The Clarets won their second and final match of their US West Coast Tour last night defeating Oregon side, Portland Timbers at the PGE Park. This match was the most challenging so far for the Clarets in their pre-season build up.
Timbers are currently top of their league enjoying a record spell of 17 games without defeat in the USL First Division and they certainly impressed against the Clarets taking the lead after 13 minutes. Burnley though clawed their way back into this game with Caldwell equalising with a header five minutes before the break and then taking the lead in the second half, when substitute Steven Thompson who had only been on the pitch for 30 seconds put the Clarets ahead on 67 minutes.
In this entertaining game with plenty of incident and end-to-end excitement, the Timbers were not going to give up and with eight minutes left to play equalised from an impressive free kick taken by Ricardo Lopez.
The concept of a drawn game without any winner is a bit of an alien concept in US Sports culture so in the spirit of the match which was billed as an International Exhibition Game, we had a penalty shoot out after the 2-2 draw in normal time.
Despite the first penalty being missed by Steven Caldwell, we ultimately came out victors 4-2 with Eagles, Gudjonsson, McDonald and Elliott all slotting home with ease from the penalty spot. Brian Jensen did well to save two penalties including one from Timbers midfielder, Alex Nimo which was obviously a case of Saving Nimo!! (I`ll get my coat!)
The Timbers had played a number of clubs from the UK in the past including Preston, Sunderland and Wolves but this was the first time they had been defeated (albeit on penalties)
Clarets fans that had not been able to make the journey across the pond for this game had to be content once more listening to an audio broadcast this time put on by portlandtimbers.com. Darren Bentley again had the guest role to play on the show along with Timbers commentator, John Strong. Credit goes out to these guys for putting on an entertaining commentary with Clarets fans having to test the strength of the matchsticks in their eyelids between 3-5 am in the morning for the second time in a week (including yours truly who kept awake with two pints of coffee, one in each half!)
It did not help UK-based Clarets fans either when there was a 15 minute delay in the kick-off for this match with folk still trying to get in the stadium.
Eventually though the match got underway and as expected the Clarets had made quite a few changes in their line-up with a number of the players who had featured in the previous 5-0 victory against VC Fusion in midweek being rested. There was still no Martin Paterson though, so we can only assume he was still not being risked after picking up a tight hamstring in training before the Fusion match.
Impressive trialist, Fernando Guerrero was again named in the line-up hoping to secure a contract at Turf Moor with most of the changes coming in the back four. Mears, Caldwell, Carlisle and Kalvenes all made the starting line-up and so did holding midfielder, Graham Alexander. The full starting eleven was as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Guerrero, Fletcher, Blake
Subs: Penny, Eckersley, Duff, Edgar, Jordan, Easton, van der Schaaf, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Eagles, Thompson
This was the first chance too for Clarets fans to see the new home kit based on the 1959/60 season including the hooped socks. All the friendlies to date in the UK and US had been played in the white shirt and black shorts with Claret and Blue trim away kit.
Both teams got off to a blistering start on a pitch that doubles up as a baseball ground for the Portland Beavers. The Clarets also were playing on an artificial surface for the second time in a week, although we tend to refer to this as Astroturf, technology has come on a bit since then and technically the surface is known as Terrestro turf. In general though it`s still not the same as playing on grass so some adjustments have to be made. At least this time though there were no confusing American Football gridiron markings to worry about.
It was the Timbers tough who nearly snatched the lead after six minutes of play. Carlisle could only half-clear a long ball in defence with the ball falling to McLaughlin. He could only blast the ball over though with just Jensen to beat.
Guerrero looking to impress the gaffer had his chance in the 12th minute. Picking up the loose ball out on the right, he darted into the box only to see his shot whizz over the angle.
The Clarets at this stage could not seem to get their passing game going and it was perhaps no surprise when the Timbers took the lead after their positive start. A ball from McManus over the head of Carlisle found Joston who instantly shot past Jensen from 18 yards out to put the hosts 1-0 up.
The Timbers were now putting the lacklustre Clarets under some pressure and nearly double their lead after 19 minutes. Caldwell though got in a good tackle to deny Pore on the edge of the box. Farber beating the offside trap forced Jensen to race out from the sticks to thump the ball clear and the keeper then found himself in the ideal position as a header from 10 yards out by Savage flew straight at him.
Burnley though soaked up the pressure and gradually came more and more into the game after their scrappy first 30 minutes or so. Their best chance so far came on 80 minutes after Alexander and Kalvenes linked well with the latter finding Fletcher with a cross. Neatly controlling the ball, our new record signing passed to Blake who let rip with a powerful shot that looked certain to hit the back of the net before being cleverly blocked by a Timbers defender.
Portland Timbers though were not so lucky one minute later when the Clarets got the equaliser they deserved in the 40th minute. Blake was fouled just in the Timber`s half and took the resulting free kick himself. The ball swinging into the far post was perfect for Caldwell who charged in to head home with the ball heading downwards into the net.
Jensen though had to come to our rescue moments later after our goal with the Timbers looking determined to regain the lead before half-time. He pulled off a tremendous double save first by denying Pore after getting a glove to his shot and then having to do some backwards acrobatics to turn over a tremendous shot from McLaughlin.
That was it then, 1-1 at half-time and a very entertaining game was unfolding. Owen Coyle though I would expect would not be a totally happy gaffer and would be looking for more from his side in the second half. At times we seemed to struggle getting the wide men into play and feeding Fletcher who often looked lost and out of the game up front. The possession by the Timbers was also a worry with at one point 8 shots by the Timbers compared to our one summing up our problems.
Surprisingly, Coyle made no changes for the start of the second half, perhaps giving his side another chance to improve. They seemed to rise to the challenge and were the quickest out of the blocks.
Mears went on a run into the box and got to the by-line but his pass back could not find a Clarets player. Fletcher then put a shot wide as the action continued at blistering pace despite the temperature.
Coyle might have made no changes at half-time but he made up for it on the hour mark making six changes. Off came, Mears, Carlisle, Alexander, Elliott, McCann and Blake to be replaced by Eckersley, Duff, Jordan, Gudjonsson, McDonald and Eagles.
Fletcher then tested the keeper with a 30 yard shot but the stopper saved well. However on the break Timbers got the ball into our six-yard box before Eckersley came to the rescue to hoof the ball clear.
On 66 minutes, Coyle made another substitution with Thompson coming on to replace Fletcher and within 30 seconds the striker had scored to put the Clarets 2-1 ahead. Thompson got on the end of a first time cross from the overlapping Eckersley after some nice work from McDonald and he made no mistake with his shot from 10 yards out. So once more the Clarets showed their tenacity and determination to come from behind echoing many games from last season but could they hold onto their lead with the Timbers having a reputation for coming back into games late on?
The Timbers certainly came back at us and were not going to give up. Jensen came to the rescue yet again on 71 minutes from a Timbers corner. He had to dive low to his left in order to get to a shot that was bouncing awkwardly on its way towards goal.
78 minutes on the clock and the Clarets nearly made it game over after some sweet play between McDonald and Eagles. Eagles shot though went straight to the keeper.
However, it would be the Timbers who would score next with just eight minutes to go. Duff was penalised for a foul 20 yards from goal and from the resulting free-kick, Rodrigo Lopez unleashed a pile driver which sailed into the top corner of the net giving Jensen no chance.
In a bizarre moment for a friendly, one of the Timbers players was then sent off three minutes from time for a double-yellow after first tripping Guerrero and then arguing with the referee. Off trotted Knowles reducing the Timbers to ten logs, I mean men.
Late on in the game, Michael Duff appeared to injure his ankle in the uneven baseball pitching area and had to be replaced by Edgar but that was the last incident of the 90 minutes with the game finishing 2-2. So now it would be penalties, despite the UK-based Clarets at home now wanting to go to bed big time!
Jensen saved two of the penalties one from the appropriately named Timbers striker, Forrest after Caldwell had just missed our opening penalty and then saving from Nimo following two successful Timbers penalties. Penalty goals by Eagles, Gudjonsson, McDonald and Elliott in quick succession were enough to see the Clarets victors by 4-2 completing a really good exciting and entertaining night`s football.
So the Clarets are now heading back to Blighty and will now face the exciting prospect of playing Accrington Stanley this Tuesday night down the road. It`s all go!
Burnley: Jensen, Mears (Eckersley 60), Caldwell, Carlisle ((Duff 60, (Edgar 90)), Kalvenes (Jordan 60), Alexander (Gudjonsson 60), Guerrero, Elliott, McCann (McDonald 60), Blake (Eagles 60), Fletcher (Thompson 66).
Subs: Penny, van der Schaaf, Easton
Portland (starting): Cronin, Knowles, Higgins, Nishimura, Danso, Farber, McManus, Savage, Pore, McLaughlin, Josten.
Subs: Visser, Dunn, Keel, Thompson, Poltl, Cameron, Nimo, Lopez, Keita, Forrest