Yeah, it's just preseason—but you try telling that to Timbers Army.
North American soccer's most celebrated fans will get a first look at their beloved club tonight when the Timbers host the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. in Goose Hollow.
As Portland is put through its paces for the first time this season in front of the home faithful, fans will get their first chance to cheer their faces off in 136 days—when the Timbers were all but eliminated from postseason contention in the final home loss of their inaugural season. With a near-full lineup of potential starters sidelined by injury, national duty or visa issues, Portland's improved depth will be on full display tonight—perhaps a bit ahead of schedule.
"We've probably got 9-10 guys who could start with the first team the first game of the season who's not available to play this week—which is a bit of a bummer," said Timbers coach John Spencer following Sunday's training session. "You want not to play the same guys for three games leading up to the start of the season, but it looks like we may have to."
By the looks of the teeming North End, Portland fans are anything but bummed—they're just happy the offseason is finally over. So grab your scarf out of its dry cleaning bag, grease up your chain (I'm looking at you, Timber Joey) and click past the jump as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
PREGAME: Timbers Army is teeming. Someone told these guys this was a preseason match, right? Says so right on the ticket, gang.
San Jose: Jon Busch in goal. Ramiro Corrales, Justin Morrow, Victor Bernandez and Steven Beitashour on defense. Shea Salinas, Rafael Baca, Marvin Chavez and Sam Cronin at midfield. Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart at forward.
Portland: Troy Perkins in goal. Mike Chabala, Hanyer Mosquera, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Ryan Kawulok on defense. Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury and James Marcelin at midfield. Eric Alexander, Diego Chará and Jorge Perlaza up front.
And away we go ...
1st minute—They just opened the windows in the press box. I can hear the crowd loud and clear, but I may not survive the night—can anyone lend me a scarf? San Jose takes the first crack at goal, but Cronin's long ball is right at Perkins.
2nd—Timbers get a scoring chance when Perlaza tries to flick it ahead to Chará, but he's knocked down. No call. Chará, by the way, is sporting a pretty sweet pony tail.
4th—Lenhart dances around the top of the box and gets a shot off, but Perkins dives to his right to make the save. SJ the aggressor here early.
5th—Timbers get the first corner of the night and Cap'n Jack boots it deep to the back post. San Jose defends it and Portland is whistled for the first foul at midfield.
6th—Chará with a steal and gets it ahead to Perlaza, but nobody's home on his cross.
8th—Wondolowski gets a header in the box off a throw, but Perkins is there to collect it. Earthquakes are looking like the stronger side here early.
11th—Timbers try to break, but Alexander's pass ahead to Perlaza is out of the speedy Colombian's reach.
12th—Chavez and Wondo bring it down the west side, and Chavez cracks a shot, but Perkins is there.
13th—Kawulok and Jewsbury both try to cross from the same spot to the same result. Nothing doing, but it's the first real bit of Portland pressure in the early going.
15th—TIMBERS GOAL—Alhassan hits his favorite spot! Kalif earns the corner kick with some creative footwork near the goal line, then quickly takes the corner himself. He passes it into Chará, who knocks it back to Alhassan. Kalif then does what he tried to do about a half-dozen times last season—float a shot to the far upper corner. But unlike last year, Alhassan finds the net, and it's 1-0 Timbers.
17th—Portland is definitely picking it up, as Alexander battles in the box and tries to cross. Nothing doing, but the Timbers have come alive.
20th—Salinas gets a cross into the box and Portland clears, but San Jose maintains possession. Quakes earn a free kick and Chavez sends it in, but Perkins punches it away.
23rd—Timbers give it away off a misdirected touch by Jewsbury. San Jose can't do much with it, and the Timbers break. Nothing comes of it, though, as both teams start settling in midway through the first half.
24th—Perlaza gets into the box and loses control the ball, but it goes right to Alexander. He pulls off a spin move and fires one, but it's well right. Nifty spin by Alexander, who by all reports has been impressive this preseason.
26th—San Jose lining up a free kick from a dangerous spot, about 20 yards out.
27th—Corrales strikes said free kick over the wall, but it's also over the goal. Goal kick for Portland goes to midfield and there's some shoving between Lenhart and Jewsbury. Both teams huddle together and dance a bit, but it doesn't escalate.
29th—Timbers Army rolls out the Tetris song for the first time. Sounds great. They appear to be in midseason form.
31st—Chará earns a free kick about 40 yards out. Jewsbury sends it in to the back post and Kawulok is right there, but Busch is there to nab it.
33rd—Jewsbury and Alexander with a nice 1-2 on the west side and Cap'n Jack sends a cross in toward Perlaza. He's tripped up and Busch comes out to clear it out.
34th—Quakes cross it in a couple of times, but Portland defends. First, Chabala heads one out, and on the ensuing possession, San Jose lofts one in for Lenhart, who heads it right at Perkins.
35th—Corrales gets the game's first yellow card as he flattens Marcelin at midfield.
37th—SJ earns its first corner of the night. Chavez sends it in near post and it's popped up toward Wondo, who whiffs on it. If he makes contact there, we have a tied match.
38th—Another corner after Chabala goes for the rare standing-in-the-corner-with-two-defenders-around-me-I-know-I'll-flick-it-up-to-myself-for-a-bicycle-kick. Like I said, it's rare.
40th—Timbers break and Jewsbury plays it ahead to Alexander. He takes it himself and tries to go near post, but it's deflected for a Portland corner kick.
41st—Jewsbury goes near post for a Kawulok header, but it's long. Ensuing SJ possession sees Lenhart take it down the west side and dribble around Jean-Baptiste (welcome to the bigs, kid), but Chabala has the rookie's back.
44th—Baca plays one into the box for Wondo, but the Timbers defend and clear. They give it away at midfield Corrales looks for Lenhart ahead, but he trips and goes down, sensing he would've been offside anyway.
45th—One minute of added time ... Long free kick for SJ, and Bernandez takes it. Perkins gets under it like a centerfielder and his free kick ends the first half.
HALFTIME—Timbers lead 1-0 on Alhassan's lofting goal. San Jose out-shot Portland 8-2, with four of those shots on goal. Seven fouls each in a fairly physical match at times. A nice start for Portland, which, by the way, has never lost a preseason match in its MLS history (dating back to—ahem—last year). Can they keep that rather meaningless strike alive? I'll let you know in 45 minutes.
Alexander and Chabala are the first starters back on the field, and it looks like the same lineup for PTFC.
And we're back at it ...
46th—Jewsbury plays one long to Perlaza, who beats Bernandez to the ball. Kawulok plays one into the box for Chará, who gets it into Perlaza for a shot. It's low and wide, but a nice tone set early by PTFC.
48th—Salinas crosses to Lenhart, but it's just behind him and through the box.
50th—SJ with some possession in Portland's end and twice Mosquera knocks it away. The second comes on a leaping header, and the Army loves it.
51st—Wondo with a dangerous cross for a sliding Chavez, but Chabala defends it nicely. Dangerous chance there for the Quakes.
52nd—SJ corner taken by Chavez, and again Chabala is there to defend. He heads it away in traffic, which is what they call "brave."
54th—Chará leads a counter and has Alexander on the right wing, but his pass is long. A bit too much adrenaline for Diego, who will no doubt have that pass a bit more under control once the matches start counting.
56th—Timbers free kick goes toward Mosquera, who nearly gets a head on it. But Busch is there to nab it out of mid-air. Timbers right back to it as Chará passes ahead to Perlaza, but it's a bad first touch and no trouble for San Jose.
57th—Moreno checks in for San Jose.
59th—EARTHQUAKES GOAL An own-goal after a poor pass from Jean-Baptiste leaves Mosquera hanging out to dry. SJ crosses and it's off Hanyer and into the net. We're tied at 1.
60th—Darlington Nagbe checks in for Alexander and gets a roar from the crowd. Looks like he's playing up front. Kawulok with some nifty footwork along the goal line, but he knocks it over the goal line for the SJ free kick.
63rd—Alhassan earns a free kick in a decent spot, about 25 yards out on the west side. Jewsbury standing over it.
64th—Jack's cross is high and cleared, but Portland maintains possession. A SJ steal leads to a break and the Quakes get a good look on goal with a Lenhart shot. It never reaches Perkins, but it'll be a San Jose corner.
65th—The corner is high and there's a San Jose foul in the box.
66th—Alhassan and Chabala exchange high, lofting crosses, then Chará picks San Jose's pocket and earns a free kick deep in SJ territory. Jewsbury lines it up and drives it in, but Lenhart heads it away.
67th—Alhassan and Perlaza run it down the right side and Perlaza manages a shot, but Busch goes to his knees to get it. Things are opening up quite a bit here. By the looks of the current pace, I doubt this one will stay tied.
69th—San Jose earns a corner right in front of Timbers Army, who hates the call. Salinas knocks it in and Chabala tries to clear, but it hits Mosquera and heads right toward the net. Perkins with a diving save.
70th—Nagbe goes down and is a bit slow to get up in San Jose's end.
71st—Lenhart and Mosquera meet at midfield and Hanyer gets Portland's first yellow of the night. Another yellow seconds later, as Beitashour grabs onto Chará at midfield.
72nd—Attendance tonight is 16,118. For a preseason game. Soccer City, FTW.
73rd—Bright Dike enters for Perlaza. Sporting No. 19 and looking leaner than last year.
75th—Alhassan with a cross for Dike, who goes as vertical as his frame will let him to just get his forehead on it. It rolls along the crossbar and Timbers earn a corner. Jewsbury takes it and Mosquera heads it, but not on target. Action is picking up.
77th—Lovel Palmer will enter for Kawulok.
78th—Jewsbury takes a free kick and it's headed backward by Mosquera. Bad pass leads to a San Jose break, and Moreno gets the ball into the box for a crossing Chavez, but Perkins comes off his line just in time to nab it.
81st—Salinas with a nice long ball into the box for Wondo, who chests it down and forces Palmer to knock it over the goal line. Corner kick coming as Mosquera takes a knee. Corner comes in and Chabala again is there to knock it to Dike, who boots it away.
83rd—Jewsbury blasts one at the top of the box and it's knocked right to Nagbe, who lines up his own blast. It's deflected and Portland earns the corner. It's Jewsbury with the service, but Mosquera can't get a solid header on it. A flurry of action here late, as neither side wants to leave the pitch with a draw.
84th—Jewsbury with a nice touch to Nagbe, who plays a through-ball to Dike. He gets a shot off, but it's immediately deflected out for a Portland free kick. Nothing comes of it, though, and San Jose clears.
85th—A beautiful defensive rundown by Jean-Baptiste along the east sideline. A glimpse of the 19-year old's talent brings a roar from the crowd.
87th—San Jose possessing, biding their time here. Portland with a steal near the top of the box to get possession and a throw-in, but there's no call when Alhassan is bear-hugged by a SJ defender.
89th—Timbers with a break, but Chará holds it a bit too long and it's taken away.
90th—Palmer gets called for handball just outside the box. Inadvertent? Probably, but a tough call for the ref not to make. Moreno takes it from a dangerous spot 20 yards out and Perkins nearly goes out of the box to knock it away.
Four minutes of extra time ... Timbers get a throw near the right corner flag. Could be their last chance as Palmer walks back. He tosses it in and Nagbe gets a header on it, but it doesn't have much behind it and Busch is there.
FULL TIME—The Timbers score twice—once in their own net—and we have a 1-1 draw. An entertaining, somewhat chippy match for the preseason, where Portland remains undefeated (3-0-2) in 2012. Also a nice night for Alhassan (a no-show in the locker room postgame—the joke around the press box is that he didn't want to admit on the record that his goal was meant to be a cross), Chabala (who seemed to get a header on every San Jose corner in the absence of normally-the-guy-to-get-those Eric Brunner), as well as rookies Jean-Baptiste and Kawulok (both of whom made a good impression on Timbers Army, and vice versa).
Some final stats: San Jose out-shot Portland 11-10 and each side had five shots on goal. Seven corners a piece and five saves for Perkins.
And that'll do it from here, folks. Good to be back with y'all for what's already looking like an exciting and intriguing sophomore campaign. I'll be back on Thursday, when the Timbers host Chivas USA in the second match of this tourney, and of course, be sure to check back on Sunday, when I'll live-blog PTFC vs. AIK and probably make a lot of lame jokes about Sweden.