The Portland Timbers lost 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids this weekend in Colorado. Colorado has built a fortress at home, going undefeated last season with a record of 11-0-6. Over the course of those 17 games, they conceded only seven goals. This season Colorado has struggled more than last, but they have won their last three MLS home games.
There is no question the altitude plays a role in Colorado’s success at home, but regardless, they can be beaten at home, and have been twice already this season. They also drew Minnesota 2-2 at a point early on when Minnesota, a first-year expansion club, was getting as much pity as encouragement.
Back in February I wrote a piece about Sebastián Blanco entitled, Goals, Goals, And More Goals. My expectations were high, and I did not hold back my criticism of Blanco in my column after the loss in Seattle, stating that although he played well that game, he was unable to finish when his team needed it the most. That criticism that was shared by Matt Doyle, MLS’ Armchair Analyst.
In Colorado, we finally saw the Blanco that I wrote about early in the season. Portland came out on fire, and in the 18th minute, Blanco took a pass from Valeri and headed towards goal, cutting back and sending an absolute rocket into the back of the net. The goal was so good, it’s been nominated for this week’s Goal of the Week. That is the type of goal I had expected to see from Blanco since first hearing he was coming to Portland.
And Blanco’s impact didn’t stop there. In the 39th minute he would have had an unprecedented second Goal of the Week nomination had it not been for the skill and timing of Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard. Blanco forced Howard to make a save so impressive that he is up for Save of the Week for his effort on that shot.
Ten minutes later, Blanco had another shot on goal, also saved by Howard. The rebound was turned into a shot by Fanendo Adi, but he could not convert. In the end, Portland was minutes away from taking a point on the road when Colorado’s Alan Gordon, who has come to be known for his last-minute heroics, headed in a cross in the 89th minute to seal the game for the Rapids. A disappointing result, yes, but I came away from this game seeing the positive: Sebastián Blanco.
So far this season, Diego Valeri has been carrying the Timbers. His MVP-caliber eight goals and six assists is the best on the team in both categories. Fanendo Adi also has eight goals. Outside of those two, however, Portland is not getting much help. The next closest in goal count is Blanco and Darlington Nagbe, with two goals each. Portland needs more goals and more assists from their supporting cast. It’s starting to look like Blanco is stepping up in that role exactly when the Timbers need him most.