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Match report: Portland Timbers 1-3 Philadelphia Union

Photo by: Darby Winter/Special to The Philly Soccer Page

The Philadelphia Union met Phil Neville’s Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Saturday night, where the boys in blue stunned the Timbers 3-1.

It was a heavily rotated squad for the Union, as the team were missing eight rostered players to international duty – six of those being regular fixtures in the eleven. With just sixteen rostered players available for selection, leaving the Rose City with a point in hand would have been considered a tall order.

A win? An afterthought.

“The schedule is the schedule,” said Jim Curtin during his pre-match press conference on Friday. “We play during international windows. Whatever your opinion of that is kind of doesn’t matter, because the game is coming.”

Portland were without Maxime Crepeaux and Kamal Miller to international duty with Canada; along with Miguel Araujo away with Peru. Though, unlike Philly, Portland was able to roster a full eighteen-man squad.

The game began with Portland seeing much of the possession early. But, the Union matched with stout defensive shape for much of the contest.

The 4-4-2 diamond listed in the team sheet appeared to be more of a flat midfield with Rafanello and Bedoya sitting evenly often with Bedoya pressing up higher on occasion.

Portland was able to slowly start finding ways through the Union’s block. Semmle was forced to the rescue in the 17th minute when Evander was slipped in free around the penalty area. Semmle went full extension to his right to parry a low shot around the post – a very tough save.

Soon after, Portland’s Jonathan Rodriguez put another shot low to Semmle’s right. This time, the woodwork was the hero, keeping Portland’s newest signing off the scoresheet.

Even with these chances, the Union remained mostly comfortable out of possession, beginning to press and combat Portland’s attack higher as the half wore on.

The Union press then forced a turnover, that ultimately led to a corner. Off the ensuing Wagner corner, a leaping Carranza simply wanted it more than anyone – winning a header over a forest of Timbers to head home the game’s first tally.

The Union’s press continued to prove problematic for Portland. Carranza worked hard to win the ball back, finding the feet of Wagner who fed Uhre in alone on goal. With a good amount of goal to shoot at, Uhre placed his shot directly at the Portland GK. The Dane’s run of poor form in front of goal continues.

The first half came to a close with the Union conceding some late chances to Portland, but winning back much of the momentum they conceded to Portland early.

The match resumed in a similar game-state, with the Union’s press frustrating the Timbers by cutting out attacks before they could even develop.

In the 57th minute, a Portland turnover led to Markus Anderson driving at the Timbers defense. Instead of forcing a run into trouble, Anderson astutely slowed things down, and laid the ball off to Rafanello who fancied a long-range strike. The shot was hit with venom and swerve and it forced Pantemis into a save that he couldn’t handle. Quinn Sullivan was on the scene, tucking the rebound into an unkept net with authority.

The affair began to open up, which played right into Philadelphia’s strengths in transition.

The Union sprung another attack, with Mikael Uhre flying down the right flank and crossing a low ball to the feet of Carranza on the doorstep who guided it into the Portland net with ease.

Around the 60th minute, Portland made a flurry of subs to try to find their footing. The fresh legs opened the game up further, affording Portland some attacking license.

In the 79th minute, Portland finally responded. Jonathan Rodriguez rose up to get his head on the end of a cross, guiding a header past Semmle. The momentum pendulum began to swing in Portland’s favor.

Portland continued to pepper the Union, probing the Union’s penalty area with chances. Yet the Union block remained intact.

Christian Campo Hernandez’s whistle was heard scantily during the second forty-five minutes, which made it surprising when eight minutes of stoppage time were announced from the third official. Throughout stoppage time, Portland continued to rain down chances but Semmle and his defense did everything they could to keep Portland at bay.

Despite Portland’s best effort, Philadelphia prevailed and head home with a much needed three points. A strong character win will make for a jubilant plane ride back to Philadelphia.

Next on the menu for the Union are Minnesota United in Chester next Saturday afternoon(!) at 2 pm.

