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A View from the Couch Portland Timbers vs DC United Game Review



Recap: 

There’s an old saying in soccer, sometimes a draw feels like a victory, other times it feels like a loss; in the case of DC United taking on the Portland Timbers, the Black & Red definitely felt victorious in their draw.


The evening started on an off note when Player of the Week Christian Benteke was a late game scratch. United’s Striker was held out after picking up a muscle strain during pregame warm-ups.


In a game that matched the two teams that had the most impressive wins in their opening games, Portland Timbers vs DC United was one of the marquee matchups of the night. Both teams have new coaches and are at the beginning of a reboot, and both wanted to prove that the first week’s match was not a fluke.


At the end of the game it’s safe to say that both teams have a lot to be happy about, but also concerns that need to be addressed if they want to be competitive at the end of the season.


First Half: 

A key to the game was could somebody other than Benteke score, and the importance of this question came into stark relief even before kickoff when it was reported that Christian Benteke would not be playing. Suddenly the question of who could step up and score for the Black & Red was of the utmost importance if they were to get any type of result at Providence Park.


As in the first week United came out pressing high, attempting to turn the ball over and quickly transition to offense. They had some success, but Portland’s counter press meant that a lot of the opening minutes were a ping pong match of the ball going back and forth between the two teams and neither really getting a hold of the game. The first 15 minutes of the game was what is quickly becoming a hallmark of Troy Lesesne’s DC United matches, frenetic.


In that time though there were two troubling trends that would concern the Black & Red. The first was that when United did have the ball, they could not seem to create real scoring opportunities. The second was that they seemed vulnerable to the Timber’s speed in their counter attack.


It was this second concern that came to bite United in the 18th minute. Santiago Moreno, not for the first time, made a quick spin move that turned Pedro Santos around, and led a direct counter attack against United’s defense. He dribbled from the midfield all the way into the right side of DC’s penalty box. Driving towards the end line, Moreno cut the ball back to Dairon Asprilla who had positioned himself near the penalty spot. Asprilla’s first-time shot was perfect and the Timber’s Nation were revving the chainsaw to celebrate his goal.


From there the match returned to what the opening minutes had been. The Black & Red definitely answered the question of if they could match the intensity of the first week’s game. United’s press was well organized, and did well to disrupt Portland’s offense. Yet the team still could not manage to develop any consistent offensive threat.


United’s best chance to tie the game happened in the 31st minute when Cristian Dajome, who replaced Benteke in the starting lineup, placed a header from the edge of the six-yard box that Timber’s goalkeeper Crepeau deflected over the crossbar.


Ted Ku-DiPietro also played a dangerous ball across the goalmouth, but there weren't any United players making the run to finish the opportunity.


The first half would end with the question of who else on DC United can score left unanswered.


Second Half: 

There were no changes to the lineup at the beginning of the second half for either side. The Black & Red started on the front foot, but the Timbers seemed quite content to sit back, absorb United’s pressure and then strike on fast counter attacks.


United continued to play with a high energy full press, but it was less chaotic than in the first half. United players were doing a better job to shut down passing lanes, and win loose balls. Another change was the attack stopped being so reliant on aerial crosses. An attack that makes an aerial pass to 6’3 Christian Benteke is always going to be head and shoulders above than one that makes an aerial pass to 5’8 Cristian Dajome. (Pun intended)


United started to use more quick passes to their feet and direct dribble at the defense to create offense, with more opportunities created. The lack of a proven goalscorer though, and great goal keeping by Portland’s Maxime Crepeau, meant that the Black & Red continued to trail.


Dajome was able to put another good shot on goal to get the tie in the 51st minute when he placed a shot from the edge of the box past a diving Crepeau. Unfortunately it ricocheted off the far left post. Ted Ku-DiPietro crashed the goal, and managed to get a leg on the ball, but it was at a weird height and he was unable to get his leg over the ball and it went high over the goal.


This near miss seemed to galvanize KDP, who became a Tasmanian Devil in the center of the field. Both offensively and defensively, Ted KDP was making himself be noticed. Unfortunately, despite creating a couple of real chances, it was not the Black & Red who scored next. In the 61st minute, Portland’s Left Back, Eric Miller, crossed an aerial ball into DC’s penalty box from the left side of the field. The ball landed in an empty space in front of Portland Winger, Santiago Moreno, who finished the play with a confident shot past an onrushing Alex Bono and into the lower right-corner of the goal.


It looked dire for United at this point, but to their credit the players didn’t hang their heads, and continued to play the new system. Besides Ted KDP, Mateusz Klich, Matti Peltola, and Aaron Herrera all stood out as continuing to play inspired soccer. In addition, Pedro Santos, who had a rough first half, showed grit and determination and raised his game.


United’s relentless effort earned the team a free kick in a dangerous area. Klich’s pass into the box went off a Portland defender’s arm as he tried to signal for an offside. Both the offside and the handball were reviewed, and it was determined that there wasn’t offsides and yes there was a handball. Mateusz Klich easily converted the penalty kick, and at the 72nd minute United had a bit of hope.


Head Coach Troy Lesesne decided to make a change at this point, bringing in fresh legs for the offense, with Kristian Fletcher coming in for Gabriel Pirani and Jackson Hopkins coming in for Jared Stroud. Both Hopkins and Fletcher provided energy and attacking intent.


