Portland secure first ever MLS Cup – Match report from Columbus

The Portland Timbers came into Columbus and the MLS Cup game as underdogs, but left as MLS Cup champions, triumphing over the Columbus Crew 2-1, with early goals from Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace sealing the historic victory.

The Timbers enjoyed a dream start within 27 seconds of kickoff, when midfielder Diego Valeri took advantage of Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark’s horrendous error.

Valeri made a strong tackle on the ‘keeper and the Timbers quickly found themselves up 1-0 to the complete disbelief of the Crew and their fans.

Valeri’s goal was the fastest goal ever scored in MLS Cup history.

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The Crew struggled to connect on their passes early on due to the Timbers’ high pressure on the midfield and defense. It eventually led to a crucial turnover that the Timbers capitalised on in the 7th minute to make it 2-0.

Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe found winger Lucas Melano, who crossed it into the six-yard box. Rodney Wallace connected with a flying header and put the ball into the back of the Crew’s net to further stun the home crowd.

Controversy couldn’t stay away from this cup final, as replays later showed that the ball won by Powell in the build up to the goal was actually a couple of feet out of play.

Portland and Columbus had probably planned for most eventualities. But being two up after seven minutes is a strange situation for any side, let alone an away side in a final. The Timbers started the game like it was the 87th minute, and not the 7th.

With their backs against the wall, the Crew quickly came alive and regained control of the game. They continued to find chances in the first half and were eventually rewarded in the 18th minute.

The home team found fullback Harrison Afful, who crossed it into the penalty area. A goal-mouth scramble ensued and league-leading scorer Kei Kamara was on hand to finish.

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Portland looked happy to hear the halftime whistle and head coach Caleb Porter sent them out in the second half with a solid game plan to hit Columbus on the break.

The Crew dominated possession and created chances. However, their finishing left them wanting, as they were unable to register a shot on target in the second half.

Portland took advantage of the Crew playing high up the field by countering back whenever they found the chance. That led to two huge opportunities that hit the woodwork as a third goal looked more likely that a Columbus equaliser.

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The first left the Crew scrambling on a corner, as the ball fell to Wallace, who had his shot saved by Clark. The clearance then hit the crossbar before getting cleared.

The second chance came for Timbers striker Fanendo Adi as his header from Jorge Villafana’s cross hit the far post before hitting Steve Clark, who fumbled the ball out of bounds.

Both teams continued to fight tooth and nail for every loose ball and take any shot they could get. But as the final minutes of added time came and went the final whistle blew, the Timbers rushed onto the field knowing that they just won their first ever MLS Cup.

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Portland Timbers forced to settle for goalless draw by Vancouver Whitecaps

The Portland Timbers were left frustrated as the Vancouver Whitecaps earned a valuable 0-0 draw at Providence Park in Sunday’s MLS Cup Playoff Western Conference semifinal first leg.

The Cascadia rivals faced off in their first ever playoff clash on Sunday in what was a hard-fought, close affair but neither side were able to find the net.

Vancouver came into the game with the best away record in MLS in 2015 and also ended the regular season with the best defensive record, so they were always going to be tough to break down.

The draw will suit them more than Portland as they will feel home-field advantage will give them a major edge in next week’s second leg.

Portland came into the match off the back of Thursday’s knockout round win over Sporting KC, in a game that went all the way to penalties before goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s heroics sent the Timbers through.

Kwarasey wasn’t able to build on his display on Sunday night as he missed the match through illness, while Diego Chara was also missed by Portland as injury prevented him from playing.

Playing two games in four days clearly affected Portland as they looked very tired late on, despite the home crowd’s best efforts to rally them forward.

The game failed to deliver too many chances as neither goalkeeper was really tested as both defences remained tight and well organised for most of the match.

Diego Valeri came close to opening the scoring just after the hour mark when his free-kick looked to be heading for the top corner, only for David Ousted to get a vital hand to the shot.

