Saturday, May 7, 2011

Portland Can Win 1-0 Too

After a series of high scoring, dramatic, home encounters, it seems as though the Portland Timbers have finally settled down, and are ready to start grinding out results.

Everyone remembers the night of Portland's home opener. Loud, exciting, a cauldron of support, Jel-Wen Field rocked to the tune of Timber Joey and that majestic chain saw. Goal after goal poured in, Perlaza, Wallace, Perlaza again... Chicago were blown away, unable to fathom a way to get through John Spencer's inspired team.

However, as the match wore on it became clear that following the Porltand Timbers would be anything but relaxing, two Chicago goals flew in in quick succession, leaving the Timbers in a tough position with minutes to go. Fortunately,  for the Timbers a fourth goal made the last few minutes comfortable, but the tone of their season had already been set, and the key word? Drama.

Following a 4-2 win in their home opener, MLS really should have demanded that the Timbers post a warning outside Jel-Wen Field, advising those with weak hearts to stay well clear, and it is shocking that no order was put in place in the wake of the Timbers' next game.

Visiting were 2010 MLS Cup finalists FC Dallas, boasting starts like Davide Ferreira, Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea. But they were no match for the Timbers who, roared on by their spectacular home support, found the net three times, and looked on their way to an easy win. However, easy is not a word usually associated with the Timbers, and perhaps John Spencer's men felt uncomfortable with such and adjective being applied to one of their games because in four, wild second half minutes, Dallas had two goals back, and the Timber army had another nervous period ahead of them.

Balls were being piled into Portland's box, with the expansion side defending for their lives, protecting only their second three point haul of the season. Unsurprisingly, the final whistle was greeted with a huge roar of celebration, as the crowd rose as one to congratulate their troops. It had been another dramatic night for the men from Oregon, but another win, Portland were beginning to establish themselves as a real threat.

Though excited about two consecutive wins, John Spencer's joy was tempered by fears over Portland's concentration which had been proved to be fragile over their two opening home games, and a crushing defeat in LA did nothing to make the Englishman feel better.

Ahead of their third home match of the season, Portland knew how crucial it was to remain disciplined, especially as their opponents would be the undefeated Real Salt Lake. Once again the home side took the lead, this time through American international Kenny Cooper, but now their was something different about the Timbers, a sort of steel, a resolve not to concede that had been lacking in their last two games. The match ended 1-0, with the Timbers showing a new maturity in their defensive play, one which reappeared yesterday in their match against Philadelphia. A sole headed goal from central defender Danso was enough to give the Timbers their second consecutive one-nil win, an impressive victory against an in form Philadelphia Union.

With the attacking weapons of Alhassan, Perlaza, Cooper and Zizzo, Portland will definitly be a threat on attack this season but they now seem to be developing a defensive spine. Brunner and Danso managed to shut out Ruiz, Le Toux and Mwanga with out much duress, while Jack Jewsburry provided a useful shield in front of the back four.

Next up for the Western Conference side is a trip to Qwest Field, the home of a set of fans that will not have taken kindly to the Timbers' claim on the best atmosphere in MLS. Even without Steve Zakuani, Seattle will pose a huge threat to the Timbers' back line, Fredy Montero isn't in the best of form, but the Colombian can turn on at any moment, and he will feel confident of scoring against a team that has been poor on the road all season.

Will Portland reach the MLS playoffs?

How can Portland improve their away form?

Please comment below.

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