Three Points
  • Delivering thorns in the Rose City – Three goals on the road, and some very encouraging attacking play from a heavily rotated squad. This was a statement win by a team that was in desperate need of one. The work-rate was high for the full 90 minutes; Carranza, Bedoya and Rafanello each covering >7.5 miles. A really nice win after a rocky start to the season.
  • Promising depth – Eight impact players gone? No problem. The Union handled business, exhibiting a full team effort on the road in a tough environment. Markus Anderson and Jeremy Rafanello filled in really nicely, contributing on both the offensive and defensive ends of the pitch. Both Anderson and Rafanello showed versatility in their roles, turning in performances that should afford both of them more playing time.
  • Semmle seemlessly – Oliver Semmle deserves individual recognition. He has stepped in for Blake seemlessly on multiple occasions and has even performed above expectation. He has kept his team in the games he’s played, making some Blake-esque saves along the way, and, frankly, that is better production than the Union have gotten out of a backup keeper in some time.

Philadelphia Union 

Oliver Semmle, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Quinn Sullivan, Alejandro Bedoya, Jeremy Rafanello, Markus Anderson (Chris Donovan — 84′), Julian Carranza , Mikael Uhre

Unused subs: Andrew Rick, Matt Real, Olwethu Makhanya, Sanders Ngabo

Portland Timbers

James Pantemis, Juan Mosquera (Dairon Asprilla — 75′), Zac McGraw, Dario Zuparic, Eric Miller (David Ayala — 65′), Diego Chara (Felipe Mora — 65′), Eryk Williamson (Christhian Paredes — 65′), Santiago Moreno, Evander, Antony, Jonathan Rodriguez

Unused subs: Hunter Sulte, Larrys Mabiala, Nathan Fogaca

Scoring Summary

PHI: Julian Carranza — 28′

PHI: Quinn Sullivan — 57′

PHI: Julian Carranza — 67′

POR: Jonathan Rodriguez — 80′

Discipline Summary

POR: Diego Chara — 24′ (foul)

PHI: Quinn Sullivan — 32′ (foul)

PHI: Jack Elliott — 40′ (foul)

PHI: Oliver Semmle — 88′ (delaying restart)

PHI: Mikael Uhre — 90′ (foul)


  1. Man imagine how dire our striker situation is going to be if Carranza leaves this summer.

  2. What a game.
    It’s late at night, and I’m done.
    Here’s a couple points
    1. The strikers
    Carranza is good. Not just goal scoring good, but like everything good. The man can do nothing wrong. He is such a good all around player that if I had to choose between Suarez or Carranza atm I would choose Carranza. Mikael Uhre though, I kinda thought he played alright? Seems like in a way his most influential game in recent memory. If he could just finish… He would probably be DP level.
    2. The kids
    Rafanello, Really Impressive? He seemed like he just played really well. Had that rocket of a shot that led to a goal and ran the most out of anyone on the field.
    Anderson, I really like this guy, in all of his appearances this season he has played well. He seems versatile and a great backup option for both striker and CAM.
    3. The win(!) The Union won a league match guys, the world might as well end now. And of course it was on an away game where we were missing half our roster!

    I’m just really happy
    Keep it going boys

    • To your point one. There was one point in the match when Carranza ran across the field to confront one of the opposition, right next to Uhre and with a glance to him which I took to mean, why aren’t you more active/aggressive? Uhre can’t afford to try to rely on his finishing skills alone, cause right now they are failing him. He was much more active but he cries foul too much and watches too much rather than making things happen. Good assist but lousy finishing and a C- on his defense. ( which is better than normal). The U had a great team win and I hope it is the start of a great run!

  3. Few brain cells functioning at this hour…
    Well done, U., despite many nervy moments.
    One addition to the article (thank you, Blake): Glesnes’ restart that led to the final goal deserves a mention. He and Uhre were telepathic — kudos to them to seize the opportunity, and of course the finish from Carranza.
    Semmle is my MOTM.

    • RE: Glesnes on the free kick, Sullivan was still on the ground after the foul, I wonder if Portland turned off for just a second thinking the ref would hold play until he got up. Smart by Glesnes to put the ball back in play then a great combo by the strikers.

  4. I watched so much footy today by 22:30 I had (blanchable) sofa sores on the sacrum… coupled with quite a bit of bitching I did throughout that game… this this THAT fuck all that then this…deservedly too much of it— but I will not offer one word of it here tonight.
    Well done Boys. That was very well done. Come on home.

  5. That was the epitome of what I want Philly soccer to be. It had all thing things we’re used to: solid defending (Portland had lots of chances but fewer xG than the Union), four players who put in more than 7 miles, a keeper who stood on his head and came up in big moments, physicality, and big contributions from veterans and academy players.

