It looked like it was going to be a very wet, very miserable night for the Timbers Army in the waning moments of their home opener against the Philadelphia Union. The wind howled and rainfall worsened, and no matter how many pretty passes they made, no matter how much possession they held, Philadelphia just kept getting bodies and appendages in the way of any sort of finish by the men in green. However, at the zero hour, Portland’s newest Argentinian forward struck, helping them escape the monsoon with a 1-1 draw.
Rain was expected before kickoff, and it didn’t disappoint. It seemed to come down harder and harder throughout the entire match, much to the dismay of the brand new third kits that the Timbers were sporting, getting completely soaked within minutes. However, the sloppy weather conditions didn’t prevent the faithful at Providence Park from selling out yet another home game, the 52nd straight.
It didn’t take long for the scoring chances to start. In the 4th minute, Portland had a corner chance that connected with Pa Modou Kah’s head, which barely sent it wide of the far post. Shortly afterwards, Philadelphia started to take control of the play, with Cristian Maidana sending one towards the net, forcing keeper Donovan Ricketts to make a fantastic diving save. This lead to Union defender Amobi Okugo almost putting one home on the resulting corner kick. Not even a minute after that sequence, Jack McInerny gets into the box and Ricketts comes out to challenge. The ball squeaks past Ricketts and looks like it’s going to bounce off the inside of the far post, but new signing Noberto Papparatto clears it at the last moment. A few minutes later, Kah gets dinged up and has to be subbed out for Futty. Near the end of the half, Valeri gets open outside the box and lets loose a cannon, just missing the upper left corner of the net.
Not even two minutes into the second half, the scoring chances start back up again, with McInerny again getting right in front of the net, forcing Paparatto to clear it out of bounds. Maidina makes a great pass to the front of the Portland net, where a goal is just sitting there for anybody who can get a foot in, but none of the Union attackers can get to the open space in time to put it home. Timbers captain Will Johnson makes some moves in the box and gets a ball to Valeri for a prime scoring opportunity, but Valeri somehow misfires, almost completely whiffing on his kick, and ends up just sort of tapping the ball, and sends it bouncing away from the goal. Maidana then puts on another strong display, dribbling his way in front of the box and letting loose a shot that forces Ricketts to make a last-second save.
And then the storm clouds start to darken even more over Providence Park. The Union’s corner attempt after Ricketts’ previously mentioned save deflects off of the head of recently-returned-to-MLS Maurice Edu, which deflects off of McInerny’s head and right into the net, giving the Union a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute.
Substitutions on both sides occur as the second half moved along, with Portland dictating the play and getting scoring opportunities, but none of them finding their mark. Lots of credit goes to Philadelphia centerbacks Austin Berry and Amobi Okugo, who were able to get just enough of their bodies in the way of these shots and take away any chance for Portland to finish. They frustrated Portland all game, stomping out any hopes of scoring every time a Timbers player was about to pull the trigger.
The Union were able to keep Portland at bay for almost the entirety of the second half… almost. In the absolute dying seconds of the match, the Timbers are able to win a corner. Wasting little time, with both attackers and defenders not quite fully prepared, Johnson lays a ball into the goal box for a waiting Gaston Fernandez, heading it in for a very dramatic end to a cold, damp, windy night. 1-1 was the final.
Really quick, here’s a player on each team who I think deserve a little recognition for their performances tonight:
Maximiliano Urruti: This guy was absolutely punished in the first half, not only taking a hand to the face which caused his nose to bleed (as evidenced by the cotton protruding from his nostril throughout the match), but also taking a blow to the knee in a battle for the ball, after which he laid on the ground in pain for a few moments. Yet he was still able to put on a dribbling display at times in the first half, showing that he’s as skilled as he is gritty.
Cristian Maidana: He made the most out of Phildelphia’s smaller possession time, making critical passes that lead to great scoring opportunities. His shot lead to the corner on which the Union scored. He did it all for his team tonight on offense, and is ultimately the one most responsible for them leading through most of the second half.
How did you guys feel about the game? Was it dramatic enough for you? Let me know on Twitter @MLSMadam.