It was one of the first matches to sell out way back in March, but it's doubtful many predicted the importance of tonight's Father's Day meeting between the Timbers and Red Bulls.
Portland has seen its early season home success slip into a three-game losing streak of late, and a change of course would certainly benefit a club in danger of seeing its once-budding playoff hopes wilt under cloudy skies. And while the Timbers are hanging around the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Red Bulls are tied atop the East, having grabbed four draws and a win in their past five matches.
Portland, meanwhile, is 1-3-1 in its last five, and without suspended head coach John Spencer on the sideline, the Timbers will need to look inward to stay motivated for this one and grab some momentum before hitting the road next week to face a tough Dallas FC.
So grab the old man, flip on ROOT Sports (Or 750 AM. Or 101.1 FM—seriously, you have options) and follow along after the jump as I describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Pregame—Spotted a bunch of small 1/4-sheets of paper taped to chairs on the west grandstand with cheering instructions courtesy of the 107ist. It reads: "Dear Timbers Fans-When the Timbers Army chants YOU CANNOT STOP US, the rest of the stadium chants WE ARE THE ROSE CITY!" Sounds about right.
Your Starting XIs:
Portland (5-6-2, 17 points)—Troy Perkins in goal. Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza up front. Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chará, Jack Jewsbury and Darlington Nagbe at midfield. Rodney Wallace, David Horst, Eric Brunner and Jeremy Hall defending. Capt. Jack wears the sleeve and Portland's sporting its green jerseys and white shorts.
New York (5-2-7, 22 points)—Greg Sutton in goal. Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario up front. Austin Da Luz, Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio and Mehdi Ballouchy at midfield. Roy Miller, Stephen Keel, Carlos Mendes and Jan Gunnar Solli on defense. Henry is the captain and New York wearing red shorts and white tops.
Fans give a nice ovation to former Timber Stephen Keel. And equal boos for De Rosario. Lots of flags waving in Timbers Army, including one rainbow flag in honor of Portland's Pride Week.
And we're underway ...
1st minute—Timbers heading toward the south end. Red Bulls going toward a baby-blue clad Perkins in front of Timbers Army. Nagbe with a few nifty moves on his first touch.
3rd minute—Hall centers for Perlaza, but it's defended easily. Brunner with a bit of a lazy pass on the north end, and if Henry would've been paying attention, that could've been a lot more dangerous. Haven't seen coach Trevor James leave stray too far into the coach's box yet. Definitely a bit of a different style than Spencer.
5th minute—RED BULLS GOAL Da Luz goes left from right in front and scores one after De Rosario centers and Henry slyly lets it through. Way too easy. One of the quickest starting teams in the league scores right away against one of the slowest starting teams in the league. Weird. New York 1, Portland 0. That quick goal is old hat for New York, which now has seven scores in the first 15 minutes this season.
6th minute—Timbers Army goes right into its "YOU CANNOT STOP US" chant.
10th minute—And now they're chanting "FREE JOHN SPENCER!"
11th minute—Perlaza caught offside and nearly collides with Sutton, who comes flying out of the box. Chará chips a long ball down the west sideline for Perlaza and it brings Sutton again out of the box to clear it. Ensuing Timbers throw-in doesn't lead to much. Most of the action in the middle of the field here in the early going.
16th minute—Jewsbury free kick bent in and makes Sutton a bit jumpy. First legit chance for Portland, which has been kept at bay by New York's backline early.
18th minute—Hall with a nice tackle on the west sideline gives the crowd its first opportunity to let out a big cheer.
19th minute—Timbers possessing pretty well right now, but the Red Bulls aren't exactly pressing. Portland passes it around seemingly looking for an opportunity and then try for a long ball to Perlaza. Nothing doing.
21st minute—Perkins comes out of his box to cut off Henry and New York earns the first corner kick of the match. Ensuing kick blown dead before it starts as Brunner is fouled in the box.
23rd minute—Two turnovers in two minutes for Portland. Looking a bit unsure on defense and on offense, either timid or baffled by New York's laid back D.
24th minute—Another turnover for Portland. Hall this time. James working his way closer to the top of the box. Good thing, too—Timbers playing somewhat uninspired at the moment.
26th minute—Hall earns Portland a free kick from 30 yards out. Jewsbury plays it on-goal but it's knocked away. Jewsbury then rips a shot from right of the goal but it's gathered in by Sutton.
