Timbers pull off a stunner at Jeld-Wen

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."


Mwanga's skillset seems fit for Portland

A native son returns to the Rose City and its hungry fans
June 6, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

On Wednesday, an adopted son returned home when the Portland Timbers acquired Danny Mwanga from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Jorge Perlaza.

Mwanga first arrived in Portland as a 15-year-old with refugee status after leaving the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mwanga now returns to Portland after a two-and-a-half year stint with the Union. After being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft by the expansion Union, Mwanga has seen his share of ups-and-downs on the pitch. A successful rookie campaign led to a roller coaster sophomore season. His 2012 season has been marred with few games and even fewer scoring chances for the one of the MLS’s worst clubs.

The trade might give the 20-year old the boost he needs to fulfill his potential as one of the best players in the MLS.

One thing is certain when you watch Mwanga play. The Jefferson High grad has the talent to be successful at the top level of soccer. His highlight reel is filled with backheel assists, dribbles that leave defenders in their wake, and shots that see the back of the net before goalkeepers know what happened.

If the Timbers can get Mwanga and Darlington Nagbe to become consistent players, they will have two of the most highly skilled attacking footballers in the MLS.

Mwanga seems to be able to hold off defenders with his back to the goal and is able to beat them with speed on counter attacks. The majority of his career goals have come while playing off another center forward and Mwanga seems more comfortable at the top of the 18-yard box than trying to poach inside it.

His habit of staying away from frame means he might be the perfect pairing for Timbers striker Kris Boyd, who is comfortable playing near the goalmouth.

The question will be if the Timbers have the quality to get Mwanga the ball in the attacking half. Mwanga has struggled in his last 20 games - one of the main reasons being his inability to develop a rapport with the Union midfielders. While Diego Chara’s passing numbers are outstanding, making attacking passes through the middle of the pitch has been a major Timbers weakness in 2012.

Video study reveals that Mwanga is at his best when the attack comes on the ground through the center of the field. Portland’s offensive gameplans usually revolve attacking the outside-in with numerous crosses. This might not mesh with a player who has never scored a goal on a header.

Despite his 6-foot-2 inch frame, Mwanga does damage with his feet not with an aerial game. While flick-on headers are part of Mwanga’s arsenal, the Timbers would be foolish to rely on Mwanga as a presence in the air on set pieces.

The man Mwanga is replacing, Jorge Perlaza, had certain strengths, that the Timbers will need to replace. Perlaza ran down long balls from defenders better than any Timber has in their time in the MLS. Mwanga has the burst to track down long balls and the one-touch finishing ability once he gets the space. However, Mwanga might not be able to match the durability of Perlaza late in matches. For all his faults, Perlaza always provided energy at the top for the Timbers.

Mwanga will likely get playing time right away for the Timbers, as they are searching for someone who can pair well with Boyd. The former Oregon State Beaver certainly has the skill, but will he be able to produce like a No. 1 overall pick should? If he does, Portland’s adopted son might be able to help lead the Timbers to the postseason.

Californians put Biblical touch into Timbers match

Cal FC's 1-0 win has Portland fans looking everywhere for answers to "how?"
May 30, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

After David used a slingshot to defeat Goliath, he proceeded to sever Goliath’s head to prove that he had defeated the Champion of the Philistines. While Eric Wynalda will not return to California with any Timbers heads, he will return with the knowledge that his team had pulled off the greatest upset in the 99-year history of the US Open Cup.

In sports, it is no fun to be the Goliath. David gets the glory, while the Goliath is conquered and cast as a loser for all eternity. Some fans of Goliath might flee as the Philistines did, but many more will shake their heads in shame and rue the day the Portland Timbers lost to a bunch of amateurs.

When the final whistle blew Wednesday night at Jeld-Wen Field, Cal FC were the victors. Cal FC, an amateur team that plays its soccer in the Gran Liga de Oxnard, came into the match as massive underdogs, only to leave Soccer City, USA in mourning.

Despite only practicing at most once a week, the pay-to-play side was able to defeat an MLS side that started its best available 11 players. Those 11 starters will be paid a combined 2.86 million dollars for the 2012 season. Cal FC, on the other hand, had to buy its jerseys from Nike before the match.

When Artur Aghasyan scored the winner in overtime, it was the first goal ever scored by an USASA (United States Adult Soccer Association) side against an MLS club in a tournament competition. At the highest level of the USASA, there are at least 175 leagues around country, in which 1000s of teams compete. Considering Cal FC is currently ninth in their league, it means that Cal FC would currently be ranked behind at least 500 other amateur teams in the fifth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.

And while the players from the Thousand Oaks club will have positive stories to share for a lifetime, it is a different tale for the players, coaches, management, and fans of the Portland Timbers. There might be a time when the loss in the US Open Cup is seen as a bump on the road on the way to great successes. However, any successes seem like an impossible climb for a franchise that has never won a national playoffs or tournament of any kind.

The Timbers have played in many divisions, conferences, and leagues since their inaugural 1975 season, however their losing effort in the ‘75 Soccer Bowl remains the lone league or cup championship game the team has ever been to. Despite the lack of trophies, the Timbers found themselves in an unusual position on Wednesday night. That of an overwhelming favorite.

How the team reacts to its historic loss will set the tone for the team in just its second MLS season. If the Timbers are unable to make the MLS playoffs, the loss will become the defining moment of 2012 regardless of anything else the club does.

The site of amateurs celebrating in front of a defeated Timbers side, will be an image that will be engrained on the minds of the 5,000 in attendance as a humiliating reminder of how far the team has sunk. That image will linger until Portland is able to win a meaningful game in front of the home crowd.

Moral victories will no longer be attainable for the club that has played just 46 league matches in the MLS. The stench of Wednesday’s loss will only be cleansed after the Timbers deliver a winner to a trophy-starved fanbase.

On Wednesday, Jeld-Wen Field became the Valley of Elah of American soccer. Over the course of the upcoming days, months, and years, the Timbers will try to claw their ways out of the Valley and reach the mountaintop.

The Portland Timbers organization will always have the scar to remind them of what happened at the feet of Cal FC. The question is, will this scar fade over time or remain for years to come?


Late goal doesn't phase Spencer

Portland struggles again in the late going, but keeps up strong play
May 27, 2012, By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

For the Timbers in 2012, the final 15 minutes have been a horror show in many ways. Saturday night was no different, as Portland gave up a goal after the 75th minute of a match for the eighth time in their 12 matches.

And despite not holding onto a win against the rival Vancouver Whitecaps, John Spencer seemed neither worried or upset about failing to hold onto a late lead.

“For me, its not a massive problem,” said Spencer about the Timbers continually giving up late goals.

Spencer wasn’t the only one, who didn’t seemed to be worried about the late goal.

"They didn't have much tonight, and that one goal was just a matter of the ball bouncing the wrong way," Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury said. "I don't think it's anything but just a bad bounce.”

When asked if he was disappointed with the match, Spencer told the media that he was “disappointed in 1 person only.”

That one person was referee Jorge Gonzalez. And while Spencer was careful never to mention his name, he referred to him on multiple occasions during his post-game press conference. The point of contention occurred in the 65th minute when Kalif Alhassan was felled by Jay DeMerit. Spencer didn’t mince words regarding the play.

“(I’m) absolutely astonished we didn’t get a penalty kick,” Spencer said.   

The Timbers started the match with an attacking lineup that saw the return of Eric Alexander and Kalif Alhassan to the starting lineup. Darlington Nagbe was also moved to attacking center midfield, where he played in his two-goal effort against Real Salt Lake. Spencer was happy with the style of play the new-look Timbers exhibited against their Cascadia Cup foes.

“Some of the best football we’ve played all year,” said Spencer, who didn’t think much of the Whitecaps style in the match. “They came to play for a tie and they got a tie.”

A Kris Boyd goal in the 67th minute put the Timbers ahead. Alhassan’s great defensive effort won the ball for the Timbers, who then slotted the ball to Jewsbury. Jewsbury’s cross was tipped by Vancouver’s Joe Cannon before falling to Boyd, who kicked it into the net.

Boyd’s goal did not hold up, however, as Vancouver’s Darron Mattocks scored his first career MLS goal in the 84th minute. Eric Hassli boxed out Hanyer Mosquera and was able to head the ball towards Mattocks, who deftly chested the ball to himself, before blasting over Troy Perkins.

Halftime saw a 25-minute delay as lightning swept across the Rose City. The final ten minutes of the first half were played in a downpour of rain and hail to go along with swirling winds. Despite the delay, the 25 minutes following halftime saw a Timbers side dominate the run of play.

Despite a three-week league lay-off, Spencer is taking Wednesday’s US Open Cup seriously.

“We’re going to try and win the US Open Cup,” adding that the Timbers do not have a break due to the Cup.

Portland will host Cal FC on Wednesday at Jeld-Wen Field in the third round of the US Open Cup. A win Wednesday could set up a match with three-time defending US Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders.

Tune in Tuesday night at 8:30 PM for No Pity City, live on oregonsports.com and UStream. Also check out oregonsports.com and twitter.com/theMikeDonovan for continuing Timbers coverage.


Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

One point never hurt so good

Portland ties Vancouver, but misses a big opportunity
May 26, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

A month ago, a tie with Vancouver might have seemed like a favorable outcome for the Portland Timbers, but it wasn't Saturday night.

The Timbers scored on the field for the second-straight game, but gave up a goal in the final six minutes and settled for a draw before 20,438 fans at Jeld-Wen Field.

Kris Boyd scored his team-leading fourth goal of the year in the 67th minute to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead, and Jorge Perlaza appeared to have drawn a foul in the penalty box a short time later, but there was no call and Vancouver survived and achieved its fourth draw of the season.

"This is a very frustrating outcome because I feel like we were the better team," Portland coach John Spencer said.

Portland scored a draw for the fourth time this season, which finished its first month in Major League Soccer without a loss. Portland is 3-5-4, 13 points, and is 1-0-3 in its last four games. The Timbers have scored just three goals in that span, but solid defense has not only moved the team from last place in the Western Conference, but into a tie for seventh after FC Dallas lost to Real Salt Lake Saturday.

Vancouver is fourth at 5-3-4, 19 points.

The match was the first for Portland int he Cascadia Cup, the annual competition run by fans in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle. Vancouver tied Seattle 2-all last week. The Timbers have three weeks off from MLS games before playing at Los Angeles, June 17, and then plays host to Seattle, June 24.



Timbers finally get on board goal train

Brunner's goal, Boyd cross lift Portland past Chicago 2-1
May 20, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The 2012 season changed dramatically for the Portland Timbers with just one goal Sunday.

Defender Eric Brunner popunded home a loose ball from 5 yards out in the first half and Portland scored again in the second half for a 2-1 victory over Chicago in MLS action at Jeld-Wen Field.

Brunner's goal ended a streak of nine halves without a score for the team, which has sat in the bottom of the Western Conference standings for weeks. But, Brunner's goal, coupled with an own goal scored by Fire midfielder Logan Pause off a searing Kris Boyd header in the second half, moved the Timbers past the Los Angeles Galaxy and within reach of the middle of the pack in the West.

"This was a huge win for us, especially with some of the results from around the league this weekend," Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. "With this win, and some good results in the next couple games, we're right back in the thick of things."

Portland improved to 3-5-3, 12 points, heading into a home game with Vancouver Saturday. Vancouver, which moved up to MLS last year along with the Timbers, is 5-3-3, 18 points after a 2-2 tie with Seattle Saturday.

The Timbers play a friendly with Spanish club Valencia C.F. Wednesday.

Chicago dropped to 4-3-3, 15 points.

Brunner found the net in the 20th minute, which set off an explosive celebration at Jeld-Wen from the Timbers Army. The goal was the team's first since the first half of a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles, April 14, and the first at home since April 7.

Die-hard fans had resorted to everything from eating odd meals to prayer circles in order to inspire the team to break its scoreless streak.

Brunner's goal came off a corner kick and had assists from Boyd and Hanyer Mosquera. The goal was the first for the team at the South End of Jeld-Wen this season, and gave the team only its fifth different scorer.

Chicago answered in the 39th minute when Jalil Anibaba took a short pass from Marco Pappa and scored from 10 yards out past Perkins, who hadn't given up a goal since Los Angeles.

Portland got the game winner in the 52nd minute also off a corner, when Sal Zisso powered the ball directly at Boyd, who flicked the ball off the right side of his head into the center of the goal mouth, where Pause was located. Boyd, who hasn't scored since Los Angeles, celebrated the goal, although it went into the books as an own goal - the second scored by a Timbers opponent this season. Both own goals were created by Boyd - Sporting Kansas City having scored off a Boyd cross in their April 21 game at Jeld-Wen.

The second goal broke a streak of 16-straight games in which the Timbers hadn't scored in both halves.





Timbers can't net a goal, but still score

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.

Timbers have plenty to focus on during rest

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.

Stream videos at Ustream

Frustrated Timbers find solace in 0-0 draw

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.



Futty, Wallace make most of their chances

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.

RSS feed