We're LIVE at The Jelly, where your Portland Timbers host Toronto FC in a match we'll go ahead and call a "should-win" for PTFC. You want three points, do ya?
1. DRAMATICS! Fighting for their postseason lives(!), injuries, suspensions and international call-ups have thinned the Timbers as summer has begun to set on the Rose City. They've dropped two straight, have one win in seven tries and are teetering on the edge of the playoff race with eight matches left.
2. DOUBLE-NEGATIVES! "We're not planning to not win this game," coach Caleb Porter said earlier this week. I can't not agree with that statement—I don't think.
3. HYPERBOLE! Toronto is a lovely city with a terrible footy team. The Reds are ninth out of 10 in the East and are fresh off sacking both their president/GM and player operations while keeping their "shambolic" coach. They've been called lowly, a weak opponent, stinky and easy points. With five international call-ups and both their Designated Players sidelined with injuries, Portland's chances at victory are further improved by the return of Capt. Will Johnson. Just how important is it to have him alongside man-in-motion Diego Chara at midfield? "When they play together they are very destructive defensively in winning balls," Porter said on Friday. "And ripping the heart out of an opponent."
Whatever happens (let's hope nobody's heart is actually ripped out—such a mess could cause a lengthy delay) the only must is clicking past the jump and following along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
Toronto FC (4-12-10, 22 pts)—Joe Bendik in goal. Richard Eckersley, Steven Caldwell, Gale Agbossoumonde and Jonas Elmer on defense. Reggie Lambe, Jeremy Hall, Darel Russell and Alvaro Rey at midfield. Andrew Wiedeman and Robert Earnshaw up front.
Rounding out the 18: Michael Thomas, Ryan Richter, Maximiliano Urruti, Quillan Roberts, Justin Braun, Mark Bloom, Emery Welshman.
Portland (9-5-12, 39 pts)—Milos Kocic in goal. Sal Zizzo, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pa Kah and Michael Harrington on defense. Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson and Kalif Alhassan at midfield. Jose Valencia and Rodney Wallace up front.
Rounding out the 18: Jake Gleeson, Futty Danso, Rauwshan McKenzie, Brad Ring, Diego Valeri, Bright Dike, Sebastian Rincon.
PREGAME: Lots of interesting names in the Portland lineup. With Ryan Johnson, Donovan Ricketts and Alvas Powell out on national team duty with the Raggae Boyz, a number of normal reserves get their chance to shine. Kocic gets the start against his former club while making his second appearance of the year for Portland. So how's he liking the Rose City?
"It's definitely different than Toronto," Kocic said, "because it's a winning team, it's a winning mentality."
Tonight also marks the return of Danso and Dike, the latter of which returns after injuring his knee during the preseason. Valeri, who's been banged up and hasn't fully practiced this week, will not start but cracks the 18. Trencito gets his first career MLS start after clearly gaining Porter's trust as this season has progressed.
Johnson gets a big-time ovation pre-game, the biggest of all Timbers.
FIRST HALF: Timbers headed toward the South End, wearing white shorts and green tips. Toronto in all red. And away we go!
2nd minute—Toronto swings one in after a throw deep in Portland territory. Russell gets a head on it in a dangerous spot, but it's just wide.
3rd minute—Chara gets it taken away at midfield and Toronto counters quickly. Earnshaw dances around the top of the box, but AJ-B is able to contain him.
4th minute—Trencito gathers about 30 yards out and knocks a quick pass down the east sideline to Harrington. He sends a left-footed cross screaming into the box, but it's just behind a leaping Wallace. Nice ball into the box by Harrington.
7th minute—Kah with a long, diagonal ball ahead to Wallace, who gets tangled up with Eckersley. Wallace called for the foul, and it'll be a kick for Bendik. Timbers take it right back and Trencito with a nice run into the corner. Agbossoumonde defends him well after a nice direct ball ahead by Alhassan.
9th minute—Chara with a bit of a scary pass back to Kocic, who runs it down and passes it ahead before it goes over the line. Zizzo runs it all the way down the field, after a great backheel pass, Wallace crosses for Nagbe, but it's long.
10th minute—Wallace with an other cross and this one forces Bendik to leap. It might have caught the bar and the Reds are complaining about something. Toronto playing pretty physical right now, sending more than one Timber to the turf so far in this one.
11th minute—Timbers NEARLY net one as Wallace chips one into the box for Nagbe. He gets a header on it, but it's just over the bar. Bendik is livid.
13th minute—Toronto with a long, hopeful ball toward the Army, and their prayers are answered as Kah kicks it out for a TFC corner.
14th minute—Outswinger sent in from the corner and headed backward by Kah.
