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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seth Hunt on Portland Soccer, February 19, 2013

Just one home preseason game into 2013 has made a world of difference to me. I was too busy with a lot of other things I do in the winter to miss soccer but spending Sunday night in the stadium was enough for me to get excited about soccer season again.

The fact that the Timbers played well in a 3-3 draw with San Jose helped get me excited, of course. It was good to finally see the new players after hearing about them and watching highlights of the preseason games in Arizona. Obviously Ryan Johnson was the star of the night with his hat trick. But it was the way he scored that's encouraging. He put a header on target for his first goal and finished two one-v-ones with the keeper. Portland hasn't had a forward that could consistently finish when he had clear chances. I hope we'll see a lot more of that kind of play from him.

Diego Valeri, the new midfielder from Argentina, didn't score but two of the goals were because of his passing, which is what the club brought him in to do. Portland's midfield struggled with making passes to the forwards last season, but Valeri gave Johnson just the right pass in the right place to give him a scoring chance. Darlington Nagbe also did well in his midfield role. His pass to Valeri was a key to the second goal.

There were also some things that need to be worked on. The defense made mistakes on all three goals, but as coach Caleb Porter said after the game, those things can be worked on easily. Neither of the center backs will be totally happy with their games. Andrew Jean-Baptiste gave up the penalty kick that San Jose converted for their first goal. Hanyer Mosquera was beaten on a free kick for the second San Jose goal. In the midfield, Kalif Alhassan made a bad pass that led to San Jose's third. He did have a few good moments including the assist on Portland's first goal. However, these were mistakes by the Timbers rather than San Jose creating much of anything.

Overall, even though they probably could have won this match I'm pleased with what I saw. As a friend of mine said on the way out, the Timbers will at least be entertaining to watch. I agree with him and look forward to Wednesday's game against Dallas.

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