Well, that sure was fun, wasn't it? In front of a seventh consecutive sold-out Providence Park home opener crowd, the Portland Timbers' 2017 campaign got off to a blazing start Friday night. The Timbers cruised to a 5-1 win over Minnesota United, behind two goals each from Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri and a goal from new defender Lawrence Olum, in what was a very rough welcome to the league for the new kids.
Sebastian Blanco. Dude is a ton of fun to watch. Every time he'd get the ball and find himself in a crowd, he was able to dance his way around, through, and past the crowd and advance the play. His ability to get out of danger like that didn't always come to something productive, but the fact that he can do it is impressive enough, and that fluidity will be a great asset for the Timbers this season.
Alvas Powell. I, and a lot of Timbers fans, really really like Alvas Powell, but last year wasn't great for him. He was injured, and when he came back, whether it was because he was cautious about his recovery or from some other reason, he wasn't the force he was in 2015. But last night, the 22-year-old looked like he is getting back to his best - he's confident, powerful, and fast. If that keeps up, he's in for a great season.
The defense. One of the biggest questions surrounding the Timbers this offseason was "how bad will the Timbers defense be?" After one game, the answer is a qualified "not bad". Lawrence Olum was decent in his debut; I think what we saw is about what he is, but what we saw was...fine. Liam Ridgewell still looks a bit more disinterested than I would like, but apart from his culpability on the MNU goal, he was reasonably solid at the back. I said a "qualified not bad", though, because...
The opposition. I hate to be this guy, because they're new and Minneapolis seems like a really nice place, but Minnesota United are not good. Their defending was OK for a bit, but then got really messy later in the first half and fell apart completely in the second. Their attack is, for lack of a better word, hesitant - they do a decent job of keeping the ball when they get it, but they don't really know what they want to do with it when they have it. "Get the ball to Kevin Molino" seems like an interesting strategy, but that was about the only trick they had in their bag.
The refereeing. It's a tired cliche at this point to complain about the state of MLS refereeing, but last night showed exactly why people complain about it so much. One missed handball from MNU, a potential missed red card from a David Guzman stomp, and it would appear that MLS referees are pretty much picking up right where they left off last season.
Liam Ridgewell. "Bad" may be overstating it, but Ridgewell doesn't look nearly as dominant as he did in 2015, and I was hoping he'd come out of the gate better than he looked in a lot of 2016. He looked like a passenger for stretches of this game, and he played Ramirez onside for Minnesota's goal. I don't think Ridgewell is a bad player, but the trend of him not playing like we've seen him play is worrisome.
There is nothing ugly about an opening night in the rain with 21,000 of your friends watching your team destroy another team.