PREAMBLE: This week's live blog is dedicated to Andrew Jean-Baptiste, the former Timber starting out of position at left-back for Chivas USA tonight. Portland's right-sided pair of Kalif Alhassan and Alvas Powell will try to cause Jean-Baptiste problems, but the Timbers could still really use him in central defense, where Norberto Paparatto has yet to convince. Jean-Baptiste started there for several games last season in Portland, and the 21-year-old's physicality and anticipation always impressed, even if his concentration was occasionally wayward. He was always my favorite Timber on a sentimental level, so I'm looking forward to seeing him again.
This is Chivas USA's first visit since owner Jorge Vergara abandoned the team in the offseason. There are whispers of relocation to Texas or Arizona, or elsewhere, and rebranding, but for now the perpetually struggling team is rudderless, ownerless, groping for its next move. Thing is, Vergara is such a poor administrator — friends of mine who are fans of the Mexican Chivas say he's a laughingstock — that this could actually be the team's most promising season in years. Watch out for the sly touch and deft deliveries of veteran ex-Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales and the team's newfound goalscoring hero, Mexico striker Cubo Torres.
Portland: Ricketts; Powell, Danso, Kah, Harrington; Chara, Johnson; Alhassan, Valeri, Nagbe; Urruti. bench: Weber, Jewsbury, Paparatto, Nanchoff, Zemanski, Fernandez, Piquionne.
Chivas USA: Kennedy; Avila, Zavaleta, Bocanegra, Jean-Baptiste; Rosales, Pelletieri, Alvarez, Barrera; McNamara; Torres. bench: Melia, Delgado, Moore, Tyrpak, Burling, Toia, Bautista.
Analysis: Regular goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts returns for Portland tonight after serving a two-game suspension for a foul against Houston Dynamo. Stand-in Andrew Weber performed pretty well in his absence, however. Portland wouldn't have even gotten their draw against Seattle without a couple of acrobatic saves by Weber. Paparatto is also out after one too many errors and a palpable lack of comfort and confidence. Futty Danso is back to partner Pa Modou Kah and rebuild the Great Wall of Gambia for this match. Otherwise, Portland is unchanged, a vote of confidence for its attacking fluency against Seattle.
Despite a humiliating loss to notional archrival Los Angeles Galaxy last week, Chivas USA has only made one change to its lineup, Argentine winger Leandro Barrera coming in for English striker Luke Moore.
7.26 Hey guys, remember last season when that Chivas USA player pushed one of the Timbers' ballboys? Here's a video to jog your memory:
Defender Mario De Luna, the player in the video, no longer plays for Chivas USA. No word on the fate of the ball boy.
7.32: Keith Bleyer describes Portland, through the TV set, as "the best city in the land." I imagine, given that this is the website of a Portland newspaper, that he might get a less-than-average degree of resistance from my readers, but it's still a contentious claim. He also describes Diego Chara as a predominantly defensive player, which is inaccurate.
7.36: There's a montage on the local station telecasting this game of Timbers highlights set to speed metal. I am reminded by how concerned I am for Timber Joey every time he cranks up his chainsaw. He should be wearing gloves, goggles and saw chaps! He's setting a bad example for all the impressionable children out there.
1min: We have kickoff. We have a run up the left from Darlington Nagbe. We have Chara harassing Cubo Torres.
2min: Danso fouls Torres. Torres is so babyfaced. I feel like pinching his cheeks through the TV.
3min: Alhassan's cross forces Dan Kennedy to sprawl across his area and punch it clear off the ground. Earlier, Alvas Powell discovered he had the ball at his feet with the freedom of the Timbers' right wing and decided, why not try to step inside Jean-Baptiste? So he did, but the ensuing through ball was to an imaginary Portland Timber.
8min: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL Portland 1-0 Chivas USA (Johnson 8')
Maxi Urruti got on the end of a pass inside the Chivas area, where Eriq Zavaleta's defensing was permissive enough to let him stand still in the penalty area and assess his options. He laid it off to Darlington Nagbe, who shaped to shoot, then played in Will Johnson, racing into the space Chivas captain Carlos Bocanegra would have occupied if he wasn't off the field injured. Johnson, salivating and fastening his bib at such an improbably juicy opportunity, raced through and smacked it low to Kennedy's left.
12min: Bocanegra evidently wasn't injured. He just had an "equipment issue." Chivas is looking uneasy now, its midfielders too nervous to try and pass forward or sideways, instead making negative progress. Diego Valeri sets up Urruti for a shot with a run down the right, but his effort is scuffed.
