Portland celebrates MLS Cup with 2-1 win over Columbus
March 6, 2016 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal
PORTLAND -The Portland Timbers gave their fans the best possible start to the 2016 MLS season Sunday at Providence Park - a win before a raucous home crowd.
Diego Valeri scored in the 23rd minute in front of the Timbers Army, and Fanendo Adi scored in the 79th minute to give Portland a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in a rematch of the MLS Cup final from December.
Portland celebrated it's 2015 Cup win prior to the game in several ways, then beat its opponent from the final by the same score - this time before a home crowd of 21,144.
"To see the banner of winning the 2015 (MLS Cup), that was amazing," Adi said afterward. "I think that emotion took us into the game, and we did well."
"It was a very important game for us, special," Valeri said. "The first one after the MLS Trophy, and we wanted to give the (win) three points to our fans. And, we did it."
Portland remained unbeaten in home openers in its sixth season in MLS.
The Crew actually held a number of statistical advantages from the match, including more passes, better passing accuracy and holding possession for more than 60 percent of the match. But, the Timbers won 50 of the 83 physical duels and turned them into 20 shots, eight of which were on target causing Columbus keeper Steve Clark to make six saves.
Portland keeper Adam Kwarasey made three saves.
Valeri's goal came off a free kick from 25 yards away on the left side. The right-footed kick cleared the Columbus wall and then curled into the near post to spark a celebration among a crowd that had been revved up for more than an hour of pre-game hype.
Portland continually pressured Clark with shots and had a pair of goals waived off for offsides and an inadvertent handball.
The tone of the game changed early in the second half and Federico Higuain scored on a bicycle kick in the 68th minute to tie the score.
Portland survived a strong series of action by the Crew directly following the goal, and Dairon Asprilla set of the winning goal with a drive up the left side that finished in a cross. After a couple touches, Adi jumped on the ball and slid the ball past Clark for the final score.
Columbus narrowly missed tying the game moments later when Higuain beat Kwarasey to his right, but the shot hit the post and bounced high and away from direct advantage.
Portland finished with a 20-19 edge in shots.
The Timbers continue their 34-game regular-season schedule at San Jose Sunday.
MLS needs to finish Americanization of global football
Nov. 11, 2015 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal
Does anyone remember the Miracle at Providence Park? It was just two weeks ago, but the MLS Playoffs have essentially buried the excitement of the Portland Timbers' shootout victory over Kansas City in the first round of the league playoffs.
Fans owe that to the global soccer version of playoffs, which allows for each team to play a home game.
It's used across the world, and in the U.S. At least for part of the playoffs. It's time for the U.S. to complete its revamping of the world's playoff structure and ditch the home-home system.
Just play of game each round, and get to the championship game, which could be played Sunday if the league wanted.
That's a U.S. playoff system - one game with the winner moving on. U.S. football uses it, and MLS does to, at least for the first round, and then the final. The conference semis and finals are the problem, with each team getting a home game in each round. All it truly does is extend the playoffs and make them less exciting.
Get to the championship game - that's the point of the playoffs, especially with all the inter-league and national team matches going on.
If the Timbers eventually do reach the MLS Cup, it'll be nearly six weeks after the win over Kansas City because of the home-home series, and a week off for national team play. From the start of the season til the Cup, the Timbers will have played nine months starting March 7. Not even baseball, which has a 162-game regular season, plays that long.
MLS already has a U.S. version of regular season play, which separates the league into two conferences rather than one full table. And, there's no relegation/promotion with the next level league. So, it's a U.S. version of soccer. The playoffs are the final step to Americanizing the global game, which the league needs to do to capture the excitement of games like Portland's win at Providence Park, Oct. 29, 2015.
Mike "Stats" Donovan crunches the numbers on the past season
Nov. 8, 2012 / by Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com
After the final Timbers game of the year, the Portland Mercury’s Brian Gjurgevich dubbed me “Timbers stat nerd of 2012.” This is a quite an honor for me to be bestowed with, and I take the title very seriously.
