In their first game after a seemingly interminable offseason, the Portland Timbers drew CD Marathon 2-2 in the first of two legs of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Felipe Mora and Diego Valeri had the two goals for Portland, while Brayan Castillo and Marlon Ramirez had the scores for Marathon.
The Timbers went with a classic 4-2-3-1 for their match. Josecarlos Van Rankin and Claudio Bravo made their first starts in a Timbers uniform this season. As expected, Sebastian Blanco did not make his return for today’s match, while Jeremy Ebobisse also sat out with a hamstring injury. The prefix master, Dairon Asprilla, was another notable Timber to get the nod as a starter.
Portland looked strong in the first 15 minutes of the match. They crowded Marathon in the box and applied plenty of direct pressure defensively. They were also aggressive on the attack, with the slow-moving grass surface favoring Portland’s ultra-attacking squad.
Attacks in general were productive for Portland, even though the ball looked like it was moving through tar most of the time. They generated plenty of opportunities with nine shots in the half and 85% passing accuracy. Eryk Williamson was particularly effective, attacking Marathon box-to-box and creating opportunities on the other end for the Timbers.
The Timbers broke through with their first goal of 2021 in the 35th minute of the first half. Van Rankin took the ball at the top of the box and worked his way to the left side. He flipped a pass over to Mora, who took Portland’s ninth shot and snuck it into the left corner. The Timbers led 1-0.
Marathon did not wait long to respond — doing so in the 39th minute. Edwin Solano took a through ball and made a run down the left side before working it up to Brayan Castillo in the box. Castillo took the shot and stabbed it in to even up the score. Marathon looked more comfortable in the attacking third to end the half, but the score stayed at 1-1.
The second half started, and Marathon looked much stronger on the offensive. Portland managed some key fouls, while Marathon worked their way up the outside for some good opportunities. Luckily for Portland, Steve Clark came up with some excellent saves to prevent easy Marathon goals.
The Timbers overtook Marathon in the 59th minute, thanks to El Maestro himself. Valeri stepped up for a free kick after Mora drew the foul. He launched an almost perfect shot right above Denovan Torres, but it hit the crossbar. In very CCL fashion, however, the ball bounced off Torres’s back and back into the goal. The shot counted as an own goal and made it 2-1 Portland.
It didn’t stay that score for long. Kervin Arriaga dribbled the ball down the middle of the field and got the ball to Marlon Ramirez. Ramirez — who had just subbed on four minutes earlier — curved the ball just perfectly by Steve Clark and got the equalizer in the 68th minute.
As the game progressed, the Timbers started to look more and more tired. The wear and tear of a difficult match started to show. Danger loomed on every possession as Marathon continued to attack, but the Timbers fended them off to take a 2-2 draw.
The Timbers and Marathon will play their second leg at Providence Park next Tuesday, April 13. Kick-off is set for 5 p.m. PT.