The Portland Timbers went a goal down on a great strike from Fredy Montero, lost Donovan Ricketts and Diego Chara to injury, and were again denied a clear penalty by an erroneously unsympathetic referee. Basically, everything that could have gone wrong on Saturday, went wrong.
And the Timbers still came within inches of a legendary Cascadia Cup-clinching victory over the Seattle Sounders.
The game never hid its identity, as the teams came out with the tackles flying, but Seattle had the better of the chances in the early going. Ozzie Alonso got the opportunities going in the tenth and fourteenth minute, but couldn’t steer a pair of strikes from distance on frame.
The Sounders’ best chance came in the seventeenth minute, however, after Steve Zakuani burned Kosuke Kimura on the Sounders’ left side and sent a cross in that was punched away by Ricketts. Portland couldn’t clear the danger, however, until the ball bounced around the box before Brad Evans steered his shot from a tight angle well wide.
As the half went along, however, the Timbers found their footing. In the thirty-eighth minute, Franck Songo’o took a crack from twenty-five yards out at the top of the circle, but Michael Gspurning turned the effort away with a diving save.
Jack Jewsbury similarly found space in the center of the Sounders defensive midfield in the forty-third minute, but the captain’s strike sailed just wide.
Coming out of the half at a scoreless draw, the Sounders again tried to establish themselves on the front foot. After Andy Rose took his turn on Kimura’s turnstile defense, he found Brad Evans at the back post, but the mouthy winger couldn’t steer his volley on frame.
The game changed moments later, however, after Rose again found space down the Timbers’ right flank. The youngster sent a cross into the box, but Ricketts came to punch away despite a hard collision with Eddie Johnson. Ricketts was forced off with a separated shoulder, bringing young Joe Bendik into goal for the Timbers.
Seattle would take advantage of the substitution moments later when Fredy Montero let a long ball bounce twice and took a spinning volley, which, much to the supposedly neutral Arlo White’s delight, sailed over Bendik and under the bar. Some goals are bad defense. Some goals are just a great play. Regrettably, this was the latter.
This was the Timbers’ cue to fold, right? Goalkeeper knocked out of the game and a goal conceded. Surely, the day was done. If it didn’t look that way after Montero’s goal, it certainly would eight minutes later in the sixty-fifth minute.
After Rod Wallace overhit his cross and Sal Zizzo collected, the quiet winger sent the ball toward the sideline where Andy Rose looked to clear. Rather than hit the ball, however, Rose caught the heel of Diego Chara who had sidled in front of him to collect the loose ball and reset the Timbers’ offense. Chara, understandably, went down. The ball, understandably, went out. But the call, unconscionably, was for a goal kick. Surely, with a goalkeeper out, a goal down, and clear penalty denied, the Timbers were done.
Nope. After a run of positive play, the boys in green pulled level in the seventy-eighth minute in vintage 2011 fashion. After Jewbsury sculpted a perfect corner to the top of the six at the near post, Rodney Wallace got head to the service and headed in the direction of the far post. The ball bounced around the line, but eventually nestled into the side netting for the equalizer.
Portland would continue to stay on its front foot in search of the Cup-winning winner, but despite a nice collection of half chances couldn’t find the golden goal before stoppage time. Everything positive seemed to come to a screeching halt in the eighty-ninth minute, however, when Diego Chara crumpled to the field with a strained groin, then limped off.
Surely, the Timbers couldn’t find the winner playing a man down and missing their best player. But after yet another brilliant Jewsbury corner two minutes into stoppage, the ball fell to Bright Dike at the far post. It couldn’t be. It might be. It may just be the most legendary goal in modern Timbers history. Or so it may have been. Dike’s smash deflected off the inside of the near post to keep things level.
The Timbers had to weather one more nervous moment, however. After David Horst did very well to deny Montero a chance in the box, Alonso sent a low shot in from twenty-five, but Bendik was there to smother the trouble.
Oh, what might have been. The draw keeps the Timbers three points clear of the Sounders in the race for Cascadian dominance, but Portland has to win it on the road now. A draw in Seattle would do the trick, but, as Timbers fans know, that means the Cup is far from secure.
- Obviously, it’s a bittersweet result. There were lots of things to like from the Timbers, including the fact that they had the better of the chances and fixed a defense that conceded three goals to lowly Colorado last week. Still, what could have been leaves me with a bit of an empty feeling, as the Timbers were inches from an “I was there when…” victory.
- He doesn’t get into the ratings because he may or may not have a soul, but Ozzie Alonso was fantastic on Saturday. I mean, really fantastic. Portland had a hard time moving the ball through the center of the field, especially through Darlington Nagbe, which is entirely attributable to the Cuban’s influence.
- The reserves match on Sunday also provided an opportunity to get a look at a number of guys we haven’t had much opportunity to see for a while. Most notably, Sunday brought the debut of Trencito. He looked, well, like he hadn’t played much soccer in a while. The talent was apparent, but he was clearly out of synch. Kalif Alhassan backed up a neat substitute shift on Saturday with a good one on Sunday. Sebastian Rincon continues to impress me with his instincts to cut inside and go at goal. The quality is undeniably there, and he’s developing a nice little work ethic, too. He still struggles a little bit linking up with other players in the offense, but that’s largely to be expected at this point in his development. Finally, it was my first chance to really see Ian Hogg. I was impressed with some of his defense – he looks like he might be one of the better cross-blockers on the team – but he really struggled getting forward and concerned me a little bit in possession.
- Don’t be shocked to see Gavin find a way to work Kalif back into the lineup in short order. After looking disjointed in returning from injury, he had a good weekend, especially when he floated central. With Chara out for the next few weeks, I expect to see some experimentation in non-Cascadia matches with Kalif.
Donovan Ricketts, 6 – Really wasn’t called upon until that fateful cross, but sacrificed his body to save a sure concession.
Rodney Wallace, 7 – I was really concerned about Rodney coming in, but he was passable defensively and eager to overlap. With the middle shut down, that provided a good chunk of the offense, even if his crosses frequently weren’t where you would like them. Oh, and he equalized, which was cool.
Hanyer Mosquera, 6 – On the whole, a good game for Mosco. The center backs were getting hung out to dry by one fullback in particular, and they generally did very well to keep the Sounders attack under control.
David Horst, 7 – Basically the same as Mosco, except may have saved the game by denying Montero in stoppage time.
Kosuke Kimura, 2 – The MLS highlight set is basically a mash up of the Timbers almost scoring and Kosuke getting abused. Brutal.
Jack Jewsbury, 6.5 – As usual, good in the field, but can somebody remind me why he stopped taking set pieces?
Diego Chara, 7 – Classic Diego stuff again. The Timbers’ most influential player in the midfield. Hopefully he’s fit for the trip to Seattle.
Darlington Nagbe, 4.5 – None of this is Darlington’s fault. Nagbe was paid the biggest compliment of his career when Seattle decided it needed to essentially man-mark him with Ozzie Alonso.
Franck Songo’o, 6 – A little bit quiet at the outset, but became more influential as the match went along. Seriously, though, the dude needs to get 90 minutes fit.
Sal Zizzo, 5 – Had an active first half, but the Sounders made the necessary defensive adjustments to limit him as the game went along. That’s when Franck stepped up.
Bright Dike, 5 – Okay outing for Bright. Denied beatification by the post.
Joe Bendik, 5.5 – Not much he could do about the concession, especially coming in cold. Otherwise was pretty good, including looking confident in making the final save.
Kalif Alhassan, 6 – Put in a pretty darn good shift coming on for Songo’o. His touch has improved through the course of his comeback, as Kalif looked close to the form he has flashed when healthy this year.
Danny Mwanga, 6 – A more active shift than we have seen from Danny in the past, as he floated back into the midfield a bit more. Showed nicely on a couple good runs, and had an on-frame looking shot deflected out.
Preseason Prediction: Timbers 2, Sounders 1. Montero, Mosquera, Boyd.
Actual Result: Timbers 1, Sounders 1. Montero, Wallace.
Onward, Rose City!
 I have no idea how Ricardo Salazar called a goal kick in that situation. One of two things clearly happened. Either Rose got the ball or Chara. If he got the ball, it’s a corner. If he got Chara, it’s a penalty. Undeterred by logic, however, Salazar pointed to the corner of the six.