Timbers get a close look at top-flight soccer in loss to Dutch team

Dutch team impresses hosts in friendly at Jeld-Wen

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

PORTLAND — The gulf between a club with 111 years of history and one of the larger budgets in the sport and a Major League Soccer expansion team was clear from whistle to whistle Wednesday in AFC Ajax’s 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field.

The Dutch champions, in their final match before their offseason, moved the ball with ease around the FieldTurf, cashed in on a defensive breakdown, and gave the young Timbers a glimpse of the talent at the top of their sport.

“It seemed like they had 12 or 13 guys out there sometimes. They always had a guy who was open,” Timbers defender David Horst said after the defeat in front of a sellout crowd of 18,627. “It was getting a little frustrating. But they’re a very good team, they just finished their season, so it was a good test and I thought we did well tonight as a team.”

Ajax, on a celebratory two-game U.S. trip that included a 2-1 win Sunday at D.C. United, got goals from Lorenzo Ebecillo in the 18th minute and from Demy De Zeeuw on a counter-attack in the 89th minute.

Portland saw little of the ball, but had several scoring chances. The best of those came from a 58th-minute corner kick. Eddie Johnson’s close-range shot hit the cross bar, and Peter Lowry’s follow was saved by goalkeeper Jeroem Verhoeven.

For Timbers such as goalkeeper Adin Brown, midfielders Lowry and Adam Moffat, and forwards Johnson and Brian Umony, the occasion was a chance to play some meaningful minutes after missing time with injuries.

And for each of the 18 Timbers who saw action, it was a first-hand look at the pace and precision that one of Europe’s top clubs brings — even to a friendly encounter.

With the game sandwiched between two Major League Soccer home matches, Portland coach John Spencer wasn’t inclined to give regulars much midweek work. Four regulars — forward Kenny Cooper and defenders Eric Brunner, Jeremy Hall and Rodney Wallace — started and played the first 45 minutes. Defender Mamadu “Futty” Danso, who replaed Brunner, played the second half. Kalif Alhassan came on for the final five minutes.

“We were decimated at the start of the season with injuries, so it’s nice to see Eddie (Johnson) get back, Brian Umony get some time, Peter (Lowry) and Adam Moffat getting time in midfield,” Spencer said. “So it was a good exercise for us.”

Ajax coach Frank de Boer praised the atmosphere and artificial surface at Jeld-Wen Field — and the professional way his team played its final pre-vacation match.

“I give the team compliments, because they didn’t give any chances away, they didn’t play for themselves,” de Boer said of his squad’s performance.

The Timbers also praised their guests.

“You always hear about the skill level that the Dutch have, their passing ability and their spacing,” Horst said. “It was great to go out and test myself against them.”

“At points it wasn’t fun running around without the ball,” said Ryan Pore. “They like to keep possession, and they do a great job of it.”

The Timbers were spectators on the first Ajax goal, which came in the 18th minute. Brown stayed on his line, and three retreating Portland defenders watched the ball bound through the 6-yard box without making a play for the ball. Ebecillo was alone just outside the left post and punched the ball past a helpless Brown.

Horst said he thought about trying to clear the ball, but was afraid he would direct it into his own goal.

“I looked behind me and let it go for somebody behind me to have a better clearance, but it somehow skidded all the way through,” Horst said

Among the starters for Ajax were Belguim national team defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, and the team’s second-leading scorer from the recently-completed season, midfielder Siem De Jong.

“I think the first half we were a little bit tentative at times, gave them too much respect,” Spencer said. “But you’ve got to remember, that’s a team that performed in the Champions League last year against AC Milan and Real Madrid, and just won the Dutch title.”

Notes

• Under-23s win — Midfielder Bim Ogunyemi and forward Miles Byass each scored as the Portland Timbers U-23s topped the North Sound SeaWolves 2-0 in front of 2,762 at Jeld-Wen Field on Wednesday afternoon. Groups of students attended the first of two Health and Fitness School Days, presented by Providence Health & Services, for the Timbers U-23s in 2011. Camas High grad Nick Palodichuk started in midfield and played 89 minutes, hitting the post with one shot and forcing a save with another. Brent Richards of Camas did not play. The timbers U-23s host the Tacoma Tide at 5 p.m. Sunday at Clackamas (Ore.) High School.

• Wednesday’s game was the first of four international exhibition matches the Timbers have scheduled for Jeld-Wen Field. On July 7, Mexico’s Club America visits, and on July 20 the English Club West Brom is in Portland. A fourth friendly, also likely in July, should be announced soon.

• A girls team from Pacific FC youth soccer club in Vancouver played a minigame in front of the Timbers Army an hour before the match. The girls then walked with the teams for pregame march.