The Portland Timbers secured a much-needed 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in Providence Park. A Diego Chara goal, a moment of unspeakable magic from Mr. October, and a solid shutout victory: the recipe for a very good Wednesday night at Providence Park.
Portland played their fourth game in eleven days and you probably would have been able to guess that by the way the opening stages of the first half played out. The Timbers looked disjointed, choppy and disconnected.
Sebastian Blanco started the game on the bench and Portland’s attack suffered. The attacking front line did not show enough dynamic movement, and while Yimmi Chara tried his best to facilitate, he didn’t possess the same explosiveness with control that Blanco normally brings to the field.
The visitors also could not generate consistent offense, though they did have the best chance of the opening half hour. A deflected cross fell right to the feet of former Timbers player Jeremy Ebobisse in the middle of the box and the forward had a golden opportunity to score. Ebobisse somehow put his attempt wide, much to the relief of the Timbers.
The cagey first half wore on and the Timbers slowly started to find more attacking verve. Felipe Mora started to connect better with Yimmi Chara and Santiago Moreno offered slightly more attacking threat by cutting inside from either wing. Still, it didn’t appear that a goal was imminent.
That was, until the 35th minute. Mora received a pass and laid it off for Y. Chara. The younger Chara brother found Moreno at the top of the box, who slotted through Mora, who had continued his run. The Timbers striker squared up as if to shoot, but then laid the ball off to Diego Chara in front of the box. D. Chara flicked the ball through the legs of a defender, and that fortunate deflection fooled the goalkeeper as the ball found the back of the net. A rare Diego Chara goal gave the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to wake the Timbers' attack. They were suddenly able to generate more scoring opportunities soon thereafter. A looping ball in for Dairon Asprilla ended in a golden opportunity for him right in front of the goal, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. Y. Chara had a chance off the rebound but his attempt was saved.
Despite more chances and cohesion for the Timbers, they were unable to extend their lead as the first half wound to a close. The teams went into the locker room with Portland nursing a one-goal advantage.
Portland was out-possessed San Jose but didn’t outshoot them in the opening frame. The Timbers grew into the game as the first half went on and San Jose did not seem to have an answer.
The second half opened with the Timbers trying to solidify their superiority. Portland’s earliest chance came via Felipe Mora collecting the ball in the box in the 47th minute while a defender hung all over him. Mora somehow managed to stay on his feet and fire off a shot but San Jose goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski did well to stay alert and save.
The second half was tight and similarly cagey like the first half until Dairon Asprilla blew the goshdarn roof off Providence Park.
In the 55th minute, Santiago Moreno counter attacked and played in a beauty of a long ball for the onrushing Dairon Asprilla. The ball was just a touch too long and Marcinkowski looked to collect. However, he mishandled the ball and spilled it right to the alert Asprilla.
Everyone knew what Asprilla was about to attempt. He took a touch away from the goal to scoop the ball up to himself as he lined up with his back to goal - and then achieved the absolutely spectacular, which must be seen to be believed.
Asprilla’s overhead attempt sailed over the San Jose ‘keeper, past the last defender, and into the back of the net. The crowd at Providence Park appropriately exploded in delirium. After numerous attempts spanning many years, Dairon Asprilla had finally nailed a perfect bicycle kick and gifted all of us a Goal of the Year candidate. He appropriately jumped onto Timber Joey’s log stand to soak in the ecstatic fans. Knowing the weight of the moment, he even had enough in the tank to wait and give the crowd his signature backflip as one final celebration.
With the crowd still jubilant, the Timbers seemed to feed off their energy. Suddenly, the attacks started flooding forward. Cristhian Paredes had a sublime opportunity to extend the lead to three in the 59th minute but he couldn’t steer his shot on target.
The Timbers just kept coming and coming - something we failed to see throughout Portland’s three-match losing streak. The introduction of Sebastian Blanco in the late stages ratcheted up the pressure on the San Jose net even more. The Earthquakes had no answer and couldn’t deal with Portland’s intense pressure. The Timbers seemed destined to find a third goal.
Blanco went on a mazy run past all of San Jose’s defense in the 83rd minute and nearly made it three for the home side. After putting a defender on the seat of his pants, his shot was fortuitously blocked on the line. Josecarlos Van Rankin’s rebound attempt pinged off the crossbar and Asprilla’s follow-up was saved. Portland pelted the San Jose goal all night and would finish the night with 23 shots, 13 of which were on target.
How did that not go in?!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 28, 2021
Absolute chaos in the final minutes of this one. pic.twitter.com/E1OfdUALT9
There was still plenty of game left but after Asprilla’s spectacular goal both teams seemed to understand how this one would end. Portland would never find their third, but the Earthquakes would not come all that close to finding a goal of their own. The final whistle blew and the Portland Timbers secured a 2-0 victory at home.
The win kept the Timbers in fourth place in the Western Conference with two games left to play. They hold a two-point cushion in fourth place and still control their own destiny to clinch a home playoff game for the first round. Their next step to do so will come on Wednesday, November 3, at Real Salt Lake.
In the grander scheme of things, Portland needed some catharsis. They were on a three-game skid and needed to spark some life into the end of their season. They found that catharsis and that spark in the most spectacular of ways from the man who is defining their 2021: Dairon Asprilla.