Go figure – Cal FC topples 'humiliated' Timbers from U.S. Open Cup
- Stephen Alexander
- Portland Tribune - Sports
On Wednesday night, talent lost to desire. Players who love to play the game lost to professionals who are paid to play the game. Goliath lost to David.
And the Portland Timbers were left trying to answer unanswerable questions.
How can you explain the unexplainable? How can a club filled with players not good enough to play professional soccer compete with a Major League Soccer side?
How could Cal FC, an amateur adult club team, have beaten the MLS Timbers 1-0 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup?
'I don't think there's any explaining it,' Portland coach John Spencer said. 'I don't think I've ever been involved in a game playing or coaching where we've been beaten by an amateur team. I'm bitterly disappointed. You don't use the word 'embarrassed' or 'humiliated' too much in your career. Tonight I felt both.'
Had Portland won, the Timbers would have had an opportunity to host the Seattle Sounders in the next round. Instead, the Timbers will have to wait until July 17 before they can step onto the pitch again and try to redeem themselves in a MLS road match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
If there was any positive to take from Wednesday's match, it was that it was played before a sparse crowd of 5,489 at Jeld-Wen Field. But those fans let the Timbers know exactly how pathetic the performance was.
In the 88th minute, with the score tied 0-0, the Timbers Army began chanting, 'Care like we do.' Before the first 15-minute half of extra time, the Army fell silent and a lone bugle played the military funeral song 'Taps'. When Portland went down on a goal in the 95th minute, the fans began chanting, 'You call this MLS?'
Several other, much less printable chants reigned upon the Timbers.
'They have a right to feel that way, and they should feel that way,' Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. 'It's just one of those things where now we have to earn that respect back.'
The numbers from the match were simply staggering. Portland outshot Cal FC
37-8. Cal FC goalkeeper Derby Carrillo made 15 saves, but Carrillo had to dive just once to stop a shot. The other 14 saves were on shots that went straight to him, and the rest sailed off the mark.
'We worked hard,' Spencer said. 'I don't think we never worked hard enough. Our finishing was dreadful. When you have 40 shots and 39 miss the target, it's unacceptable. You put the ball into the Timbers Army, you ain't going to score a goal.'
Employing a five-and-five formation, with five forwards and five defenders, Cal FC delivered the deciding blow five minutes into extra time.
With the ball held up between several players from both sides in the middle of the pitch, Cal FC striker Danny Barrera dove for it with his feet and managed to send a pass into the attacking third. Cal FC striker Artur Aghasyan was the first man to the ball.
'We didn't do well in the midfield of denying space and denying time,' Perkins said. 'We allowed them to have the ball and just ping it around us.'
Aghasyan took the ball into the 18-yard-box, unmarked. Perkins went out to try to defend the shot, but Aghasyan was able to loft the ball over Perkins' head. The ball gently bounced into the back of the net.
'I chipped it, and there it was, in the back of the net,' Aghasyan said.
On top of Portland's errant shots, the Timbers appeared to have the match gift-wrapped for them in the 79th minute.
Timbers reserve striker Brent Richards had the ball on the left side. Just
before he entered the box, he fired a shot at goal. Cal FC striker Richard Manjivar tried to defend the shot, but he raised his arms up as he jumped. The ball clearly caught him on the forearm and Portland was awarded a penalty kick.
Kris Boyd, the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading goal scorer, who is earning $1.25 million from the Timbers this season, lined up to take the kick.
The PK was a microcosm of the Timbers' night. Boyd sent the shot a mile over the crossbar, and the score remained 0-0.
'I put it over the bar,' Boyd said. 'I missed it. I'm disappointed to miss it. It was a good chance to win the game.'
Spencer, a former striker, said that anyone can miss on a penalty kick, just as anyone can score on a penalty kick. But Spencer added that Boyd needed to put the match out of reach when he went to the penalty dot.
'Players miss them in the World Cup finals, players miss them in Sunday league games,' Spencer said. 'Anybody can take a penalty and score them, anybody can take a penalty and miss them. There's no guarantee you're going to score. But we expect Kris Boyd to put the ball in the back of the net. That's 100 percent for sure.'
Making the loss even more difficult to understand was that the Timbers used a lineup filled with regular starters.
Portland was playing its fourth match in 11 days, though. The pace was slower than it has been the entire season. To a man, the Timbers looked as if they were running with 20-pound weights strapped to each boot. So, Portland often allowed passes to go out of bounds and allowed Cal FC to win possession because the Timbers did not have the legs to chase down the ball.
Spencer scoffed at the notion that his players were tired, however.
'We've played a lot of soccer?' he asked. 'You've got to be kidding me.
There's no excuses for tonight. No excuses whatsoever. We should come here, we should win the game. I don't think we should win easy, but I don't think we should lose the game. Not at all. Totally unacceptable. And there's no excuses.'
It was almost laughable how much better Portland was technically than Cal FC. The Timbers' touch and formation showed why they are professionals and why Cal FC is a team of amateurs.
'Tonight wasn't Portland's night,' Cal FC coach Eric Wynalda said. 'They had their chances, and it just didn't work out for them.'
By the end of the first half of extra time, 'Cal FC' was trending worldwide on Twitter.
Even the Timbers Army had to salute the visitors for pulling off an
unexplainable upset that will forever live in the humiliated and embarrassed chapter of Portland Timbers lore.
At the end of the match, the Cal FC players joined hands, walked before the Timbers Army and took a much deserved bow.
The Army chanted: 'You deserve this.'