There’s nothing like a little home cooking.
After three winless games on the road, the Portland Timbers finally opened up the renovated JELD-WEN Field, and the result was some real stick-to-your-ribs nourishment.
Portland used a seven-goal, six-point homestand—including an electrifying opener on Thursday night—to vault from last place in the Western Conference to fourth, just two points behind the defending champions Colorado Rapids.
In addition to the Timbers’ memorable 180, Week 5 also saw the remarkable Charlie Davies maintain his league scoring lead. Thierry Henry found the net for the first time since last September. And US international midfielder Benny Feilhaber signed with the league.
There was also plenty of rough weather, and a closing note of controversy.
Let’s dig in.
Soccer City, USA
In the run-up to Portland’s MLS home opener against Chicago this past Thursday, Timbers midfielder Ryan Pore told The Oregonian , “It’s going to be something special. And with it being on national television, the rest of [the country] can see what soccer is all about in the Northwest.”
With no slight intended to Seattle—which has given the country many vivid glimpses of what soccer is all about in the Northwest—Pore was right.
It was something special, and, combined with recent scenes in Seattle and Vancouver, it completed a picture of what the Cascadia rivalry is all about.
The Timbers Army set the tone by singing the national anthem—thousands of them, in goosebump-inducing unison—before the game. Despite the heavy rain that night, they never flagged in energy or volume level after that. Timbers striker Kenny Cooper called the atmosphere “magical,” adding, “It was a great privilege to be on that field.”
But atmosphere aside, the team still had to do the business on the field, as players and coaches had warned all week before the game. That they did—and in some style. Portland roared out to a 3-0 lead before hanging on to win 4-2.
Three days later Portland won again, in similar fashion, taking a 3-0 lead—this time against FC Dallas—only to give up a pair of late goals to make it interesting. Maybe too interesting: Dallas’s David Ferriera nearly tied it in stoppage time, hitting the crossbar with a volley from 15 yards.
Portland and New York had entered the week as the lowest-scoring teams in the league (two goals in four games each), and the Timbers weren’t alone in exploding for goals.
New York got two early strikes from new forward Luke Rodgers and went on to blank visiting San Jose 3-0 in a driving rainstorm.
Rodgers took a pass from Thierry Henry to score his second, and the feisty Englishman returned the favor three minutes from time, serving a deft chip to the far post that Henry headed home for his first goal in nearly 700 minutes of action.
The Red Bulls’ I-95 rivals D.C. United also claimed a 3-0 victory this week, downing Toronto FC at BMO Field behind a pair of goals from Chris Pontius, and Charlie Davies’ league-leading fifth.
New York and D.C. meet at RFK stadium this Thursday night (8 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes).
While Portland, New York and United ensured there was no shortage of high-scoring games, a handful of teams produced 1-0 and 0-0 affairs that brought the scoring average down slightly this week.
Toronto and LA kicked off the week with a scoreless draw at BMO Field, and Houston and New England ended it with a 1-0 win for the Dynamo at Robertson Stadium—a game that would have gone scoreless if not for Hunter Freeman’s controversial goal in the 86th minute. After the game, the Houston wingback admitted the ball went in off his arm, but, he said, “I didn’t play it with my hand.”
In between, Vancouver and Chivas USA battled to a 0-0 draw, and Columbus edged Sporting Kansas City, 1-0.
Yet most of these games were not as buttoned-down as their scorelines suggest. The Galaxy hit the post three times against Toronto, while LA keeper Donovan Ricketts came up huge to deny the Reds’ Gianluca Zavarise and Joao Plata.
Columbus got a nice sliding goal from Robbie Rogers and should have had a second from Eddie Gaven, who was denied by a fantastic save from KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen.
And Vancouver still haven’t staged a dull game in 2011. Sure, Saturday’s match with Chivas USA ended without a goal, but not for lack of opportunities. Whitecaps FC hit the post twice, had one shot cleared off the line (as did Chivas), and saw a potential last-gasp winner stoned by Goats’ goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
The day after they eked out a controversial Rocky Mountain Cup win against Colorado this past Wednesday to go 4-0 and stay atop the Western Conference standings, Real Salt Lake heard more good news, this time from the league office.
MLS officials announced that the Philadelphia Union had agreed to postpone their April 23 game with RSL to Sept. 3. The move will allow RSL to focus on their upcoming CONCACAF Champions League final series. The first leg is this Wednesday, April 20 (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer), and the second leg is a week later, Wednesday, April 27 (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer).
Thanks to Philly’s willingness to reschedule, the Claret-and-Cobalt won’t have an MLS game between the two legs of the CCL final, and can focus on carrying the flag for the league in the region.
Philadelphia, for their part, will now be off for two weeks following a rainy, windy tie with Seattle at PPL Park on Saturday. The hosts held the lead until the 91st minute, when a glancing header by Sounders DP Alvaro Fernandez tied it.
After getting overwhelmed by an inspired Portland team at JELD-WEN on Thursday, the Chicago Fire flew home to Toyota Park to host a Galaxy side missing David Beckham (suspension), Juninho (suspension) and Landon Donovan (knee).
Perfect opportunity to get back on track with three points, right?
It might have been, but the Fire squandered two golden chances in the first half before giving up a goal to former Chicago striker Chad Barrett. Then they surrendered one to Omar Gonzalez off a corner kick in the 72nd minute.
Dominic Oduro pulled one back in the 89th minute, and very nearly snatched an equalizer after that, but it was not to be. LA hung on for the win, and Chicago, losers of three straight, stayed stuck in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with a league-worst 11 goals allowed.