Frederic Piquionne

Early red card helps Columbus hand Portland first loss since March


The lost potential for 19-in-a-row should make Portland appreciate what it took for 2010’s FC Dallas to get to that mark. After an early goal from a corner kick and a Pa-Modou Kah red card, Columbus was up a goal and a man after 11 minutes, advantages that persisted as full-time blew on the Crew’s 1-0, streak-ending win.

For much of the match, despite Columbus’s man advantage, Portland looked like their typical selves, their ball-hogging ways allowing them to keep 55.8% percent of possession. But as is often the case with Caleb Porter’s Timbers, that advantage didn’t necessarily translate into shots on goal, with Columbus putting four on Donovan Ricketts to Portland’s one test of Matt Lampson.

By match’s end, after Porter went to three at the back, Columbus looked likely to counter attack their way to a second goal, with the final whistle calling time on a game the Crew were going to decide one way or another. The longer the match went, the more fatigued Portland’s out-manned team looked, the more space Federico Higuaín had to play balls through Portland’s stretched defense.

Ultimately, it was a game that was never going to go Portland’s way. On another day, they may have been able to find an equalizer to Bernardo Anor’s opener, or Higuaín’s missed penalty after Kah’s red card may have given them a second life. But between the opening goal, the lost man, and the absences of Will Johnson and Frédéric Piquionne, the deck as stacked against the Timbers in this one.

Porter’s second loss as a professional coach ends Portland’s unbeaten run at 15, reminding us how difficult it must have been to go unbeaten since early March, let alone potentially stretch that streak to 19. Not only do you have to be very good and incredibly consistent, but because of the thin margin of error in professional soccer, sometimes you have to be mistake free. One mis-step from a defender – an errant boot trying to make up for getting beat on a misread bounce – and your streak is toast.

Here are your highlights:

Canada loses to Martinique in Gold Cup opener


The game was already a disaster for Canada before stoppage time, with Martinique — sometimes pronounced by its full name: not even a FIFA member, Martinique — dominating one of the Gold Cup’s three automatic entrants. Though Canada were keeping more of the ball, they were also on their way to being outshot 27-8 by the French island’s team.

Then came stoppage time, when 37-year-old Fabrice Reuperné launched a rocket from 25 yards, one that may have doomed Canada’s chances of being one of the eight teams that advance from the 12-nation opening round. Just before the 93-minute mark, a left-footed volley of a clearance bounding out of the Canadian area gave goalkeeper Milan Borjan no chance to prevent a shocking opener to this year’s Gold Cup:

Martinique may have only have a population of around 403,000, but nine of their squad’s 23 players make their living off the island, playing in leagues such as France’s Ligue 1 (Kévin Olimpia), Ligue 2 (Olivier Thomert), Spain’s Segunda Division (Jean-Sylvain Babin, Grégory Arnolin), England’s League One (Yoann Arquin), and Major League Soccer (Frédéric Piquionne). While that doesn’t necessarily make them a great side, it does speak to the implied notion that something named Martinique can’t field a decent squad.

All the same, Canada didn’t just lose to Martinique. This wasn’t an against the run of play, one-off goal that made the final score uncharacteristic of how the game was played. The Canadians were decidedly second best, a humbling experience for a team that, while having struggled in recent World Cup qualifying campaigns, has a paved road into this competition.

Compounding the embarrassment: This result puts Canada on track to finish last in Group A. Without an upset over Mexico or Panama, Canada’s going home after three games, with a history set to reflect they not only lost to Martinique, they finished behind them in Group Play.

Portland 15 unbeaten, first in West after win over Colorado


PORTLAND, Ore. — Had you stopped the match after 10 minutes, you would have never guessed Colorado would lose 3-0. They were clearly the better side, putting three shots toward Donovan Ricketts during a start that hinted the host’s 14-game unbeaten run was in serious jeopardy.

But as is so often the case in this sport, one moment changed everything. That moment came in the 12th minute when a Rodney Wallace cross was hammered home by Frédéric Piquionne. Eighty minutes later, after Will and Ryan Johnson goals, the Timbers had a 3-0 victory, the type of decisive result many would have predicted before the opening kickoff.