Then Maximiliano Urruti was denied by the width of the post in the dying embers of the game as the substitute almost scored his second crucial playoff goal in a week.

Portland enjoyed plenty of possession but ultimately couldn’t translate that to goals and will be disappointed to have not made the most of home advantage in the first leg.

The second leg will be played at Vancouver’s BC Place next Sunday with the winner of the tie going on to face either the Seattle Sounders or FC Dallas in the Western Conference final.

What did you make of the game in Portland on Sunday? Did Vancouver deserve a draw?

Sounders end game with 7 players as Portland beat reigning champions in thriller

The standout fixture of this year’s US Open Cup fourth round didn’t disappoint as far as drama goes as Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers played out a thriller at Starfire Sports Complex on Tuesday night.

The Timbers ended a six-game winless run against the Sounders with a 3-1 extra-time victory, but their task was made considerably easier given the fact Seattle ended the match with four men less than their Cascadia rivals.

Brad Evans, Michael Azira and Clint Dempsey were all sent off for the Sounders, while Obafemi Martins left the game on a stretcher after all three subs had been made, dumping last year’s Open Cup champions out of the competition at their first attempt to retain their crown.

Portland opened the scoring in the 48th minute as star playmaker Diego Valeri converted Rodney Wallace’s cross. Things then got better for the visitors as referee Daniel Radford showed Brad Evans a second yellow card for a foul on Jorge Villafana.

Photo: Max Aquino

Photo: Max Aquino

Seattle managed to claw their way back into the game though, despite being a man down, as Martins equalised on 79 minutes to take the game to extra time in front of the 4,022 supporters in attendance.

But the Nigerian striker was stretchered off before the game went into extra-time, leaving Seattle down to nine men and things only went from bad to worse from that point for the holders.

Wallace scored for the Timbers in the 100th minute, before Michael Azira and Dempsey were both sent off in quick succession, leaving the Rave Green down to seven, before Maximiliano Urruti sealed the win with Portland’s third goal to see them through 3-1.

Photo: Max Aquino

Photo: Max Aquino

The defeat was Seattle’s first loss in 17 matches at Starfire Stadium in Lamar Hunt US Open Cup history, while they allowed more than one goal in a match for the first time as a participant in the competition.

Portland will be delighted though and after beating the holders, Caleb Porter’s side will be dreaming of a first US Open Cup trophy this season.

“We knew this was going to be an intense game. Obviously this is a derby, bitter rivals, a cup game so we knew it was going to be a challenge for us,” Porter said after the game.

Photo: Max Aquino

Photo: Max Aquino

 

“History said we wouldn’t win this game because they had never lost on this field in the Open Cup and they have won the Open Cup four times. I was proud of our groups mentality. They looked like they were up for it. They were mature, they kept their heads. I was proud of that.”

The Cascadia rivals next meet in 11 days at Providence Park for the second of three MLS meetings between the two Western Conference sides this season.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Saturday, May 16th – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST – Sunday, May 17th) 

Match Odds: Houston Dynamo 6/4 – Draw 9/4 – Portland Timbers 9/5

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo play host to the Portland Timbers on Saturday night as they look to build on an impressive 2-1 win away at Toronto last weekend.

The Dynamo have looked like a team that is struggling to adapt to the philosophies of a new manager as Owen Coyle has persisted with a 4-4-2 system.

However, the victory at BMO field was more than impressive as defensively, the Dynamo were superb, while offensively, Giles Barnes was wreaking havoc when they had the chance to counter.

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Their home form has been somewhat poor however, losing their last two and conceding ten in total at home, compared to just four away.

Houston Dynamo’s 2015 MLS record: P11 – W3 – D4 – L4

Portland have yet to set MLS alight this season and some may argue they are underperforming because on paper they have one of the strongest squads in the league.

Much of their form is down to the limited attacking options head coach Caleb Porter has available. Diego Valeri has only just returned after an ACL injury and Fanendo Adi hasn’t scored a goal in his last six matches.

