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[av_heading heading=’Portland Timbers find their groove in a 2-1 success over Toronto FC’ tag=’h1′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Iain Macintosh

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As title defences go, Portland Timbers effort had thus far fallen into the ‘Chelsea’ category. Victors over Columbus Crew on the opening day of the season (a replay of the 2015 final and with the same score too) gave a false read for the weeks ahead.

Caleb Porters side wouldnt win again for nearly six weeks. Regular observers believe that Porters efforts to inaugurate a more progressive, attacking style has been the problem. Last weekend, he put his team back in their comfort zone. They defended deep, took their width from the full backs, broke with pace, and they duly beat Toronto 2-1.
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Image from Wyscout  Match Report

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Toronto had only conceded five goals all season before kick-off, and despite the defeat, they’ve still conceded fewer than any other MLS outfit.

But this was not a proud day for their rearguard. Portland’s first goal came early, partly the product of some swift, clever passing in the final third, but partly because one centre-back, Drew Moor, fell back to cover Portland’s Fanendo Adi, and the other, Damien Perquis, pushed up and lifted his arm, hoping for an offside. In the confusion, Adi lost Moor and found the space to slide home Diego Valeri’s cross.

Adi has been linked with Crystal Palace of late, though you’d think that his lack of full Nigerian caps would cause work permit issues. Nevertheless, you can certainly see why the rumours are circulating. With seven goals, he’s the joint top scorer in the league and, in technical terms, he has a bit of everything.

At six foot four, he’s tall and strong enough to work as a lone front man, he has the pace to get behind defenders and the intelligence to time and bend his runs. It’s notoriously hard to predict how players will cope from one league to another but Adi certainly looks to have the ability to play at a higher level. He also has a languid, rubber-legged gait that evokes memories of Faustino Asprilla, which is always a bonus.

Toronto have their own star striker of course, but their one looks half the size. You can always spot Sebastian Giovinco on the pitch quickly. He’s the one who makes you think that one of the mascots who has sneaked back onto the pitch after kick-off.

But size is meaningless when you’re as talented as him. A debut season haul of 22 goals won him the Most Valuable Player award last season and you can why. He’s so much better than everyone else that he’s less of a designated player and more like a piece of militarised nano-technology.

Portland were understandably robust in their dealings with the Mighty Atom, but when they bundled him to the floor on the edge of the box in the 39th minute, the ball popped out of the melee and fell straight into the path of former Portland man Will Johnson. He slammed the equaliser into the bottom corner.

Toronto had their chances to win the game. A header from Moor, completely unmarked at a corner just after the break, smashed into the ground and up into the crossbar. An extraordinary save from Jake Gleeson kept out a close range Jozy Altidore header. But that was as close as they got.

Adi, for all of his talents, should have scored the winner for Portland. On the break, he had the pace to leave poor Parquis in his wake, but not the composure to finish off Lucas Melano’s low cross. He will have to hope that no European scouts bothered with the second half.
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Instead, it fell to Valeri to secure the result, something he did in style with a 30 yard ‘Dmitri Payet’ style free-kick with 17 minutes to go.

A harsh result, perhaps, for Toronto, but a much needed victory for the champions. That’s three games unbeaten now. A platform, possibly, for an altogether more impressive defence of their cup.
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Iain Macintosh
Is a football writer for ESPNFC and the editor of  The Set Pieces

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