After a much-needed win over the weekend, it looks like the Timbers still think they're in this thing.
And why not? They've pulled within striking distance of a playoff spot with a 2-1 Cascadia Cup victory over Vancouver on Saturday, and tonight, Portland can vault itself right back into the thick of the Major League Soccer playoff table with a win against Chivas USA (8 p.m. on ROOT Sports, 750 AM).
Both teams have plenty at stake tonight at the House of Pane. The Goats (7-8-10, 31 pts) sit just ahead of the Timbers (8-12-5, 29 pts) in the standings, and are playing their fifth consecutive away match. Portland, meanwhile, hits the road for a pair of roadies after this one, so building up a bit of momentum for the home stretch would be clutch. After tonight, the Timbers' next two matches are against clubs they're battling for playoff positioning: They travel to D.C. (7-7-10, 31 pts) on Saturday and face Philadelphia (8-6-10, 34 pts) on Sept. 10.
Chivas defeated Portland 1-0 on June 4 in Carson, but as they say, plenty has changed since. The Goats were supposed to be in rebuilding mode after a last-place finish in 2010, but the addition of striker Juan Pablo Angel (conspicuously absent from the starting lineup tonight) shows they're hoping to make a run at the postseason. Portland, meanwhile, has PTFC is tied for second in the league with 25 goals at home, and has earned points in 10 of 11 matches in which they've scored first this season.
Coming out strong tonight—as they did against Vancouver with a Diego Chará strike 74 seconds in—would be a good sign for Portland. And, potentially, a great first chapter to a late-season run at the playoffs.
So join me after the jump as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Chivas USA—Dan Kennedy in goal. Alejandro Moreno at forward. Laurent Courtois, Paulo Nagamura, Nick LaBrocca, Marcos Mondaini and Ben Zemanski at midfield. Ante Jazic, Heath Pearce, Michael Umana and Michael Lahoud on defense. Moreno is the captain and the Goats' newly acquired striker Juan Pablo Angel is conspicuous by his absence.
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper up front. Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chará, Jack Jewsbury and Sal Zizzo at midfield. Mike Chabala, David Horst, Eric Brunner and Lovel Palmer on defense. Jewsbury is the captain and Eric Alexander joins the first team for the first time on the bench.
And away we go ...
1st minute—Zizzo with a game-opening run against his former club, but he's stripped. Timbers keep the ball in the attacking third and Chabala curls one in, but Kennedy's on it.
2nd—The Timbers fail to score in the second minute. Chivas USA > Vancouver.
3rd—Long ball for Cooper is too long. Lahoud goes down deep in his own territory. Timbers Army chanting "Shoot him like a goat!" (maybe?) as Lahoud rolls around.
5th—After a delay for Lahoud to slink off the field, the Timbers control. Chabala plays one back post for Zizzo, who tries to head it back to Cooper, but it's behind. Timbers maintain, and Alhassan tries to curl one in, but Kennedy goes high to pick it off. Good thing: Zizzo was lurking. Timbers controlling possession in this one so far.
6th—Chará tries to chip one over Kennedy's head, but it's well high. Timbers putting early pressure on Kennedy, though.
7th—Chivas possesses for 20 seconds, which is the longest they've held it so far. Timbers really showing some fire early.
8th—Perlaza gets behind the defense and Palmer puts one forward. Jorge is offside, much to the chagrin of both the Colombian and the Portland fan. Wouldn't have mattered: Kennedy came out and made a nice play to get the goal kick.
10th—Alhassan called for a fall in a dangerous spot. Chivas Free kick coming from 25 out.
11th—Lahoud is out, replaced by Mariano Trujillo. Free kick comes in, but Brunner gets a head on it, and after some Chivas possession, Jewsbury clears it.
13th—Chabala with a throw in Chivas' last third, but Cooper is called offside. Goats bring it down and force Horst to kick it out of bounds. Chivas looks like they're settling in a bit here.
14th—Palmer chips one down the east end, but it's too far for Zizzo, which should tell you, it was way long.
16th—Timbers with a steal at midfield and Alhassan makes a nifty pass into the box for Chará, but it's just long. Nice idea, just a bit too strong.