    But it also had a tactical change and trust in bench players. I know Jim was forced into both of those, but hopefully this is the wakeup he needs to begin trying new things.

    After the second leg of the Pachua game I felt sad. I was frustrated that Jim ran out the same players, in the same formation, with the same tactics for three years in a row and refused to adapt to players with different skillsets and teams that could be exploited in different ways. But it kind of made sense. Jim is a Ted Lasso coach. His strengths are in player development and man management. Those are really important skills in an organization built around developing and selling academy products and that’s why he’s remained in charge for so long.

    But, when you run out the same tactics for three years everyone else catches on. The initial introduction of Uhre changed they way the Union played and the other MLS teams weren’t ready for that. But, once they had an offseason to review tape, they figured out how to neutralize him and slow then entire Union attack down. The Union need to continue to change things up in the way they play. They have a team good enough to win the MLS Cup, they just need to work on catching opposing teams off guard.

    Tonight was a step in the right direction. It was a return to the philosophical roots of this team and the strategic vision Tanner has employed. And there was progress toward what this team can become when it’s willing to take some risks.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    I was planning on skipping this one because I think it’s really stupid to schedule games during international breaks. Fine if you need to reschedule then, but to have 13 games today is just typical MLS.
    A combination of not being able to fall back to sleep and my wife not being able to sleep after throwing out her back Friday (the day she retired from work) and drugged up most of the day Saturday meant she suggested watching the game around 3am. I grudgingly agreed and half watched the team capitalize on their opportunities the way they did two years ago while also playing games on my laptop.
    It was nice to see Rafanello contribute in setting up the second goal and for Glesnes to show the awareness to put the ball back in play quickly (while Sullivan was still sitting on his butt) to create the third goal.
    I’m usually one of the last to criticize Curtin for his subs, but I think he should have made a couple of more as he could have given a couple of the kids their MLS debuts. Why not go ahead and make some subs midway through stoppage time?

  7. All3Points says:

    A bunch of backups taking all three points a continent away from home? Maybe all isn’t already lost this season…

    Also, great write up, Blake. Especially the “forest of Timbers” line. Excellent.

  8. John P. O'Donnell says:

    DP’s that lead the way and young players that show they belong. 3-1 on the road is a great result and exactly what this team needed.
    I know it’s a little thing but Chris Donovan came in and made some big defensive stops to help close out the game in the last 15 minutes.

  9. TRUE GRIT The Union dug deep and stayed in good defensive shape for most of the game. Caranza did the work of 2 players finished his shots. Semmle is a legitimate MLS starter. The win should give everyone hope that the team has enough talent to finish top 3 in the East and a reason to watch them.

  10. Gruncle Bob says:

    There is a definite difference between the conferences. Uhre was much more dangerous (until the final moment) than he usually is. I hope he can fix his finishing. He’s not worth much if he can’t.
    Portland should be renamed Philly West. Our guys doop really well there (doop was an autocorrect for “do”, but it fits nicely.)
    It would have been nice to see U2 guys on the bench, no reason not to. Is it Sugarman cheapness or just bad decisions?
    Donovan should have replaced Carranza after goal 3. If JC is injured they’re screwed.
    It was a poor performance from the referee, but not worse than the usual dreck.
    Overall, a very nice win. Go U!

    • Two Union 2 players received U-19 NT callups, and U2 has a match this afternoon. Their roster will be thin also.

  11. The first 25 minutes showed the same defensive weaknesses the Union have had all this season so far. We were damn lucky not to give up at least one goal, with extra credit to Semmle, who was badass. I can partially forgive this based on the absence of a CDM, but they really have more work to do here. We got attacked down our left side constantly and dangerously, maybe because the midfielder over there was a forward playing out of position.

    But the rest of the match was pretty sweet. Truly impressive grit and effort by the Union when nobody expected it. Rafanello looked worlds better than he did the last time he played, Carranza is a beast, and Quinn continues to be lively and dangerous. Maybe this is the spark that will get them back into their groove for this season.

    Also, extra credit to Jim for going with a flat 4-4-2. This made a lot of sense given we had no CDM, and the boys made it work.

  12. The old sports saying comes true once again “If you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, they will come back to bite you!” Glad for once, that we weren’t on the receiving end!! Several thoughts. Young kids (and everyone) played their hearts out. What a commitment! The young kids really do need to improve their focus on defense. LOL. Two, I love Uhre’s hustling but it’s time to move on. Two breakaways and passes right to the defender. Hold up play was terrible. One great pass…The good thing is you can see he is frustrated which means he cares, but how many more chances are we going to give him? Despite being lucky early on, we should have been up at least 2-0 if we had anyone else out there. Yes, he runs hard and can open the field a bit, but no one puts more than one guy any where near him because they know he can’t beat anyone one on one. Jack Elliott is way too slow for this league. He reminds me of Donovan Pines from DC several years ago. One final note – did you all see how Jamaica deployed Lowe? He was a total destroyer and a man of the match for Jamaica. I love what they did. It highlights his strengths (aggressive defense and ball stealing) and hides his weakness of getting beat when he is the last line of defense. Maybe a back up for Martinez? Thoughts?

    • Eric Boyle says:

      I watched the game and was disappointed that Jamaica lost in OT they deserved better. The USMNT was lucky the ref lost his whistle! Lowe in mid field, what a performance!

      • I was both disappointed and happy. Disappointed because I thought Jamaica deserved to win and I don’t think Berhalter is a good international coach. Time to move on. Happy, because the US won.

  13. The D is still wanting. It’s worrisome. If not for two saves by the left post, one by the cross bar, and one excellent save by Semmie, the the score at the half could have been 4-1 Timbers. Worse if you consider several uncharacteristic missed chances by Portland inside the six.

    Good thing our offense is coming out of hibernation. Is there nothing the Union can do to keep Caranza here?

    • Eric Boyle says:

      I don’t think you are giving Semmle or the defense enough credit against a good Timbers attack. Mbazio saved a shot off the line and Glesnes showed signs of his old self.

      Wasn’t it only one post? Anyway Semmle had several key saves including pushing that corner kick over the post and a close range reaction save. Watch again. As someone else said he is MLS starter quality.

  14. Deez Nuggs says:

    I only have random thoughts this morning after the late night.
    Semmle. If that’s Bendik in goal, we lose this match in the first 25. This kid’s got it.
    Uhre and Carranza connection at points reminded me of our run to MLS Cup. Having a regular training session between matches instead of 12 other competitions might just be the secret sauce.
    Marcus Anderson looked thoroughly confused what he was supposed to do in the early going but made up for it by busting tail all over the place.
    Living dangerous in defense but failing to allow the goal. Attacking on the counter. Set pieces. This is vintage stuff.
    After the first bit, it became steadily clearer we had taken control and forced Portland to play the way we wanted. And the best part… we held that control the rest of the match.

    • I think you gotta give Anderson a break for this one because he was playing completely out of position due to our desperation. I was surprised Jim didn’t start Matt Real (and probably he should have).

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Oh I didn’t mean to suggest he played poorly. Quite the opposite. I meant to express that he made an impression even out of position.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        The Sullivan goal was largely due to Marcus’s efforts.

  15. It cannot be a coincidence that the only 2 wins of the season come from the only 2 games where the Union had a full week to train and rest.

    • Also, The Union now have the same amount of points as they did at this point last year.
      Yet they are unbeaten…

  16. Was half asleep at 1030 so watching this morning helped see a well performed game plan. Missing 6 starters…. we played better than any other time this or even last year… and won at a particularly difficult place to win.

    Is this the team we have…. or add those six “starters” and go back to the same ol’ same ol’?

    Uhre needs a home cooked meal, soon, or let the other guys starts.

    Backup goalie, Oliver… can we please have some more!?!?! Well done…


  17. Andy Muenz says:

    The Union made it back to Philly in time for Quinn Sullivan to see his brother’s first ever assist for Union 2 on the game winning goal this afternoon. (I got a thank you from Quinn when I complemented him on his hustle to score his goal last night.)

  18. OneManWolfpack says:

    Just a great effort last night. Not too much to add that wasn’t said in the other comments. Semmle is legit and he played excellent. If Uhre buried half the chances he helps create he’d be in the race for the golden boot. And not to be too negative but the Carranza staying or going issue – and what is done to replace if needed – is going to define this season.

  19. Though it was out of necessity,loved what the youth movement brought to this game. Cant remember a recent game where we were flying after the ball causing Portland to look like we normally look with poor possession and kicking the ball to no one. I hope we will still vary our lineups when the internationals return. Solid victory!!

  20. Vince Devine says:

    Cute bit of creative writing describing Carranza’s first goal. Fact is, he had both feet on the ground when he headed it in.

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