15th minute—Kocic with his first save of the night as Wiedeman unloads and forces the save. Corner comes in and Russell comes in unmarked, but his header is glancing at best. It'll be another corner.
16th minute—Now Toronto NEARLY nets one on the corner! Outswinger headed down to Russell, who volleys it at the net. Kocic (or was it Alhassan?) is there to knock it away. Timbers on the counter and Trencito cracks a shot, but it slices well wide.
19th minute—Back to action after Rey is attended to by TFC trainers. Looked like it might have been somewhat serious as he called for trainers right away—but alas, soccer.
21st minute—Nagbe with a shot from the top of the half-circle. He looks to bend it, but it goes wide right.
22nd minute—Timbers earn a free kick in a dangerous spot. Johnson takes it and swings it low and away from the goal. Chara ends up with it, but after a couple passes forward, Toronto clears.
25th minute—Nagbe fouled at midfield by Agbossoumonde, and it'll be the first yellow card of the night.
26th minute—Kocic with some...interesting...dribbling in the box as Caldwell presses. He back-heels it to himself right in front of the goal and knocks it forward. No harm, no foul, I guess.
28th minute—Eckersley feeds Earnshaw in the box and he cracks a swinging volley from the top of the box, but Kocic is there for the leaping save. An acrobatic shot there by Earnshaw and Kocic does well to get a handle on it.
30th minute—Portland with some buildup, and it ends with Alhassan knocking a little curler that's just wide. We've seen that before—creativity in the box by Kalif.
31st minute—OFF THE POST! Some lovely short passing by Portland leads to Wallace dropping back to Alhassan. He gathers and fires a screamer, but it hits the near post.
33rd minute—Timbers look like they're knocking on the door here. After Trencito forges ahead and attempts a shot that's deflected back, Chara with a nifty pass ahead to Alhassan, but his cross attempt is over everyone.
34th minute—Zizzo with a screaming cross into the box for Nagbe, who leaps to head it. Bendik in perfect position though, and easily gathers it in.
36th minute—Kah with some dangerous footwork and it's taken by Toronto. A bit of a weak pass gives Johnson just enough time to slide in and make a great challenge. Perfect timing there from the Capt., and the crowd loves it.
37th minute—Toronto with a free kick in a dangerous spot after an Alhassan foul. It's sent in and Kocic punches it, but it goes right to Earnshaw. His BICYCLE ATTEMPT goes high, and that would've been a pretty one.
38th minute—Free kick coming for Portland after Hall fouls Valencia about 30 yards out. Danger time for Toronto.
39th—Johnson picks up a yellow after arguing with the official and walking off what should be 10 yards. Ref doesn't appreciate Will's "measure-twice-spray-once" approach and shows him the yellow. Free kick sent in and immediately knocked away.
40th—Now Wallace picks up a yellow after a hard foul 40 yards out. It's sent in high and Kocic sort of awkwardly gets under it before it bounces too far into the box.
42nd—Timbers with their first corner, and Kah gets a header on it. He also took a knock and will be attended to by the PTFC trainers.
Two minutes of stoppage...TIMBERS GOAL! Alhassan crushes a right-footed volley past Bendik after a nifty little chest trap. Unassisted goal from the top of the box and the Timbers lead, 1-0. (BIG-TIME TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES IN THE BOX RIGHT NOW—INTERNET SLUGGISH). Portland was knocking on the door and dominated possession much of the half, and this time, they finish.
HALFTIME: Timbers lead 1-0 on what has to be a heartbreaking concession by Toronto in the waning moments of opening 45. Portland dominates possession (71%) and more than doubles Toronto in total passes (268-103). The Reds had some fine chances, but especially after that late-half goal, this one has all the makings of an impending Portland win.
SECOND HALF: Timbers headed toward their Army. They're chanting "DODGY KEEPER" at Bendik, the former Timber. And we're back at it...
47th—Internet is still sluggish as fuck in the press box, so bear with me, Mom. Alhassan with a steal along the east sideline, but can't keep it in play.
49th—Long ball ahead to Wiedeman, but AJ-B beats him to the ball and heads it Zizzo. He plays ahead to Alhassan, who springs Valencia. Trencito runs it ahead and earns a corner.
50th—Johnson plays it short to Nagbe. It goes to the other side of the box and Kah sends it into the box from the wing. Trencito fires a deflected shot and AJ-B is there to PUT IT IN THE NET, but he's offside. No argument there.
53rd—Nagbe running ahead and is yanked at by Hall. Foul is called and Johnson takes the free kick short. Timbers kick it around the box and Alhassan tries to get past Eckersley, but Toronto defends.