Because of this, I wanted to take a second and share some of favorite, cool or simply bizarre stats that I came across during or after the 2012 season.
Scoring droughts coming to an end Despite scoring fewer goals in 2012 than 2011, quite a few Portland Timbers had long scoring droughts come to an end.
When Sal Zizzo put in the Timbers first goal in a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on August 15th, it was the first time Zizzo had ever scored a goal for a professional, non-reserve squad in a league match. Despite signing his first professional contract in July of 2007 with Hannover 96, the winger had only put the ball in the net in friendlies, cup matches or for reserve teams.
If it seemed like David Horst didn’t know how to react after heading the ball into the net against the Seattle Sounders on June 24, its probably because he hadn’t had much practice. After all, that goal was Horst’s first MLS goal despite being drafted in 2008 by Real Salt Lake. Injuries almost derailed Horst’s career but he has seemed to find a home in Portland.
Timbers midfielder Franck Songo’o ended the season in a more attacking role than he had in the beginning of the season. Yet when Songo’o scored his match-winning free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps on August 25, it was his first league goal since scoring on a header for Real Zaragoza on Valentine’s Day 2009 against UD Las Palmas. Songo’o’s last goal with his feet was scored on March 29, 2008 when he scored for Sheffield Wednesday.
Other Timbers to end scoreless streaks were Eric Brunner, who in his 80th MLS match scored a goal with one of his feet for the first time on May 20th, and Kalif Alhassan, who on opening night scored a goal on the US mainland for the first time in his three seasons for the Portland Timbers
Werewolves of Portland One of the more interesting stats that developed through the season was the Timbers penchant for playing well in Portland when under a Full Moon. With wins over San Jose (Thunder Moon) and Colorado (Blue Moon) and draws with Columbus (Flower Moon) and DC United (Harvest Moon), the Timbers ran their record to 5-0-2 in their last seven home Full Moon games.
Five goals is a lot On consecutive Saturdays in July, the Timbers gave up five goals to their opponents. First on July 14, in Gavin Wilkinson’s first game back as the Timbers head coach, Portland fell 5-3 to the defending champ LA Galaxy, then on July 21, the club was shut out 5-0 by FC Dallas. In the previous 335 games (their entire USL tenure and previous 51 games), the club had conceded five goals in a league match just once.
North End reigns supreme The Timbers Army section has always inspired the hometown team and seemed to bring an extra edge to the club. But in its two MLS seasons, the Timbers have taken that appreciation to a new level by scoring a huge portion of its goals in front of the North End. In 2012, 16 out of the 24 goals scored by Portland at Jeld-Wen Field were scored heading towards the North End. Add that to the 21 of 30 scored in the North End in 2011 and that brings the percentage of goals scored in the North End to 68.5 percent.
In the 34 halves the MLS Timbers have played headed towards the North End, they have scored 37 goals. In the 102 halves played on the road or towards the South End, they have scored the exact same number. That translates to 1.09 goals every North End half and 0.36 goals per half played on the road or South End.
No way San Jose
The Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes have been playing each other since 1975. And, despite the Earthquakes having the best record in the MLS in 2012, San Jose struggled to beat the Timbers, again. Portland is undefeated in five MLS league matches with the Bay Area club (1-0-4) and hasn’t lost a league match against San Jose since May 26, 1982.
Where is my penalty kick? In 2012, the Portland Timbers became the fourth team in MLS history not to be awarded a penalty kick during an entire MLS season, but the Timbers have a longer penalty kick drought to keep an eye on in the future. Portland’s last penalty kick goal was July 30, 2011 against Toronto FC. That means in the Timbers last 48 games, they have scored zero goals via the penalty kick. In those same 48 games, Timbers opponents have score 7 goals from the spot.
If you have any favorite stats of your own from the 2012 Timbers season, please tweet me at twitter.com/themikedonovan and have a wonderful offseason.
After a month of disappointment, Portland beats Seattle 2-1
June 24, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
In another must-win game at home against an imposing foe, the Portland Timbers pulled off an unforseen 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in an MLS match Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.
