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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Portland Soccer, March 5, 2013

There's going to be many more matches for the Timbers this year, and they'll win a good number of those. However, it's going to be hard to top the season opener on Sunday for entertainment. Portland and New York tied 3-3 but it either side could have had a win.

After the first half hour it looked like New York might win easily. The Timbers defense was always going to be their weakness but even so, in the first half they couldn't have played much worse. New York scored in the 9th minute on a terrible breakdown in communication between Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and new center back Mikael Silvestre. Silvestre passed the ball back to Ricketts just as Ricketts was bending down to pick it up. When Ricketts fumbled the ball Fabian Espindola was there for the easy goal. You can blame Silvestre for kicking the ball back to Ricketts when no opponent was around, but Ricketts also shares the blame for not calling Silvestre off. New defenses need time to get on the same page as the keeper but this was still a terrible mistake.

Portland came back quickly and tied the score five minutes later. New midfielder and designated player Diego Valeri showed why the Timbers picked him up by scoring one of the best goals you'll see this season. The ball went from the left side to the middle through passes by Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, and Kalif Alhassan. Alhassan found Valeri running down the middle at the top of the penalty area, and Valeri juggled the ball three times before shooting to the far post with his right foot. After Alhassan's pass to him the ball didn't hit the ground until Valeri shot it. It looked like a nice move from the far end of the field, but watching it on replay it was a display of skill we rarely saw from the Timbers in their first two seasons.

Unfortunately the tie score did not last long, as New York scored twice in four minutes. In the 24th minute Silvestre failed to control a long ball and let Espindola run around him easily, giving the forward an easy scoring chance to make it 2-1. Then in the 28th Andrew Jean-Baptiste was caught ball watching on a corner kick instead of staying with his man, and Jamison Olave tapped in from close range. The Timbers made it to halftime lucky to be down just 3-1.

If the first half was bad, the second half was the complete opposite. The Timbers controlled the ball and looked dangerous going forward. In the 56th they made it 3-2 when Valeri's shot was saved and Nagbe scored on the rebound. The offensive pressure continued to mount until the 83rd minute. Jose Adolfo Valencia, coming on as a substitute, collected the ball after a long shot from Nagbe was punched away by New York keeper Luis Robles. Valencia sent in a cross that deflected into the net off Olave for an own goal to tie match at 3-3. Officially it was an own goal but Valencia absolutely caused it with his speed and strength. Watch how easily he shrugs off the defender in the replay. He's going to be a key player for the Timbers, either off the bench or starting.

In the end, the Timbers' offense was able to overcome a very bad first half from the defense. Still, they're not going to score three goals every night. The team definitely has changed for the better, as they wouldn't have come back from two goals down the past few seasons. The defenders have to improve, but they know it. The more they play together the better they'll become. The Timbers may not be the best team in MLS this season but they certainly will be entertaining.

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