On a rainy October night in Providence Park, the Portland Timbers took down the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 to extend their winning streak to five games. Jaroslaw Niezgoda earned the brace in this one — both his goals coming in the second half, while Felipe Mora scored a late goal off the bench.
Portland had some mild rotation in their starting XI, most notably moving Jeremy Ebobisse and Felipe Mora to the bench and starting Marvin Loria and Niezgoda. Pablo Bonilla and Larrys Mabiala also moved to the bench in favor of Marco Farfan and Bill Tuiloma.
The Timbers had no problem finding chances immediately. In the first minute and one of the first touches of the game, Niezgoda tried the backheel to Diego Valeri, but it caught on his spikes. While it didn’t result in anything, it set the tone offensively. Portland had numerous opportunities to score, and a lot of those opportunities came in the first 10 minutes.
San Jose wasn’t exactly passive to start out, though. The Quakes pushed the ball up quickly on the counterattack and crossed the ball like it was nobody’s business. Those crosses were plentiful, and it led to some shots on goal early on. Steve Clark had to make some quality saves just to prevent easy goals. From the start, it was clear that this was not the same squad that lost by five goals to Portland last month.
Defensively, it was a physical match on both sides, which wasn’t very surprising given the matchup. San Jose’s unusual man-marking style often leads to some very physical play, and that was exactly what it looked like on Sunday from both squads. Portland drew two yellow cards in the first half, with Eryk Williamson earning the first in the 18th minute and Farfan earning the second in the 29th minute. Despite the opportunities for both sides, there were plenty of bodies colliding throughout the half.
Most stats were even across the board going into halftime, but for the most part San Jose felt like the aggressors. While the Timbers seemed to wait just a second too long to make most of their decisions, the Earthquakes just attacked, working up the sideline to make the right cross. If Clark hadn’t had the excellent half, San Jose probably would have nabbed the lead. Fortunately, nothing came to fruition and it was 0-0 at the half.
The second half started. You know how Niezgoda almost had a pass that led to an easy opportunity to start the match? Well, he was on the finishing end this time, and it went beautifully. Diego Chara delivered what was one of the best passes the Timbers have had all year. He served the cross up perfectly to the Polish striker, who headed ball right into the back of the net. Within the first minute of the half it became 1-0 Portland.
Portland stayed on the offensive early on in the half, and it paid dividends. In the 52nd minute, Niezgoda scored once again to earn the first brace of his MLS career. Diego Chara’s cross to Valeri in the box was initially saved by James Marcinkowski, but San Jose failed to secure the ball. Valeri pounced on it and immediately served it up Niezgoda at the top of the box. The striker put it into the empty net, sparking far too many Niez-GOAL-a puns and giving Portland the 2-0 lead.
After a first half that was plagued by indecision, Portland looked hungry in the second half. The decisions in the midfield were quick and clean, and the result was far more clean chances in the final third. Their mobility was also significantly better in the second half, with everyone seemingly filling the lanes perfectly.
The Timbers almost gave up a goal in the 70th minute, but had a bit of luck. A ball found its way into the box and after an initial deflection, it looked like Tanner Beason was able to head the ball in. Fortunately for Portland, Beason was called offside after some discussion. Instead of a 2-1 match, Portland maintained a multi-goal lead.
Niezgoda might have gotten the brace, but Diego Chara was the man of the match, and he showed why with his final assist of the night. Chara once again got the ball on the right side after the thru ball from Tomas Conechny. Chara took the ball and chipped it perfectly to Felipe Mora — who checked in for Niezgoda early in the half. Mora headed it right in, securing the 3-0 victory — and none of it would have happened without Chara in the midfield.
Portland won’t have to wait long for their next match, as they’ll face off against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. (Pacific).