28th minute—Cooper dekes Miller out of his cleats and plays a ball forward to Perlaza. But Jorge's offside again, and he really didn't need to be. He had plenty of space. Missed opportunity there on an unforced error for the Timbers.
30th minute—Nifty passing and footwork by New York around the penalty area. Portland just trying to weather it at this point and escape some of these dangerous situations the Red Bulls are putting them into.
31st minute—Cooper gets ahead of the pack after forcing a turnover, but his header touch goes a bit too long as Sutton gathers it in and Cooper goes flying to the ground. The New York keeper then drop-kicks it all the way down field for De Rosario, but Perkins gets to it first.
34th minute—Nagbe with a burst of speed gets into the box and earns Portland's first corner. Ensuing quick restart sees Cooper and Keel go skyward and Cooper go down hard in the box. The crowd doesn't like it one bit as Cooper rolls around a bit.
37th minute—A handball is called on Keel and Miller boots it away post-whistle. NY coach Hans Backe comes bounding off the bench to argue, but Portland lines up the free kick after a quick chat between Backe and head ref Ricardo Salazar. Jewsbury plays it in and Wallace goes for a bicycle, but it's like an infield pop-up for Sutton.
40th minute—Another long ball for Perlaza and he's fouled to earn Portland a free kick. It's not the best offense in the world, but a free kick nonetheless.
41st minute—Kick comes in and Horst is absolutely leveled by Sutton. Pretty much a clothesline. Horst is down and trainers are on the field. Horst gingerly gets back up and and is walked off. He's got his head down and looks a bit dazed. Only other defender on the bench is Kevin Goldthwaite (who played himself out of a starting gig early this season), as James Marcelin was injured in practice this week.
44th minute—Timbers a man down for just a moment as Horst comes bounding back on the field. Looks like he passed the concussion test.
45th minute—Cooper again breaks down Miller and crosses one for Jewsbury, but he can't get a big enough piece of it. One minute of injury time.
HALFTIME—A timid, disjointed first half for Portland. They didn't do much to scare New York, which scored early and set the cruise control for the last 40 mintues. Portland's chances were few and far between and unforced turnovers were rampant. The Timbers don't look like they're playing with a lot of confidence right now. 1-0 Red Bulls.
Some halftime stats: New York out-shot Portland 3-2 and had the only shot on goal. Red Bulls also out-fouled the Timbers 11-2. Portland was caught offside three times.
Goldthwaite enters for Horst. A chance for Kevin to earn himself some confidence and perhaps more playing time.
And the second half is underway ...
46th minute—A Cooper cross nearly reaches a flying Chará, but it's just out of the Colombian's reach. Some early aggression for Portland, though, which is a positive sign if you're a Timbers backer.
48th minute—TIMBERS GOAL Jewsbury blasts one from the top of the box and buries it into the back post. Jewsbury settled a loose ball to the right of the arch and sent the right-footed equalizer to the lower left corner of the net. Portland comes out like Spencer snuck into the locker room and delivered the halftime speech. We're tied at 1.
49th minute—TIMBERS GOAL This is not a typo. It's Goldthwaite, who nets one off a Jewsbury free kick and scores four minutes into his first action since March 26. Brunner and Jewsbury get the assists after Brunner leaped up in the right half of the box to head a Jewsbury cross back toward the goal and Goldthwaite flicked it past Sutton. And now Goldthwaite is flying around the field. Confidence, returned. Portland leads 2-1. What the hell got into them?
52nd minute—A dangerous chance for the Red Bulls, who get a shot from De Rosario after a corner, but Perkins turns it away.
54th minute—The momentum has completely flipped in this one. The Timbers look like a completely different team out there right now.
56th minute—A Jewsbury free kick heads toward the net and nearly scores as Goldthwaite flies toward it. But Tainio makes one of the best defensive plays you'll ever see, hopping on his bike and preventing the ball from trickling past the goal line. SAVE OF THE WEEK.
59th minute—Perlaza fires one from the top of the box, but it goes high.
61st minute—Brunner knocked to the ground inside the six-yard box. Perkins trying to help him up and Brunner looks like his lower back is bothering him. He's back on his feet now and the ref clicks his watch.
