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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Portland Soccer, May 9 2013

These are new times for the Portland Timbers. Last year their first game in Dallas ended in a 1-1 draw and most fans were happy. Last night their only trip to Dallas (their only trip at all to Texas) was also a 1-1 score but there was a fair amount of anger and disappointment. A draw is not the result the team wanted, to be sure, but I'm certainly not going to be angry about going to the first place team in the conference and leaving with a point. The Timbers did well enough to earn a result of some kind and they got it.

When Darlington Nagbe forced Rodney Wallace's cross inside the near post in the 70th minute it seemed as though the result would be a win. To that point the Timbers had more or less matched Dallas on offense and defense. The center back pairing of Futty Danso and Andrew Jean-Baptiste weren't exactly playing textbook defense, but they were holding their own against the likes of Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, and Kenny Cooper. They were also helped out by the continued hard work of Diego Chara, who made several excellent tackles at critical times. Each team had hit the post and each keeper, Donovan Ricketts for Portland and Raul Fernandez for Dallas, had excellent saves. In all, the match was very entertaining and back-and-forth throughout.

Unfortunately, just seven minutes after scoring the game turned around for Dallas. Jean-Baptiste and Perez were holding onto each other's shirts, fighting for position in the penalty area. It was the kind of play that happens many times every match, and usually there's no foul call. For some reason, however, referee Juan Guzman felt there was something different about this play, called the foul on Jean-Baptiste, and awarded Dallas a penalty kick. Kenny Cooper scored to tie the game and give each team a point.

It was unfortunate that the tying goal came after a controversial call, but the Timbers did many things well. If they had converted one more of their opportunities they would have had a huge road win, bigger than their win at Kansas City since Dallas is a Western Conference opponent. If Portland comes out Sunday against Chivas USA and plays with the same energy, and you would think they wouldn't be happy with not being able to close out a game, they'll have another win.

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