Having lost to an amatuer team in U.S. Open Cup play three weeks ago, and then to the LA Galaxy last week to fall into last place in the Western Conference, the Timbers outhustled their Cascadia Cup rivals from Washington through the opening 45 minutes, which ended with a 2-0 lead, then survived a foul-plagued second half.
Kris Boyd scored his fifth goal on the season and David Horst scored his first goals as the Timbers improved to 4-6-4, 16 points, with all four wins coming on their home turf.
"It was a tremendous performance, especially in the first half," Portland coach John Spencer said. "I'm very happy with the win and the three points."
Seattle, which got a goal from Eddie Johnson, dropped to 7-5-4, 25 points, and remained without a win in league play since May 9.
Portland plays at Colorado, 6-8-1, 19 points, Saturday. The Timbers moved out of last place in the West with the win.
The Timbers fell into last place primarily because other teams passed them, namely the defending league champion Galaxy. Portland, once rated No. 18 of the league's 19 teams, had seemed to have its season back on a positive track after going 2-1-3 beginning with a 1-0 win over league-leading Kansas City, April 21, at Jeld-Wen - the first of its must-win games.
But, after a 1-1 draw with Vancouver, May26, the Timbers fell 1-0 to Cal FC, an amatuer club, in U.S. Open play - at home - and then struggled mightily at Los Angeles last week, causing plenty of commentary all week about the level of effort from players in support of their coach. They took care of those comments from the opening kick, simply outhustling the Sounders across the field for 45 minutes.
"It's part of playing for a club that expects results," said Boyd, who came to Portland prior to the seaosn as the all-time leading scorer in Scotland's Premier League. "I've been in that environment my whole career and it's no different here.
"We definitely didn't want to be isolated at the bottom of the league, so we needed the three points and needed to put forth the effort to make that happen."
Portland took the lead in the Cascadia Cup standings with the win with four points, which leads the Souders and Whitecaps by two points.
The teams combined to make Sunday's game entertaining from the outset with Seattle firing off 15 shots, while Portland had 13. Of the 28 shots, 17 were from inside the penalty box.
Both teams had a player sent off in extra time at the end of the second half. Fredy Montero of Seattle, then Lovel Palmer of Portland were sent off by referee Ricardo Salazar for fighting.
Seattle, which won five straight games earlier and led the Western Conference on May 19, has not scored twice in a game since the 2-all tie with Vancouver, May 19. In their last seven games, the Sounders are 0-4-3.
"Seattle can talk a good game, like anyone, but they're in the a pretty tough situation," Boyd said. "They haven't won in six or seven games.
"It feels good to win a big game like this, but it's over and now we have to look forward to preparing for Colorado."
NO PITY CITY: Ryan Gates of Stumptown Footy steps in as guest co-host
April 16, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
Maybe it is the players on the field, but the Timbers Army seems to be having quite an affect on games this season at Jeld-Wen Field.
In three games, the Portland Timbers have scored six goals, with all of them into the North goal - the net directy in front of the Timbers Army.
It's not a situation for coach John Spencer or other older players such as team captain Jack Jewsbury, who view it as a coincidence, but younger players such as Darlington Nagbe, who's scored twice in that direction, and Jean Andrew-Baptiste, who's scored once, have noticed it.
"Yes, some of us have noticed it," Nagbe said after the Timbers lost 2-1 to Chivas USA Saturday. "It seems like there's more energy going that way and that plays a role in the game.'
The Army seems to have had an affect on opposing teams, too, as both goals Chivas USA scored were into the North net.
Of the 12 goals scored this season in three games at Jeld-Wen, nine have been to the North.
How much impact will the Army have on this weekend's game with Sporting KC at Jeld-Wen? Will it be enough to impact the outcome against the top team in MLS?
The Army will be a key point of discussion during the weekly episode of No Pity City, which begins live on oregonsports.com at 8:30 p.m. from the Bulldog Tavern in Southwest Portland. The episode can be viewed on this page with viewers able to chat live with hosts Cliff Pfenning and Mike Donovan.
