The Portland Timbers defeated Sporting Kansas City two goals to one at an 80% capacity Providence Park on Saturday night.
The Portland Timbers will host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, June 19th at 7:30 p.m. at Providence Park in what will be Portland’s first match since March 30th. The match will be broadcast on FOX 12 Plus locally and ESPN+ nationally and internationally.
The Portland Timbers (2-3-0, 6 pts, 9th in West) defeated the San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0, 9 pts, 4th in West) 2-0 at PayPal Park in San Jose, CA on Saturday, May 15th, 2021.
Eryk Williamson assisted both goals while squaring off with San Jose’s Jackson Yueill in midfield. Yueill was selected over Williamson for the U.S. Men’s National Team U23 squad that missed out on the Olympics a few months ago.
Portland’s newest goalkeeper, Logan Ketterer, made a massive penalty save to keep Portland’s lead intact, and the Timbers would go on to win the match 2-0.
With nine players on the injured reserve list, Timbers Head Coach Giovanni Savarese elected to “park the bus” and look for counterattacking opportunities in this match. You can be the judge how that worked out.
The opening few minutes started with a jolt. San Jose maintained most of the possession—as they would for the rest of the match—but a high press by Portland forced a turnover, which Eryk Williamson expertly weaved into a chance. As he popped the ball through to Yimmi Chará, Williamson got decked at the edge of the box. Referee Rosendo Mendoza called an advantage, but it was not needed.
Yimmi Chará’s first goal in 2021 MLS play took the pressure off Portland mentally, but not physically. San Jose would work the ball around Portland’s half relentlessly, as the Timbers relied on counterattacks and the occasional high pressure to shake the Quakes off the ball.
One such counter came in the 30′, as Portland pushed for a corner that nearly led to a headed Dario Župarić goal—his shot kissed off the post. On the other end, a nervous moment for Logan Ketterer reminded the Timbers that the match was still very close.
The Timbers leapt out to a quick start again in the second half, with Andy Polo nearly assisting Felipe Mora merely seconds into the half. His shot missed wide right, but it was a good sign for the Timbers.
That chance would be one of many for Portland in the first 15 minutes of the second period. Mora himself had a chance from his head (51′, blocked by defender) and his feet (55′, saved incredibly by J.T. Marcinkowski) before Bill Tuiloma had a header go wide.
While the Quakes started breaking Portland’s front line, the chances continued. Pablo Bonilla had maybe the best of the second half, as his beautiful one-two with Mora gave him a decent look at goal in the six yard box. Unfortunately, his left-footed shot was over the bar.
Just when it seemed like Portland were taking control, disaster struck. Claudio Bravo used his arm to block a Carlos Fierro cross, giving the ageless Chris Wondolowski a chance to level the tie from the spot—but Logan Ketterer rose to the occasion.
Ketterer, who was brought on as an emergency loanee signing after three Timbers ‘keepers went down with injuries, had an amazing night between the sticks for Portland. In all, he made four saves and one punch—none more important than the penalty stop.
The missed penalty gave Portland another jolt of confidence. The Timbers kept fighting as San Jose turned up the heat.
Jeremy Ebobisse’s night ended somewhat conspicuously as he limped off the field after grabbing his calf. Dairon Asprilla had already been slated to come on, and Jebo limped around to the bench in the 68′.
With Portland needing an insurance goal, Williamson came up big once again. After a bit of offensive pressure from Portland, Williamson whipped in a perfect ball to Marvin Loría, whose header over Marcinkowski gave the Timbers a 2-0 lead with just over 15 minutes to play.
Andy Polo became an unsung hero from tonight, with a match-high four chances created despite having zero assists to his name. He would be replaced by Renzo Zambrano in the 72′.
Diego Valeri, Jose Van Rankin, and Zac McGraw would make appearances in the 82′, replacing Mora, Loría, and Bonilla, respectively.
San Jose chased a goal with everything they had, but Portland’s defense held firm. The best chance came and went as Benjamin Kikanovic watched his header spin wide of the post in the 93′, but the match was already out of reach. A huge win for Portland in such unlikely fashion will serve the Timbers well as the regular season heats up.
Timbers fans (including myself) might not have had much faith in the team entering Saturday night, but Gio did. This match threw massive shades of the 2018 playoff run in Savarese’s inaugural season—a tough road win in which, on paper, the Timbers seemed outmatched, turned into a glorious victory as Portland put away enough chances.
A massive win for the Timbers during an exceptionally-tough period, and counterattacking the way God (I mean, Gio) intended.
Follow @doublepostpod for total coverage of tonight’s match (and every match!), including our postgame reaction podcast later this evening.
As always, RCTID!
The Portland Timbers (1-3-0, 3 pts, 12th in West) are in San Jose to take on the Earthquakes (3-2-0, 9 pts, 2nd in West) after both teams fell to the first-place Seattle Sounders in the last week. Portland hosted the Sounders on Sunday and fell 2-1, while San Jose hosted on Wednesday and lost 1-0.
Shaking Things Up
San Jose’s impressive start has been led by the young American duo of Cade Cowell and Jackson Yueill.
Let’s start with Cowell. He is Matias Almeyda’s new center forward (after the departure of Danny Hoesen to Austin and the aging of Chris Wondolowski), but nothing is so straightforward with Almeyda. His man-marking system isn’t as intense as it once was, but it still requires constant awareness and movement from every Earthquake. Enter Cowell, who at 17 years old has the energy to contribute on offense and defense. He’s scored twice and assisted thrice in five matches, but his defensive numbers may be even more impressive.
