It's looking a lot like fall—are the Timbers ready to rise?
We're LIVE at The Jelly where Portland faces fellow Western Conference contender Colorado in a match with myriad playoff implications.
The Timbers could pass the Rapids in the standings with a win tonight and move into third place with five matches to play. They're sitting precariously in the five-spot at the moment, but Portland is fortunate to face the very four teams ahead of them in the standings—at home—over the next month.
Of course, Colorado comes in playing some solid footy of late. They're 7-1-4 in their last 12 matches, making them "one of the most impressive surprises" of the season. Portland, meanwhile, has just a single win in its last five, and the club's mentality has been a hot topic this week after a bit-too-casual 1-1 draw at Chivas USA on Saturday in what was a prime opportunity to grab points.
Spurned at the chance to climb the table, the Timbers are hungry for dinner.
"Sometimes it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted," said coach Caleb Porter earlier this week. "I think we’re the hunter in this game that has to overtake Colorado to basically take their position."
Appetite whet yet? If so, click past that jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
Colorado (12-8-9, 45 points)—Clinton Irwin in goal. Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Shane O'Neill and Chris Klute on defense. Hendry Thomas, Dillon Powers, Martin Rivero and Nick LaBrocca at midfield. Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris up front.
Rounding out the 18: Matt Pickens, German Mera, Anthony Wallace, Jaime Castrillon, Gabriel Torres, Deshorn Brown and (former Timber/Jefferson HS alum) Danny Mwanga.
Portland (10-5-13, 43 points)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Pa Kah and Michael Harrington on defense. Diego Chara, Diego Valeri and Will Johnson at midfield. Darlington Nagbe, Max Urruti and Rodney Wallace up front.
Rounding out the 18: Milos Kocic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Sal Zizzo, Kalif Alhassan, Ben Zemanski, Ryan Johnson and Jose Valencia.
The Timbers hammered Colorado the last time these two met in Goose Hollow. But much has changed with Colorado's roster: They've added Torres and Vicente Sanchez (who's out tonight after injuring himself in training) over the summer and can now lean on a healthy Buddle.
Speaking of health, Portland may finally feel like 100% is in sight. Jewsbury and Valeri are back in the XI, while Futty makes his appearance in months. A bit of a surprise up front, too, for Portland: Urruti makes his home debut(i) despite solid play lately from Trencito.
Big ovation for Urruti pre-game. Crowd also remembers Mwanga and gives him a nice ovation.
Timbers sporting their "Rose City Red" kits, while Colorado is rocking their all-blue unis. The top two in the league, IMHO.
FIRST HALF: Timbers headed toward the South end. And away we go!
1st minute—The ball's pretty much been in Colorado's end thus far. Timbers pressing forward and looking much better out of the gates than they did last week.
2nd—Chara chases down a ball along the east sideline and gets tackled hard by Harris. Chara rolling around like his shirt is on fire, and here come the trainers.
4th—Harris gets the yellow and Chara is back on his feet. Fire, out.
6th—Colorado has the first corner of the night. It's sent in and Wallace heads it away. Powers gets it and looks like he's winding up for a shot, but Will Johnson is there to knock it away.
8th—Jewsbury plays a long ball to the top of the box for Urruti, who heads it down nicely and gets the crowd going a bit. But the Rapids defense collapses on him and takes it away. After Portland puts it back in Colorado's end, Urruti tries chase down a lazy Irwin pass and nearly gets to it before colliding with Moor. Both are OK, and fans loving seeing that hustle out of Portland's newest acquisition.
10th—Timbers with some buildup that culminates in a Valeri diagonal ball into the corner for Chara, but the latter Diego can't quite chase it down.
12th—Will Johnson picks up a foul about 40 yards out. The Capt. has to be careful—one more yellow and he's suspended a match. Powers sends it in and it's headed down before Nagbe clears...for a moment before O'Neill blasts one from 40 yards out that's well high and wide.
13th—TIMBERS GOAL! Valeri chips the keeper to give Portland an early lead. Wallace cuts off a pass and heads it forward to Valeri, who gathers it in and catches Irwin way off his line. Super classy stuff there. Green and yellow smoke. Timbers lead, 1-0.
