Are the Timbers...dare I say...legit?
UPDATE: Hmmm...maybe we table that discussion for next week, yeah? The Timbers thoroughly dominated The Revolution on Thursday night but couldn't quite find that final touch as the New England escaped The Jelly with a scoreless draw.
That's right, 90 minutes of soccer and no goals. Have at it, soccer haters. Done? OK, good, because Portland extended its franchise-best unbeaten streak to seven by out-shooting New England 22-12 and maintaining possession 67% of the match. They had nearly twice as many total passes (488-228) and won 55% of duels. Ah, but something was missing.
"Today was a good reminder that it's not just gonna happen," Timbers coach Caleb Porter said in his shortest (but most curt!) postgame presser of the season. "We certainly had enough chances to score the goal to win the game, but in the end you gotta credit their goalkeeper who made some great saves. I also felt a part of that was us not being as sharp as we could've been in the final third."
Capt. Will Johnson said the Timbers played well enough to win.
"You get a certain amount of chances at this level, and you have to put 'em away," Johnson said. "We could've focused a little more on the defensive side. At home, you gotta win your games. That's our mindset."
Click past the jump for so much more, including FULL VIDEO of Porter's postgame presser, more quotes from the locker room and minute-by-minute descriptions of all the action, on and off the pitch.
Donovan Ricketts, who threw out his large paw to once again make a point-preserving save for Portland ("I don't know, I just dive and stretch my hand—it touched it, so I was lucky," he quipped), said New England did well to take away the Timbers' biggest strength.
"When we have good ball movement, we're a very good team," he said. "Obviously, they sat back and took up all the space, so it was hard for us to play tonight."
The locker room was hardly jovial, and neither was Porter, who said the team was disappointed but definitely not looking at a falling sky.
"We're not satisfied with a point, but it's also not the end of the world," he said. "We still created enough chances to find a goal to win that game. We're still doing a lot of very good things. In the end, we've played nine games now and we've only been beaten one time."
After rallying twice and triumphantly seizing its first road win of the season last week, Portland coach Caleb Porter told reporters what his team felt about its opponent—and itself.
"We know [Sporting KC was] one of the best teams in the league," Porter said. "And I think we showed tonight that we’re also one of the best teams in the league."
Yahoo Sports' MLS rankings concurred. Sporting News and Soccer America, too. Sure, we're less than a quarter-way through the regular season, but as the Timbers look to extend a franchise-best unbeaten streak to seven this evening against New England, Portland appears to be in the midst of the culture change Porter called for coming in.
"I feel like this year, there's no such thing as home and away for us," said blossoming attacking forward Rodney Wallace. "It's an everyday thing."
Indeed, with six points away from home and seven here, the Timbers are showing that its free-wheeling counter attack and hold-on-for-dear-life ability to close is built to travel. Also coming off a big win are the Revolution, who broke a five match winless streak last week with a win over Philly. With a new-look formation, NE attempted a season-high 19 shots and scored twice for the first time all year. This week, however, the Revs' defense is down four regulars—forcing them to stand up a piecemeal backline to try and handle a Portland attack that's looking more dangerous every week.
"We don't fear anybody," said Timbers forward Ryan Johnson, tied for fourth in the league with four goals in eight matches. "We’re going to keep our feet on the ground and keep doing what we’re doing."
New England (2-3-2, 8 pts)—Bobby (Jesus?) Shuttleworth in goal. Darrius Barnes, Jose Goncalves, Stephen McCarthy and Bilal Duckett on defense. Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen, Kalifa Cisse, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez at midfield. Jerry Bengtson up front.
On the bench: Matt Reis, Scott Caldwell, Juan Carlos Toja, Andy Dorman, Sainey Nyassi, Saer Sene, Dimitry Imbongo Boele.
Portland (3-1-4, 13 pts)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Mikael Silvestre and Michael Harrington on defense. Diego Chara, Diego Valeri and Will Johnson at midfield. Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson and Rodney Wallace up front.
On the bench: Milos Kocic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Ryan Miller, Kalif Alhassan, Ben Zemanski, Frederic Piquionne, Jose Valencia.
