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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Portland Soccer, May 19, 2013

Over the course of a season teams begin to develop certain patterns. A team might have a tendency to give up a goal, then not have the talent or mentality to fight back. Then there are teams who keep pressing no matter what the score, who believe in their coach's system and each other. Saturday's game at Vancouver showed once again that this year's Timbers are that second kind of team.

After a start that saw some exciting action both ways, Camilo gave Vancouver the lead with an excellent free kick goal in the 24th minute. The Timbers dominated possession for the half, though, and always seemed like they could tie it. The loss of Darlington Nagbe to an ankle injury late in the half was a negative, but this is a team that's pulled out results after losing key players before.

Seven minutes into the second half, Portland's hard work paid off with a handball in the penalty area. Will Johnson calmly rolled his penalty kick into the net to tie the game at 1-1 after 52 minutes. Unfortunately in the 54th it seemed the Timbers might still have been thinking about the goal they just scored. A defensive lapse allowed Gershon Koffie an easy look at goal, and he made no mistake. After all Portland's hard work, they were behind again.

The Timbers of last year might have been able to find an equalizer once, but twice would have been unthinkable to most followers of the team. And if they had been down to 10 men it would certainly have been over. That's where Portland found themselves this year after Futty was incorrectly sent off for apparently denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, a truly gigantic mistake by the referee.

It only takes a moment of inattention to give up a goal in soccer. It only takes a few seconds of skill to score a goal. In the 82nd minute Trencito Valencia won a long ball from Will Johnson, cut by a defender, and made it 2-2. For a player who didn't play an MLS game all of last year with a knee injury he was very composed when finishing his chance. Trencito certainly seems to have earned more playing time with that performance.

The only problem was that Trencito appeared to have used his arms to control the ball. The referee didn't see it, though, and the goal stood. After a bad call went against them earlier in the game the Timbers benefited from another missed call. It may have given them a draw instead of a loss, but then again the questionable penalty against them in Dallas they might have won instead of tied that match. Mistakes happen in soccer, as in every sport, but they tend to even out.

This game fit the pattern of the season so far: a Timbers team that keeps working, no matter the score or time remaining. There is no panic when they fall behind, they just stay calm and trust that they have the ability to come back. There are statistics to show how much better the Timbers are at passing the ball and how much more offense they are creating. What can't be measured, though, is the work rate and belief in the team. If you could put that into numbers, the Timbers would lead the league in it.

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