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With the Timbers yet to register back-to-back wins, they will be hoping that Saturday night will see that trend change.

Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS record: P10 – W3 – D4 – L3

The last time these two sides met was in April 2014 when it ended in a 1-1 draw with Will Bruin and Gaston Fernandez on the scoresheet.

Team News

Houston Dynamo’s Nathan Sturgis is out, while Brad Davis is a slight doubt and will fight to be fit enough to start. Giles Barnes and Will Bruin should continue their strike partnership as Owen Coyle continues to play the 4-4-2 system.

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Portland Timbers’ Will Johnson, Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff are all out. Gaston Fernandez is also a doubt, while Diego Valeri is expected to start in midfield.

Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s last five: D/D/L/L/W

Portland Timbers’ last five: L/W/L/D/W

Key Stat: Portland Timbers are yet to win away at Houston Dynamo in three attempts.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Arguably one of the best players in MLS is back and expect him to be a major threat that the Dynamo will find difficult to contain.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Portland Timbers – The Timbers to win comfortably and record their first ever victory away to the Dynamo.

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Portland Timbers

The new season is now just one week away and in the build-up to the first game, we’ve had an MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what to expect from the Portland Timbers in 2015…

The Portland Timbers head into their fifth MLS season after joining in 2011. They looked set to be on course for a playoff finish in 2014 until the penultimate game of the season when a 0-0 draw at home to Real Salt Lake allowed the Vancouver Whitecaps to agonisingly nip in ahead of them by just one point, despite the final day victory over FC Dallas for the Timbers. Head coach Caleb Porter will be hoping he can inspire his side to perform to the same level as last year while tweaking some minor elements of the team to make them that little bit more effective.

Last season’s finish: Western Conference position: 6th – P34 – W12 – D13 – L9

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What needs to change this year?

Portland Timbers need to start the season better this time around. They didn’t record a victory until their ninth game of the season in 2014 and that left them playing catch up for the remainder of the campaign. The Timbers only managed 10 points from their opening 11 games and that hampered their progress massively.

Despite the slow start, they finished the season brilliantly with just one defeat in their final nine games, picking up five wins and three draws. If the Oregon side can carry that vein of form through to 2015 then they will have a good chance of having a successful year.

Turning some of the draws into wins at home is another important area that could be improved. Portland only managed five victories on home soil in 2014, while they played out nine draws.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Adam Kwarasey – Goalkeeper, Nat Borchers – Defender, Jeanderson Pereira – Defender, Dairon Asprilla – Midfielder

Outs: Donovan Ricketts – Goalkeeper, Michael Harrington – Defender, Pa Modou Kah – Defender, Rauwshan McKenzie – Defender, Danny O’Rourke – Defender, Steve Zakuani – Midfielder, Kalif Alhassan – Midfielder

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Midfielder

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Diego Valeri will miss the start of the 2015 campaign through injury and is hoping to return by May. The Timbers need to ensure they don’t feel the full force of his absence in the early stages of the season. The Argentinian playmaker scored 11 goals, made 14 assists and was the stand-out player for Portland in 2014.  He will be crucial for the Timbers as they look to mount a serious challenge for a top-six finish in the Western Conference and qualify for the playoffs.

One to watch: Fanendo AdiForward

Fanendo Adi notched an impressive nine goals from just 18 starts in 2014 and also made four assists. The big Nigerian forward could play an important role when he leads the line for the Timbers. At 6 feet 4 inches, he provides a different proposition for opposing teams compared to other forwards in this Portland squad. He’s only 24-years-old so he’s got a promising career ahead of him and if the Timbers are to challenge for the top spots, his excellent goals-per-game ratio could be crucial.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 3rd

The Portland Timbers have only recorded one playoff finish since their participation in Major League Soccer began in 2011. However, they look in great shape to be one of the strongest sides in the Western Conference in what promises to be one of the most exciting MLS seasons to date.

What are you expecting from the Portland Timbers in 2015?

How costly will Diego Valeri’s injury be for Portland Timbers?

