Portland battles Houston to a 0-0 draw on the road
May 15, 2012
The drought continues for the Portland Timbers, but at least it didn't turn into a loss Tuesday night in Houston.
Despite failing to score for the fourth-straight game, the Timbers held Houston without a goal and drew 0-0 in MLS action, a result that earned the team a point in the league standings.
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins made a pair of dramatic saves in Houston's first night game at BBVA Compass Stadium, which opened for play Saturday.
Portland improved to 2-5-3, 9 points, while Houston improved to3-3-3, 12 points.
The draw was impressive not only because it came on the road, but because so many statistics were slanted toward the Dynamo. Houston fired off 18 shots, nine more than the Timbers, and seven required a save by Perkins. Houston had 486 passes in the game, 160 more than Portland, and 82 percent were completed against 67 percent for the Timbers.
The point pulled the Timbers within three points of Dallas, which has played to more games.
Portland next plays host to Chicago, Sunday at 4 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field.
Portland has another week off before playing at Houston
May 8, 2012
There's some relaxation afoot for the Portland Timbers this week as they have an extra three days off before playing at Houston, May 15, but that's an extra three days to delve into the importance of their next game.
Portland needs a gool old fashioned win however it happens and a win at Houston would be something close to monumetal, a topic that will be key to Tuesday night's webcast of No Pity City on oregonsports.com.
The show begins at 8:30 p.m. and can be viewed on this page.
Portland's season is awash in drama after only nine games. Not only are the Timbers at the bottom of the Western Conference at 2-5-2, 8 points, but they haven't scored a goal in three games, 3.5 halves to be exact.
The team has scored twice in a game only twice and has yet to score in both halves of a game.
And, the Timbers are winless on the road, earning only a 1-all tie at Dallas in their first road game.
The biggest reason for drama at Houston, is the home club playing its first MLS night game in its new stadium after starting the season with seven straight road games.
Portland's continually changing line-up is likely to see another change, although one that's likely to be determined shortly before game time.
Portland doesn't win, but doesn't lose to Columbus
May 5, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
At least they didn't lose.
Heading into Saturday's game, the Portland Timbers might have been the most frustrated team in the MLS with the most discontent fan base, and a loss to visiting Columbus would have been as devastating as possible only nine games into the season.
But, the Timbers put forth a spirited effort Saturday night with 19 shots, and although none of them hit the back of the net, they didn't allow a goal and left Jeld-Wen Field with a 0-0 draw with the Crew.
Portland improved to 2-5-2, 8 points, in the league standings.
Columbus improved to 2-4-2, 8 points.
“It’s a positive step,” Timbers head coach John Spencer told reporters afterward. “It’s obviously not what you hope for, but it’s a positive step.”
The Timbers didn't score for the third straight game, but improved to 1-1-1 in those games.
Portland has nine days off before a road game at Houston, May 15, starting at 5:30 p.m.
The game at Houston will be the first in BBVA Compass Stadium, a 22,000 seat venue in downtown Houston. The Dynamo, who play red hot New York on the road Tuesday, are 2-2-2, 8 points after six road games.
Both Portland and Columbus entered Saturday's Cinco de Mayo game needing a win to settle frustrated fans, a fact the Timbers Army grasped with a sign in front of them encouraging the team to "have fun."
The Timbers seemed to have fun on the field in terms of letting shots fly at Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, setting a season high with 15, including 12 in the second half. Six of them were on goal, including a screaming shot to the far corner from Rodney Wallace in the first half that needed a full-on diving push with a couple fingers to keep from scoring.
Portland forward Kris Boyd had a pair of solid chances to score on headers in the second half, but missed wide both times and other shots were easy saves. Columbus left Jeld-Wen with a less frustrated feeling after also scoring in the standings.
"We knew they were a frustrated team and needed a win, but we needed a win, too," Gruenebaum said. "They played well, but so did we and both of us getting a point out of the game is about right."
