The Portland Timbers took the lead for the first time in the 94th minute of Saturday night’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City and that was enough for the injury and absence ravaged side to take all three points and move back above the playoff line in the tightly packed Western Conference.
The visitors managed the first shot of the match when a break down the pitch found Erik Hurtado in the Timbers box with his back to goal and his defender sliding by him on the wet pitch. Hurtado turned and, with a narrow angle and defenders closing him down, fired off a low ball on goal that forced Steve Clark into making a save.
The Timbers answered with a chance of their own in the 7th minute, when Diego Valeri hit Jorge Moreira on the run down the left with a smooth diagonal ball. Moreira cut back toward the top of the Sporting box then his a low shot toward the near post that Tim Melia had to hit the ground to push wide of goal.
The Timbers kept up the pressure and, in the 9th minute, they thought they had won a penalty when a shot from Diego Valeri slapped off the arm of Sporting defender Luis Martins inside the box. Referee Alex Chilowicz immediately pointed to the spot, but before the Timbers could take the penalty he changed his mind after a consultation from the video assistant referee and the help of ten Kansas City players crowded around him.
Valeri had another chance for the Timbers in the 19th minute after receiving the ball out on the left flank and cutting inside around his man. Valeri then took another touch across the top of the Kansas City box, skipping by another defender, before hitting a low shot at the near post that he pulled wide of frame.
As the first half wore on, chances were hard to come by for both sides. A shot from distance by Eryk Williamson, making the first start of his MLS career, zipped wide of goal in the 34th minute but did not threaten the Sporting goal.
Sporting managed a better chance in the 37th minute when Ilie Sachez found Gerso out wide on the Timbers’ left. The speedy winger cut inside and hit a curling shot toward the far post that Clark got a touch to, pushing it definitively wide of goal.
The first half closed out with a flurry of action from the Timbers. First, in the 44th minute, the Timbers were again appealing for a hand ball after the ball struck the hand of a Sporting defender in front of goal, but Chilowicz waved them away, motioning that the ball had struck the defender’s leg first before he knocked it down with his arm. Then, with the final kick of stoppage time, Moreira found space for a curling shot form distance that was on target, but did not have the power to challenge Melia who ably snatched it out of the air.
The first chance of the second half came from and adventurous shot by Martins, taken thirty yards from the Timbers goal. The Sporting full back collected the ball in space and hit a stinging shot that skipped toward Clark’s near post, forcing him to palm the ball away from goal.
The stop started a long period of possession from the Timbers, with breaks down the pitch a rarity.
It was on one such break in the 61st minute that sporting were gifted a golden chance to open the scoring. After a lofted ball was sent into the Timbers box, Clark went up to deal with the ball but instead of catching the ball or punching it away could only put a hand on it, dropping the ball directly at the feet of Daniel Salloi in front of a wide open net. Stunned at the gift given to him, Salloi hit a side-footed volley toward goal but put it directly over the crossbar for a goal kick.
After avoiding the most obvious goal possible, the Timbers immediately conceded the most improbable. In the 65th minute, long-time Timbers tormentor Benny Feilhaber collected the ball out wide on the flank and hit a hopeful, curling cross into the box. As the ball floated over the heads of each Kansas City attack, Timbers defender, and Clark himself it looked sure to fly to safety. Instead, the ball curled just inside far-side the upper corner of woodwork, leaving the Timbers looking on in disbelief as the visitors celebrated.
With the Timbers now down a goal and the match opening up, the chances began to come for both sides.
First the Timbers came close in the 72nd minute, when a corner kick into the Kansas City box found the head of Claude Dielna for a flicked ball across the face of goal. It looked like Jeremy Ebobisse would get a touch on it, but he could not connect with the ball and instead the chance pinged off the far post and was cleared away.
Less than a minute later, Sporting were on the ball in the Timbers box and found Martins streaking toward goal from out on the flank. In just enough space to get a shot off, Martins hammered the ball at the near post as the defense collapsed around him, but his shot took a touch from Clark, rang off the woodwork, and ricocheted away.
In the 79th minute, Moreira had a chance to do the spectacular when a headed clearance fell to him at the top of the box. As the ball dropped into his path, Moreira hit it on the volley, only to see his well-struck shot blocked away by the legs of a defender.
Finally, in the 83rd minute, the Timbers got their goal. On a quick break down the pitch, Marvin Loria played a splitting through ball that sent Diego Chara on a lung-busting run toward the end line. With Ebobisse and Brian Fernandez arriving in the box, Chara hit a square ball that deflected off a defender, and spun into space at the back post. Unlike Salloi, Ebobisse was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and made the simple finish, pulling the sides even at one apiece.
The Timbers were not done there, however, and in the 94th minute they got the go ahead goal. After a slipped through pass from Tomas Conechny found Diego Valeri out wide in the Kansas City box. The Maestro cut away from goal, then toward the end line before chipping a floating cross over the swiping hand of Melia and into the path of Fernandez at the back post for a point blank header into the back of the net.
The Timbers’ next match comes on Sunday, September 15th when they will host Wayne Rooney and D.C. United, the first game in a stretch that will see the Timbers play five of their last six games in a fifteen day period.