16th—Some fancy one-touch passing in the box set up by a well-paced ball from Valeri. Will Johnson then back-heels it ahead to Urruti, who doesn't have much of an angle and passes to nobody in particular.
19th—Chara leading a break and looks ahead to Urruti, but he hesitates slightly and gets caught up with O'Neill. A professional foul there after a bit of miscommunication between Chara and Urruti.
23rd—Colorado with another corner—their third. River sends the in-swinger in, and after Buddle tries to turn and knock it back into the box, Futty heads it down and Nagbe clears it.
24th—Another corner coming after Kah is forced to boot it high. It's sent in long and knocked in the air before Portland clears. Nagbe looks to be on the break, but LaBrocca straight-up grabs him from behind to earn a foul, but not a yellow. Crowd doesn't like the non-call, obvs.
28th—Valeri looks ahead to Urruti, who gets tangled with O'Neill and goes down just outside the box. He goes down in a heap grabbing his face, and the ref gives him a talking-to for overselling the foul a bit.
29th—Nagbe springs Urruti on a breakaway, and he gets behind two defenders. Clear path to goal and shoots, but it's a HUGE SAVE BY IRWIN! A big-time chance there for the newest Timber, but an even better save by the Colorado keeper.
32nd—Futty called for a foul along the end line, but outside the box. Dangerous spot, but clearly a foul as Futty pulls down Buddle.
33rd—Free kick played around the 2-man wall and Will Johnson knocks it away. It's still up for grabs before it bounces over the end line. Goal kick, Portland.
35th—Colorado lining up another dangerous goal kick after Valeri is called for a suspect foul about 35 yards out. Valeri arguing and Timbers Army calling "BULLSHIT!" Ball sent into the PK spot and Thomas heads it straight up. It bounces around a bit before Valeri clears it out of danger.
36th—Chara and O'Neill mixing it up at the top of the box and Chara is called for a foul. They exchange shoves before parting ways.
38th—Buddle knocks it OFF THE POST after Kah completely whiffs on a clearance! He had Ricketts beat, but it nails the post something fierce. Buuuuuuut, the flag came up and he was offside. Kah catches a break.
39th—Back at it and Harris slips past Harrington and makes his way into the box to shoot, but Ricketts is right where he needs to be to gather it in. On the other end now, and Wallace chips one into the box, but Irwin skies to grab it.
42nd—Valeri called for a foul about 30 yards out. Another dangerous free kick. Powers sends it in for Moor, but Kah gets to it first and heads it over the line for yet another corner.
43rd—Corner comes in-swinging, but Wallace is there to head it away.
45th—Urruti called for a foul and then mixes it up with O'Neill. He picks up a yellow and Timbers Army chanting "FUCK YOU REF!"
One minute of stoppage...And not much happens.
HALFTIME: Timbers lead 1-0 despite being out-played by Colorado for a good stretch there to close out the half.
Some stats (and they're not pretty if you're RCTID): Colorado wins the possession battle with 55% and Portland completes just 66% of its passes. Colorado wins 54.5% of duels and outshot Portland 6-2. Ah, but the only number that matters is on Portland's side at this point, and that's the score. Can they hold the lead?
SECOND HALF: Timbers headed toward their Army. And we're back at it!
46th—No changes at the half. Valeri passes ahead to Urruti, who gathers and fires from about 45 yards out, but it's left and low.
48th—Urruti taken down at midfield as Moor lands on top him as they both leap for a 50/50 ball. Urruti holding his left knee...then his face...then his knee again. He's slapping the turf hard and looks to be in pain. Trainers are coming out. There was no foul called.
50th—Urruti back on his feet. Still limping a bit.
54th—Harrington with a fantastic ball into the box for Urruti, but he can't get a solid header on it. It almost went in on its own, but slides just past the post.
55th—Timbers corner, their second of the night. It comes in low for Urruti, but nothing doing. Gets knocked out of the box and Nagbe can't chase it down.
