Valeri’s chip helps Timbers edge Rapids in physical battle

DiegoValeriVsRapids (PortlandTimbers)

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

BY MIKE DONOVAN

PORTLAND, Ore.- There was little finesse when the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers met Friday night at Jeld-Wen Field. In fact, only one piece of supreme skill by Diego Valeri turned out to be the only difference between the two clubs.

Valeri’s early goal was the difference as Portland knocked off the Rapids 1-0 and moved into the third seed in the Western Conference playoff race with five games remaining.

Valeri, who was making his first start in three matches after dealing with an adductor injury, displayed his usual array of nice passes to go along with his goal. The Argentine DP is now tied with Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe for the team lead with eight goals and has scored or assisted on 12 of the club’s last 17 goals.

“The thing about (Valeri) is he has those moments of brilliance and that’s what you need from a guy in that role,” Jack Jewsbury said. “I think tonight you saw it again, he made it look too easy. He’s a guy that has been class for us on both sides of the ball.”

The goal came after Maximiliano Urruti forced a poor clearance from Drew Moor. Moor’s pass was headed by Rodney Wallace towards Valeri, who off-the-volley chipped the ball over Clint Irwin and into the net.

“Diego, that was class, you know? Class. That’s what he is—a class player,” head coach Caleb Porter said.

Urruti was making his first start for Portland, while Valeri, Jewsbury and Futty Danso returned to the starting lineup after dealing with injuries. The Rapids, meanwhile, were missing the services of Vicente Sanchez, who scored in the club’s last match but sustained a knock in training Thursday.

Porter turned to Urruti up top instead of Ryan Johnson and Jose Adolfo Valencia, two healthy players who have combined for 23 starts this season. The 22-year-old answered the call by playing a major role in the only goal of the match.

“We don’t score that first goal unless he presses the ball. The whole goal came from his pressure,” Porter said.

After struggling to get out the gate early in recent matches, the 13th-minute goal was a change for the Timbers. It was the second-earliest goal the club has scored this season.

“When you score that first goal and start games with an energy and the right mentality and are proactive, you give yourself a better chance,” Porter said.

Colorado would have conceded a second goal if not for Irwin bailing out his defense by saving a breakaway shot from Urruti in the first half. It was the only save on the night for Colorado’s keeper as the Timbers struggled to get shots on target against the physical Rapids defense. In fact, neither team was able to get a shot on frame in the second half of the match.

“Listen, the game wasn’t pretty the entire game. There were times when it was direct and the ball was in the air. That’s MLS,” Porter said.

The hard-fought affair wasn’t the usual showing for Portland, who trailed Colorado possession and passing stats.

“We got that lead off a great play, and then we locked it down,” Will Johnson said. “We had to grind and fight, it wasn’t neccessarily pretty, but we got the job done. It’s a big result for us.”

The victory moves the Timbers on from a disappointing 1-1 draw Saturday against a last-place Chivas USA side. A team meeting between the matches was a springboard for the club’s turnaround effort, according to Johnson.

“We had a good meeting in the middle of the week where the guys spoke up and we all kind of vented and aired out what we felt needed to change and what needed to be different and I think you saw that tonight,” the Timbers captain said. “Everybody took responsiblilty, they did their job from minute one to minute 90.”

With 46 points, the Timbers now sit one point above the fourth-place Rapids and six points clear of the red line separating which teams make the postseason and which teams fall short. Colorado, who has played one more match than Portland, will have a off-week before hosting the first-place Seattle Sounders at home on Oct. 5. The Timbers, meanwhile, will battle the fifth-place LA Galaxy at Jeld-Wen Field on Sept. 29.

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20 Responses to Valeri’s chip helps Timbers edge Rapids in physical battle

  1. Brian says:

    It wasn’t pretty but the result is all that matters. As good as Colorado appears to be, Portland has earned 7 points against them. The Rapids are probably the one team everyone else would like to draw in the playoffs.

    • RB says:

      The idea that these 2 teams are in fact quite even overall really bothers you, huh?

