Looking to bounce back

The Portland Timbers suffered their first home loss of their 2011 campaign on Tuesday against the San Jose Earthquakes in a U.S. Open Cup qualification match.

The Portland Timbers suffered their first home loss of their 2011 campaign on Tuesday against the San Jose Earthquakes in a U.S. Open Cup qualification match. San Jose defender Ike Opara scored the game-winning header in the last minute of the game to give the Earthquakes a 1-0 win. With the heartbreaking defeat, the Timbers bow out of the U.S. Open Cup.

The Timbers hope to resume their solid play at the Jeld-Wen Field, when they take on the Philadelphia Union in a regular season Major League Soccer (MLS) match. Philadelphia is currently placed second in the Eastern Conference with 13 points from six games. Ironically, Philadelphia is coming off a 1-0 home win against San Jose. The Timbers have a 3-3-1 record in the MLS and are currently placed sixth in the Western Conference, five points behind leaders LA Galaxy.

Going into Tuesday’s game against San Jose, the Timbers enjoyed a brilliant home record this season, having won all four of their matches in Portland. Their victims included Chivas USA, Chicago Fire, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. However, with today’s MLS game against Philadelphia in mind, Timbers head coach John Spencer gave some of the regular starters rest. Instead, Spencer gave reserve players like defender Freddie Braun, midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and forward Spencer Thompson an opportunity against bottom-dwelling San Jose.

“We have a MLS game on Friday. There are points on the table to be had, and I think that’s the reason why we had so many [regulars] not starting,” Spencer said in a statement released by the club. “We put a team out there that we felt could win the game. I don’t think there was much difference in quality between the two teams.”

On the other hand, San Jose put out many players from their best 11. The team sheet included defenders Opara, who scored the winning goal, and Ramiro Corrales; midfielders Khari Stephenson, San Cronin and Bobby Convey; and forwards Ryan Johnson and Chris Wondolowski. Wondolowki was the leading goal scorer in the 2010 edition of MLS.

Playing in front of 11,412 Timbers supporters, both Portland and San Jose were unable to break the deadlock in the allotted 90 minutes. San Jose had a slight edge in offense in the match. They had nine attempts on goal with four on target, compared to Portland’s eight attempts, with three of them testing the San Jose goalkeeper. San Jose was also the more physical of the two teams, receiving six yellow cards in the game, as opposed to just two by the Timbers. Still, the Earthquake’s last-second goal silenced the home crowd.

“You lose concentration for half a second, you’re going to get punished—and that’s what happened,” Spencer said.

Spencer is expected to revert back to his regular players against Philadelphia today. Troy Perkins in expected to start in goal, while Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza are expected to lead the attack in a traditional 4-4-2 formation. Cooper leads the team with three goals in the season. Exciting talent Khalif Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe are expected to man the flanks. Team captain Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara will hope to control the game from the midfield.

On the other hand, Philadelphia will hope to counter the Timber’s high-octane offense with some of their own scoring. Although Portland has scored 10 goals so far, they have conceded 13 goals as well. Going into this game, both the teams have scored 10 points from their last five matches. If Portland’s defense plays well, then the Timbers should pull out the victory and continue solidifying their spot in the Western Conference standings. ?