Big Yet Possible Task Ahead for Timbers

A two-goal comeback hasn’t happened in 9 years, but Portland hopes it’s time
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, November 15, 2013

Green Logs – column on Portland Timbers (PTFC) & the Portland, Oregon area soccer scene.

They scored first and last. But everything that happened in-between is what the Portland Timbers have to fix as the Western Conference Finals takes a two-week break.

The task isn’t impossible, but it is massive. And someone is on the club who has helped pull it off.

Real Salt Lake took advantage of set pieces and a subpar night from the Timbers defense to take a 4-2 lead after the first leg of the conference finals on Sunday night. RSL dominated large portions of the match after Will Johnson scored first for Portland in the 14th minute. It wasn’t until Frederic Piquionne’s goal until the 94th minute, on almost the last kick of the match, was any resemblance of hope restored to the Timbers.

It’s that goal from Piquionne that the Timbers have to build on. As many have mentioned since Sunday, coming back from being down three goals may have been an impossible task for Portland, but rebounding from being down two is doable.

In fact, the Timbers have a player who played a key role in the last time there was a two-goal playoff comeback in MLS. Jack Jewsbury scored the winning goal in stoppage time of the second leg to help Kansas City beat San Jose 3-2 in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. The Earthquakes led 2-0 after the first leg in San Jose before the Wizards snagged the series back at Arrowhead Stadium. KC went on to beat Los Angeles in the conference finals before losing to DC United in the MLS Cup Final.

The two-goal series comeback happened one other time in MLS, and that San Jose’s legendary comeback in the 2003 Western Conference semifinals, when they rallied from 4 goals down to beat the Galaxy 5-4 in Spartan Stadium. LA was up 2-0 after the first leg at home and had scored two goals in the first 13 minutes in the second leg before the Earthquakes drew level in the 90th minute and won it on a golden goal by Rodrigo Faria in the 96th minute. San Jose won the MLS Cup after that, knocking off Kansas City in the conference finals (again, in extra time) before beating Chicago in the MLS Cup Final.

Portland has also come back from 2-0 deficits twice this season, though they both happened way back in March. On March 3, which also was MLS First Kick, the Timbers came back from being 3-1 down after 30 minutes to snag a 3-3 home draw with the New York Red Bulls. Then on March 30, Will Johnson scored twice as the Timbers got a 2-2 draw at Colorado after being down 2-0 early in the second half.

So, it’s not impossible for the Timbers to come back, but it’s also a massive mountain to climb. The two-week break now in effect because of the FIFA international calendar will give Caleb Porter plenty of time to tweak his strategy, allow players to get healthy and figure out just how to get past an RSL side that hasn’t lost to Portland in five matches this season, including two 4-2 wins at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Neither the Timbers nor RSL was affected by international call-ups, so they should be at full strength when the second leg takes place in Portland on Nov. 24. The break also gives time to rest after both clubs played three times in 10 days.

That rest will be crucial for Diego Valeri, still nursing an adductor injury that occurred during Portland’s previous visit to the RioT, a 4-2 loss on Aug. 30. Portland likely will need him to play all 90 minutes, and possibly more, if they are to come back from the two-goal deficit. Otherwise, the Timbers are fairly healthy as the break moves along.

Portland has had one other two-week break this season. That was in late March, when they had a 14-day gap between away matches at Seattle and at Colorado. That Colorado match was also when Portland, as mentioned earlier, had its second two-goal comeback of the season.

But there’s more to do in this break, and much more at stake. The season is now, literally, on the line.

NEXT UP: November 24 – Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Ore. 9 p.m. EST, ESPN, ESPN Deportes.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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