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Second half mistakes ruin Portland timbers opener

Portland Timbers
A disappointed Felipe Mora of the Portland Timbers | Photo by Portland Timbers | March 1, 2020

The Portland Timbers kicked off their 2020 MLS season, and their 10th in the league, with a home opener against the Minnesota United FC at a packed Providence Park.

The first half gave Portland fans things to be excited about in the games going forward, as the attack of Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, Yimmi Chara, and Felipe Mora, was clicking with beautiful combo plays, quick ball movement, patience in the attacking third, and intriguing lapping runs from the outside backs Jorge Moreira and Jorge Villafana. 

Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United
Portland Timbers attacker Sebastian Blanco racing towards the ball against Minnesota United defender Chase Gasper | Photo by Portland Timbers | March 1, 2020

Mora in particular, looked energetic and comfortable in his first start with his new team and connected well with Valeri, as his play with his back to goal allowed for other runs to develop around him, giving Portland a majority of the control of the ball (57% possession), and created a handful of chances (7 shots to Minnesota’s 2). It wasn’t so much the ball position that should give fans a positive outlook of how this team can look when they’re clicking, but it’s the fact that they had the ball on the opposing team’s half, and were moving the ball in dangerous spots.

Unfortunately for their strong start, the Timbers were unable to find the back of the net, at the half as Moreira, Yimmi Chara, and Blanco all saw their attempt saved by Tyler Miller or off target.

To start the second half, Portland again looked like the stronger team, but it was Minnesota who would strike first off a quick transition with Ethan Finlay stringing a through ball that saw Timbers keeper, Steve Clark intercept the pass but unable to get full control of the ball, off the rebound Kevin Molino was able to score into the open goal to give Minnesota the game in the 51st minute.

Portland were able to answer back in a quick manner as their ball movement allowed Mora to find himself in the box and then taken down for the PK. Captain, Diego Valeri would step up to the spot and slot the PK to the delight of the Timbers Army in the 56th minute.

Unfortunately for Portland, that would be the last high note of the game for them. In a span of two minutes in the 76th and 78th minutes, Minnesota would hit the one-two punch with two goals to give them a lead Portland wouldn’t be able to comeback from. First it was Luis Amarilla who found the back of the net with a header from inside the six-yard box, and then Molino would find his second goal in the game slotting home shot form 15 yards out, both goals assisted from Ethan Finlay, who was the player of the game for the visiting team. 

No team ever wants to drop a game and especially a home opener to start the season, and for the Timbers the match should be especially frustrating as all the three goals could have been avoided with better defending. Larrys Mabiala was unable to fully win a ball in the air at around midfield, which allowed for the space behind him to be exposed which allowed Minnesota to create their first goal. Mabiala was also at fault in the second goal as he found himself ball watching the cross and lost track of Amarilla behind him, which allowed Amarilla the free header. Dario Zuparic for his part, didn’t track Molino run in the third goal, which allowed Molino the time and space to finish off the goal with his second of the game. 

The Timbers will take the first half as a positive and will look to build off the first 45 minutes, but must take advantage of having the run of play to leave with goals when those opportunities arrive, or they will find themselves in similar situations this season as they did on Sunday.

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Portland Timbers
Cristhian Paredes (Portland Timbers) taking on Romain Metanire (Minnesota United) | Photo by Portland Timbers | March 1, 2020

As on the defensive end, head coach, Giovani Savarese did his best to cover for the center-backs before the match, playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Diego Chara and Christian Paredes playing next to each other as defensive mids to offer the defense more support, while trying not to sacrifice anything on the offensive end.

Next up for the Timbers, they host Nashville SC before heading across the country to face New England on the 15th of March.

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