After playing two matches in four days, the Portland Timbers ran out a young side on the road against the Montreal Impact and could not manage a result against the Canadian side. A brace from Nigerian youngster Orji Okwonkwo was enough to seal the 2-1 result and send the Timbers home without a point.
With the Timbers taking a conservative approach to start the match, chances were difficult to come by for both sides. The Impact held the bulk of the possession to start the match, while the Timbers youngsters looked to turn the home side over and hit them on the break.
In the 21st minute, however, it was the Impact who came close to capitalizing on a bad pass from the Timbers. After Tomas Conechny sent a back pass into space, it was speedy Montreal winger Okwonkwo who ran onto it and burst toward goal. As defenders closed him down, Okwonko took a hard shot at the near post, only to see it ring off the woodwork, spin across the face of goal, and bounce out for a goal kick.
The Impact would continue to look to take advantage of the space in behind the Timbers’ back line and, in the 28th minute, Okwonkwo opened the scoring by doing just that. A ball over the top from Bakary Sagna put Okwonkwo in on goal and, after beating Claude Dielna in a footrace, he hammered a ball on goal that Jeff Attinella put a hand to, but could not stop from splashing into the back of the net.
The Impact goal prompted a shakeup from the Timbers and after some tactical adjustments they were much more able to compete for possession.
Eight minutes into the second half, the Timbers made their new-found possession count. After working the ball down the pitch, the Timbers earned a free kick in the attacking end. Marvin Loria stepped up to the ball and sent a curling ball into the box. Fighting through a defender, Julio Cascante managed to rise up at the back post and knock the ball down in the box. As the Impact scrambled to recover, it was Conechny who was first to the ball, tucking it neatly past Montreal keeper Evan Bush with a placed header and pulling the Timbers even at 1-1.
With the scoreline even both sides traded chances as they looked to take control heading into the final half-hour of the match. First Ken Krolicki flashed a bouncing shot just wide of Attinella’s post. Then, moments later, the Timbers hit quickly down the pitch, nearly finding Erik Williamson in front of goal after a series of neat passes, only for the Impact to clear the ball away just in time.
It took something special to break the deadlock and in the 66th minute Okwonkwo found it. As a looping ball fell to him in the Timbers box with his back to goal, Okwonkwo took the measure of the ball, spun, and hit a cracking volley that took a slight deflection off Cascante and curled around the reach of Attinella before tucking into the upper ninety to restore the Impact lead.
Back in front, the Impact committed to shutting down the match and playing the sort of counter-attacking style for which they have become known in recent years. The Timbers enjoyed long strings of possession, but struggled to create clear scoring chances against an organized Impact side.
The Timbers return home this weekend when they will host FC Dallas on Sunday evening.