Under normal circumstances, a point away to the top team in the league isn’t a bad deal. But for an unconscionable penalty given by Juan Guzman, however, Wednesday could have been so much more.
It didn’t look like three points were a possibility in the first fifteen minutes, however, as Dallas came out dominant.
After a bad eighth minute giveaway by Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Fabian Castillo got loose on Dallas’s left side, but his effort from a tight angle sailed harmlessly across goal. The Burn had their best chance in the 12th minute when Blas Perez played a Zach Lloyd entry ball back to an open David Ferreira on the left side of the box, but the Colombian’s promising shot sailed high.
The Timbers weathered the storm, however, and after Ferreira’s miss began to build some momentum. In the 16th minute Diego Chara brilliantly found Frederic Piquionne, who fed the ball wide to Kalif Alhassan. Kalif sent a looping cross to Diego Valeri open at the back post, but Valeri’s sliding goal-bound effort was saved by Raul Fernandez.
Portland wasn’t done. After Diego Chara scooped the ball off of Michael Harrington’s foot in the defensive end and, with the help of a combination with Darlington Nagbe put in a 60 yard run, the tiny talisman played a perfect pass through to Piquionne in on goal, but the New Caledonian’s shot was deflected by Fernandez just enough to make it rattle the near post and bounce cruelly away.
As good as Chara was offensively, he came up bigger in defense in the 32nd minute. After failing to win a ball in the attacking end, Chara followed the play eighty yards, committed a harmless foul along the way, and when Ferreira burst through on goal, the designated player made a saving tackle in the box. Every player in the league gives up on that play after losing the initial challenge. Not Diego Chara.
It was Ricketts’s turn to come to the rescue seven minutes later. After Fabian Castillo once again got loose on the left side, and with Michael Harrington once again nowhere in sight, Ricketts closed down the oncoming Castillo’s tight angle and palmed the youngster’s effort behind.
Dallas had the quantity of the chances in the first half, but the even intermission scoreline carried out justice, as the Timbers had the quality.
That would change early in the second half, however. After the Timbers botched an interchange at midfield, Castillo took a 50th minute ball off Ferreira’s foot and played a pretty ball behind to Perez, but Ricketts again went low to turn the Panamanian’s shot away.
There was nothing Ricketts could do in the 68th minute, however. After the right side of his defense, prominently featuring Harrington, let Michel have all the space he wanted to pick somebody out of the box, the Brazilian found Perez at the spot, but the striker’s header into an open net was denied by the same post that turned Piquionne away fifty minutes earlier.
If Timbers’ opponents have learned anything this year, it’s that they have to take your chances against Portland. If you let Portland hang around, the Timbers will find their goal.
And that Portland did in the 70th minute. Second half substitute Rodney Wallace put his mark on the game with some solid work to meander from the center onto the left side of the box, drawing Dallas’s defense toward him and out of shape. All it took, then, was a pretty chipped cross to Nagbe waiting all alone at the far post and a soild bouncing finish for the Timbers to find themselves once again in the lead on the road.
Enter, referee Juan Guzman. Six minutes later, after a Je-Vaughan Watson cross was popped up by Ben Zemanski and routinely gathered by Ricketts, Guzman blew his whistle for activity away from the play. The referee, wanting to make his mark on the game, pointed at the spot after seeing Jean-Baptiste and Perez grappling in the box. Perez and Jean-Baptiste had locked arms in the box, and Perez swung the pair around as though they were square dancing. The defender looks like less than a willing participant, but as Perez pulled Jean-Baptiste away from the play, the flopping forward disengaged and flung himself to the ground. Guzman horrifically adjudged it a yellow card on Jean-Baptiste and pointed to the spot where Kenny Cooper classily converted.
Cooper nearly gave Dallas the win in the 86th minute, when Perez won an aerial 50-50 from Futty, which fell to an open Kenny Cooper in the spot vacated by the longtime Timber, but Jack Jewbsury recovered to deflect Cooper’s volley and Donovan Ricketts tapped the deflection high and wide to preserve the draw.
By any objective measure, the point in Dallas – the first any visitor has earned in 2013 – is a good one. The result is more or less just, as the teams played on almost comically even terms. The only difference, however, is the Timbers earned their goal, while Guzman gifted the Hoops’. And that is how a draw that would have felt great a year ago, feels empty today.
Donovan Ricketts, 8 – On fire.
Jack Jewsbury, 6 – Good night from Jewsbury. Had only couple contributions to the attack, but was solid defensively in keeping the left side relatively quiet.
Futty, 5.5 – Needs to win a couple more 50-50s in the air, but came through with some good tackles and solid overall defending. Was up to a difficult task being lined up alongside Jean-Baptiste tonight.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 3.5 – Although he probably shouldn’t put himself in positions like that, the penalty call was an awful one. Still, AJB was repeatedly picked on to some success for Dallas.
Michael Harrington, 2.5 – Nowhere offensively or defensively. The way was open for Dallas down Portland’s right side on Wednesday, and Michael has his teammates and good fortune to thank for not being punished for that.
Diego Chara, 8 – Just fantastic from Diego. He was intimately involved in everything positive in the first half, and had some dominant moments in the midfield. He was the engine that made Portland run on Wednesday, and a big chunk of the reason the Timbers came away with a good point.
Will Johnson, 5 – Overall a little bit below average night for Will. Didn’t do a whale of a lot offensively, and got caught just a shade out of position a couple times defensively. Still, a little bit of a rough night for Will is a perfectly acceptable night by any other standard.
Diego Valeri, 5 – Had some good moments offensively, including feeding Rodney Wallace on the scoring play, but also had some cringe-worthy giveaways. Should point out, however, that Diego also had a couple moments of handy defending. On the whole, he looks like a guy that’s still adjusting to MLS travel.
Kalif Alhassan, 5.5 – Nice first half. Anonymous second half. I think this start had more to do with resting Rodney Wallace than anything, but Kalif held up his end of the bargain.
Darlington Nagbe, 6 – Didn’t do much aside from the goal, but a goal is a goal, and this one was big. A pretty well finished one, as well.
Frederic Piquionne, 6 – A nice first half, including a good finish that was only kept out by a great save and the post, but much quieter in the second. Probably could have come off 10 minutes earlier, which would have given Ryan Johnson more time to work into the game. Five clearances from Frederic, however, which highlights some handy set piece defending.
Rodney Wallace, 8 – Here’s one guy who didn’t need any time to work into the game. Held out of the start, Rodney showed his value as a supersub once again, as it was his work that really earned the go-ahead goal.
Ben Zemanski, 5 – A mostly quiet 15 minute spell from Zemanski, highlighted by a difficult volley attempt that he couldn’t steer on frame.
Ryan Johnson, 5.5 – Only had eight minutes to work with, but Johnson threatened a couple times.
Preseason Prediction: FCD 1, Timbers 0.
Actual Result: Timbers 1, FCD 1.
Onward, Rose City!