In an exciting match Thursday night, the Portland Timbers defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps. 2-1, as Portland’s league leading goal-scorer Ryan Pore had a brace. Wednesday night, the NSC Minnesota Stars played poorly at home and were shut out by the Rochester Rhinos, 3-0.
The Portland-Vancouver match gives us an idea of what we can look forward to down the road, here in St. Louis. The game was televised on Fox Sports Northwest, and while I’m thankful that USSF D2 has live online streaming of games, watching on the big screen TV was nice. (FSNW is televising 10 Timbers’ games this season). PGE Park was noisy with over 5800 fans — down from the season opening crowd of 15,000, but this was a weeknight game competing with the Portland TrailBlazers NBA playoff series homegame Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns. The contest was nothing but quality — excellent veteran defending, fine saves by each goalkeeper, constant offensive flow and two fine goals by Ryan Pore. Pore’s first goal came in the 7th minute on a nice, curling free kick that Vancouver keeper Jay Nolly couldn’t reach. A few minutes later, though, Vancouver knotted the score as Nelson Akwari headed a Martin Nash corner kick past Portland’s Steve Cronin. The game was fast paced and offensive chances were frequent for both clubs. Nolly saved another Ryan Pore shot in the 57th minute of the second half, and shortly afterwards Vancouver’s Wes Knight launched a powerful shot that hit the side netting. In the 85th minute, Portland went down a man as defender Mamadou Danso received a second yellow card. A minute later though, Pore struck on a headed ball from a long forward cross by Timbers’ James Marcelin, and Portland kept the lead for the night, although Cronin had to make a great diving save on a shot by Vancouver sub Justin Moose a minute later. Portland remains undefeated after downing their derby rivals, while Vancouver drops to 2-1-1.
This game demonstrated everything we will enjoy as AC St. Louis grows and becomes established. Noisy crowd (we have that already), TV coverage, a long-standing rivalry. Great saves by both goalkeepers (we’ve seen some of that from Alec Dufty). Well-played defending. Quality touches and passing. Offensive flow up and down the field. AC St. Louis is getting there, but it takes time. Both of these teams have been around a long time, and both franchises are headed to MLS in 2011. Still, this is 2010 and both teams are in USSF D2 — and you won’t find a better played game in MLS.
Wednesday night’s game in Minnesota must have been a head scratcher for Stars’ coach Manny Lagos. The expansion team, which had won two of its first four games, were simply overrun at home by Rochester. Rhinos’ Tino Nunez scored twice and keeper Neal Kitson kept a clean sheet, although the Stars’ Johnny Menyongar rattled the post against his former team. NSC Minnesota had a chance for a consolation goal late in the contest, but Daniel Wasson’s penalty kick sailed high over the crossbar. Rochester goes to 2-1-1 as Minnesota drops to 2-3-0.
On Saturday, Puerto Rico visits Saputo Stadium to take on the Montreal Impact in an afternoon contest. Miami FC hosts FC Tampa Bay in a Florida derby in the evening, and other night games feature Carolina’s visit to Rochester, Austin heading to NSC Minnesota and Crystal Palace Baltimore visits AC St. Louis as both clubs try to capture their first points of the season.