When things are as bad as they are right now for the Timbers, a home draw against FC Dallas marks progress. That, however, is really just a reflection of how bad things are.
The Timbers struggled to establish control early on, as Dallas saw a good portion of the possession and chances in the early going. In the 13th minute, Troy Perkins narrowly cut out a ball destined for Brek Shea at the top of the box.
Portland’s first chance came a minute later, as Franck Songo’o found Hanyer Mosquera on a cross at the far post, but the Colombian center-half couldn’t nod the ball on frame. The action continued just a minute later, when a deflected Timbers’ clearance found Shea ten yards from goal, but Perkins stoned the temperamental American’s effort.
The Timbers nearly broke the seal in the 34th minute, as Darlington Nagbe’s swerving shot from thirty yards sailed just wide. Kevin Hartman, the MLS’s most decorated goalkeeper, was forced into action for the first time in the 37th minute, as he saw that a Kris Boyd set piece sailed just beyond the far post.
Once again, however, the Timbers couldn’t ripen their modest first half superiority into fruit under the blistering sun.
Coming out of the locker room, Franck Songo’o looked like he might be able to put the Timbers on top, but the Cameroonian didn’t make the most of his shot from the top of the 18, resulting in an easy save for the White Puma.
Portland narrowly averted disaster a minute later when Julian deGuzman’s ungodly contract shanked a dribbling cross from six yards in front of goal.
The Timbers would show no aversion to disaster in the 51st minute, however, as Kosuke Kimura let Shea earn a step on him. After collecting the ball on the left wing, the Burn’s My Little Pony-coifed midfielder crossed to an unmarked Scott Sealy who easily tapped home.
Chivas vu? Not quite. Just as things looked to be turning south for the Timbers, Zach Lloyd earned a needless second yellow card 75 yards from goal when he pulled Songo’o down from behind.
You would’ve had a hard time believing the Timbers were playing with a man-advantage for the next several minutes, however, as Portland seemed desperately unable to take advantage of the ten-man Hoops.
In the 61st minute, however, Gavin Wilkinson, the Timbers’ beleaguered interim manager, made perhaps the first difference-making substitution of his stewardship when he replaced the ineffective Boyd and the understandably inconsistent Brent Richards with Bright Dike and Danny Mwanga.
Seven minutes later, Dike intercepted a lazy back-pass from Jair Benitez, but Hartman closed him down near the top of the box before Dike could brighten the Timbers’ day. Hartman would one-up himself ten minutes later, as he reacted magnificently from the ground to deny a goal-bound Mwanga volley.
The Burn’s goalkeeper couldn’t come to Dallas’ rescue on the ensuing throw, however. After the White Puma punched out another Timbers’ chance, Jack Jewsbury volleyed home the clearance from 20 yards out with his left foot. If Hartman’s 78th minute save was the Save of the Week, Jewsbury’s 79th minute goal might just be the Goal of the Week.
Despite the man-advantage and momentum, however, Portland couldn’t put together a serious effort at a winner. Portland’s draw momentarily relinquishes possession of the wooden spoon to Toronto FC, with next week’s fixture at BMO Stadium perhaps determining permanent custody.
- Well, it wasn’t a loss.
- It is worth acknowledging that the Dallas team Portland played on Sunday was vastly superior to those the Timbers faced earlier this season. That Dallas team isn’t the 23-points-from-24-matches team of the season to date. Dallas’ poor season has been injury, suspension, and mental breakdown-induced. The Timbers’ poor season, on the other hand, has been stink-induced.
- Like last week, Portland’s midfield continued to be just fine, but the ineptitude in the final third is still atrocious. When the strikers are making runs, the right cross isn’t there. When the right cross is there, the strikers aren’t making runs.
- Meanwhile, the defense continues to make two or three major mistakes per game at home. When a team is scoring goals, those mistakes are easily forgiven. When you’re inept up front, however, those mistakes are often disastrous. So it was last week against Chivas, and so it nearly was on Sunday.
- Hey MLS, thanks for the 4:00pm start in August. Even the Coppertone girl was getting fried on Sunday.
- Finally, thanks to all the artists and 107ists who made the Art Takeover happen on Saturday. Absolutely incredible job for a great cause.
Troy Perkins, 7 – Quietly a very nice game for Troy. Come through with a number of nice plays for the Timbers, thrice keeping Shea from scoring and consistently covering his defense’s mistakes. Nothing he could do about the concession.
Steven Smith, 5 – Quiet night on the left flank. Dallas was more interested in moving down their left side, so Smith can’t get too much credit, but I’ll take a quiet game from Smith any day.
Hanyer Mosquera, 6 – Bears no fault for the concession, and otherwise had a decent outing. Most of the problems were coming from the right side of the defense, and, where possible, both Mosco and Horst did a decent job of solving them.
David Horst, 5.5 – See Mosco. Bears a tiny bit of culpability for getting beat by Sealy, but probably couldn’t have hung with him even if he had been on top of covering the run.
Kosuke Kimura, 3 – Had a tough task in dealing with a motivated Brek Shea and didn’t exactly rise to it. Shea found ample space to play in all night, including on the concession.
Jack Jewsbury, 6 – Had a relatively quiet – though competent – night until he made a little bit of magic in the 79th minute. It was May 2011 stuff from Jack.
Diego Chara, 6.5 – Did what Diego does. Like last week, was more involved in the attack than he previously has been, and had a few nice runs forward. Now if only his strikers would learn to play off of him.
Franck Songo’o, 7 – With apologies to Chara, Franck has been the Timbers’ best player over the last six weeks. Was given license to roam a little bit on Sunday and took advantage, finding space to make plays when he floated centrally and sending decent crosses in when he stayed out wide.
Darlington Nagbe, 5.5 – A quieter night for Darlington with Franck working centrally a little bit more. Nagbe needs to learn to play off of that more consistently, as there – at least theoretically – is promise in the idea of Songo’o, Nagbe, and Chara building the attack through the middle. Did so occasionally on Sunday, but also seemed to disappear at times. His 34th minute strike was just short of magical. That’s what we need to see more of from Darlington.
Brent Richards, 4 – Had a hard time in the attack on Sunday. Brent still doesn’t seem completely comfortable with the increased speed and technical ability of the first team game, but there’s only one way to get him there. Rescued his grade a little bit by doing a nice job of consistently tracking back to help out on Shea. He’ll continue to make mistakes here and there, but Brent needs to stay in the team to further develop. At this point, why not?
Kris Boyd, 2 – Has the look of a striker that is desperately out of synch. Not only is he not finishing chances – though he didn’t have anything to speak of on Sunday – but he’s not making the runs he needs to make to put himself in position to get them. Very often the crosses or entry balls were there to be had, but Boyd was nowhere to be found.
Bright Dike, 6 –Dike came in and highlighted the activity the Timbers had been missing up top. Good outing from Bright, who looks determined to work his was consistently back into the team. I still wonder, however, if he has the quality to make himself an everyday player in MLS.
Danny Mwanga, 5.5 – Robbed of a goal by Hartman. Wasn’t terribly active otherwise, but one golden opportunity in 30 minutes is more than his strikeforce predecessors made in 60.
Kalif Alhassan, 5 – Did a solid job of facilitating through the middle, but I can’t help but think Kalif is a little bit wasted in the middle. He’s not a make-the-right-pass type of midfielder. Rather, he’s more effective where he can break his man down and send a cross into the box. Kalif needs to be on the wing, but I’m not entirely sure who to relegate to the bench in his favor.
Preseason Prediction: Timbers 2, Dallas 1. Castillo, Boyd, Alhassan.
Actual Result: Timbers 1, Dallas 1. Sealy, Jewsbury.
Onward, Rose City!