Cowell grades out near the top of most statistical comparisons for MLS forwards, including the 96th percentile for tackles + interceptions and the 96th percentile for tackles in the defensive third. Check out his full Football Reference Scouting Report to see all of his glittering green bars.
Yueill, a defensive midfielder who was part of the U-23 U.S. Men’s National Team that ultimately failed to qualify for the Olympics, has been the glue in the center of San Jose’s 4-3-3 so far this season. He scored twice against DC United and grades out well as a high-volume passer.
ON THE VOLLEY!— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 2, 2021
Jackson Yueill's different. pic.twitter.com/1Bb6uU1dqM
The Quakes enter this match scoring two goals per game (T-2nd in MLS). Their three wins (Houston, DC United, and Real Salt Lake) have included some memorable goals, including Yueill’s stunner against DC and the immortal Wondo coming onto score a brace for a comeback win in Utah.
Two weeks in a row. pic.twitter.com/4R9sM3Yley— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 10, 2021
Short-staffed in Stumptown
Overall, this is not the time Portland want to be playing San Jose (or really anyone, for that matter). The Timbers are perhaps the most banged-up team in MLS, with an injury list so long I had to double-check it.
Updated #RCTID Injury List:— 𝘋𝘰𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘗𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘗𝘰𝘥𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘵 (@doublepostpod) May 13, 2021
*out for season
There are five starters on this list, not including second- and third-string goalkeepers. After Jeff Attinella and Larrys Mabiala left Sunday’s game against Seattle with injuries, the news only got worse. Giovanni Savarese confirmed this week that Diego Chará, the man historically most critical to Portland’s success, also strained a hamstring. (His backup, Cristhian Paredes, is still out for an extended period.)
The Timbers added a goalkeeper to the roster on Thursday, signing Logan Ketterer to a loan deal from USL-Championship side El Paso Locomotive FC. With 19-year-old Hunter Sulte as the only healthy goalie on the roster, this makes a ton of sense. Ketterer was actually one of the best ‘keepers in the USL-C last season, ranking first in regular season clean sheets (8 in 16 matches) and fifth in save percentage (78.3%).
Not to mention Sulte has had one of the rudest introductions to a pro career one could ask for: a four-goal thrashing in Dallas with a C-team lineup and a second-half-substitute appearance while losing to your bitter rival (which so happens to be the best team in the league). The goals he’s given up haven’t even necessarily been his fault, but that’s just the way it goes.
With all that in mind, here’s my prediction for Portland’s starting XI on Saturday:
The Timbers do have Jeremy Ebobisse back, and I have a hard time thinking that Gio will prefer Dairon Asprilla over JeboOnTheWing™ if the latter is up to full speed. I would not be surprised to see Jebo starting at center forward and Asprilla or Marvin Loría in that winger spot.
I’m not feeling very well about this match, and it’s not just because I ate Cheez-Its for breakfast and lunch today. I would applaud a draw, though I understand a loss is very likely. The only silver lining is that this will be San Jose’s third match in a week, but I still expect them to be prepared.
Either way, we’ll see, but I’m predicting a 2-1 loss Saturday night.
After a disappointing week that saw the Timbers concede four times to FC Dallas and thrice to Club América, Portland returned home to Providence Park for a date with their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders.
Portland missed chance after chance, including two from the penalty spot, before Seattle put two second-half goals in. Bill Tuiloma’s late free-kick made it close, but not close enough to threaten a result. The match would end 2-1 to the Sounders.
Portland were without regular starting goalkeeper Steve Clark, as well as would-be starters Sebastián Blanco and Jarosław Niezgoda. Forward Jeremy Ebobisse made his return to the starting XI but would be replaced by Felipe Mora after an hour. Playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro was out for the Sounders, though it hadn’t meant much so far this season.
Portland were on the front foot in the first half, but missed a series of chances in the 30th to 42nd minutes—and by a “series” I mean four or five half-chances and three more legitimate ones. The worst miss came from Ebobisse in the 40′, slipping as he fired a left-footed shot wide.
The first major moment of the match came in the 55′ as Ebobisse was brought down by Shane O’Neil in the box for a penalty. Valeri stepped up and had his attempt saved by Frei, but was awarded a second chance after Nouhou encroached and Frei came off his line.
Valeri’s second attempt offered no added joy for Timbers fans. His penalty smacked off the post and while his rebound went in, it would have required Frei touching it to count. Valeri was immediately subbed off for Dairon Asprilla, and the match continued at 0-0.
Ebobisse was also replaced by Felipe Mora in the exchange, and Andy Polo would replace Marvin Loría shortly after.
Portland’s attack struggled mightily without Valeri. His creativity and oversight of attacking combinations usually out Portland in successful positions, but post-60′ the Timbers resorted to getting the ball wide before stalling and losing it.
Few minutes passed before the deadlock was broken. Ruidiaz stumbled over Tuiloma and Attinella on the other end, culminating in a penalty for the Sounders. Ruidiaz took the pen and slid it to Jeff’s right, opening the scoring in the 62′.
Not a minute after the ensuing kickoff, disaster would strike once more for Portland. Attinella went down with a non-contact injury after playing the ball with his left foot and needed to be replaced by 19-year-old Hunter Sulte.
