Counter attack kings Portland Timbers vanquish Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union traveled to Providence Park to take on the Portland Timbers on Saturday evening to begin a three-game road trip for the Union.

Action right from the kick off

True to the styles of both Philadelphia and Portland, the early minutes of the match were filled with end-to-end action that would continue throughout the first half. 

Faithful to the number nine on his back, Fenando Adi provided the outlet for the Timbers, holding up the ball and looking to turn and release his midfielders, much like his Union counterpart, C.J. Sapong

But the first serious effort on goal would come from Philadelphia's Fabian Herbers in the 5th minute. He received the ball from Tranquillo Barnetta on the edge of the box and let rip a powerful shot, only to be blocked for a corner by Jack Jewsbury

Portland was content at times to simply maintain possession looking for the opportunity or the killer pass, but impatience on the ball saw them dispossessed a number of times. This happened in the 9th minute when Alejandro Bedoya latched on to a poor pass and tried to beat Jake Gleeson from distance but could not.

Portland turn the screw

A gorgeous one-two pass between Diego Valeri and Darren Mattocks in the 11th minute would result in the Jamaican attempting to beat Andre Blake from close range. Blake's positioning, and the angle, had his international teammate beat as Blake made the save with ease.

It would be Portland once again with the opportunity in the 15th minute as Diego Valeri approached the free kick, but the Argentinian, whose delivery is normally picture perfect was just off much to the relief of the traveling Philadelphia supporters.

Portland continued to come forward with pace in waves. Andre Blake came to the rescue to bail out the Union defense in the 19th minute, pushing Adi's shot wide of goal after the Nigeria international had been played into the box once again by Diego Valeri.  

Collisions, saves, and setpieces, oh my!

Philadelphia responded well, as Fabian Herbers latched onto a Tranquillo Barnetta pass, getting a shot off before colliding with Jake Gleeson. The New Zealander was rewarded for putting his body on the line when Herbers' deflected shot went out for a Philadelphia corner in the 20th minute.

The trend of goalkeepers putting their body on the line would continue in the 26th minute when Andre Blake ran through a crowd of bodies to grab Valeri's free kick before a Portland player could get a head to it. 

Philadelphia answers 

Tranquillo Barnetta would again try his luck from distance in the 29th minute, slamming a shot from some 30 yards out but Gleeson was up to the challenge despite being shaken following the collision, clutching the ball to his chest like a newborn baby. 

A nice sequence of passes in the 30th minute saw Herbers as the creator when his cross from the right wing saw Chris Pontius head the ball across goal for Herbers. Pontius, however, flubbed the volley which ended the threat.  

Barnetta caused havoc again in the 32nd minute. He cut in from the right, passing the ball to himself through the legs of Vytautas Andriuškevičius and then hitting a low cross into Sapong, but the former Sporting Kansas City striker's shot was well saved by Gleeson.  

Jake Gleeson stood on his head to keep Philadelphia from equalizing Image Courtesy of the Portland Timbers
Jake Gleeson stood on his head to keep Philadelphia from equalizing
Image Courtesy of the Portland Timbers

Late first half drama but no goals

Goalkeeping indecision was nearly fatal for Philadelphia. Alvas Powell's cross found the head of Adi in the 39th minute while Andre Blake was caught between staying on his line and charging the attacker but much to the Jamaican's luck, Adi's header went wide of goal. 

The Timbers offense simply wouldn't let up late in the first half. They earned their first corner in the 43rd minute and nearly their first goal as Mattocks outjumped his marker to thump a header toward goal but the former Vancouver Whitecaps striker's effort  was wide of goal as the first half ended, surprisingly scoreless. 

Goals, goals goals

The goals came thick and fast right from the second half kick-off. Mattocks beat Rosenberry for pace, drew him out of position and passed to an onrushing Diego Valeri who slotted home for the first goal of the night in the 46th minute. Moments later, in the 47th minute, Herbers would stop on a dime on the edge of the Timbers' box, lay off the ball to Tranquillo Barnetta and for the umpteenth time on the night, Barnetta would shoot from distance, slotting home for the equalizing goal.    

Alvas Powell looked to respond soon after, making the right wing his own in the 50th minute when he galavanted forward under no challenge and swung in another cross to Fenando Adi whose awkward high footed volley was wide of goal. 

The Union's joy would, however, be short-lived as Mattocks was again at the heart the Portland attack. He beat a shaken Keegan Rosenberry on the dribble, and sent in a shot that Fenando Adi latched onto and slotted past Andre Blake for what would prove to be the winning goal in the 53rd minute.

Pontius leads the fightback 

Philadelphia wouldn't lay down, however, as Chris Pontius had two quick chances in a matter of seconds, chesting down the ball and creating space for himself before hitting a shot toward goal and then heading just wide of goal. 

Pontius once again took matters into his own hands in the 60th minute, latching onto a loose ball in the Portland box and hitting a shot toward goal but Gleeson did will to parry his shot wide and keep Philadelphia from an equalizer.  

Portland torment on the counter

Fenando Adi was very unlucky not to add another goal to his tally when he turned Joshua Yaro, sending the defender the wrong way in the 62nd minute before hitting a shot well wide of goal.

The Union searched for the equalizer although it wasn't forthcoming. They earned two corners in a matter of minutes before nearly being punished on the counter - a trend that would continue throughout the second half. 

The Union's desperate search for an equalizer continued in the 76th minute. Barnetta sent in another free kick, but the Portland defense was up to the task, heading the danger away. 

Philadelphia dodged a bullet moments later when Portland countered with pace, but Diego Valeri once again found himself shooting wide of goal. 

To make matters worse, the Union's task was made all the more difficult when Joshua Yaro received a second yellow in the 84th minute, reducing Philadelphia to ten men. 

Philadelphia were left clutching straws late on as the Timbers played possession, looking to hold onto the ball and run the clock down but Portland wouldn't be content to just hold the ball and continued to try and punish Philadelphia with their pace.

Andre Blake bailed the Union out late on to deny Portland a third goal before the Union came agonizingly close to an equalizer in stoppage time. Barnetta hit one of his trademark free kicks, but Gleeson, who was quite possibly the man of the match, tipped the Swiss international's shot over the bar to keep Portland in the lead just moments before the final whistle blew. This victory for Portland saw them climb above Sporting Kansas City into 5th place in the Western Conference.