KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers First 70 Minutes vs. Timbers Last 20 Minutes
One of the oldest adages about the game of soccer is that you have to play the full 90 minutes. That has never been more true than with the Portland Timbers of late.
With impressive recent starts to games against Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids, the Timbers often displayed style, pace, and an exciting attacking level of play. The problem is that once Portland seemed to hit the 70th minute or so, trouble started. Toronto and New York ended with the visiting side digging out come-from-behind draws while Seattle and Colorado each produced frustrating late losses for the Timbers.
If the problem at the beginning of the season was handling the first 20 minutes with a Timbers squad that seemed to go down early; lately the issue has been all about the last 20 minutes.
And that dichotomy of time brings us to the KeyBank Match-up of the Match for Wednesday night's game between the Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy (7:30pm PT, ESPN2, ESPN3.com, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM).
|KeyBank Match-up of the Match|
|Timbers First 70 Minutes||vs.||
Timbers Last 20 Minutes
Make no mistake, this LA Galaxy squad is a loaded and heavily talented team with plenty of dangerous match-up's. Landon Donovan, in the words of Timbers head coach John Spencer, is “the best player in the country, by a country mile.” Throw in the institution that is David Beckham, add fellow All-Star Sean Franklin mix in a host of other dynamic players and the Timbers have their work cut out for them.
But for them to have a chance, they need to focus on their own game first and foremost. A young and still developing team, Spencer has also been talking recently this week about the need for a growing match maturity in the side. Can the team learn to manage a game more effectively?
As an exercise, take out the last 20 minutes of every game this season and Portland would be sitting at 8-5-7 with 31 points—a nine-point improvement over their current position and right in the mix of a playoff berth.
But, as we all know, the game is 90 minutes.
While there’s certainly been some games on the season that regardless of it being 70 minutes or 90 that would just best be forgotten—the 4-0 thrashing on the road at FC Dallas comes to mind—there are others where they had chances and quality play against high quality teams for large stretches of play. The Timbers had both New York and Seattle on the ropes but just couldn't find the knockout punch and/or hold on to the very end.
For the Timbers to be able to take on the near literal galaxy of stars on Wednesday and hope to win, they’ll need to be able to take the bold and inventive play that highlighted the best segments of their matches against top sides and translate that into a full 90 minute performance. Every pass, every clearance, every shot, every run off the ball needs to be near perfect.
The margin of error against Los Angeles is small, but should the boys in green be able to put it all together all at once for the full 90, then they might just pull off the surprise.
To revisit another old adage, there’s no better time than the present.