The Portland Timbers and Minnesota United opened the 2017 MLS season on a soggy night at Providence Park. While the Loons were looking to celebrate their entrance into MLS, the Timbers decided to rain on their parade with a pretty convincing 5-1 victory.
Portland Timbers Hammer Minnesota United to Open 2017 MLS Season
Blanco the Creator
The Timbers were in control of this game right from the start. Their new look midfield was bossing play and creating chances for the men in green. The first goal came in the 14th minute off a free kick that had been created by the hustle of Argentinian winger Sebastian Blanco. Blanco chased down a ball in the corner to win a free kick near the corner flag. The ensuing take was flicked to Lawrence Olum, who poked the ball over the line for the first goal of the year.
Blanco’s hustle would become something of a theme in the first half. He was winning every race to a 50/50 ball, blindsiding Minnesota midfielders with dispossessions from behind. Not surprisingly, the second goal came courtesy of another Blanco creation. This time it was his cross from the right wing finding the head of Diego Valeri, who promptly turned the ball inside the far post. That gave the Timbers a 2-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the second half. He was subbed out at the 76 minute mark with an assist and unlimited hustle points to his name.
Fanendo Adi Shuts Down Brief Comeback
Minnesota United looked like a team that had never played a real game together, which, of course, they haven’t. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were almost always upset by a pass to a missing teammate or an errant clearance resulting in a scoring chance for the Timbers.
It looked like a comeback could have been in the works when two time NASL Golden Boot winner Christian Ramirez came on and scored minutes after being introduced. His 79th minute goal will go down as the first MLS goal in Minnesota United history, but it would go for nothing. Three minutes after that life giver, Fanendo Adi was hauled down in the box while rising to a long cross. This allowed Valeri to step to the spot for the insurance tally. Adi would finish the scoring with a pair in stoppage time. The first came from breakaway and a feed from Darlington Nagbe and the second a couple minutes later by outrunning the Minnesota defense along the left flank.
Overall, this game was Portland’s to lose from start to finish. They had an attacking and central midfield that was controlling the flow of the game and creating chance after chance. They hung five on the night, and it could have been a lot more if not for some last ditch defending from the Loons and wayward shooting from the Timbers.
The Timbers will take the win to the bank to open their season, although to say we learned a lot about them would be overstating this performance. Minnesota United looked disjointed for about three quarters of this game and only threatened once Portland’s big guns had left the pitch. Once Valeri and Blanco were chilling on the bench, the Timbers were more concerned with closing up shop and keeping the newbies off the board. Yet they were still scoring goals on the counter attack and making United look silly at the back. We will learn a lot more about what the Portland team really is next Sunday night when they visit the StubHub Center and play the Galaxy.
Loons a Work in Progress
As for Minnesota United, they are very much a work in progress. Nobody was expecting much out of them in the entire season, let alone their first game in extremely hostile territory. Their flashes of brilliance were enough to think that Adrian Heath has a plan in place. Perhaps more use out of Christian Ramirez, who gave the team some fire after he came on, will help them out.
This team wasn’t built to make headlines on day one. While a 5-1 defeat is somewhat humbling to open the season, Minnesota United and their supporters shouldn’t look at it as the end of the world. It may be a long year for the expansion side, but Adrian Heath has a plan for his troops. It will just take some time for them to put it in motion.