Evander And Jonathan Rodriguez Are The Keys To A Successful Portland Timbers Team

As the clock winds down toward the end of a February match, 96 minutes of the game behind them, the Portland Timbers are tied at one with New York City FC. It’s looking like the Timbers will head back to Portland with a point in their pocket. 

While some may consider the tie a victory for the Timbers, one midfielder, in particular, wasn’t done with the game. 

He wanted the three points. 

Receiving a pass right outside the goal box, Evander launched the ball into the top right corner of the goal, bringing the Timbers a last-second victory. 

This past weekend, Portland was down by one for much of the first half against the Houston Dynamo. Suddenly, Evander sent a long-stretching pass to forward Jonathan Rodriguez, who brought the ball into the box and centered it to forward Felipe Mora, who ultimately sent the goal into the back of the net.

And that’s just what Evander — and Rodriguez — do. The pair is crucial to the Timbers roster’s success, and when they are off their game — or off the pitch — so is the whole team. 

Portland has had a difficult season, with a new coach and an apparent disconnect within its defense. The Timbers may have a neutral goal differential, but their goals against are the second-worst in the league at 32. With a faulty defense, the offense has needed to step up its game—an offense driven by Evander and Rodriguez. 

Evander, a Brazilian player on contract with the Timbers, entered Portland with high expectations. And thus far, he has lived up to them.

In 13 games, Evander has tallied seven goals and seven assists, and Rodriguez is close behind with six goals and four assists. Nearly half of Portland’s goals this season can be attributed to the pair finishing the job, and most goals have included one or both players in the drive to the goal. 

In the last two weeks, the Timbers have attempted to increase their efforts on the pitch and bring Portland some much-needed victories. Before two weeks ago, it was likely that head coach Phil Neville’s job was on the line — if he didn’t clinch some wins, the Timbers could dig themselves into too big of a hole to make a last-season push. But Evander led the push against Sporting Kansas City on May 25th, helping Portland clinch one of its only victories in the past few months. 

What Evander excels in, especially, is creating dangerous opportunities in transition. Whether he’s shooting the ball or assisting a teammate, he can send the ball exactly where it needs to go. He can see through opposing defensemen and place the ball where it needs to go to ensure a Timbers goal — a rare and valuable skill in a player. 

Against Kansas City, Evander both scored and assisted in the 2-1 win. Against Austin on May 29th, he scored a goal in the final seconds of the first half to give Portland the lead going into halftime. Finally, on June 1st against the Houston Dynamo, Evander clinched an assist on the game-tying goal and set up a perfect play for Rodriguez and Mora. His intelligence on the pitch and connection with Rodriguez drive the Timbers’ offense. Without their connection, Portland falters. 

Rodriguez, the Uruguayan designated player, brings a necessary offensive drive to the forward line. He made his name known throughout the league in just a short time.

Rodriguez’s presence on offense is additionally vital to goal production, as he has scored in nearly half of the games he’s played in. He’s an incredible finisher, able to shoot the ball on the first touch. Portland players often take too many touches on the ball, providing their opponents the time to set up and defend. Although Rodriguez sometimes mirrors his team in taking too much time to make a move, there’s a sure chance the ball will go into the net when he’s on the receiving end of a pass.

While it’s great to have reliable players wearing the Timbers green and gold, as Evander and Rodriguez have been for Portland, it’s also essential to have a holistic roster so it’s not solely reliant on its top players. The Timbers don’t have that, and Evander and Rodriguez can only carry the team so far.

When Evander isn’t on the pitch, Portland is a disconnected team. To overcome that obstacle, every Timbers player needs to rise to each challenge so Evander and Rodriguez don’t have to carry the team’s weight on their shoulders.  

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