Once again, the Timbers got the big things right. They dominated a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, one of the best teams in MLS. They were suffocating defensively, disciplined tactically, and worked relentlessly hard.
Once again, the Timbers got the little things wrong. A missed penalty, a blown sitter, a poor lineup, and an uncanny ability to not win consigned Portland to two more dropped home points, one win in their last five home games this season, and two wins in nine on the overall campaign.
For 65 minutes of this game, Portland sat back and pried instead of played. Diego Valeri's return to the field sent a jolt through a lifeless attack, but it turns out that 25 minutes of true intent and urgency isn't enough to break down a colossal Vancouver defense on its game.
You've heard this story before. The Timbers played well. They didn't win. And they only have themselves to blame.
After a deeply frustrating 1-0 loss at CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Sounders last Friday night, the Portland Timbers are back at it in Cascadia Cup action with their first home game since mid-April against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The rivalry between the 'Caps and the Timbers, once friendly, has turned decidedly sour. Diego Valeri is set to make his 2015 debut after recovering from an ACL tear in this game, and captain Will Johnson could be available as well. There's never a dull moment at Providence Park—get ready for another action-packed ride.
It was the same old story with the Timbers, in red, playing at CenturyLink Field: Close game. Clint Dempsey goal. Seattle victory.
It was a familiar punch in the stomach Sunday night, and it especially smarted because Portland played well. They were compact, they played with composure and confidence, and they got the chance or two they knew they would have to take to win on the carpet in the Emerald City. In the end, they didn't take those chances, and they slink back home, beaten again.
That's four straight victories for Seattle in this series, and five straight games without a loss. Take away the magical fall of 2013, and Caleb Porter—whose first major public declaration after being named Timbers manager was tell Alexi Lalas that "The Timbers will no longer be inferior to the Seattle Sounders"—has five losses and a draw against the arch enemy.
This is an incredibly frustrating loss. The Timbers played the Sounders toe to toe and lost. It's one thing to be outplayed, it's another to be pipped. It feels like Portland is smashing their head into a brick wall with Seattle. Right now, the Sounders are, for whatever reason, a team that the Timbers can't beat.
It's the first of the biggest games of the year. The Portland Timbers travel north to face the Seattle Sounders in primetime on Sunday night, off the back of several indifferent performances yielding vastly different results.
In many ways, this game feels like the end of the early-season road. By next weekend, both Diego Valeri and Will Johnson could be available for selection as the calendar turns to May and all of MLS settles in for the long-haul. But tomorrow, it's the Sounders. And when it's the Sounders, nothing else matters.
Caleb Porter has spent a lot of time this year talking about results. How the need to get results dictates that the Timbers play a regressive brand of soccer, how the need to get results means the prioritization of short-term success over long-term vision. Porter has felt very real pressure to get results (wins), and on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, the Timbers won for just the second time in seven games this season.
The result was 1-0, on a late deflected goal from Dairon Asprilla, some terrific goalkeeping from Adam Kwarasey, and a whole lot of spurned opportunities from a New York City FC side playing without David Villa, Mix Diskerud, and for that matter, Frank Lampard.
It's a balancing act. At the end of the year, these points will absolutely matter. On the other hand, it's hard to take joy from such a languid, poor, haphazard win. This team needs to get better. Fast. Because it's not an expansion team next weekend. It's the Seattle Sounders.
After an uplifting 3-1 win over FC Dallas finally sparked a somewhat indifferent season, the Portland Timbers came crashing back to earth with a thud in a 2-0 loss to Orlando City last Sunday. Portland was handily beaten by an MLS expansion side—outplayed in every phase of the game. This weekend, the Timbers travel to the league's other expansion team, New York City FC, for another nationally televised Sunday match (4:00 PM, TV on Fox Sports 1, Radio on 750 AM the Game.)
NYCFC aren't Orlando. They're less talented, less cohesive, and have struggled with the injuries and absences of their best players. But the Timbers aren't the Timbers either. And on the road, there are no guarantees.
