Photo: Earl Gardner
The Philadelphia Union did not get off to the start they were looking for in 2012, slumping to a 3–1 defeat at Portland’s Jeld-Wen Stadium on a rainy Monday night.
Goals from debutants Jean-Andrew Baptiste and Kris Boyd brought Portland back after the Union’s Gabriel Gomez, making his own debut for Philadelphia, gave his side the lead with a powerfully struck free kick. With just under 15 minutes to play, Kalif Alhassan’s teasing chip put the match away for the Timbers, who were the sharper, more aggressive side on the night. Gomez, Lionard Pajoy, Josue Martinez and Porfirio Lopez all debuted for the new look Union on a night when they experimented with formations and tactics throughout.
Cagey from the start, neither side could gain a clear advantage in the early going, though Portland was able to craft the better chances. Midfield turnovers plagued the Union all night and a misplaced Brian Carroll pass set the Timbers away in the 8th minute. But Zac MacMath, playing his first match as the Union No. 1 goalkeeper, was sharp, tipping a curling effort around the post.
In the 20th minute, with both fullbacks pressing high in attack, Portland looked to find space behind the advancing Sheanon Williams and Lopez. MacMath again had to be sharp as he rushed off his line to smother a dangerous break.
Philadelphia fans were soon holding their breath when an accidental clash of heads between Carlos Valdes and Kris Boyd left the Union player worse for wear, but fortunately he was able to carry on.
As the half wore on and neither side could settle into an attacking rhythm, the Union continued to shuffle their lineup. Martinez, Freddy Adu and Michael Farfan all took turns rotating through the different midfield positions, but none of the three could conjure any magic for the visitors, nor provide a link between Gomez and Pajoy going forward. With a midfield stalemate over the first 45 minutes, both sides were happy for the halftime whistle bring an end to a largely unstructured first stanza.
While Portland had the first chance of the second half, it was the Union who jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
In the 48th minute, Eric Alexander was again able to skip in behind Williams to send his cross into the Union area. When it was not dealt with at the back post, all Lopez could do was to try and block the ensuing shot. His effort directed the ball past a surprised MacMath, but Valdes was able to clear the line.
On the other end, Adu was dragged down 30 yards from goal, giving the Union a chance to bring their big bodies forward. Gomez’s service was powerful and heading for the back post, where Portland’s Andrew-Jean Baptiste could only get a glancing touch on the ball before it nestled into the net behind him to give the Union the lead.
Portland responded quickly, and MacMath needed to be sharp yet again as charged off his line to take a cross off of Jorge Perlaza’s head. But it was a gaffe from MacMath that opened the flood gates on the Union when he spilled Baptiste’s header into his own net in the 54th minute.
The Union struggled to mount a response following the equalizer and MacMath did not have long to think about his mistake before he was called back into action, making an excellent double save, first deflecting a low cross before parrying the rebound chance away from close range. The introduction of Danny Mwanga in the 60th minute gave the Union a second presence up top, but the midfield continued to struggle in possession. Like Pajoy before him, Mwanga would be unable to stamp his influence on the match.
In the 66th minute, the Timbers charged into the lead when Lopez gave Kalif Alhassan time to deliver an inch perfect cross onto the head of Kris Boyd, whose glancing header left MacMath with no chance. It would be hard to say that it was not fair reward for a long spell of pressure.
The one-way traffic continued until Portland’s 76th minute tally sealed the win for the home team. Jack Jewsbury’s quickly taken free kick released Alhassan to beat Jack McInerney, who had entered the match only two minutes before for Adu. Alhassan then strolled unmarked into the Union box to loft an unstoppable chip inside of MacMath’s back post.
The Union had little fight left after going down two goals. While Union supporters would have been pleased at the return of Keon Daniel, who entered for Michael Farfan with 10 minutes to play, Portland walked away as comfortable winners from the first match of the 2012 season.
Starters: Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Porfirio Lopez; Freddy Adu (Jack McInerney ’74), Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan (Keon Daniel ’79), Josue Martinez (Danny Mwanga ’60); Lionard Pajoy
Unused subs: Chase Harrison, Amobi Okugo, Christhian Hernandez, Gabriel Farfan
Total shots: 5; Fouls: 14 Offsides: 0; Corner kicks: 1 Saves: 4
Troy Perkins; Rodney Wallace, Will Brunner, Andrew-Jean Baptiste, Lovel Palmer; Eric Alexander (Darlington Nagbe ’66), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan; Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd (James Marcelin ’80)
Unused subs: Jake Gleeson, Mike Chabala, Bright Dike, Freddie Braun, Ryan Kawulok
Total shots: 17; Fouls: 8; Offsides: 2; Corner kicks: 7; Saves: 1
51′ – Philadelphia: Gabriel Gomez
54′ – Portland: Andrew-Jean Baptiste (Jack Jewsbury)
66′ – Portland: Kris Boyd (Kalif Alhassan)
76′ – Portland: Kalif Alhassan (Jack Jewsbury)
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