Jack Jewsbury's last Portland Timbers MLS goal was two and a half years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. In the time since, the old midfielder lost his starting spot, his captaincy to Will Johnson — and apparently the vice-captaincy to Liam Ridgewell — reemerged as a starting fullback, lost that job too, and came back this year in the absences of Will Johnson and Ben Zemanski as a deep-lying central midfielder.
He's about to lose that job too. Saturday night in Commerce City figures to be the end for Jewsbury in midfield as Johnson reaches full fitness again. But if the last three years have taught us anything, it's that the old man will be back. This time, he went out with a bang.
It was typical Jack: A late run out of midfield on a slightly scrambled play, he fielded a desperate push-pass from Ishmael Yartey, and assuredly finished through the legs of Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Jewsbury's 93rd minute game-winning goal gave the Timbers a heart-racing 2-1 over the Colorado Rapids, and is firmly established as the best moment of a 2015 season that is back on course again.
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The Timbers advance to Colorado their third games in eight days, after a busy week which saw a deflating loss in Toronto, a Timbers Army protest, a much-needed victory over DC United, and some fireworks from owner Merritt Paulson.
This last game, Saturday at 6:00 PM at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the Denver suburb of Commerce City — site of the 2015 MLS All-Star Game — is the most important. The Rapids are a Western Conference opponent, the only one, in fact, that is currently below the Timbers in the standings. This the rubber-match in this three-game stretch. Win, and the Timbers vault into the thick of the playoff chase. Lose, and the team falls into last place.
It was the perfect storm. The Portland Timbers got a Wednesday night respite from four straight Saturday road games against a DC United side composed almost entirely of reserves, and a chance to dim quickly mounting frustrations about the direction of the 2015 season. They took it.
The final score-line was just 1-0, but this Portland win was about as comfortable as the picturesque night it was played on. In short, DC United brought a slingshot to a knife fight. Good thing too, because these Timbers need all the help they can get.
This isn't a season-defining or season-altering win. The Timbers merely met expectations and had everyone take three steps back from the panic button that was being mashed after the loss at Toronto FC last weekend. The Timbers won't have an easier three points for the rest of the year. But if ever there was a time for a gimme, it was in this game.
The fallout from the Timbers' loss to Toronto on Saturday hasn't been pretty. Acrimony and frustration have hit levels not seen since the Timbers' now-infamous swoon at the beginning of last season, and are quickly approaching 2012 levels—a season that has been frequently invoked when talking about Portland's struggles this year.
Thankfully, the team's first midweek game of the season comes on Wednesday night. Even better, the Timbers return home for the first time since May 2nd, and opponent DC United are bringing a heavily depleted and very beatable squad to Portland.
In desperate need of some a good performance, the Timbers have as good a chance as any to notch a home win—even, again, without Diego Valeri.
The numbers, now, aren't unsure about the story they are telling. After the first 12 games of the 2015 MLS season, the Portland Timbers have the same number of points they did after the first 12 games of 2014, and the same number of points after 12 games played this year as they had in 2012.
In 2012, of course, things got ugly. Manager John Spencer was sacked, general Timbers czar Gavin Wilkinson took over as interim coach, and Portland finished with 16 losses and 34 points.
We're not there yet with this Timbers team, but total chaos isn't impossible to see down the road. Frustration is quickly mounting. This latest setback—a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC—was a performance particularly short of ideas and devoid of belief.
Portland look like losers right now. It's that simple. They play slowly and listlessly, they're in ninth place in the Western Conference, averaging just over one point per game, and they've got the Eastern Conference leaders coming into Providence Park on Wednesday night.
Oh, and Diego Valeri got hurt again. Could things be going any better?
After a deeply demoralizing 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo last Saturday—possibly the Portland Timbers' worst of the season—the Timbers travel to BMO Field for an afternoon matinée against big-spending Toronto FC.
It's the Timbers' third consecutive road game, and second trip to Canada in three weeks. Will Johnson is set to make the game-day roster for the first time this year with Portland, yet again, badly in need of a morale-boosting result.
It was the worst performance of the season. The Portland Timbers fell apart on a sticky Saturday Houston night en route to a thorough 3-1 beatdown at the hands of the Dynamo.
Things were bad early, and got worse late. If it wasn't a 90 minute meltdown, it was the closest the Timbers have come in 2015. This wasn't about the weather. This wasn't about injuries. This was about a bad, bad all-around performance from a Portland team that is so far away from elite that it's hard to remember the last time this team was truly one of MLS' best.
We're just about at the one-third point of the season. The Timbers are mostly healthy—Diego Valeri, in fact, frequently looks like the only player with a pulse. This year isn't going as planned. The Timbers are setting themselves up to be in a battle to the end for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. And if this last game is any hint, that might even be a reach.
The Timbers travel to new Western Conference opponent Houston for the second of their three-game road swing that will take up the bulk of May. The first game of that trip, last weekend, was a victory over the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo courtesy, in the final tally, of the Goal of the Week from returned maestro Diego Valeri.
Portland has a second winnable game in a row against a non-playoff team this week, and a real chance to build momentum and starting climbing their way up the conference table. The Timbers have been notably efficient on the road this year, but, for over a year now, notably poor coming off of wins. Something has to give on Saturday night.
It's the Portland Timbers, so of course it couldn't be easy.
First, a two-goal lead became a one-goal lead. Then it started raining. Then it started lightning. Then the game-tying goal was ruled out after a minute's conversation. Then the Timbers started missing breakaway chances, 3 v 2s, then 2 v 1s, then 1 v 0s, then even 2 v 0s, but when it was finally done and dusted, it was a satisfying, all-important W.
Portland beat the Montreal Impact in front of a crowd at Stade Saputo rendered spartan by a Montreal Canadians playoff hockey game, 2-1. All three goals in the match came within seven minutes of each other, first a rebound nod-in from Nat Borchers, than a scorcher from Diego Valeri, before Dominic Oduro pulled a goal back for the Impact.
The Timbers are miles and miles better than Montreal, and they probably shouldn't have made it as hard as they did. But after the start the Timbers have had, it doesn't matter. This win feels pretty damn good.
With clouds of disappointment and disillusionment thickening once again over the Rose City, the Portland Timbers hit the road for the first of three matches away from Providence Park. This Saturday afternoon it's the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo, as the CONCACAF Champions League runners-up make their return to MLS play after a three-week break from the domestic league.
Portland is in bad need of a win against the weakest opponent they'll face in the foreseeable future. Along with that win, they'd like goals—the Timbers have been shut out in over half their games this season. After losing in Seattle and dropping two more points at home against Vancouver, a Timbers response is more than called for.
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.
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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.
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