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Diego Chara's masterful performance the highlight of Timbers' breakthrough win

The Designated Player completed 49 of 51 passes, including an absolutely glorious cross to Ryan Johnson.

Not a real big guy, is he?
Not a real big guy, is he?
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Let the record show that MLS got its first real sense of the Caleb Porter-era on April 6, 2013.

While there had been four previous regular-season matches, none of them showcased the crisp passing, relentless attacking and ruthless efficiency that Porter had promised to bring until the Portland Timbers dismantled the Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Saturday.

The Timbers attempted a rather jaw-dropping 562 passes in the match, completing 83 percent of them. What's even more remarkable is that 307 of those passes were in the offensive half. The Dynamo, who seemed to be defending the entire night, only attempted 346 passes anywhere on the field.

For the first time since taking over the Timbers, you'd have to imagine that Porter felt at least a little bit like he did while he was turning Akron into one of the top college soccer programs in the nation.

It's probably a bit premature to say this is the start of some kind of revolution, but we've now seen that Porter's system can work effectively even against one of the best defense's in MLS. Can it work over a 34-game season and the playoffs? That obviously remains to be seen, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Standing out among a group of impressive performances in this game was Timbers defensive mid Diego Chara. The Colombian Designated Player had arguably his best game in a Timbers uniform and one of the best passing games by any player this season.

His big highlight was the assist on Ryan Johnson's first goal, placing a cross in a position that was literally impossible to miss. Johnson actually failed to get a good touch on it, but still managed to score precisely because it was such an amazing pass.

That was just one of the 49 passes Chara completed on the day, giving him an astounding 96 percent completion rate on his 51 attempts. And it wasn't just a series of back passes in the defensive end, either. Fully half of Chara's passes were in the offensive half, where he was an even more effective 28-for-28. Here's what it looked like through the eyes of Opta:


Up until now, Chara has been a bit maligned. In looking at his passing numbers, at least, I'm starting to think that may be a bit unfair. While Chrra's pass to Johnson may not exactly been a normal thing we've seen from him, he has been a very steady passer under Porter. Even before the Dynamo match, Chara had completed 87 percent of his passes this season, including an 87-for-98 performance against the Montreal Impact on March 9. I don't have the numbers for every player from every game, but it's hard to imagine anyone completing more passes in a game this year.

It wasn't just Chara's passing that stood out, either. The 27-year-old was all over the field, picking up six recoveries and three interceptions to help limit the Dynamo's chances.

But back to that goal Chara assisted on ... it really should be said that Chara's pass was just the icing on the cake of a very impressive sequence. Naturally, it was Chara's winning of a ball at midfield that started the play as he reset everything by sending a pass back to Donovan Ricketts.

The whole build up took 70 seconds, only about half of which is captured in that video above. All told, it included 20 consecutive completed passes and 10 different Timbers players got in a touch. As is the case with most long scoring sequences, many of those passes were along the back line as the defenders wait for an opening.

The unlocking play came on what Opta actually deemed Darlington Nagbe being dispossessed, and a closer look suggests that's at least a possibility. (But that would ruin our little narrative, so I'm just going to assume Nagbe attempted to make that pass.) In any case, Chara was able to come out of the little scrum with the ball and a few touches later he was sending in that absolutely glorious cross.

It might be time to start taking Porter and the Timbers even more seriously than we had before.

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