portland soccer

Timbers keep playoff streak alive

Portland returns home after 0-0 tie at Houston

Playing their first postseason match of the 2017 campaign, the Portland Timbers battled the Houston Dynamo to a 0-0 draw before 15,169 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Monday night.

The Timbers, making their third appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs in the last five seasons, will return to Portland to play host to Houston in the second leg of the two-game, aggregate-goal series at Providence Park on Sunday.

Portland is unbeaten in seven consecutive playoff matches, including the 2015 championship match at Columbus.

Opening up their 2017 postseason campaign after bypassing the Knockout Round as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Timbers produced nine shots in the match, while holding the Dynamo scoreless on their home field. Attacking early in the game, Portland created a strong chance quickly on the break when forward Darren Mattocks slipped a pass in behind for midfielder Diego Valeri. Sprinting down the left wing, Valeri quickly played a curling pass into the box for an unmarked Darlington Nagbe, whose first-time effort went wide of the far post in the sixth minute of play.

Approaching the midway point of the first half, the Timbers threatened Houston’s goal again in the 20th minute of play when midfielder Dairon Asprilla received the ball on the left side of the 18-yard box, blasting a strong effort that went wide of the target.

The Timbers opened up the final 45 with another strong chance when Valeri and Nagbe combined in the final third, creating space for Valeri to fire an effort from distance and forcing a strong save from Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric in the 50th minute of play. Less than 10 minutes later, shortly after entering the game, forward Jeremy Ebobisse latched on to a pass from Valeri inside the 18-yard box, whipping an effort on target and forcing another save from Deric.

Continuing to create chances in the second half, the Timbers came close to scoring in the 68th minute when defender Vytas drove a pass across the six-yard box, finding defender Liam Ridgewell for a close-range effort that was blocked wide by the Houston defense. Six minutes later, an effective combination play in the middle of the field allowed Valeri to release Mattocks inside the box, with the striker hitting his effort at Deric, who made a strong save to prevent the scoring opportunity.

On the defensive end, goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made two strong saves in the second half, as Portland recorded its fourth shutout in its last seven games played across all competitions. In the 50th minute, with Houston attacking on the counter attack, Attinella made a strong save off his line to deny forward Alberth Elis. Five minutes later, Attinella produced another solid save in the 55th minute when he denied a looping header from defender Philippe Senderos, reacting quickly to push the defender’s chance over the crossbar.

Timbers not in a hurry to panic

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 10:20am
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After a lively practice performed in front of more than a dozen local media members, Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter had a resilient response to the undertone of the ensuing question-and-answer session that resonated around the teams’ first three games - all draws.

The undertone? Is he starting to get frustrated/worried about the Western Conference standings and the points his team is missing out on by not winning at least one of the games, two of which it clearly outplayed the opponent.

The answer? Not at all.

“We’ve got three points, and that’s more points than we had after three games than we had two years ago when we won the West,” Porter said referring to his first season as coach when the Timbers finished atop the conference standings. “The points will come. We just have to stay consistent in what we’re doing because we’re playing well.”

Portland won the conference title in Porter’s first season after moving up from the University of Akron. The team attacked the goal constantly and it turned into 57 points. Last season, the speed of play seemed to slow down just a tad other than a regular late blast and it turned into 49 points.

But, those 49 points were one shy of Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot.

So, naturally there’s regular conversation from every group of team supporters about those points left on the field and not being put on the standings.

Porter pointed to the length of the season - 29 more games - and the fact the Timbers have given up just two goals.

What’s frustrating to watch is how well the team plays and the results that it doesn’t turn into. In their season opener, for example, Portland scored an amazing 11-0 edge in corner kicks against Real Salt Lake. The game, though, ended 0-0.

The Timbers went up by a goal twice the following week against Los Angeles only to have the Galaxy even the score for a 2-2 draw. Saturday, an evenly-played match ended 0-0 at Kansas City.

This week the team travels to Vancouver, B.C. for the first of their matches with their Cascadia Cup rivals.

Portland actually has some good history on its side in looking at its record. Not only do the Timbers have three points, but they’ve got two shutouts. Under Porter, the Timbers have finished seasons impressively. Not only did they win the West in 2013, they finished third in the league in goals scored, and first in goal differential - 21. They led the league in draws as well as had a league-low in losses with just five.

Last season, Portland finished third in goals scored and second in draws. In his third season, Porter is 26-14-31.

Three points after three games is actually a good start to a season, but that’s equal to one win and two losses. That’s maybe the most frustrating part for fans, deciding if one win - to get that sense of victory - coupled with two losses is better than not losing at all. It goes against the drama of sports, which the Wide World of Sports highlighted in the ‘70s with the tagline “Thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”

Draws work well in that they keep a team moving forward in the point totals, but they get on a supporters’ nerves after awhile. So, hopefully, this week the Timbers will get off that train of single points, and either win or lose.

After three no-decisions, even a loss might help fans feel more comfortable with the team this season.

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