Will Timbers Army be outnumbered tonight?
Portland welcomes Mexico City's Club América for an exhibition friendly tonight (on 750 AM, 940 AM en español and web-streamed here) and by the looks of it, MLS' most notorious supporters may have their work cut out for them in the decibel department.
The Timbers walked onto the field to a chorus of boos, and Timbers Army—for the first time all season as I can remember—hasn't completely filled in its sections. Are they saving themselves for Sunday's MLS match against arch-rival Seattle?
Perhaps, and expect the same treatment from Timbers coach John Spencer, who likely won't field too many of his regular starters with such a big match just days away.
But the 95-year-old, 33-time international champions bring a strong lineup from Mexico's First Division into tonight's match, including Ángel Reyna (#18), who led Mexico's Primera division with 13 goals and saw time in four matches during the 2011 Gold Cup. Also, Argentine defender and fan favorite Daniel Montenegro, and new starting keeper Armando Navarette will start. I expected to see plenty of Club América fans—Américanistas, as they're called—in the stands tonight, but with half the tickets sold going to supporters of Las Águilas, I wouldn't be surprised if the west side of the pitch makes more noise than the north end.
Click past the jump as I deftly describe the action on and off the pitch. Toda la acción.
Your Starting XIs:
For Portland—Adin Brown in goal. Sal Zizzo, Ryan Pore and Kenny Cooper up front. Rodrigo Lopez, James Marcelin and Freddie Braun at midfield. Alex Ignajatovic (a Serbian trialist) Kevin Goldthwaite, John Thompson (an Irish trialist) and Chris Taylor on defense. Goldthwaite is wearing the captain's band and the Timbers are sporting their Rose City Red kits.
On the bench for PTFC: Jake Gleeson, Brian Ulmony, Bright Dike(!), Peter Lowry, Kalif Alhassan and Futty.
For Club América—Armando Navarrette in goal. Matias Vuoso, Vicente Sanchez and Daniel Montenegro up front. Joaquin Martinez, Angel Reyna and Jesus Molina at mid. Edgar Castillo, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Jorge Reyes and Oscar Rojas on defense. Sanchez is the captain. CA in its yellow tops and blue shorts.
Pregame—The Timbers walked onto the field to plenty of jeers from the west sideline, as Club América fans seem to out-number the Timbers Army at this point. Granted, it's some 45 minutes before first kick as I type this, but for the first time this season, I'm seeing empty seats in the TA sections. I also noticed the Timbers have been doing announcements in both English and Español (calm down, Tim Howard) and some of the PA on the west side concession area was only in Spanish.
I could barely hear Portland's starting lineup being announced as boos roared from the west side of the stadium. CA fans are singing along wholeheartedly with the Mexican national anthem. But are they tossing their scarves? I think not.
And we're underway ...
1st minute—Chants of "Aguilars!" and drums with a distinctly Latin beat are echoing through the stadium. Is this the loudest the west side of stadium's been all season? I think so.
2nd—Zizzo with a long run down the west sideline but his cross goes to Pore and nothing comes of it. I smell smoke bombs, but don't see any smoke on the North end.
3rd—RoRo Lopez picks up Portland's first foul. He's a Chivas fan from Guadalajara, Mexico (the Timbers' lone Mexican) and knows all about that rivalry. Expect to see him right in the middle of some physical play tonight.
5th—Lopez's free kick from 40 yards out finds Goldthwaite, but his header is wide left of the goal.
7th—América showing some nifty passing and the ability to get behind Portland's defense early here.
8th—CA gets a free kick from 35 yards out, but it's stopped easily. Then, Cooper's pocket is cleanly picked and Brown makes a diving save. On the ensuing corner, another great save by Brown.
11th—Cooper picks up a foul as he and Navarrete both leap for a floating ball in the box. Navarrete punches it out and this is a physical match early. Six fouls already.
12th—Montenegro nearly scores one from the 20 yards after Brown just tips it off the post and nearly watches it deflect off him and back into the goal. Close one there. América is playing at a much faster pace out there and are really showing skill at taking the ball away from Portland.
14th—América nets one, but they have two players waaaaay offside. CA fans still go nuts though, and they haven't let up.
14th—Thompson with a nice cross, but Braun can't find the handle inside the penalty area. Cleared away.
16th—AMERICA GOAL It's Reyna, who snaps one from the right side to the left post from the penalty spot after a pass from Sanchez. Pretty simple stuff for CA's biggest star and fan favorite. Fans go nuts for him, and he blows some kisses. 1-0 Club América.
