Saturday, April 16, 2011
Dallas-Portland takes over MLS pitch, too
By ESPN.com news services
The Portland Timbers' visit from FC Dallas may not be the most-anticipated sporting event in either city this weekend, but it could be tough to tell by the noise level at raucous Jeld-Wen Field.
Their cities' NBA teams will be a game into a first-round playoff series in Texas when Dallas and Portland square off Sunday in the Pacific Northwest, where the Timbers may have a significant advantage if the raucous crowd from their impressive home-opening win is any indication.
The Trail Blazers and Mavericks found out Wednesday night they'd be matching up in the Western Conference playoffs, but there was a much longer-building anticipation in Portland for the Timbers' MLS home debut one night later.
It had been two years since the league announced Portland would become the MLS' 18th team, giving a Timbers franchise that's existed since 1975 a chance to play on the sport's biggest American stage.
Jesuit product Kenny Cooper, who scored 40 goals in 90 matches for FC Dallas, hosts his old team as a member of the Portland Timbers.
Portland (1-2-1) came away with just one point in its first three road games, but its first match at the refurbished Jeld-Wen Field on Thursday couldn't have gone much better. In front of a frenzied, rain-soaked crowd that included Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews, Jorge Perlaza scored twice as the Timbers cruised to a 4-2 win over Chicago.
"I don't think you'll see an atmosphere like that in American soccer history," coach John Spencer told the team's official website. "I think it was tremendous. I thought it was electrifying when the first goal went in."
Portland scored just twice in its first three matches but had little trouble breaking through the Fire defense.
"To get that first league win is so big and so important," forward and Dallas Jesuit product Kenny Cooper said. "Hopefully we can push off from here."
For Cooper, who thought he scored Portland's first goal in the 12th minute Thursday only to have it disallowed, Sunday's match might have a little added meaning. The 26-year-old forward scored 40 goals in 90 appearances for Dallas between 2006 and 2009, when he was transferred to second-division German club 1860 Munich.
His old team scored just once in its first three matches this season, but Dallas (1-2-1) finally got on track April 8 against Colorado. Reigning MVP David Ferreira scored twice in a 3-0 victory over the Rapids, who beat Dallas 2-1 for last year's MLS Cup.
Ferreira, who had eight goals and 13 assists last season, was nowhere to be found on the scoreboard in Dallas' first three matches.
"I really think that he is such a good player and he figures things out very quickly," coach Schellas Hyndman said. "We talked about him getting up higher so that the defenders have to worry about him, and I think you started to see a David that we have seen in the past."
Dallas lost 2-0 at Columbus on April 1 in its first road game, but picked up points in 12 of 15 matches away from home last season. With eight full days off since the win against Colorado, it could have a leg up to come away with more points Sunday.
"With Portland coming off a game (Thursday), they may be a little tired on Sunday," midfielder Eric Avila said. "We need to come out fast and establish our game."