|Diego Valeri defends Maximiliano Moralez. Valeri was very active all day.|
Consider the historic accomplishment of what has transpired in front of a sellout crowd and a nationwide audience on FOX Sports 1 in looking at the statistics of the match: Portland had just 25% total possession for the match with 20% at the half, 249 total passes with roughly 72 percent accuracy in comparison with NYCFC completing 760 passes at a 91 percent clip. No team in the MLS Opta era, which started in 2010, had ever had a possession number so low and not only won the match but shut the other team out until the Timbers pulled it off in calculating fashion. But as pointed out on the Timbers site by soccer analyst extraordinaire Richard Farley, Savarese has been preaching a desire to be flexible in their game approach and not just employ a single strategy or formation. Strategies, personnel, situations could change from match to match depending upon the opponent, and being flexible and fluid would keep the other side guessing. It’s an interesting strategy if a team has the talent, tenacity and total smarts to pull it off each and every week given the length of the typical MLS season, but for one moment in time against a stacked opponent, lightning struck and the Timbers posted a massive result.
|NYCFC visiting brought a familiar face back to Portland in Rodney Wallace|
Savarese believed in his charges, however, and said so during his post match comments. Flores, who has played for Savarese on other sides, has played a wide attacking role before and he paired up with Blanco to provide support to the offense and defense all afternoon. For Chara, he's the pinnacle of defensive midfielders for his ability to create turnovers and distribute the ball, and on several occasions, Chara was right to the spot to deflect the ball or a player away from the goal. I imagine that NYCFC forward David Villa will be having nightmares of Chara chasing him about and knocking him down all the time. Paredes, just 19 years of age, showed maturity beyond his years in making several key passes and creating turnovers at the right time, but he did also show youth with several turnovers and errant passes. The defensive quartet of Valentin, Mabiala, Ridgewell and Powell needed to communicate with each other and stay incredibly organized for the entire match, and as my wife Jennifer put it from her pitch side view, there was constant yelling between the defenders to point out assignments and communicate coverage. The only more vocal player was Attinella, who commanded his line all afternoon to help the Timbers post their first clean sheet of 2018 in his first start. Offensively, the attacking of Valeri and Adi was disruptive for most of the afternoon for the NYC defense, but the duo had plenty of help as Flores, Blanco, Powell and Valentin poured forward as much as they could on the counter. Suffice to say, this was one of the most impressive synchronous efforts I've seen from the Timbers side in my 11 seasons of covering the team.
|Fanendo Adi celebrates his 38th minute goal in great fashion.|
NYCFC had their chances on the day as former MLS Timber and now NYCFC forward Rodney Wallace missed a header in the 7th minute by just yards. Villa had a quality miss in minute 40 when they were already down by 2 goals, but the group unleashed a torrent in the second half as Wallace, Villa, Jo Inge Berger, Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina all had chances on goal from the break through minute 63. However, in each instance, the shot was either deflected away, the threat cleared or Attinella made an easy catch within traffic. Berger and Villa were charging on frame in the 58th minute on one particular play that Attinella stopped by being the first to the ball to scoop it up, and then upend Berger with a well placed tackle. In the 89th minute, Ridgewell blocked a point blank Villa shot on a 1 on 1 attack, and the Timbers defense was able to recover and successfully clear away the threat. Considering the fact that NYCFC had scored at least 2 goals in each of their 7 matches with at least 10 or more shots and they were held scoreless is impressive, and the effort was enough that Savarese and Mabiala both earned MLS team of the week honors for coach and player. In as much as both Gio and Larrys deserved their honors, however, every person indicated how much this result was because of the entire team.
|This was an entire team effort with every Timbers player contributing to the win.|