The Portland Timbers managed to escape the gnarled confines of BBVA Compass Stadium with a 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo despite three injuries forcing the side to take all of their substitutions before the 60th minute.
The Timbers came out of the gate looking sharp, nearly getting on the board in the 5th minute thanks to a narrowly missed chance from Darlington Nagbe. After sending Diego Valeri down the left flank, Nagbe took off toward goal and was on the receiving end of a centering ball from the Maestro only to flub his shot and send the ball wide of the far post.
The rough pitch at BBVA, however, seemed to wear on the Timbers and as the first half wore on, the Dynamo began to exert themselves on the match and the Timbers. Only a smattering of chances would come in the early going for either side, but the bulk of play stayed in the Timbers half as they struggled to break out.
It looked like the Dynamo would have a chance to open the scoring in the 30th minute as Alberth Elis went down in the Timbers box under a tackle from Larrys Mabiala and referee Robert Sibiga pointed to the spot. Replays showed that Mabiala got more ball than man, however, and after consulting with the video assistant referee, Sibiga called the penalty off.
Before the half was out, the Timbers had a penalty shout of their own when Darren Mattocks appeared to be taken down by Houston keeper Tyler Deric. Mattocks appeared to touch the ball away from Deric before being slid into by the keeper, but Sibiga declined to give the penalty, instead awarding a corner kick.
The half finished on a down note for the Timbers with a pair of injuries putting a damper on the proceedings. First, Mabiala pulled up clutching the back of his leg while chasing Elis down the wing, eventually taking down the Houston winger to stop play and get a sub, as well as a yellow card. Then, in the final moments of the half, Diego Chara went down to the pitch without any contact from an opposing player and seemed to be obviously upset. As the teams went into the locker room, Chara was carried off the pitch on a stretcher, not to return for the second 45’.
The injuries were not over there, however, as Darlington Nagbe was forced to exit in the 59th minute, using the Timbers’ third and final substitution.
Houston had a strong chance in the 51st minute when a corner kick found the head of Swiss international Phillipe Senderos. Senderos’s header arched toward goal and looked good to dip under the bar, only for Jeff Attinella to reach up and get a finger to the ball, knocking it up and over the goal.
Now without any substitutions remaining, the Timbers took a more conservative tact, compacting their formation and forcing the Dynamo outside where Alvas Powell and Vytas Andriuškevičius held things down. With Houston’s attacking lanes limited, the Timbers ground out the match, making regular forays forward, but failing to connect around the Dynamo box.
Finally, the whistle blew with the match still knotted up at 0-0 with few chances for either side.
The Timbers and Dynamo face off again in the second leg of their Conference Semifinal series on Sunday in Portland.