The Portland Timbers lost 3-1 to Minnesota United to open the 2020 season. Here are five things we learned about the Timbers in their season opener.
The Portland Timbers and Minnesota United met on a cold night at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon to open the 2020 season. Thanks to goals from Kevin Molino and Luis Amarilla, Minnesota ran out comfortable victors in the second half, though there were plenty of chances for Portland to earn more than just a point.
Diego Valeri converted from the penalty spot for his first goal of the year after some smart play from Felipe Mora, but the equalizer was short-lived as United pulled away with two quickfire goals late on.
Here are five things we learned from the Timbers’ disappointing 3-1 defeat to Western rivals, Minnesota.
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5. Timbers Army in full voice
While the 2019 season was one of silent protests and visible strife between the Portland Timbers front office and the Timbers Army, they could be heard from the second the goalkeepers hit the pitch to warm up.
With Diego Valeri and the Chara brothers getting the biggest cheers (and Loons and former Seattle midfielder Ozzie Alonso the biggest boos) during lineup announcements, the Timbers Army maintained their chanting throughout the match, including a loud cheer when Alonso was shown a yellow card in the 31st minute. When the Timbers gave up the first goal of the match in the 52nd minute, the Timbers Army maintained their voice, getting louder in the minutes after the restart to encourage the Timbers to fight on.
Less than two minutes later, Ike Opara took down Felipe Mora, and the loudest chants of the match rained down and Diego Valeri easily tucked the penalty kick into the
back corner. Despite the Timbers going down by two goals late in the match, the Timbers Army continued to chant and show their support for the Timbers, even with the match not going their way.
4. Timbers come out strong
For the first several minutes of the match, the Portland Timbers conceded little possession beyond midfield until a potential penalty went to VAR. They maintained the bulk of the possession and had the first five shots before the Loons even attempted their first real chance, a corner kick in the 26th minute which Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark easily snared and sprung Sebastian Blanco on the counterattack.
While the Loons would have their opportunities as the first half wore on, the Timbers looked the more dangerous side throughout the first half. They were not able to maintain this early control, admittedly, but the strong opening showcased their high-level potential when everything clicks into place.
3. Felipe Mora more than a target man
When the Portland Timbers signed Felipe Mora, they praised his versatility in attack, which was on full display as he moved throughout the attacking third, creating chances for himself and his teammates.
While the Timbers have had their share of hold-up strikers, Mora brings a different element in his willingness to move throughout the attack rather than waiting for his teammates to feed him the ball.
He also worked hard defensively. He tracked back into the midfield, broke up play, looking for opportunities to spring his teammates on the counter, while also earning the penalty that led to the Timbers’ first goal of the season. This was a more complete striking display than just the big lump upfront.
2. Twice the Chara, twice the fun
Diego Chara has been a mainstay of the Portland Timbers midfield since their inaugural MLS season. Throughout his time at the club, Timbers fans have been clamoring for his younger brother, Yimmi Chara, to be brought to Portland.
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It didn’t take long for the Timbers supporters to be vindicated in their longstanding desires. While one Chara brother bossed the midfield as he always does, the other created several chances at the start of the match.
Using his speed, Yimmi routinely blew past Minnesota defenders in his 69 minutes on the pitch, setting up chances for his teammates and himself. Diego was his usual self, including earning himself a yellow card in the 72nd minute, but once Yimmi was subbed off and the speedy threat from out wide went with him, the Loons gained control of the match.
1. Old ghosts return
While the Portland Timbers spent much of the match on the front foot, defensive blunders gave the match away late. Luis Amarilla headed home his first of the season in the 76th minute before Kevin Molino followed with his second of the match just two minutes later.
On both occasions, the Timbers defenders were caught ball-watching, slow to react to the Loons’ attacking play. This was a frequent problem for the Timbers for parts of last season. Sequences like this were why Timbers supporters were calling for changes to the defense all offseason. With the MLS Transfer Window still open, Timbers fans will be hitting the panic button with more performances like this.
The defeat is not the end of the world, of course. There were plenty of positive signs and it is just one game. But the defensive troubles are concerning, especially as they were predicted all winter.