Yimmi Chara and Felipe Mora score for the second straight match to secure back-to-back road victories for the Timbers. Portland beat the Dynamo 2-0, claiming their first MLS victory in Houston.
It’s amazing what a boost of confidence after a derby win will do for you. Coming off the back of a signature win in Seattle, the Portland Timbers posted yet another 2-0 shutout win on the road, this time against the Houston dynamo. A goal from Yimmi Chara would open things in the first half for the Timbers, followed by a well-earned and well-dispatched penalty kick from Felipe Mora. Behind some determined defending and sterling saves from Steve Clark, Portland would blank the Dynamo in the second half and bag three more points in their quest to climb the table.
Portland started the match with the confidence of a team coming off a big win. They looked keyed in and focused, creating a pair of early near-chances in the opening minutes. Portland exhibited a strong ability to pass into space and find the open man at the start of the match. A flowing attacking sequence in the 13th minute nearly resulted in Felipe Mora opening the scoring, but a key late intervention from Dynamo defender Teenage Hadebe cleared the ball before Mora could get his shot away.
The Timbers’ early pressure and composure would not go unrewarded. In the 15th minute, Sebastian Blanco launched a ball toward the far post. Felipe Mora rose up to get his head to it. His header was straight at Houston keeper Michael Nelson, who parried the ball toward the penalty spot. The quickest player to react to the loose ball was Yimmi Chara, who burst through and knocked the ball home to make it 1-0 in favor of the Timbers.
Portland wouldn’t let up there. They would soon add to their lead after the referee went to VAR. It was Blanco who was the instigator again in the 18th minute. He chipped a ball in toward Mora, who was streaking into the box past his defender. Nelson charged off his line to try to clear the ball, but Mora got a toe to it first. Nelson clattered into Mora, and play initially continued. Referee Rubiel Vazquez eventually blew the play dead to check the video review monitor.
After a quick look, Vazquez gave us our favorite boxy-arms motion and pointed to the spot. Nelson’s challenge was adjudged to be a foul after the VAR review. Mora had won a penalty for the Timbers. The Chilean confidently stepped up to the spot and sent Nelson the wrong way as he slotted the ball into the left corner. Mora’s ninth goal of the year put Portland two goals to the good in the 20th minute.
Portland would spend the rest of the half dictating play, controlling most of the possession, and putting together some quite attractive attacking pass sequences.
But the tail end of the second half would be marked by Houston turning up the dial, and putting some pressure on the Portland defense. The Dynamo would start to find more possession, and created more chances usually via crosses into the box. Portland’s Achilles heel of poor set-piece defending would start to rear its head again, as Houston found multiple chances via dead ball situations. Fafa Picault put an open header off target. Another dead ball cross found a Houston attacker wide open in the box but the Dynamo player put his chance wide.
The best chance Houston had to pull one back was in first-half stoppage time when Portland couldn’t clear their lines after another Houston corner kick. The ball fell to the feet of Adam Lundqvist, who fired toward the open far post. Open, if not for the outstretched arm of Steve Clark, of course. Clark dove down to palm away what was a sure Houston goal to preserve the two-goal advantage at the end of the first half.
Thanks to Clark’s heroics and goals from Yimmi Chara and Mora, the Timbers went into the break up 2-0.
The start of the second half would be marked by the home side continuing their assertiveness and seeking to pull a goal back. Houston enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second half and slowly started to work their way back into the match. Portland seemed content to sit and defend crosses sent in from Houston, be they high or low.
And thanks to some continued stellar play from Clark, that defense would hold throughout the second half. One of Houston’s best chances in the early stages of the second half came from a set-piece, which Memo Rodriguez launched toward goal. Clark was there to palm it away, keeping Houston off the scoresheet.
Most of the remainder of the second half would follow that pattern: the Dynamo finding good spots and the Timbers defense doing just enough to clear the ball and their lines, with Clark cleaning up the most dangerous chances.
Houston had a golden chance in the 67th minute when Maximiliano Urruti was sprung in behind and had a clear sight of goal. The former Timbers man pulled his shot wide and the Timbers were spared yet again.
Against a more lethal side, that perhaps had better finishing boots on, tonight’s match might have been a different story. But throughout the second half, the Dynamo would never be able to make the most of their scoring opportunities, and the Timbers’ defense was just alert enough to clear their lines.
Houston’s last and best chance to make things interesting came in the final ten minutes. Samuel Junqua rose to meet a cross from Joe Corona. His header was on frame, but- you guessed it- Clark was there again to meet the ball and palm it over. After a solid performance against Seattle, the Portland stopper would once again post a sterling display in Houston.
Portland did well to slowly kill the game off and limit Houston’s chances, taking the Dynamo’s best shot and turning it away. When all was said and done, the final whistle blew and the Portland Timbers had posted another 2-0 shutout victory on the road. This time of the history-making variety, as it was Portland’s first MLS win in Houston.
Houston would finish the game with 19 shots, six of them on target, and a whopping 29 crosses. And also, most crucially, zero goals. The Timbers defense, much maligned for most of the season, did enough. And behind the stellar play from Steve Clark, they would post back-to-back shutouts on the road for the first time this season.
This five-game road swing is nearly done. Portland’s last stop before returning to play in Providence Park lies north of the border. The Timbers will travel to Canada for the first time since 2019 where they will face the resurgent Vancouver Whitecaps next Friday night.
These past few weeks were seen as a time when Portland needed to turn their season around. A signature derby wins, and now a historic win in Houston have the Timbers very much on track to do just that.