The Portland Timbers finished out their twelve match road trip in style today, taking down the Philadelphia Union 3-1 at Talen Energy Stadium on the back of a two goal performance from new arrival Brian Fernandez and a committed defensive performance that bent but did not break to the most prolific attack in the Eastern Conference.
The Timbers found an early chance in the second minute as they worked the ball back and forth across the pitch in the attacking end, finding Jorge Villafana in space on the left flank. With time to measure his cross, Villafana sent a long ball into the box, picking out the run of Jeremy Ebobisse who rose up over his man and headed the ball toward the bottom corner of the net. Ebobisse’s chance looked good, but Union keeper Andre Blake got down quickly and pushed the ball wide of the post to keep the Timbers off the board.
As both teams began to settle into the match, the Union looked to keep the Timbers pinned back in their own end and break them down with quick short passes. The Timbers were equal to the task in the early going however, remaining organized in defense and largely preventing the home side from breaking them down.
After weathering a long string of possession from Philadelphia, it was the Timbers who would open the scoring in the 31st minute. Getting the ball down and working it into the Union end, the Timbers found Andy Polo in space wide on the right. As the Union defenders hesitated to close him down, Polo held the ball and waited for new designated player Brian Fernandez to drift off the back shoulder of his man before curling a beautiful ball through the box and finding Fernandez at the back post for the simple header home.
Moments later, the Timbers doubled their lead, going up 2-0 in the 36th minute off a midfield turnover and a quick break down the pitch. After Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya coughed up the ball to Diegos Valeri and Chara in the center of the pitch, the pair broke forward alongside Fernandez. A series of quick passes between the trio had the two defenders spinning in their boots and culminated in Chara, one on one with Blake, playing a simple, square pass in for the run of Fernandez who side-footed his shot into the open goal.
The Union came close to pulling one back in the 44th minute when a searching cross in to the back post found the head of Philadelphia full back Jack Elliot, jumping over Zarek Valentin. Elliot’s header crashed off the goal post and bounced in the box before being scrambled away by the vigilant Timbers defense.
Moments after half time, the Union pulled one back in mystifying fashion. In the 47th minute Fafa Picault drove with the ball toward the Timbers’ end line before cutting a ball back to the top of the six yard box for Kacper Przybylko who hit the ball with his first touch, but clipped it off his own leg which wrong-footed Steve Clark and sent the ball spinning toward the near post. The ball clipped the post and rolled behind Clark, spinning along the goal line and rolling just over the line before Clark could sprawl out and claw it away from goal.
With the scoreline at 2-1 to the Timbers, the Union fed off the energy of their home crowd and threw themselves into the attack, looking for an equalizer. As the home side pressed and probed, the Timbers remained organized, keeping the Union from another quick goal.
In the 63rd, however, the Union nearly found their second. Off a short free kick in the Timbers’ end, Haris Medunjanin hit a hard ball into the box, finding Picault for a flicked on ball toward goal that crashed off the post and ricocheted away, narrowly avoiding the tying goal.
Bedoya had another chance for the Union in the 70th minute when a low ball found the Union midfielder for a first time shot from the top of the box that looked destined for the lower corner of the net, only for Clark to sprawl out across his goal and make the stop.
As the second half wore on and a second goal failed to come, cracks began to show in the Union press, giving the Timbers a chance to break out. In the 83rd minute, one of the Timbers’ ventures down the pitch nearly paid off after Valeri played a ball to Fernandez making a run into the Union box. Fernandez received the ball, cut back around his defender, and found just enough space to get a shot off, but put the ball right to Blake who saved ably.
Finally, in the 87th minute, the Timbers put the match to bed. Receiving the ball out wide on the left flank, Valeri played a ball across the top of the box to Blanco, who touched the ball back into the path of Valeri’s follow-up run. As the ball settled for him at the top of the box, Valeri hit a swerving ball through traffic that curled around the dive of Blake before tucking perfectly inside the post to put the Timbers up 3-1.
The Timbers will finally play their first home match of the season next Saturday, June 1st, when they will host league leading Los Angeles FC at the newly renovated Providence Park.