PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers’ roller coaster season continued on Tuesday night as they defeated the San Jose Earthauakers 2-1 at Jeld Wen Field. The Earthquakes are currently at the top of the table in the Western Conference, which makes Portland’s win much more unbelievable. Danny Mwanga and Jack Jewsbury both netted their first goals of the season in game that was completely controlled by the home side. The win still leaves Portland 17 points behind San Jose in the table, but if the Seattle game couldn’t spark a renaissance season, perhaps this unexpected victory will.
Portland came into the match needing a result after a devastating 3-0 loss to Colorado on Saturday. The Earthquakes were riding a three game winning streak before traveling to the Rose City including a crucial 4-3 win over rival LA Galaxy last weekend. Despite the differing table spots, the Timbers played the aggressor immediately after first kick off. The team’s energy that was completely lacking over the weekend was found on Tuesday night as the Timbers ran up and around the San Jose defense for the first 30 minutes of the game.
After a disappointing performance that led to him being pulled at halftime in Colorado, Franck Songo’o put in one of best performances he’s had in a Timbers shirt. The Cameroonian midfielder torched the Earthquake defense repeatedly and operated as a field general as he created open space for his teammates. His pitch vision almost led to a break through in the 15th minutes when he fired a cross through the box that landed at the feet of Eric Alexander.
As the San Jose backline scrambled to stop the attack Alexander cleared some space and ripped a shot that caromed of the left goal. Although the ball didn’t get past San Jose goalie David Bingham, it was a sign of things to come for the recharged Rose City side.
One of the few shaky moments for the Timbers defense actually led to their break through in the 28th minutes. Earthquake forward Alan Gordon slipped past both center backs and was fed a perfect through ball but misfired a shot in Troy Perkins. The ball fell to Shea Salinas with a wide open net but Portland defender Steven Smith was able to block the shot before it could cross the goal line. The resulting corner led to a break for the Timbers that we haven’t seen all season.
After San Jose misplayed the ball at the top of the box, Songo’o was able to dispossess the attacker and drive the ball up field. After a well-executed pass to Alexander, Songo’o raced down the wing, an area of the field that Portland was able to dominate all night. The Cameroonian once again laced a cross into the box, this time forward Danny Mwanga was able to make a perfect run past the San Jose defense and beat Bingham on the near post to give the Timbers their fourth consecutive 1-0 lead at home. The goal was the first of the season for Mwanga and first as a Timber after being traded from Philadelphia earlier this year. The goal had to feel great for the hometown forward that went to high school in Portland before becoming an All-Conference player at Oregon State.
The first half ended with the scoreboard reading 1-0 Timbers as the team put in one of their best 45 minutes of the season. The energy and motivation shown throughout the half was a welcoming feeling for Timbers fans who still don’t know exactly what to make of their team. The team that played in Colorado over the weekend could not be found in Portland on Tuesday night. The offense looked in sync and the defense shut down all of the Earthquake attacks, including neutralizing MLS leading scorer, Chris Wondolowski.
The second half of matches this season haven’t been kind to Portland but the Timbers were able to carry over all of their first half momentum and continued to dominate after halftime. This culminated in the 59th minutes after a midfield challenge that led to a Timbers’ free kick. Songo’o took the kick and blasted it towards the net. Timber defenseman Futty Danso battled away for the man marking him and challenged Bingham for the ball.
Futty was able to get a head on it and push it past the keeper. As Bingham chased after the sluggish shot, captain Jack Jewsbury slid in and smashed it into the net. The goal was Jewsbury’s first of the season as well and came with much dispute. San Jose felt that Futty had interfered with Bingham and that the goal should be disallowed. The young referee, Fotis Bazakos who was only officiating his fifth match, saw the play differently and the Timbers had another multi-goal lead at home.
The game slowed down after the Timbers second goal as they switched into a more defensive formation. San Jose showed some promise in the 74th minute after a long cross deflected off a group of players in the center of the Timbers box. The ball fell to Gordon who would not be denied a second time and slammed the ball past a stunned Perkins to give San Jose their first goal. Despite some tense moments in the last fifteen minutes, including over six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the match, the Timbers defense was able to hold the win and get their fifth win of the season.
The team’s up and down season will continue on Saturday at Real Salt Lake who are currently seated at second in the Western Conference. Even though the Timbers are in a rough stretch of their schedule they have played well at home. The team still hasn’t quite figured out how to get results on the road but with performances like Tuesday they look to be turning around their form. It could just be blind hope from fans who have said that repeatedly through out this strange season but if the Timbers are able to get wing play like that out of Alexander and Songo’o expect the goals to start flying in. Kris Boyd has still been relatively quiet this season but if Songo’o, who is clearly the best player in a Timbers shirt when he’s on the pitch, continues his classy play, Boyd will be the prime beneficiary. The team will be going for their first road win of the season on Saturday and hopefully will be able to carry some the Timbers Army energy with them to Salt Lake City….hopefully.