado (8-16-2, 26pts)—Matt Pickens in goal. Drew Moor, Tyson Wahl, Marvell Wynne and Tyrone Marshall on defense. Hendry Thomas, Martin Rivero, Brian Mullan and Jeff Larentowicz at midfield. Conor Casey and Tony Cascio at forward.
Portland (6-13-6, 24pts)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Kosuke Kimura, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst and Steven Smith on defense. Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury, Franck Songo'o, Diego Chara and Sal Zizzo at midfield. Bright Dike up front. Kris Boyd, Mike Fucito, Rodney Wallace, Futty, Eric Alexander, Danny Mwanga and Joe Bendik round out the 18.
The teams swap ends after breaking huddles. Kimura runs around the North end beating his chest and getting fired up, then after the sides switch, he does the same thing inthe South end.
And we're underway ... Portland sporting its Rose City red kits and headed toward the Army to start this one.
1st minute—Nagbe with a through-ball, but it's a bit far for Dike and Pickens slides out to grab it.
2nd—Zizzo outruns his defender to dribble in the NE corner and somehow gets a cross into the air, but Picketts skies to nab it.
4th—Zizzo very active early and getting plenty of attention. Still, he breaks free from a double team in the NE corner and sends in a cross for Songo'o, but his header is no danger to Pickens.
5th—Casey finds Rivero, who sends a cross back into the box for Cascio. It's behind him, and Timbers avoid a disaster. After Ricketts clears, Colorado brings it right back and Thomas gets an shot off in front. Ricketts knocks it over the line for a Rapids corner.
7th—Zizzo with another cross in front, this time for Chara. He's outstretched to knock it down and works it off a Colorado defender for a Portland corner kick.
8th—Timbers play their first corner kick short and Zizzo tries a cross from the NW corner. Horst goes up for a header, but it's over the goal line for a Colorado goal kick.
9th—Horst and Casey come together near the top of the box and Casey goes down after nutmegging Horst. The ref comes over and warns Casey for flopping, and almost immediately after, Colorado is called for the match's first foul.
11th—Chara with a steal that leads to a long run by Songo'o. He's pushed off the ball just before reaching the box and Colorado clears. Nice burst of speed from Songo'o and another dose of savvy defense from Chara.
14th—Casey looks ahead into the box for Thomas, but it's long. Goal kick, Portland. Casey and Horst are really battling out there. Lots of scrapping from the physical Horst, which is right in the the burly Casey's wheelhouse.
16th—Songo'o some nice footwork in the NW corner to beat Moor. He sends in a cross meant for Dike, but Pickens cuts it off.
17th—Rickets with a huge save in front after Rivero gets too much space at the top of the box and fires. The Timbers aren't quick to clear and Colorado gets a couple more cracks, but they fail to reach the six-yard box and Portland finally clears. Best chance of the night for either team.
20th—Horst sends one long for Zizzo, who wins a 50/50 ball but can't come up with it in time to get a solid pass off for a streaking Dike.
21st—Chara and Mosquera team up to rip Rivero and Chara is on the run. He plays one ahead to Nagbe, who looks into the box for Dike, but it's just long. Timbers looking dangerous at the moment, which hasn't been an adjective often used in 2012.
23rd—Long ball played without danger to Ricketts, who settles it in the box, walks away from it and gives Smith some animated direction.
24th—Jewsbury with a good ball ahead to Dike, who knocks one forward for himself and forces Pickens off his line. Pickens gets there first and Dike goes head over heels, but no foul. Probably a good no-call, and definitely a bit of good luck for Pickens—he wouldn't be the first to get "Dike'd" this year.
26th—Smith sends a quick cross into the box for a leaping Nagbe, but it's just high. Nice near-post run there by Nagbe, who's clicking with Smith lately on those types of balls.
29th—Smith sends one full-field for Dike, who chests it down but can't control. On the ensuing counter, Smith earns an immediate yellow card after arguing a hard challenge on Rivero by Chara. Free kick coming from 30 yards out.
