(Sort of) Timbers 1 - 0 (Sort of) Necaxa

To throw out a familiar cliche, last night's exhibition between the Portland Timbers and Mexico's Necaxa was a tale of two halves. Necaxa's (b-team) looked the more threatening in the first, whether pinging the bar of the foot of the post or just generally in running the game. By the second half, however, Timbers' passes continued to find find the right feet even after they scored a smart and opportunistic goal immediately after the whistle.

It's only after reading the match report on the Timbers site, that I even recalled Necaxa's second-half breakaway on the Timbers' goal: Portland's central defender (I'll get to players' names later, but thought this was #6, and I read the name "Knowles," so I'm assuming that's Cameron Knowles*) dribbled out of the defense and lost the ball with no one thinking to cover; still, Timbers' 'keeper, Josh Wicks, ably snuffed out the danger. The overall impression, though, was a much-improved second half for Portland, especially with regard to keeping poise and possession on a field the players of both teams did their best to make small.

The thoroughly respectable crowd created a lively atmosphere - especially where I sat: between the Timbers Army and a bunch of Necaxa/Mexico fans (little distinction was apparent last night). Both sides made plenty of noise, if at different times - so, yeah, a good time was had by all (well...except the old dude nursing a nasty bruise on the left side of his face).

This being my first Timbers game of '07, I'm not totally clear as to how much this was a "b-team" for the Timbers as well. Comparing last night's starters with the teams fielded in their first two league games reveals...well, will reveal...holy crap, is the Timbers' official site eating shit today...ah, here's a report from that second game (thanks, Timbers Blog!) - and I'm seeing some familiar/noted names missing: Luke Kreamalmeyer, Cameron Knowles (* turns out I had the wrong "Knowles," but was able to read the jersey correctly), Andrew Gregor, Scot Thompson, etc. So, it looked pretty "b" on paper and, with the Timbers Blog confirming that in his match report, I'm content to let my title stand - and to say, "Hey, nice going reserves."

My tradition of not reading others' thoughts before commenting on a game now completely out the window, I'll add my couple pennies to the proceedings:

- As noted above, I thought Necaxa had the better of the first half; their movement was better, they found holes down the flanks more than once, and they badly disrupted the Timbers' rhythm. On the upside, they couldn't cross for shit so the flank play didn't amount to much. For his part, Bob Kellett (Timbers Blog/The Offside guy) thought no one had a memorable first...fair enough.

- The Timbers' seem happy with a "punt-n-rush" style, by which I mean they often look forward first and rely on leading passes to diagonal runs toward the sideline, as opposed to looking to quickly switch the point of attack, etc. That's not bad per se, but it relies on the Timbers' guy beating one of theirs to the ball on the diagonals and low-percentage passes into the teeth of the opposition.; it doesn't always work so well and they surrender possession a fair amount in doing it. Contrary to another cliche, the Timbers don't seem comfortable "making the ball do the work."

- A confession on the goal: when Bryan Jordan received the ball on the Timbers' left, his decision to turn inside had me groaning; funny how it worked in creating the game's lone goal. It's times like that I'm happy to be wrong.

- Kellett singled out Kiki Lara as having a good night, particularly in the second half. If Lara is the lanky black dude I spotted, I won't just agree, but will go one further: the Timbers' didn't use him nearly enough, especially on throw-ins; he made himself available on several occasions with ample space around him and his central position would have afforded him options for opening up the attack. But, yeah, he looked pretty comfortable - and comforting - out there.

All for now.

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