56th—First sub of the night, and it'll be from Colorado: Torres for Rivero.
58th—Wynn works his way into the box and blasts one left-footed, but it's immediately blocked. Not the best clearance, and the Rapids earn yet ANOTHER corner. Ball sent in and Ricketts punches it away to O'Neill, who plays it back into the box dangerously, but Jewsbury clears.
60th—Valeri with a lovely little flick into the box for Wallace, who tries to one-time it ahead with his left foot, but can't get a strong enough touch on it. Right to Irwin. Wallace might've been able to get a full touch and dribble on that one, but kind of got caught up.
61st—Timbers sub: Ryan Johnson on for Urruti. Not a bad debut for Urruti, who showed an extremely high work rate but also a tendency to oversell fouls. The refs picked right up on the latter.
63rd—Rapids NEARLY NET ONE! Timbers can't clear and let it bounce around, and the ball lands right at the foot of Buddle, whose shot goes wide. He'll want that one back. Big-time missed opportunity for Colorado to equalize.
66th—Valeri serves a free kick into the box and it'll be off the flag—for a Timbers corner. Will Johnson sends it in for Johnson, but Irwin knocks it away. Rapids on the break and Torres gets the ball into the box, but his shot goes right at Jewsbury before fouling him. Goal kick, Portland.
68th—Johnson fouled at the top of the 18, and Valeri will line it up. Great opportunity here for Portland. Valeri sends it off the four-man wall and it's knocked straight back. It's sent back in for Ryan Johnson, but Moor with a great defensive effort to get there first.
70th—Another free kick coming. This one 30 yards out along the east sideline. Valeri sends it in and Wallace gets a solid header on it, but it's JUUUUUUUST wide of the far post. Wallace with a great run to get there but not the best header there. And he knows it—burying his head in his hands.
71st—Wallace with a left-footed MISSILE that goes just high. Wow, that one was crushed. Set up by some lovely back-and-forth from Valeri and Nagbe, then a nice pass into a dangerous spot by Ryan Johnson.
72nd—Colorado sub. Brown is on for Harris.
73rd—Now the Timbers make a sub. It'll be Alhassan coming on for Valeri.
76th—Rapids go direct and Torres chips one into the box for Brown, but Ricketts gets there first. Play stops as Kah is shaken up.
78th—Ball spending a lot of time in the Timbers' box and it ends up at the feet of Brown, who blasts a shot into the South bleachers. No harm, no foul, but Portland appears to be in hang-on-for-dear-life mode at the moment.
80th—Timbers maintaining possession pretty well now in Colorado's end. Alhassan earns a throw deep in the zone. But nothing doing.
82nd—Timbers stringing together a lot of passes before Nagbe has a loose touch and gives it back. Powers plays one ahead for Brown, but it's too strong and it'll be a goal kick for Portland.
83rd—Torres blows past Alhassan and fires a shot from the top of the box, but it's just wide. Whoa, that one came out of nothing, and was nearly something.
84th—Rapids sub: Castrillon on for LaBrocca.
87th—Powers called for a foul in a dangerous spot, and hates the call. He's really jawing at the ref. Timbers try to keep it along the west sideline, but Will Johnson's pass to Wallace is off the mark and over the line.
88th—Powers JUST MISSES tying it as his shot from the top of the box is deflected just wide. Corner comes in and it's a low one. Wallace clears softly down the line.
89th—Timbers make their final sub: Zemanski comes on for Nagbe.
Three minutes of stoppage...Alhassan picks up a yellow for kicking the ball away while Wallace is down on the sideline. Rapids are up a man...but the Timbers are on the counter as Will Johnson springs Ryan Johnson. The latter is in front of everyone, but Wynn catches him from behind and knocks it away in the box...Brown with a blast from the corner of the box, but it's over everyone. No deflection and it'll be a goal kick. Tick, tick tick....
FULL TIME: Timbers win 1-0. Not their best performance of the season, but good enough to put them in third place out West. Rapids were the aggressor and controlled much of the match, but Timbers gets the HUGE win at home.