Portland Timbers could begin the 2015 season without key player Diego Valeri after he underwent surgery on his knee yesterday which will potentially see him out of action for five months.

It’s a lay-off that wouldn’t see him feature again until April if he is unable to recover quicker than expected with the new season beginning in March.

The Argentinian midfield maestro has been a revelation for the Timbers once again this season, setting club records in the process.

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His goals tally of 11 is the best in a single season by any Portland player since their competition in Major League Soccer began in 2011.

The previous best record was the 10 goals scored by Valeri himself in last year’s campaign (2013) – a number that striker Maximiliano Urruti also notched up this year, assisted by great service from his midfield compatriot.

He was joint second in the league assists table this year, with 14 set-ups (also a new club record) which is the same as Robbie Keane of LA Galaxy – only Landon Donovan made more (19).

The 28-year-old has been the first name on the team sheet for the last two seasons, with consistent performances of the highest standard and has only missed four games.

Diego Valeri in the last two seasons:

Diego Valeri stats

He is the driving force in the Timbers side and he could prove to be a great loss in the early stages of next season.

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Portland will certainly be hoping that he can recover quicker than has been predicted and that he can be back in time for the first game, but it’s looking unlikely.

It all means that they will desperately miss their key man in the opening games of the 2015 campaign and they can only hope that it won’t have a negative impact on their playoff aspirations.

How much will Portland Timbers miss Diego Valeri if he is unable to play for the first month of next season?

2014 MLS Season Review: Portland Timbers

Western Conference Final Position: 6th

Review

The 2014 season started slowly and it took Portland nine games to record their first win but they eventually burst in to life. Unfortunately for the Timbers, it all came to an agonising conclusion as they narrowly missed out on the playoffs, finishing in sixth place, just one point behind Vancouver Whitecaps. They are certainly the best MLS team that won’t feature in the playoffs this year and it will be a bitter pill to swallow considering how well they have played at times this season.

Best Moment

Coming from a goal behind to win 3-1 away at Real Salt Lake in June is one of their greatest achievements for 2014. It’s the only home defeat that Real Salt Lake suffered all season and a result they can be proud of.

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Worst Moment

The defeat in Toronto at the end of September is the one that will have hurt them the most and is essentially the result that cost them their place in the playoffs. Having led the game 2-0 at half-time, they will be devastated that they somehow squandered a two-goal lead and lost the game 3-2, thanks to an 89th minute winner from Michael Bradley.

Player of the Year

Diego Valeri has been inspirational for the Timbers. He’s scored 11 goals from midfield and assisted 14. Contributing 25 goals from midfield is very impressive. Maximiliano Urruti is another player who has been in fine form this season, but Valeri has been the main man and has even been discussed as an outsider for the MVP award.

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Biggest Win

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers (August 31 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (September 20 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 San Jose Earthquakes (October 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Portland Timbers 2-4 Seattle Sounders (August 24 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

The margin of error in soccer can be so small at times. They will reflect on a good season that will be littered with ifs and buts. The main criticism of Portland would be how slowly they started the season. One win from their opening 11 games left them a monumental task to try and finish in a playoff position and they almost made it. If they hadn’t been so slow out of the blocks, they would have comfortably secured a playoff spot and their season wouldn’t already be over now. They will be a force in the 2015 season.

Preview and Prediction: FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers

The regular season comes to an end this weekend, and the game between FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers is one of very few in which both sides have something to play for.

Seattle’s huge game against LA on Saturday night is probably the biggest of the weekend, but Portland are battling for their playoff lives, and face a tough trip to a Dallas side looking to avoid playing in the Western Conference Knockout game.

Real Salt Lake’s victory against Chivas USA on Thursday night moved them into third place, and so Dallas will need to win in front of their own fans to ensure they finish third.

Dallas have won their last eight home games in Major League Soccer, so they will expect to take all three points once more.

