The Portland Timbers were on the front foot for much of Saturday’s win over the San Jose Earthquakes, but a late surge from the visitors led to some nervy moments as the home side saw out a 2-1 win. A brace from Samuel Armenteros, both supplied by Diego Valeri, were the difference as the Timbers went to 13 straight matches unbeaten in all competitions.
The Timbers set the tone of the match early, winning the ball in the Earthquakes’ half in the first minute and getting the ball to Dairon Asprilla out wide on the flank where he was dragged to the ground by center back Harold Cummings, earning Cummings a yellow and the Timbers a dangerous free kick. Diego Valeri stepped up to the free kick and served in a curling ball that arced away from Quakes keeper Andrew Tarbell and into the path of Larrys Mabiala, where the Timbers center back put head to ball but sent his chance just wide of the post.
The Timbers’ early attacking stance was derailed by a series of fouls from both sides as they felt out each other and referee Ted Unkle.
The fouls did not stop the Timbers from generating chances, however, and in the 8th minute the Timbers hit out on the break, finding Asprilla streaking down the right flank. As he was about to enter the San Jose box with the ball at his feet, Asprilla slipped to the turf but turned his tumble into a back pass to find Valeri’s trailing run in space outside the box. Taking a touch forward, Valeri whipped a skipping shot toward goal that had Tarbell sprawling out to make the save only for it go just wide of the far post.
In the 14th minute of largely one-way traffic, the Timbers finally found their opener. After winning the ball in the San Jose half, the Timbers got the ball to the feet of Valeri and the Maestro played a perfectly weighted ball for the run of Samuel Armenteros, who was lurking off the back shoulder of his defender on the Earthquakes back line. Armenteros took a touch forward and, with only Tarbell between him and the opener, slotted the ball inside the near post to put the Timbers up 1-0.
The Timbers almost struck again in the 24th minute as a rolling through ball from Valeri found the run of Alvas Powell, pushing forward from his full back spot. Powell drove to the end line, skinning a defender along the way, before cutting a ball back to the feet of Armenteros in the box. With Tarbell charging him down, Armenteros got off a quick, strong shot, only for Tarbell to make a heroic save with his face, sending the ball spinning away from goal and out of the path of the arriving Timbers reinforcements.
The Timbers flow was interrupted midway through the half by a pair of San Jose injuries. After several long stoppages, the Timbers seemed to have taken the foot off the gas and the Earthquakes looked to take advantage, pressing forward and leading to some nervy moments that somehow went unpunished for the home side.
The Timbers seemed to break out of their funk in the final minutes of the first half and in the 44th minute Armenteros came close to scoring what would have been among the most spectacular goals ever recorded in a Timbers kit. A long throw-in from Powell into the San Jose box looked ready to drop to the Swedish forward’s chest, but instead of bringing it down, Armenteros created a slight seperation from the defender on his back and threw himself into a first-time bicycle kick that sent the ball racing toward goal, only for Tarbell to touch it wide just before it snuck in at the near post.
The Quakes did manage a good chance to pull the game even in first half stoppage time when a chipped-in ball found Vako with his back to goal in the Timbers box. With a defender on his back, Vako managed to turn and get a shot off only to pull the chance wide of goal.
As play resumed in the second half, it was clear that the Timbers were back in charge of the match and in the 52nd minute they had their second goal of the night. A long throw from Jeff Attinella to Valeri started the Timbers on the break down the pitch and the Maestro helped the ball on and again into the path of Armenteros making a diagonal run into the San Jose box. Shrugging off a pair of defenders, Armenteros kept his balance and slipped a low shot beneath Tarbell to put the Timbers up 2-0.
The Earthquakes nearly pulled a goal back in spectacular fashion in the 60th minute when Magnus Eriksson found Quincy Amarikwa pulling away from his man in the Timbers box. Eriksson’s curling cross dropped just behind Amarikwa and the San Jose striker threw himself into an overhead kick that made strong contact and looked destined to score, only for Attinella to make a diving, one-handed save that kept the ball from crossing the line.
With the shutout still intact, the Timbers poured on the pressure, working the ball around and into the San Jose box, culminating in a close range Armenteros shot in the 66th minute that forced Tarbell into his fourth save of the night.
The Earthquakes were not completely out of the match and in the 83rd minute Vako had his second chance of the night when a ball forward skipped past Powell and into the path of his run. With Powell on his back and Attinella rushing toward him, the pressure was just enough to put Vako off and the San Jose forward put his shot up and over the bar.
Despite the Timbers’ control of much of the match, the Earthquakes were throwing men forward in desperation mode in the final minutes of the match and in the 87th it paid off. With the ball at his feet, Amarikwa cut inside before playing and outside of the boot through ball into the box for Florian Jungworth. Leaving his defender behind, Jungworth got off a low shot that Attinella was able to get a touch on, but could not stop from rolling over the end line and pulling the Quakes back within one.
With a point in sight, the Earthquakes threw everything they had forward, but could not find the equalizer before the final whistle as the Timbers held on for the 2-1 win.
The Timbers are back on the road for their next match one week from Sunday when they will take on Los Angeles FC in a match that could see them pass up the expansion side on the Western Conference table.