The Portland Timbers extended their new unbeaten run to three games after Saturday night’s 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Sebastian Blanco made things happen for the Timbers in their win, banking a pair of assists on goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Diego Valeri.
From the outset, the Rapids sat deep, looking to hold possession and lure the Timbers out of their defensive shape.
The visitors’ approach nearly backfired in the 5th minute, however, when an errant pass fell to Diego Valeri as he put pressure on the Rapids back line. With Jeremy Ebobisse making a run toward goal, Valeri had room to fire off a low shot at the far post that forced Rapids keeper Tim Howard into a diving save that touched the ball past the post and out.
The chance signaled a change in the match. Where the Rapids had held the ball in the opening minutes, the Timbers soon took over and forays out of the Rapids end were seldom.
In the 11th minute, the Timbers thought they had found their opener off a free kick in the Rapids half. From the restart, Valeri hit a hard, curling ball in behind the Rapids back line which found the run of Ebobisse who touched it past Howard. As the Timbers celebrated the apparent goal, referee Drew Fischer conferred with his linesman, who had raised his flag, and the video assistant referee and the goal was judged to be narrowly offside.
In the 30th minute, the Timbers again thought that they had the opener only for the assistant referee to once again raise the flag for offside. An early cross into the box found the run of Valeri and the Maestro only had to nod the ball on to see it skip off the ground and past Howard, but replays revealed that Valeri was a step offside when the ball was played.
Larrys Mabiala had a chance in the 38th minute off a Valeri corner. Making a run to the near post, Mabiala was able to hit a first time shot off Valeri’s service, but put the chance wide of goal.
Finally, in the 45th minute, the Timbers got their breakthrough. Finding Sebastian Blanco cutting from the right wing into the Rapids box, the Argentine bounced off a defender and broke toward goal before slipping a perfectly placed ball to the back post for a running Ebobisse. The Timbers forward slid and made contact with the ball to power it past Howard and open the scoring.
It looked like the Rapids would have a chance to even up the scoreline in the 58th minute when the referee whistled a penalty on Steve Clark after the Timbers keeper collided with Rapids forward Jack McBean in the box. After protestations from the Timbers, however, Fischer held an extended conversation with the VAR before ruling a foul on McBean instead for shoving over Liam Ridgewell before making his run.
Four minutes later, the Rapids came close again when Giles Barnes found a pocket of space 25 yards from goal and uncorked a shot that looked destined for the upper-ninety until Clark reached up and touched it over the bar for a corner kick.
The visitors’ second half momentum would not last and in the 65th minute, the Timbers blunted it completely when Jorge Villafana made heroic block on a pass down the flank, springing Blanco forward. Blanco burned past a trio of defenders, cutting inside along the end line before playing a strong cross off the head of Diego Valeri and into the back of the net to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.
Ridgewell came close to finding the Timbers’ third in the 77th minute. Off a corner kick served in to the near post by Valeri, Ridgewell beat his man to the ball and made strong contact with his head only for the ball to hit the side netting.
Substitute Enzo Martinez almost made something happen for the Rapids in the 83rd minute when a clever piece of dribbling saw him get around Ridgewell on the end line and play a ball across the face of goal, only to see it knocked away by a tangle of legs inside the six yard box.
The Timbers found another chance in the 90th minute when Samuel Armenteros got on the ball out wide in the Rapids box, twisted around his man, and had a shot from close in that Howard was able to palm away. Two minutes later, Armenteros repeated the process, this time flashing his shot across the face of goal and wide.
Martinez returned the favor in the 92nd minute, wriggling free of his man on the edge of the Timbers box and ripping a shot toward goal that Clark parried over the bar to keep the scoreline at 2-0.
Despite the late chances, the Timbers were able to see out the game safely and secure all three points.
The Timbers are on the road for their next match when they will face the Houston Dynamo in Texas on Saturday, September 15th.