The rivalry of the Pacific Northwest featuring the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders is developing into the finest of the MLS. On Sunday in front of a packed crowd at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers put on a fine display to win 2-1 which could very well provide the anchor that will save their season.
Portland started the match off very well and dominated the entire first half. Defender David Horst was unlucky not to put the Timbers ahead after ten minutes with a lovely header that rattled the corner of the goal frame.
However, five minutes later the breakthrough came through Kris Boyd, who was found wide open in front of goal and easily put Portland ahead. It was a fifth goal on the season for the Scotsman who seems to have found a good home in America. He played very well the entire night and could have doubled the lead ten minutes later with a strong header that forced Andrew Weber into a difficult save.
The ensuing corner roared the stadium back to life as Horst got onto another header for his first ever MLS goal. It seemed rather surprising that it has taken the defender so long to score as his early efforts from corner kicks gave him the appearance as a goal poacher going forward. With his dominant height at 6’4”, one must presume that he will continue to find goals off of headers.
Seattle never really found their groove though they did get a goal from a brilliant solo effort from Eddie Johnson who weaved through defenders before blasting the ball across goal into the top corner. However, it was to be the Timber’s day as they held on for the last half hour and earned the crucial victory.
Portland is currently struggling in the table with only 19 points from 14 matches that leaves them in 8th place in the Western Conference. However, with two games in hand and over half of the season left to play, this victory will give the team the hope and confidence to move forward and claim a top five place that will ensure qualification for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The rivalry with the Seattle Sounders has become a powerful image for the MLS featuring packed stadiums and tense drama. The most recent encounter even provided two late red cards as tempers boiled over during stoppage time. The match had the feel of an English Premier League fixture as the crowd was in heavy support, and there was even a massive banner raised during the pregame suggesting the legendary step the Timbers are taking. The 2012 MLS season clearly has all the makings of an excellent one where the Timbers will be looking to make their mark.
The USA national soccer team was successfully able to lick their wounds and come out firing for their two 2014 World Cup qualifying matches this past week. They dominated both games, first against Antigua and Barbuda and then against Guatemala.
America won the Antigua and Barbuda game 3-1 but it easily could have been 6-0. We finally got to see the potent capabilities of the Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey duo that easily cut through the opposition’s defense. The team played exceptionally well to create a plethora of chances at goal, but they could have used a bit of fortune to convert more of those opportunities. The Antigua and Barbuda goalie, Molvin James, had a great game and kept the island nation in it, but the USA was simply far too good.
One poor spot I did notice during the match was American defender, Oguchi Onyewu. I cannot understand why the player is given so much playing time because he is rather terrible. The single goal that Antigua and Barbuda scored was entirely his fault. Yes, he is a physical presence that can score headers off of corner kicks, but his defensive woes far surpass any goals he creates. I recall his grave defending that gave England a lead in the 2010 World Cup match, and I fear he is holding the team back. His lazy defending last week nearly let Antigua and Barbuda back into the game and could have cost America dearly.
Team USA played impressively again versus Guatemala, but found it harder to score when playing away from home. Although Clint Dempsey found the back of the net and the team had loads of chances, their inability to kill the team off came back to bite them when a fantastic free kick goal by Marco Papa gave Guatemala a draw. The result exemplifies the painful nature of soccer and how any professional player can create a moment of brilliance. When you don’t convert all your chances to build a solid lead, a single moment can ruin the game.
Although that is exactly what happened to America, the two results were impressive overall. Yes, it would have been nice to have all six points from the two matches, but any points won on the road are points earned, and the USA is well on their way to 2014 World Cup qualification. The side should look for ways to become more clinical, and I feel that striker Chris Wondolowski deserves a chance. Likewise, I feel that Onyewu could serve to sit a few matches on the bench until he begins to limit his defensive errors. Clearly there are steps that need to be taken before America will win the World Cup, but those are tomorrow’s issues. For today, let us rejoice in getting qualification off on the good foot.
It seems a long time has passed since the inspiring 5-1 victory over Scotland. What was initially seen as a rallying point for American soccer to gain international attention turned into a minor blip following the beating by Brazil and the humbling 0-0 draw with Canada; I may add that the match featured the starting duo of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey that all of America seemed to be eager to watch and were regretfully disappointed in actual viewing.
It was not to be, and team USA stumbles ahead into 2014 World Cup qualification. The first match pits America against Antigua and Barbuda, a combined island nation from the Caribbean. The United States players seemed to be dreaming of such island beaches during their poor recent showings and as such this match will hopefully repair some of their bruised egos.
A quick scan of the Antigua and Barbuda team shows a squad made up mostly of players from Antigua Barracuda FC, a startup club in the new USL Pro League, which comprises of a host of Caribbean clubs. A few of their players reside in the lower echelons of British soccer, such as Mikele Leigertwood who plays for Reading FC.
This match is a must win for America. They will have a roaring home support in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium. The players play for far more competitive clubs such as Dempsey’s Fulham and Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. There is absolutely no way that coach Jurgen Klinsmann can let the United States lose this match. In fact, I would go as far as to state that such a loss should result in his immediate dismissal.
The fun games are over. America showed that we can dominate a European team, play averagely against a marginal border rival, and get plastered by the world’s best. It seems as if the friendly matches asked a lot more questions than it did to answer them. The USA team can seemingly beat anyone on their day but can also be abused if things aren’t going their way. Now it is time to prove that we belong in the 2014 World Cup.
I fully expect America to win this match, and by a wide margin too. Surely heads will have been hanging after the disappointing Canada draw, but Antigua and Barbuda aren’t even on that talent level. I feel people will start talking about that Dempsey and Donovan relationship a whole lot more once they set off some fireworks in this one. America will win, 6-0.