AIK in USA: Portland Timbers 1 – AIK 0
AIK wrapped up its week-long American excursion with a 1-0 defeat to tournaments host Portland Timbers. It was a Kris Boyd header in the seventh minute that did in the Swedish visitors, a goal that jolted AIK and ultimately provided Portland with the winning margin. Despite finishing third in the final tournament table, AIK allowed just that single goal over the course of the week, though they did fail to score themselves in the final two matches.
“It was disappointing. The first half, that was disappointing. Of course, a goal after seven minutes, that takes some time to get back. They had the crowd on their side,” said manager Andreas Alm afterward. Indeed, Boyd’s early goal both highlighted Portland’s early attacking presence and was indicative of the momentum through most of the first half. A somewhat experimental line-up saw Helgi Daníelsson in defense and Martin Lorentzson in the midfield. Some confusion in roles allowed the Timbers to continue what was already an aggressive start to the match and at times overwhelm the AIK defense. Ivan Turina was called upon several times, making four saves on the night. Said Alm, “I’ve never seen Ivan this good. He kept us in the game. All three games he’s been better with his feet, which gives us more time on the ball. The saves he’s been making in training and in the games have been great.”
Trailing at half-time, Alm moved several players back into more comfortable positions and that helped tighten the defense and increase the level of pressing on the Portland attackers. Those changes, in particular moving Daníelsson back into central midfield, provided AIK with a buffer in front of the back four and helped jumpstart what was a mostly lackluster first half attack. Robin Quaison, playing on the forward line alongside Viktor Lundberg, found the most success among AIK’s attacking players. Quaison frequently dropped back to take possession and provided an array of shots (including a terrific free kick that forced a last-second save from Troy Perkins) and passes back out wide to give the visitors some life in the second half. Though he is just 18 years old, Alm was impressed with Quaison’s time in Portland: “He’s good in that area, it doesn’t matter if he’s a striker or an attacking midfielder. So he was comfortable, and even though he’s young, he doesn’t mind the crowd. He did well. He’s had a really good pre-season.” When asked if he would become part of the first team, Alm simply replied, “Could be.”
In the end, not even the introductions of Lalawelé Atakora or Kwame Karikari could quite get AIK on the score sheet. Though Karikari did have a great chance to equalize in the 71st minute, just moments after his substitution for Quaison. Daniel Gustavsson sent a cross directly to Karikari’s head but the Ghanaian youngster could only nod it wide of the near post. That was the last close chance for AIK despite pushing players forward in the game’s final minutes. The 1-0 defeat was a just result, though AIK were far better in the second half than the first. Two other second half substitutes were Alexander Milošević, whose twenty-eight minutes were his first in this tournament, and Pontus Engblom.
Having won, drawn and lost over the course of the week, AIK will leave Portland having experienced every emotion in the game. Alm made sure to point out that while the three MLS sides begin their season next week, AIK are still very much in the pre-season: “We’ve got a couple of more weeks that will help us get prepared. We’ve got some work to do. I think in a couple of days we might all be in training. Right now, no one is injured except Celso [Borges] who has been injured since December.” And regarding Borges, Alm added, “He’s close. The medical team is doing a great job.”