Winless in four, Colorado have started to fade after a May push cast them as dark horse playoff contenders. Yet the Rapids may be falling victim to the one thing that undoes so many upstarts: Respect. After catching some by surprise during their strong start, Colorado lost the ability to sneak up on anyone. The result’s been a fall to earth.

It’s a testament to Portland’s staying power that they’ve avoided the same fate. After all, the Timbers were one of two teams to finish below the Rapids in last year’s Western Conference standings. They’re just as susceptible to the surprise team paradox as Colorado.

Of course, Portland is a much changed team from last year, with the value of all so many of their new parts on display Sunday. Confident goalkeeping from Ricketts helped weather the early storm while enabling decisive play from newly acquired Pa-Modou Kah. Will Johnson’s role as a fulcrum in midfield was evident as the Timbers established themselves after Piquionne’s goal, while Diego Valeri’s skill continues to be crucial as a focal point linking the attack.

Then there are the holdovers – players who’ve almost across-the-board improved this season. Back playing fullback, Jack Jewsbury has been a needed insurance policy for a depleted central defense. Diego Chara has gone a long way to justifying his Designated Player spot, while Darlington Nagbe continues to tap into on his seemingly unlimited potential. All three continued their strong seasons on Sunday.

And of course, there’s Rodney Wallace. The Costa Rican became a topic of conversation recently when he failed to make MLS’s All-Star Ballot, a testament to the suddenly deep Portland squad. On Sunday, the left-sider provided his counter point, recording the first assist on all three Timbers goals.

The result leaves the Timbers even on points with Real Salt Lake at the top of the Western Conference. A proclivity for draws technically puts Portland in second place, but with only one loss, they’re also the most difficult team in the league to beat.

Now 107 days and 15 matches without a loss, Caleb Porter’s men have gone from answering questions to posing their inquiries of their own: Who will be the next team to beat the Portland Timbers?


Portland 1-0 Dallas: Beautifully exciting match erases controversy of another headbutt

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I’m not so sure it’s possible to ask for more from a match and receive it.

With the top of the Western Conference getting tighter and tighter, the two teams certainly played like it mattered.

The game had everything: attackers fired missiles as the goals, goalkeepers launched themselves for world-class saves, dribbling and runs, terrible misses, and a goalazo out of nothing made all the difference.

Darlington Nagbe hit a blast into the top right corner on a 180-degree turn for the goal that gave the conference lead to the Portland Timbers, grabbing all three points at home over FC Dallas.

It wasn’t the only exciting moment though.

Diego Valeri headed off the crossbar. Donovan Ricketts saved a howitzer from Dallas’s Jackson. Raul Fernandez made possibly two of the saves of the season on shots from Diego Chara, and the midfielder missed a gaping opportunity on a third following a breakaway. Michel continued his set-piece prowess with a scathing free kick shot just wide.

It was a gut-check for the Timbers after scoring their goal, with their midfield controlling the action and their goalkeeper pressed into a few clutch saves. Unfortunately, their forwards choked multiple times in front of goal to get a second, but it didn’t come back to hurt them.

The win pushes Portland one point shy of Real Salt Lake and two shy of Dallas in the lead. It appears the top three pull further and further away from the rest of the pack in the conference with each passing week.

The only issue with the match was the shroud from another headbutt in the MLS. Jair Benitez popped Frederic Piquionne in the nose with his forehead, and you can bet your britches he’ll face some discipline. The problem is, the referee did nothing about it. The assistant referee waved his flag furiously after the incident, and the head referee had a chat with him, but nothing came of it.

It’s deja vu all over again for Major League Soccer, but fortunately, this time around, the excitement far outweighed the stain.

Portland Timbers sign English league veteran Frédéric Piquionne

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Everyone around Portland knew what the Danny Mwanga trade on Thursday meant – well, besides the rather quick end to the locally grown forward’s time at Jeld-Wen Field, a the former Oregon State and Portland area high school star struggled to fit in Caleb Porter’s system. It meant a new striker was on the way.

Now they know the name: it’s Frédéric Piquionne, a well-traveled 34-year-old who has spent a career at good-not-great sides of Europe.

(MORE: PST’s team preview of the Portland Timbers)

Piquionne looks like a good fit to play alongside Jamaican international target forward Ryan Johnson for Porter.

The full release with more details on Piquionne, who had one French national team appearance, are here on the Timbers full release.