The Portland Timbers continued their run of four straight road losses, dropping a 3-2 result to last place Western Conference side Minnesota United. Diego Valeri notched his ninth goal of the season, but it was not enough to lift the Timbers out of their road funk.
Minnesota started the match with only two of the same starters that faced the Timbers back in the season opener and the difference was apparent. The Loons pressed from the opening minute of the match and the Timbers were obviously unsettled by the home side’s high work rate off the ball.
That hard work paid off early when, in the 7th minute, the Loons opened the scoring. Moments after a Minnesota corner went uncleared, Loons midfielder Sam Cronin was played into space at the Timbers’ end line. Taking his time, Cronin hit a hard cross into the box where it was all that Timbers center back Amobi Okugo could do to put a boot on the ball while running toward his own goal. In a bad situation, Okugo could only watch in horror as he turned the ball into the Timbers’ net, giving Minnesota the 1-0 lead.
Now thoroughly on the back foot, the Timbers found themselves fully out of sorts, struggling to put pressure on the Loons and fight their way back into the match.
Of course, it came down to a bit of magic to get the Timbers back in the match. In the 37th minute, Sebastian Blanco played a beautiful diagonal ball into the path of Diego Valeri, running into the Minnesota box. As the ball checked up on the bounce, Valeri turned and controlled with his chest, just as Loons keeper Bobby Shuttleworth crashed into him, sending the Maestro tumbling to the ground and prompting referee Ted Unkle to point to the spot. With Shuttleworth in goal, Valeri stepped up to the spot and hammered a hard shot to his left, beating out the Loons keeper and rippling the back of the net to equalize.
The even scoreline would not last long, however, as Minnesota once again jumped out in front in the second minute of the second half. With the ball at the feet of playmaker Kevin Molino, Timbers center back Roy Miller cheated left to intercept a through ball for forward Christian Ramirez, only to find the run of Ramirez — and the through ball of Molino — heading the other way. Now one on one with Timbers keeper Jeff Attinella, Ramirez put a deft touch on the ball, arching it up and over the hands of the keeper to put Minnesota up 2-1.
Again, however, the Timbers evened things up, this time doing so in short order. In just the 50th minute the Timbers pushed hard down the pitch, working the ball wide to the right and finding the overlapping run of Vytas. Alone on the wing, Vytas sent in a swerving cross only for center back Francisco Calvo to get a touch to it, angling the ball around Shuttleworth and into the back of the net to even up the score at 2-2.
The Loons would take their third lead of the match in the 64th minute as the Loons got the ball down the pitch and sent a series of balls into the Timbers’ box. A ball toward the back post drew Attinella off his line, rising up to punch it away. However, as he collided with a pair of players, Attinella could only swipe at the ball, knocking it directly to the feet of rookie attacker Abu Danladi. With open goal in front of him, it was a simple matter for Danladi to tuck the ball away for the 3-2 Loons lead.
The back and forth match would get turned up another notch in the 70th minute as Danladi and Blanco came together in the middle of the pitch. After Danladi took Blanco down, the Timbers’ midfielder planted his boot in Danladi’s chest and shoved, prompting the Loons player to return the favor with several kick-outs of his own. All this came in plain view of Unkle and he had no hesitation in showing the red card to both players, leaving both sides shorthanded for the final twenty minutes of the match.
With more space on the pitch, the Timbers pressed for the equalizer but quality chances were few and far between until the final whistle blew with Minnesota still up 3-2.
The loss marks the Timbers’ second straight loss to the last place team in the West after falling 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
The Timbers return to Portland for Sunday’s home match against the Seattle Sounders. With the loss to Minnesota, the Timbers remain in 3rd place in the Western Conference despite dropping their record to 7-7-3.