FC Dallas’ home form: Played 16 – Won 12 – Drawn 1 – Lost 3

Portland currently sit one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps in the race for the final playoff spot in the entire league, and must better the Canadian-based side’s result to earn a place in the post-season.

The Timbers have been the third-best side away from home this season, and come into the game in good form, having only lost one of their last eight MLS games.

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Portland Timbers’ away form: Played 16 – Won 6 – Drawn 4 – Lost 6

They lost 2-1 to Dallas back in March but their season depends on this game, and Portland have more to play for than the hosts.

It should be an entertaining game, with so much at stake, and with Vancouver kicking off half an hour later, Saturday night’s action promises to be thrilling.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Argentine has been Portland’s best player this season and they need him to produce more than ever in this one.

Key Stat: FC Dallas have won their last eight home games, scoring at least two in those victories.

Dallas’ last five: L/W/L/W/W

Portland’s last five: W/L/W/W/D

Prediction: FC Dallas 2-2 Portland Timbers – Portland to earn a point and face an anxious wait for Vancouver’s final score.

Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

The Portland Timbers host Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake in a must win game at Providence Park late on Friday night, and know that a win will move them back into a playoff position.

Last weeks double win against the San Jose Earthquakes moved them into fifth place, but the Vancouver Whitecaps moved back into the last remaining playoff spot with a surprise victory in Seattle.

This is now the Timbers biggest game of the season, as a loss at home to Salt Lake opens the door for the Whitecaps to seal the final playoff berth with victory against the Earthquakes.

Portland needs its home support more than ever on Friday, and they are in good form heading into this crucial clash against one of the league’s better sides.

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The Timbers have lost just one of their last seven, and have recorded wins in three of their last four in Major League Soccer, while Salt Lake have lost two of their last three.

RSL will be going for victory as they look to hold on to third place in the Western Conference, to avoid having to play in the wildcard game.

Portland beat Real Salt Lake away from home in their last meeting back in June, and will be desperate for a repeat performance in this huge game on Friday night, as failure to win will all but end their playoff hopes.

Key player: Diego Valeri: The playmaker continues to impress and his brace last time out further emphasised his importance to the Timbers. They need him to come up big once again.

Key stat: Portland have scored at least two goals in their last eight MLS games. Expect more in this one.

Portland’s last five: D/W/L/W/W

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/W/L/L/W

Prediction: Portland Timbers 2-1 Real Salt Lake – The Timbers to keep dreams alive with a hard fought win against RSL.

Preview: Portland expected to move into playoff place with win against San Jose tonight

The Portland Timbers face up against the San Jose Earthquakes for the second time in five days tonight, with the Timbers just one point behind Vancouver in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

San Jose’s hopes of somehow getting into the playoffs were officially ended by the Timbers in Portland’s 2-1 comeback win at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night, but they will hope to spoil the party in Portland by winning their first game at Providence Park tonight.

However, San Jose has not won in eleven games, and Portland are expected to win the third and final meeting between the two this season, following a 3-3 draw in Portland back in July, before Saturday’s win in San Jose.

The Timbers will welcome back Diego Valeri after he was suspended for Saturday’s game, and the Argentine playmaker is crucial for Portland as he has eight goals and ten assists this season.

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Goals are expected in this one, as Portland has seen at least three goals in their past seven matches, while both side’s have scored in five of the last six meetings between the pair.

A Portland win will put them two points ahead of Vancouver, and they will occupy the final playoff spot with two games to go, though Vancouver will have a game in hand after tonight as the race for fifth place looks set to go down to the wire.

The Timbers will face Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas in their final two games, with both sides currently ahead of Portland.

San Jose could field a youth-filled side in Portland tonight, and the fact that they have nothing to lose in this one means it could be quite a goal-fest.

Key stat: San Jose have failed to win in their last eleven MLS matches

Key player: Diego Valeri – The Argentine’s return from suspension should lift Portland and he could be in for another big night as the Timbers look to move into a playoff position.

Prediction: Portland 3-1 San Jose