Referee Kevin Stott was bad, but the Portland Timbers were worse, and Orlando City demolished them 2-0 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Providence Park.
The Timbers' performance ranged from anemic frustration to mindless blundering. Orlando was slick and clean, dominating possession with confident interplay and looking like a team celebrating their fifth anniversary, not one just beginning their maiden MLS season.
The Timbers got crushed. Plain and simple. Outworked, outplayed, and out-coached by the league's new darling Kaká, old favorite Donovan Ricketts, and a supporting cast chock full of young talent. Orlando was, by far, the best team Portland has seen in 2015 thus far. They'll go as far as they want to this year. As for Portland? The picture is much less clear.
With their first win of 2015 under their belts, the Portland Timbers host MLS expansion side Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park (2:00 PM, TV on ESPN2, Radio on 750 AM the Game.)
Portland finally put together a complete performance last Saturday night, thrashing then league-leading FC Dallas. Now, the Timbers have a chance to put together a run that would alleviate fears of another fatal March with this match against the talented but misfiring Orlando City — who boast MLS' most dangerous player in Kaka, and former Portland 'keeper Donovan Ricketts.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP!
Do you remember how good Donovan Ricketts was in 2013?
The Timbers goalkeeper won the MLS "Save of the Week" 10 times. He won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. He made miraculous saves, tying together a back-line that churned through five starting center-backs and reeled off clean sheets late in the season behind a defense of four players that would all be replaced less than a half year later.
Who was the most important player in that season? It was absolutely Ricketts. He saved points left and right, scrubbing away goals and winning over a fan-base that originally saw him as one of the most brazen and inept symbols of the Gavin Wilkinson era of terror.
What he really was, was the symbol of the Timbers' turnaround under Caleb Porter. Porter's first personnel call after being named manager in summer 2012 was to sign off on the trade that sent fan favorite Troy Perkins to Montreal in exchange for Ricketts, whose best days appeared to be behind him at the time.
It was coming.
After battling, scrapping, and being denied by Nick Rimando and Alan Gordon and Robert Earnshaw and injuries and lapses and luck, the Portland Timbers finally broke through beneath a full moon on a clear April night in the Rose City.
Results business, huh? How about this result: Portland Timbers 3, FC Dallas 1.
It was coming, but it was still cathartic. The Timbers' first win of 2015, sealed with special flourish by Diego Chara, let forth a surge of joy tinged with unmistakable relief. The ushers in the Timbers Army were high-fiving fans on their way out of the building—it was that kind of night.
There's no rest for the weary, injured, and increasingly under-fire Portland Timbers this week, as league-leading FC Dallas comes calling at Providence Park on Saturday night (7:30 PM, TV on ROOT Sports, Radio on 750 AM the Game.)
This is the last of Portland's murderous five straight season-opening games against 2014 playoff teams, and it's possible that Dallas is the most dangerous opponent the Timbers have seen thus far. With three wins and a draw to start the season in comparison to Portland's three draws and a loss, the Timbers will be increasingly desperate to post a win—especially back in front of their home crowd.
The stats tell one story. The heartbreak tells another.
The Vancouver Whitecaps signed Welsh journeyman striker Robert Earnshaw on Wednesday. Some 72 hours later, he snuck between the Timbers' center-backs and nabbed a totally undeserved, stoppage time, game-winning goal.
The last time Vancouver beat Portland, 'Caps manager Carl Robinson stood in the middle of the field at Providence Park, screaming at Caleb Porter and pumping his fists. This time, he stood on the BC Place turf shaking his head, elation temporarily submerged by bewilderment.
The Whitecaps stole this one. They were out-possessed 66% to 34%. They only barely completed half as many passes as the Timbers, who spent the second half of this Cascadia Derby camped out in Vancouver's half. The Timbers hit 40 more crosses than the Whitecaps, and yet after 80 minutes of prying followed by a 10-minute onslaught, they finished another March win-less for the third year in a row.
After three consecutive draws to open the season, the Portland Timbers travel north to Canada to take on their increasingly bitter rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at BC Place (5:00 PM, TV on ROOT Sports, Radio on 750 AM the Game.)
Both teams have been bruised, battered, and depleted going into this matchup—Portland because of major injuries and national team call-ups, Vancouver mostly because of thuggish and unsportsmanlike play incurring recent suspensions. In their first meeting after an incredibly acrimonious preseason match in Portland in mid-February, the winner of this first Cascadia Cup match of 2015 might be determined by which team has the toughest mentality.
It looked like a 0-0 draw after less than 20 minutes. Both the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City were too competent in defense, too tough in central midfield, and too dull in attack to spark a competitive game to life Saturday night at Sporting Park.
The 0-0 result was the Timbers' third consecutive draw to open the 2015 season, their second scoreless tie of the campaign, and the eleventh straight outing without a win in March under Caleb Porter.
Those are the numbers. Was this a good result? Sure, on the road against a Kansas City team that has rediscovered the bite—if not the creativity—that made them champions in 2013, a draw is nothing to dismiss. Still, it's not the win that Portland needs to alleviate the pressure that only grows without a victory four weeks into a season.
After two entertaining home draws to begin the season, the Portland Timbers go on the road for the first time in 2015 for a Saturday afternoon tilt with Sporting Kansas City (5:30 PM, TV on ROOT Sports, Radio on 750 AM the Game.)
With Kansas City's move to the Western Conference effective this year, this matchup grows in magnitude. Both teams are looking for their first victory of the year, with the Timbers and Caleb Porter still confident but especially ready to expel their March woes.
It should be a competitive contest with plenty of pomp and circumstance in the raucous Sporting Park.
We'd seen an advance script of this finish. The Timbers would, mostly against the run of play, grab a goal in stoppage time to deny the LA Galaxy, sending a packed Providence Park into raptures and sending Bruce Arena down his touchline huffing and puffing and shaking his head like some oblivious couple just swept into the taxi he had hailed.
We saw the Timbers do it in 2013, courtesy of an Andrew Jean-Baptiste header. We saw it last year in the 95th minute thanks to Diego Valeri. And this year, the Timbers scored in stoppage time thanks to a goliath long-ball from Liam Ridgwell, which was taken down by Darlington Nagbe and slipped to Fanendo Adi, who waited, and waited, and fired the Timbers into a delirious 2-1 lead.
It would last for about 100 seconds.
This time it would be Caleb Porter shaking his head. Former USL Timber Alan Gordon, the same man who was suspended for a homophobic slur he used in a game in Portland two years ago, climbed above Jorge Villafana and looped a header past Adam Larsen Kwarasey to level the game at 2-2.
The Timbers-LA games in Portland never fail to deliver. For the second year in a row in this fixture, both teams scored in stoppage time. There's something to be said for how these two teams play each other—they put together ebbs and flows, and save the real drama for the very very end.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP!
Opening day was big, but this game is, by many measures, bigger. The opponent is better. The stage (this is the Timbers' first national TV game of the year) is bigger as well. This is a game both teams—and coaches (hit the jump for a hilarious example)—want very badly to win.
This fixture has never disappointed. It won't disappoint on Sunday.
LINEUP AND MY PREDICTIONS AFTER THE JUMP.
After a furious scramble, the Timbers were unable to find the game-winning goal in their first match of the new season, against Real Salt Lake, at an ear-splitting Providence Park. It ended as a 0-0 draw, one that saw every inch fought for, every ball contested, and every moment of drama amplified by the atmosphere.
Sometimes when you see a 0-0 soccer game, you feel cheated. This time, everyone got their money's worth. It was one of the best spectacles of the Timbers' MLS era. Well-played, intense, and jaw-dropping.
