By James Morgan
In yet another reaffirmation of his evident belief that a good offense is the best defense, Timbers Head Coach John Spencer delivered a high-powered and fast-paced attacking game against FC Dallas (FCD), only to see a solid lead deteriorate in the final minutes as his back-line imploded. Still, it was enough for the win.
The Portland Timbers (2-2-1) earned their second consecutive victory Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field against a recently resurgent FC Dallas (1-3-1). The boys in green continued to show formidable offensive talent and found the back of the net twice in the first half.
Team captain Jack Jewsbury inaugurated the scoring with a 13th minute bullet driven home from 15 yards out. In what promises to be at least a somewhat controversial call, the goal was officially ruled an own goal as it appeared to bounce off FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman’s back before hitting the net.
Jewsbury continued a strong day with a well-placed 35th minute corner kick that Timbers forward Kenny Cooper headed past Hartman.
The Timbers went in up two at the half and came out strong against an FCD side that was beginning to look demoralized. In the 48th minute, midfielder Jeremy Hall played a beautiful diagonal pass off to forward Jorge Perlaza who shot it into the far left corner, only to have it revoked on an offside call.
Portland continued to dominate on offense and appeared to have largely neutralized feared striker David Ferreira –last years MLS league MVP– with a relentless attacking pace. In the 55th minute, midfielder Kalif Alhassan, a holdover from the Timber’s pre-MLS days, used brilliant footwork to earn an assist on defender Rodney Wallace’s goal.
Up 3-0 the Timbers continued to play an attacking style and in the 77th minute subbed forward Eddie Johnson for Jorge Perlaza, a move clearly intended to put another point on the board.
In the final ten minutes, Portland’s relentless attacking appeared to backfire, leaving holes in the back-line that a suddenly energized FCD was able to exploit for two goals of their own. The first came in the 83rd minute when, with an assist from defender Brek Shea, Ferreira drove one past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
A minute later Gleeson redeemed himself with an excellent save, but the Timbers back-line continued to struggle and in the 86th minute, Shea found the back of the net on an assist from Ferreira, illustrating why it’s a mistake to let up for an instant against last years’ MLS cup finalists.
There were three minutes of tense stoppage play wherein the Timbers, apparently caught on their back foot, continued to struggle, but the defense held and Portland took home the three points.
Other Notes and Questions:
The match was Timbers team captain Jack Jewsbury’s 200th MLS game. In reaching the mark, he joins other MLS luminaries such as Landon Donovan and FCD goalkeeper, Kevin Hartman.
The afternoon’s attendance was 18,627 for another sold-out crowd at JWF. The stadium had more than 3,000 empty seats high up in the back rows, but, since it wasn’t originally designed to hold such numbers, for crowd safety reasons they have not yet been made available to the public.
Precocious Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson made his third starting appearance. He has played convincingly in the last three matches and it remains unclear as to what his status is with regard to Adin Brown and Troy Perkins, the ostensible second and first string goalkeepers, both of whom allegedly remain out with injuries. Coach Spencer will have some tough decisions to make on the issue.
Although he did not score, Kalif Alhassan had an excellent game and continues to impress with his development.
As well as the Timbers midfield has played in the last two matches, Spencer will also have his hands full in deciding who of the starting 11 to replace with the Timbers’ new acquisition and DP, Diego Chara.
Is it still too early to declare Jeld-Wen Field (JWF) the Timbers’ twelfth man? Other teams have good claims to decent homefield advantages, but so far, JWF and the Timbers Army supporters group really does seem to be something new in it’s kind in MLS and indeed, North America in general.
Is it too early to say that Alexi Lalas may want to change his prediction that the Timbers won’t make the play-offs? The league is now officially on notice that John Spencer’s high-powered offensive style is for real, what happens next remains to be seen, but it does seem safe to say that Portland is probably not looking at the terrible season that Lalas predicted as recently as Thursday. As Spencer said at Thursday’s post-game conference, “…maybe that why he’s a commentator and not a coach.”
When will the Timbers defense finally get it together? This has to be Spencer’s biggest worry; you can’t go dominating a game on offense and possession only to lay down and die in the last ten. As impressive as the Timbers looked in the last two matches (and they just keep getting better), the fact that their defense has completely collapsed at the end of both games has got to be at the top of Spencer’s list of headaches.