      • Steve says:

        Not sure how you call them even overall, PDX has a 7-1 advantage this season. pretty sure they would have to be 4-4 to be even.

        • RB says:

          Not sure how you’d not call them even overall, as they’re 1 point apart in the standings after 29/30 matches. Pretty sure that makes them quite even.

      • Brian says:

        What is there to be bothered about? I know if Portland draws Colorado in the playoffs they will likely win. Colorado did well in negotiating their schedule but total points does not indicate two teams being “quite even overall.” Head to head result is the proper way to compare two teams and Portland has an incredible advantage this season.

        • RB says:

          That’s exactly backward: overall means completely, in general, the big picture, so total points is precisely the way to measure that. It is after all what the entire league is based on, when it comes to comparing the performance of teams over the course of the season, you know. So yes, these 2 teams are quite even overall.

          Now, what there is to be bothered by about that, that’s a question for you. (Well and for quite a number of other people throughout this season who humorously just cannot seem to come to terms with the fact that the 2013 Colorado Rapids are a bona fide, quality, competitive side.)

          As far as the schedule and what little is left of the season, well as you know, the Rapids stand an excellent chance of proving you wrong on your recent prediction, seeing as they’ve already got 6 of the 8-9 pts you said they might get and they have still 4 games left. Like Portland, they’re due to host Seattle and play at Vancouver, so that’s a wash in comparing them. That leaves the Rapids with a game at SJ and another game at home against Vancouver, whereas the Timbers to go to Chivas and then will host both LA and RSL. So it will be interesting to see how that will all play out and to compare the final regular season outcome for each team, to see if they are still quite even overall at that point. I suspect they will be but we’ll see, of course.

          • RAMONE says:

            Portland also has a 5 games left and Colorado 4. That doesn’t mean a whole lot unless Portland does something (points) with the extra opportunity.

            On a points per game basis, Colorado is in 5th place (SEA 1.81, RSL 1.66, POR 1.58, LAG 1.57, COL 1.50). I suppose you also consider yourselves even with LAG (who have 6 games left to play including today) …despite the fact that you have gone 2-1-0 against them and beaten them the last two?

            I don’t want to bash Colorado. They are a good team. They had a great run of form in July and August and have continued that somewhat in September (but are back to 0.500 for the last 4 weeks). That said, other than LA they have zero wins against teams above the “red line” in the West which doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances unless they draw LA as their opponent.

            They are a team on the rise, but I don’t think this is going to be their year.

            • RB says:

              “I suppose you also consider yourselves even with LAG (who have 6 games left to play including today) …despite the fact that you have gone 2-1-0 against them and beaten them the last two?”

              Well I’m not the Rapids, but you look at the overall points and yes, you take into consideration any schedule imbalances (as I also noted above).

              What I would not do is follow Brian’s approach and consider the Rapids to be somehow clearly better than the Galaxy because the Rapids took 2 of 3 from them this year. That’s my point.

              • Brian says:

                You are comparing results, not teams. The schedules are different and Portland might have been able to pick up more points with Colorado’s schedule. Portland is quite better than Colorado, they have proven it in 270 minutes of head to head action. You won’t say the same thing about Colorado over Galaxy because Colorado didn’t have to play them at full strength during those two wins.

              • RB says:

                Your arguments get more ridiculous as we go along. I am comparing teams via their overall performance, using objective results logged over the course of the season. If that’s not how you want to compare teams, then you may not want to find a new hobby. Or maybe read only the power rankings and be the one guy who thinks they are what actually matter, rather than results.

              • RB says:

                Some of the more interesting results from your approach:

                Portland = SJ
                Portland = Vancouver (game in Vancouver pending)
                Portland = Chivas (game in LA pending)
                Portland = Chicago, Philadelphia & NE
                Portland < Columbus

                Colorado possibly = Seattle (pending game in Colorado)
                Colorado possibly better than RSL, LA, Montreal & NYRB
                Colorado = Chivas & DC United

                By contrast I would make none of the above claims, as the standings the league uses do a better job with the comparisons in every case.

              • Brian says:

                Give it up. Portland took 7 points from Colorado because they are a better team. You can pretend to be even due to points but Colorado would pose no threat to Portland in the playoffs. Making that list was a waste of your time as it doesn’t account for home field or team strength at the time of the games.

              • RB says:

                I think this is where I came in: you’re humorously quite disturbed by the notion that these 2 teams would be so even.

                Good luck against Vancouver and Chivas. I wouldn’t want to be around if you fail to beat either one of them in these last games and then have to accept by your own reasoning that you’re no better than they are.

        • RB says:

          P.S. Actually, your comment “Head to head result is the proper way to compare two teams” is explicitly contradicted by league rules and playoff structure, as head-to-head comparison has been entirely removed from any consideration even as a tie-breaker. Current league rules check points and then follow these tie-breaker steps (link to pressbox.mlssoccer.com):

          1. Most Wins [Timbers still lowest among the conference's playoff teams]
          2. Goals For
          3. Goal Differential (GD)
          4. Fewest Disciplinary Points
          5. Road Goals
          6. Road Goal Differential
          7. Home Goals
          8. Home Goal Differential
          9. Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)

          (Didn’t realize this change had taken place myself until I checked out of curiosity. Possibly it’s related to the recent unbalancing of the schedule in terms of home v away games?)

          • RAMONE says:

            Correct, but I think it is quite unlikely that Colorado and Portland will remain tied at season’s end.

            Portland remaining schedule.
            LA Galaxy (home).
            Vancouver (away).
            Seattle (home)
            RSL (home)
            Chivas (Away)
            Max possible points 15. Unlikely. LA will be a playoff like game with neither team wanting to drop points – I predict a draw. Vancouver is limping to the finish and Portland has had a lot of success in Vancouver probably a win for Portland, draw at a minimum. RSL has had Portland’s number this year, though has also played a very beat up team and we are now getting guys back – I’ll pencil in a loss here but wouldn’t be surprised by a draw. Chivas is going to be officially long eliminated and despite playing with fire the last game, I think Portland plays well going into the playoffs if they need the points and take 3. So most likely 8 (+/- 2) points for Portland giving them 54 (52-56 a reasonable expected range) on the season.

            Colorado:
            Seattle (home) — Seattle is on fire lately despite Dempsy not contributing much. Probably a loss for Colorado but I’ll be charitable and give them a home draw.
            San Jose (Away) — I’ll give you a draw here also but lord knows SJ is really unpredictable and have also been playing better lately, potential loss.
            Vancouver (home) — Win. Anything less and you guys are in trouble.
            Vancouver (away) — Draw.

            So, you get 6 points, maybe you get lucky and get 8 or 10 (but that is going to take wins at Vancouver and at San Jose … without 10 however you won’t pass Portland and it is quite unlikely that you will earn exactly one more point than Portland will and both teams end up in a tie.

            Portland has had a bad habit this year of snatching draws from the jaws of victory (which is better than losses like last year) which has led to a lot less wins, but even with that said they only have one less win than Colorado with a game in hand.

  2. Jon says:

    Rapids were better than last trip to PDX. Midfield didn’t get overrun, succeeded in mucking it up. But not able to manage much else…

    Shane O’Neill is very, very good.

    Think we’ll see this again as the 4/5 match in the playoffs. Looking forward to it.

    • DC Josh says:

      I thought Colorado made the game interesting, if not pretty to watch. They took the game to Portland at times and put them under intense pressure.

      What’s the international status of O’Neill, is he representing Ireland or USA?

  3. DC Josh says:

    Valeri is a beast. Most valuable player for Portland, and a great find by Porter and his staff. And so is Timbers Army. Goodness those stands looked impressive last night.

  4. Big Chil says:

    My impression from the match: Portland, what a bunch of hacks & floppers. Rapids outplayed them in their own stadium. I’d be happy to draw Portland in the playoffs.