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Game changers: A visit to the woodshed

Defensive miscues and bad fouls sunk the Union against Portland.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Ensuring domestic tranquility - The Portland Timbers had a Wednesday match against Saprissa in Costa Rica that was supposed to leave the club drained and softened up before the match against the Union. Caleb Porter rested a good portion of the Timbers starters against Saprissa, taking a 4-2 loss to make sure he had a rested lineup against the Philadelphia Union.

2.) Pitch perfect - While Jim Curtin extolled the virtues of Portland’s pitch during this press conference, the artificial turf was slick. Case in point - not even two minutes into the match, Fabinho drove down the left side as he often does. As he closed in on the end line, he slipped and fell, and the ball rolled harmlessly to defender Alvas Powell. A few players lost their footing during the match, which naturally seemed to benefit the Timbers more than the Union.

3.) Yellow for Yaro - “Joshua Yaro (Philadelphia Union) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul” is the caption of the video. Let’s take a look:

I don’t see it. The contact is minimal, and while it would be harsh to call a foul on it, a card is completely incorrect. This call would play a huge part in the rest of the match.

4.) Post stamp - It’s no secret that CJ Sapong has been struggling lately, and while there are things he can be doing better, sometimes he’s just gotten unlucky.

This was mostly being unlucky. Sapong did well to work himself free of Steven Taylor’s coverage, and the only thing better than Barnetta’s pass was the run he made to get past the Portland defense. Sapong hit the ball cleanly, but unfortunately it hit the post and bounced out.

5.) Bad restart - The Union were fortunate to go into the half level, but at the start of the second half Portland would score almost immediately. Darlington Nagbe sent a cross and instead of clearing the ball out the usually reliable Keegan Rosenberry misplayed it. Darren Mattocks raced over and beat Rosenberry to the loose ball. Rosenberry overran Mattocks, who was able to send a pass in to an onrushing Diego Valeri, and Valeri buried it to put Portland up 1-0.

This is one of the few mistakes Rosenberry has made all season, but I have to ask whose assignment it was to mark Valeri. Brian Carroll was trailing Valeri, but Alejandro Bedoya was back there as was Josh Yaro. These guys haven’t worked together much as a unit, and if the Union are going to succeed these guys are all going to have to get on the same page - and fast.

6.) Good restart - Immediately after the Valeri goal, the Union were able to hit Portland on the counterattack.

This starts when Richie Marquez gets some serious height and beats Fanendo Adi in an aerial duel, getting the ball forward to Tranquillo Barnetta, who touches it forward to Fabian Herbers. Herbers makes a good run before being tangled with Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell and losing the ball. I was hoping Herbers would go down and draw a penalty, but he stayed upright. Never fear though, Chris Pontius was trailing and hit a great shot that beat Jake Gleeson to tie the match.

7.) Deja vu - The Timbers game winning goal was almost the exact same scenario as their first goal.

Prior to the start of this video, Alejandro Bedoya played the ball back to Keegan Rosenberry. Rosenberry hesitated to pass the ball up against the speedy Darren Mattocks, and Mattocks was able to get into a position that when Rosenberry tried to pass the ball it hit off of Mattocks and into a good position for an offensive rush by Portland. Mattocks jukes away from Rosenberry, who is able to somewhat keep up with Mattocks. Mattocks squares up, and beats Rosenberry inside toward goal before ripping a cross that Fanendo Adi is able to get a boot on, putting it past a defenseless Andre Blake.

Much like the first goal a lot of the blame lies on Rosenberry for this - but where is the defensive help? Richie Marquez did well to stay with Adi and make it difficult for him to get a shot off. Marquez was on the outside, posted up so he couldn’t do much to stop that. Josh Yaro was back, initially defending Diego Valeri, but Valeri loses him as Brian Carroll comes in to try and apply pressure on Mattocks. When Mattocks sends the ball, he’s caught Yaro alone in space - guarding no one and too far to make a play on the pass. Again it’s hard to remember sometimes that these guys are rookies - all too often this season their play has belied their MLS experience. This match exposed some weaknesses, and hopefully they’ll learn from this.

8.) Yaro’s second yellow - While the first yellow Josh Yaro picked up wasn’t deserved, he got away with a couple of other egregious fouls that probably were worthy of a card. At one point referee Chris Penso even pulls Yaro aside to warn him he’s already on a yellow and has had a couple of breaks thrown his way, but Yaro didn’t heed the warning. In the 84th minute, Yaro went in hard on Darren Mattocks and was shown a second yellow card. No one protested the decision either - usually a convincing sign that the card was deserved.