The Portland Timbers managed what the previous eight teams to visit FC Dallas had not: to take points off the West's fourth place team. More than just taking point off of them, however, the Timbers beat Dallas 2-0 in a hard fought match that saw Darlington Nagbe break the scoring open late in the first half and Maximiliano Urruti close it off late in the second.
After two lackluster performances against Real Salt Lake and CD Olimpia, Nagbe put on a show in the first half of today's match. Taking players on, leading the break, and firing off a series of dangerous shots, Nagbe was the main attraction for the first 45'.
Although he came into the match without a league goal to his name in 2014, Nagbe finally broke through in the 43' to get his first goal of the year. In the context of the match it looked inevitable, but with 33 scoreless games behind him, Nagbe's goal still took everyone by surprise.
With the ball in the middle of the pitch off a simple pass from Diego Chara, Nagbe found himself in space. With no hesitation, he took a touch forward and fired off a hard, low shot into the swarm of defenders on the edge of the Dallas box. Rather than slipping though their legs, however, Nagbe's shot clipped off the calf of Zach Loyd and went spinning off to the right, just as Dallas keeper Chris Seitz dove to the left. With nothing Seitz could do about it, the ball spun and curled over the line to put the Timbers up 1-0.
The second half was a different story as Dallas began to assert themselves on the match. Throwing men forward in waves, Dallas kept the pressure on the Timbers for much of the half.
Dallas's pressure came to a head in the 68' when Fabian Castillo seemingly headed a corner kick past Donovan Ricketts and into the back of the net. Immediately, however, Timbers players were calling for a hand ball and on the replay it was clear that Castillo had slapped the ball in. Referee Kevin Stott was on top of it, however, and called the goal back, giving Castillo a yellow for the play.
Moments later Dallas again thought they had the equalizing goal as Blaz Perez thumped home a header off a David Texeira cross. As Dallas celebrated, however, the referee blowing his whistle for a corner as the ball had rolled out of bounds before the cross was sent in.
With two chances converted but waved off, the wind seemed to go out of Dallas's sails and, finally, the Timbers were able to get back on the ball.
The quick breather was all that the Timbers needed as, in the 82', the Timbers broke out of their defensive third and brought the fight to Dallas.
After some heroic defending from Alvas Powell in the Timbers' end, the ball was worked down the pitch to Gaston Fernandez, who was in the match deputizing for Diego Valeri after the Maestro was forced to leave the game at halftime with a swollen knee. With Dallas committed forward, Fernandez had time to pick his head up and pick out the run of Urruti in the Dallas box.
Receiving the ball while running across the box with a defender behind him, Urruti took another touch parallel to goal before firing off a rocket shot that Chris Seitz could only wave at as it ripped into the back of the net. The goal put the Timbers up 2-0 and took any remaining fight out of Dallas.
The remainder of the match looked more like a large game of keep away than a soccer match and saw the Timbers protecting their lead while Dallas played more to avoid any injuries than to get back into the game.
The win puts the Timbers in position to challenge the Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.