United’s attack became relentless, and it looked like United was going to get the tying goal when KDP received a quick pass, drove towards the goal, and passed to Fletcher in front of the goalmouth, but Crepeau somehow came back to swallow Fletcher’s shot. The offside flag came up, so it would not have counted, but it set the precedent that Crepeau was going to make United work for any additional goals. Minutes later Ted KDP received another pass, just inside the penalty box, and he quickly placed a solid shot inside the near post. Unfortunately for him,  Crepeau again made another of his amazing saves, and the Black & Red were again left down one.


Still United continued to press, and it was obvious that Portland was hanging on. Head Coach Phil Neville even shifted to a back three, but it wasn’t enough as Pedro Santos made a perfect diagonal cross field pass to a wide open Jackson Hopkins. Hopkins controlled the ball and dribbled towards the goal before making a perfect lead pass to Aaron Herrera who made an overrun towards the end line. As Hopkins continued his run, the defenders were pulled out of position and Herrera was able to place a perfect cross to a wide open Kristian Fletcher, who buried his shot into the goal.


And just like that it was a tie.


Both sides would create different chances over the last few minutes of the game, but neither side was able to really create a really dangerous opportunity. The game would end in a draw, tied 2-2.


Dropped points, but still a performance United can build upon.



Fun Facts

  • The Black & Red are  now 4-4-3 against the Portland Timbers all-time in regular season matchups.

  • United are 2-3-2 against the Timbers on the road all-time in regular season matchups.

  • Newly acquired Defensive Midfielder Matti Peltola had 100% tackle accuracy for the second straight game

  • Aaron Herrera has an assist in two straight matches

  • Forward Kristian Fletcher scored his first goal since the final game of the 2022 season.

  • Mateusz Klich scored his first goal of the season and his third of the last four games.



Words from the Head Coach:

 “Yeah, I’m really proud of this performance. It’s a point.”


“I have a feeling we could have got all three points.”


“The way that we were able to stay together, this is the type of—when you talk about values, when you talk about principles, when you talk about building something together and getting the right energy and spirit within the club. Ultimately when you see a performance like this tonight, that was on full display.”


“And I think a big deal for us is how we’re going about this, and tonight I think we showed a lot of what we have been working on the last six to seven weeks.”


“He [Benteke] is day-to-day. He felt tightness during warmups, and the decision was made to lean on the side of caution.”




Observations From my couch: 


  • Ugh! No Benteke!

  • Benteke out for the game 

  • Losing your main attacking option and target Striker just 5 minutes before the game doesn’t leave me with much hope.

  • DC starts the game the same as last week by putting pressure on the Timbers 

  • Oh! Bad turnover by Santos

  • Santos is not a LB.

  • Timbers are fast on the counter

  • Superb passing by DC, great runs and movement, but there isn’t the final ball.

  • Damn! Santos just got turned inside out.

  • DAMN!

  • Great pass and shot has Portland up 1-0.

  • DC United head to the locker room down 1-0

  • Second half starts

  • Hit the post! Thought that shot was going in. Teddy almost got the rebound.

  • DAMN! Another Goal conceded! 

  • Portland Timbers 2, DC 0. 

  • Santiago Moreno buries the loose ball.

  • Goal aside, United isn’t playing too badly.

  • Another great chance swallowed by Crepeau

  • United are really pinning the Timbers back most of the half

  • United applying pressure again!

  • Damn!  

  • Handball!

  • Going to VAR

  • Referee calls for a penalty 

  • Goal! 

  • Mateusz Klich converts the penalty 

  • Kristian Fletcher substituted in for Gabriel Pirani.

  • Jackson Hopkins substituted in for Jared Stroud

  • Santos is playing better this half.

  • The super sub kids have brought energy.

  • Damn! Ted KDP had a beautiful shot off a perfect pass from Aaron Herrera but it was saved by Crepeau, who is standing on his head.

  • Ugh! Kristian Fletcher looked to tie the match off of a perfect pass from Ted KDP, but Crepeau made an amazing save in the center of the goal. 

  • Would have been offside.

  • Have to credit Santos on that diagonal pass to Hopkins.

  • Goal!

  • Kristian Fletcher buries his shot from up close off Aaron Herrera cross.

  • Aaron Herrera is on the ground, but it looks like cramps.

  • Nervous as Kamal Miller puts a header towards goal off of a corner kick, but it sails high and wide to the right. 

  • Match ends with Portland Timbers 2 and DC United 2

  • Pretty pleased all things considered.


Player Ratings:

Bono               5.9

Herrera            8.7

Bartlett            7.4

McVey            7.1

Santos             7.4

Klich               8.0

Peltola            7.8

Ku-DiPietro    6.7

Pirani              6.6

Stroud             6.8

Dájome           6.7


Subs: 

Fletcher         6.9

Hopkins        6.4


Man of the Match - Aaron Herrera - The Guatemalan defender was everywhere in this game, setting the tone on defense, breaking up Portland’s build up in the center of the field, and providing great service in the attack. Herrera is proving to be a great addition to the team.


Up Next: At the FC Cincinnati (1-1-0)


 

Written by: RJ Rolsen 












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