For their part, the Timbers weren't too hot either. But they had little trouble containing the Thunder's long-ball clearances out of the back and off-target passes in front of the Portland box. And the Timbers were more successful on the 50-50 balls than they apparently were at the hotel bar after the game, winning most of them whereas their pickup lines and exploring hands were consistently shot down in the twilight of the evening. Note to Portland Timbers players: we've got feelers out everywhere and we know what you were up to that night.
Portland 'keeper Josh Saunders made a few blunders that could have been converted into goals by opportunistic forwards. His buttered gloves handled the ball as though it were a hot bun being taken out of the oven without proper oven mit attire. The best chance for the Thunder came around the 77th minute when midfielder Godfrey Tenoff banged a shot at Saunders and midfielder Kiki Lara pounced on the rebound to put it in the goal, but Lara was called offside and the goal disallowed. Controversy ensued.
If Saunders did anything good, it must have been the freaky faces he was making at Thunder players when they entered his box. On countless occasions attacking Thunder players whinced and cowered once they caught sight of the goonish Saunders. There were a handful of one-on-one clashes that seemed to end with the Thunder half pulling back to let Saunders or a Timbers defender swoop in. Saunders' best play of the game came when Thunder forward Melvin Tarley took the ball to the top of the Portland box and was instantly turned to stone by Saunders' basilisk gaze.
A moment of encouragement came for Thunder fans at the 82nd minute when rookie forward Tyrone Gordon came on for Lara. Gordon seemed not to have gotten the memo that he should conserve his energy for the post-game tulip picking contest, because he had a little bit of the fire that was missing from the rest of the squad. He had a couple of close calls with the Portland goal, but was not quite on target. Still, with his team sucking around him, he did as good as could be expected.
As nice as the field at the NSC is, the ambience of the place is like a Yanni concert without the "Ya" and "i." Song and cheer reflected off the adjacent mosquito ponds and then off to the undeveloped nearby plot reserved for a Vikings stadium, where it was sucked into a giant sucky suck. It could be that the same force is what sapped the Thunder's energy, but then why didn't it affect the Lightning players, who played just prior to the Thunder? The Thunder return to the Jimmy for their next match on Saturday, June 3 at 6:05pm, when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Let us all hope that we can get back to the wonderful feeling of being a Thunder fan with the return to the Jimmy.
Starting Lineups (Subs):
Portland: Saunders; Nsien, Randolph, Thompson, Goodfellow (Marcum 85'); Morrison, Alcaraz-Cuellar (Poltl 75'); Kreamalmeyer; Gutierrez (McCathy 53'), Alvarez (Bullen 64'), Chisoni
Minnesota: Warren; Esteves, Dombrowski (Kilickan 65'), Friedland, D. Branan; Juarez, Tenoff, Lara (Gordon 82'), Schmidt (Winkel 71'); Paye (Knox 57'), Tarley
Portland: Alvarez 34' (Alcaraz-Cuellar)
Portland: Shots: 8, Fouls: 14, Offside: 2, Corners: 2
Minnesota: Shots: 16 Fouls: 17, Offside: 8, Corners: 5
Saunders (Portland): Shots faced: 5, Saves: 0, Goals allowed: 0
Warren (Minnesota): Shots faced: 8, Saves: 1, Goals allowed: 1
MIN: Dombrowski 54'
POR: Poltl 80'
Andy Wattenhofer is a regular Blue Sky Soccer contributor and is also the administrator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org