Just when it looked like the Portland Timbers would finish their season-opening five match road trip on a high note, a disastrous and furious three goal barrage from Orlando City left Portland shellshocked with a 3-2 loss.
The result snaps Portland’s unbeaten streak and leaves the team winless as they return home to host Minnesota United at Providence Park next week.
Giovanni Saverese continues to shuffle the lineup. After allowing Fanendo Adi a run of several games for match fitness, Samuel Armenteros got the start up top. Meanwhile, Andy Polo made made his first appearance since the season opener in Los Angeles. Polo nearly scored in the third minute as Joe Bendik mishandled his shot, forcing Jonathan Spector to make the goal line clearance.
Once again, VAR came through for the Timbers. Sebastian Blanco, already sitting on a yellow card for failing to give Sascha Kljestan the required distance on a corner kick, was given a second yellow card in the 17th minute for embellishment.
While ejections are fair game for a VAR review, ejections from a second yellow card are not. For VAR referee Kevin Stott to have recommended a VAR review, he must have seen a missed penalty kick. Indeed, following video review there was deemed conclusive evidence that Blanco was taken down in the box by Orlando defender Mohamed El-Munir.
Instead of playing with ten men, referee Baldomero Toledo’s initial decision was reversed and Portland now had a goal advantage courtesy of Diego Valeri’s penalty kick conversion, despite Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik guessing correctly.
Despite outshooting Portland 14-4, Orlando found themselves again in trouble at their home stadium.
Portland was the more aggressive team in the start of the second half with two good chances hitting the woodwork in the 48th and 49th minutes. Portland did eventually get their second goal off a header by the 5’10 Bill Tuiloma. Tuiloma had three goals (all headers) with T2 in 2017.
Just when it looked like Portland was going to run away with it, Orlando came back from the brink in two furious minutes, starting with Chris Mueller’s header from a corner in the 80th. A minute later, Alvas Powell--playing with a abductor strain--brought down Dom Dwyer in the box. Kljestan converted the penalty and suddenly the Timbers looked vulnerable.
In the 88th minute, Dwyer himself shot while slipping and spinning, but was ultimately able to convert. In an eight-minute span, a decisive two goal lead evaporated in the Orlando heat to a one goal deficit.
After looking the better team for much of the match, the Timbers were unable to see out their first win of the season. Whether it’s looking ahead or just losing their way after so much time away from home, the Timbers have a short week to prepare for their first home game since their shock playoff loss in October.