Opening day is sacred in all sports, but this one will be especially so for MLS, because it almost didn't happen. Throughout the off-season, contentious negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners produced little but acrimony and unease. Tuesday night, player representatives from 19 of the 20 MLS teams met together in Washington, DC and voted 18-1 to strike. But, they also agreed to continue negotiating on Wednesday, with the mutual knowledge that a work-stoppage would be devastating for all parties, and a new CBA was agreed upon.
So we get the game that almost didn't happen: Portland Timbers against Real Salt Lake to open the season at Providence Park on Saturday night (7:30 pm, TV on ROOT Sports, radio on 750 AM the Game).
Already bruised and battered, with the new season hanging on a cliff, the Portland Timbers are ready to play for real.
There are some familiar faces on this year's lineup, including all four of the all-stars in team history and five players who were around for the inaugural MLS season in 2011. There are also some new faces, from rookies to league veterans to international question marks. The expectation is that this 2015 Timbers team will be a playoff lock and a playoff threat. Without further ado, here they are:
Adam Larsen Kwarasey
The Expectation: Kwarasey was signed to replace Donovan Ricketts for two big reasons: He's 10 years younger, and a much more athletic, mobile player. Kwarasey, who started for Ghana against the United States in the World Cup this year, should be in the upper third of MLS goalkeepers.
The Hope: A fast start always helps. This is someone Portland wants in the picture well into the 2020s, and if Kwarasey can make the type of outstanding saves Ricketts made routinely, while adding an aerial presence and smooth play with his feet, the transition will be Gavin Wilkinson and Caleb Porter's personnel masterstroke.
The Fear: Ricketts was an incredible shot-stopper, and the pressure will be on Kwarasey to match that save-making ability. The Ghanian is aggressive, and one or two blunders might be unavoidable. Make no mistake: This guy has big shoes to fill.
The Portland Timbers finally got a win in their final preseason game, beating Norwegian side Stabaek 1-0 thanks to a goal from Fanendo Adi. A lockout not withstanding, the Timbers open the regular season one week from today at home against Real Salt Lake. Five thoughts:
1. Nice Win
The Timbers are about three times the club Stabaek is—from size, to structure, to money to talent—but it sure was nice for Portland to put a win on the board in their final preseason game. The victory was the Timbers' first in their Simple Invitational tournament under Caleb Porter, and it came with a complete performance that will certainly alleviate some of the all-too-familiar frustration from the loss to Vancouver last weekend.
Portland checked all the boxes: They were dangerous in attack, solid in defense, and though they were caught open in midfield consistently throughout the first half hour, kept a clean sheet. The Timbers asserted themselves more and more as the game wore on. By the time it finished, Stabaek was barely sniffing the ball.
It's a confidence booster, if nothing else. Tonight, the Timbers looked good, felt good, and won. You can never have enough of that.
We got 23 minutes of peace, at least.
Then, the Portland Timbers midfielder Ben Zemanski crumpled to the Providence Park turf—the kind of non-contact collapse that can only mean one thing. Caleb Porter confirmed Zemanski's torn ACL within the first five words of his post-game press conference. From there, the Timbers picked up two red cards, gave up a game-winning goal to part-time cult hero, part-time leg-breaker Pa Modou Kah, and played soccer with an increasing ineptitude reminiscent of the first two months of the 2014 season in a 1-0 loss to the rival Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was bad. On Oscar night, a fitting horror show.
Soccer City, USA will have another pro team to root for next season.
The Portland Timbers officially announced the launch of a new club this morning that will compete in USL PRO—the league below Major League Soccer that once fielded the Timbers themselves.
The team, "Timbers 2" (or "T2", as
James Cameron the Timbers will refer to it) will play at University of Portland's Merlo Field beginning next season and provide their MLS big bros a "significant competitive advantage," according to owner Merritt Paulson.
"This represents a really big investment," Paulson said, while also announcing the 1975 Trust Program, which will give the first 1,975 supporters who purchase season tickets to T2's inaugural season "ownership-like privileges" to "weigh in on team decisions" including helping choose kits on match day, weighing in on food and beverage options available at home games, and shaping the creative direction on club design projects and club meetings. As of 12:45, more than 1,000 season tickets had been purchased.
Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson also spoke at the press conference. He noted that adding a coach for T2 was already in the works, but that the new team will essentially mirror the environment set up by MLS Timbers coach Caleb Porter, including a shared playing philosophy, style and system.
"It gives us an opportunity to bring these players in when they're young and we can affect their development and get them to learn about the club," Wilkinson said. "And also to learn if these are player who can represent our club at the highest level."
Video of the announcement press conference and full press release after the jump.
Caleb Porter didn't need to speak their name. He just needs them to win.
After a breezy 3-0 victory against the hapless, shorthanded San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night, the Timbers coach was asked which side he'd be rooting for this weekend when Portland's most bitter rivals (Seattle) takes on the team Portland is battling for the Western Conference's final playoff spot (Vancouver).
Sure, beating the Sounders never gets old, but if the Whitecaps do it on Friday, it certainly wouldn't help Portland's chances.
"Obviously, I think you know who I'm rooting for," Porter said. "As far as I know, Vancouver's just playing another team. Not sure who they're playing. I hope that other team beats them."
Portland could use the help—no matter where it comes from. The Timbers have gone so far as to give their fans written permission to root for their rival. Which seems appropriate, especially now that Portland finally appears to be in playoff form, having knocked off San Jose twice in a row in dominant fashion after a stinging road loss to Toronto two weeks back. That come-from-ahead loss—along with an injury to Capt. Will Johnson—could've been devastating. Instead, it appears to have galvanized the locker room.
"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise to lose how we lost," said Liam Ridgewell, whose defense helped Portland not only collect the clean sheet, but hold the Quakes without a shot on goal. "I think this is perfect time for us to feel like we're in the groove. I think everyone's hitting form at just the right time."
Especially MVP candidate Diego Valeri (who scored twice on Wednesday) and comeback kid Rodney Wallace (who had a hand in all three Timbers goals—including scoring one himself). The ever-humble, ever-record-setting Valeri had high praise for Wallace and his 'mates after Wednesday's match, but noted the tenuous situation Portland faces with just two regular-season matches to go.
"We have to stay focused every game and do our best every single moment, because now it's just a mistake and you're out," Valeri said. "We know that."
Highlights, full recap and video of Porter's postgame presser after the jump!
As Caleb Porter walked into his postgame press conference following the Portland Timbers' frustrating 3-3 draw with fellow playoff contender San Jose, a PTFC staffer offered the less-than-pleased coach a stat sheet.
Porter declined, and as he walked to the lectern, he mumbled under his breath: "I know the stats."
Did he ever.
Portland rattled off 32 shots on Sunday—a team record and the third most by any Major League Soccer team, ever. The Timbers managed 13 of those shots on goal—a franchise best—and had more corners (16) than a wadded up piece of aluminum. The Timbers played their best opening 20 minutes of the season—perhaps in its history as an MLS club—but the "same old story" that's plagued them in 2014 was just as pronounced as the gaudy numbers.
"To get 32 shots, you have to be a damn good team," Porter said at his presser. "We probably could've scored 10 goals, realistically. I'm not joking—10 goals."
Yet Portland still found itself down two goals in the second half. They rallied—twice—and managed an improbable draw with a pair of game-tying goals—first on a Liam Ridgwell goal in the 75th and again when sub Kalif Alhassan struck in the 86th minute. Porter joked that fans are certainly getting their money's worth from Portland this season, though if the locker room was any indication, such high entertainment value has become somewhat taxing.
"Every time we seem to take a step forward, we take a step backward the next week with our defensive ways," said Timbers captain Will Johnson. "Anytime you score three goals at home, you should win. That's the bottom line. We're standing here frustrated because we only got a point."
Click past the jump for more, including video of Porter's press conference, [UNSPONSORED] Moments of the Match and quotes from the ever-dominant Diego Valeri.
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