Timbers might need 'Captain Jack' on defense

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.





Spencer could use a slice of satisfaction

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.




Will Timbers ever score again?

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.

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Timbers struggle in loss at Montreal

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.


Timbers, fans find relief in 1-0 win over KC

Jeld-Wen's magic shows up as Portland upsets league leaders
April 21, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

A victory the Portland Timbers basically had to have happened Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

Behind an own goal on a cross set up by forward Kris Boyd, the Timbers handed Sporting KC its first loss of the season and ended a four-game winless streak of its own.

The win improved the team to 2-4-1, 6 points, with a game at expansion Montreal next Saturday.

"This is a big relief," Timbers coach John Spencer said afterward. "We've had some bad luck in games, but we have a lot of talent on this team and we showed that.

"We're a very good team when we play like we can."

Portland's win also ended a streak of three consecutive games in which it lost after taking a lead, and was the first shutout for goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who had nine last season.

The goal continued the team's streak of only scoring into the North End net.

Kansas City, which beat Vancouver on Wednesday 3-1, fell to 7-1-0, 21 points.

Portland gets back on winning track

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.

Don't call it an upset

There's still fight in the Portland Timbers with KC headed to town
April 18, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The four-game losing streak, three-games of losing a lead, and the league's top team headed for town on Saturday haven't dampened the spirit of the Portland Timbers.

At least not in goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

Perkins, one of the team's most experienced players having first played in Major League Soccer in 1994, has been peppered with shots and has yet to post a shutout a year after posting nine in 29 games. Last season, Perkins gave up fewer than 1.5 goals per game in 29 outings, but this year is on a pace for nearly two goals per game - 11 in six games.

Sporting KC, which plays tonight in Vancouver, B.C., is headed to Portland having outscored opponents 9-1 in six wins, including Saturday's 1-0 win over Western Confernence leader Real Salt Lake.

Portland lost at Los Angeles 3-1, having given up a one-goal lead for the third straight game.

Perkins said Tuesday that Kansas City should expect to go home as no longer unbeaten.

"I wouldn't call it an upset," Perkins said. "I love being the underdog, but for someone to come in and say this would be an upset is (wrong).

"I don't like people talking bad about us. For me, just coming out to win is all I want to do."

Portland heads into the game at 1-4-1, 4 points, and at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.



How much does Timbers Army affect MLS games?

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.


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Frustration adds another chapter for Timbers

Portland carries fight to LA, only to lose its fourth straight
April 14, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Another lead, another loss.

After staking themselves to a 1-0 lead, the Portland Timbers gave up three unanswered goals from the biggest names in Major League Soccer and fell 3-1 to the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center Saturday.

Landon Donovan scored his first goal of the season, Juninho scored the game winner in the 83rd minute and David Beckham added an insurance goal in extra time for the Galaxy, which avoided a three-game losing streak.

The goals overcame a goal from Kris Boyd in the 23rd minute, which gave the Timbers a 1-0 lead.

Portland has led in its last three games, and lost all three.

The Timbers scored first against Chivas USA only to lose 2-1 last week, a week after scoring twice in the second half for a 2-1 lead against Real Salt Lake, which scored twice in the final five minutes for a 3-2 win.

The loss was Portland's fourth straight, its longest streak since joining Major League Soccer last year.

Portland fell to 1-4-1, 3 points heading into a home match with Sporting Kansas City, which improved to 6-0-0 with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in a battle of conference leaders.

Saturday's game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field.

Portland, with a revamped line-up, controlled much of the first half with short passes and attacked through the middle of the field. Boyd took advantage on by narrowly avoiding an offsides call to score his third goal of the season from 10 yards under LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

Boyd challenged the Galaxy throughout the match before being replaced by Perlaza in the 79th minute. After his goal, though, he struggled with being onside numerous times, including one that negated a goal and a 2-0 lead.

Portland had LA's line-up of international stars bottled up until the 44th minute, when Robbie Keane freed himself of defender Eric Brunner, who slipped and fell, and fed Donovan with a perfect pass that he powered past Portland keeper Troy Perkins to tie the game heading into halftime.

LA controlled much of the second half and finally took the lead when Juninho overpowered a Portland defender for a loose ball just outside the visitors' penalty box and fired a rocket from 25 yards out under Perkins.

Beckham took advantage of Portland's defense being significantly out of spacing and fired a shot above a diving Perkins, just under the crossbar for his first goal of the season.

LA, the defending league champion, improved to 2-3-0, 6 points.

Despite a solid performance from the Timbers, the outcome reflected the statistics of the match. LA outshot Portland 17-8, with 11 of the shots on goal. LA also held a 9-4 edge in corner kicks and controlled possesion 53 percent of the match.

The Galaxy scored its final two goals after Portland coach John Spencer had replaced midfielder Jack Jewsbury in the 74th minute with defender Lovel Palmer, and Boyd with striker Jorge Perlaza, who has yet to score this season, in the 81st minute.

Sporting KC will enter Jeld-Wen having outscored opponents 9-1.



Lead doesn't stand up again for Timbers

Portland finally scores first, but Chivas USA rallies in the second half for 2-1 win
April 7, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Heading into something of a must-win Saturday night, the Portland Timbers got the result they were looking for - for about 20 minutes.

Forward Kris Boyd put home his second goal of the season in the 16th minute, to not only make good on his record as a goal scorer, but also break the trend of the Timbers falling behind.

After that, though, Chivas USA, one of the league's lowly teams, dominated the match and left Jeld-Wen Field with a 2-1 win, handing the Timbers their third straight loss, and second consecutive loss at home.

"We just seemed to play nervous," Portland coach John Spencer said afterward. "Even when we went up 1-0, we still seemed nervous. We just didn't have enough guys standing up and doing what they need to do as professionals to win. That's very disappointing."

The Timbers dropped to 1-3-1, 4 points and play at the defending league champion LA Galaxy (1-3-0, 3 points) on Saturday in a battle to escape the Western Conference cellar.

Portland entered Saturday's game having lost to Real Salt Lake 3-2 last week, giving up two goals in the final 3 minutes of official time. RSL leads the West at 5-1-0, 15 points, having lost only to Chivas USA.

Boyd's goal came after Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy crashed into a teammate while trying to pull down a long pass and the ball landed in front of Boyd for an easy follow to the goal. The goal was the team's first first-half goal of the season and first time it had led 1-0.

But, Chivas began to rally thereafter, and effectively took Portland apart in the second half after Ryan Smith entered at midfield at the start of the second half. He delivered the pass to teammate Alejandro Moreno, who beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins to tie the game at 48 minutes. The goal was only the team's second of the season, the first having come during a 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake.

Chivas scored the winner off another assist by Smith, who found Nick LaBrocca with cross that he finished in the 82nd minute, a goal that stunned the Timbers crowd.

Chivas earned three yellow cards during the match, including one on Smith for a foul and one on James Riley for time wasting in the 89th minute. The cards didn't stop the team from improving to 2-3-0, 6 points.

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