19th—A Zizzo cross finds Cooper, who gathers it in just inside the penalty area, but it takes too long for him to settle it on his right foot and his shot is blocked. It finds its way to Marcelin, who blasts one way over the top of the goal.
20th—There's Timbers Army. Making some noise now, but it's really being drowned out by the fans on the west side. I'd be curious to see what the breakdown is between fans of Portland and América. I can definitely tell you who's making more noise.
21st—Cooper with a long run down the west side but is knocked off-balance by a shorter Valenzuela. A big swing and a miss on an attempted cross and he lands on his backside. Cooper could definitely use a goal—exhibition or otherwise.
23rd—Sanchez nearly nets one as he beats his marker and gets a free header on the ball right in front. But it sails just over the cross-bar. América out-shooting the Timbers 7-2 and showing tremendous dribbling skill, especially when under pressure and in tight quarters.
26th—Timbers earn their first corner kick after Zizzo takes a Thompson pass. RoRo service is no-look back-footed brilliantly by Goldthwaite, but it's saved by Navarette. That would've been a sweet goal. Would've.
28th—Cooper is in front, but is double-teamed and can't quite get a good foot on it.
30th—Martinez catches Zizzo late to earn the match's first yellow card. A quick re-start gets to Pore inside, but is header floats high.
31st—Timbers nearly score one but Navarette again makes an outstanding save. Cooper posts up the defense inside and kicks it out to RoRo, who crosses it into Pore. His header is on-goal, but Navarette shows why América didn't go shopping for keepers when its 2010 starter moved to France. Great save there, but a good chance for Portland. They're starting to find their sea legs a bit.
33rd—Every time Brown has a goal kick, América fans are screaming "CULO!" at the top of their lungs. What's that mean? I'll tell you when you're older.
37th—América taking its time and showing some skillful possession. They'll earn a corner kick when Vuoso gathers one inside the penalty area and the Timbers are forced to defend it over the goal line.
39th—Long ball played for Sanchez, but Goldthwaite with a nice header to defend. A nice play, but Goldthwaite comes up hobbling a bit. This came after Zizzo and Castillo raced full-speed down the west side and collided in the box. Any bets on who'd win a 100m dash between those two?
41st—Reyna gets a chance to gather the ball and shoot from the top of the box, but his left-footed attempt goes high.
43rd—Good build-up for Portland as Zizzo works the ball to Thompson, but the big Irishman's shot goes wide right.
45th—Braun with an unforced error snuffs out a developing chance for Portland. One minute of stoppage time added.
Stoppage—Lopez drives a header into the right side of the box but it's cleared. América looks like they might make a late run, but Thompson makes a nice defensive play.
HALFTIME—América leads 1-0 after the Mexican side comes out strong and sustains possession throughout the half. Portland has a couple of good chances and forces CA's keeper to show off some of his skill, but América pretty much dominates the half.
Some stats: América out-shot and out-fouled Portland 9-6. CA had four shots on-goal to Portland's two. América had three corners, Portland had two. Three saves for Brown, and it looks like Gleeson may man the goal in the second half for the Timbers.
Gleeson is indeed wearing the whites and takes over the goal in the second half for Portland. Miguel Layun, Daniel Marquez, Raul Alonso Jimenez and Isaac Acuna enter for América, but don't ask me who for.
And we're back at it ...
47th—Cooper makes a run and tries to cross, but he runs into the advertisements on the north end and the ball goes over the goal line.
49th—Jimenez ends up with it right in front of Gleeson, but can't gather it in and get a shot off as Gleeson gobbles it up.
50th—Goldthwaite lets one go for Gleeson, and it's dangerously close to Marquez, who's just beaten to the ball by the Timbers' keeper.
53rd—Lopez with a run up the east side, but Rojas with a great recovery tackle to give Portland a corner kick. Nothing doing, though.
54th—Zizzo earns Portland a corner. How? Speed.
55th—Corner kick played to Cooper, who whiffs on the header and picks up a foul in CA's box. And speaking of whiffs, Thompson plays one back to Gleeson, who whiffs big-time on it and nearly sees it go into the net. Nearly a YouTube-worthy embarrassing own-goal there for Portland. Yikes.
