In my preview for last night’s match, I gave the Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29 pts) no chance whatsoever to come away with points against the San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6, 57 pts). Yet despite my pessimism and thanks to Danny Mwanga’s brace, the Timbers had a 2-0 lead after 62 minutes. While the headlines will praise another San Jose comeback (thanks to Chris Wondolowski’s brace), I can’t help think Gavin Wilkinson deserves a big assist for the part he played in the Earthquakes’ comeback. I’ll expand on this thought and more below in my takeaways from last night’s match:
* Danny Mwanga
Mwanga finally got the start last night, something I’ve been clamoring about for two months now. Apparently the reason Mwanga hasn’t been playing much has to do with his lack of confidence (see quote below):
“He was, for various reasons, very short on confidence coming out of Philadelphia, but he has worked hard in training and preformed very, very well off the bench the last few games. He deserved to start tonight, and his second goal was fantastic. He is a good finisher and he showed that tonight.”
Take that quote how you will, but for me, this seems to be Wilkinson’s way of giving himself a pass for having one of the teams most talented players sitting on the bench for the better part of two months.
Regardless of my bitterness about the quote, I’m happy to see Mwanga on the pitch and hope to see him start for the rest of the season.
* Joe Bendik
Bendik’s previous two appearances of the season were a result of injuries to mid-game injuries to Troy Perkins and Donovan Ricketts. I thought Bendik played very well in his very first MLS start. He made some excellent saves, was aggressive to react to balls in the box, showed some fire and heart on the pitch and his distribution was very good. He’s getting a shot to play due to Ricketts’ separated shoulder.
Just as a quick caveat, when Ricketts spent most of 2011 injured, it paved the way for Josh Saunders to take over as the Galaxy keeper. Ricketts became expendable after that. I’m not saying that is what is going to happen here, but I do look forward to seeing how Bendik takes advantage of this opportunity.
* Franck Songo’o
Here’s what Gavin Wilkinson had to say about Songo’o:
“Frank has really started to take on a leadership role and I am really happy with him. He controls the ball and tempo of the game well and is technically gifted. It’s a matter of keeping him fit and healthy and continuing to develop him. But again, he has done very well the last few games.”
Credit where credit is due. Wilkinson is spot on about Songo’o's form and leadership over the last several months and now that fans are seeing how a fit and healthy Songo’o plays, I think we can all agree he has been a good signing. It’s early still, but if Songo’o continues playing strong and showing improvement, this may play out as one of Wilkinson’s best MLS signings so far.
* 2nd Half Tactics
If there was a tipping point in last night’s match it was in the 62nd minute after Mwanga made it 2-0. Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop, who in a mid-match interview talked about resting Chris Wondolowski tonight, brought in Wondolowski (in the 58th minute) and Alan Gordon (in the 63rd minute).
So while Yallop made changes to proactively influence the match in the Earthquakes favor, Wilkinson did essentially nothing. The match was screaming for an adjustment (I was hoping to see an Eric Alexander substitution), but instead the Timbers bunkered down in the hope to go for 27 plus minutes unscathed.
We’ve all seen this story before right? The Timbers simply don’t have the quality players to bunker down for that long, especially against a team with as much offensive firepower as the Earthquakes.
For a very thorough look at why this is simply the wrong tactical move, please give Kevin Alexander’s post (aptly named “Bunked Off”) a read over at Slide Rule Pass.
Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29pts) at San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6, 57pts)
Sept. 19, 2012 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Timbers 1 1 2
San Jose Earthquakes 0 2 2
POR: Mwanga (Wallace), 45
POR: Mwanga (Songo’o), 62
SJ: Wondolowski (Lenhart, Gordon), 73
SJ: Wondolowski, 90+2
SJ: Corrales (Caution), 38
POR: Smith (Caution), 54
SJ: Cronin (Caution), 68
POR: Songo’o (Caution), 71
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Bendik, D Palmer (Kimura, 83), D Mosquera, D Horst, D Smith, M Nagbe, M Jewsbury ©, M Wallace, M Songo’o, F Boyd (Dike, 18), F Mwanga (Brunner, 85)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Angevine, M Alexander, M Alhassan, F Fucito
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Mwanga, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Mwanga, 2); FOULS: 14 (Songo’o, 7); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 7 (Bendik, 5)
SJ: GK Busch, D Beitashour, D Bernardez, D Opara, D Morrow, M Ballouchy (Wondolowski, 58), M Cronin, M Baca (Gordon, 63), M Corrales ©, F Dawkins, F Lenhart
Substitutes Not Used: GK Bingham, D Hernandez, D Zayner, M Ring, M Stephenson
TOTAL SHOTS: 23 (Corrales, Dawkins, Wondolowski, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Wondolowski, 4); FOULS: 13 (Morrow, 5); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 0
Referee: Armando Villareal
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Chris Strickland
4th Official: Yadar Reyes
Time of Game: 1:55
Weather: Clear, 61 degrees