PREGAME: It's a slow-arriving crowd on the loveliest day in May. Timbers Army, of course, has mostly packed it in, but 15 minutes prior to kickoff, I can read "PORTLAND" pretty clearly in the east grandstand. The sparseness didn't stop the traditional pregame chant of "Kalif, Kalif—put your hands up!" from rising from the North End. It seems to linger longer by the week—and Alhassan's grin grows wider.
On the press box menu: Clam chowder, slides, green salad, Jojos, PASTIES(!), spinach-artichoke dip, dessert bars and fruit.
Players just coming out on the field, but not before Porter is shown on the big screen. Fans start chanting his name. (Somewhere, John Spencer just punched a wall and doesn't know why?)
Right after the anthem, Timbers army unrolls a banner on the main capo stand that reads: "Boston, Oregon." Nice.
FIRST HALF: Timbers heading toward the North End...and away we go!
2nd minute—Valeri with an aggressive start. His first touch is attacking the top corner of the box, and a minute later, he chases Shuttleworth into a running goal kick.
3rd—Chara picks up the first foul of the match (shocker!) and Nguyen will have a free kick 40 yards out.
4th—Nguyen's free kick is low and right at Jewsbury. He clears and Portland shows its counter ability in a flash, setting up for a sprinting Wallace. He's defended, but Portland showing its ability to punch back early here.
5th—Silvestre a bit careless on the goal line. Uncontested, he can't control it all alone after an easy pass from Jewsbury and it'll be the first corner of the night for NE. It's sent in low, and no problem for the Portland defense.
7th—After Ricketts gets his first action of the night on a Cisse cross that goes too long, the Timbers counter. Nagbe and Valeri with a little give-and-go combination play at the top of the box, and Valeri nearly has a world-class volley strike. Wow, that would've been pretty, but his shot soars over the bar. No goal, but a good indication of what Diego and Darlington are capable of.
9th—Wallace knocked down in the box, but no call. Tough challenge there, and naturally, Timbers Army hates the non-call.
11th—NE doing a good job maintaining possession in Portland's end over the last couple of minutes. Portland's defense not overly sharp, but holding firm.
12th—Timbers will get their first corner of the night after Nagbe finds himself with the ball in the box and feigns a pass before firing a shot into the side netting. The corner comes in and it's played out. Valeri sends it in high and Futty collides with Shuttleworth, who goes down and rolls a bit. TA holding up the "NO PITY" side of their scarves and chanting "DODGY KEEPER."
15th—Nagbe gets ahead of everyone after a lovely through-ball and gets 1-on-1 with Shuttleworth. He shoots, but it's deflected, hits Nagbe again and soars over the line. Good chance there for Nagbe, whose angle was cut off pretty quickly there by Shuttleworth. It'll be interesting to see how Nagbe responds to a bit of bad luck early.
19th—Rowe fires from distance, but it's no threat to Ricketts. It was set up by a bit of a concerning counter, however, as it's becoming clear the Revs offense came to play tonight. Not that they look especially good—but they're battling.
21st—NE free kick taken by Nguyen and Ricketts comes flying forward to punch it out. Smart play by Ricketts, who also gets his stuntman-like roll in after.
22nd—Another corner coming for NE after Harrington loses it over the line. Nguyen plays it and in and it's cleared by Portland. Counter follows counter and we're really running now.
23rd—After a cross goes well high over Wallace, he kicks it back to Jewsbury, who slips. That gives Bengtson a pretty good break, but Jewsbury RUNS HIM DOWN (enough) to set up Futty to win the ball back. Frenetic pace here now as both sides exchange counter attacks.
27th—Harrington chops one into the box for Futty, who skies and heads one wide and high of the net.
30th—Another Timbers corner comes in high for Futty, who heads it back to Nagbe. He crushes a shot, but it's just high of the frame. That was a scorcher, and the crowd lets out a gasp to match.
32nd—A poor pass by Harrington leads to a Revs' break. Bengston brings it forward and fires, but Ricketts is there to paw it.
33rd—Wallace gets one in the box but his defender can't keep him outside. He drives into the box and fires, but it's low and left. Nice effort by Wallace there, who did well to beat Duckett and get a ball off—even if it was right-footed.
36th—A couple bad passes from each side. I won't name names.
37th—Jewsbury fires a spinner from distance, but it goes juuuuuuust wide right. It was all set up by a nice ball from Valeri to an overlapping Harrington. He tried a cross that was headed down by Wallace and eventually cleared back to Jack. No goal there, but Portland is dominating the action here over the last 10 minutes.
38th—Timbers with their fifth corner of the night and it's all the way through after a Rev gets a piece of it. Sixth corner coming.
39th—Will Johnson sends it in and Valeri cracks it through traffic. It's deflected back over the line and Shuttleworth looks up and exhales. Valeri unleashed a scorcher there. Another corner coming in and Futty gets a head on it, but it's wide. Timbers in total control.
42nd—And just when I say that, some nice build-up by New England culminates in a shot by Ryan Guy, but Ricketts is there for diving save. Not quite up to the Save-of-the-Every-Week quality he's shown over the last month, but a nice one nonetheless.
43rd—Nagbe attacking the box and earns a corner kick. Valeri plays a ball to Chara who finds Johnson in front and he puts it in the net! But a foul was already called and it'll be a free kick in a dangerous spot.
45th—Free kick comes in, and after an attempted clearance, Silvestre nearly scores one after Wallace one-time crosses in front. Another nice chance for Portland, which is sounding familiar. No stoppage time indicated and Wallace again crosses in front for Valeri, but again, NE knocks it away.
HALFTIME: We're scoreless. Portland dizzzzzz-ominated possession with 67.5% and had 12 shots to NE's seven. Timbers also had seven corners and had more than twice as many passes as the Revs—230 to 108. The Revs seem perfectly capable of stealing one tonight, but it seems more likely well-adjusting Portland will tack a couple on here in the second half.
SECOND HALF: Timbers heading toward the South end. No changes for the Timbers. For NE, Caldwell on for Cisse.
47th—Futty with a near turnover and Bengston goes down in a heap. No whistle there, but a dangerous move by Futty there.
48th—A little one-touch fanciness from Nagbe and Chara is cleared out and gathered by Harrington and Will Johnson is fouled for a free kick just inside midfield. Nothing doing on the free kick, and Chara is a bit slow to get up.
51st—Valeri with some nice dribbling and plays a long switch to Harrington. It's a bit too hot, though, and Harrington mis-judges and can't come up with it. Pity for the Timbers, as Harrington had some space in front of him.
53rd—Shuttleworth with a great save after Wallace crosses a beauty into the box and an unmarked Johnson strikes it right in front. But NE's keeper is right there for the quick-reaction save, then leaps and gathers it before the ball trickles over the line. Best chance of the night for Portland there, and that's saying something.
55th—Timbers earn a corner after Valeri goes tearing down the field and finds Johnson in the box. He does a nifty back-heel to himself and knocks it off a defender and over the line. Corner comes in and it's ping-ponged around a bit. Silvestre goes down hard, holding his left knee after landing a bit awkwardly after an attempt at a bicycle kick. Not good for a thin-at-the-back Timbers.
57th—The stretcher is on its way out, and from the looks of the replay, Silvestre's foot might have gotten stuck in the turf and twisted his leg. Jean-Baptiste will come on for Portland, who comes on for an injured player for the fourth time this season. Silvestre carried off, and man, that's not a good sign for Portland. After a shaky start to the season, Silvestre has been more than solid.
59th—We're back at it and after Nagbe slips, Valeri fires from the corner of the 18. Shuttleworth is there to get a piece of it and the Revs breathe easy.
60th—Chara called for a foul at midfield and the Revs do pretty much nothing with it. Fans cheer sarcastically.
62nd—Timbers will bring on Piquionne for Ryan Johnson. An early entrance for the Frenchman, who's gone back to the dreadlocks for this home match.
65th—Valeri sends a cross into the box after he, Nagbe and Harrington work the ball down the right side. No danger on the cross as Portland looks a bit out of sorts. New England is in prime position to steal one here with one counter attack, because it doesn't like they're particularly interested in possessing the ball.
