If Sunday night is any indication, this could be a fun season.
For those wondering how long it would take for Kris Boyd to notch his first Timbers goal, here is your answer: Six minutes and change.
The Timbers and AIK spent the first moments of the match feeling each other out; getting a feel for opponents they had seen before but never met on the pitch.
Kris Boyd apparently isn’t one for feelings. In the seventh minute, Rodney Wallace found Jorge Perlaza on one of his signature runs down the right side. Perlaza looked up, saw Kris Boyd running into the middle of the box, lifted the ball, and put it on Boyd’s head. A striker does the rest. The ball glanced off Boyd’s cue and nestled into the far side netting.
From there the Timbers midfield established control over the first half. Portland wasn’t creating chances at will, by any means, but the Timbers midfield kept AIK largely pinned in their own end. Portland’s best chance came when Kalif Alhassan found Perlaza streaking up the right side again, but Jorge cut across his shot too much and it flew wide of the near post.
The Gnaget came out in the second half looking substantially more dangerous than the first, but the Portland defense had an answer for every question AIK asked of them. The Swedish giants, however, only mustered a couple dangerous moments. The Gnaget’s best moment came when veteran midfielder Daniel Tjernström hit a swerving left footed shot from the top of the box, only to see it parried away by a diving Troy Perkins.
The Timbers weren’t done creating chances of their own, as Kris Boyd and Rodney Wallace each saw goal-bound efforts tipped wide by AIK keeper Ivan Turina.
After weathering AIK’s miniature second half storm, the Timbers salted away the victory with a final fifteen minutes of consistent possession. It wasn’t long on scoring chances for Portland, with the exception of Bright Dike getting a head to an Alhassan cross only to see Turina answer the call again, but it was short on anxiety.
In the end, Boyd’s goal was all the Timbers needed to secure a well-deserved victory and close the preseason on a high note. From now on the games count. The offseason is officially over.
- The Portland Timbers Football Club has not lost a preseason match in its MLS history.
- There was a fair amount to like offensively on Sunday, but at times the Timbers midfield seemed to get a little bit greedy in their passing. Very often midfielders – Diego Chara was probably the biggest offender against AIK – would look to spring the big run or send a ball through the defense when a simple pass would have done the trick. A little bit more offensive patience could really pay off. That said, AIK’s defense is partially to credit for this – they did a great job of sealing off the seams that many MLS defenses would leave open. And, with Boyd lingering in the box, can you really blame the midfield for being a little bit antsy in the pantsy to send the ball in?
- I was surprised to see Hanyer Mosquera in the starting lineup with Futty back from Gambia. The defense, however, played very well. Even in the second half, when AIK looked to have some more intent going forward, the Timbers backline limited the Gnaget to only a couple real chances and a handful of half chances.
- My second favorite postgame tradition – next to the presentation of the log slices – has to be Kalif jumping on James Marcelin’s back. The look on his face is just precious. Perhaps with the exception of his tendency to over dribble, there is literally nothing about Kalif I don’t enjoy. Not only can he be thrilling on the pitch, but he has turned into one of the club’s most vibrant characters as well.
- Finally, the Tournament was absolutely fantastic. The soccer was a little tedious at times, but downright thrilling at others. Just as importantly, though, the Tournament gave the Army a chance to meet a very classy club with some very classy supporters. Best wishes to AIK this season and beyond. With luck, they won’t be strangers.
Troy Perkins, 7 – Rarely called upon, but more than capable when he was. Made one great save diving to his left in the second half and was in perfect position to corral another potentially dangerous shot.
Mike Chabala, 5.5 – Good night in defense getting pressure on AIK’s wide players trying to send crosses in. Had a few crosses and nice overlaps, but really didn’t contribute a whole lot in the attack, but to be fair that was partially because the ball moved up the right side much of the evening.
Eric Brunner, 6 – Quiet night for Eric; exactly what he would like to hear. Lead a very well organized backline, and was rarely called upon to do any emergency defending – something he unfortunately became rather expert at last year.
Hanyer Mosquera, 6 – Made a few more plays than Brunner did, but also had one mistake that led to a dangerous situation where he let an AIK attacker turn on him and have a free shot at goal. On the whole, though, a very positive evening for Mosco.
Lovel Palmer, 6.5 – Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a night where Lovel has looked better as a Timber. Very solid in defense and paired up well with Kalif on the right side. Even his usual worm-burner crosses were getting airborne.
Rodney Wallace, 7 – Had some absolutely brilliant moments in the midfield going forward, but primarily I thought his defense was superb. He was picking pockets and clearing balls – not to the middle of the field – better than at any point in recent memory.
Jack Jewsbury, 5 – Maybe the quietest Timber on the pitch on Sunday – which is pretty common stuff for a true holding midfielder. If the tactics shape up like it looks like they will, Jack will be the most underappreciated guy on the team.
Diego Chara, 5.5 – I thought Diego was great defensively. The Sidler was in fine form, as many an AIK midfielder found themselves spinning around to see Diego going the other way with the ball. Still, didn’t have his best night in distribution, where he has looked a little rusty in each of the matches at home. Once he polishes that back to where it was late last season, Diego is poised for a stellar MLS sophomore year.
Kalif Alhassan, 6 – I never know how to grade Kalif because his best asset is also his biggest liability. The ball is absolutely Velcroed to his feet, for better and for worse. Absolutely impossible to dispossess, but also has a hard time finding the right pass or proper moment to pull the trigger. For extended periods, though, he was the most dynamic player on the field. His solid week may just reopen the Alhassan-Alexander debate that seemed settled coming home from California.
Jorge Perlaza, 5.5 – Great assist on the goal, but otherwise had a fairly quiet evening. Seemed a little reluctant to fancy himself at times, as he chose to pass or take an extra dribble a couple times when he could have had a good rip at goal. He also sent the ball wide in the one good chance that he took. I understand it was from a tough angle, but that has to be on frame.
Kris Boyd, 7 – Fantastic number nine stuff on the goal. Put yourself in a spot where your strike partner can find you and finish it clinically. He wasn’t done, though, as all three of his shots on goal were dangerous. But for some stellar goalkeeping from AIK’s Ivan Turina, Boyd may have made a couple entries into the scorebook. He will get criticized this year for poaching too much – hanging out around the box and giving marginal effort elsewhere. That criticism will be unfounded. Boyd is here to do one thing – score goals. His play is beyond reproach as long as he’s doing that.
Bright Dike, 5 – Came on for a gassed Kris Boyd and was his usual disruptive self. Until his quality in the attacking third improves, however, he’s going to find himself in a role where he’ll only see time when Spencer wants somebody to wreak havoc on the opponent’s backline.
James Marcelin, 5.5 – Came on as a defensive substitute for Chara in the 79th minute and did his job. Before his introduction, AIK seemed to be pinning their ears back a little bit and looking for the equalizer. After James came on, the result was rarely in doubt. Maybe it’s a little bit of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning, but Marcelin was almost certainly a factor in the Timbers’ late dominance.
Onward, Rose City!
 Don’t ask me how to pronounce that.
 See anything relating to Chivas USA.
 Which was certainly one of the stories of the match. Folks will look at the one goal and point to an offense that was lukewarm, but Turina’s goalkeeping was the primary factor in keeping the Timbers from lighting up the scoreboard. Wallace, Boyd, and Dike all had shots that required significant efforts to turn away.
 I’ll probably be making it at some point, so feel free to throw this back in my face when I do.
 Yeah, I’m a West Wing fan. Dorky or not, it was quality, quality television.