The Portland Timbers kept it interesting in their first home match of 2018, squeaking out a 3-2 win over Minnesota United that could just as easily have been a loss or a complete blowout.
The Timbers started the match out on top, controlling possession and making regular forays forward into the Minnesota end. Although the Timbers were able to knock the ball around in the attacking third, the Loons defense played compact and chances were hard to come by in the early going.
The Minnesota back line would not hold, however, and it was Alvas Powell who opened them up in the 20th minute. Receiving the ball wide on the wing, Powell saw the space between the defenders in front of him and took off toward goal. Cutting through the Loons, Powell drove into the box before unleashing a stepover that spun his defender around and put Powell in on goal. With a tight angle and Loons keeper Matt Lampson closing him down, Powell hammered a shot at the near post that Lampson could only wave at before it splashed into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Powell was at it again, receiving the ball wide on the right and carrying it up the field. This time, however, the Timbers right back saw that the Minnesota defenders were facing their own goal and elected to hit in a curling cross. Loons left back Marc Burch was able to get a boot to the ball, but could not clear it away, instead sending it spinning toward goal. With Powell’s deflected cross dropping in the box, Diego Valeri was first to the ball, cutting in front of defender Francisco Calvo and getting just enough of a touch on the ball to send it skipping between Lampson and the far post to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.
That lead looked like it had been cut in half in the 25th minute as the Loons got their first major chance of the night, only for 2012 Timber draftee Miguel Ibarra to have his goal waved off on review. A quick combination down the Timbers’ left flank saw Minnesota get winger Ethan Finlay free and able to send in a cross that found Ibarra for the finish at the back post, only for video review to reveal he was offside at the time of the pass.
The Timbers almost extended their lead in the 31st minute when Sebastian Blanco found himself on the ball in space at the top of the box. Blanco fired off a shot from distance that looked destined to dip under the bar only to ring off of it instead. The shot marked the third match in a row that Blanco hit the woodwork after also finding it against Orlando City SC and having the ball pushed off the bar by the keeper against the Chicago Fire.
As the game wore on, the chances came for Minnesota and the visitors almost got on the scoreboard in the 42nd minute. Again the Loons found Ibarra at the back post and the crafting winger got off a shot from point blank range, only for Jake Gleeson to make the reaction save, swatting the ball away.
The chances continued to come for the Loons in the second half and in the 63rd minute, newly arrived designated player Darwin Quintero made his mark on the match by pulling Minnesota within one. Getting on the ball out wide with Diego Chara marking him tight, Quintero spun around the Timbers midfield and broke toward goal. With a sharp cut toward the end line, Quintero got free in the box and hit a low shot on goal that Gleeson could only kick at as it skipped over the goal line.
The Loons continued to apply pressure as the match went on and looked like the side most likely to tally next, keeping the Timbers pinned back for much of the second half.
When the Timbers finally got out on the break, however, they made it count, extending their lead to 3-1 in the 74th minute. The Timbers found Sebastian Blanco wide in space on the wing and the creative midfielder sent a chipped in ball to Diego Valeri at the Loons’ back post. Unable to put a strong header on goal, Valeri instead knocked the ball backward into the path of Cristhian Paredes for the first-time volley. Paredes sent his shot skipping off the pitch and toward goal, only for Fanendo Adi to dive toward the ball, redirecting it around Lampson and into the back of the net.
It looked for a moment like the Timbers had pushed the lead further yet in the 78th minute as Adi was able to turn a defender on the break and pick out the far post, only for a review of the play to reveal that he was offside when the ball was knocked forward to him.
Immediately after Adi’s goal was called off, Minnesota turned the tables and scored a goal of their own. A chipped ball up and over the top from Quintero looked destined to find the run of Abu Danladi only for Bill Tuiloma to rise up and get a boot to the ball, sending it looping over Gleeson and into the back of the net to put the scoreline at 3-2 to the Timbers.
With the rain pouring down, the Loons threw men forward, looking to salvage a point, but none were forthcoming and the Timbers were able to see out the final, nerve-wracking minutes.
The Timbers are at home again next Sunday when they will host New York City FC.