The Timbers will head for Houston having not scored for seven halves, and haven't scored two goals in a game since a 3-2 loss at home to Real Salt Lake, March 31. The team has yet to score in both halves of any game.
Despite a frustrating draw, new starters show well
May 5, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com
For Futty Danso, it was a return from an injury. For Rodney Wallace, it was a chance to play his natural position. Both players returned to the Timbers starting lineup Saturday and both players gave performances that would merit their inclusion in future contests.
Despite their successes, the Timbers were still unable to overcome the Columbus Crew and had to settle for a nil-nil draw in front of a sold-out Jeld-Wen Field. Portland outshot Columbus 15 and 8 and had six shots saved by Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
Seeing the field for the first time since breaking his left foot in the preseason, Danso hardly missed a beat. Whether in the air on set pieces or backtracking on Crew forwards, the Gambian international seemed to be at game speed.
His pairing with Hanyer Mosquera provided something that seemed to be missing in previous matches. While Brunner provides leadership, he simply has not played as well in 2012 as he did in 2011.
Last season, the Timbers had three centerbacks (Danso, Brunner, and David Horst) who played well. If Danso can continue to perform well, Portland might be able to have the same situation for the rest of 2012.
Unlike Danso, Wallace had seen time on the field in 2012. However, for the first time this season, Wallace was playing in the midfield. Playing in the attacking half of the field against the Crew, it was easy to see why Wallace plays in the midfield for the Costa Rican National Team.
In fact, he best scoring chance of the match came when Wallace took a blast from outside the 18-yard box and forced a great save from Gruenebaum. Despite the great save by the Crew goalkeeper, Wallace’s pinpoint accuracy from distance was a refreshing change for a Timbers squad that had seen few shots on target in recent weeks.
Wallace added two more shots on target and played his best defense of the year. When in the midfield, Wallace tracks back nicely and plays aggressive soccer that produced quite a few turnovers. At left back, however, Wallace seems timid and uncomfortable being the last player defending. It is amazing how much more comfortable Wallace looks playing in his natural position.
With more than a full week of practice before their next match, it will be interesting to see if the Timbers make any changes to a side that produced a shutout and had as many shots on goal as the previous two games combined. No matter the lineup May 15th in Houston, Danso and Wallace will have done nothing to merit a demotion to the bench.
Portland's defense seems ready for Jewsbury; women's soccer emerges
May 2, 2012
There's more line-up changes headed for the Portland Timbers roster, most likely because of injury.
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins is unlikely to play as is defender Steve Purdy.
That sets up reserve Joe Bendik to start in goal, and Jack Jewsbury possibly moving from midfield to right back if news from Thursday's closed practice becomes a reality.
Jewsbury, who has not played defender in Portland, praticed at right back, according to at least one reporter who was able to view the practice.
If Jewsbury does move to the backline, he would be the ninth player to start on defense.
In addition, striker Mike Fucito, a recent acquisition from Montreal, is a possible starter on the frontline.
Portland plays host to Columbus Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Timbers will be looking to not only score on offense for the first time in five halves, but score in both halves of a game for the first time this season.
The Timbers (2-5-2, 7 points) enter the game at No. 18 in the MLS Power Rankings of the league's 19 teams. Columbus (2-4-1, 7 points) is No. 17.
In other news, the Timbers have agreed to support a women's team in Portland.
The Portland Rain, which has been in Portland for four seasons, will return to the WPSL this summer with support from the Timbers.
A win over Columbus is the first step to salvaging the Timbers season
May 2, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
It's always the players that get the credit for scoring during a Portland Timbers game, and that's a reality that can't be challenged.
But, after a game, when the slice of Timber gets handed to the players that score, once in a while there ought to be an extra slice, maybe of appreciation for being a big part of that score - even if it's someone not on the playing field. If ever that would happen, it should happen Saturday for Portland coach John Spencer. He looks like he needs it.
