For over 90 minutes in Santa Clara, the game carried an eerily familiar feel. At least, for San Jose fans it did. True, their team had generated more chances than last Sunday in Portland, with Timbers’ goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts called on to make two top-notch stops at Buck Shaw, but the tenor of the match was the same. Caleb Porter’s ‘don’t call it Porterball’ approach had dictated play, if to a lesser extent than last week in Portland. San Jose’s 1-0 deficit at the 90-minute mark was neither surprising nor unfair, based on how the match had transpired.
But over the match’s final half-hour, the Earthquakes had started coming into the match, with the additions of Marvin Chavez, Sam Garza, and Adam Jahn slowly ramping up the Earthquakes attack. And just as it was no surprise Frank Yallop’s team was trailing come stoppage time, the pressure they were putting on the Timbers left few eyes widened when Jahn recorded his second Goonie moment of the season:
“On that play, Nana [Attakora] got taken out and I thought it was a penalty” Jahn explained, talking about this late equalizer, “but the ref played on. The ball bounced my way and I opened my body like I was going far post, and then slotted it near post. The best part was it gave us a point here tonight.”
It was the second time this season the rookie out of Stanford has gone all Goonie on the opposition, the first being his 83rd minute equalizer against New York on Mar. 10. San Jose went on to win that game on a Chris Wondolowski penalty (Roy Miller’s famous intentional encroachment).
It was a bitter two points to give up for Portland, who took off Diego Valeri, Ryan Johnson, and Darlington Nagbe while trying to kill off the match. Once San Jose equalized, the Timbers were left without their three biggest goal scoring threats, the XI Porter had out there ill-prepared to deal with the match’s final minutes. As San Jose pushed for the winner, Portland’s personnel did the only thing they were capable of doing: Hold out.
But from San Jose’s point of view, Portland shouldn’t have been in a position to be holding out. In the first half, a great reflex save from Ricketts stoned an unmarked Chris Wondolowski from 15 yards out. In the second half, Ricketts drove at the feet of Garza to stifle the winger’s chance at a second half equalizer.
“For us not to score a goal in this game would not have been good with the quality of chances that we had,” Yallop said after the match We had at least four good looks before the goal.”
“We had enough chances to win the game and I thought we deserved to win.”
Ultimately, this has a good point for the Timbers. Despite controlling last Sunday’s match, they only beat San Jose 1-0 on home turf. A 1-1 result on the back-end of a double header seems reasonable, especially when you can claim to have dictated how the match was played.
“We leave a little disappointed because we had three points in our hands,” Caleb Porter said after the match. “But when the dust settles, it’s still a point on the road. If you look at the three-game series against San Jose, we make up three points.”
For San Jose, seeing the Timbers play ‘Porterball’ for much of the match shouldn’t be a huge concern. As they’ve showed before, they’re a team that can get results despite letting the other team play their game, and as they showed on Sunday, Portland’s style didn’t necessarily preclude their threatening Ricketts.
Last season, the divide between control and chances was crossed with astute substitutions and enough depth to give the team a totally different look after 60 minutes, qualities that made it easy to attack opposition weaknesses. Tonight, with the team getting Marvin Chavez and Steven Beitashour into the lineup for the first time this season, the Earthquakes began to look like their former selves.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough to get full points from a team that’s notoriously bad on the road. While Porter’s version of Portlandia is still undefeated (but winless) away from JELD-WEN, this is a franchise that’s only won three road matches in this two-plus year existence.
That’s why, big picture, this is the type of result Frank Yallop should be concerned about, especially considering his team was also drawn at home by the Vancouver Whitecaps two weeks ago. If this team is going to reach last year’s heights, San Jose must prove capable of getting three points at home against middle of the road Western Conference clubs.
But it seems too soon to be looking at things that way in Santa Clara. Maybe in a few weeks, after their healthy team has had more time to play together, they can start demanding more. For now, progress should be enough.