mls soccer

MLS return, Orlando, Moreira - Timbers questions abound

Soccer's return looks very tentative with two weeks to go
By Cliff Pfenning,

The Portland Timbers are set to return to Major League Soccer play sometime after July 8, although that schedule seems a bit tentative with a surprise announcement Monday - from the National Women's Soccer League.

Orlando, one of the nine NWSL teams set to play in the league tournament that begins Saturday, withdrew due to positive tests for COVID-19 from both players and staff. 

Orlando is the site of the MLS Tournament that includes all 26 teams. The tournament is scheduled to be played all at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the site of the Walt Disney World Resort. Fans will not be part of the action.

Heading into Tuesday, the league had released the list of eight groupings for the event, but not a schedule for matches. Three matches - one in the morning and two in the evening, will be played throughout the tournament, which has a final scheduled for August 11.

Following the tournament, the league has announced regular-season play will continue at home sites in some form.

The Timbers' off-season roster moves hit an unexpected question as well on Monday when news of defender Jorge Moreira's return to Athletico River Plate was reportedly scuttled due to Moreira. The 30-year-old, who played last season with Portland while on loan, told online site that he wanted to return to the Timbers as opposed to the Buenos Aries club that plays in the Superliga in a stadium with 65,000 seats.

River Plate is one of the Argentine league powers with six players on the national squad and a budget that pays out roughly five times what the Timbers pay their players. Moreira's playing time was a significant question with his home club, while he was a starter in Portland.

"I will not have a place in the team, the places are complete," Moreira said to the media site TyC Sport, reported.

Portland will have to pay $1.5 million to complete the transfer. Moreira wants to continue his career in Portland but could also move to another MLS team. "Right now we are looking at all possibilities," Moreira said.

The Timbers have not commented about a potential return of Moreira.

Portland began individual workouts for the MLS Tournament in early June. 

With COVID-19 cases increasing daily in Florida and the Orlando exit from the NWSL Tournament, comment from MLS has become increasingly important.


US ready for playoff revision

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.



Timbers do their part, but miss playoffs

Urruti, Nagbe score in 2-0 win at Dallas, but Vancouver wins, too
Oct. 25, 2014

FRISCO, Texas – The Portland Timbers tallied their third consecutive clean sheet, receiving goals from midfielder Darlington Nagbe and forward Maximiliano Urruti in a 2-0 win against FC Dallas before 17,231 fans at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday night to conclude the team’s 2014 MLS campaign.

But, the result and late-season surge wasn’t enough to get the team to the playoffs.

Just hours later, Vancouver scored a 1-0 home victory over Colorado and passed the Timbers in the conference standings for the fifth playoff spot.

Nagbe netted a goal just before halftime and Urruti tallied a goal late in the second half to help Portland register its third straight clean sheet in regular-season play. The Timbers compiled a 304-minute shutout streak since an Oct. 4 win over San Jose and registered eight consecutive unbeaten games against Western Conference opponents (5-0-3) – earning a plus-12 goal differential during the stretch.

Over the final 26 regular-season matches in 2014, Portland (12-9-13, 49pts) registered one of the league’s highest point totals (44) while compiling a 12-6-8 record over that stretch to come within one point of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for a second consecutive season.

With the road victory over FC Dallas, the Timbers briefly moved ahead of Vancouver Whitecaps FC for the final spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but Vancouver regained the fifth spot in the conference by just one point with a 1-0 win against Colorado on Saturday night. Portland finishes the season with a plus-nine goal differential, the highest margin for a non-playoff team in MLS history, surpassing the 2005 Kansas City Wizards and 2013 Whitecaps FC (+8).

Portland concluded the regular-season schedule on a strong note, sustaining just one defeat over its last nine games (5-1-3), including five wins and four shutouts in its last six matches, and five clean sheets over the last eight matches in all competitions.

With a goal in each half against FC Dallas (16-12-6, 54pts), Portland finished the regular-season with a Timbers MLS-club record 61 goals, including a league-best 34 in the final 30 minutes of matches while compiling one of the league’s top road records (7-6-4) and the second-most road wins in MLS this season.

Nagbe put Portland in front in the 43rd minute with a low drive from the top of the penalty box that deflected off FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd’s leg and settled into the back of the net just before halftime. The goal marked Nagbe’s first of the season and his fifth goal in 10 career matches against FC Dallas and helped Portland to its first-ever road win at Toyota Stadium in MLS play.

