The Portland Timbers tied their team record for matches unbeaten at fifteen with today’s 3-0 win over the visiting Philadelphia Union. After a close fought first half, the Timbers were able to take over the match after half time, getting goals from two penalties and three different players as they held on to all three points.
From the start both sides came out in a decidedly defensive posture and, despite a series of entry balls into the box for both sides, chances were close to nonexistent in the early going.
The visitors were able to finally put a shot on goal in the 23rd minute, working the ball out wide to the flank and finding the feet of striker C.J. Sapong. With Zarek Valentin closing him down, Sapong cut inside and hit a curling ball toward the far post, but did not have the power on his shot to challenge Jeff Attinella who made the diving save.
The chances finally started to come for the Timbers late in the half as the side began to capitalize on some sloppy passing from the Philadelphia midfield.
In the 34th minute, the home side were able to get the ball down in the Union half and feed Diego Chara forward, into the box. With a defender on his back, Chara flicked a ball central and into the path Andy Polo. The speedy midfielder was able to put a boot to the ball, but could not direct his chance on goal, instead putting it up and over the bar.
In the 42nd, the Timbers nearly capitalized on a free kick in the Union half when Diego Valeri hit a curling ball into the visitors’ box. Getting out ahead of the pack of defenders, Samuel Armenteros was able to get a touch on Valeri’s free kick as it dropped in front of goal, but he could only put his shot directly at Union keeper Andre Blake who made the straightforward save.
The Timbers kept the pressure on and, in the 43rd minute, it was Armenteros providing a chance to Valeri. Holding the ball up outside the Union box, Armenteros managed to spin and scoop a pass forward for the run of Valeri. The Maestro cut inside around a defender and got off a quick shot, but put it just wide of the far post.
As the second half resumed, Union No. 10 Borek Dockal attempted an audacious shot directly from the restart, but put the attempt over the bar.
The Timbers responded with a chance of their own in the 48th minute. After bringing the ball down on the Timbers’ back line, Larrys Mabiala stepped forward and played a diagonal ball that Armenteros let roll through his legs and into the path of Valeri. Cutting inside, Valeri uncorked a shot that again flew just wide of the far post.
In the 51st minute the Union were able to work the ball forward into the Timbers end, passing the ball around the perimeter of the box before switching the play and finding midfielder Derrick Jones at the back post. Jones took a touch and fired a shot on goal, only for Attinella to make a strong save and push the ball away from goal.
With both sides opening up, the first goal of the match was coming and the Timbers found it in the 58th minute. On the break down the pitch, Diego Valeri played a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Alvas Powell, only for the Timbers full back to be fouled as he cut into the box. As Powell went down, referee Alan Kelly had no choice but to point to the spot, awarding the Timbers their third penalty kick of the season.
With Blake in goal, Valeri stepped up to the spot and hit the ball stright down the middle as the Union keeper sprawled out to the left, giving the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
The Timbers came close to extending their lead in the 78th minute when Valentin set Polo free down the left wing. Polo raced past his defender to run onto the through ball before cutting inside and carrying the ball toward the center of the pitch before unloading a heavy shot on goal. The shot dipped as it reached Blake in goal and the Union keeper was only able to knock it away and into the path of Dairon Asprilla, who was quite offside.
In the 82nds minute, the Timbers were back at the penalty spot. After a quick move up the pitch put the ball at the feet of Valeri inside the Union box, the Maestro was taken down by an errant boot as he looked to weave his way through a mod of defenders. Again the referee had no hesitation as he pointed to the spot, but this time it was Asprilla who stepped up. After a short run up, Asprilla hit a low, hard penalty that Blake read correctly but could not stop as it powered through his dive and into the back of the net, extending the Timbers lead to 2-0.
Things got worse for the visitors in the 87th minute when the Timbers notched their third of the night. After winning a free kick in the Union half, Valeri served in a curling ball that fell to the head of David Guzman at the back post. Guzman, making his first start since March, headed the ball back across the face of goal, wrong footing Blake and crossing the goal line for the second goal of his Timbers career.
The Timbers finish their run of home games next Saturday when they host their northern rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.