31st—Low liner sent in and Mosquera goes up to head it away.
33rd—A big battle at midfield ends up with Chara dribbling free. He runs to about 40 yards out and sends in a cross meant for Nagbe, but Dike doesn't know Darlington is making a run and cuts it off. He can't gather it and Colorado clears.
35th—Chara with a steal and finds Dike streaking at the top of the box. His first touch is a bit strong but he gets a shot off from the left side. It's a curler that sends Pickens flying, but it's wide of the far post and in fact bends so hard that it's over the sideline for a Rapids throw.
37th—Rapids with some sustained possession in Portland's box, but the Timbers hold firm after Horst heads out an attempted cross by Moor. It goes to Nagbe, who shields it well and gets it out of danger.
38th—Nagbe with a run up the middle and finds Songo'o at the top of the box. He has a heavy first touch and tries to gather it, but a Colorado defender rushes in from behind to knock it away. Songo'o goes down, but it looks like his foot catches the back of Mullan's leg on the way down and Songo'o is called for a foul. Fans hate the call, but from where I'm sitting, it looked like the contact was the result of Songo'o being a bit out of control on the way down.
41st—Rapids get a free kick on a phantom call 40 yards out in front of the Rapids bench. It's sent in Larentowicz takes a swing but whiffs. Portland goes on the counter, but Colorado defends. Fans wanted a foul call, but they're not getting it. This one is getting plenty physical. Both teams need to maintain focus, however, as neither wants to surrender one in the last minutes of the half.
43rd—Dike taken down just outside the box, but no foul is called. Wow. He was clearly outside the box, so no PK, but there appeared to be contact.
44th—Songo'o with some great footwork, rocking the defense back and forth. He finds Smith, who crosses in front but can't find
45th—Fantastic save by Pickens, who throws his leg out and just gets a piece of a Songo'o one timer. Huge save. Timbers get possession right back and it's A PORTLAND GOAL. It's Dike! Zizzo takes a pass from Nagbe and runs it up the sideline, firing a cross from the NE corner. It's right in front of the box and Dike chips it home. Timbers lead, 1-0. Dike's celebration is a handspring flip, and he sticks the landing. Nagbe and Zizzo with the assist.
Two minutes of stoppage ... Timbers nearly get another one! Nagbe gets free and is alone in front, but his shot goes just wide left. That would've been huge, and Nagbe knows it.
HALFTIME—Timbers lead 1-0 on big-time goal from the big forward Bright Dike. Colorado leads possession (54%) and wins 62% of the duels, but the Timbers' new-found free-flowing, movement-off-the-ball attack is looking downright dangerous. Say what you want about Wilkinson (#GWOUT?), but the Timbers look much more loose out there. Other stats: Portland out-shot Colorado 6-5 and had 13 open-play crosses to the Rapids' four.
And we're back at it ... Timbers headed toward the South end hoping to preserve their second straight win. One sub for the Rapids: Omar Cummings is in for Mullan.
47th—Cascio runs around Jewsbury and into box and tries to cross, but Ricketts is there to go up and make the grab.
50th—Chara with a run up the middle and finds Songo'o going up the East sideline. He crosses to Dike in the middle, but offside is called—first of the night.
52nd—Rapids with a corner kick after Cummings sends a cross off Horst. It's taken quickly by Cascio, who fires from an awkward angle and gets all side-net. On the ensuing kick, Chara goes down in a heap, grabbing his right ankle. He looks to be in a lot of pain, and it's breath-holding time for Portland fans.
53rd—Chara back to his feet and limping off. Fans chanting his name as he walks it off.
54th—Jewsbury nearly nets one with a bullet of a right-footed shot to the top right corner of the goal. Pickens with a fantastic outstretched save to prevent the goal, but it's a Portland corner.
55th—Songo'o sends it in far-post, and Moor is there to head it away.
57th—Nagbe is fouled at midfield and it'll be a Portland free kick and a Thomas foul. Horst sends it long and into the box, and Pickens is there to field it.