“How many times do you see three goalkeepers going down at the start of the season?” lamented Giovanni Savarese post-match. While he praised Sulte’s performance (one save, 3/5 accurate passes) he also noted that it was an exceptionally tough spot to be put in.
Ruidiaz nearly drew another penalty in the 76′ and Williamson couldn’t get on the end of a cross at the other end. It would be punished in due time.
A Seattle free kick from the right side of Portland’s defense found the head of a barely-onside Fredy Montero, who beat Sulte to give Seattle a 2-0 lead in the 79′.
Halfway through the six minutes of added time, Bill Tuiloma (of all people) blasted a beautiful curling free kick past Stefan Frei. Tuiloma’s fourth goal for the club was his most impressive, but the Timbers couldn’t muster another one. The match ended 2-1 to the visitors in a match that looked like it was Portland’s to lose.
“You don’t get some things in your favor that you’re supposed to get,” said Gio. “Unfortunately, the score doesn’t show what we gave to the game today.”
- Joao Paulo was showing his quality in the middle of the field for Seattle, stopping numerous attacks with well-timed challenges and springing the Sounders forward in the same role Diego Chará has historically played for the Timbers.
- Nouhou Tolo and Diego Chará were locked in a battle during the first half, with Chará getting the better of the always-unpredictable Nouhou early. A caution was issued to Nouhou after taking down Diego as he broke away down the right.
- Portland’s overall passing play was amazing, building up and transitioning well from defense-to-attack. Now the focus shifts back to finishing chances, a la 2019 pre-Brian Fernández.
Follow @doublepostpod for total coverage of tonight’s match (and every match!), including our postgame reaction podcast later this evening.
As always, RCTID!
The Portland Timbers have signed Mexican international right-back Josecarlos van Rankin from Chivas Guadalajara to a one-year loan deal with an option to buy.
Van Rankin, 27, has plenty of experience in 250+ Liga MX appearances for big-name clubs, namely Pumas. You can read all about his skillset here, although there’s nothing out of the ordinary.
His arrival comes off the heels of a wild few years of fullback changes, including:
Alvas Powell and Zarek Valentin’s departures
Team-of-the-Season-Jorge Moreira’s failure to re-sign
Jorge Villafaña’s return and re-departure
…and much, much more.
So far this offseason, the Timbers have added Claudio Bravo and van Rankin while subtracting Chris Duvall, Villafaña, and Gresham’s own Marco Farfan. This leaves Pablo Bonilla as Portland’s only returning outside back.
If you’re good at counting, you may realize that totals four defensive departures and just two additions. The front office will surely be adding more depth as the offseason continues…
Gavin Wilkinson’s “Young Designated Player Center Back” signing that was mentioned at the start of the offseason has yet to materialize. Some have speculated the youngin’ may come from Brazil, as the Timbers have reportedly already had an offer declined from there.
Despite a looming lockout, let’s assume MLS matches will be played at some point this season. For the sake of exploration, here’s how the Timbers will probably look in their two-deep this year.
A couple things to note:
Notice how we only have seven guys total. And I promise I’m not missing anyone.
I have Bonilla listed ahead of van Rankin solely because Giovanni Savarese has some outstanding fascination with him. Personally, I would start van Rankin. But we’ll see come matchday one.
There’s been zero indication that Gio wants to move to a back-three or anything like that. I’d be shocked if we’re not lined up in the same back-four.
So how will we fill out the roster? If that Young DP center back wish comes true, that still leaves the Timbers scarily thin at outside back.
I would hope and assume that Wilkinson & Co. take a similar approach to last year: bring in a guy like Chris Duvall for preseason trials and sign him if he fits. Personally, I liked Duvall a lot, and thought he should have been making some starts over Bonilla when both were healthy last season.
If not an MLS vet, the Timbers will likely use T2 call-ups to fill out the outside back positions. This is how Farfan got into the squad, after all. You can find a list of T2 defenders here. Aedan Stanley, who got all the left-back minutes last year, was signed by Sporting KC II over the offseason.
Again, there’s no way the Timbers will head into the regular season this thin.
Follow @doublepostpod on Twitter for instant reactions—and, as always, Go Timbers!
The Colorado Rapids defeated the Portland Timbers 1-0 at Providence Park, clinching a playoff spot in the process. Kellyn Acosta made the decisive strike in the 84th minute to seal Portland’s fate.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) November 5, 2020
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) November 5, 2020
Lots of rotation tonight—gonna be a midfield 3 of Chará/Paredes/Eryk as the 10. Polo/Flores on the wins and Tuiloma in for Larrys. Also love to see Dairon back on the bench after being out all year! #RCTID #PORvCOL https://t.co/7shbLawf8S
— 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙇𝙄𝙑𝙀 (@doublepostpod) November 5, 2020
The first serious action of the match came in the 9th minute when Eryk Williamson had an immaculate touch to bring down a long ball, but he couldn’t cut it back to Paredes in time.
The Timbers had a golden chance to counter-attack a minute later and had a numerical advantage, but Chará couldn’t find Polo on the far side.
Fifteen minutes in, Colorado were awarded their first penalty of the season after Bill Tuiloma had a simple deflection snap off his foot and up to his arm in the box. What began as a harmless giveaway from Colorado turned into a penalty.
Or, at least, we thought so. Referee Joseph Dickerson overturned what we all thought was a handball. One explanation offered was that the handball was unintentional, but that still seemed like a pretty easy one to call.
POR vs. COL
The penalty kick awarded to COL was under review for a handball committed by POR player number 25.
