The Portland Timbers beat the Houston Dynamo 2-1 last night, and it feels like a minor weight has been lifted. The Timbers officially have three points in their back pocket and did so without expending the energy of a lot of their first team players. The Dynamo aren’t the strongest team in MLS by any means, but the fact that Portland came in with a heavily rotated lineup and won bodes well for the future.
“It was not a surprise,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said after the match about the team’s depth. “I see these players every single practice. I see their desire, see how much they’re improving, how much they want to participate and contribute to the team, as we saw it today, so definitely was not a surprise to see them perform.”
Seeing players like Blake Bodily and Cristhian Paredes do well on the pitch is great because it makes Timbers fans more comfortable when they’re out on the field. But it’s also great because it allows guys like Eryk Williamson and Diego Valeri — who both came in as subs in the second half — to rest their legs up just a bit for the next looming threat for Portland with Club America.
“The important part was to make sure that we came out of the match with a win, with no injuries, the players with limited minutes to be ready for Wednesday — and thank God things were accomplished today,” Savarese said.
This game was a lot bigger than just an MLS regular season match in April. For a player like Bodily, it was something he’ll remember forever. He started for his MLS regular season debut and recorded the fastest assist in a Timbers debut, getting the ball to Dairon Asprilla in the sixth minute for a score. It was about as good of a start as the homegrown player could’ve asked for.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I can remember,” Bodily said. “I remember coming to games in Portland before I was even on the academy, so being able to make my start and make a little bit of an impact is something that is super special to me and something that I can continue to do moving forward.”
It was a night of first for another player as well. Paredes, who struggled in 2020 coming off the bench in the midfield, gave Portland three points by scoring the first goal of his MLS career in the second half. He did more than just that, putting pressure on the top throughout the match, but the goal was got Portland the win. Goal-scoring is something Paredes will look to do more of in the future if he can.
“I was happy to score my first goal,” Paredes said through a translator. “I know last year wasn’t my best season, but this was important for me to come back in this season and scoring is how I’m going to help the team move forward.”
The first MLS win is in the books. Now the threat that is Club America awaits the Timbers, a match they’ll get to play at least in Providence Park. We’ll find out whether the rotation from last night will help on Wednesday.