Matchday Preview: Energized Portland hosts Colorado side at JELD-WEN
The Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids meet in the first leg of their home-and-home series over the next five days with both clubs needing all six points if they are to make a move in the Western Conference playoff chase, in front of an NBC Sports audience Friday evening at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers made a winner of interim coach Gavin Wilkinson for the first time last weekend, defeating Vancouver 2-1 at home. That left them two points behind the Rapids in the standings, who saw their winless run reach three games in a 4-1 loss at San Jose.
PDF: Pregame Match Notes
Highlights: Timbers vs. Whitecaps
- The Timbers opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Eric Alexander advanced the ball to Jack Jewsbury at the top of the box, and Jewsbury’s neatly placed through ball put Darlington Nagbe in perfect position to calmly finish past Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
- But Whitecaps FC pulled level before the halftime break. Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit came away with a loose ball on the right side of the area after the Timbers failed to clear a corner, eventually finding Kenny Miller for a wide open shot that he slotted past Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
- Portland restored the lead in the 55th minute when Franck Songo’o uncorked a low free kick just inside the left post that Cannon was unable to corral despite getting his hands to the shot.
- Timbers interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson made one change to the side that fell 3-2 to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Eric Alexander came into the team in place of the suspended Diego Chara.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-3-3): Donovan Ricketts - Kosuke Kimura, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst, Steven Smith - Darlington Nagbe (Lovel Palmer 90), Jack Jewsbury, Eric Alexander (Rodney Wallace 9) - Sal Zizzo, Bright Dike (Danny Mwanga 86), Franck Songo'o.
WATCH: Wilkinson and players ready for Rapids
The Timbers won for the first time since Gavin Wilkinson took over as interim head coach. He had seen the team go 0-5-2 after replaced the dismissed John Spencer.
“It’s a lot better than losing; a lot better than tying,” said Wilkinson. “ … I think the group effort tonight, you can see the camaraderie within the group. You can see what it meant to them to win this game. And I think it’s good for the organization, and it repays the fans for some of the pain that they’ve gone through.”
“Obviously, he’s seen some of the things people are saying, we all have,” Timbers midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury said. “At the end of the day we all try to go about our business as usual. We’re all professionals, and we all get heat at certain times. He’s someone who I think everyone in this locker room respects and are glad that he’s here. I don’t think anything is necessarily going to change, but I’m just happy to get three points for him tonight and hopefully take a little bit of the pressure off.”
The Timbers have scored two goals in each of the last three games, the first time all season they’ve scored multiple goals in consecutive matches.
“I think when you start to look at the way which we’re playing, trying to keep the ball, trying to move it, trying to create chances and dominate games,” said Wilkinson. “I think getting a win like [the Vancouver game] solidifies what we’ve been trying to do, and it’s been a lot of work to get to this stage.”
Darlington Nagbe scored for a third consecutive match, and now has six on the season. He went 4-1/2 months and 19 games without scoring after netting three times in the opening four games of the season. “I just feel like everyone is playing better, not just me, and luckily I’m the one getting the end of things,” Nagbe said.
Franck Songo’o scored his first goal since coming to the Timbers, the second goal directly from a free kick scored by the club this season.
Songo’o played wide on the left of Wilkinson’s three-pronged attack for the first time, after filling a midfield role in the previous start.
Bright Dike was given his second consecutive start as the spearhead of the attack.
“Those guys have a lot of speed, so extra attention to them from the outside backs. And also with Dike up there, he’s powerful and has a lot of speed, also. They’re dropping the defense, so it’s opening space up for me, Jack, and Diego and Eric, just to move the ball around and get chances,” said Nagbe.
The Timbers also said the pitch at JELD-WEN Field will be widened by two yards on each side. “It’s something that will be a natural development for us as a team," Wilkinson said. "I think coming in as an expansion team we wanted a tight area in which to play to feed off the emotion. And also until we had quality pieces on board, not allowing too much space to play was potentially a positive for us.”
On Wednesday, the Timbers announced Caleb Porter will take over head coaching duties at the club, once his current season in charge of the University of Akron comes to an end. Wilkinson will continue his dual role as head coach and general manager through the end of the MLS campaign.
- “Caleb is ambitious and one of the most respected coaches in the nation,” Wilkinson said. “He has consistently developed and produced talented players who have gone on to excel in MLS. We feel that his mentality, personality, skill set and coaching philosophy are a tremendous fit with the culture of the Timbers organization and we’re excited to bring Caleb on as the Timbers head coach.”
- The Quakes broke on top in the 11th minute. Simon Dawkins sped unchecked down the left wing to collect a well-placed cross-field pass from Alan Gordon. With Colorado right back Hunter Freeman trying to recover, Dawkins cut inside and fired from the top of the box to beat goalkeeper Matt Pickens at the near post.