After further review, the penalty kick awarded to COL was overturned due to no handball.
— MLS Video Review (@MLSVAR) November 5, 2020
Portland nearly capitalized quickly on the other end, but Williamson couldn’t turn and get a cross off while William Yarbrough was off his line.
Portland tried to press high a few times with little-to-no success. Colorado were breaking and switching to find space, although they still kept trying long balls for some reason, too.
Polo broke down the right hand side off a beautiful through ball from Paredes, but his final pass wasn’t there.
The rest of the half was wildly uneventful. Župarić headed a ball away that Clark came to punch, but not much else happened.
If you were looking for an election de-stresser, this might be it, but not because it’s exciting. Not much is going on, and the Tuiloma handball was the only real action. Still can’t believe that wasn’t called. One shot on goal tells the story.#RCTID #PORvCOL
— 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙇𝙄𝙑𝙀 (@doublepostpod) November 5, 2020
Diego Chará picked up a very normal Diego Chará yellow card in the 49th minute, which means he will be suspended for the LAFC match this weekend.
Portland picked up the intensity the instant Valeri entered the pitch. Yimmi Chará got his leg up to his head for a volley from a Marco Farfan cross, but his effort was just wide.
In the 64th minute, Polo nearly replicated his Goal of the Week volley from the same spot, but his shot was wide of the post.
Marco Farfan went down without contact in the 67th minute and was clutching his torso. It took a few minutes for him to get up, and he was replaced by Jorge Villafaña when he finally did.
Valeri’s influence couldn’t be overstated. Portland kept creating great chances in the box, and no one was able to make the decisive final touch.
Mora failed to turn and shoot, electing to play it back.
Valeri’s back-heel found Villafaña in space, who hit the ball with the outside of his foot into the side of the net.
Mora floated a ball to the back post for…the shortest player on the team. Yimmi Chará couldn’t get to it.
Two poor passes from DC21 in his own half led to a Kellyn Acosta surge towards goal. Paredes tried to tackle him, but the path to goal was too easy. Acosta slotted the ball home with ease to make it 1-0 Colorado 84 minutes in.
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) November 5, 2020
Portland actually looked significantly worse after the goal. The Timbers nearly gave up another goal from a Nicolas Mezquida shot and Colorado ran the clock out easily.
The Timbers did get one more chance as Yimmi Chará dribbled the ball to Asprilla in the box, and his toe-poke from very close range smacked off the post.
Portland had chances to win this match, but Colorado took theirs better. I would say the loss was deserved.
Meh. Super meh. Portland has gone from having 3 starting-caliber strikers to maybe 1? Mora hasn’t scored in his last 7 and Jebo is nowhere to be found. There are improvements to be made.
— 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙇𝙄𝙑𝙀 (@doublepostpod) November 5, 2020
Welcome to Timbers Film Room, where I examine concrete evidence of what went right and what didn’t for the Portland Timbers. I will be doing similar analysis for more Timbers matches that I find tactically interesting or particularly important.
In their latest match, Portland played league- and tournament-favorites LAFC to a 2-2 draw despite owning only 37% possession of the ball, completing only 72% of their passes, and registering only three shots on target. It’s also worth noting that this was probably a B+ starting XI from Giovanni Savarese, as Portland had already advanced out of the knockout stage prior to this match.
Meanwhile, LAFC had the lion’s share of the ball, took 19 total shots, and held the lead at halftime.
So how did it happen?
Taking early chances
In the first minute, Sebastián Blanco nearly stole an opener from LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega by sliding in front of his clearance. This didn’t register as a shot attempt, but as two current Timbers showed us in 2015, it can be a legitimate threat at goal.
LAFC settled into their usual possession-press and began their ritual of passing teams to death when a spark was provided for Portland.
New Designated Player Jarosław Niezgoda got his first start of the season for Portland and his first shot of the game was his first Timbers goal. Let’s take a look at how it happened.
— The Cooligans (@SoccerCooligans) July 24, 2020
LAFC are notorious for playing a very high line. The achilles heel of Bob Bradley’s “pressing with the ball” is that his back line can get stranded and caught on the counter-attack when provoked.
The Timbers win the ball in their own half along the far side touch line. Right back Chris Duvall plays a ball up the line to Marvin Loría, who is marked tightly by LAFC center back Eddie Segura (slide 1).
This movement by Loría stretches Segura comically far out of position and forces the right-side center back, Tristan Blackmon, to follow Blanco’s run.
Cristhian Paredes does a great job of showing Loría a safe passing option in space, but Loría elects to flick it past Segura to Blanco down the line again (2).
Blanco’s run attracts three LAFC players, and as the camera rotates we see the acres of space that Niezgoda can run into. Jarek has already beaten LAFC right back Latif Blessing with his run before Seba even gets the ball.
Jarek times his run perfectly (3) as he’s able to see right where the last defender (Segura) is and doesn’t have to curve his run.
Also worth noting that Andy Polo is now in the picture and providing support behind Blessing.
Jarek receives the perfect ball from Blanco (4) and his finishing instincts take over. His deft hesitation freezes Sisniega and the composed forward slots it home (5).
Although Polo isn’t in the ideal position for a pass, it’s still good enough to clean up a possible rebound or what-have-you.
This is a fantastic team goal from the Timbers. It shows a collective willingness to take chances (Loría), intuitive off-ball movement (Paredes, Polo, Jarek), and exceptional technical quality (Loría, Blanco, Jarek).
I could watch this goal all day, but we have many more highlights to get to.
In the 11th minute, Marvin Loría found tons of space on the left (1), but a bonafide chance ended in a goal kick for LAFC. Why?
If Loría closes in on goal, he can claim a numbers advantage with Jarek at the back post and only Diego Palacios in between them. Instead, Marvin’s touch takes him slightly wide (2) and allows Segura to get in front of him.
Still, there’s a good chance at goal for Jarek if Loría can hit the right cross to him. Unfortunately, Loría’s cross loops just short and should be an easy ball for Sisniega to catch (3).
Fortunately, a miscommunication between Sisniega and Palacios—along with some pressure from Jarek—force the ball back out wide to Loría (4).
By this time, LAFC have 4-6 players back defending in the box. Polo and Paredes have joined in for Portland, but Loría misses his chance to give Jarek or Polo a shot at goal. Instead he takes it to the goal line, cutting off any viable ground passing angles (5).
Credit to Loría for getting an accurate cross off in the end, but it’s an absolute rocket that Jarek can’t control (6).
This chance started with a great run by Loría, but he really showed his lack of experience and made some questionable decisions during his run. He missed a couple golden opportunities to play the ball to Jarek or Polo, but the team-wide scoring intent is there.
LAFC take control
While Portland had a few promising spurts early on, it was LAFC who poured on the attacking chances for the majority of the match. Let’s examine how the Timbers were able to bend without breaking defensively.
Brian Rodríguez in particular missed a pair of chances in the 20th and 24th minutes. Let’s dissect the latter.
Blessing has the ball in plenty of space on the right (1). Portland are scrambling to get back into the 4-4-2 defensive shape that we saw all night from them.
Blessing plays the ball into Bradley Wright-Phillips, who is challenged hard by Bill Tuiloma before he can hold the ball up (2).
As those two end up in a heap, the ball falls to Mark-Anthony Kaye (3) and LAFC have a 2v1 overload against a stranded Chris Duvall.
This is where the Timbers are lucky to have Diego Chará, who recognizes the mismatch and tells Duvall to cover the far man (Rodríguez) before the pass is made. Meanwhile, Chará closes down Kaye himself. Paredes also comes to cover this space at the end.
Thanks to Diego’s communication, Duvall can go after Rodríguez and cut off the angle to goal (4).
This is classic LAFC. Because Bradley throws so many numbers forward, Blessing has options everywhere (even to his right, but out of frame). With Portland unorganized, there just aren’t enough white shirts to cover the far side, which Blessing recognizes and exploits.
LAFC got their breakthrough in the 36th minute from a fabulous solo effort from BWP. I won’t spend too long on this one since it’s pretty straightforward.
Blessing once again is the catalyst, but it’s not just him.
Blessing’s combination play with Kaye and Diego Rossi in the center gives him space to dribble forward in the middle (1).
Once again, LAFC has opened up Portland’s defense—remember, this is all a counterattacking movement—and Tuiloma is on an island with Wright-Phillips, who blazes past him to receive the ball in space (2) via a beautiful pass from Blessing.
BWP takes a couple tight touches and spins Tuiloma around like a top (3), opening him up to unleash a shot through his legs.
The clinical finish from the MLS veteran is so powerful that it bounces off the back of the net (4). Even Steve Clark had no chance.
This goal was pure brilliance from Wright-Phillips. It’s easy to blame Tuiloma for missing his run and letting him get the shot off, but it’s also very difficult to make 1v1 defending decisions in space when your opponent is known for passing around everyone. Still, the defending could be better from Bill there.
Portland were lucky not to concede another goal less than a minute later, as Chará had the ball taken off him and Rossi’s shot went just wide of Clark’s post.
LAFC did end up taking a 2-1 lead just a few minutes later, however.
During a corner kick from the far side, LAFC set up with four players near the center of Clark’s 18 and three just outside it (1). Wright-Phillips is stationed right in front of Clark, marked by former Red Bulls teammate Chris Duvall.
Of the four LAFC players in the center, the three left-most ones run right at Clark’s near post. The fourth, Kaye, peels off and spins toward the back post (2).
Kaye times his run perfectly and easily beats his defender, Tuiloma, to the back post (3).
Point-blank header finds the back of the net with ease (4). I was surprised to not hear the “can’t believe no one was on either post” moniker from the commentary, although I may have missed it.
You can hear Gio shouting “Too easy! Too easy!” after this goal, and (of course) he’s right. Tuiloma was beaten badly, plain and simple. It’s an accomplishment in its own right that Portland drew this match after conceding such a dumb goal, because everyone and their sister thought this match was over when LAFC took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
Second half improvements
Portland were much better defensively in the second half, keeping LAFC’s pressure low for the majority of the period and eventually getting an equalizer.
Of course, LAFC were not without their chances. One in particular from José Cifuentes was cause for concern.
In the 68’, Mohamed El Monir has space deep in Portland’s right corner (1). He attempts to cross the ball to Rossi, but it’s blocked right back to him by Duvall.
As El Monir approaches Duvall once more (2), Cifuentes begins a run behind Yimmi Chará and in between Duvall and Tuiloma.
Three Portland defenders (the center backs and Paredes) are marking two LAFC players and none of them follow Cifuentes’ run. El Monir plays a square ball in to Rodríguez, who lays it off for Cifuentes (3), and Yimmi is now playing catch-up.
Tuiloma drops to block Cifuentes’ angle at goal while Paredes gets between Rodríguez and the goal. Cifuentes could have cut the ball back to Rossi, but his ill-advised toe poke is skied over the net instead.
Nothing too threatening because of the good communication and recovery from Portland’s back line. With all the shuffling that this unit has been through in this tournament, these things are absolutely critical. Chemistry isn’t built in a day.
Gio’s substitutions were the difference in this match. The Timbers knew they would have to weather the storm of LAFC pressure before getting a few valuable chances themselves.
One of those chances came in the 77th minute when Yimmi Chará got down to the corner and needed a bit of creativity to save himself.
After nearly nutmegging Segura (1), Yimmi’s pressure sees the ball fall to Diego Valeri.
Valeri takes a progressive dribble into the box (2) and squares it to Jeremy Ebobisse, who is in a perfect pocket of space in the center of LAFC’s box.
Jebo tries to hit the ball with his left foot and ends up skewing the shot just wide of Sisniega’s far post. Sub-par finishing, but an otherwise promising chance from Portland.
All three Timbers involved in this chance were substitutes. Savarese knew he would have to step things up if he wanted a goal, and it worked—Portland created enough chances to eventually get a breakthrough.
Still, I thought this was the nail in the coffin. Golden opportunities don’t come by this often against a team like LAFC. Jebo would redeem himself in a few minutes, though.
Dario Župarić sent a dangerous header toward goal off a free kick in the corner by Valeri. He’s had a few of those this season, and if he keeps positioning himself well, he’ll score one of them. This one in particular was saved by Sisniega in the 81’.
Said save led to a Timbers corner kick, also taken by Valeri.
Valeri’s ball finds the head of Tuiloma (1), who sends a powerful header toward goal.
The header is cleared off the line by Latif Blessing (2), but only back into the mix and too far for Sisniega to deal with.
Tuiloma rises once again and out-jumps Andy Najar to redirect the ball toward Jebo (3). This action was recorded as a shot attempt, but if you look at the motion of Bill’s head it looks more and more like a pass.
Jebo doesn’t have much time to react, but he still puts the shot in the perfect place—crossing over Sisniega, who is moving to his right (4).
The perfectly-placed header nestles itself into the goal (5) and Portland have their unlikely equalizer!
I only have one adjective for this goal: Grit. Tuiloma’s fantastic physical efforts to get a clean header and then go back up for it, all while having the wherewithal to square it back to an open Ebobisse.
After the equalizer, LAFC put Portland in the pressure cooker for the final 15 minutes. Their best chance in this frame was for midfielder Atuesta.
With Portland out of shape, LAFC youngster Bryce Duck plays a ball to Atuesta near the top of the box (1). He has Rodríguez as an option to his left and more runners in the middle of the box.
There is virtually no pressure on Atuesta from the front, and he’s able to dribble into the box before Valeri can get back and help Duvall (2).
Duvall steps to Rodríguez and Atuesta has even more space available in the box, which he uses. Instead of getting a shot off, he takes another touch toward the center and goes right past Eryk Williamson (3).
Atuesta is now in an incredibly dangerous position, and were it not for Diego Chará’s heroic slide, Atuest’s shot may have gone in (4).
Instead it’s blocked to Rodríguez, who can’t control his touch (5).
Clark comes off his line to clear the danger, and the ball goes out for a corner kick (6).
This initial defensive lapse from Portland is exploited almost to perfection by Atuesta, and Williamson’s own failure to take the ball off Atuesta is concerning. This highlight really showcases Steve Clark and Diego Chará’s abilities to diffuse dangerous situations.
This ended up being LAFC’s last best chance, and Portland topped Group F with a draw.
This concludes the first ever Timbers Film Room. If you’re looking for similar content, check out my analysis of Portland’s win over the LA Galaxy from earlier in the group stage.
Follow me on Twitter @folkestad3 to give feedback and get live match updates for Timbers, Blazers, and more. RCTID!
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The Portland Timbers have announced the signing of defender Chris Duvall for the 2020 season.
Duvall made 67 appearances for the New York Red Bulls from 2014 to 2016, ironically making his first professional start against the Timbers on May 24th, 2014.
Duvall was traded to the Montreal Impact for second overall pick Johann Venegas before the 2017 season, where he made 45 appearances over the next two seasons.
After being traded for a 2020 third-round SuperDraft pick in 2018, Duvall made only four appearances (one in MLS) for the Houston Dynamo. He spent much of his time with Rio Grande Valley FC, Houston’s USL Championship affiliate.
Duvall was waived by Houston on August 6th, 2019 and had a brief stint with the USL Championship’s Oklahoma City Energy.
Duvall has been with the Timbers for weeks now as a trialist. He is expected to be the backup right back behind starter Jorge Moreira, who was one of the best attacking defenders in the league last year.
Of course, that dichotomy demonstrates one of Moreira’s consistent problems from last year: tracking back.
Duvall is much less of an attacking threat (2 goals and 7 assists from 102 career matches) than Moreira, but he should provide better cover defensively.
The 28-year-old Duvall brings six years of MLS experience to the table, and helps stabilize a position that took a significant hit with the loss of Bill Tuiloma for a couple months to a calf strain and the departure of Zarek Valentin in the offseason via the MLS Expansion Draft.
While Tuiloma’s main position is center back, his previous experience at right back made him the next man up behind Moreira.