17th—A 50/50 is clearly knocked out by Zemanski, but the initial call is for the Goats. After Chabala argues his case, the call is reversed and all is right in the stadium. A long pass to Perlaza defended well and Chivas possesses.
18th—Courtois with a great shot from just outside the box after a sweet move by Trujillo completely fools Chabala. It's just off Perkins' fingertips, and the ensuing corner is played through the scrum in front. Goal kick coming.
20th—Mondaini draws a foul deep in Portland's end. Free kick from just about the same spot they had an earlier set-piece—off the corner, about five yards toward the sideline—but this one's in front of the east grandstand. It's played in and gets loose in the box, but nothing dangerous comes of it. Perkins goal kick coming.
22nd—Alhassan with some fancy footwork to beat three defenders and a long ball played forward to Perlaza. Timbers play it back and Chará attempts a cross, but it's well long and high. Kennedy lining up a goal kick.
23rd—Physical play is increasing by the minute here. Chivas has picked up some rather ticky-tack fouls early, and Portland doesn't seem to appreciate it.
24th—Some quick passing in traffic leads to a Zizzo cross, but it's knocked out. Cooper lines up a shot, and it's deflected out. Portland's first corner kick in two matches upcoming.
25th—Timbers get a couple of chances in front, two by Horst. But Chivas is there to defend.
26th—Kennedy comes flying off his line as Chará cramps his space a bit. He lines up a goal kick, but makes sure to check behind him before he puts the ball down. Diego is shifty and all, but it'd take a ninja to hide that well.
28th—Perlaza is fouled just outside the arch and the Timbers have a free kick coming from about 20 yards out. Big wall for Chivas.
29th—Cooper fakes a run at the free kick and Jewsbury blasts it on-target, but Kennedy takes it to the gut and gathers it in.
30th—Chivas with a throw in their own end, but Timbers get it right back at the left flank.
31st—Chabala nearly throws it into the goal from just in front of the Timbers bench, but Kennedy goes high to nab it. After a goal kick, Timbers get it right back and Nagamura earns the game's first yellow. Free kick from 35 out.
32nd—Jewsbury free kick goes right to Horst, whose flying header is goal-bound. But Kennedy with an amazing diving save to keep it scoreless. Wow, completely outstretched, full extension saves a goal. Jewsbury with a corner kick, but it's through the box.
33rd—Nagamura down at midfield. He's taking his shoes and socks off. Hey, take your time and get comfy, dude.
35th—And we're playing soccer again! Everyone's shoes are on!
36th—Refs miss a handball call as Alhassan battles for position, but a Trujillo pass is picked off by Horst. Palmer plays one into Chará, but his header is just wide.
37th—Long ball for Perlaza, who splits the defense and gets to it. He can't get a handle on it, and his attempt at a chip goes right to Kennedy.
38th—Another sub for Chivas. Simon Elliott enters for Nagmura.
40th—Cooper with a run into the northeast corner, but he's knocked to the turf and Kennedy will have another goal kick. Looooong kick goes into the box and Brunner clears it into the crowd. A fan throws it back, and for a time, there's two balls on the field. That's one more than there should be, for those unfamiliar with the finer points of the beautiful game.
42nd—Chivas mounting a bit of an offensive attack here as LaBrocca makes a nice run up the middle. But just when the Goats complete a couple quick passes, a turnover. It leads to a long Zizzo run up the middle, and just as he runs out of room, Trujillo bails him out with a silly trip. A yellow for him after the protests and a free kick coming. Timbers would love to steal a goal here before half.
43rd—Free kick coming from 25 out. Palmer blasts it, but the wall absorbs it. Corner coming.
44th—TIMBERS GOAL Brunner heads in Chabala's corner kick from the near post and just outside the six-yard box. HUGE goal for Portland with minutes left before half, Brunner's third score of the season. Timbers lead, 1-0 and the entire stadium, it seems, will breathe a bit easier at halftime.
Three minutes of stoppage ... Chivas played one long to Mondiani, but Perkins is on it. ... Timbers give it right back, but Chará picks up a yellow with a hard tackle. Free kick coming from 30 out ... Elliott has it on-target, but Perkins goes high to tip it over the bar ... Chivas keeping it alive in front, but the Timbers get it out. Zizzo with a run and puts one on Kennedy, who knocks it down but nearly gives it away to a running Cooper. It's cleared out and the Goats are fortunate to escape the first half without giving up a second goal.
HALFTIME: Timbers lead 1-0 on a clutch goal just before the half on a header by Brunner. Massive momentum builder, and if this one goes Portland's way, potentially the most meaningful goal of the year. OK, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself ... Timbers control possession for much of the first half and dominate offensively. The Goats pick it up a bit toward the end of the first 45, but Portland is playing like the hungrier team. Some stats: Timbers out-shot Chivas 10-4, with six of those over the final 13 minutes. Four of those shots were on goal too. PTFC also won the corner battle, 3-2.
And we're back at it ... No subs for either side.
47th—Timbers peppering Kennedy right away here. Long pass to Chará is long, and Alhassan tries to loft one to Cooper, but Chivas defends.
49th—Sloppy midfield play by Chivas leads to a turnover. Chabala ready to throw from midfield. He goes over Cooper's head and the Goats head it out. Timbers inching their way closer down the east sideline.
50th—Perlaza gets loose in the box but is pushed into a corner. He tries to play it back to Zizzo, but it's eventually defended away by Chivas.
51st—Kennedy with another long goal kick into the Timbers last third, but Horst clears it.
52nd—Cooper with a run down the east side and crosses to Perlaza, but Jorge trips before he can make a play on it. Fans want a foul, but it looks like Perlaza just lost his footing.
53rd—A lazy Timbers turnover leads to a run and 35-yard shot by Mondaini. It's deflected out and earns the Goats a corner. It's curled in from the west end and cleared by Portland.
54th—Poor call should've led to a Portland throw, and Spencer is letting the fourth official know.
55th—Cooper fires one from 30 yards out on the run. A nice, solid strike makes the Chivas keeper dive left, and Kennedy gets a hand on it to give Portland a corner. Chabala lining it up.
56th—Brunner tries the same trick, but on the far post this time. He can't get to it, though, and it's a goal kick for Chivas.
57th—Another long goal kick by Kennedy makes its way all the way to the other end. Those keep looking more and more slippery as the night goes on.
59th—Zizzo with a steal at midfield, but he immediately turns it back over. Chivas offense looking more fluid here. The Goats will make their last sub: Justin Braun enters for Zemanski. Not a bad guy to have on the bench: Braun has two hat tricks this season.
60th—Chará goes for a 70-yard chip. Who does he think he is, Adam Moffat?
62nd—Long ball played in for Braun, and the Timbers back line is a bit lackadaisical about his presence. Were they not paying attention? DUDE HAS TWO HAT TRICKS THIS YEAR. The pass is long, though, and Perkins will have a goal kick. Ensuing kick taken and eventually slammed by Alhassan, but another great save by Kennedy gives Portland a corner.
63rd—Chabala bends it in, but it's cleared easily. Braun with his first real touch, and yeah, he looks dangerous.
64th—Goats are biding their time and slowly working their offense. Passes are looking more fluid and chances are starting to show themselves. Timbers are buckling down, but you can almost feel the tide turning.
65th—Jewsbury free kick played low from about 45 yards. Kennedy comes roaring off his line and punches it away, and it looks like an offside call.
66th—Ensuing possession leads to a Jazic cross, but Horst heads it away smartly.
67th—Chará with another hard foul ("Be careful, Diego," mutters Timbers Army) and after a quick restart another cross comes in. Again, Horst is there, and Portland is bending but not breaking ... yet.
68th—Jazic takes it deep in Portland's end and tries to cross, but it's deflected. Ensuing shot is knocked out by Brunner, and it's a corner. That leads to two shots from Chivas, but both are knocked away immediately.
69th—Horst looking like he's in some pain after taking that last Braun shot straight in the shin. Already thin at that position, the Timbers can't afford to lose Horst. And he's back on his feet. All is well as Eric Alexander looks ready to check in on the sideline.
71st—Eric Alexander makes his Timbers (first-team) debut, entering for Cooper. Active outing from KFC, and now, our first look at the man who was traded for Jeremy Hall. First observation: Dude needs a haircut.
72nd—Jewsbury with a shot from the top of the box, but Kennedy is on it.
73rd—Mondaini nearly nets one on a one-timer volley from distance. Best opportunity of the night for Chivas so far, and again, Portland is holding on for dear life.
74th—Perlaza and Chará nearly get it done again, but after some Colombian back-and-forth Diego's shot is just wide despite beating Kennedy. A great chance there for Portland on the counter. That could've been a dagger.
76th—Goats spending lots of time in Portland's end. A cross goes in and is nicely headed out by Palmer. Then Trujillo fires one from distance, but it's way high. Chivas getting some serious looks here. Portland fans gripping. Timbers clinging to a 1-0 lead.
77th—Trujillo plays one into Braun, who tries to back-foot it at the goal. Instead, it's wide right, and Perkins lines up a goal kick.
78th—Mondaini taps one into the box, and Horst shields it as Perkins slides in to grab it. Nervous time for Portland? Uh, yeah.
79th—Pearce tries to fire from distance, but Chará gets his body on it. Timbers counter with a Chará run, but his shot sails on him. If you're a Portland fan, you're loving Diego's budding offensive aggression, amIright?
80th—Darlington Nagbe enters for Zizzo. The rookie didn't see the pitch against Vancouver and enters for the waning moments tonight.
81st—Chivas taking their time, very methodical. Timbers in their defensive posture. Fans still gripping, but loudly.
82nd—Chará has a look at goal after Nagbe's first touch, but his attempted flick is high.
83rd—Jewsbury is fouled by Braun. And it looks like the Timbers will sub in Rodney Wallace for Alhassan.
84th—Moreno posting up in the box after a pass by Mondaini, but Brunner with some nice D to knock it away.
85th—Elliott crosses to an unmarked Braun on the back post. Luckily for Portland, his header slides past.
86th—Jazic trips up Nagbe and is called for a foul. He flails a bit and gets a yellow. Chivas has had their chances, and frustration is starting to show.
88th—Palmer tries a long one for Perlaza, but it's far too long. Not exactly bleeding clock there. Ensuing Goats' possession leads to a shot by Pearce, but it's way wide and long. Might have deflected off a Timber, but the ref didn't see it.
89th—Pearce plays one long to Braun at the top of the box, but the Timbers defend. On the counter, Timbers get a 3-on-2, but the last pass is just out of Wallace's reach. He runs into Kennedy, who doesn't appreciate it at all. Rodney doesn't seem to mind.
90th—Chivas possesses for the full minute, but then turns it over. Really bad end to a possession at this point in the match. Timbers get possession and Perlaza makes a run, but it leads to Portland playing it back. Clock-killing, underway.
Three minutes of stoppage ... Chará with a shot deflected right away, and it's a corner for Portland. A bit of gamesmanship, as Chabala is shown a yellow for taking way too much time in the corner .... Goats mounting their last attempt here. Jazic plays it in to Braun, but the Timbers are on it and Brunner clears. Long ball goes into Braun on the back post, and he finds Courtois right in front. Oh, man, and he misses on a WIDE OPEN shot at goal. Just wide, and wow. Portland extremely lucky there. Goats absolutely whiff on a chance shot at stealing a tie.
FULL TIME: PORTLAND WINS 1-0. The Timbers have their first winning streak since April and guess who's tied for the 10th and final MLS playoff spot? Portland has won two in a row after sleepwalking through a crucial road swing through Houston and KC, and suddenly, PTFC is in prime position for a run at extending its inaugural season.
The Timbers out-shoot the Goats 17-12 and manage seven shots on goal. Chivas manages six shots over the final 20 minutes and certainly had Portland on its toes, but the Timbers show resilience, dig up a bit of late-match mettle and get lucky to hang on for a huge victory. With eight matches remaining, Portland is knotted up with New York for the final playoff position—and who would've thought we'd be saying this a week ago—a postseason berth is the Timbers' for the taking.
Re-cap tomorrow, plus a full video of John Spencer's post-match presser. Until then ...