Photo by Jose M. Romero
By JOSE M. ROMERO
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — The tall, slender guy wearing sunglasses and a green Portland Timbers jacket stood on the opposite sideline from the team benches near midfield, far enough away to not be a distraction to his team but close enough to be recognized and to protest non-calls from the official.
He was Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, and he flew down from Oregon to see his MLS team play its Arizona preseason finale Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.
Paulson wasn't always happy with what he saw — the Timbers struggled to find a rhythm in the first half before putting together a solid last 60 minutes of the match — but Portland walked away with a scoreless draw and remained undefeated in preseason matches.
The Timbers moved to 1-0-4, while Sporting KC moved to 0-2-3 temporarily but won its follow-up match against NASL's Montreal Impact later Saturday afternoon.
Sporting KC, with Omar Bravo and Kei Kamara as part of its three-forward lineup and Davy Arnaud at center midfield, made more runs toward the goal for much of the first half.
Timbers defender Futty Danso cleared away a cross from Kamara in the fifth minute, and Sporting KC delivered some physical play, the official not calling much.
Central defender Steve Purdy put on a good header in the 41st minute that SKC keeper Jimmy Nielsen saved. It was Portland's best scoring chance of the first half.
Bravo sent in a nice cross that deflected to Kamara in the 44th minute, but Kamara's shot was high.
The Timbers' lineup included Kenny Cooper with trialist Brian Umony at forward, Rodney Wallace at left back, rookie Darlington Nagbe on the left wing, Jeremy Hall on the right wing, Peter Lowry and James Marcelin at central midfield and Troy Perkins in goal.
Cooper had a chance for Portland but mistimed a header in the 62nd minute. Substitute forward Jorge Perlaza, who is awaiting finalization of his international transfer certificate, showed flashes of the quickness and potential the Timbers like about him, and Perkins made two big saves in the 82nd minute to salvage the draw.
"First half, it was possibly the most physical first half that we've faced in the whole of training," Timbers coach John Spencer said. "We struggled in the first half to cope with the 4-3-3 and we made a couple of changes at halftime just trying to get (KC) to force the ball wide rather than down the middle."
Spencer felt the Timbers had more clear-cut chances but that SKC had more possession.
"All in all, it was a fair result," Spencer added.
The Timbers returned to Oregon Saturday night.
"I'm really happy that the team was able to keep a clean sheet," Cooper said. "That's a real positive to take back home with us."