Chants fill westbound MAX trains. The lines on a widened pitch are a fresh, bright white. Eight ropes hang from the roof of the North End.
We're LIVE at Jeld-Wen Field for an opening night of Major League Soccer that feels a bit like a "do-over" for the Portland Timbers. Reset, reboot, revamp—whichever way you slice it, a franchise is about to be reborn.
Caleb Porter makes his MLS coaching debut while 13 new faces dot a roster built to thrive in his pass-happy, possession style. Designated Player Diego Valeri and veteran defender Mikael Silvestre make their league debuts, while new captain Will Johnson and fellow offseason additions Ryan Johnson and Michael Harrington give their first listen to Timbers Army. We know we'll hear from them, but what sort of team will the TA be cheering for?
Porter has talked plenty about creating a new identity for Soccer City, USA, one that echoes a certain song that's often heard reverberating across the stadium this time of year.
We’ll sing for you Timbers
‘Til you finish the fight
There’s a party in Portland
No one’s sleeping tonight
“We have a group of guys who aren’t going to quit this year,” Porter said. “If we’re not playing good soccer, we’re going to fight."
And I'm going to blog. Click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action, on and off the pitch.
PREGAME: The tifo display being loaded up covers two sections east of the main capo stand. Looks to be very green.
Here it is, rising from the North End:
The Red Bulls of New York feature star power that burns brighter than any other club in MLS. Thierry Henry and newly acquired Brazilian star Juninho are the headliners, but there are subplots aplenty. New York also has a new gafer in Mike Petke, a 13-year MLS vet who also makes his head coaching debut tonight. Two former Timbers, Eric Alexander and Kosuke Kimura, return to the Rose City, with Kimura slated to start.
What's there to eat in the press box today? Steelhead, a prime rib carving station, baby greens, Charcuterie with crackers, grilled vegetable crudite, jumbo shrimps, roasted red potatoes with garlic bread, baby greens and chocolate covered bacon. Legit.
A new banner marks the seat of Gisele Currier, the "Queen of Timbers Army" who passed away in April 2011.
New York (0-0-0, 0 pts)—Luis Robles in goal. Roy Miller, Heath Pearce, Jamison Olave and Kosuke Kimura on defense. Dax McCarty, Ruben Bover Izquierdo, Juninho and Tim Cahill at midfield. Fabian Espindola and Thierry Henry up front.
Subs: Brandon Barklege, Santiago Castano, Josue Martinez, Eric Alexander, Markus Holgersson, Connor Lade and Jonathan Steele.
Portland (0-0-0, 0 pts)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Ryan Miller, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Mikael Silvestre and Michael Harrington on defense. Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, Will Johnson and Kalif Alhassan at midfield. Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe up front. Will Johnson is the Captain.
Subs: Jake Gleeson, Dylan Tucker-Gangnes, Rodney Wallace, Michael Nanchoff, Ben Zemanski, Sal Zizzo, Jose Valencia.
FIRST HALF: And away we go... Timbers working toward the South end to start.
2nd minute—Nervous touches on both sides in the opening ticks. Ryan Miller and Roy Miller (no relation...I don't think) collide near the Red Bulls' bench, and Roy is staying down a bit longer than Ryan. I guess we know who the tougher Ryan is, now don't we?
4th—Valeri with his first free kick and it's not his best work. It comes in low and hot, which is no problem for New York. Red Bulls regain possession.
6th—Espindola gets past a defender and takes a boot to the shin. He goes down hard just outside the box. Dangerous free kick opportunity, especially from a dead-on, dead-ball specialist Juninho, who's lining it up.
7th—Juninho curls it on-goal around a five-man wall, but Ricketts is there to knock it down and collect it. Portland dodges one there. You can't give a cat like Juninho too many chances from there.
9th—RED BULLS GOAL Silvestre attempts to drop one back to Ricketts, who can't handle it. Espindola is right there to knock it in the back of the net. Ugh. Likely a miscommunication there between two new teammates in a loud environment—after all, Timbers Army was going nuts. In any case, a big mistake there for Silvestre, and the Red Bulls lead, 1-0.
10th—Timbers come right back at 'em, and a Valeri free kick is nearly one-timed in by Will Johnson. Nice response for Portland.
12th—Portland's longest bit of possession ends with Nagbe dribbling it out of bounds under increasing amounts of pressure. Not sure what the scouting report said, but so far it's working.
14th—TIMBERS GOAL Unbelievable individual effort by Valeri, whose MLS debut is officially ridiculous. Alhassan one-touches to the Argentinian, who chips it off his chest, juggles through the box and lightly touches one past the keeper and into the far post. Classy. What a gorgeous goal after some nice buildup by Portland, and we're tied 1-1.
16th—Valeri is fouled 35 yards out and will have a free kick. He bends it in, but again, it's low, well wide and over the goal line. It looked like it caught a Red Bull defender before it went out, but New York will have a goal kick—much to the dismay of Timbers Army.
19th—Alhassan picks off a pass 35 yards out and has one from just outside the box. It's a nifty little poke, but it just rises just over the bar. Missed opportunity there, but Portland is controlling the action at the moment.
22nd—Red Bulls try a little quick-touch passing, and Henry knocks one straight out of bounds in front of the New York bench. And the crowd loves it.
23rd—Jean-Baptiste bails out the Timbers as Henry nearly gets behind the defense off a nice ball into the box. AJ-B is there to cut it off, though, and things are settling down after a frenetic opening few minutes.
24th—RED BULLS GOAL Uh-oh. Silvestre with another mistake in the backfield. He takes his eye off the ball and lets off a bit of a lackadaisical pass that Espindola cuts off, runs all the way down the pitch and curls past Ricketts. Ouch. Silvestre's debut has not exactly been a smashing success. Jet lagged? New York leads 2-1.
26th—RBNY foul called just outside the box and Valeri crushes a free kick that goes just wide. Nobody can get a deflection on the screamer, and it sails over the line for a New York goal kick. I think we just saw Valeri's fastball there.
28th—RED BULLS GOAL Pearce crosses to Olave after Will Johnson's attempted header clearance falls to the feet of Pearce. He slides the ball into the box and once again, the Timbers' defense breaks down in a very costly manner. New York leads 3-1 and the crowd is stunned.
33rd—Ryan Johnson cuts off a poor McCarty pass and finds Nagbe running into the box. He drops it back for Will Johnson (so many Johnsons!), who settles it with his left foot before shooting from the top of the box. It's no problem for Robles, and it'll be a goal kick. Timbers trail by two goals but you get the feeling they could score at any moment. At the very least, we'll have some exciting footy this season—no matter which side is scoring goals.
36th—Valeri with a corner kick that finds the swinging right leg of Ryan Johnson. Red Bulls clear for a moment, but Valeri gets it back and breaks down the New York defense like a point guard. He fires a shot, but it's right at the gut of Robles. New York again clears, but it leads to Alhassan running to the corner of the box before being upended. Free kick coming, again from a dangerous spot.
37th—Valeri sends it in low and Silvestre heads it away from goal.
38th—Great through-ball by Chara for Ryan Johnson, who lets one rip. But a New York defender steps in front, and the Red Bulls regain possession.
44th—Foul by Alhassan near midfield after a nice ball by Espindola. It's sent in quickly but Harrington is there to take it and go. It eventually finds Nagbe up the middle, but Darlington can't quite find the handle and New York clears.
Two minutes of stoppage ... Timbers will have a corner kick form the Southeast end, and the crowd rises to its feet. It comes in low and is popped up and back to Will Johnson. He crosses for Silvestre, but Robles comes up strong and pushes Silvestre out of the way to collect.
HALFTIME: Red Bulls lead 3-1. Obviously, this Timbers defense is a bit of a work in progress (three goals yielded in 19 minutes... yikes). Can Portland adjust in the second half and get back into this one? They've looked dangerous on the attack while possessing 61% of the time, so I certainly wouldn't put it past them.
SECOND HALF: We're back at it. The Timbres heading toward their Army.
47th—Portland on a counter attack and Ryan Johnson fires one in stride just over the cross bar. Good chance at the start there for Portland, who leave the locker room like a house on fire.
49th—Alhassan serves one into the box for Johnson, but Olave skies to head it over the line. Portland corner kick coming.
50th—Ryan Johnson sends it in and it's knocked away by the Bulls. No worries there for NY.
55th—Alhassan dribbles into the box and finds Johnson, but Olave is there once again to save New York's bacon. Corner kick sent in and Jean-Baptiste gets a header on it while being pulled to the ground. No foul called. Borderline at the very least.
56th—TIMBERS GOAL Nagbe follows an Valeri shot and buries one, and the Timbers right back in this one. Alhassan leads the charge to get Valeri the shot, and Darlington is cool and collected on the rebound. Red Bulls lead 3-2, but the crowd is back in this one. Former Timber Kimura culpable on that one (not the first time you can say that about him on this field). He stood there and watched as Nagbe finished the job.
59th—Robles taking his time and we have some stoppage. Will Johnson is all over it, screaming at the ref as Robles stalls a bit.
61st—Johnson lays one ahead for Valeri, who looks for Nagbe over the middle. He collides with Pearce and both are slow to get up. Valeri continues to impress. The man has some serious vision and looks exceedingly calm over the ball.
65th—Ricketts with a huge save after Henry takes a no-look pass from Espindola and cracks one. Massive save there for Ricketts, who stands up claps for his defense. They might return the favor.
67th—Miller chips one after another great move and pass by Valeri frees him up on the east side. Robles goes up and grabs it, but another glimpse of Valeri's tremendous skill there.
72nd—Trencito and Zizzo check in for Portland. Miller and Alhassan off. Portland beginning to dominate possession a bit here and Porter makes a pair of aggressive subs to try to equalize this one.
75th—Chara called for a foul just outside the midfield circle. A bit soft, probably a reputation call there. The free kick is immediately knocked down by Johnson. It makes it back to Henry, who looks for Cahill, but he's offside.
77th—Barklage with a hard foul from behind on Nagbe, who comes up screaming at the ref. Valeri sends it in from 40 yards out, but Olave is there to head it away.
79th—Play stops as Henry is being attended to by the New York training staff. Took a bit of a knock in the shin.
80th—Cahill and Harrington mix it up a bit and after a bad free kick gets past Valeri, New York plays it ahead. Henry finds himself all alone with the ball at his foot. His first touch is a bit heavy, and Ricketts smartly comes out and slides to knock it away. Heads-up play from Ricketts there—this one was very close to being over. And now it's even closer to getting quite chippy.
82nd—Valencia with a long cross into the box for Nagbe, who rises to get a header on it. It's over the bar, but well done by Nagbe to get to it.
83rd—TIMBERS GOAL An own-goal equalizes it. Nagbe takes it right to the top of the box and unloads. Robles with a great save to deflect it out and Valencia puts it back in the box with a cross that deflects off a New York defender and into the net. We're tied at 3. And we can officially say, "Holy shit, what a match."
85th—Timbers with a free kick coming just outside the box. Valeri lining it up. He fires and it gets past the wall, but Will Johnson's attempt is just over the bar. Timbers nearly have another there, and they're not done yet. Can they complete a ridiculous come-from-behind win?
88th—Jean-Baptiste with a great chip into the box that Ryan Johnson gets a head on, but it deflects off a New York defender. Didn't matter—Johnson was offside. Still, Portland is definitely the aggressor. Red Bulls are bracing.
89th—Valeri with a beautiful chip for Ryan Johnson, who blasts a shot. An even more beautiful save by Robles to keep this one tied. Wow, what a finish we're seeing here. Action on top of action.
Four minutes of stoppage ... Red Bulls are totally pushed back. They're holding on for dear life. Timbers are pressing as Porter waves his arms forward. The crowd is really getting into it. Valeri gets tangled up at the top of the box and is called for a foul ... Nagbe plays one into the box for Ryan Johnson and HIS BICYCLE KICK MISSES BY A FOOT. Wow. This game is officially insane. We would've had a legit seismic episode had that one gone in. I'm talking West-Hills-sliding-into-the-river seismic.
FINAL: It's a 3-3 draw. A tie, but oh, what a tie. The Timbers rally from two goals down to equalize and start the 2013 season with a point. If nothing else, this season will be an exciting one for lovers of offense.
Porter's full postgame presser: