Drilling down on: at Portland 2, Chicago 1

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Man of the Match: Throughout the day (but particularly early in the game), center half Hanyer Mosquera forced the issue for Chicago’s attackers, coming out of his position in Portland’s defense to meet Chicago’s attackers as they were turning on the ball. Mosquera did have a moment were some confusion (and apparently over-reliance on the assistant referee’s flag) nearly permitted a Pavel Pardo goal, but the play was the exception that proved the man of the match’s rule.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Although one of their ranks was top man, it wasn’t a convincing day for Portland’s defense. You can’t help but wonder if some recent shuffling in central defense is has cost the Timbers some needed cohesion or familiarity. Tonight, Eric Brunner and Mosquera got the call, with Futty Danso suspended. Brunner chipped in with a goal, Mosquera had his bossy moments, but there were also a number of breakdowns that left Troy Perkins to bail out his defenders.
  • His hands could be been stronger a couple of times, but it was still a strong night for Perkins. Coming off his line for some tough catches, Portland’s goalkeeper provided some needed stability.
  • Portland will likewise be stabilized by a much-needed win. The only other victory the Timbers have notched since opening weekend was a 1-0 victory over Sporting, one where a Kansas City own goal was the night’s only tally. There were no such caveats today. Though the game-winning tally was ultimately an own goal, it was a goal that could have easily been credited to Kris Boyd.
  • It as the second corner converted by Portland, who showed early on that they were going to be able to push Chicago around on set pieces. The first goal saw a corner played long for Mosquera kept alive by an athletic play from Boyd, setting up Brunner. The second had Boyd beat his mark with the most basic of near post runs before flicking a ball onto Logan Pause.
  • Portland didn’t just push Chicago around on set pieces. They flexed their muscle throughout the night, with referee Silviu Petrescu tight with the whistles. All of Chicago’s attackers saw attempts to draw whistles met with s”get up” waves. By the 80th minute, Sebastian Grazzini had enough, nearly drawing yellow with some uncomfortably vehement protests.
  • The difference Petrescu’s style made was most evident when watching Rodney Wallace. Getting yet another start on the left of midfield, the natural defender was a handful. Wallace combined tenacity with his speed and athleticism to ignite Grazzini’s second half frustration. Typically subbed off late in second halves, Wallace’s play earned a full shift from John Spencer, who chose to keep Wallace on (and lift Darlington Nagbe) when Jorge Perlaza was brought on in the second half.
  • After the match, Frank Klopas went onto the field to give Petrescu his thoughts. The frustartion was understandable. Petrescu’s officiating played more to the Timbers likely, though Klopas and his team should have adjusted.
  • Dominic Oduro was also a surprise substitute. With Diego Chara and Lovel Palmer shutting down Grazzini, Chicago’s leading scorer couldn’t get the ball. He also took a rough tumble in the first half, Mosquera cleaning him out as Chicago tried to get out on the break. Federico Puppo came on for him near the hour mark.
  • With that supply cut off, Chicago couldn’t get anything going. They tried to work wide, attempting to exploit the matchup advantages Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa had against Mike Chabala and Steven Smith, but nothing came of it after an early first half chance. Then, a series of short passes down the left created a low percentage chance for Pappa. Unable to find the right formula, the rest of Chicago’s choice opportunities almost always came from Portland disorganization.
  • Although Portland was able to control the game’s tempo, they still have major issues in midfield. Of the four midfielders that started Sunday, only one (Chara) is really somebody you’d trust to make the right decision on the ball (even if Chara almost always selects the most conservative opinion). Wallace, Palmer and Frank Songo’o are too often giving the ball away or otherwise slowing things down.
  • The loss is a momentum-killer for a Chicago team that was undefeated in three, but there isn’t much to worry about. Though they could have adjusted to Petrescu’s style, these type of results happen during a long season. If Frank Klopas can figure out what went wrong on their corner kick defending, the Fire can chalk this up to a one-off.
  • Portland, however, is all of a sudden out of the basement. The new bottom-feeder in the Western Conference? The league’s highest paid team: LA Galaxy.