The Portland Timbers gave up one own goal, narrowly avoided another, and failed to find their chances against a packed in defense during Sunday afternoon’s 1-0 loss to visiting D.C. United.
From the starting whistle the Timbers were on the ball, pushing forward and cycling the ball around the the pitch as they searched for an opening in the D.C. defense.
In the 7th minute the Timbers managed to find their first chance of the match when a long string of passes found Jorge Villafana on the ball in the attacking end. Playing a quick one-two pass off Diego Valeri, Villafana worked his way into space at the edge of the box before clipping a shot toward goal only for a defender’s boot to deflect it around the far post. On the following corner the Timbers came close again when Valeri’s service found the head of Bill Tuiloma, but the Timbers’ center back put his header over the bar.
Following the Timbers’ long stretch in control of the match, the visitors slowly started to work themselves into the match and, in the 15th minute, they managed a chance of their own. A bold, diagonal dribble through the center of the Timbers half got United winger Paul Arriola on the edge of the box where the US international hit a strong shot on goal, forcing Steve Clark into his first save of the night.
Immediately after the D.C. chance, the Timbers struck down the pitch, hoping to catch their opponents off balance and coming within inches of doing so. A curled in ball from Jorge Moreira on the right flank met the head of Valeri inside the box and the Maestro sent the ball toward goal. The ball flew just out of reach of United keeper Bill Hamid before hitting the woodwork and bouncing across the face of goal, rolling toward the corner. The Timbers collected the ball and found Eryk Williamson at the top of the box, but the midfielder’s shot was deflected wide.
The visitors were rewarded for their occasional forays forward in the 25th minute when a dangerous cross into the box put the Timbers in an awkward position and resulted in a own goal, giving D.C. a 1-0 lead. Working the ball down the pitch, United found Ulises Segura wide on the Timbers’ left where the midfielder hit a low curling ball across the face of goal. With a United attacker on his back, Tuiloma had no choice but to slide in and attempt to block the ball away, but instead knocked it past Clark and into the back of his own net.
The Timbers came close to giving up a second own goal in the 33rd minute when a D.C. corner was curled into the box and Clark came for it, but missed with his punch. The ball then deflected off a player, back off the now prone form of Clark, and toward the goal before being cleared away off the end line by Williamson. While replays appeared to show that the ball had crossed the line by a minute amount, the play was allowed to stand and the Timbers remained down by only a single goal going in to the half.
As the match rolled on, the Timbers found themselves with a chance to reset at half time. The home side came out swinging and nearly managed a fluky goal of their own in the 50th minute when a Jorge Moreira cross slapped off the crossbar and away from goal. Then, in the 55th minute, Valeri found some space outside the D.C. box and hit a powerful shot, but could not put it on goal.
The shots from distance continued to come for the Timbers and, in the 59th minute, Williamson took a chance of his own from outside the box. Williamson’s well struck shot clipped off a defender, but continued on a looping track toward goal, forcing Hamid into a diving save at full stretch. Valeri tried again from outside the box in the 64th minute, hitting a serving shot through traffic. This time the Maestro put his attempt on from, but Hamid had its measure and was able to punch the ball away from goal and away from danger.
Wayne Rooney had a try from distance at the other end of the pitch in the 68th minute, hitting a low shot on goal that Clark was easily able to save.
In the 75th minute after putting D.C. under pressure for a long period, the Timbers managed to finally force a chance inside the visitors’ box. After an attempt from United to break out of their own end broke down, the Timbers immediately looked to strike and it was Marvin Loria who lifted his head up and spotted Tuiloma making a run at the back post. Loria’s lofted ball into the box found Tuiloma on the run, but the center back could not put his headed attempt on frame and it instead skipped wide of goal.
United had a chance to extend their lead in the 82nd minute when a give away on the Timbers back line from Andres Flores fell to a D.C. player and was sent forward to Arriola, breaking toward goal. With Diego Chara charging him down, Arriola hit a strong shot, but Clark was able to react quickly and get a hand to it, forcing the ball off the post and out for a corner kick.
Although the Timbers brought the ball down the pitch again and again, the United defense stood strong and did not bend. Without Sebastian Blanco or Brian Fernandez to provide a spark in the attack, the Timbers were only able to send cross after cross into the United box.
The Timbers are back in action on Wednesday, September 18th, when they will host the New York Red Bulls.