Timbers Claw Back for a Draw Against Atlanta

The gang was all back at Providence Park this past Sunday, well all but one Darlington Nagbe. As good as Nagbe is, having starting Keeper Jake Gleeson, and El Maestro, Diego Valeri, back should be enough to handle the eighth ranked team in the Eastern Conference. This one didn’t seem to be so much about Nagbe’s absence but missed chances, and poor play.

The first half had it’s moments, but was mainly both teams feeling one another out, as this was their first meeting. However, somewhere between embellishment and the Olympic Diving Team is where Atlanta FC plays their game. It went from comical to downright absurd at times. Although, Ric Flair would have been very proud of them, so that’s something.

Sadly, this wasn’t the reason for leaving points on the table in this one. With regular Atlanta Leftback, Greg Garza, out, the plan of attack for the Timbers was to push it up the right side with Alvas Powell and Dairon Asprilla. Unfortunately, that was also their achilles heel. Both are capable of making outstanding plays that make you stand up and cheer. Conversely, both are also capable of making you want to throw your hat to the ground in frustration.

This one was full of the frustration inducing moments. For every elusive move, or pass, there was at least two bone-headed giveaways or just misplaying the ball, resulting in a throw-in for Atlanta. Darren Mattocks, the 60th minute man (my nickname for him as he always seems to come on in around that mark) replaced Asprilla in the 62nd minute, but the damage had been done at that point.

While the team looked much better than the thrashing they took in San Jose last week, they showed signs of that performance at the opening of the second half. Just 27 seconds in, before many fans were back to their seats, Atlanta sliced through the Timbers and scored, stunning what fans were in their seats.

This seemed to be the catalyst the Timbers needed to shake off whatever was limiting their performance in the first half and take the fight to the visitors. The opportunities were many, but again, there seemed to be five good decisions/passes followed by an awful one. The breakthrough wouldn’t have to wait long though.

David Guzman’s free-kick from just into Atlanta territory bounced past several players from both teams before finding the enigmatic Englishman Liam Ridgewell who headed it in. And what comes next? Well, a Ridgy Roll of course!  

 

 

While the pressure remained strong, the Timbers just could not break through. It felt like in the last 15 minutes (4’ of added time) they had a hundred chances. Fenando Adi, Sebastian Blanco, Mattocks, all created great opportunities. Although, Guzman came the closest, clanging one off the corner of the woodwork with about two minutes to go. The audible gasp from the crowd could probably be heard in Hood River.

https://twitter.com/MLS/status/863877833969610752

However, it ended in a 1-1 draw. It felt at times the Timbers were going to run away with this one, but it also felt like they were hanging on. This can be a bit concerning as their next two games are on the road, where in recent history, they’ve had a tough time finding points.

I’d be remissed if I did not bring up the officiating in this one, or rather a lack thereof. At first it seemed referee Alan Kelly would be calling a strict game, using his whistle early and often. However, it was soon revealed his interpretation of the rule book was a bit skewed. No more so when in the 36th minute he thought this blatantly dangerous tackle from behind only warranted a Yellow Card.

Ok, maybe he didn’t have a good line of sight on it. Well according to his own post game comments he did. He missed glaring calls on both teams, and seemed to fall for anyone clutching their face and falling down. At one point an Atlanta player chased a ball out of bounds, then seeing a Timbers player ready to throw a new ball in, threw the original back on the field of play. He didn’t even receive a talking to.

The MLS needs to hold officials accountable for poor performances and reckless interpretation of the rulebook or the progression of the league will not continue at the same pace. Kelly also made odd decisions in regards to concussion protocol, which Chris Rifer detailed very well through his post game questioning and work.

Regardless of the officiating, or lack of it, the Timbers need to be better, especially at home. Next week they will be traveling to Montreal to face the Impact on Saturday, May 20th and then to Seattle for a Cascadian Derby on Saturday, May 27th with the Sounders.

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