The season is almost here, and it appears Portland is almost ready to go. The squad is currently doing some preseason training in Costa Rica. Their first preseason match was yesterday against Saprissa, which Portland won 2-1.
Mora is on a loan using Targeted Allocation Money, according to The Athletic. The loan reportedly includes an option to buy, which means Portland can retain him next season if he finally becomes the #9 we’ve been looking for since… well, the #9 we’ve been looking for.
Mora has played in Chile and Mexico, the latter with Cruz Azul and Pumas.
Mora is a pure #9. He plants himself on the defense’s backline, often in between the opponent center backs. Most of his goals come from headers and poaching chances in the box. Not a bad plan for a team that fell into the empty void of crosses last season—Portland was 2nd in MLS in crosses (557) and 12th in goals scored (53)—so after a naive first glance, it would seem they need a proven poacher upfront.
Brian Fernández was more of a dynamic forward, and so is Jarek Niezgoda, Portland’s newest signee. Niezgoda probably cost just under $4 million in transfer fees, and he joins the squad as a Designated Player, occupying the third and final DP spot on the Timbers’ roster.
Since becoming a bonafide starter for Legia Warsaw in 2017, Niezgoda has scored 39 goals in 87 appearances. This includes a Polish-league-leading 14 goals in 18 appearances in the latest installment of the Ekstraklasa.
He’s a spry 24, so hopefully a touch quicker than CSN’s own Kevin Nesgoda.
After announcing the signing of Niezgoda, Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson gave a very interesting sigh of relief to MLS’s Tom Bogert. Included was a scouting report of the new striker:
“Jarek is capable of playing as a single No. 9 or as a two, and he’s even played out wide in the past. Balancing his characteristics with Jeremy, we feel very good about that position. He’s a goal scorer, comfortable with both feet. Good size, good athleticism and can finish in a variety of ways. He attacks the ball. With his feet, he’s very quick, gets the ball off his foot very quickly and he’s an honest, hard-working player.”
via Tom Bogert
On the Pitch
In the aforementioned report, Gavin indicated the Timbers would announce the signings of Mora and Cristhian Paredes (who is still technically on loan from Club América). These were both given substance by fan-turned-insider Keith Palau, and the former was confirmed by the Timbers.
Portland will have two DP attacking wingers and one DP forward. My assumption is that all three of these players will start, making an all-DP front line of Sebástian Blanco, Niezgoda, and Yimmi Chará. Both Blanco and Yimmi historically like to cut inside, meaning the Jorges (Moreira and Villafaña) will continue to bomb up the flanks and send in crosses.
This is all fine and good, except it would be ideal to have a big center forward on the end of those. Mora may seem like the obvious choice for this, but keep in mind that Niezgoda is 6’1″—small in basketball, but pretty dang tall for a soccer player. Within his quick assessment of Niezgoda, head coach Giovanni Savarese mentioned the forward being “good with his head,” so it hopefully he’s still be an aerial threat.
Possible Starting Formations
As per last week’s roster check, this is still how I saw the starting XI shaking out:
But Gavin’s comments from last week have me almost certain of a two-forward system. He mentioned the system itself and made it clear Jebo had a place in the squad:
“We believe in Jeremy Ebobisse,” Wilkinson said.&nbsp;”He’s a quality player with a big upside and he’s not the finished product, so we have to be careful not to limit his growth and minutes. We wanted to acquire a Young DP that also has an upside that Jeremy can compete with, and with a profile to change systems and tactics so they can play with one another.”
via Tom Bogert
This dual-striker idea, while presenting an attacking pipe dream (via a probable solution to Portland’s problem of breaking down teams in a low block), begs the question—if we’re adding a forward, who comes off the field?
My instincts say a holding midfielder (so, Paredes) or moving to three at the back by replacing Villafaña and Moreira with another fullback (probably Bill Tuiloma). Playing with three center backs is something Savarese mentioned at Portland’s Media Day last week.
I’d also welcome a three-man backline that still included the regular outside fullbacks. For these purposes, I’m assuming the Jorges’ attacking tendencies (and long-lamented lack of tracking back) would keep them out of this system, but I’m sure Gio could justify a way of making it work.
Maybe some Jebo on the Wing™ will be a starting option in a 4-3-3.
Right now, the 4-3-3 would be my best guess as to what the Timbers will put out on March 1st. It checks all the boxes Gavin mentioned and keeps Portland’s most proven players on the field in a system that’s still similar to Gio’s past ones.
If one thing’s clear from these signings, it’s that it’s finally time to say goodbye to Savarese’s beloved 4-3-2-1 “Christmas Tree” that served as Portland’s security blanket XI in the past two years. Poor Tannenbaum.
Portland may also play with five at the back that adapts into a 3-6-1 or 3-5-2 in attack to utilize the strengths of the Jorges. Feel free to choose your own adventure and plugin Jebo somewhere with this formation, too.
Regardless of what exact system Gio goes with, the fact that we can even speculate this much highlights an important feature of this team: its positive evolution. At the beginning of last season, we were struggling to select 11 guys that were starting-caliber MLS players. Now it seems we have an embarrassment of riches, especially up top.
Although we haven’t seen them in action yet, Gavin and owner Merritt Paulson should be receiving a bit of praise for clearly identifying areas of need and filling them with no-nonsense signings. Again, we have to see how these newbies adapt, but on paper, it’s a job well done.