Spencer's had a rough start to the 2012 campaign, and there's plenty of online chatter about where he should be coaching next - as in not Portland. He looked pretty weary at the post-practice press conference Tuesday morning. Eight games into the season, that's not entirely unexpected regardless of how well the season's going for any coach. A gaggle of media cameras and recorders shoved basically in your face can't be a wonderful thing. But, his body language just screamed "I'm tired," and not from a bad night's sleep.
Portland's season has been a mess. The Timbers can't hold a lead, can't win on the road, have trouble putting two solid halves together and can't stay healthy. At home, they haven't scored at the South end of Jeld-Wen Field, which means they haven't scored in both halves of a home game. In fact, they haven't scored in both halves of any game.
And, recently, they haven't scored at all. It's been neearly three games since the Timbers scored - five halves.
Soccer City, USA, barely has a pulse online in the MLS world.
Yet, there's plenty of reasons to be pumped about the team still having more than a passing chance of making the playoffs, despite being 18th in the latest MLS Power Rankings released Tuesday. Portland has played well enough to be in the lead or even in nearly every game, and handed top-ranked Sporting Kansas City it's lone loss. The Timbers nearly beat No. 3 Real Salt Lake - giving up a pair of late goals in a 3-2 loss, and gave the LA Galaxy a significant challenge until late in a 3-1 loss.
Those solid performances, though, have been overshadowed by a 1-0 loss at New England, and Saturday's 2-0 loss at Montreal, both of which played out as though the team couldn't wait to get back on a plane and escape to the friendly confines of Soccer City, USA.
Eight games in, there can't be any team more frustrated with their season than the Portland Timbers and their fans. With goalkeeper Troy Perkins doubtful for Saturday, and starting defender Steve Purdy out, the Portland line-up will again be in flux - a major challenge for Spencer to handle.
With Columbus headed for Portland ranked 17th, Saturday's game has the makings of a tremendously frustrating loss, one that would put Spencer's head on a stake in the online world.
Portland needs a win, and a convincing one at that.
The Timbers need to score - on both halves of the Jeld-Wen pitch. New guys need to score - only four players have hit the back of the net.
It wouldn't hurt to have a second-half sub - a move Spencer controls - score. Many of Spencer's moves have actually preceded the opposition scoring, so this is would be a huge burden lifted.
A shutout wouldn't be a terrible thing, either, showcasing a solid line-up - also something that Spencer controls.
A draw Saturday would at least be ... not a loss. The team, fans, owner Merritt Paulson, need this. But, a convincing win, one that shows off Spencer's leadership, could use some extra appreciation, and that should be in the form of some lumber.
There's a great photo waiting to happen - Spencer raising his own slice before heading to meet the press. That's a photo that would get the city, infact the whole league, buzzing again about the Timbers and their coach.
Portland's offense has been shut out for five straight halves
April 30, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com
It's been a long time since the Portland Timbers lit up a crowd with a goal of their own.
They've still managed to win a game, but only with the help of an opponent scoring on itself.
It's been an even longer time since the Timbers scored at home, all of which will be in the air Tuesday as No Pity City begins its eighth episode live at 8:30 p.m. from the Bulldog Tavern in Southwest Portland.
The Timbers play host to as Columbus Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Portland, which lost 2-0 at Montreal Saturday, enters at 2-5-1, 7 points, while Columbus, which lost 1-0 at home to Vancouver Saturday, enters at 2-4-1, 7 points.
Both Columbus and Portland have a goal differential of -4, although in Portland the Timbers are +1 in four games. In their last outing, though, their score came off an own goal from Sporting Kansas City in a 1-0 win. The Timbers scored just once in their previous home game - in the first half of a 2-1 loss to Chivas USA. So, Portland hasn't scored at home in five three halves and hasn't scored overall in five halves since a first-half tally at Los Angeles, April 14.
Portland has scored just eight goals this season, which, interestingly, puts it at or ahead of eight other teams in MLS.
Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe lead the team in scoring with three goals each.
Tune into this page for the live webcast, and sign on to the chat room to converse with co-hosts Cliff Pfenning and Mike Donovan. Or show up at the Bulldog Tavern to be a guest on the show.
A week later, Portland plays nothing like it did against KC
April 28, 2012
With a two-game win streak just waiting for the taking, the Portland Timbers floundered mightily in Montreal and lost 2-0 to the expansion Impact in an MLS game Saturday afternoon.
Montreal, which had just one win in 10 meetings with the Timbers during their days in the United Soccer Leagues, scored twice in the final 14 minutes to score only its second win in nine games.
Montreal's win, though, moved it to 2-5-2, 8 points, which is right in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings.
Portland, which beat MLS leader Sporting KC last week 1-0, fell to 2-5-1, 7 points, good for last place in the nine-team Western Conference. The Timbers were shut out for only the second time this season, both games on the road against teams they were expected to beat.
The Timbers got just two shots from starting forwards Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza and had only 46 percent of possession during the game.
Montreal scored on a penalty kick in the 76th minute and on a beautiful pass fromDavy Arnaud to Sinisa Ubiparipovic in the 84th minute.
Bioth goals were scored on back-up keeper Joe Bendik, who entered in the 63rd minute after starter Troy Perkins took a cleat to the face while chasing a loose ball.
Portland plays host to Columbus Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
COLUMN: An ugly game entertained and excited the home crowd plenty
April 21, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com
Beautiful soccer, it was not. But the Portland Timbers went toe-to-toe with MLS leaders Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night at Jeld-Wen and came away a 1-0 win in front of an extra ravenous Portland Timbers crowd.
From the pregame build-up all the way through to the final whistle, the Timbers seemed angry and played with a nasty streak that has been rare for the MLS-version of the club. Before Saturday, teams have been able to bully the team with physical play. The difference in Saturday’s performance was that the Timbers seemed to be ready for the challenge.
While Sporting Kansas City’s play has drawn its critics, most notably Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis, John Spencer praised Kansas City’s style and said he would have liked to have played for the team as a player.
Spencer also deserves praise for an unconventional lineup that saw Lovel Palmer inserted in the center mid and the benching of Eric Alexander, who had been the team’s most consistent midfielder in the early part of the season. Palmer rewarded his coach’s faith and constantly harassed KC playmaker Graham Zusi.
But it wasn’t only Palmer who showed merit and toughness against Sporting. Offseason acquisitions Kris Boyd and Hanyer Mosquera were not afraid to take on KC players before-and-after the whistle.
For pre-MLS Timbers fans, the 1-0 win might have reminded them of the days when players such as Gavin Wilkinson, Cameron Knowles, and Ian Joy showcased an aggressive style that made them fan favorites at the club. Quite a few USL-Timber wins were marked by what some would call ugly or overaggressive play.
Even Spencer admitted that the match was an ugly performance, but the result surely wasn’t for a Timbers squad on a four-game losing streak. As the Timbers turn their eyes to Montreal, one has to wonder if Portland’s physical style will show up next week. Or was the style-of-play solely dictated by the opponent?
While next week’s lineup and playing style is uncertain, one undisputable fact is that the Timbers have a knack for ending long streaks at Jeld-Wen Field.
Twice last season, long unbeaten streaks ended in Portland with victories over Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy. Saturday’s loss ended a seven-game win streak for Sporting Kansas City, which is the longest to start a season in MLS history.
Seasons are not defined by April wins, but Saturday’s win certainly provides a spark for the club going forward. The knowledge that they took down the best team in the league will certainly help the club’s confidence, but whether or not it will produce results is still a question.
Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for oregonsports.com and he tweets at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan. Donovan, along with oregonsports.com publisher Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm.