13 March 2012
The Portland Timbers, behind the incredible support of the Timbers Army, bulldozed their way to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.
After a first half of sloppy play in which the Union did well to suffocate the game in the midfield, Timbers head coach John Spencer made a clever adjustment and had his team play more direct while taking less touches to bypass and stretch out the Union’s compact defense.
Despite the adjustment, the Timbers fell behind due to a Gabriel Gomez free kick in the 51st minute. After such a tightly contested first half and a slick surface created by the rain, it was no surprise that the first goal came from a set piece. Gomez did so well to whip his long free kick in with pace, which took a deflection off Timber’s center-back Andrew Baptiste before skipping into the net.
Baptiste’s redemption came just three minutes later though as this time he got his head onto a free kick at the right end of the field. Jack Jewsbury whipped in a great ball and Baptiste flicked it towards the far post, but Union goalkeeper Zach MacMath (who looked a bit shaky all game) made a real mess of it, letting the ball squeak in underneath him.
It was that direct style that Spencer preached at halftime which led to the winner for the Timbers. Kalif Alhassan was brilliant up and down the right flank all night and his efforts paid off when he sent a ball in for Kris Boyd, who finally escaped the attention of Danny Califf to nod home.
Boyd is an out and out striker, who does his best work inside the 18. If Portland can continuously get him services like Alhassan’s cross, then the former Rangers man could be a 20 goal scorer in his first MLS season.
Alhassan capped off his man-of-the-match performance with a delightful chip 14 minutes from time to wrap-up all three points and a dominant second half display from the Timbers.
Here are my thoughts on the Timbers and Union:
The Portland Timbers have the best attacking outside backs in the league with Rodney Wallace down the left and Lovel Palmar down the right. The right side is particularly dangerous as Palmer and Alhassan seem to have a real good understating and combined well in the first match of the season. With that said, however, the Timbers have no genuine playmaker down the middle. If teams can shut down the flanks against the Timbers, then where will their offense come from?
Freddy Adu didn’t have many touches tonight and needs to be more present for the Union. Especially considering that when he was on the ball, he did some very good things and almost always played a positive ball onto the feet of a teammate.
Llonard Pajoy was very impressive for the Union. His movement was clever and created space for Michael Farfan to run into. Farfan also put himself into some good positions, but he often elected to try and make a silky pass, when the better option would have been to try his own luck.
What did you think of the match? Is Portland a playoff team? How crazy is Timbers Army?