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Monday, June 10, 2013

Portland Soccer, June 11, 2013

Although there are plenty of stars in the game of soccer it really is a team game. You need everyone working together to succeed. However, some players are more valuable than others. The Timbers are no exception and showed it Saturday at Chicago. With Diego Valeri controlling the midfield they looked dangerous and focused, taking a 2-0 lead. In the final 20 minutes, after he had left the game, the Timbers seemed disorganized and allowed the Fire to come back for a 2-2 draw. While the result extended Portland's unbeaten streak to 12 games, it was still a little disappointing not to take all three points after having the lead for so much of the match. 

Valeri made his mark with his passing and distribution from the start of the game, and in the 33rd minute he put his name on the score sheet, putting his short range shot off the near post and into the net from about 20 yards out. Truthfully the Fire were lucky not be down more than one goal at that point, as the Timbers had hit the post three times in the first four minutes of the game, with two excellent chances in the first 45 seconds alone. 

In the second half the Portland pressure continued, and in the 58th minute Frederic Piquionne, having the ball penalty area, cut it back to substitute Ben Zemanski 25 yards from goal. Zemanski one-timed a low shot past Chicago goalkeeper Shawn Johnson. The Timbers had a 2-0 lead with half an hour to go and seemed well on their way to a solid road win. 

After Valeri left the game and Sal Zizzo came on in the 67th minute, however, the game turned in Chicago's favor. In the 68th minute Andrew Jean-Baptiste was beaten to a through ball by Mike Magee, who scored into an empty net to make the score 2-1. Jean-Baptiste is prone to a major mistake or two every game, and in this case it led to a goal. He's got a lot of promise and is already a good defender, but he still needs time to develop and learn the game at the professional level. The good news was that Pa Modou Kah had a nice game at the other central defender spot and seems to have settled in. 

Chicago kept up pressure for most of the rest of the match, and it paid off when Daniel Paladini put a free kick over the wall to tie the game in the 82nd minute. Portland did have some chances late, after Jose Valencia came in and brought some energy and life to an offense that had been struggling. He's done well in his handful of appearances and probably will feature in the Open Cup game Wednesday against Tampa Bay. The Open Cup may also be a reason Porter made the unusual move of removing Valeri so early. The Timbers have that game Wednesday and a league game against Dallas next Saturday, so it will be very important to balance rest with playing lineups that can win games. Coach Caleb Porter is still learning this, and he's off to a good start, but as he's said all season, there's still room for improvement. 

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