In a match during which neither side could take control, the Portland Timbers dropped a disappointing 1-0 result to Minnesota United thanks to a last second penalty given to the home side by referee Chris Penso. The match was there for the taking for both sides, but in the end the Timbers will feel hard done by to not take home a point following an uneven performance from both teams and the referee.
The Timbers found the first chance of the match in the 3rd minute when Brian Fernandez won the ball off the Minnesota back line and broke toward goal. As the Loons defenders recovered, Fernandez sent the ball wide to Sebastian Blanco on his left. With Ike Opara in front of him, Blanco dipped his should and took a touch toward the end line before firing a low shot that skipped wide of the far post.
On the play, Opara set the tone for the early going, sticking a boot up and putting his spikes into Blanco’s shooting ankle, sending the Timbers player to the ground in pain, but not eliciting any action from Penso. After Blanco came back on, the Timbers looked to show that they would not be bullied, with Blanco and Diego Valeri both putting in late fouls of their own before both sides gave the game a chance to settle down again.
In the fifteenth minute the Timbers came close again. Working the ball down the pitch through a series of quick, short passes, the Timbers got the ball on the foot of Blanco in space outside the Minnesota box. With the Loons hesitant to step to him, Blanco fired off a swerving shot from distance that forced Minnesota keeper Vito Mannone to touch the ball up and over the bar. In the moments after the Timbers’ corner kick, Cristhian Paredes also managed a shot from distance, but put his effort wide.
Minnesota also managed several chances of their own in the early going, looking to send diagonal balls into the Timbers box for the run of Miguel Ibarra coming off their left wing. The former Timbers draft pick connected with a looping, deflected ball into the box in the 18th minute, but could only put his volleyed shot up into the stands.
Ibarra had another chance in the 25th minute when a quick give and go put him into space on the Timbers’ right. Carrying the ball toward goal, Ibarra dribbled himself into the box and shot form a tight angle, but Steve Clark was able to get down and make the save at his near post.
Blanco had another chance saved in the 29th minute when another ball won by Fernandez in a dangerous area found Jorge Moreira for a quick shot inside the Minnesota box. Mannone got low and made the save, but spilled a rebound into the path of Blanco. The Argentine took the ball on the volley and smashed a shot toward goal, but again Mannone got up and managed to deflect the ball away from goal.
Fernandez got a chance of his own in the 31st minute when a ball over the top from Blanco found him on the run into the Minnesota box. As the ball fell to him, Fernandez played a flicked header on toward goal, but could not put it in a spot to challenge Mannone, giving the Minnesota keeper his fourth save of the night when he plucked the ball out of the air.
Clark was called into action again in the 37th minute when Minnesota striker Angelo Rodriguez got on the ball at the edge of the Timbers box after a give and go with Romain Métanire out on the flank. Rodriguez took a low, hard shot toward the near post, but again Clark got down and made the save.
The Loons had a strong look in the 53rd minute and again it was Ibarra, this time taking the ball off a dummy run from Rodriguez and gettin on goal, one on one with Clark. As Ibarra looked to shoot, however, the ball skipped up off a divot in the Allianz Park pitch and Ibarra sent the ball flying up into the stand again.
The chance set a tone for the second half with poor bounces, missed passes, and strange moments aplenty as both sides looked to make their mark on the match, but struggled to do so.
After a long standoff, the Timbers came within inches of opening the scoring in the 78th minute. A long ball into the Minnesota box found Jeremy Ebobisse on a long, diagonal run into the box. The converted forward brought the ball down on his chest before laying off a simple drop ball into the path of Fernandez. As the ball rolled to him, Fernandez took its measure before smashing a curling shot toward the far post that had Mannone beat but crashed into the woodwork and bounced away from goal.
The Timbers had another chance in the 82nd minute when Jorge Villafana served a curling ball into a press of players in the Minnesota box. Fernandez rose up out of the pack and put a head on the ball, sending it toward goal where Mannone again touched it over the bar.
In the 85th minute Minnesota had perhaps the best chance of the match, breaking quickly down the pitch after a Timbers free kick. Substitute Abu Danladi went on the run down the left before sending a square ball across the face of goal that just eluded the dive of Clark and found the sliding boot of Mason Toye, but the young forward could not steer it into the now empty net.
Finally, in the last minute of regulation, Minnesota were given a goal. After a curling ball was sent into the Timbers box off a corner kick, Ike Opara put a head to the ball only to see it blocked away by Larrys Mabiala. Opara appealed for a hand ball on the play, but Penso emphatically waved play on. After play stopped, however, Penso was called to review the play and, after watching the footage, pointed to the spot.
Despite the Timbers’ protests, Ethan Finley stepped up to the spenalty spot for the home side and hit a hard shot to Clark’s right. The Timbers’ keeper read the kick correctly and was able to put a hand to the ball, but Finley’s effort had to much power to be denied and splashed into the back of the net to give the home side the 1-0 win.
The Timbers face the Loons again on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal before returning to Portland to host the Vancouver Whitecaps on the following Saturday.