—by Chris Rifer
The Timbers on Tuesday night knocked off Chivas USA 2-0 in US Open Cup qualifying behind late goals from Jack Jewsbury and Eric Brunner. Jewsbury, the usual wearer of the armband, came on in the 71st minute and didn’t waste much time breaking through, scoring on a strike from 30 yards out in the 84th to put Portland up 1-0. Two minutes later, game captain Brunner knocked in a rebound off of his own errant header to seal the 2-nil victory and assure the Timbers of at least another game in Open Cup qualifying.
The match started off with some of the best Timbers play of the young season. In the first 20 minutes of the match, the Timbers strikeforce and attacking midfield had their way with the Goats’ backline, bullying their way to a series of long balls and crosses that created several early chances. Portland failed to capitalize on any of those early chances, and when Chivas righted the ship on their backline, every Timbers fan had a flashback to the litany of chances with no result in Toronto.
In spite of the long ball success largely drying up, Kenny Cooper continued to be a nuisance to Chivas’ defense, forcing Andrew Boyens into two first-half yellow cards, leaving the Goats a man down for the rest of the match.
The shorthanded Goats, however, refused to go away quietly, controlling much of the play through the start of the second half. In spite of the disadvantage, Chivas wasn’t satisfied to sit back and pack the box hoping to weather the storm. Instead, the Goats pinned the Timbers in their own end for long stretches and on a few occasions created quality chances that were only snuffed out by last ditch defense and a relatively heroic effort in goal by young Jake Gleeson.
Portland reasserted itself as the half went on aided by the insertion of fresh legs into the midfield, bringing on Jewsbury and Jeremy Hall in place of Peter Lowry and Ryan Pore. Both players’ increased activity in the midfield unsettled the all-too-comfortable Chivas midfield, opened the game back up, and helped the Timbers take their first slices off the victory log as an MLS club.
The win gives Portland a shot of much-needed confidence, and advances the Timbers in U.S. Open Cup qualifying, setting up an April match with the San Jose Earthquakes.
- The first twenty minutes of the match provided the best Timbers soccer of the season. Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza, and Kalif Alhassan were all particularly active in the opening stages as the Goats’ defense and midfield struggled to control Portland’s pace. The offense still relied heavily on the long ball, certainly to the dismay of many in the Army, but the strategy created early chances virtually at will.
- The Timbers are still struggling with lacking a little bit of quality on some crosses and finishes. Quality finishes could have easily cut a slice or two off the log in the early going. As the match progressed and the game turned to the midfield a bit more, too many Timbers possessions were ended by a poor cross into the box or a needless giveaway by a careless pass.
- The defense didn’t look quite as organized in some situations as it has in the previous two games. Against Toronto, the Timbers defense was vulnerable against the counterattack, but looked to have pretty good shape and organization in the normal run of play. Tuesday, I thought that shape and organization just wasn’t quite there. It wasn’t awful—they kept a clean sheet after all—but I felt that it had been better.
- It is clear that Jorge Perlaza and Kalif Alhassan both like to have a nice open flow of play. When the play was open both were effective, with Alhassan looking like the best player on the pitch in the first 20 minutes. When the game tightens up, however, it seems they do as well and have a tendency to disappear for stretches.
- The boys could use a little bit of work on their goal celebrations.
Rodney Wallace, 5 Rod’s best performance of the season so far, but was a bit Jekyll & Hyde. Had some brilliant moments, making some great long runs up the left side and one beautiful crack on goal from distance in the first half, but also had some brutal moments with poor crosses and needless giveaways. Looked better in defense, although that’s not a terribly high standard.
David Horst, 5 A couple nerve-wracking moments, but on the whole fared fairly well. Nothing to write home to Pine Grove about, but that’s music to a central defender’s ears.
Eric Brunner, 5.5 Would have fared better here because of the goal, but because he was charged with leading the defense gets docked just a touch because of the little bit of disorganization in back. Overall another very solid outing in a good start to the 2011 campaign.
Steve Purdy, 6 Maybe I just love this guy, but I think he’s been the Timbers’ best player thus far. How many crucial, perfectly-timed tackles did he have Tuesday? Add to that the fact that he may be the Timbers’ best server in the run of play right now and I think you have your Timbers MVP to date.
Kalif Alhassan, 5.5 Looked to be the best man on the pitch in the early going, having tremendous success in feeding the strikers and wreaking havoc in a scared-looking Goats midfield. Folks, he was born in 1990. Tremendous upside potential.
Peter Lowry, 5.5 Had perhaps his best outing of the young campaign as well. Strung together a few nice passes in the midfield and defensively was pretty reliable before coming off in the 71st. Would like to see him look up at goal a bit more and direct the attack, but I’m just not sure we’re going to get that from him.
James Marcelin, 5 Typical James Marcelin. Reliable defensively. Mixed bag in the attack. At times looked brilliant and at times looked maddening. That said, he’s a nice guy to have to bring on in the midfield when the Timbers have a lead to protect and need a bit more defense.
Ryan Pore, 4 Positionally didn’t look like a fish out of water on the right side, but struggled mightily with his touch. Just looks like he’s lacking a little bit of confidence right now, as the usual Ryan Pore quality just doesn’t seem like it’s there. It may take him getting a goal to rediscover it.
Kenny Cooper, 6 This might be a bit generous considering he had a couple chances that he should have made better of, but the guy just wreaks havoc in back. That’s valuable. He’s the guy that makes defenders spout obscenities. Isn’t that right, Andrew Boyens?
Jorge Perlaza, 4.5 Clearly hasn’t put it all together yet, but we shouldn’t expect him to at this point. Had some nice runs, especially in the early going, but has a knack right now to disappear for extended periods. Also had some moments of comically poor quality, but the feeling here is that will improve as he gets more comfortable. Some decent service never killed anybody either.
Jake Gleeson, 6.5 I agree with Ross Smith, he was man of the match. Unbelievable tools as a young keeper. So good, in fact, that you have to be a little concerned about who is watching our games. Still shows signs of being a young keeper from time to time, but on the whole Timbers fans couldn’t be happier with his play over the last 135 minutes.
Jeremy Hall, 5.5 Loved how active he was off the bench, as he stirred things up in a Chivas midfield that was way too comfortable for being a man down. Had a couple head scratching fouls, but more than made up for them.
Jack Jewsbury, 6.5 Was also disruptive in the Chivas midfield, applying a little bit of high pressure. Showed his two primary offensive tools; taking cracks at goal from distance and providing quality service from set pieces. Both produced goals.