PORTLAND, Ore. – JELD-WEN Field made another case for the best atmosphere in MLS during the just completed Portland Timbers Tournament.
Four teams, three from MLS, played in front of enormous, raucous crowds during the tournament’s six games. And the results made for some intriguing storylines with First Kick approaching this week.
Here’s our report card for the trio of MLS teams that competed in the Rose City:
San Jose Earthquakes
(1-0-2, 6 GF / 1 GA)
The Earthquakes confirmed their status as an MLS Cup Playoffs contender this year with an impressive performance in Portland, leaving as the tournament champion based on goal differential. In the two games that head coach Frank Yallop fielded regular-season-type lineups, the Quakes earned a tie against Portland in the opener and a win – in impressive fashion – against Chivas USA on the tournament’s final day. San Jose played AIK to a scoreless draw in each teams’ second game last Thursday.
And the best news coming out of the San Jose camp is the help acquired for Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski continues to come through in impressive fashion. Along with fellow forward Steven Lenhart (above), who missed the second half of last season, many of the Earthquakes newcomers showed flashes of brilliance. And, of course, Wondolowski didn’t disappoint, scoring a goal in San Jose’s 5-0 dismantling of Chivas USA and assisting on a Lenhart goal against Portland.
Also good news for San Jose was their defense, which squandered leads in nine of the 16 games that they scored first in last year. With only one goal allowed in the tournament’s three games, there are noticeable signs of improvement.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 1, AIK 0
(1-0-2, 3 GF / 2 GA)
The shorthanded Timbers, who played with three very different lineups as players missed out due to international duty and injuries, showed a mixed bag.
In their 1-1 tie against San Jose in the opener, the Timbers showed more fight than cohesiveness, highlighted when captain midfielder Jack Jewsbury and Lenhart came together in a brief melee. But there were times in that match when the Quakes front line dominated.
Their 1-1 tie against Chivas USA last Thursday was perhaps the most disappointing performance, given the Rojiblancos’ disappointing tournament showing. In that match, many of Portland’s youngsters played like, well, youngsters. That wasn’t true, however, of rookie defender Ryan Kawulok, who netted the equalizer and also showed well against San Jose.
The best sign for Portland was the goal scored by Designated Player Kris Boyd (at right) in their 1-0 win against Swedish side AIK on Sunday, if only for piece of mind to confirm that the Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer still has the golden touch.
(0-2-1, 1 GF / 8 GA)
Eight goals against – which included a demoralizing 5-0 loss to San Jose on the tournament’s final day – and only one scored in three games pretty much says it all.
Coming into the tournament, Chivas’ only sure thing seemed to be striker Juan Pablo Ángel. And they did little to assuage those concerns, showing little fight on offense and a defense that appears to be in disarray.
One bright spot was the goal scored by jitterbug forward Cesar Romero, confirming his legitimacy as an MLS talent after coming from the ranks of professional indoor soccer. He scored his fourth of the preseason in Chivas’ 1-1 tie against Portland.
Ángel summed it up when he admitted a lot of work is left to be done for the Rojiblancos.