Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, May 19: 2-1 Win

Two weekend games, two victories, capping a five-game winning streak this season for the Portland Timbers.

Though both games resulted in three points, they were in some ways polar opposites.

The previous weekend was the Portland Timbers’ hundredth game against the Seattle Sounders. It was a historic match against a storied rival, so it had PLENTY of emotion and buildup prior to the game. On the pitch, on the other hand, it was much more of a chess match. With the Sounders decimated by injuries and struggling to find their league form, both sides played strong, compact defense, carefully assessing opponents’ moves and hoping for the opportunity for a successful counterattack.

Saturday, in contrast, was the Timbers’ first regular season game against Los Angeles FC, a new team this year, so there wasn’t really much in the way of pre-match history and buildup. On the field, however, the Timbers were playing against a team with an arsenal of talented weapons and a strong record in their first season out of the gate.

What the match may have lacked in inter-team history, though, it more than made up for in on-field and in-the-stands drama, and a nod to some Timbers history.

Match Recap

The game started off rather inauspiciously, as starting center back and sometime captain Liam Ridgewell hit the deck in the third minute with a non-contact injury. You could tell right then that he knew he was done, as he pounded the ground in frustration. 24-year-old Costa Rican Julio Cascante found himself called upon to help to anchor the back line for the duration. Earlier in the season, journeyman defender Lawrence Olum might have been in the XVIII and gotten the call, but this time it was Cascante’s turn, and to his credit, he held down the fort well.

Forward Fanendo Adi had his first missed chance of the match at 9′ when a transition put him in position to put away the first goal of the game. Unfortunately, he failed to find his target and it clanged off the post. Adi’s only other really exciting moment came at 15′, when he twice actually touched the ref, apparently in an attempt to show center referee Drew Fischer what his opponent was doing to Adi with his elbow. Yikes, Adi. Please use your words.

After 21′, the Timbers had 5 fouls to LAFC’s zero, including a head-scratcher to Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala. I chanted “Diver! Diver!” along with the Timbers Army on Saturday, but I also carefully watched the replay the next day just to be sure, and for the life of me I still don’t know what the foul was. Maaaaaaybe he brushed a player with his left arm? Maybe? Anyway.

The rest of the first half’s excitement included Steven Beitashour‘s yellow for the elbow to Adi’s head; a Latif Blessing miss when Jeff Attinella came out of the goal at 30′; the softest yellow card ever on Diego Chara at 45′; and a first-half stoppage time scare when Cascante did a brilliant job saving a chance and preventing a few heart attacks.  Hey, Julio, welcome. Glad you’re here.

The second half, of course, had all the goals. First, there was Adi’s next big miss of the match at 50′. But then there was Cristhian Paredes, who had just turned all of 20 years old on Friday, with his first Portland Timbers goal on the cleanup:

Not to be outdone, Mexican national team player and LAFC forward Carlos Vela took advantage of a moment of space afforded him by the defense and put this beautifully curling, virtually unstoppable strike into the top left corner. Watching from the west side of the stadium, I knew the moment that it left his foot that it was going in:

Coming into this match, and knowing what a difficult opponent LAFC would be, I’ll be honest: I had already steeled myself for the possibility of a draw. But Samuel Armenteros had other ideas:

Good lord, what a heck of a way to open your regular season account, Sam. Well. Done.

After the LONGEST SIX MINUTES OF STOPPAGE TIME EVER (okay, maybe it just felt like that), the referee finally blew the whistle for full time, and the Timbers’ fifth win in a row was in the books.

Spotlight on: Cascante

When his number was called, I’d just like to point out that Julio Cascante was so sure he wasn’t going to play in the game that he didn’t even have his SOCKS on when he got word that he was going in. There was a mad scramble of staff assistance to get him suited up in a timely fashion. I’m pretty sure the only part of his uniform he was wearing prior to his call up was his shorts (thank goodness for THAT).

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I also believe his previous total regular season play prior to this game consisted of a grand total of three minutes. And he did a stellar job, keeping a stable back line for the most part against a potentially explosive offense, and a tremendous save in the first half. Well done, Julio. This bodes well for our defensive depth going forward.

Spotlight on: Armenteros

I’ve made no secret of my desire to see Samuel Armenteros get more minutes, both here and on Twitter:

He played extremely well during the preseason, with two goals, two assists, and a chip on his shoulder that showed he is hungry for goals. On Saturday he put it all together for an unforgettable goal, opening his regular season account for the Timbers in spectacular fashion:

What he probably didn’t know is that he also scored in historic fashion, during the singing of “You Are My Sunshine,” which Timber Jim was leading from the main capo stand:

For those who don’t know, the Timbers Army sings “You Are My Sunshine” at or about the 80th minute of every match, in honor of Timber Jim and in memory of his daughter:

Portland Timbers’ 80th minute melody: For Timber Jim, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ evolves toward happiness

We have had a few historic Sunshine Goals in the past, from Fadi Afash in 2004…

…to Ryan Pore in 2010:

Welcome to the Sunshine Club, Sam. Here’s to many, many more.

Quick Takes
El Maestro. Last year, when Adi was out with an injury, Diego Valeri carried the team on his back by donning the scoring mantle. This year, he’s doing it by work his *** off in the middle of the field. Even without the scores and assists, Valeri is everywhere, making the connecting pass, attempting the shot, doing whatever the team requires. Gracias, como siempre, Maestro.

El Matador. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Byron Alvarez, the Timbers’ all-time USL-era goal-scoring leader, for gracing us with his presence in the stands. I was fortunate to stand with him during the match, listen to his insights, and share his joy as both a player and a true Timbers-for-life-supporter. There is nothing like watching a game with a professional like Alvarez: I’m just taking in the game as an outsider and a fan, so he has insights and anecdotes most of us will never have.

He reminisced, for example, about his days playing for Bob Bradley when he had a brief stint with the MetroStars himself prior to his coming to Portland in 2003. Alvarez noted that, while Bradley was a very disciplined coach, he was also a good example for the players, often participating in the team drills himself. I usually learn more in five minutes of hanging out with El Matador during a game than I do in hours spent reading and studying.

Alvarez insists that the MLS Timbers have never lost when he is in the stadium to watch, so I’m pretty sure this means he needs to be in attendance for EVERY home game going forward. We need to make sure this happens, folks.

Team Goals. Once again, we have unsung heroes in our midst just waiting for their chance to step forward. On Saturday, we had two Timbers score their first regular season goals for the club: Cristhian Paredes and Samuel Armenteros.

It was AMAZING last year to witness El Maestro finally get the respect he is MORE than due as the league MVP, both for his goal-scoring streak and for his general awesomeness on and off the pitch. But I am very much a fan of spreading the love, both in the stands and on the pitch. Here’s to having our goals come from all over the squad this year. I know we have it in us.

Next week has “trap game” written all over it as we take on the last place Colorado Rapids in Commerce City. See you then!

Featured image courtesy: Timbers Army video

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @shebainpdx

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