14min: Valeri uses the graphing calculator in his head to compute the perfect through ball for Alvas Powell, who is surprised to find himself alone in the Chivas area with only Jean-Baptiste to beat. He tries to step inside the ex-Timber again, but this time Jean-Baptiste is ready and steals the ball easily.
16min: Chivas USA tries nobly to play the ball out from the back, but there are no runs to be made and the play ends with Alhassan and Danso bullying Torres off the ball.
18min: Chivas is growing into the match, though. First Torres receives the ball in the D, but Danso scrambles it away. Then Thomas McNamara exchanges passes with Pelletieri and manages to earn a corner. Now Cubo Torres is lying on the ground alleging some impropriety against Harrington.
20min: Leandro Barrera beats three or four Timbers on the Portland left, but nobody is making a run. Then Jean-Baptiste gets free on the other flank and sends in a low cross. Portland has to be careful. It was little by little and starting on the flanks that Seattle got back into the match last week.
23min: Barrera beat Harrington two or three times running up the flank and for some reason, that appears to have convinced the Timbers fullback that what he needs to do is clear the ball aimlessly upfield at every opportunity. Defensively his positioning is not tremendously solid. A third long, looping clearance from the Timbers defense ends in a gorgeous piece of control from Urruti, who caresses the ball out of the air with his outstep.
25 min: Urruti gets a great chance to shoot after a slide-rule pass from Nagbe. He feints around Jean-Baptiste and the placement on his shot is good, but it doesn't have enough power from outside the area to beat Kennedy.
30 min: The more inventive combinations in the last few minutes have been from Chivas USA. Portland his playing the ball longer and higher than usual. Urruti manages to spend an eternity dribbling at the Chivas defense, picks his pass precisely, and plays it to the only spot in the area no Timbers are running into.
34 min: Kalif Alhassan makes one of the most determined plays you'll see in a soccer match. First he hacks clear a Chivas corner, then he picks himself up off the floor of the area, chases his own clearance down on the right touchline and manages to win a foul off of two Chivas players double teaming him.
35min: Valeri carves a couple of triangles out of the Chivas backline, then releases Johnson into the area again. The Canadian aims for the opposite corner of the net to last time, but doesn't get it on target this time.
38min: As opposed to 10 minutes ago, Portland is emphatically in control of the match now, always on the ball, working it patiently. Powell hasn't done much on the ball, but his energy and speed have given him a lot of space in the final third. Valeri loves to find him with diagonal balls. His latest pass, this time a high one rather than a daisy cutter, is so good Powell can't quite believe his luck, and he tarries too long waiting for it to drop, giving Kennedy the chance to dribble clear with it.
40min: Darlington Nagbe gets the ball running at the defense, but Urruti is offside, so instead, Nagbe dribbles for what feels like hours all the way across the field and into the left corner, where Rosales runs him down and sends him sprawling to the ground. Valeri's free kick is easy for Kennedy to collect.
43min: Johnson, generous of spirit, decides to give McNamara a free shot, scuffing an attempted clearance into his heel and coughing the ball up to the ugly haired midfielder in the Timbers area. But Johnson then runs his opponent down and steals.
45min: The Timbers pressure Pelletieri into giving them the ball in a dangerous position with a nonsensical backpass. Chivas' organization is nonexistent and they converge on the center of the field while Urruti pulls wide. Valeri finds him, and he looks like he'll have centuries in which to shoot, but he's offside.
45min 1: Rosales plays the ball in from a free kick and Ricketts hurdles into the air to claim it, but Torres, showing great spirit, manages to get him to drop it. Chara hacks clear. Referee Baldomero Toledo blows for halftime.
HALFTIME THOUGHTS: At times it looks like Portland is toying with Chivas, just seconds from scoring. At other times it looks as though Chivas' unconventional attackers can cause the Timbers real problems.
Awkward confession: I didn't see the point of Maxi Urruti until a friend of mine explained it to me in the car ride back from the Seattle game last week. Urruti doesn't give defenders a moment's peace and forces errors. He hustles more than any forward in the league. And he can play a little too.
And now it's the second half!
46min: Portland wrests possession and Valeri gets the chance to run at Chivas. He is fouled instantly by Alvarez. Johnson rockets the free kick at the stadium roof. Chivas had the majority of the possession in the first half but I can't remember a significant scoring chance for the Goats. Portland is more decisive and dangerous by far.
50min: Not much has happened in this half so far. Barrera looks like an interesting player and the likeliest source of penetration for Chivas.
53min: Chivas has won a bunch of corners but not done much from them. Now Diego Valeri is racing into the Chivas half and he tries to pick out Urruti at the back post. The pass is a little too long and Urruti springs despairingly trying to play it back in.
56min: Urruti has been caught offside several times. Forwards who press often seem to be caught offside. I wouldn't worry about it. Alhassan releases Powell down the right and the Jamaican's cross is bad. Chivas' marking is also bad, though, and Urruti nearly backtracks hard enough to get it.
59min: Kah is on the ground now after a lunging tackle from Rosales. The sturdy Norwegian gets up but it was reckless by Rosales, already not the most popular man in the stadium.
60min: Once again, Chivas is growing into the match. Pelletieri embarrasses Urruti in midfield, dinking the ball over the striker's head and then playing the ball into the area. It falls to Rosales, but Kah closes him down. Then McNamara plays Alvarez into the area, but it's not so much a tame effort as a taxidermist's restoration of a beloved tame effort.
62min: Substitution. Alhassan off, La Gata Fernandez on.
63min: Toledo whistles because Thomas McNamara is down. He tried to beat Fernandez with a pullback, but he collapsed as he tried to chase it back around the Argentine striker's back. Planting your foot in artificial turf like McNamara did when he turned is a very, very bad idea indeed. Chivas takes McNamara off for Delgado.
67 min: Portland is wresting more control from this match. Eric Avila gets the first booking of the game for grabbing Nagbe around the waist from behind.
68 min: My mistake, I forgot about an earlier yellow for Harrington. Now Chara gets one. Barrera dinks the ball around Powell, then he slides it past Chara, who hacks him down rather than let him pass. Jean-Baptiste takes a very scrappy shot from the resulting free kick that Ricketts jogs along witho over the endline.
70 min: The Timbers are trying to take the sting out of the game and Fernandez, in particular, is doing a good job of drawing fouls from the Chivas USA midfielders.
73 min: Kah makes an excellent tackle on Torres, who sidesteps delicately into the area. Now Torres and Kah are both lying in heaps outside the area.
75 min: Chivas gets its clearest chance of the game. Johnson clears Rosales' corner direct to Bocanegra, who loops it into Torres. Torres swipes despairingly at it, and it floats toward the top corner. An alarmed Ricketts just manages to trot back and bat it out. Then it cannons off of a couple of Timbers players before Powell can finally chest it behind the goal.
77 min: Urruti takes the ball out of the air, considers dribbling toward the goal, and then decides the best idea is to take advantage of Pelletieri's too-forceful pressing and go down for a free kick. Valeri whips that kick straight at Kennedy.
79 min: GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Portland 1-1 Chivas USA (Torres 79')
Pelletieri squirts free down the left and, finding himself with the space to consider his options, he smacks the ball into the six-yard box. Torres, mysteriously unattended by Kah, scampers onto the ball and scuffs it beneath Ricketts. Boos and silence from the crowd.
82 min: Chivas looks confident for the first time in the match. Torres pesters Kah into an error, the Norwegian stepping on a ball he means to play first-time. Rosales then drives Johnson and Chara in front of him like steer on a ranch before suddenly changing direction. All of a sudden, Portland is playing with desperation.
85 min: A game out of which Portland was slowly squeezing the life has suddenly become fiery and frantic. Carlos Alvarez gets a yellow card for fouling a Portland player on the counter. Chivas just had an attack where Barrera got the chance to dribble half the length of the field.
87 min: The fragility of the Timbers' confidence is showing now. Their attacks are jittery and overcaffienated. Now Barrera is down with a cramp and boos are hurdling down from the stands.
89 min: Johnson squeezes another chance out of the game, running onto an attempted Chivas USA clearance and smacking the ball into a Chivas defender. Kris Tyrpak is on for Barrera.
90 min: Chivas USA bleeds time from the clock and momentum from the Timbers attack by subbing Torres off for Bobby Burling. Off a throw-in, Portland scrambles the ball into the area. Kennedy is on the floor. Danso is winding up to shoot, but Kennedy just gets there. Pelletieri fouls Portland and Johnson has a free-kick. It smacks the near post.
FULL TIME! I apologize for the delay. There was a technical issue. The Timbers spent the full six minutes of stoppage time knocking desperately at the door. At one point, Danso found himself with the goal at his mercy right in front of a sprawling Kennedy. But Kennedy managed to scramble it clear. Another fruitless attempt at a win by Portland.