54th—Nagbe cracks a shot, but Bendik is there to knock it away with two hands. On the other end, Earnshaw takes one away from Kah in a dangerous spot and gets off a shot, but it's high. Looks like everyone in green stopped playing expecting a foul call on Nagbe, but no whistle blew. It nearly cost them a goal there, and a rather pissed-off Porter is being shown on the big screen.
57th—Wallace sends a great ball into the box for Trencito, who hammers a shot with his left foot. It's right at the knee of Eckersley, however, and Toronto escapes for but a moment. A loose ball goes right to Johnson, who goes left to Trencito. He fires a shot between the legs of a Toronto defender (NUTMEG!) but Bendik is there to nab it.
59th—Timbers on the counter and have a 3-on-2 advantage. Chara takes it himself and attempts a shot, but it's just wide. Good chance for Portland there, perhaps better if Wallace or Valencia can get open sooner to give Chara an option.
63rd—Nagbe JUST MISSES from the top of the box. What a great first step by Nagbe, who's freed up when Johnson gives him a short pass and levels a Toronto defender. Nagbe goes right and fires, but misses it by less than a yard.
65th—Scary moment there as Earnshaw dummies one and Wiedeman bursts into the box and forces Kocic to come off his line and get a piece of it. AJ-B gets to the ball after the deflection and dekes Earnshaw before clearing it.
67th—Chara took a shot in the leg and he's really limping. His grimace is visible from the press box.
69th—Zizzo takes a knock and is slow to get up. Break in the "action" and I use air-quotes because the pace of this one has slowed quite a bit.
71st—Russell and AJ-B all tangled up just outside the box. Both parties involved asking for fouls and neither get one.
72nd—Weideman with a nice little step-over in the box, and his cross gets past Kocic. Nobody's on the other end of it, however, and that's fortunate for Portland because Kocic would've been beat.
73rd—Toronto picking things. Another cross sent in and all Harrington can do is toe it over the line. Corner kick comes in and it bounces to Eckersley, who BLASTS ONE just over the bar. Kocic completely sold out for that one, and someone in the south end got quite a
75th—For Toronto, Braun enters for Rey. Reds will have a corner, but nothing doing. It looks like Valeri will enter on the next stoppage of play.
76th—Another cross, another corner for Toronto. It's sent in and Agbossoumonde runs into it, but he can't get much on it. Goal kick coming.
77th—Timbers sub: Valeri enters for Alhassan. Big cheers for both.
80th—Attendance announced, and no surprise, another sellout. Things have calmed down quite a bit since Valeri has come on. Portland happy to pass it around and kill clock. Toronto will have another corner as Wallace can't keep one in bounds.
81st—Harrington and Weideman all but wrestling as the ball comes in. Valencia heads it down and Hall runs at it to crack a shot, but it's deflected out. Another corner.
82nd—Corner comes in and bounces away from the goal. Weideman tries a bicycle-ish kick and it's over the bar. TFC has picked it up once again and Portland is bending, but not breaking.
83rd—TIMBERS GOAL! Wallace scores after being set up by a Valeri steal! Agbossoumonde is absolutely robbed by Valeri, who toe-pokes ahead to Wallace. He dribbles ahead and beats Bendik through the five-hole. That should probably do it. Timbers lead, 2-0.
86th—Trencito earns a corner after getting past a Toronto defender and heading to the box. He slows things up, steps back, and it's poked out. Corner comes in and Valeri ends up with it at the top of the box. He chips it and AJ-B and Bendik collide! Jean-Baptiste got a head on it, but it goes wide right. He's shaken up a bit, but back on his feet.
87th—TIMBERS GOAL! Will Johnson! The Capt. scores after missing four matches. All set up by a fantastic dummy by Chara. Trencito gets in the box and looks like he slips on the ball. He stands up and passes toward Chara, who fools everyone in the stadium by letting it slide to Johnson. The Capt. is wide open in front of the net and blasts it high and left of Bendik. Timbers lead 3-0.
90th—Timber sub: Brad Ring will make his Timbers debut, coming on for Nagbe.
Three minutes of stoppage...Ball played ahead to Eckersley, who gets a good boot on it, but it sails on him....Weideman sends a cross to Braun, who's header is just over the bar. It grazed the net, in fact. TIMBERS GOAL! Valeri scores one completely set up by Trencito. He beats Eckersley to the spot, makes a nice little move to get around him and gets the ball past Bendik to a wide-open Valeri, who taps it in.
FULL TIME: Timbers win, 4-0. That one really got out of hand/escalated quickly. Portland dominates possession and in the last 10 minutes, matches the score to its effort.