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Portland Timbers can’t break down FC Dallas in 0-0 draw

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MLS: FC Dallas at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers could not break through a Dallas side that remains at the top of the Western Conference, coming away from Saturday’s home match with few scoring chances and a 0-0 draw.

The Timbers came charging out of the gate and in the second minute managed the first chance of the match. With Dallas still finding their defensive shape, Jorge Villafana curled in an early cross to the center of the box that found Jeremy Ebobisse for a diving header that connected but was deflected away from goal by a Dallas defender.

The fast start would not last, however, as both teams settled in for a defense-first match. While both teams had chances to venture forward, neither were willing to commit men to the attack and kept their lines deep to limit chances on the counter. For most of the first half, what few chances that did come were either speculative shots from long range for the visitors or ultimately broken up attempts to work the ball into the box for the home side.

With the defensive effort of Dallas locking everything down, the Timbers still managed a dangerous moment in the 25th minute when Diego Valeri and Andy Polo played a quick combination of passes that set Polo into the Dallas box. As several Timbers crashed toward goal, Polo hit a first time cross into traffic that looked sure to connect, only for Dallas center back Matt Hedges to stick out a leg and deflect the ball up and over the bar.

There was some further excitement in the 43rd minute when a Timbers entry into the Dallas box turned into a rare chance at a counter for the visitors. After Polo and Lawrence Olum collided inside the Dallas box, muffing the Timbers chance at their first shot on goal of the match, FCD won the ball and worked it quickly down the pitch. Dallas found midfielder Carlos Gruezo on the edge of the box where he took the measure of the ball before shooting from long range, deflecting the ball off the back of Liam Ridgewell and wrong-footing Jeff Attinella in the process. The ball skipped toward goal, out of Attinella’s reach, but instead of finding the back of the net it clipped the bar and spun out of bounds.

In the 63rd minute, Valeri injected some life into the match when a quick dribble toward goal saw him drive toward a pair of defenders, cut inside, and squeeze a shot through traffic. The ball found its way to goal, but Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez was there to scoop it up.

The deadlock was nearly broken in the 73rd minute when an errant back pass from Larry Mabiala fell neatly into the path of Cristian Colman. In the Timbers box, Colman hit the ball with his first touch, but powered the shot directly into the chest of Attinella, who stood strong to block the ball away. The follow up fell to Santiago Mosquera, but the Dallas designated player skied his shot from outside the box into the stands.

Substitute Lucas Melano came close in the 80th minute when Zarek Valentin sent a curling ball into the box that looked on track to drop to the feet of a Dallas defender. What looked like a safe ball for the visitors was anything but as Melano burst onto the scene and swung his leg for a side volley that connected and sent the ball on target, forcing Gonzalez to make the save.

The match, which had been physical and difficult to control throughout, came to a head in second half stoppage time, when Liam Ridgewell made contact with the bottom of his boot on Dallas sub Roland Lamah while contesting a header. Referee Alan Chapman was quick to raise a red card into the air and declined to review the play despite the Timbers protests.

The Timbers head on the road for their next match when they will take on Real Salt Lake in the first of back to back matches against the Western Conference side.