Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- After starting the season with numerous high-scoring affairs, the Portland Timbers finally found their match in Bobby Shuttleworth.
The New England Revolution goalkeeper had a career-high nine saves as the Revs and Timbers battled to a 0-0 draw, in front of a sold out Jeld-Wen Field.
While Portland dominated possession and had 22 shots for the match, the Timbers were unable to find the back of the net for the first time in 2013.
On two separate occasions, Shuttleworth was left alone with a Timber player bearing down on him. But Darlington Nagbe and Ryan Johnson were both denied by New England’s keeper.
“In the end, you got to credit their goalkeeper, he made some great saves,” Porter said. “I also felt a part of that was us not being as sharp as we could have been around the final third.”
But Shuttleworth was not the only goalkeeper to excel Thursday night. His counterpart Donovan Ricketts was up to the task as well. In fact if not for a late full extension save on Saer Sene, New England would have left the Rose City with the full three points.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t credit Donovan Ricketts. He’s been absolutely tremendous,” Porter said. “Donovan Ricketts probably saved us in the end.”
The Jamaican International ended the night with four saves and earned his third straight home shutout. Ricketts has been an anchor backing up a defensive line that saw its third injury in the last five matches. Mikael Silvestre, who has been a leader both on-and-off the field this season, went down with an injury early in the second half and had to be replaced by Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
While the Timbers were able to extend their unbeaten streak to seven games, which is a team record since joining the MLS in 2011, they were unable to get the victory. Instead Portland settled for a MLS-leading fifth draw of the season.
“Every time we take the field here at home we expect to win,” Will Johnson said. “But you can’t play fantastically well every time. We had the chances but we didn’t take them.”
For the majority of the match, Portland played with the style that has become familiar to fans watching their games this season. With free-flowing play, Nagbe, Valeri and Ryan Johnson all created numerous potential opportunities. Rodney Wallace also added in multiple sharp crosses that constantly found teammates in the attacking third. Yet, the Timbers were unable to find a breakthrough.
“Obviously its not a loss, its a tie, we get a point. And yet we feel like we let two points slip away,” Porter said.
New England came into the match with a patchwork backline with four defenders out due to injury or suspension. Bilal Duckett, who got the start at right back, was recalled from a loan to the Rochester Rhinos just 48 hours before the match. Despite continuous pressure from Wallace and Co., Duckett seemed to be unfazed by the attacking play and held his own.
While Duckett and his fellow defenders gave up quite a few shots to the Timbers, most of them were taken from long distance or difficult angles. When the Timbers were able to get decent looks, Shuttleworth was able to keep Portland off the board. New England’s defensive strategy was not lost on the Timbers.
“It’s zero-zero and they’re rolling the ball in the corner. It just tells you they are going for draws on the road and they have a strategy,” Will Johnson said. “It’s up to us to stick one in the back of the net to make that whole strategy not work. We had the chances but we didn’t do it.”
The draw moves Portland into a tie of second-place in the Western Conference and while Porter wasn’t happy with the result, he didn’t seem too worried about the attacking ability of his team going forward.
“We had plenty of shots, it’s not like we didn’t create chances. We had a lot of chances, we missed a couple breakaways, had some point-black saves. It very easily could have been a different result,” Porter said.
Next up for the New England (2-3-3, 9 points) is a Wednesday match at home against Real Salt Lake. Portland (3-1-5, 14 points) will travel to FC Dallas in a matchup of two of the Western Conference’s best teams.