Donovan Ricketts

Portland Timbers down FC Dallas, 2-0, to bolster playoff chances

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One game in 100 words: Although FC Dallas harbored the majority of possession in this contest, it was obvious that the Portland Timbers were fighting for a playoff spot, with their lively offensive attack in the match’s opening half paying off. But in the second half, the Toros switched the tables and strove to mount a comeback, only to find two chances they sunk into the net called offside. With this victory, the Timbers are currently two points ahead of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the West’s fifth-place playoff spot, but the Caps still have to complete their match against the Colorado Rapids. Dallas, on the other hand, has secured fourth place in the conference and could’ve slid into third place with a triumph and Real Salt Lake loss.



Portland: Darlington Nagbe 43’, Maximiliano Urruti 82’

FC Dallas: None


Three moments that mattered

82’ — Urruti nails game-winner —  Gaston Ferandez cut back with a quick shot fake and then slipped a clever touch near the box to Maximiliano Urruti, who timed his run excellently to beat Dallas’ back line. Composure in front of the goal followed by a determined blast on the doorstep handed the Timbers playoff life once more.

43’ — Nagbe gets favorable deflection — Not a spectacular goal by any stretch, the Timbers and Darlington Nagbe, tight in the playoff race as regular season is just about finished, are definitely not complaining about this score. The Liberian-American took a bold, deep strike that oddly hit Zach Loyd, bounced into the ground and scorched into the net for the lead. This conversion marked Nagbe’s very first goal this season.

36’ — Ricketts prevents first-half deficit — Jamaican defender Je-Vaughn Watson hit a near-perfect cross into the penalty area, and Toros forward David Texeira, watching the pass loop toward frame, inched toward the goal, and then connected well with his head. Portland goalie Donovan Ricketts was on his toes, however, and dove hard to the near post in order to threat the very threatening try. The score was level, 0-0, at this point in the match, and seven minutes later, any momentum gained by Dallas was impeded.



Portland: Donovan Ricketts; Alvas Powell (Michael Harrington 84’), Pa Modou Kah, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski, Diego Chara, Rodney Wallace; Diego Valeri (Gaston Fernandez HT), Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti 69’)

FC Dallas: Chris Seitz; Je-Vaughn Watson, Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Kellyn Acosta (Mauro Diaz 65’); Andres Escobar, Victor Ulloa, Michel, Fabian Castillo; David Texeira (Tesho Akindele 73’), Blas Perez (Coy Craft 84’)

MLS Snapshot: Los Angeles Galaxy 2-2 Portland Timbers

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One game, 100 words or less: Bruce Arena was asked at halftime what he can do to get his team on the board. “Play better” he said. Yup, about sums it up.

The Galaxy came out of the break and would soon open the scoring, but moments of relaxation soon after would relegate them to just a point.

It was a solid point considering they ended up needing a comeback to earn it, but having gone ahead early in the second half, they’ll be disappointed to have even put themselves in that situation.

Portland will be happy to have earned a road point, but they too will be disappointed to have given it up at the end.

Three moments that mattered:

65′ – Marcelo earns it this time – Sarvas may have hit the corner 15 minutes in, but he would get his goal in the second half. With the Galaxy threatening most since the halftime break, they would pick up the opener for their patience. A cross ricocheted out to the trio of Donovan, Sarvas, and Gyasi Zardes, and Marcelo took control. Zardes slid wide to tug Timbers defender Michael Harrington just slightly off Sarvas, and the space was enough for him to rip into the far corner.

70′ – Timbers strike for a second – Just when the Galaxy thought they’d taken control, it evaporates just five minutes later. Diego Valeri bagged one in the 67th minute to level things up at 1-1, and had another wide open opportunity three minutes later, but his shot careened into a Portland defender. The ricochet came right back out to Jorge Villafaña and he struck home powerfully.

86′ – Galaxy equalize at the death – The Timbers were the ones to steal a point last time out, and the Galaxy took that role at the StubHub Center. An own goal from Raushawn McKenzie was the final result of a great ball across the face intended for Robbie Keane at the far post. The ball didn’t make it to the striker though, as it evaded Donovan Ricketts but clipped McKenzie and went in.

Three lessons going forward:

1. The most likely time to concede, etc etc

Hey Galaxy, don’t let up after scoring. The old adage “the most likely time to concede is right after scoring” remained true, and in a deadly way, as the home side conceded not once but twice in five minutes after taking a 1-0 lead. This team proved creative on the day, but a poor stretch at the back was their undoing. The Galaxy will feel unlucky to get nothing from their build-up in the final minutes before their goal where Donovan twice went down in the box, but both Portland goals came on moments that should have been cleared, so they only have themselves to blame.

2. Both these teams remain dangerous and in good form

The first half was a chess match, but the second 45 opened up and showed why these two teams are still very much in the thick of things. The Galaxy created a pair of chances that could have resulted in penalties on another day, but the referee (probably correctly) ruled them as nothing and a free kick just outside the box, much to the chagrin of Donovan.

However, they are both dangerous sides that shouldn’t be taken lightly in the push for the Western Conference playoff spots.

3.  Nobody wants to win this fixture

After what happened in Portland in the reverse, it appeared for much of this second half that we’d have a winner. Nope. The Galaxy got the own goal, and good chances on either end in the dying minutes of the game go unpunished. Rodgers tried to win it with the final kick of the game, but his howitzer flew over. Three points would do both sides a big service here, but a draw doesn’t do much for anyone involved.

Where that leaves them:

Both sides will have wanted the win to pull away from the other, but this Western Conference remains a dogfight.  These two sides both are well in the hunt and are putting horrible starts behind themselves, but mistakes still resound.

  • The LA Galaxy sit on 21 points on 14 matches played, with a 5-6-3 record.
  • The Portland Timbers are also holders of 21 points, this time in 18 matches played and a 4-9-5 record.

What in the world is wrong with the Portland Timbers?


Alright, so maybe they were a little over-hyped after a season where you could argue they did just as much “not losing” as winning — 14 wins, 15 ties — but how do you explain the Portland Timbers drop from near-champion to cellar dweller?

I’m not saying I’ve got answers, but let’s go through this together and see what we come up with, shall we?

Some would say it’s simply the matter of a challenging run of opponents. After roughly one-quarter of the season, Portland has already made trips to Salt Lake, Houston, Dallas and Colorado.

But they’ve also failed to gain three points at their intense home park against Chivas USA. Against Chicago. Against Philadelphia. None of those teams can claim a spot in their conference any higher than eighth.

The Timbers have the fourth-worst goal differential — not surprising for a last-place team — and they’ve only scored nine goals over eight games.

Four of those goals came in one match, and the Timbers have been blanked twice. Last year, they weren’t shut out until May 3. They didn’t lose a match in which they were shut out until July.

It’s April.

The advanced stats say Portland may be struggling on attack and defense, but they haven’t been absolutely miserable. And it’s a good sign that of the three major Squawka stats, the Timbers rank the highest in terms of possession (12th in the league). Last year, they were fifth in possession, second in attack, third in defense. It’s all down.

This has a lot to do with the player who was a stat nerd’s darling in 2013, Darlington Nagbe. The midfielder scored nine goals, added four assists and posted the best Squawka score in the league. He’s nowhere near that now — 34th — with a lone assist through 667 minutes of play. Maybe it’s as simple as the his functioning closer to star status again.

But what’s also troubling is where the keepers rank out of the 24 keepers to have taken the pitch for Major League Soccer clubs so far. Donovan Ricketts has already fought injury this year after getting loads of plaudits and award buzz last year.


There are a few bright spots, aside from the traditional possession percentages head coach Caleb Porter has been trumpeting in post-match banter. For one thing, his team is still ticking people off. After totaling the fifth-most fouls suffered in their tremendously successful 2013, the Timbers are third right now.

Next up, it’s DC United at Providence Park, followed by two incredibly-stiff tests. The Timbers will square off with the only two positive possession stat teams in the league so far this season: Los Angeles and Columbus.

Porter is saying his problems are only mostly regarding the final-third (which is true for every team, but I digress). He loves their organization and chemistry, but the head coach wants his guys to be a little more selfish, to shoot. From The Oregonian:

Whatever it is, the Timbers Army is right to feel antsy. The season’s not going well, and five points behind the last playoff spot starts to look more daunting once the calendar turns May.