58th-59th—Cooper fires one on-goal after a throw-in. It's struck well by KFC, but Navarette (who looks like he didn't expect it) makes the save. A corner kick comes flying in and again Navarette gets a fingertip on it. Ensuing throw-in leads to a Pore header that goes high and Ignajatovic blasts one just over the goal. Very, very close to the equalizer. Another corner kick.
60th—Corner is cleared away, but it's three straight chances and proof the Timbers aren't laying down. Timbers Army really making itself heard at this point, as the TA's sections have filled in fully and flags are a'waving.
62nd—Marcelin gets a yellow card and Ignajatovic is down and looks to be in some pain. Trainers are out on the field as the Serbian slams his open hand against the pitch. Here comes the stretcher. Reyes is also down right in front of CA's bench, and they drag him off the pitch. 10-on-10 action here for the time being.
65th—Lopez free kick played in front and punched out by Navarrete.
67th—Brian Umony looks to be ready to check in here for Portland as Cooper takes a Braun pass after a short a run but is muscled off the ball. Corner kick sent in near-post, but it's cleared out.
68th—Umony coming in for Cooper. KFC could've really used a goal in this match for his confidence. It's been a while. I wonder how much he'll play on Sunday against Seattle ...
69th—It looks like Bright Dike and Peter Lowry are getting ready to enter. Yes, that's the same Bright Dike who ruptured his Achilles tendon FIVE MONTHS AGO. He was supposed to be out NINE MONTHS. Nope. Can the Timbers' leading scorer in 2010 provide a spark for Portland?
71st—Dike in for Zizzo, Lowry in for Marcelin. For América, it's a new keeper: Hugo Gonzalez enters for Navarrete.
73rd—Reyes goes down hard after some contact and the trainers are on the field.
76th—Wow. Even from up in the press box, Dike's size stands out. That's a big man.
79th—Corner for Portland (its 10th of the night) after Thompson played it off the CA defense. Nothing comes of it, however.
80th—There are a few CA fans with flags running around Timbers Army. This may not end well.
82nd—Lowry with a spot-on cross-pitch pass to Umony, who makes a swift run down the east side and blasts a shot. Right at Gonzalez, though, who easily plays it. Looks like Alhassan and Futty are getting set to enter.
83rd—Futty in for Ignjatovic and Alhassan in for Braun. Two guys who will see plenty of time against the Sounders are in to try and find Portland the late equalizer.
84th—Pore plays in for Lopez, but it's headed out by the CA defense. The ball goes straight to Umony, however, who fires one full-footed to the left side, but just wide.
86th—Acuna earns a yellow after he makes late contact with Dike and sends the Timber to the ground. Free kick from 35 yards out swings in front, but it's defended well.
88th—Umony taken down deep in CA's end to earn Portland a corner kick. Some pushing and shoving in the box and the ref walks up to Futty with his arms in a "C'mon guys!" pose. Ball played in and struck well by Goldthwaite, but it's a bit much and sails high and wide right.
90th—Another corner after Umony shows some fancy footwork. It's cleared it out and we'll have FOUR MINUTES OF STOPPAGE TIME. Cuatro minutos.
STOPPAGE—Timbers putting some pressure on and Lowry nearly runs one down in América's box. A cross from Alhassan goes way over the goal and CA's keeper is taking his time as Portland is running out of chances.
A cross from Marquez finds a flying Acuna, who heads it over the goal. Taylor earns a yellow card for a late tackle.
FULL TIME: Club América wins, 1-0. A nice display by the Mexican side, which out-shoots Portland 15-13 and shows some impressive passing. Portland looked respectable, however, and certainly didn't get completely out-classed. A nice showing for the Timbers, and perhaps a stepping stone to leap off before Sunday's match against hated Seattle. Heading down to the locker room now, back with some final thoughts in a bit.
Locker room was closed tonight, but Spencer did come out and talk, along with Lopez, Goldthwaite and Dike. All felt tonight was a good showing for Portland, despite the result. I can't say I disagree: The Timbers (or, at least, a bunch of their reserves) showed some life in front of a hostile home crowd (that just feels weird to type) and didn't stand in awe of an obviously more talented opponent.
Then again, with a Starting XI in flux, these reserves damn well better be playing their culos off if they're looking for playing time (Umony and Goldthwaite really stood out from where I was sitting). An uninspired performance would've left Portland fans searching for this team's pulse, but luckily for Timbers backers (those who showed up tonight), they didn't need their stethoscopes.
Spencer's post-match presser: