An action-packed goalfest in the first half and a cagey affair in the second, was the tale of TSS Rovers 2-2 draw Portland Timbers U23’s at Swangard Stadium on Friday night, maintaining the Rovers unbeaten home record in their inaugural PDL season.
TSS Rovers fought back from giving up an early goal, and withstanding some intense pressure from the visitors, to storm into the lead, only to give it back up in the closing minutes of the first half, before the match dipped in quality in a second half that saw both teams grind out performances to come away with a point apiece.
“The reality was, as Willie [Cromack] was saying earlier, that was no Picasso,” TSS head coach Colin Elmes honestly admitted to AFTN after the match. “But it could easily have been the way it was and no points. We maintain our unblemished, no loss record here at Swangard. That’s a very good team. Very, very difficult to play against. You concede possession to them and they don’t give it back to you.”
It was TSS Rovers first competitive match since the two teams met at Swangard a fortnight ago. Portland were in action on Tuesday night against fierce rivals Seattle, and the Timbers looked far the fresher of the sides as the match kicked off, launching attack after attack on a nervy and rusty looking TSS defence.
And it didn’t take long for the Timbers to get the breakthrough, when a quick three on two break five minutes in saw Timir Zhividze play the ball outside to Christo Michaelson, who blasted an unstoppable rocket through Andrew Hicks and high into the Rovers net.
It was already looking ominous for TSS, as Portland continued to press hard, looking to kill the game off early with another goal or two. They had their chances to get it, boosted by some sloppy Rovers defending, but couldn’t capitalise on their chances.
And they were made to pay heavily for that as TSS Rovers fired in two goals in just over three minutes to take an unexpected lead and shock the visitors.
It was a Daniel Davidson double that did the damage.
The first came in the 17th minute when Andre Baires broke up a Timbers attack, allowing Connor MacMillan to play in Davidson, who beat the offside before lobbing the onrushing Portland keeper Jordan Farr with a deft finish to tie things up.
It was against the run of play and the Timbers bench were adamant that Davidson was offside, but the Rovers didn’t care and it was 1-1.
And even better was to come for TSS in the 20th minute when another quick break forward saw Zach Verhoven run at the Portland defence, before playing the ball outside to an unmarked Davidson who made no mistake in burying the second to shoot Rovers into dreamland and the lead.
The goal seemed to stun Portland who took a bit of time to regroup and find their feet again, but as the half came to a close, the Timbers pushed for an equaliser, without really threatening Hicks’ goal.
But they got it with two minutes of the half remaining after some nice build up play from Zhividze saw him pouncing on a loose ball in the box before firing low through a crowd of players and an unsighted Hicks to make it 2-2.
With no further goals in a second half that lacked a defining moment of quality, a share of the spoils was a pretty fair result at the end of it all.
“We come out and we were awful in the first ten minutes,” Elmes told us. “We can’t keep the ball. Some of our core, key guys not securing possession very well, giving the ball in some nasty areas that are hard to defend. It would have been great go into the break 2-1 up, but we said to the guys, ‘jeez, this could have 3-0 in 15, 20 minutes.
“We were very, very fortunate, but sometimes you’ve just got to graft, and scratch, and claw, and the football played today, I apologise to the spectators and supporters, wasn’t very good from the red team.”
There were a lot of positives and negatives to take from the match for the Rovers. Fighting back to take the lead was clearly one of them, but their inability to hold on to a lead and switching off defensively and giving the ball away cheaply was once again evident and costly.
After some horrible defending to start the second half, that saw Rovers under the cosh early on, the settled and Elmes was pleased with how the group reorganised defensively and they seldom look in trouble thereafter.
“After going ahead we seemed to settle down for a little bit and then we lost our way for the last part of the first half,” Elmes added. “The first five minutes of the second half, terrible. We looked like we were five years old. Some of the stuff was Keystone Cops at the back there, but we survived it and managed to keep a team that I think is easily in the top two one or group, at bay for the rest of the game.
“You know what, as they say, when things aren’t going real well for you defend, and you bend and you don’t break. They had a couple of pokes at our net in the second half, mostly from distance, one or two deal ball opportunities. Hicks made a very good save. We had a couple of gos ourselves in the second half on transition counter attacks.”
Hicks had another solid outing for the Rovers, despite giving up the two goals, but it was Davidson who took the headlines this week, scoring a brace to propel himself into the team’s top scorer. And he almost didn’t get the start for this one.
“It was a bit of a toss up tonight as to who we were going to start up top,” Elmes revealed. “We did a bunch of finishing stuff in training yesterday and Danny was just a little bit sharper than Kristian [Yli-Hietanen]. When we were first putting this team together, a couple of the players came to bat for him and said this guy scores goals. He’ll do nothing for 20 or 30 minutes and then he’ll score a goal.”
Davidson took his tally to the season to four, officially three as he was an ineligible player in the Rovers first game of the season at Calgary Foothills, and Elmes praised his striker after the match, not just for the performance on the night but what he offers the TSS squad in general.
“He took both of his goals very well,” Elmes said. “There’s a question as to whether the first one was offside. That’s a good goalkeeper for Portland. To chip that guy, from the angle that he did, a very good finish. Those goals today were a little less greasy than they normally are for him. He’s usually in the muck, balls bouncing in off his kneecap and stuff like that. But they all count, right.
“That’s why it’s called finishing. If it goes in off your ass, it still goes in. So Dan gets himself into those situations and tonight clearly he pitched us out of what might have been a deep hole from a performance perspective, because those two goals frankly came against the run of play in the first half.”
With the draw, TSS Rovers remain at the foot of a highly competitive PDL Northwest Division, moving to a tie with Victoria Highlanders on three points due to their earlier points deduction to start the season.
With a Juan de Fuca plate double header coming up at home this coming Friday and Sunday against the Highlanders, the Rovers have a chance to make some moves up the table, as the games now start to come thick and fast again after their two week break.
“It’s a funny world this,” Elmes told us. “We just went on and on about how we played nine games in 30 days, and now we’ve had one in 12 or 14. It would be nice to get a weekly fixture in this environment, but that’s how this league works. You’ve got travel, you’ve logistics, you’ve got the availability of facilities and what not, so it’s feast or famine.”
Hopefully a feast of goals for the Rovers next weekend. You can get your tickets for those matches HERE. Silverware on the line!