67th—A nice look by Nagbe, who finds Piquionne streaking down the left side. He shoots high along the goal line, and it'll be a throw for Portland. NE makes a move, bringing in Sene for Fagundez.
68th—Timbers have a free kick in a dangerous spot here, just about 35 yards out. Valeri chips a nice one into the box and Wallace gets a chest(?) on before Shuttleworth gathers it.
70th—Timbers are really pressing on the NE defense here as the ball ping-pongs around the box. Harrington and Jewsbury take big swings, but it's deflected over the line for a throw. Here comes a swinging cross and Piquionne is there for an on-frame header, but Shuttleworth with the save.
71st—Wallace with a hard foul on Duckett and it'll be yellow card for Rodney.
72nd—Sene with a blast from 40 yards out, but it's just over the bar. Way too much space given up there by Portland. That was close—it's a goal if Sene's standing about three yards back.
73rd—Valeri with a cross far-post for Jewsbury, but Will Johnson skies and gets a piece of it. Miscommunication there, which is hardly a rare phenomenon in this stadium.
75th—NE on the counter and Bengston gets a nice through-ball from Rowe. He's behind Jean-Baptiste for a moment, but the youngster does well to shield him a bit and let Futty and Ricketts take it away.
75th—On the counter, Piquionne sends one for a cutting Johnson, but again it's high. Harrington throws his arms up—he was wide open in the box there. Lots of opportunities for the Timbers here, will they cash one in?
79th—Lots of action at midfield leads up to Portland pressing forward inch by inch. Piquionne gets deep and tries to drop one back to Harrington, but NE clears for a throw-in. It comes for Piquionne, who heads it to Valeri. He flicks it backward toward the goal, but nobody's there.
80th—Johnson surprises everyone had has one from about 25 yards. It's high and wide, but appeared to scare Shuttleworth plenty.
81st—Timbers sub: Alhassan on for Jewsbury.
82nd—Valeri dribbles all the way down and tries to do it himself, firing one low and just wide right. Shuttleworth caught a bit flat-footed and dives to his right, but if that one was on-frame, it might have been the game winner.
83rd—Dangerous moment as the ball stays loose in the box and Bengston appears to line one up, but Futty grabs his jersey (allegedly) and no call.
85th—Chara gets behind the defense and fires a shot, but Shuttleworth dives to knock it away. NE on the counter and Sene is on the break. He fires and Ricketts with yet another game-saving diving save. He's grabbing his arm a bit after that one, but wow, talk about potentially saving points there. Corner comes in and Futty heads it in the air. Here comes the break, but Portland pulls back.
86th—Valeri sends one into the box for Piquionne, but he's dragged down in the box and can't quite get a foot on it. Shuttleworth is there and it'll be a goal kick for the Revs.
87th—For NE, Boele on for Bengston.
88th—Alhassan dribbles forward and finds Valeri, who touches one back to Nagbe. He shoots, but again Shuttleworth is there. Time running out for Portland, who just can't quite break through despite many more opportunities in this second half.
90th—Alhassan speeds into the box and tries to cross for Piquonne, but it's off-target and no problem for Shuttleworth. Timbers back to it and Valeri finds Chara in the corner of the box. He shoots and it's knocked over the line for a corner.
Five minutes of stoppage ... Great pass form Boele to Sene right in the top of the box, but Chara and Baptiste take it away ... Rowe shoots from the top of the box with a lot of room and Ricketts tips it over the bar. Corner kick sent in and deflected off Johnson for another corner... Rowe sends it through the box and now NE is possessing well. They try a long switch and it's deflected off Baptiste for another corner... Nothing doing...Long switch to Harrington and here come the Timbers. Ball sent in for Piquionne, but it's knocked over the sideline for a throw. .... Tick tick tick ... Baptiste gathers and fires from distance, but it's right at Shuttleworth.
FULL TIME: A scoreless tie. Meh. The Timbers dominate the action/possession and fire off plenty of shots, but can't quite break through with the goal they needed. New England does well to nab a point with a piecemeal back line and plenty of dangerous moments yielded.