After giving up another first half goal to the Houston Dynamo, the Portland Timbers fought back to grab a 1-1 draw on the strength of a goal from designated player Brian Fernandez in his debut with the side.
After an even start to the match, Houston were able to pin the Timbers back and keep the pressure on, generating a handful of chances and forcing a strong save from Jeff Attinella in the 11th minute before the Timbers were able to recover and break out.
Sixteen minutes into the match, the Timbers found their first real chance of the match. After Renzo Zambrano — making his debut for the first team — won the ball in the middle of the pitch, the Timbers broke forward, finding Sebastian Blanco cutting inside from the left flank. After playing a one-two pass off Andy Polo, Blanco hit a curled shot that dipped just over the hand of Houston keeper Joe Willis before skipping off the top of the crossbar.
As the half progressed, both sides traded near misses. First, Houston came close after Tomas Martinez dispossessed Zambrano outside the Timbers box and fired a laser shot just wide of the far post in the 25th minute. Then, in the 28th minute, Jeremy Ebobisse put a boot to a curling ball into the box from Blanco, getting around his man and steering an improbable ball near goal, but putting his shot just wide as well.
The Dynamo were able to open the scoring in the 41st minute, capitalizing on a poorly marked corner kick to go up 1-0. From the corner flag Memo Rodriguez found Albeth Elis at the top of the Timbers’ six yard box where La Panterita flicked the ball on toward the back post where Mauro Manotas was lurking. Without any Timbers players near him, Manotas sent his follow-up header toward goal, kissing the ball off the near post, past the dive of Jeff Attinella, and over the goal line.
Valeri threatened the Houston goal in the 48th minute off a spot kick, picking out the upper corner of the goal from thirty yards out, only for Willis to make a comfortable save, touching the ball away from goal after tracking it all the way in.
From there, the match ground to a halt as a series of injuries and other stoppages kept both sides from putting a mark on the game until Brian Fernandez made his debut in the 65th minute.
Playing up top alongside Ebobisse in a 4-4-2 diamond, Fernandez immediately brought pace and energy to the Timbers as they looked to fight their way into the match and, in the 77th minute, he showed why the Timbers were willing to break the bank to bring him in by scoring the game-tying goal. On a move down the pitch, Blanco picked up Fernandez toeing the offside line and launched a ball forward, finding his fellow Argentine in space and in on goal. As Willis closed him down, Fernandez took the ball on the bounce, perfectly placing a shot around the Houston keeper and into the back of the net.
Both sides pressed for a game winner in the final minutes of the match, but neither could break through, although the both Attinella and Willis were forced into saves to secure the point for their respective teams.
The Timbers have just one last road match before opening up Providence Park, a visit to Talen Energy Stadium to take on the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, May 25th.