62nd minute—I'm told Horst's injury is a left hip flexor.
63rd minute—De Rosario goes right at Hall, who stays with him and makes a solid defensive play.
64th minute—Alhassan with a nice run but runs into a trio of New York defenders. Just when it looked like a squandered opportunity, Kalif taps it back to Jewsbury, who blasts it on-goal from the top of the box. Sutton with a diving save to earn a Portland corner. Ensuing kick is played back out and Jewsbury unloads again from a tough angle.
66th minute—Timbers are fortunate as Henry is left wide open down the west sideline. But he can't gather the forward pass cleanly and is caught offside.
68th minute—TIMBERS GOAL Perlaza with a huge burst of speed up the right wing and keeps control to stay onside. He calmly crosses for Nagbe, but Keel cuts it off and deflects it into his own goal. Own goal by Keel, and the crowd goes nuts when it's announced. He's still a fan favorite here, especially when he's giving goals to his old team. 3-1 Portland. The Timbers have absolutely taken over this match.
71st minute—Timbers let out a big cheer on Keel's first touch. Showing the former Portland defender some love.
72nd minute—Brunner is again down in Portland's box after sliding and knocking the ball away on a dangerous cross. Ensuing action sees Cooper get ahead but nothing comes of it. Sal Zizzo enters for Nagbe.
73rd minute—RED BULLS GOAL and a scrum inside the net. Henry with a world-class finish after getting free on the left flank and beats Perkins off a Da Luz feed. Some pushing inside the goal after and Lindpere and Wallace earn yellow cards after Wallace grabs the ball post-goal and New York players take exception. 3-2 Portland, and this last 15 minutes is going to be wild.
76th minute—Perlaza gets ahead again and is taken down in the box by Sutton. Penalty kick awarded and Sutton earns a yellow after he argues.
77th minute—Jewsbury hits the post! Wait—shouldn't he get two more chances at it? Capt. Jack goes right but it hits the iron square. A chance to put this one away not capitalized on, as the Timbers hang on for dear life.
81st minute—Cooper nets one, but he's well offside. Easy call there as Cooper loses track of where the defenders are or where he is. Either way, not good. For New York, John Rooney enters for Da Luz.
83rd minute—Tainio passes on a 20-yard shot and instead chips it to De Rosario, who's offside. A good chance wasted for New York.
86th minute—Adam Moffat enters for Jeremy Hall, who looks to be limping a bit as he exits. Timbers take a corner kick short and Zizzo is fouled near the east sideline.
87th minute—Jewsbury's delivery is just over the head of Goldthwaite, who is looking very active out there.
88th minute—Cooper breaks down the left side but the defense catches up to him. His attempt at a cross is defended and knocked out by New York. Timbers playing keep-away in the Red Bulls' end, and they wouldn't mind doing it for a couple more minutes.
89th minute—John Rooney (Wayne's younger bro) earns a yellow on a frustration foul after he meets Perlaza.
90th minute—Now Mendes picks up a yellow. The composed New York team of the first half is coming apart at the seems. The timid Portland squad of the first 45? They never came out of the locker room.
STOPPAGE:Four minutes added to the clock, to a chorus of groans from Timbers Army.
A chance for New York as Solli keeps the ball in play down the west side. Henry pulls the trigger a minute later, but air-mails it.
Henry gets red-carded, but shakes hands with Timbers players and even the ref before walking off. Moffat also picks up a yellow.
Red Bulls are awarded a PK as Wallace is called for a handball in the box. He tried to stop a cross and it hit his arm.
RED BULLS GOAL De Rosario blasts one left and beats Perkins. And we're tied at 3.
FULL TIME: Portland lets victory slip away as New York scores twice in the final 20 minutes to steal a point. Portland 3, New York 3. Wow. What a rollercoaster game for Portland, which breaks its losing streak but certainly not in the fashion it had hoped. A second straight stoppage-time heartbreaker. Brutal. Headed down to the locker room. Back in a few with some more thoughts ...
Back from the locker room, and there were certainly some hanging heads. Spencer, despite watching the game from the press box due to his suspension, still did the presser and wasn't exactly pleased. I think everyone in the locker room realizes they missed a big opportunity to bag three points and beat one of the top teams in the league.
Spencer's post-match presser. More thoughts tomorrow on a tough tie for Portland to swallow.