Here’s my interpretation of a hypothetical Timbers “depth chart”—I went for realisticness over the organization. Considering we’re pretty far from even knowing what kind of formation or system we’ll play, it’s safe to say most of this is up in the air. Still, feel free to slander me on any social media platform or the comments below.
Steve Clark has proven his spot as the first keeper over the course of last season. In 24 starts last season, Clark finished third in MLS in save percentage (.755), second in goals allowed per 90 (1.04) and recorded a clean sheet 25% of the time. The Timbers are clearly committed to Clark, giving him a new contract over the offseason.
Attinella is still a starting-quality ‘keeper for the most part, and he did start in 10 matches last season. While he conceded 24 goals in that stretch, it’s worth noting that both these goalies dealt with some truly abysmal performances by the other 10 players throughout the season, too.
One of Portland’s worst overall positions last year was center back. When Larrys Mabiala was out with an injury, it seemed the Cascante-Tuiloma pairing took much too long to gel. Claude Dielna (who was not resigned) struggled to keep up with the competition when called upon, as well. Even when Mabiala returned, the defense was still not up to snuff. Often times, it took Steve Clark standing on his head to keep the ball out of the net.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that the first big offseason move Portland made was to sign a new center back, Dario Zuparic. A TAM signing, Zuparic will probably be good enough, especially because of Gio’s indication that Tuiloma can be used at positions other than CB.
*As of yesterday’s match against Saprissa, Tuiloma will be out for two months. Better sign another defender…
No signings have been made here (yet), so the depth chart pretty much stays the same.
Farfan is preferred on the left, and it feels like Moreira’s spot is a tad more secure than Villafaña’s.
Bill will appear on both outside back positions just as a filler. Unless there are injuries, I doubt we’ll actually see him there.
- Jorge Moreira
- Marco Farfan
- Bill Tuiloma
Again, nothing new here, although right back was an area addressed by Gavin and Gio at Media Day. Farfan is still the second string at both these positions assuming he recovers well from injury.
Chris Duvall is currently on trial as a right back with the squad in Costa Rica. He’d be a solid backup at a thin position.
*Flores is out for a bit with a meniscus tear, but that shouldn’t change this order too much.
Depending on how Gio decides to set up, we may continue to see the Paredes/Chará pairing in the holding midfield. If only one is used, it will be Chará. Portland’s only All-Star last year was sent there for a reason. He still hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, even at 33.
Zambrano and Williamson got intermittent reps with the first team last year, and Williamson especially got some crucial minutes. The soon-to-be-23-year-old played a full 90 in Portland’s 2-1 home win over Sporting Kansas City in September and started the next match, playing 61 more minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed the more experienced Zambrano during the year.
Tuiloma has actually played a bit of stopper for us in the past, so he’s another viable option should the midfield get thin.
Central Attacking Midfielder
This might as well be called “the Valeri position.” It’s not exactly a #10 creative piece, but it’s also not a pure #8 box-to-box duty. El Maestro is back on a new contract, and although he’s no longer a DP, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be starting in this spot.
Blanco will often push in from the wing and be another creator from the inside, giving Portland more options in attack. When Valeri’s out, he’s filled in well at this spot, too.
Conechny has shown flashes of his ability to lead the team from the attacking midfield—our best example being the 2-1 midweek loss at Montréal from last year in which a bunch of fringe-starters and T2 guys played. Conechny scored in this match, although Williamson occupied this position.
I put Bodily here because he’s a warm body that can play in the midfield. Maybe he get some Open Cup appearances.
- Sebástian Blanco
- Yimmi Chará
- Jeremy Ebobisse
- Marvin Loría
- Andy Polo
- Dairon Asprilla
- Tomás Conechny
- Eryk Williamson
I’ve grouped the wingers together because in Savarese’s offense they are essentially interchangeable. All of these guys can play on either side of the field, it’s just a matter of where they line up. In my lineups I’ve been putting Yimmi on the right and Blanco on the left for simplicity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gio swapped them.
As mentioned previously, both Yimmi and Seba tend to cut inside, while Jebo gets in the box more and the rest mostly stay out on the wing.
Blanco and Yimmi Chará will both start, and you could basically swap them at 1 and 2 if you wanted to. I expect 1-4 on this list to get playing time, though. While Loría only logged 700 MLS minutes last year, he’s still only 22 with plenty of upside—just needs more first-team minutes.
As for Polo and Asprilla, I have to think they’d really need to show improvement to see significant minutes. Portland added two DP attackers, and it always seemed like Polo and Asprilla were placeholders rather than preferred starters.
- Jarek Niezgoda
- Jeremy Ebobisse
- Felipe Mora
While we may end up with an aforementioned two-striker system, the pecking order seems to be like this. I expect all three of these players to get significant playing time this year, albeit in this order.
While I have doubts about Niezgoda’s ability to produce like Brian Fernández did, I’m remaining optimistic.
According to this Richard Farley article, Mora’s more of a “Hey, this guy is buried in the bench of a solid Mexican team, so we might as well add some quality depth at forward” (quote non-verbatim). I like this move, and while Mora has a “3” beside him on my depth chart, he’s more of a 1.5-2. When we’re tied or down late in a match, it’ll be nice to have someone other than Asprilla to bring on.
If I’ve learned anything from writing this, it’s that I am absolutely itching for the season to start. It’s a shame that the preseason matches in Costa Rica won’t be streamed, but I’ll see if I can piece together what goes on down there.
Dare I say… if we sign a backup right back, this will be the deepest Timbers squad we’ve seen since 2015, possibly ever.