The Portland Timbers started off the 2016 Simple Invitational with a bang today, beating NASL side Minnesota United 4-0 in a rough match that saw the visitors finish with only nine men.
The Timbers got off to a quick start in the first half, earning a penalty in just the 10th minute as Diego Valeri was taken down in the Loons' box by an errant boot from Aaron Pitchkolan. It was Fanendo Adi who steeped up to the spot, however, and just like in the Timbers' playoff win over Sporting Kansas City, the big man coolly slotted his penalty home, sending Minnesota keeper Sammy Ndjock the wrong way and making the score 1-0 to the Timbers.
As the game continued on, the Loons were able to get off several shots, forcing a save out of Adam Kwarasey and several scrambles from the Portland defense. However, it was the Timbers who would strike again as they began to assert their dominance on the run of play.
In the 36th minute, the Timbers put together series of passes in and around the Minnesota box. The ball was touched by several Timbers before finding its way to Diego Valeri near the top of the box. It looked like prime territory for Valeri to turn and shoot, but the Maestro instead played a chipped ball over the top for Dairon Asprilla out wide on the right. With Lucas Melano cutting through the center of the pitch, Asprilla hit a low, curving cross into his path that the speedy winger hit with his first touch only for Ndjock to make a diving stop. Melano would not be denied, however, and was the first one to the rebound, smashing it past the prone keeper for the Timbers' second.
From there the Timbers were clearly in the driver's seat, keeping control for the rest of the match.
Things took a turn in the 44th minute as the Timbers looked to press their advantage. With Valeri first to a ball on the midfield line, Minnesota midfielder Tiago Calvano tried to tackle the ball away, but instead slid hard into the back of Valeri's legs, earning a red card from referee Ismail Elfath.
Now up a man, the Timbers did not take long in the second half to grab their third. In the 55th minute, Diego Valeri got on the ball at the top of the Minnesota box, slipping a quick ball between two defenders and onto the foot of Darlington Nagbe. With little room between him and the onrushing keeper, Nagbe touched the ball around Ndjock and easily slipped it home with his left foot for the score.
There was one more twist left to be had in the match, however, as Diego Valeri got on the ball in the Loons' box in the 64th minute. Cutting back from the end line, Valeri looked poised to make something happen, only to be taken down by a studs up tackle from Minnesota's Kevin Venegas. With Valeri on the ground, Elfath wasted no time in showing the red and pointing to the spot. This time it was Valeri who stepped up to take the penalty, hitting a hard shot past Ndjock to make the score 4-0.
From there the Timbers simply ground out the win, getting a bevy of chances but failing to convert any more before the final whistle.
The Timbers play again on Wednesday, facing the Vancouver Whitecaps.