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Portland Ends Streak, Losses to Columbus

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In a match that was supposed to be a happy homecoming for coach Caleb Porter and members of his roster, the Portland Timbers came up short against a Columbus Crew squad that on paper looked quite weak 1-0.

In the 5th minute of play, the game winner headed in off of a Frederico Higuain corner kick by Bernardo Anor. It was pretty much a sitter and Timbers Goalkeeper Donovan Rickets had virtually no chance at keeping the ball out of the net. That said, some of the Timbers players looked to have been caught off guard on the play. Some of them missing their marks, Anor especially was. But was this game really something to be negative about?

In his post game comments, Porter discussed about the “feedback” instead of “failures” the he was able to take away from the game. This is partially true mainly due to the 11th minute red card by Pa Modou Kah and the ability of his team to keep a clean sheet for nearly 80 minutes. Indeed Higuain did miss the penalty after Kah’s offense but overall, the team held their own against the Crew.

For the Crew, the line up was much different than what their fans and most of the league have seen this season. Their back up keeper Matt Lampson was given the nod after it was reported that Andy Gruenbaum had been dealing with a shoulder issue. In addition, 3 other players were given their first cap for Columbus. Will Trapp most of all seemed to earn himself a possible additional start by earning man of the match by local fans.

Despite the score, if one was to look at the game’s statistics it would be hard to imagine that Portland was down a man for almost the entire game. They dominated possession 56% ot 44% and also completed 79% of their 421 passes. On the flip side, Columbus was also similar in there passing accuracy by completing 77% of their 345. To summarize, Portland had the ball more and by holding on to it were able to create more chances and it led to more chances from corner kicks and free crosses in the final third. However, finishing is where it mattered more.

For a rare occasion, Portland was outshot by their opponents 15 to 9, Also, Portland squandered their chances by only getting 1 on frame and two of them were blocked by defenders. Columbus, even though they did score a goal, did not do any better. Of their 15 shots only 4 of them were on target. For Portland’s sake, Rickets kept them in the game and he made some pretty phenomenal saves.

So the unbeaten streak comes to an end for Portland. In league it was 15 games, which was the third longest in league history. But fans should walk away feeling good about the current situation, despite the loss. They have their schedule spread out a bit more during July, thanks to the All-Star Game. Nagbe appears to be on form and quite difficult to control. His ability to cut and weave on what was called a poor pitch should translate well when Portland comes home to face the Galaxy on the 13th.

One question remains however. How much of an impact did the losses due to the Gold Cup have on Porltand? One could argue that it was a game changer. On paper it did not seem to have an impact. I would say however that if there was ever a game to sell Will Johnson to his critics this was it. His absence seemed to resonate as the game played on. His ability to essentially be the point man that defense looks for to start the attack and distribution of the ball in the midfield was missed. Nagbe seemed to take that roll on more into the game and that is not his job. Valeri seemed to have his hands full with Higuain and regardless of his changing of position, his fellow Argentine was still there.

Can Portland withstand another game without Johnson, Wallace and Piquionne? I think its safe to say yes. They are a tough team at home and have been holding a clean sheet since week two. Rodney Wallace has been instrumental for the team and his absence may become more evident next week if Portland fails to score or at least shows to be a threat on the attack.

Some of the more faithful in Portland are saying at the moment to look at where they were at a year ago. It was not pretty and coach John Spencer was sacked for the team’s performance. One specific fan, a close friend says that he is quite pleased with how the team is playing and this loss is actually a good ego check for the team. With that said, Portland fans should look forward to the remaining games of the summer, especially with the likes of Robbie Keane, Juninho and Omar Gonzales coming to the Rose City this weekend.

Columbus gets a much-deserved bye this weekend. The current injury situation requires it and they also played 3 games in 8 days. After the break they get to host New England, who just happen to have two games before hand against Houston and Colorado. So that match up will be interesting. Could the same effect to Portland happen to them? After a compact schedule, Portland had a break and seemed off pace. Could New England capitalize on that or is the Crew a really good home team?

Let me know what you think? Was this Portland’s game to lose and learn from? Was this essentially the by product of a red card? Or could this be a case where Columbus was the better team regardless and rightfully won the match?