Urruti tallied his 10th goal of the season in the 82nd minute, giving Portland a two-goal cushion. Settling a pass from midfielder Gastón Fernández, Urruti fired a strong shot past FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz from the top of the box to become Portland’s second player to register 10 or more goals during the regular season (Diego Valeri, 11).

Portland held FC Dallas to just one shot on goal in the match, snapping the home side’s eight-game winning streak at Toyota Stadium.

Timbers rally for another draw

Portland comes back from a goal down to tie Colorado 2-2
Sept. 13, 2014

COMMERCE CITY, Col. - Gaston Fernandez scored in the 76th minute to lift the Portland Timbers to a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.

Maximiliano Urruti made a nice play to settle a bouncing ball and found Fernandez cutting in the right side of the box. Fernandez then muscled off a defender and finished the great feed past keeper John Berner.

Portland (8-8-12) scored first in the 43rd minute, as Diego Valeri's half-volley cleared Berner for his eighth goal of the season.

The Rapids (8-13-7) tied it at the 48-minute mark. Colorado was awarded a penalty kick on a disputed hand-ball call, and Dillon Powers converted the PK for his sixth goal.

Deshorn Brown headed home a pass from Marc Burch in the 66th minute to put the Rapids ahead.

The result sets up another big game between Portland and Vancouver on Saturday at Providence Park. The Timbers beat the ‘Caps 3-0 on Aug. 30 at BC Place to move into fifth place in the West at the time, but they couldn’t take advantage with subsequent draws against the San Jose Earthquakes and now the Rapids.

Timbers take another step forward

Valeri scores another game-winner as Portland beats Montreal 3-2
July 27, 2014

MONTREAL – Diego Valeri snapped a tie in the 82nd minute and the Portland Timbers held off Montreal 3-2 on Sunday night to extend the Impact’s losing streak in Major League Soccer to five matches.

Maximiliano Urruti and Will Johnson also scored for Portland (6-6-9).

Andres Romero and Maxim Tissot scored for Montreal (3-12-5) in a match that attracted a crowd of 14,715.

Valeri pounced on a giveaway by Mamadou Danso, a former Timbers defender making his first appearance for the Impact, and fired a shot past goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Montreal assistant coach Mauro Biello directed the Impact after coach Frank Klopas was suspended for arguing with the referee after the team’s loss to Real Salt Lake on Thursday night.

Romero opened the scoring in the 13th minute, and Urruti tied the score in the 34th minute with his team-leading eighth goal of the season.

Johnson gave Portland a 2-1 advantage on a penalty kick six minutes later after the Canadian international was taken down in the box by Impact defender Hassoun Camara.

Tissot tied the score again in the 44th minute.

Timbers remain atop West

Portland settles for 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake in key match
Oct. 19, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two of the top offensive teams in MLS shared the spoils Saturday night, but there was not a goal to be found as the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake played to a scoreless draw at JELD-WEN Field.

There was, however, plenty of reason for both teams to be happy, with the Portland Timbers having clinched a playoff spot earlier in the day thanks to Seattle's loss in Dallas and RSL clinching a sixth straight postseason berth thanks to the point on the road.

The result also kept Portland atop the table in the West with 54 points from 33 games and moved them a point behind Sporting KC in the Supporters' Shield race, though New York could leapfrog both teams with a win in Houston on Sunday.

The draw was the first scoreless encounter in four meetings between these teams across all competitions in 2013, with the first three games having yielded a total of 15 goals.

And while there was plenty of back-and-forth soccer and scintillating action in a game that featured some of the league’s top players, the chances around goal were few and far between.

The best look of the first half came when José Adolfo Valencia, making just his third start of the season, burst down the right flank and beat Chris Schuler at the endline with some fancy footwork, only to just miss Kalif Alhassan with his rolling pass across the face of goal.

It would take until the second half for either side to register a shot on target and Portland’s three shots on goal – all requiring exceptional work by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando – were in fact night’s only attempts on frame.

The first came in the 65th minute when Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury sent in a cross from the right flank to Rodney Wallace. He nudged it on to a wide open Alhassan, but Rimando gobbled it up with a diving save.

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