One man down keys Hershey victory, 2-0 over Timbers

September 27, 2001
at PGE Park, Portland, Oregon

Goals:
71' - Hershey: Doug Watson (Ze Roberto)
85' - Hershey: Fred Degand (Mike Williams)

In their first-ever meeting, the 10th seeded Portland Timbers played the 2nd seed Hershey Wildcats even for sixty minutes, but the game turned on a head butt by a Wildcats player, who was then sent off, but instead of the momentum swinging to the home team, the Wildcats used the incident to inspire their play. The Wildcats scored twice before the final whistle, shutting the Timbers out by a 2-0 score in front of 4,894 fans at PGE Park. The Timbers are down 2-0 in the two-game total goal aggregate series to be concluded in Hershey on Saturday night.

Greg Howes controls along the sideline

It was clear that the two teams played a similar style of play from the opening whistle. Both teams went after 50-50 balls aggressively, and both teams had no hesitation in raising their cleats up to control a ball. Most of the play was not smooth. It was choppy, aggressive, and long possessions were rare. After a few early soft shots by the Wildcats, they had their first good chance in the 10th minute Steve Klein crossed from near the endline to Ze Roberto, who shot over the bar. The Timbers appeared ready to threaten in the 22nd minute when Greg Howes chipped an apparently perfect pass into the box that Mark Baena attempted to run onto, but he was obstructed back off the ball by Nigel Henry, but the Timbers forward was called for the foul instead and the threat was ended.

Scott Benedetti and Mark Baena

The play had been mostly controlled by the Wildcats to this point, but the play appeared to shift back to the Timbers at this point, and several crosses into the box were either just a bit too high, or were cleared or collected easily by Hershey goalkeeper Jon Busch. Busch had found controlling the ball difficult early on, and a few times he bobbled the ball before controlling it, but never losing control. In the 33rd minute, the Wildcats threatened when Kyle Swords had a good diagonal run into the box, but his hard shot was blocked away well by Matt Chulis.

Just two minutes later, the Timbers were threatening again when Jeff Clarke made a good cross from near the corner that Scott Benedetti appeared ready to head in, but Busch got to the ball just before Benedetti, and fisted it across the box and out of danger.

A Hershey player heads over Mark Baena

In the 40th minute, the Wildcats had another good diagonal run into the box, this time by Doug Watson, who was tackled hard but clean by Timbers defender Brent Sancho. After the first corner was cleared, the second corner was played around to the top of the box, where Mike Feninger hit a hard shot from 25 yards towards the top-left corner, which Timbers goalkeeper Matt Napoleon saved brilliantly with a diving tip over the crossbar.

The Timbers had another good chance three minutes later when Michael O'Neill played a nice low pass into Baena at the top of the box, who attempted to turn on the ball to put in on his left foot, but his turn was poor, and the ball trickled into Busch, with Baena kicking the turf in frustration. In the 45th minute, a free kick from near the endline had the Timbers threatening again. The free kick from Chulis went directly to O'Neill, who was somehow free at the 6-yard box, but the ball appeared to curl slightly away from the goal and he was unable to control. His weak shot was deflected to Howes, whose only option was a bicycle kick in close marking, that was easily collected by Busch and the half ended with both teams scoreless.

Matt Chulis and Mike Feniger

The Timbers came out firing early in the 2nd half, with Busch punching out a Benedetti cross that went right to O'Neill, who chipped over the bar. O'Neill found himself at the top of the box again a minute or so later, and he played a nice pass to Clarke, who got off a good shot, but right to the Hershey goalkeeper. After a few attacks went unfinished, for both sides, the intensity of the game picked up significantly. After Hershey's Chris Marinos had fouled Clarke hard, earning him a yellow card, the bad blood between those players was becoming obvious, as there was very physical play between the two players, which blew up in the 61st minute.

Clarke challenged Marino hard for a header, with the players hitting hips, and Clarke carrying more momentum, drawing a free kick for the Wildcats. Hershey midfielder Chad Evans was not happy with Clarke's foul, and confronted the Timbers defender, first by shouting and putting a finger inches from his eyes, then he moved forward and head butted Clarke, causing Clarke to stumble back a few feet and go to his knee. The referee had blocked off Evans by this point, but the Hershey players circled Clarke while he was still kneeling, yelling at Clarke, and pushing him slightly with their legs. They then focused their attention on the assistant referee, who was no more than 5 yards away from the play.

Kyle Swords marking Jeff Clarke

The Wildcats continued to shout obscenities at the assistant referee, then some of the players turned their attention the main referee, surrounding him, in fact pushing him slightly with their chests, and shouting more obscenities. After the referee finally had a chance to talk to the assistant referee, Evans was ejected, resulting in four or five Wildcats storming the assistant referee, this time with more pointed threats and obscenities. Despite the behavior of the Wildcats players, only Evans was carded, and the Wildcats were eventually given the free kick.

Despite being down a player, it was in fact the Wildcats who took over the momentum at this point. Just a few minutes after the ejection, the Wildcats' pressure paid off when Roberto played a perfect diagonal pass into the run of Watson, who had found an empty seam in the middle of the Timbers defense at the top of the box, and he quickly controlled and beat a charging Napoleon with a perfectly placed shot just inside the post to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

First half goal-mouth action

In the 76th minute, the Timbers had their best chance to level the score when Sancho headed a Clarke throw-in down into the run of Howes, who moved into a mere five yards out, but on a sharp angle, but though his shot was hard, it was directly into the chest of Busch, who saved cleanly with no rebound. The Wildcats were now happy to keep the ball in midfield, and had packed eight players into the defensive half.

The Timbers were pushing forward for the equalizer, with only Sancho and Gavin Wilkinson staying back for the Timbers. The Timbers would pay for this strategy in the 85th minute when Hershey's Fred Degand got behind the Timbers defense, and once again in on Napoleon one-on-one, beat Napoleon with a nicely played ball off the outside of his boot, that once again went just inside the post into the side netting, putting the Wildcats up 2-0.

The Timbers were desperate by this time, playing balls into the box that were easily collected or cleared. A late O'Neill free kick gave the Timbers some hope, but Busch was able to collect the ball easily. Roberto had a good chance for the Wildcats late, that he sent wide, but the Timbers had no answer for the Wildcats, and will go into the second leg of the two-game playoff down 2-0.

Greg Howes
Stats:
Shots: Timbers 4, Wildcats 5
Saves: Timbers 2, Wildcats 3
Fouls: Timbers 16, Wildcats 19
Offsides: Timbers 0, Wildcats 0
Corners: Timbers 3, Wildcats 5

Cautions:
Timbers 3 (Wilkinson 19' (yellow, collision going for header), Baena 43' (yellow, holding), O'Neill 86' (yellow, hard tackle))
Wildcats 3 (Henry 23' (yellow, tackle from behind), Feniger 49' (yellow, hard tackle), Marinos 59' (yellow, hard tackle), Evans 62' (red, head butt to Clarke))

Starters:
Portland: Matt Napoleon, Matt Chulis (Darin Lewis 75'), Brent Sancho, Gavin Wilkinson, Keith Costigan, Jeff Clarke, Brian Winters, Scott Benedetti, Michael O'Neill, Mark Baena, Greg Howes
Hershey: Jon Busch, Mike Henning, Drew Kopp, Nigel Henry, Chris Marinos, Chad Evans, Ze Roberto, Doug Watson, Kyle Swords (Fred Degand 77'), Mike Feniger (Doug Miller 66', Eduardo Sebrango 78', Mike Williams 84'), Steve Klein

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