By James Morgan
In their first ever meeting, the Portland Timbers (0-2-1), and the New England Revolution (1-0-2) played to a draw before a meager crowd of 7,114 Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Timbers earned their first point in MLS after playing three games in eight days.
For the third time in as many MLS matches, the Timbers gave up the opening goal in the first 25 minutes as New England rookie Stephen McCarthy bounced it in at the 22nd minute. It was his first career goal and the third straight game in which The Revolution scored first.
However, the Timbers quickly responded with good pressure and in the 38th minute, forward Kenny Cooper made a strong foray through midfield toward the right side of the penalty area. He passed diagonally back to midfielder Jeremy Hall who in turn laid it out to his left where team captain Jack Jewsbury shot it into the right corner with a left-footed kick.
While the Timbers made steady improvement and showed better organization and cohesion, the Revs, unbeaten this season, struggled with passing and couldn’t seem to find much inspiration in the final third of the pitch. “In all honesty, we were pretty disappointing tonight and we were pretty flat most of the time,” said New England head coach Steve Nicols. “We just never got rolling.”
In the second half the Revs shifted gears and switched from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2, replacing McCarthy in the 58th minute with recently returned Gambian National Team player, Kenny Mansally. But although they pushed the pace a bit, they failed to make anything happen and the closest either side came to a winning goal was a 70th minute free-kick by Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan that bounced of the near post. Timbers head coach John Spencer said of the shot, “I thought in the second half we were very unlucky not to have got a second [goal] with Kalif’s (Alhassan) free kick off the post… I think that with a little bit of Lady Luck there, we could have gone away with the three points.”
Third-string Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson had another good showing with several notable saves; Spencer will have to think hard about who will start for the home opener. Gleeson won last week’s MLS Save of the Week for his 49th minute save against a shot by Toronto FC forward, Javier Martina.
First string goalkeeper Troy Perkins, out with a partially torn right knee ligament, is set to resume practice on Monday the fourth and expects to be fit by the home opener against Chicago on the 14th.
Spencer changed his starting line-up with Jack Jewsbury and Jeremy Hall replacing midfielders Pete Lowry and Ryan Pore. Gleeson, David Horst, Alhassan and James Marcelin all made their first league starts as well.
Eddie Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, out with right achilles tendonitis and a sports hernia respectively, were both deemed fit. Nagbe saw his first MLS action in the second half with a 66th minute sub for Hall.