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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Portland Soccer, April 30, 2013

The Timbers got off to a good start this season under new coach Caleb Porter. Most fans would agree on that. What was still a question until Saturday's game was whether that success could last the entire season. With Portland's win at Kansas City the Timbers showed the rest of the league they are going to be tough to beat at home or on the road.

Sporting Kansas City is one of the best teams in the league and they play in front of some of the best fans outside Portland. When they scored just 40 seconds into the match it seemed to remind the Timbers and their fans this was going to be a difficult night. Where Timbers teams of the past might not have recovered from an early blow, however, this year's squad settled down and went about the business of finding the tying goal. In the 24th minute they nearly had it when Rodney Wallace's shot was just tipped out by Jimmy Nielsen for a corner kick (and credit to Darlington Nagbe for winning the ball and making the pass to Wallace). It wouldn't be the last we would hear from Wallace, however, and KC's shutout didn't last much longer, as Ryan Johnson jumped the highest to head Diego Valeri's corner kick toward the goal. Benny Feilhaber deflected the ball into the net but the ball would have gone in either way and the match was tied 1-1. 

Portland would find themselves down a goal again after 29 minutes, however, when KC turned a free kick into a nice passing sequence that ended with Chase Myers' second goal of the game. After being down a goal for the second time in the first half the Timbers tied the game for the second time in the 33rd minute. Will Johnson won the ball in his own half and played it to Ryan Johnson, who held it up for Wallace. Wallace then  passed to Valeri at the halfway line and Valeri played a long ball to Ryan Johnson, by now running at the goal with one KC defender on him. His cross to Nagbe was tapped in and the Timbers had tied the score again. This goal was a perfect illustration of what has changed this season: quick passes around the midfield, ending with a well-placed ball to a player who can make a run at goal. Nagbe gets credit for the goal but nearly half the team was involved in it. 

A 2-2 draw against the likes of KC would have been a good result but the Timbers were thinking bigger in the second half, and their hard work paid off with just about half an hour to go. After Michael Harrington's pressure on the ball led to Diego Chara winning it, he found Wallace with an excellent through ball, and Wallace calmly put away the winning goal. A couple of nice Donovan Ricketts saves late in the game and the Timbers had probably the biggest win in their MLS history. If not for some defensive issues on set pieces the score would have been 3-0. In any event, Portland got the win they deserved and showed they can compete with any team in the league. 

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