- San Jose doubled the lead two minutes from the break. Rafael Baca, played down the left wing on a free kick by Ramiro Corrales, broke away toward the end line before delivering a perfect cross to the top of the six-yard box. Gordon snuck in from wide of the back post and tucked it home smartly with the outside of his right foot.
- The Rapids pulled a goal back in the 54th minute when substitute Tyrone Marshall hammered home an unmarked header off Martin Rivero’s corner kick.
- But in the 68th minute, Dawkins restored the two-goal cushion by lashing a first-time strike from 16 yards off a pass by Sam Cronin.
- Gordon put things truly out of reach when he settled a long header from Ramiro Corrales and swiveled to slot it home, left-footed, from 13 yards in the 75th minute.
- Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja made one change to the side that reached a 1-1 result with Chivas USA at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Jaime Castrillon came back into the side for Tony Cascio.
- COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Hunter Freeman (Tyrone Marshall 46), Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata - Joseph Nane (Tony Cascio 73), Jeff Larentowicz - Brian Mullan (Andre Akpan 84), Martin Rivero, Jaime Castrillon - Conor Casey.
After the 3-0 win in the first meeting of the season vs. Portland, the Rapids sat in fifth place in the Western Conference, holding the final playoff spot. Since then, they’ve won just once in 10 games (taking just four points in that time), and now sit 11 points out of the final berth with eight games to play.
“If we are going to salvage the season, we need to improve and make adjustments immediately and sustain that play for the last two months of the season,” said Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja.
The four goals conceded by the Rapids matched the club’s season-high, also allowing four goals in a 4-1 loss at New York on March 25.
“When you leave big gaps, teams are good enough to exploit those areas, which San Jose was,” defender Drew Moor said. “We were leaving too many holes between the back four and the midfield. We didn’t have guys to occupy it and that was obviously a problem.”
Said Pareja: “We aren’t playing very tactical right now and it showed in that second half. But all we can do is look forward to the next match, tighten up tactically and get three points to make up some ground in the standings.”
Pareja ran out the same back four for a third consecutive match – the third different back four he had used over the past six games. But that changed at the halftime break when Tyrone Marshall came on for his first appearance since Aug. 4, with Drew Moor shifting to right back.
- “We just haven’t been giving ourselves a chance lately. We aren’t playing a consistent brand of soccer that gives us a chance at winning,” Marshall said. “We need to tighten up defensively, stop allowing cheap goals and learn how to finish. We need to be stingy and not give the opposition anything. If we can do this, we can make a run.” Marshall scored his second goal of the season, his first since May 19. That was also from a set piece service by Martín Rivero, when he headed home a free kick in the draw vs. Kansas City.
- Conor Casey made his first start since July 28, having missed back-to-back matches before coming on as a substitute for the Chivas USA match. Omar Cummings did not feature after making four consecutive starts.
INJURY REPORT: PORTLAND TIMBERS – OUT: DF Chris Taylor (R hip surgery); PROBABLE: MF Kalif Alhassan (L patellar tendinitis); GK Jake Gleeson (R groin strain) … COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headaches); FW Edu (R foot contusion); QUESTIONABLE: FW Kamani Hill (L quad strain); PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Goals from Jaime Castrillón, Conor Casey and Jamie Smith led the Rapids to a 3-0 victory, June 30 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- The Rapids won both meetings in Portland’s inaugural season, winning 3-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and taking a 1-0 triumph in Oregon.
- Coaches record: Oscar Pareja vs. POR: P1 W1 L0 D0 … Gavin Wilkinson v COL: first game
- The Rapids opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Right back Hunter Freeman pushed up the flank and found an open Jaime Castrillón in the center of the penalty area for a crisp redirect tap-in from his low cross.
- Five minutes later, Brian Mullan’s pinpoint service found Conor Casey sandwiched between two Timbers defenders, and the Rapids striker found just enough room to head into the roof of the goal.
- Colorado sealed the match in the last minute following substitute Tony Cascio’s run and centering pass for Jamie Smith, who easily tapped in from close range.
- COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Hunter Freeman, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata - Martin Rivero, Jeff Larentowicz, Jaime Castrillon (Wells Thompson 80), Brian Mullan - Omar Cummings (Tony Cascio 74), Conor Casey (Jamie Smith 73).
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-4-2): Troy Perkins - Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Mamadou Danso, Steven Smith (Rodney Wallace 70) - Sal Zizzo, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Franck Songo'o (Eric Alexander 38) - Kris Boyd (Danny Mwanga 60), Mike Fucito.