Well, my MLS Cup pre-season pick isn’t looking so great.
Looking for their first win of the season, the Portland Timbers, playing at home, drew with Chivas USA 1-1. Timbers captain Will Johnson opened the scoring early in the seventh minute of the match, and while they held the lead for almost the entire game, Erick Torres scored for Chivas in the 79th minute to even the tilt.
To use a cliché, this game was a tale of two halves. The first half, even though Chivas had 54% ball possession, was completely in Portland’s hands. With Johnson scoring early, there was confidence in the men in green, with Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri making plays all across the pitch. The Timbers defense snuffed out any scoring opportunities, frustrating Torres and the rest of the Chivas offense. Maxi Urruti was also getting in on the fun, and even though he was offsides more often than not, he had plenty of opportunities to set up and score for his squad.
What was turning out to be a nice, warm evening at Providence Park became ruined at the start of the second half. Not only did Chivas USA continue to maintain possession throughout the half, but they started to break through the Timbers defense on multiple occasions to set up prime scoring opportunities and forcing corners. Portland seceded an astounding 10 corner kicks (compared to the 2 they were awarded), a few of which keeper Donovan Ricketts had to come out and knock away. Rookie Thomas McNamara was putting together a great performance in the second half until he slid on the turf, damaging his knee and having to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher.
But this didn’t do anything to stop the surge of Chivas, as Torres buries one behind Ricketts just before the 80th minute. After that, Chivas just stacked players in the middle parts of the pitch and suffocated Portland. The Timber’s only real scoring chance in the half came on a free kick from Johnson at the end of the half, who just missed the upper right corner of the goal. A few minutes later, the match ended in a draw, as fans and players alike shook their heads, wondering when that elusive first win is going to come.
To help brighten the mood for Timbers fans, my UGH Award (Unsung Game Hero) is going to full back Alvas Powell. Even though Jack Jewsbury started the season at right back, Powell showed tonight why he is such an asset to his squad. Multiple times throughout the game, he jumped up into the offense and made some incredibly skillful cuts into the box, just barely having his shot attempts blocked. He was also in charge of defending a Chivas offense that has been dominant to start the season, and was able to keep up with the speedy forwards and midfielders of the visiting squad. After tonight’s performance, and with Jewsbury just not clicking the way Caleb Porter wanted, I believe that the position is Powell’s to lose.