Monday, May 21, 2012

A Diary: Portland vs. Chicago

Article by Brad Snook

With the NATO Summit in town, the Chicago Fire must be pleased to escape the chaos of the Second City (where the protests look like this) for the Pacific Northwest (where protests look a little different). One of the more surprising teams of the season, the Fire are currently sitting 4th in the Eastern Conference with as many 5 games in hand on some teams above them (D.C. United). They are looking to continue their renaissance that began with Frank Klopas taking the reigns midseason last year.

Can the Fire get their first ever win against a Cascadia Club? Chicago is 0-7-5 all time against teams from the Pacific Northwest; having never beaten the Sounders, Timbers, or Whitecaps. If there was ever a time to change that, today could be the day. Portland is currently at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with 9 points through 10 matches.

Portland comes into today’s match desperately needing their offense to come alive. They haven’t scored a goal of their own since the Reagan administration (okay, in 427 minutes of play, but you get the point). Their anemic attack is mainly due to the fact that they refuse to string more than 4 passes together at any point. So far this season, the Timbers have valued their possessions about as much as a group of Franciscan monks. The Timbers Army is beginning to get restless, and a win here would pull them out of the Western cellar.
The Rose City vs. The Windy City. Coffee vs. Pizza. Sam Bowie vs. Michael Jordan. The city of broad shoulders vs. The city where no one honks ever. It’s time for the Timbers vs. the Fire running match diary! Sit down, strap in, and enjoy the ride!

Line Ups:

Chicago: Johnson; Gargan, Anibaba, Berry, Segares; Pause (C), Pardo, Pappa; Grazzini; Oduro, Nyarko

Portland: Perkins; Chabala, Mosquera, Brunner, Smith; Songo'o, Chara-C, Palmer, Wallace; Nagbe, Boyd

Part of me wishes I was watching the Spanish-language broadcast of this game, instead of the local Portland broadcast. Those Spanish announcers can make anything more exciting. When the time comes, I have already planned to have the birth of my first child broadcast in Spanish. It’s going to be awesome.


1:02 - Steven Smith is down in his own box after a hard fall while defending a throw in...and he’s up! Nothing gets a coach in a funk more than a 2nd minute substitution.

3:40 - Kris Boyd gets a head on a throw in and forces Sean Johnson to make an excellent save to keep the ball out of the net. Almost a quick goal there for the Timbers. Boyd is already more active than he’s been in the last two games combined.

4:36 - The Timbers are clearly out to whip in as much service as possible today. We’ve already seen 3 or 4 balls served in from the flanks early on.

7:27 - Diego Chara sees that the Timbers have reached their quota of 5 consecutive passes strung together and promptly passes the ball to no one and out of play.

9:01 - Former D.C. United legend Rodney Wallace turns a half chance into a scare for Johnson, who gets a fingertip to it. Out for a corner for the Timbers.

11:27 - Smith falls down on the left back, allowing Sebastian Grazzini in behind. He’s able to recover in time to block Grazzini’s cross out for a corner.

13:36 - Nice bit of one-two passing allows Marco Pappa a shot on goal, which Troy Perkins easily collects.

Clear contrast of styles playing out early in this game. Chicago looks to connect short passes, working the ball through the midfield and up to the forwards who hold the ball and wait for the midfielders to run from behind. On the other hand, Portland appears to be bypassing the midfield entirely. These tactics might not be a terrible idea as Lovel Palmer gives the ball away in the attacking ⅓ and starts a counter attack for Chicago.

19:04 - GOAL TIMBERS! Eric Brunner bangs home a goal from six yards out after the ball is bouncing around in the box following a corner kick. Great job by Hayner Mosquera to keep the ball alive, heading the ball back into the mix after the corner looked headed long. First corner kick goal of the year for the Timbers.

21:03 - Darlington Nagbe almost gets a second goal straight off a goal kick! Perkins’ kick bounces over the defense, and Nabge sees his chip on goal tipped out for a corner.

22:21 - Logan Pause looks like he should be running for US Senate, and not patrolling the center of the park for the Fire. That is all.

25:34 - More short passes and possession from Chicago. However, they are unable to do much with it in the attacking end and force a shot from distance over the bar.

25:53 - Shot of Captain Jack Jewsbury sitting with the rest of the Timbers’ players who didn’t make the 18. Just behind him Andrew Jean-Baptiste is focused intently while listening to his Beats by Dre headphones. What could he possibly be listening to during the game? Here are my top 3 guesses:
· The Bee Gees - “Stayin’ Alive”: It’s clear he is as heartbroken by the passing of Bee Gees member Robin Gibb as both you and I.
· The Spanish broadcast of my first born child. HOURS OF EXCITEMENT!
· This weekend’s edition of Prairie Home Companion. Because no one likes to miss out on all the happenings around Lake Wobegon.

28:11 - Dominic Oduro goes down and Portland goes on the counter attack. They feel like he dove, and the replays seem to support this.

30:38 - Perkins comes off his line to clear the ball from Patrick Nyarko, who was in alone after a beautiful pass from Marco Pappa. Chicago’s pace up top is threatening to cause problems for the Timbers defense. The Fire are beginning to take back the game a bit now.

33:46 - Chara once again passes the ball straight to the opposition, starting a counter the other way for the Fire.

35:09 - Huge save from Perkins! Pavel Pardo finds himself wide open on the penalty spot and looks to have the upper right corner picked out before Perkins gloves it out for a corner.

36:12 - The Timbers come right back and Boyd’s attempt is blocked out after a great job by Songo’o to keep it alive.

37:47 - Boyd unable to hold up the clearance, and Chicago takes it right back. Boyd reminds me of a poor man’s Kenny Cooper. Except the whole part where, you know, he gets paid more than Cooper and is the man Portland shipped Cooper out form. He doesn’t hold the ball wall, move enough offensively or defensively, or have the ability to create his own chances. If he’s not receiving good service, he disappears. On the other hand, Cooper has already scored 10 goals this season. So there’s that.

38:54 - GOAL CHICAGO! A poor clearance from Steven Smith is collected by Pappa, who finds a wide open Jalil Anibaba who slots it home from 8 yards out.

39:44 - The announcer just informs us that the Fire have the 2nd best record in the league when coming from a losing position. The cynic in me wants to say “Just wait until the final 15 minutes, you’ll be able to score at will.” Hypothetically speaking of course.

42:14 - The Fire are really pouring it on now. Pardo finds himself free in the box and skies the header out of play. The Timbers are really on the back foot now.

44:15 - Chabala and Nyarko are going head to head in a shouting match. It looks like Chabala thinks Nyarko came in a bit late on a challenge, but the replay was inconclusive. Both players receive yellow cards for their efforts.

44:49 - As an FYI - neither player decided to grab his face and go down like he had just been shot (or as I like to call it, pulling a Marquez). You know what, I respect that about the both of them. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t get in a face-to-face shouting match with someone during my workday. More businesses should institute this policy.

HALFTIME - Timbers 1, Fire 1

The Timbers looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the early stages, but Chicago firmly controlled the final 25 minutes of the half. Portland really needs to possess the ball better. Otherwise, Chicago has the speed up top and the ability to play to feet to continue giving Portland headaches.

Where is the Timbers’ midfield? They are playing from the defenders over the top to the forwards seemingly every time. With Boyd’s inability to hold the ball or create his own chances, Chicago is winning it back easily and going on the attack. I’m curious to see if any halftime changes are made.

Sal Zizzo is brought in to start the half, replacing Franck Songo’o. As good as Songo’o looked in the preseason, he has really struggled having an impact thus far for Portland

45:01 - And we’re underway in the 2nd half!

47:26 - Gonzalo Segares welcomes Zizzo to the game with a hard foul just outside the Timbers’ box. Segares with the yellow card, and a dangerous free kick opportunity for Portland.

48:22 - You know that thing I said earlier about Marquez grabbing his face and collapsing to the ground? Yeah, well Segares just did that in the scrum on that free kick. I just lost some respect for him.

50:35 - Now it’s time for the segment of the broadcast where they interview the head coach on the sideline during the run of play. I hope one of these days a coach unleashes a string of expletives on the air that would make even a sailor blush. Or show a nipple. That would do away with that annoying trend real quickly.

51:32 - GOAL TIMBERS! The whipped in ball hits off the knee of Senator Logan Pause and into his own net. I think another gray hair just sprouted. Tough luck on his part, but much to the jubilation of the Timbers Army.

54:25 - The goal has given the Timbers a boost and they appear to have some more life in them. Zizzo beats Segares down the line and has his crossed blocked out by a defender or else Nagbe had one on a platter. Chicago looking shaky now.

57:20 - Nagbe starting to find more space in behind. Anytime Nagbe has the ball at his feet and space to run at defenders, the Timbers are a MUCH more dangerous team.

59:40 - Now it’s Puppo on for the Fire. If you’re scoring at home, both Puppo and Pappa are on the field for Chicago - an occasion to make any broadcast team want to consider a new line of work.

61:06 - This is completely off topic, but if you haven’t seen this video, stop whatever it is you’re doing and watch it now. You can thank me later.

63:21 - Puppo gets in behind the defense, stops running, and goes down begging for the call at the top of his box. Good no call by the official, who has had a good match thus far. Wasted opportunity from Puppo.

66:04 - Jorge Perlaza on for Nagbe. Coach John Spencer chooses to bring some fresh legs into the midfield for the Timbers.

67:50 - Rafael Robayo replacing Senator Pause for the Fire. How in the world has Just For Men not signed Pause to an endorsement deal at this point?

70:12 - Full credit to them, the Timbers have done a much better job of controlling the midfield in the 2nd half. Chicago is having to chase for segments of this half, while the Timbers have something that actually resembles possession.

72:20 - Sean Johnson goes on a walkabout outside of his box, then clears it directly to Chara who almost catches Johnson off his line. Johnson has all the physical tools, but at this stage in his career is plagued by mental lapses.

76:12 - We’re into the final 15 minutes of the game now, or as Timbers fans call it, “losing time.” Right on cue, the announcer states the Timbers lead the MLS with 7 goals allowed in the final 15 minutes. For the Timbers to improve, this is when they need to shore things up.

79:08 - Grazzini goes down in the box, and gets a yellow card for the dive. Another good call by the official. Chicago need to play through contact, the league has the diving on notice to the referees.

81:52 - Pardo with the yellow card for the professional foul on Zizzo. Chicago really looking out of sorts now. The Timbers are looking confident, and in control of things at the moment.

84:48 - Another Chicago yellow card, this time to Austin Berry who clocks Chara at midfield.

86:53 - If the result holds, Portland will have two of their game-winning goals this season come by way of own goals. That will be 6 of their 12 points in this season. Sometimes is better to be lucky than good.

89:01 - Three minutes of stoppage to be played here, and now the Timbers are in clock kill mode.

90:53 - Pappa called for the foul on Rodney Wallace, who has been fantastic today wide left for Portland. Chicago haven’t found many answers for Wallace, who is my man of the match (if my opinion mattered for anything, which it doesn’t at all).

FULL TIME - THAT’S IT! A huge three points earned for Portland today, as they pull themselves off the bottom of the Western Conference with a 2-1 win over the Fire. They had a shaky first half, but responded well in the second half to earn the win.

Just as we all expected, on May 20th, the LA Galaxy are now in last place in the Western Conference...

It’s been fun. Let me know if you would like to see more running diaries in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Just a note on the Boyd/Cooper comparison: Cooper played absolutely terrible last year, and was never anywhere near the goal most of the time. In fact, he spent more of his time diving, although you could never fault him for lack of effort. His play this year has been much better, which in part because he has a much better midfield behind him. While Boyd hasn't poured in the goals, his play has been well-received in Portland - he puts himself in a position to score, and doesn't try to do much else. He was a part of both goals yesterday, and nearly scored at the beginning of the match. Plus he mocked Grazzini after his yellow for diving, which was my single favorite moment of the game.

    Loved your post/diary, BTW