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Recap: Timbers win 2-1 in return from international break

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Asprilla and Loria scored while Blanco made his return to the pitch in Portland’s 2-1 win over Kansas City.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Portland Timbers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In their first game back from the international break, the Portland Timbers defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at Providence Park. Dairon Asprilla and Marvin Loria provided the goals.

Several players made their return to the lineup for this match, with Diego Chara and Steve Clark both earning starts. Sebastian Blanco was also available for the first time in nine months off the bench for the Timbers and made an appearance late in the match.

Portland got started quickly with an early opportunity in the third minute. Jeremy Ebobisse found himself with a chance in the final third after Diego Valeri led the attacking charge. Valeri worked it to Dairon Asprilla, who attempted the low cross, but the pass was imperfect and the finish wasn’t there.

After that early chance, Kansas City did a good job containing Portland’s offense, not allowing the Timbers to make easy passes in space. They did well to not allow Valeri to get the ball to often and prevented Eryk Williamson from making too many drives ahead. When Valeri got the ball, he was usually able to create something resembling a chance, but nothing was coming to fruition.

Sporting KC would be the first team on the board. In the 28th minute, they made a run at the goal and had their initial pass to the middle blocked. Alan Pulido wound up with the ball on the end line surrounded by green jerseys, but he stayed calm. He worked a pass across the box to Jaylin Lindsey, who nailed a shot to the top-right corner just out of Steve Clark’s reach. Lindsey scored to make it 1-0 Kansas City.

The Timbers didn’t stay behind for too long. The Timbers earned a free kick, and Valeri sent a ball into the box for Asprilla. The winger took the shot and had it blocked, but he stuck with it and earned a second chance that he did not let go to waste. Asprilla netted the shot to even things up in Portland.

Bizarreness struck at the end of the half. The Timbers made a final push as they entered the final minute of the first half, with ball ending up at Valeri’s feet. Valeri’s cross into the box was deflected initially, but the ball bounced behind the Kansas City back line. Marvin Loria pounced on it with the net empty and chipped an easy shot into the back of the net. The score was 2-1 Timbers at the half.

In the second half, the Timbers never seemed quite connected on offense. Portland generated multiple chances in the counterattack, but the three main drivers of the offense — Valeri, Ebobisse, and Williamson — often misjudged the attacking situation. Usually they would either mistime passes or take on defenders one-on-one when they should’ve passed it off. The result was some fumbled opportunities for Portland.

Kansas City, meanwhile, put the pressure on the Timbers. They dominated possession and outshot Portland 13 to one in the second half. Sporting created numerous set piece opportunities, but luckily for Portland they couldn’t capitalize on anything. Despite Kansas City’s tenacity, the Timbers stayed strong.

In the 80th minute, something beautiful happened. After 286 days without playing a minute of competitive soccer, Sebastian Blanco subbed in for Diego Valeri. It was very cool, and this recap writer may or may not have shed a tear or two.

After Blanco’s return to the pitch, Sporting KC created some final chances for themselves, but still failed to create a goal. Portland would win 2-1.

The Timbers will be back at it on Wednesday when they travel to Houston for their midweek match against the Dynamo. Kick-off is set for 5:30 p.m. PST.