Match Recap & Highlights: Portland Timbers 1 - 2 FC Cincinnati
Despite an improved offensive display, the Timbers couldn't keep up as defensive lapses doom them to a loss in Ohio.
The Portland Timbers fell 2-1 on the road to FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, in a game that featured moments of encouragement for the Timbers, and also moments of worry. Sergio Santos opened the scoring in the 34th minute via a diving header, and Brandon Vazquez doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 59th minute. The Timbers responded immediately via Dairon Asprilla in the 60th minute and pushed for an equalizer — but they could not find it. At the full-time whistle the scoreline was 2-1, with the Timbers on the losing end.
With Claudio Bravo hurt, Justin Rasmussen stepped into the starting eleven at left back. Dario Zuparic was out and in health and safety protocol, so Larrys Mabiala slotted in next to Zac McGraw. Other than that, Portland rolled with the same starting lineup as they did in their big win last weekend against Seattle.
One other notable difference was the absence of Giovanni Savarese. Portland’s head coach was in the health and safety protocol himself, and so it was Carlos Llamosa taking the reigns as acting head coach for this game.
Cincinnati nearly pounced on the Timbers early, but Portland recovered well and were actually the aggressors for periods of the first half. Evander and Asprilla both had chances to open the scoring as Portland’s attack looked incisive and dangerous in the buildup. The Timbers were just missing that final moment of quality on their chances.
FC Cincinnati did have the quality however, as they found the game’s opening goal in the 34th minute. Alvaro Barreal whipped in a dangerous cross from the left side, and Sergio Santos ghosted past Larrys Mabiala to put a diving header past Aljaz Ivacic and into the back of the net.
Mabiala appeared to struggle with the pace of Cincinnati’s attackers in the first half, and it showed in when he was shown the game’s first yellow card, and on the goal.
Portland nearly drew things level in the dying seconds of the opening frame, as David Ayala put a diving header agonizingly over the bar after a blistering Timbers counter-attack.
Despite what was likely one of the best attacking halves of soccer the Timbers have had all season, where the Timbers registered eight shots, they were behind in the number that counted at halftime: goals scored.
Trailing by a goal, Portland came out determined at the start of the second half, but they couldn’t get a clear chance at goal. The hosts would however, and FC Cincinnati made it 2-0 via Brandon Vazquez cleaning up a mess in front of Portland’s goal after the Timbers couldn’t clear the ball.
The Timbers responded immediately however, as Dairon Asprilla tapped home a Santiago Moreno cross that was pushed right to his feet. The chance was created after a deft through ball from Evander, as the Brazilian put in one of his best shifts in a Timbers shirt on the night.
Asprilla’s goal, or perhaps Cincinnati’s second, spurred the Timbers into action, as they enjoyed a period of sustained attacking possession. Santiago Moreno had a few golden opportunities to draw Portland level, but on none of the occasions could Santi keep his shot fully on target and beat the ‘keeper.
Despite Portland’s increased pressure and domination of possession, they couldn’t turn it into any real threats in front of goal as the game ticked towards full time.
With a lack of full defensive awareness dooming them at one end and a lack of quality finishing dooming them at the other, the Timbers ultimately fell short as they lost 2-1 in Cincinnati on Saturday night.
2’ Nearly an immediate calamity at the back for the Timbers as Vazquez sprung Acosta in behind. Portland reacted well to cover the space, and the danger fizzled out for a goal kick.
4’ Another poor moment at the back for Portland, as Rasmussen gave away the ball and led to a shot from Santos that Ivacic got down to smother.
8’ Evander got on the end of Portland’s first moment of sustained attacking pressure, but his volley was launched well over the bar.
11’ Boli was the next Timbers to have a go, as he whipped a header off-target. The chance came off of a good set piece delivery from Evander.
11’ Asprilla was nearly the beneficiary of a bad turnover from the hosts as he pounced on a poor pass, but Dairon couldn’t keep his powerful shot on frame.
19’ Larrys Mabiala was shown the game’s first yellow card as he yanked back Vazquez to stop a Cincinnati attack.
23’ BIG SAVE JAZZY! Santos was sprung in behind and looked sure to score, but Ivacic did well to cut off the angle and deny the Cincinnati attacker on the doorstep to keep the hosts off the board.
25’ Ivacic saved Portland’s skin again as he got down quick to deny a low shot from distance from Vazquez.
27’ Close! Evander floats a header just over the bar off of a good feed from Asprilla.
