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Portland Timbers win again with 2-1 victory over Toronto FC

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MLS: Portland Timbers at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers won their second match of the season today, taking down high-flying Toronto FC 2-1 and putting in another strong defensive shift to move past their rocky start to the season.

In a match between two teams known for their spotty defending in 2019, play started out in a predictably conservative fashion with neither side willing to expose themselves.

Possession and half-chances came for both sides, but it was off a 20th minute set piece that the deadlock was broken. After a Toronto free kick was punched out of bounds by Steve Clarke, Alejandro Pozuelo served a curling free kick into the Timbers box where it was met by the head of Eriq Zavaleta. The header was powered into the crowd in the box where it was scrambled away and fell to the feet of Johnathan Osario for the simple tap goal.

The Timbers were quick to answer and in the 22nd minute they pulled one back off a corner of their own. After Diego Valeri served a ball in toward the top of the box, Bill Tuiloma shook himself free of his defender and peeled into space. As the ball dropped to him, Tuiloma took its measure and swung in for a thunderous volley that swerved away from Toronto keeper Quentin Westberg before splashing into the back of the net and drawing the sides even at 1-1.

Smelling the blood in the water, both sides looked to go on the attack and for long stretches of the first half it was the Timbers on the front foot, holding the ball in the attacking half and probing for another moment of weakness from the Toronto back line.

The half provided a break from the Timbers’ pressure for the Reds and allowed the home side to regain their footing.

The respite would not last and in the 70th minute the Timbers struck again. Working the ball quickly down the pitch, the Timbers found Sebastian Blanco running down the left flank. With his head up, Blanco hit a curling cross into the the Toronto box and picked out the run of Jeremy Ebobisse who was cutting between the Toronto center backs. As the ball fell in front of him, Ebobisse laid out for the diving header, making a solid connection from just inside the six yard box and sending the ball into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the year.

Down 2-1, Toronto threw men forward in the final minutes of the match, looking for the equalizer. To answer them the Timbers shifted from their starting 4-4-2 to a 5-3-2, looking to hunker down and see out the match.

The Timbers had a chance to put the match away in the 90th minute when a quick break down the pitch put Diego Chara in one on one with Westberg. As the Toronto keeper closed him down, Chara looked to place a shot past him, but could not quite pick out the post, instead sending his shot just wide of goal.

While the final minutes of the match were nail-biting, the Timbers held off a final Toronto surge and claimed their second win of the season.

The Timbers are on the road yet again next Saturday when they will take on Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake.