West Brom match special for Timbers' Johnson, Lowry
Major League Soccer requires its clubs to open their locker rooms to the media after league matches. Evidently, after a non-MLS match, all bets are off.
After the Timbers' 3-2 loss to West Bromwich Albion FC on Wednesday night at Jeld-Wen Field, the locker room was closed. Of the 16 Timbers players who competed in the match, only Eddie Johnson and Peter Lowry came out to talk with the media.
The reason given was that the Timbers will be flying to Columbus on Thursday for their Saturday match against the Crew.
• After the match, Johnson walked with a noticeable limp.
'I got a little bit of a knock on the Achilles,' he said. 'I've just been speaking to the doctor, and hopefully it will settle down in a day or two.'
If Johnson's health does return, it will mean that Wednesday night really was a lifelong highlight for him. The striker, who hails from Chester, England, is Portland's only English player.
'My dream was to play in the Premier League,' he said. 'But the next best thing is playing in a top league over here.'
In the 26th minute, Johnson took a pass from Darlington Nagbe and created a story he can tell everyone across the pond. He sent in a 15-yard shot for the Timbers' first goal.
'It was pretty nice,' he said. 'I can tell all my friends that back in England. They'll enjoy that one.'
The match reunited Johnson with an old friend, West Brom defender Billy Jones. They played together at Crewe Alexandra in the English Championship from 2005-06.
After the match, Johnson and Jones exchanged jerseys.
'It was nice to see him. He played well, and I wish him good luck this year,' Johnson said.
• Lowry played his first full 90 minutes since the Timbers' second match of the season against Toronto FC. Since then, the midfielder has been battling to recover from a left knee sprain that has kept him out of Portland's last 16 MLS matches.
'When you're away from it a little bit, you get a little hungry to get back out on the field and make your mark,' Lowry said. 'Certainly it's tough to sit and watch up in the stands, and I'm hungry to get back out on the field (in MLS matches) and help this team. I showed a little bit tonight.'
That is an understatement. In the 29th minute, Lowry hit one of the most ferocious 20-yard left-footed strikes you will see at any level of soccer to put the Timbers up 2-0.
Health-wise, Lowry said he felt good on the pitch against West Bromwich.
'This was the first 90 I've done in a long, long time,' he said. 'So I feel good. I've been doing a lot of work with these guys and behind the scenes and definitely coming out here and getting match fitness feels pretty good.'
After defender Eric Brunner subbed out in the second half, Lowry wore the captain's armband.
'I felt like I had a pretty good first half and was trying to help lead some of the guys,' Lowry said. 'We've got a lot of young guys out there, and it just got passed on to me. I was trying to help us.'
Lowry did joke that the Timbers wasting a 2-0 lead did not reflect very well on him as a captain.
'It's unfortunate that I got the armband and we end up losing 3-2,' he said, smiling a bit. 'I guess that doesn't really reflect well on me.'
Wearing the armband was special, though.
'It was kind of neat,' Lowry said.
• The Timbers' starting lineup against West Brom could hardly be called a reserve squad. It featured nine players who have started MLS matches this season.
Spencer said that the players with the potential to play Saturday against the Crew were used wisely enough that they will still be available.
'We managed the game well for them,' Spencer said. 'If you can't play two games in a week when you're 21 years old, then you've got problems. Really.'
• A lot has been made about artificial turf, like the surface at Jeld-Wen Field, being bad for soccer players. It concerned West Brom coach Roy Hodgson enough that he decided to keep three of his players out of the match.
'There are players that, when they get to the end of their career, if they do have serious knee injuries, it is a hard surface, it's an unforgiving surface,' Hodgson said.
Hodgson did have some good things to say about the Jeld-Wen Field turf, though.
'It's a surface which leads to good football,' he said. "It's not a surface for long balls, or balls being smashed over defenders. It's a surface where balls need to be played at the feet, and you need to play around defenders. That surface tonight was very true.'