PORTLAND, Ore. — We knew they’d score goals. And on Sunday, Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers did, putting three on the visiting New York Red Bulls.
We also knew they’d allow goals, and boy did they ever. A terrible debut from imported defender Mikael Silvestre contributed to three New York goals in the first 28 minutes.
As wild as the night was by Major League Soccer standards — six goals, including two during the Timbers’ second half comeback — we maybe in store for more. If the first 90 minutes of the Caleb Porter era are any indication, Portland fans could be in for a few more 3-3 results like the one they played out against New York.
In attack, Portland were as advertised. Newcomer Diego Valeri was a constant threat, the skill exhibited on his 14th minute goal sure to make the Timbers’ opener a Goal of the Week candidate. After a quiet start, Darlington Nagbe was the final hour’s best player, scoring the Timbers’ second before starting the play that led to the third. With two close calls late, Ryan Johnson nearly completed Portland’s comeback from 3-1 down. All the stars of Portland’s attack shined.
At the other end of the spectrum was their defense, with Silvestre playing a part in all three goals. Miscommunication between the former Manchester United defender and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts gifted Fabian Espindola a ninth minute opener. His misread of a bouncing ball in the 24th gave the former Real Salt Laker a second. His inability to cut out a ball across the six from Heath Pearce saw Jamison Olave put New York up 3-1 after 28 minutes.
The 35-year-old responded well, his play on the ball helping the Timbers’ second half siege. But it’s a debut he’ll want to forget.
Other notes from Sunday’s draw (mostly about New York):
- Because of the Timbers’ ups and downs, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about New York. It was, however, noticeable how little influence the Juninho-Dax McCarty midfield had on the game.
- It also appeared as if New York may have taken their 3-1 lead for granted. The intensity of their four advanced players (Espindola, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, and Ruben Bover Izquierdo) dropped. Had the team kept going to him, Espindola could have kept taking advantage of Portland.
- What a weird night for Jamison Olave. The New York defender was caught flat-footed on the Valeri goal. A late own goal credited to him bookended his night. In between, he was the game’s best defender, and he scored the team’s third goal. Strange stuff.
- Thierry Henry started wide left but played most of the match through the middle, with his permanent shift to a central role coming after New York went up two.
- Overall, it was a poor night for the Red Bulls’ star. He looked slow and rusty, his touch failing him a number of times.
- After the game, Caleb Porter quoted a lot of Portland’s favorable statistics. They held 63 percent of the game’s possession. They out-passed New York 549-319. They put 10 shots on goal to New Yorks five, and their total shots advantage was 21-10.
Toronto FC’s supporters fell in love with the club almost immediately, but it’s taken to Year 10 for the Reds to get a home playoff match.
The latest batch of TFC stars have embraced the battle for relevance, at times even surpassing expectations the lofty expectations of championship-starved Toronto.
[ MORE: Bradley talks TFC renaissance ]
This is a city which has seen the Blue Jays and Raptors find the precipice of glory in recent seasons, but not reach the apex. The Leafs haven’t been to a Stanley Cup final since the NHL had a whopping six teams.
So winning would be a mighty big accomplishment, right Michael Bradley?
“Being captain or a big player on a team in this city carries an extra weight,” said captain Michael Bradley. “I’ve loved every second of that; playing in this city, for this city, and being captain. It’ll be nights like Wednesday night where the responsibility, privilege and passion that I have for this role will get magnified that much more.”
He has a way with words, doesn’t he? The USMNT captain begins Canada’s quest for a title at 7:30 p.m. ET against visiting Philadelphia.
Vancouver is hanging onto stalwart coach Carl Robinson despite a massively disappointing season.
The Whitecaps were tipped to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, only to miss the playoffs. There were plenty of excuses for the ‘Caps, including an injury to Kekuta Manneh and the transfer of Octavio Rivero.
And Vancouver is alive as the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, also claiming the Cascadia Cup.
[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high ]
Robinson has signed an extension through 2020, from WhitecapsFC.com:
“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”
Robinson turned 40 this month, and has been leading the ‘Caps since December 2013. This is a smart move for both Vancouver and its coach.
Major League Soccer’s playoff run begins tonight with Philadelphia at Toronto and LA hosting Real Salt Lake, and it also gives us a chance to run down the regular season.
We’ve already discussed several items, including Portland and Columbus’ historic flops, DC United’s red-hot form, pre-playoff power rankings, and predictions.
[ MORE: Chalobah’s double nutmeg ]
But what about the season that was, the one that saw Bradley Wright-Phillips snag his second Golden Boot and Colorado nearly grab a shocking Supporters’ Shield?
We rounded up our staff’s opinions to put together combined shortlists for MLS awards.
Rookie of the Year
Jordan Morris (Seattle)
Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia)
Alex Muyl (RBNY)
Jack Harrison (NYCFC)
Jonathan Campbell (Chicago)
Newcomer of the Year
Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC)
Ashley Cole (LA Galaxy)
Tim Howard (Colorado)
Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle)
Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy)
Luciano Acosta (DC United)
Ola Kamara (Columbus)
Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado)
Goalkeeper of the Year
Brian Rowe (LA Galaxy)
Andre Blake (Philadelphia)
David Bingham (San Jose)
Jake Gleeson (Portland)
Luis Robles (RBNY)
Coach of the Year
Patrick Vieira (NYCFC)
Jesse Marsch (RBNY)
Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado)
Oscar Pareja (Dallas)
Greg Vanney (Toronto)
Most Valuable Player
David Villa (NYCFC)
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto)
Sacha Kljestan (RBNY)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (RBNY)
Ignacio Piatti (Montreal)
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)
Spain’s football federation has fined Valencia about $1600 for the water bottle tossed at celebrating Barcelona players on Saturday.
It’s also criticized Barca’s reaction to Neymar being hit with the water bottle.
[ MORE: Watch the incident here ]
Lionel Messi in particular flipped out at fans, who were furious after Barca scored a match-winning penalty and celebrated near the touch line.
From the BBC:
Spain’s football federation criticised the Barca players for their “exaggerated reaction” and for celebrating in front of home fans, but added “nothing justified” the reaction of the Valencia supporters.
There’s an easy joke to make about playacting/diving here, as Luis Suarez hits the deck despite not appearing to be hit.
But it’s critical to remember that these players at the moment don’t have any idea what’s happened, only that they’ve been hit. And Suarez is covering head, perhaps wondering what’s coming next. Neymar laying on the pitch for a while seems a bit overboard, but I don’t blame Messi nor his teammates for being furious with the supporters.
What do you make of it?