Soccer: Timbers ride Rapids in chilly contest
Game marked first goal for Timbers' Valeri
It seemed like Portland Timbers FC and the Colorado Rapids had brought down their home town weather as they faced off at Tucson's Kino Sports Park on Tuesday. The Timbers were the victors against both the cold wind and the Rapids, three goals to one.
Portland’s lineup was a mix of established players and new faces, including recently signed designated player Diego Valeri. The Argentine Valeri debuted strong, scoring in the 29th minute to give his team a lead that they never relinquished.
Both teams switched out at half, with Portland putting in two familiar faces up front, second-year players Danny Mwanga and Bright Dike. New Colombian signing José Valencia completed the attacking trio.
Despite the firepower up front, it was Kalif Alhassan who opened the scoring for the men of Cascadia in the second frame. Ghanaian Alhassan, whose time with the team dates back to its minor league days, scored off an assist by fellow West African Dike.
Alhassan and Valencia notched several more shots, with one of Valencia’s finding home in the 80th minute to bring Portland’s lead to 3. Colorado’s Deshorn Brown, just picked up in the recent draft, scored for the Rapids in the waning moments to deny Portland’s keeper the clean sheet.
The Rapids continue their preseason trek on Saturday against San Jose, while the Timbers face off against their long time rivals Seattle on Tuesday. Both games will be hosted at Kino Sports Park.
At least the grapes aren't sour
It’s not something you expect to hear after a win.
“I’m not sure this is a real game,” said Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter. “I don’t evaluate this as if it’s a real MLS game yet.”
Still, it was the first time Porter could see his squad in action against another MLS squad, at least as coach. After the team sacked the fiery Scotsman John Spencer last summer, Porter was given the status of coach in waiting while he coached the University of Akron Zips to another Final Four appearance. (That’s right: they are called the Zips)
“But it is a game. It’s the first time the guys have put the uniform on this year,” Porter said. “We talked about that before the game: even though it’s a preseason game … in terms of crowd and setting a bit artificial, but we still need to approach it in a professional way.”
“It was a positive performance based on our preparation,” Porter concluded.
The Maestro returns
The match marked a return in a couple of ways for Pablo Mastroeni. Mastroeni had his first taste of professional soccer, or something like it, here in the Old Pueblo when he played for the Tucson Amigos back in 1997.
More importantly for his current career, it marks his return to competitive soccer after suffering a concussion in a late season match against Real Salt Lake in 2011. Although he made appearances early last season, he was pulled from both matches for health concerns.
“I feel great,” he said after playing 45 minutes with his team. “I just did a week in Colorado, double days.”
“My whole problem last year was I wasn’t going out there and playing free. I was always scared of something happening,” he said about last season. “Obviously when you do that you can’t play at your fullest.”
“I did a lot of therapy last year,” he continued. “Now I go out and not worry about it.”
Mastroeni played the match in what looked to be a modified scrum helmet, similar to the one worn by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech and Houston’s Calen Carr.
“I just wear that helmet as a precaution,” he said of his headgear. “It won’t stop a concussion; it might help with some blows to the head.”
While recovering, Mastroeni had a chance to talk to other players who had had concussions.
“It’s comforting knowing that people go through this and get over it,” he said. “It’s different with every individual…it was an understanding that I wasn’t alone in this process.”