Crimes and misdemeanors: Jackson, Ricketts suspended by MLS


This play (above) was a point of some mild debate in the wake of Saturday’s red card. Then again, isn’t everything online a point of debate? That’s part of the wonder of social networking! With little effort at all, you can find the small pocket of the world that thinks Donovan Ricketts shouldn’t have been red carded against Colorado. Synchronize the message, and you can make some actual noise.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee has signed up for that social network. Late Wednesday afternoon, the league announced its “DC” has added one-game to Ricketts’ suspension for Saturday’s incident. Already scheduled to miss this weekend’s match in Dallas, the 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year will now miss the following week’s visit from Seattle, too.

There’s a small possibility Ricketts would have missed those matches anyway. At 36 years old, the Jamaican international is already a bit fragile, so much Saturday’s collision saw him leave the game on a stretcher. The pool goalkeeper Portland’s called up may be around for more than one game.

In our Power Rankings, we compared Ricketts’ play to something you’d see from the video game Street Fighter (yes, I’m that old). In DC terms, it was “serious foul play that endangers the safety of an opponent.” That’s not the same as the violent conduct charge Clint Dempsey was hit with last week, but it’s still enough to earn the Jamaican an extra game off.

Joining Ricketts on the sidelines this weekend is Toronto’s Jackson, who caught the DC’s ire “for aggressive inflammatory behavior toward D.C. United midfielder Davy Arnaud” (video, below). It’s the second straight week the former Dallas midfielder’s aggression has caught people’s attention, with none other than Jurgen Klinsmann alluding to his conduct when drawing a contrast between Dempsey’s foul and what others are allowed to do.

What Jackson is allowed to do has likely become much more narrow thanks to the spotlight he’s case on himself. He’ll miss this weekend’s trip to Real Salt Lake.

Federico Higuaín also drew sanction from the Disciplinary Committee. The Columbus midfielder was fined for simulation Saturday against Philadelphia.

Portland Timbers 1-1 Chicago Fire: Rose City where they tie

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For the second time this season and 17th time in their last 36 regular season matches, the Portland Timbers have kissed their sister (so to speak. What a weird phrase).

Not that Timbers fans will be complaining all that much after Gaston Fernandez rescued them from just one point in two home matches to the start the season with a tap-in goal 12 minutes from time.

Patrick Nyarko picked up a second yellow in the 86th minute, which tore open the door for a feisty Portland crowd that could smell a match-winning goal from its pouring-forward Timbers. Despite the clock running near to 98 minutes, the match finished 1-1.

Chicago improves to 0W-1D-1L, while Portland moves to 0W-2D-0L.

Chicago made it interesting early, as Quincy Amarikwa won a penalty kick from Norberto Paparatto after plenty of physicality in the box. Jeff Larentowicz stepped up and got Donovan Ricketts going the wrong way and it was 1-0 Fire in the 20th minute.

Amarikwa made a big impression for the second straight week and has to be giving Fire supporters some hope that the fourth MLS stop is the charm for the 26-year-old.

On the way to halftime, there was plenty of Johnson frustrating Johnson, as Chicago keeper Sean played a perfect foil to newly-extended Portland captain Will. The Fire walked to the break up 1-0.

On the defensive end, Lovel Palmer had himself a match. The highlight was a 53rd minute sliding tackle of a dangerous Darlington Nagbe.

Portland almost pounced on weird bounce in the 56th minute but Max Urruti was a split-second late in his outstretched attempt to tap Diego Valeri’s cross into an empty net.

A midair collision between Ricketts and Amarikwa left the Portland keeper worse for wear, but after some time on the turf he decided to remain in the match.

There was a bit of fury in the Chicago box during the 67th minute that involved an attempted Portland bicycle kick, shouts for a Fire handball, a brilliant Sean Johnson save and some sterling blocks from Chicago defenders.

Portland found the equalizer in the 79th minute, when Gaston Fernandez was in the catbird seat to tap home Sean Johnson’s block of a Nagbe blast. Just like that, the Timbers were back in Tie Town.

Ricketts made a crazy save in stoppage time as 10-man Chicago countered with vigor, as a long free kick was met back post by the Jamaican’s save of a Bakary Soumare header.

Fernandez hit the deck inside the 18 in the eighth minute of stoppage time, but no call came.

Notable for the match: the Fire’s Harry Shipp became the first Homegrown player in club history to earn first team action in an MLS match.