Major League Soccer - Providence Park
3/6/2016: Sunshine & Showers, 14C/57F
Portland Timbers – GLK Adam Larsen Kwarasey, DEF Alvas Powell, DEF Liam Ridgewell, DEF Nat Borchers, DEF Zarek Valentin, MID Diego Chara, MID Diego Valeri, MID Darlington Nagbe, FWD Lucas Melano, FWD Dairon Asprilla, FWD Fanendo Adi. Formation: 4-3-3.
Columbus Crew – GLK Steve Clark, DEF Harrison Afful, DEF Waylon Francis, DEF Michael Parkhurst, DEF Gaston Sauro, MID Tony Tchani, MID Will Trapp, MID Ethan Finlay, MID Justin Meram, MID Frederico Higuain, FWD Kei Kamara. Formation: 4-2-3-1.
After what seemed to be an all too short winter break for the new MLS Champions, the Portland Timbers, Providence Park was the setting for the opening game of the 2016 season in a repeat of the 2015 MLS Championship final. Blustery conditions and frequent showers greeted the teams in very different conditions from those of the final just 4 months prior.
The home side have been notoriously slow starters in recent seasons but will have been looking to get off to a flying start and show doubters that last season was not a fluke and that this side was indeed a formidable outfit who could compete with and beat the best in the league. There was little doubting what Columbus motivations would be as they look to seek revenge on the team that stopped them from taking home the title last season.
The Portland Timbers incredible run at the end of last season was clearly sparked by the switch to central midfield of the talented and now 4-time US cap winning Darlington Nagbe, whose combination play with Argentine Diego Valeri was at times thrilling to watch in the end of season run as workhorse and team engine Diego Chara protected the defense brilliantly in the holding position.
Portland had lost important players from their team over the off season with Jorge Villafana, Rodney Wallace, Will Johnson, George Fochive, Max Urruti, and Norberto Paparatto all saying farewell but Caleb Porter has brought in some decent players including Ned Grabavoy, Jack McInerney, Chris Klute, Jermaine Taylor, and Zarek Valentin to look to try to become only the 4th team to retain the MLS Championship trophy. Columbus did lose both McInerney and Klute to Portland along with players such as Emanual Pogatetz but they too bolstered their squad with players such as free agents Corey Ashe and Conor Casey, and Ola Kamara from Austria Wien.
After an exciting opening MLS ceremony including the MLS trophy on show for the fans to see plus the traditional fans singing of the national anthem on opening day of the season, it was down to business.
23 mins: GOAL! Diego Valeri with the free kick from 25 yards out on the left hand side of the penalty area and he swung it in via a style that has been so successful for Chelsea’s Willian this season, over the wall and in between the goalkeeper and defense with pace and it bounced in an awkward area as oncoming Timbers players went charging in and Clark was left standing. Portland Timbers 1-0 Columbus Crew.
27 mins: Another dangerous opportunity for Portland as Diego Valeri was fouled in a similar position to where the free kick was for his goal. This time he elected to chip it to the far post and Adi just could not get enough on it to threaten the Columbus goal.
30 mins: Portland looked dangerous again on the counter attack from a Columbus corner kick and Diego Chara found Fanendo Adi through the center who then found Dairon Asprilla on the left side just inside the penalty area but his show was over the bar and did not test Steve Clark.
36 mins: More pressure from the Timbers as Lucas Melano broke down the right hand side and drew a foul by the right hand touchline. Valeri’s free kick was perfect for Asprilla to flick on but he missed the ball completely.
39 mins: Columbus won a tenuous free kick in a dangerous area around 25 yards out and it was Frederico Higuain with the shot that took a deflection of the wall and landed nicely for Kwarasey to collect.
40 mins: Asprilla with some neat work on the left and his cross found Adi but the referee’s assistant called a handball on Adi and it was close but probably just about the correct decision after Adi squirmed the ball into the net. No goal.
42 mins: Yet another break from the Timbers and this time it’s Valeri who found his way through the center of the Columbus back line, he dummied to pass and then did so to set up Asprilla but his shot was this time parried over the crossbar.
45 mins: A rare break for the Columbus Crew and Harrison Afful pulled in an in-swinging cross from the right hand side that Liam Ridgewell just about got his head onto to nod it over the ball and stop a clear headed chance for the onrushing Hector Jiminez.
Half Time Score: Portland Timbers (Valeri 23) 1-0 Columbus Crew
Shots: Portland Timbers 10 (3)-9 (1) Columbus Crew
Possession: Portland Timbers 40%-60% Columbus Crew
50 mins: Alves Powell from just inside his half squirmed a pacey ball forward to Adi who came deep for the pass and he laid it off to Valeri whose shot from just outside the box went a whisker wide of the left hand post as Portland looked to grab a crucial second goal. Diego Valeri was looking in inspired form at least up until this point in this game.
56 mins: Frederico Higuain and Hector Jiminez combined well and it was Jiminez with the shot low from just outside the penalty area but Kwarasey got down well to it. 2 minutes later and a whipped in cross from the right hand side ricochet off Kei Kamara who had been pretty quiet until then but the ball squirmed from under his feet to a thankful Kwarasey. Columbus were beginning to get into the game and cause Portland problems.
63 mins: An excellent move between Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe and via a 1-2 it is the latter who thumps the shot on the run and it rebounds off the crossbar. Another excellent attack from Portland that doesn’t quite find the back of the net.
68 mins: GOAL! Columbus had been getting back into the game and Frederico Higuain had the ball played back to him inside the Portland penalty area and the ball bobbled up to the perfect height for an overhead kick which he put away with aplomb. A marvelous goal to square things up. Portland Timber 1-1 Columbus Crew.
78 mins: GOAL! Lucas Melano from the right sprayed the ball over to the left hand side where Dairon Asprilla chested it down and drilled the ball across at Steve Clark who could only parry it up into the path of Fanendo Adi who made no mistake from 4 yards. Portland Timbers 2-1 Columbus Crew.
84 mins: Another acrobatic attempt from the excellent Higuain for the away side this time from the edge of the box and Kwarasey is beaten and it comes back off the post. Higuain almost pulling off another touch of magic.
90 mins: Kei Kamara almost unleashed an equalizer from close to the penalty spot and it’s Captain Liam Ridgewell who throws himself at the ball to block it and save the win for the Champions.
Full Time Score: Portland Timbers 2-1 Columbus Crew
Shots: Portland Timbers 20 (8)-19 (4) Columbus Crew
Possession: Portland Timbers 39% - 61%
MOTM: Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
A true end to end game here at Providence Park that had pretty much everything. The Portland Timbers might be notorious for having slow starts to recent seasons but on this occasion they took the 3 points to match the score from last season’s MLS Cup Final. Caleb Porter will be very happy with this start to the season and the Timbers Army will have gone home excited for the new season if performances continue in that vein. Portland appears to have Columbus’ number at the moment and have been able to soak up pressure in recent matches from the away side and hit them with lightning speed on the break.