Timbers Army readies for harsh weather as MLS Opener hits Soccer City USA
March 12, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
A year after opening their Major League Soccer home schedule in a constistend downpour, the Portland Timbers and their loyal fanbase might get another challenge from Mother Nature.
Wind and rain are expected tonight at the Timbers play host to the Philadelphia Union at Jeld-Wen Field.
The game, set for a 6:30 p.m. start, will be televised by ESPN2.
Portland played its expansion home opener on April 11 last year, beating Chicago 4-2 in a game that began with the Timbers Army singing the National Anthem. The Timbers Army is expected to sing the anthem again tonight.
Portland's roster has been bolstered by a number of off-season signings, led by the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer, Kris Boyd, in February. Boyd scored just seven minutes into his first preseason game last week,
Portland had been viewed as an underdog to reach the 10-team league playoffs, but moved up considerably according to Sports Illustrated columnist Grant Wahl following preseason results. Wahl had Portland picked for sixth just two weeks ago, but moved the Timbers to fourth in the Western Conference on Friday.
Philadelphia, Wahl write, is picked for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Kawulok nets first goal as Portland hangs with Chivas USA
March 1, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
Portland coach John Spencer got a good look at most of the players either looking for a roster spot or consistent playing time Thursday night, and they were able to rally in the second half for a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA before 15,195 fans at Jeld-Wen Field.
Ryan Kawulok scored in the 78th minute to match a first-half score by Chivas and the Timbers finished with their second draw of the preseason tournament, three days after a 1-1 tie with San Jose.
Spencer suited up a line-up full of players from last season's U23 squad as well as unsigned players led by forward Sebastian Rincon. The unit applied consistent pressure, but few serious scoring opportunities until Kawulok found the net off a corner by Kalif Alhassan, who entered as a second-half sub.
"He did well with the goal," Spencer said of Kawulok. "That's why we signed him. He's ready to play in the first team right now."
Portland plays its final preseason game Sunday against Sweden's AIK.
San Jose recovers and dominates much of preseason match
Feb. 27, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning
Two weeks before the start of the Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers jumped out to an inspiring start with a goal just 15 minutes into their preaseason match with San Jose Monday night at Jeld-Wen Field.
Kalif Alhassan scored with a spectacular curving shot for a 1-0 lead, but the Earthquakes recovered and controlled most the remaining 75 minutes, settling for a 1-all draw in the first round of the four-team tournament.
Hanyer Mosquera, trying to control a cross, knocked the ball in for an own goal, tying the score in the 60th minute.
The tournament continues for the Timbers Thursday night with a match against Chivas USA and concludes Sunday against AIK.
Spencer talks up Portland's goal of not only making the playoffs, but more
Jan. 23, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
The Portland Timbers officially opened their 2012 season with Media Day Monday at Jeld-Wen Field, and coach John Spencer wasted little time setting out the mission for the team in its second year of Major League Soccer.
"Sure we want to make the playoffs, that's a good goal for our second," he said to a crowd of local reporters, "but that's not a goal we're going to be satisfied with.
"We want to win a championship, that's our real goal."
The Timbers narrowly missed a spot in the 10-team playoffs last year, but had an inspired season that's led to the optimism of what might happen in their second season. In the last month, the team signed a pair of Columbian nationals to help boost the roster and traded veteran Kenny Cooper, perhaps as a way to make room on the field for a new crop of players.
Spencer said the moves were interesting, but he's been mostly focused on the fitness level of returning players, and in that area he's been very impressed.
"It's great to see guys working out over the winter, really taking their workouts seriously," Spencer said. "That gives you a lot of confidence in what your team can do during the season."
Jack Jewsbury said he's been working out with several teammates, but more as the training camp has neared.
"The guys definitely have the itch to get going again," he said. "It's going to be an exciting year.
"We want to be in the playoffs and fight for the title."
The Timbers will train in Portland through the end of next week then train in Los Angeles for two weeks before returning to Portland for a four-team tournament, Feb. 27.
Portland opens MLS play March 12 at home against Philadelphia.