Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union
March 12, 2012
MLS Opening Game
Weather: Steady Rain 47F
Much like one season ago, it was a cool, rainy evening in beautiful Portland, Oregon that provided the backdrop for the Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union season opener at JELD-WEN field. John Spencer’s side had come into the season opener off an unbeaten pre-season schedule that saw them score 11 goals and only concede 3 in 7 games. The Timbers had not lost to Philadelphia in the 2011 season and the impressive home turnout was hoping that this would continue into 2012 but Philadelphia Union were looking to spoil the party.
The opening exchanges were fairly even as the home side looked to impose themselves onto the game and it was Eric Alexander who went close first with curling right footed-shot from the left hand side of the penalty which Union keeper Zac MacMath could only tip just around the post on 8 minutes. Almost immediately afterwards Portland thought they should have had a penalty when Jorge Perlaza was seemingly pulled back just inside the penalty area after some shoddy defending from Philadelphia. Referee Baldomero Toledo waved appeals away.
The Timbers continued to press throughout the opening 20 minutes and went close when Kris Boyd left it for Perlaza who headed back in front of Boyd but his shot was smothered by the on-rushing MacMath. With 23 minutes gone Kris Boyd and Carlos Valdes suffered a clash of heads and there was a worry for the Union who did not have any defenders on their bench, but Valdes was able to carry on. The game fell pretty flat through the rest of the first half with possession being given away cheaply from both sides. The Philadelphia Union did a good job of keeping the game tight towards the latter part of the first half and they managed to see out the opening waves of attack by the Timbers who left the field the more frustrated of the two sides.
Half-Time: Portland Timbers 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Shots: Por 5, Phi 1
Corners: Por 3, Phi 0
Possession: Por 56% Phi 44%
With only 2 minutes of the second half gone, Kris Boyd played Eric Alexander down the left wing and his deflected cross found Alhassan whose shot from a tight angle was cleared off the line by the Union defense. Portland clearly began the first half like they did the first, with a quick tempo and a haste to get the ball forward quickly. John Spencer had clearly told them to get the speed of the game moving again as it was suiting the away side far too much.
With 51 mins on the clock tho it was the Philadelphia Union who took the lead through a free-kick that skimmed off the head of Timbers youngster Jean-Baptiste from Gomez shot that was heading in. 1-0 Union!
Just 2 minutes later the Timbers equalized and it was Jean-Baptiste in the thick of it again, this time heading home into the correct net from a whipped free-kick cross this time from Jack Jewsbury - the ball scrambling under the body of Union keeper MacMath. 1-1! It seemed that the Union goal had really woken up the Timbers who were beginning to have decent opportunities and applying high pressure whenever the Union had the ball.
The game had by now (around the 60th minute mark) really opened up and it was the Timbers really applying the pressure and looking to attack with speed and purpose at every opportunity. Philadelphia had tried to freshen things up in attack when they brought on Danny Mwanga for the ineffective Josue Martinez. It was to no avail though as the Timbers went ahead on 65 minutes when the ever-tricky Alhassan whipped in a beauty of a near post cross that was just asking to be put away and Kris Boyd obliged in the exact same that he did in his first game for the Timbers against AIK in preseason. His header was pinpoint and into the far corner that just had Union keeper MacMath glued to the spot as he watched it fly past him 2-1 Timbers!!
On 72 mins Jewsbury delivered in another whipped corner and Boyd once again lost his marker and his header was cleared off the line by Freddie Adu. At this point the Timbers were truly all over the Union and should have been two clear. It was 3-1 on 75 mins as the brilliant Alhassan took on two players out wide and the audaciously chipped brilliantly over the defense and keeper to really put the Timbers in control. 3-1 Timbers!! This place they call JELD-WEN field was really rocking at this time as you might expect.
On 79 minutes Philly took off Michael Farfan and replaced him with Keon Daniel. Kris Boyd came off to a rousing reception on 80 minutes and was replaced by Amobi Okugo as the party continued in the rain in Portland. The last ten minutes was basically a game of cat and mouse as the Timbers allowed the Union to have the ball and then look to break on them with pace but to be honest, Troy Perkins goal was never really under much threat. As the whistle blew, it was noted that Kris Boyd was trending on Twitter worldwide. The crowd who sang throughout the entire game
Full Time: Portland Timbers 3-1 Philadelphia Union
Shots: Por 14, Phi 6
Corners: Por 4, Phi 1
It was a bright start for the Timbers in the first half but the Philadelphia Union were able to muscle their way into the game and stifle Portland into a frustrating 0-0 half-time score. The Timbers came out to attack in the second half but were caught out by a sucker punch when Gabriel Gomez free kick skimmed off the head of Andrew Jean-Baptiste but he made up for it just two minutes later with an excellent header of his own and then the floodgates opened and two terrific goals by Kris Boyd and my man of the match Kalif Alhassan really took the stuffing out of Philadelphia and put the game to bed. This game was a fine start to the season and this team truly embodies everything about this coach in John Spencer. They fight for each other and they have real capabilities in attack, strengthened this year with the addition of Kris Boyd. The Timbers home form was excellent last season and it is their away form that they must improve on if they want to challenge for the play-offs this time around.
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World Football Daily Portland Timbers Correspondent.