Brian Fernandez kept his scoring streak alive Sunday night, making all the difference as the Timbers took down FC Dallas 1-0 at Providence Park.
The Timbers kept the ball in the attacking end for most of the first quarter of an hour, sending a series of dangerous balls in, but failing to break down the organized Dallas back line. With Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, and Brian Fernandez all buzzing around the box, the Timbers made life difficult for the visitors.
As the match wore on, the Timbers’ pressure abated and the match moved out of the Dallas end into the center of the pitch. While the Timbers continued to stifle their opponents attempts to work the ball into dangerous spots, they also struggled to string together the same attacking sequences that they had put together earlier in the match.
A sense of frustration set in with neither side able to mount a credible attack and referee Alan Chapman allowing plenty of physical play. The match seemed in danger of bubbling over when, in the 32nd minute, Dominique Badji took a hard collision from Valeri that went uncalled, then ran over to kick the plant leg of Blanco after the Argentine had passed the ball away. While the act could have warranted a red card, Chapman gave Badji a yellow instead and allowed the players to settle down while Blanco received treatment.
Finally, in the 42nd minute, the Timbers broke through. On a lightning fast break down the pitch, the Timbers found Blanco with the ball out wide while Diego Chara streaked down the center of the pitch. Blanco hit a curling ball into the path of Chara, but the Timbers icon let it run past him — and his defender — and into the path of Brian Fernandez, arriving in space from the opposite flank. With his first touch, Fernandez fired a shot toward goal with the outside of the boot that clipped a Dallas defender and flew over the waving arm of Jesse Gonzalez before hitting the back of the net.
The Timbers nearly extended their lead off a free kick in the 51st minute. After Valeri was taken down twenty-five yards from goal, the Maestro stepped up to the free kick and hit a curling ball on goal that forced Gonzalez to dive at full stretch in order to parry the ball away.
Moments later, the Timbers came close again, when a slashing ball from Blanco out on the wing found the back post run of Jeremy Ebobisse. Ebobisse took the shot on the volley, but sent his attempt just inches wide of the far post.
With the Timbers’ two strong chances gone wanting, Dallas turned up the heat and managed to put on some pressure of their own. As both sides looked to hit on the break, the match opened up into a series of sprints up and down the field.
The visitors nearly struck in the 76th minute when, catching the Timbers back line out of sorts, Michael Barrios lofted a ball over the back line and into the box for the run of Dallas homegrown player Jesus Ferreira. With a defender on his back, Ferreira brought the ball down and got off a shot from close , but did not have full control of his swing and put the ball high and wide of goal, preserving the Timbers’ 1-0 lead by the narrowest of margins.
The pressure continued from Dallas as the match wound on, with the visitors launching attack after attack down the pitch, looking to take advantage of their young legs and impressive speed. For their part, the Timbers looked to bend but not break.
The chances late in the match were not just for Dallas, however. In the 88th minute, the Timbers worked the ball into the Dallas box with a series of slick passes, culminating in a diagonal through ball from Blanco to Valeri. The Maestro cut back around his man and fired off a low shot that looked destined for the back of the net only for a timely intervention from Dallas center back Matt Hedges to block the ball away from goal.
The Timbers are on the road for their next match when they will face off against New York City FC on Sunday, July 7th.