The Portland Timbers out-possessed and out-shot Salvadoran side C.D. Dragon in tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League match, but they almost didn’t out-score them, needing a last second goal to take all three points in their first match of the group stage.
The Timbers opened the scoring in the first half, breaking down the packed in but disorganized Dragon defense in the 21st minute. With the ball pinned in the Dragon half, the Timbers’ breakthrough came off a throw in deep on the right flank.
Alvas Powell restarted play, sending a short throw to Fanendo Adi, who was holding off his man near the end line. Receiving the ball, Adi took a quick touch and dropped the ball back to Diego Valeri in space at the right edge of the box. Showing off his trademark vision, Valeri was quick to pick out the perfect passing lane, splitting the Dragon defense with a rolling through ball to the back post where Jack McInerney was lurking. Having drifted off the shoulder of his defender, McInerney was free and able to simply tap home Valeri’s pass, giving the Timbers the 1-0 lead.
Despite dominating the possession, however, the Timbers were not able to add a second and, as the second half wore on, it was Dragon who would get on the board. In the 76th minute after a long period of Timbers possession, Dragon broke quickly down the pitch, catching the Timbers off balance.
Dragon forward Jemal Jack started the move, running onto a long clearance. As he was closed down by the Timbers’ defense, Jack spun and clipped an arcing ball into the Timbers’ box, finding the head of on-rushing striker Kenroy Howell. Leaping, Howell got a head to the ball and sent it spinning back across the face of goal. With his momentum carrying him toward the far post, Timbers’ keeper Jake Gleeson could only watch as the ball bounced over the line for the tying goal.
Just as it looked like the Timbers would end up with only a single point from a game they should have won handily, however, it was Valeri to the rescue in the opening minute of stoppage time. Getting on a back-post cross in the Dragon box, Valeri snapped a quick header on goal, only to see his attempt smack off the crossbar. The rebound took a lucky bounce and fell to Valeri again, giving him a chance to hit a hard volley on goal. Dragon keeper Henry Hernandez would get a foot to the shot, but still it dribbled past him, barely crossing the line before it could be swept away byt he scrambling Dragon defense.
The Timbers play again this Sunday, hosting on Sporting Kansas City in MLS play.