Portland overcomes red card, own defense to salvage point against Columbus

Leave a comment

A six-goal night at Providence Park ended with Portland’s third straight dramatic result, but with defensive mistakes continuing to undermine what little momentum Caleb Porter’s team can muster, the drama is less a fight against adversity than an attempt to overcome self-inflicted wounds. With Gastón Fernández scoring his fifth goals of the season late in Portland, the 1o-man Timbers were able to come back to draw Columbus, 3-3, but the erratic play of a team’s back line continues to define Porter’s second season.

Norberto Paparatto, one of the Timbers’ two big offseason buys from Argentina, was so bad to start the season, he was replaced in the team’s starting lineup by Mamadou “Futty” Danso. On a moment-to-moment basis, there’s been a clear improvement, with the central defense tandem Danso forms with Pa Modou Kah flashing the form that produced six shutouts in seven regular season games last season.

Then there are the meltdowns. There are the accidents. There are the freak occurrences that seem to plague Danso. Consider just the last three games:

  • Against D.C. United, Danso inadvertently headed a corner kick into his own net for a later equalizer.
  • Against the LA Galaxy, the Gambian defender watched a Dan Gargan throw in fly over his partner and bounce in the six-yard box, allowing Robbie Keane to put the Galaxy up in stoppage time.
  • And tonight against Columbus, Danso was called for a first half penalty before, redirecting an 81st minute shot from Ethan Finlay into his own net.

The last of those misfortunes came as Portland, having just fought back to 2-2 following Alvas Powell’s red card, looked set to salvage a result after the early dismissal tipped the scales in Columbus’s favor. On a three-match losing streak and without half of their back line, the Crew seemed set up for the Timbers’ second win of the season, but after Powell’s sending off, one point would have been enough.

It made Danso’s latest accident potentially devastating. After Will Johnson’s deflected goal in the 80th minute finally provided an answer to Federico Higuaín’s first half double, the Timbers were back even, having built on Maxi Urruti’s early opener. With Providence Park ignited, the Timbers seemed primed to push for a winner only to see that momentum blunted. Inadvertent as it was, Danso was responsible for another dramatic goal, giving the Timbers Army less than a minute to enjoy Johnson’s goal.

New signing Fanendo Adi came through four minutes later, knocking down a restart for Fernández on the game’s winning goal, but once the euphoria of the short-handed comeback wanes, the Timbers will be faced with the same question they’ve been trying to answer all season: What do we do in defense?

Right now, the answer appears to be “nothing.” Just wait for the luck to start evening out. If it doesn’t even out, the urgency that saw Portland get Adi from FC Copenhagen will be applied to the defense. At some point, the Timbers have to start avoiding the bad luck that’s following Futty Danso.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia