Showing Baltimore Who’s Boss, Timbers win 3-0
The Portland Timbers made a statement and got a taste of redemption Sunday evening. In front of 15,418 at PGE Park, the Timbers (10-7-8, 38pts) put a beating on Baltimore from start to finish – a bottom-dwelling USSF team that had gotten the best of them twice already this season. With the victory, the 4th place Timbers further solidified their spot in the standings and sent a message about the quality of soccer this team is capable of playing on a given night.
“From front to back,” Said Coach Gavin Wilkinson, “We were at a different level. Some of the best football I’ve seen here in the last 2 years. The ball speed, the movement off the ball, the runs made out of the middle of the pack, the runs made up front – it was exciting.”
The Timbers started dominating the match soon after the opening kickoff, keeping possession of the ball for long periods and creating dangerous chances inside the offensive third with smart passing. After a handful of brilliant strikes and near goals, Portland would break open the scoring in the 15th minute when a long, lobbing free kick by defender Mamadou Danso found a streaking Ryan Pore up the sideline. Pore would cut his way through the middle of the field, blasting a quick strike past Baltimore keeper Evan Bush for his league-leading 14th goal of the season. The Timber’s early pressure was efficient and relentless, playing some of their best 20 minutes of soccer on the year.
“Our team chemistry has never looked (better).” Said forward Bright Dike. “We played so well together (tonight), everybody was reading off one another.”
“We had a point to prove,” Said defender Scot Thompson. “We set the tone in the first ten minutes and had some great strikes.”
Portland would score again before the end of the 1st half, in the 42nd minute midfielder Johan Claesson placed a nice lead ball for Dike, who made his way through a crowd of defenders before unleashing a left-footed shot towards the far post and into the back of the net.
” I don’t think they expected me to shoot with my left,” Said Dike. “And I will, so I think that caught (the defense) off guard and the keeper off-guard.”
Dike would continue his scoring in the 2nd half, putting another shot past keeper Evan Bush from the top of the box off an assist from Pore in the 53rd minute. With the assist, Pore further added to his overall season total of 34pts, which currently is tops in the league. The goal is Dike’s 7th on the year and his 6th goal in the last 7 games. The rookie striker also lead the team with 7 shots against Baltimore Sunday evening.
“Dike could have had another (goal) tonight.” Said Coach Wilkinson. “The two strikes he had (for near goals) were brilliant.”
Added Wilkinson “There’s no mystery that our result has started improving as (Dike’s) hit a little bit of form and hit the back of the net too.”
The Timbers were able to outwork their opponents, winning balls, controlling possession and ultimately outshooting Baltimore 18-8. Portland’s defense also looked in top form, keeping Baltimore at bay for most of the match, rarely allowing them any chances inside the last 18-yards. Keeper Steve Cronin was only forced to make one save on the night and recorded his 8th shutout of the year. The brick-wall defense was the foundation for building the Timber’s attacks.
“Gavin’s been saying all year that we gotta average 10 shots per half and we (basically) did that tonight.” Said Thompson. “So looking at the next home game, we want to end on a good note at home, and hopefully take that momentum into the playoffs.”
With only 5 games left in the regular season, the Timbers not only redeemed themselves against Baltimore, but certainly continued to build positive momentum heading towards the postseason. Too often this year, Portland has outplayed their opponent, but failed to find the right end result. Tonight, the team dominated out on the field and for once, the score accurately reflected their effort.
“We out played them tonight.” Said Wilkinson. “I think we showed exactly the difference between the two teams.”
Still, as well as the Timbers played, it’s important to temper the excitement with some perspective. Baltimore is coming off two other blowout losses, has the 3rd worst record in the league, and has a defense that’s now allowed 36 goals on the season.
A sobering reminder by Coach Wilkinson after the match: “You gotta remember where they are on the table.”
Boom! An Offensive Explosion
Portland was able to match their highest goal scoring effort of the season with their 3 goals tonight, the most the team has scored in a league game since April 22nd against AC St. Louis. How was the team able to blow up offensively? Surely, much of it has to do with the continued production of Ryan Pore, but Dike’s recent scoring tear has seemingly been the major difference this past month. Portland finished August with a record of 3-1-2.
“Bright is so much of a handful that other players are finding a little bit more room.” Said Coach Wilkinson.
The Timbers took full advantage of playing a non-playoff team Sunday evening, trying out a new formation as well as mixing up the starting rotation. Team captain Ian Joy sat the game to nurse an injury and other recent starters such as Ross Smith, James Marcelin, and Alex Nimo took the night off as well.
“It’s an opportunity to get some players a little bit of rest.” Said Wilkinson.
Portland also used a 4-3-3 formation against Baltimore, placing Ryan Pore up-front with Dike and forward Doug DeMartin. The midfield saw Keith Savage and Johan Claesson on the wings with Tony McManus hanging around the backline for defensive purposes.
“I felt that putting three in the middle of the pack we could exploit them and we did.” Said Wilkinson, “Tactically, we adjusted a few things. We brought Johan and Keith in, they both have a great ability to keep the ball and are always looking forward and also (playing 3 forwards upfront) allowed Pore a little more freedom.”
The 4-3-3 formation helped the Timbers to clog up and control the middle, as well as allowing more space up the sideline of the field. Openings and chances were created for players who are not normally involved in the attack. For instance, defender Steve Purdy fell into multiple scoring runs, including a open goal shot in front of the net that was kicked wide. It also helped that, Portland took care of the ball, their turnovers kept down, and their passes staying sharp for a majority of the night. What do think about the Timber’s formation changes? Is it too late in the season to make such shifts? Or should we see something similar again from the team?
Scot with one T
Defender and fan favorite Scot Thompson saw his first action since June 27th when he subbed into the 2nd half for Steve Purdy. Thompson, in his 7th season as a Portland Timber, has fallen out of the rotation in the last few months as Coach Wilkinson has opted to go with younger upcoming talent, such as Purdy or Quavas Kirk. Thompson has only made 10 appearance this year for the team.
“It was great,” Said Thompson about getting back onto the field “It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten in to play, we’ve got some great defenders out there, so all I can do is just work hard in training or at whatever chance I get”
However, Sunday night could possibly have been the last time Timber fan’s will get to see Scot Thompson play at PGE Park. With only one home game remaining (Portland hosts 6th place Puerto Rico Thursday) and then the playoffs, there might be a chance that Thompson wont make another appearance at home.
“It was an opportunity to honor Scot and for Scot to be rewarded for everything he’s done for this organization.” Said Wilkinson. “I thought it was deserved, deserved of him, his work ethic, his commitment to this organization, for the fans to see him and give him the recognition.”
So, will this be the last time the Timber’s Army gets to see Scot Thompson suit up in green? Maybe, maybe not. There’s always the unpredictable nature of injuries or perhaps certain situations that could arise where Thompson’s reliable services would be called upon again. Regardless, the near sellout crowd erupted upon Thompson’s entrance into the game; cheering as loud as they had all night for a player that’s as important as anyone in helping to build this franchise to what it is today and what it will be in the near future.
Said Thompson about the possibility of playing his last match in front of the fans at PGE Park, “I hope not, but it’s always in the back of my mind. If I’m not out here again, then so be it, but it was surely great to be a part it.”
* Photos provided by Allison Andrews of The Timber Mill
Posted by Kevin