59th—Rapids earn a corner after a Moor cross goes off Smith's back. Corner is cleared but Rapids maintain possession. Casey boots one from distance and Wahl skies for the on-frame header, but Ricketts is there for the save.
61st—Cummings crosses to Cascio in front, but Kimura is there to muscle him off the ball. Portland goal kick.
63rd—Timbers biding their time in the center of the field, trying to slow the pace a bit.
64th—Jewsbury called for a foul in a dangerous spot, about 25 yards out. Rivero fires a shot on-frame and Ricketts punches it over the top.
65th—Ensuing corner kick comes in and Ricketts skies to grab it. Ricketts throws it and immediately grabs his shoulder. He's holding it and looks to be in pain.
67th—Rapids sub: Andrew Akpan comes on for Casey. Ricketts still being attended to. He immediately winced on the throw and looks to be in pain, but he's hanging in there and staying in the match. Backup Joe Bendik has his sweater on, taking warm-up shots on the sideline just in case.
69th—Colorado with some possession and this feels like one of those instances where they might lose focus. Rapids bring it down and earn a corner. Rivero sends it in and Cascio is there unmarked, but Zizzo cuts it off to clear.
70th—On the counter, the Timbers break past midfield and Songo'o is fouled about 25 yards out. Yellow card issued to Larentowicz and it'll be a free kick from a dangerous spot for Portland.
71st—Songo'o boots it off the wall and gets it right back. He sends it Zizzo, who crosses in front for Jewsbury. Cap'n Jack goes for the low volley, but Moore is there to defend and clear.
73rd—Jewsbury with a dangerous ball back to Ricketts, who's forced to clear it over the line. Not sure what Cap'n Jack was thinking about there, but Portland holds firm on defense and clears.
75th—Timbers make their first sub: Eric Alexander is on for Nagbe.
76th—Larentowicz called for a foul after leveling Zizzo at midfield. Mosquera takes the free kick, but the Rapids clear.
77th—Timbers sub: Rodney Wallace for Songo'o. Rapids sub: Jaime Castrillon for Cascio.
80th—Rapids with a throw at midfield after Wallace loses one from behind. Colorado sends a ball in for Wahl, but it's off Zizzo's chest and it'll be a corner for the Rapids. Taken quickly and bounces off a Rapid for a Portland goal kick. A couple nervous moments there for Portland.
83rd—Some pushing and shoving at midfield and (surprise, surprise) Mosquera is right in the middle of it.
84th—Wahl with a curling cross into the box and Ricketts camps under it for the easy grab. Taking his time now as the Timbers hold on for dear life.
86th—Akpan sends one right in front for Cummings for a free header, but it's missed. Kimura completely lost his man, but Cummings can't make him pay. A very lucky bounce for Portland, who should've yielded the equalizer there.
87th—Wahl takes down Zizzo away from the ball and he's shown the yellow card.
88th—The Timbers last sub: Kris Boyd is on for Dike. Huge ovation for Dike, who scored his second career MLS goal and gave the Colorado back line fits all night.
89th—Rapids try a long ball for Cummings, but it's well long and the Timbers will have a goal kick. Ricketts again taking his sweet time.
90th—Smith sends it long to kill a bit of clock. Rapids get it back and try a long one as well, but the Timbers are there to knock it away again.
Four minutes of stoppage ... Akpan with a crazy-quick shot from the top of the arch that goes just wide. Cummings gets waaaaay too much space to turn and give a touch to his forward, but Akpan just misses. A second dodged bullet for Portland in five minutes. ... Corner kick comes in and Ricketts completely sells out to leap up and punch it away. Timbers Army loves it and it spurs Portland on the counter. Zizzo gets ahold of it and tries a cross, but it's well long. ... On the other end, Cummings sends one forward and it slips through Horst, but Ricketts is there to grab it. Yikes. ... Rapids throw in at midfield and they send a cross. Mosquera heads it away and springs Wallace, who runs down the sideline and is called for a foul.
FULL TIME: Portland wins, 1-0 to earn its first back-to-back victories this season.
Wilkinson's full postgame presser:
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