30’ Huge collision as Asprilla and Obinna Nwobodo both jumped to challenge for a ball, and the players bashed into each other midair. Asprilla was shown a yellow card for what was deemed a hard challenge.
31’ Nwobodo turned right around and earned a yellow card himself as he caught Boli on the break.
34’ Goal Cincinnati 1-0. Sergio Santos dove and got his head to a great delivery from Alvaro Barreal to beat Ivacic and open the scoring. Santos ghosted off the back shoulder of Mabiala, and Larrys didn’t pick up the move.
41’ Cincinnati nearly made it two as Acosta launched a beauty of a cross to Vazquez at the back post, who was unmarked. Vazquez couldn’t get his shape right, and put his header into the side netting.
45’+1 On a lightning-fast counter, David Ayala had the goal gaping as he dove to try to put a header into the net. With goalkeeper Roman Celentano on the ground after tipping away the cross, all Ayala had to was get it on frame — but he instead sent the ball over the bar as the chance went agonizingly begging.
HALFTIME: Portland went into the locker room at halftime trailing by a goal, and surely ruing all of their missed opportunities.
The Timbers came out for the second half unchanged, seeking to turn their good offensive moments into goals and get back into the game.
51’ The first semi-chance of the second half was for the Timbers, as a cross from Moreno was lofted towards Asprilla. Dairon however couldn’t get his head on the ball.
55’ Barreal sent a hard shot wide and into the side netting after Portland lost the ball and the hosts launched a counter-attack of their own.
59’ Goal Cincinnati 2-0. Vazquez is there to clean up the scraps after the Portland can’t clear the danger created by yet another Cincinnati counter.
60’ GOAL TIMBERS! 2-1. An immediate response from the Timbers, as Evander sprung Moreno behind the defense with a beauty of a through ball. Moreno crossed it into the box, Celentano pushed it away, and it fell to the feet of Asprilla, who tapped it home to keep the game in touch for Portland.
66’ Moreno sent a shot well high and wide, after he collected the ball on a dangerous Timbers counter.
69’ A very nice attacking buildup from the Timbers nearly ended in Moreno leveling the match, but his shot was just saved by Celentano who tipped it wide, and the hosts cleared the danger.
72’ Diego Chara was shown a yellow card as he pulled down Acosta on the break.
74’ Moreno had another crack at goal off the half-volley through traffic, but Celentano read it well and collected.
84’ Yerson Mosquera (not Juan) is shown a yellow card for his remonstrations at the referee after Diego Chara made an excellent read and tackle to take the ball off of Mosqeura’s foot.
Four minutes of stoppage time were added at the end of the game a the Timbers continued to push for an equalizer.
90’+1 Zac McGraw went into the book for a heavy challenge on Vazquez.
FULLTIME: Despite their pressing for a goal late, Portland could not find the back of the net a second time, and fell to defeat by a 2-1 scoreline.
For the first time all season, I think I can say that the Timbers will rue the chances they missed after some good offensive moments in this game.
It’s a far cry from where they were just two weeks ago, when Portland only managed two shots in an away game at Vancouver. Portland’s attacking buildup looked dangerous and cohesive tonight, and if not for a lack of quality in front of the goal Portland would have left Ohio with a point — or more.
A big part of why Portland’s attack looked better is that their DP Brazilian attacker looked better. Tonight was perhaps Evander’s best shift in a Timbers shirt, as he was able to find more dangerous spaces and play more dangerous passes to play in his teammates. His through ball for Santiago Moreno on Portland’s goal was quality, and several other of his passes into the final third deserved a better finish from Portland’s attackers.
But alas, good attacking buildup does not equal goals. Just as it was last season, Portland’s lack of quality with the final pass or final touch in front of goal was what limited them to just one goal on the night.
One goal may have been enough to earn a positive result, were it not for some truly facepalm-inducing defensive lapses. Larrys Mabiala looked a step off the pace in the first half, and he was a guilty party in losing Sergio Santos on Cincinnati’s opener. Justin Rasmussen got burned on more than on occasion, and Portland’s continued inability to consistently clear threats in front of their own goal bit them in the butt yet again.
There are positive takeaways from this match — and many things that still need work. Tonight Portland got close, but fell short. And “close” is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades. So despite the movement in the right direction, the Timbers are still a team trying to find their way.
Portland is next in action on Wednesday April 26, as they take on USL Championship side Orange County SC in the U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. PT at Providence Park.