The Portland Timbers battled Nashville SC to a draw Wednesday night at Providence Park. Teal Bunbury opened the scoring for Nashville, and Santiago Moreno equalized for Portland minutes later. The result would stay the same, as Portland’s unbeaten run reached nine games.
With 11 games remaining before the playoffs begin, including the game against Nashville, the Timbers caught the injury bug at the worst possible time. Seven first-team players were unavailable through injuries and suspensions — with Felipe Mora, Claudio Bravo, Diego Chara, Eryk Williamson, Cristhian Paredes, Dairon Asprilla, and George Fochive all unavailable for selection against Nashville.
The absences meant a formation shift for the Timbers, as head coach Giovanni Savarese employed a five-at-the-back lineup, with winger Marvin Loria moving into the left side of the defense as a wingback:
Nashville opened the scoring in the 20th minute of the match through Teal Bunbury, who slotted a strike home following a corner the Timbers’ backline failed to clear. Portland would return the favor seven minutes later by equalizing through Santiago Moreno in nearly the exact same way.
At the half, the Timbers were pretty comfortably the better side. They out-possessed Nashville 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent, and held the visitors to just four shots on target, none of which came from Nashville danger man, Hany Mukhtar.
Both sides were visibly exhausted over the course of the second half, with chances coming few and far between. Ivacic was called into action in the 78th minute, making a big stop on a close-range shot from Alex Muyl, and Jaroslaw Niezgoda nearly won the match in stoppage time with a wicked half-volley on the edge of the box. Nathan Fogaca went close in the final minutes of added time as well, but the points were eventually shared by the two sides.
- 3’ A nifty back-heel from Sebastian Blanco set Yimmi Chara through on goal in the third minute, but a few too many touches from Chara got the ball caught up in the proverbial spokes, and delayed a cross that didn’t find a teammate.
- 17’ The Timbers had a golden opportunity to take the lead when a deft-touch from Jaroslaw Niezgoda set Santiago Moreno through on goal, but the Colombian forward’s powerful strike was tipped over the bar by Nashville ’keeper, Joe Willis.
- 20’ GOAL Nashville, 1-0 Two minutes later, a shot-turned-cross from Randall Leal nearly caught Aljaz Ivacic out, but the Timbers’ ’keeper reacted well to put the shot out for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, the Timbers couldn’t clear their lines, and Teal Bunbury tucked away a quality finish from inside the box.
- 27’ GOAL Timbers, 1-1 Santiago Moreno equalized for the Timbers just before the half-hour mark, lashing the ball into the back of the net following a recycled corner. Yimmi Chara clipped a ball into the box and the rebound fell right into Moreno’s path before he smashed a low shot past Willis.
- 35’ The Timbers again came close to scoring, and Moreno was again the danger-man, but the forward couldn’t keep a left-footed strike down after latching on to a loose ball just outside the box.
- 41’ Nashville’s talisman Hany Mukhtar went close from distance, but Ivacic did well to scramble to his right and get two strong hands to the shot to push it out for a corner.
- 43’ Ivacic made another stunning save moments later after a Nashville cross made its way through the entirety of the box before landing at the feet of Teal Bunbury, who took too long to shoot, which allowed Ivacic to completely smother the chance.
- 45+1’ YELLOW CARD Nashville’s captain, Walker Zimmerman, was cautioned for an aerial challenge on from behind on Niezgoda.
At halftime, the score remained even at 1-1.
- 60’ YELLOW CARD The opening 15 minutes of the second half were dominated by Nashville, who thought they had a penalty in the 60th minute after Mukhtar went down in the box under pressure from Moreno. But referee Silviu Petrescu adjudged Mukhtar to have flopped and promptly issued him a yellow card.
- 66’ YELLOW CARD Nashville’s goal-scorer Teal Bunbury was cautioned for dissent after a collision between Marvin Loria and Alex Muyl wasn’t called for a foul by Silviu Petrescu.
- 79’ Nashville nearly made it 2-1 late-on after Muyl shrugged off a challenge from Bill Tuiloma in the center of the box, before getting off a point-blank shot that Ivacic somehow kept out of the net. CJ Sapong’s follow-up was sliced wide of goal, and Providence Park collectively exhaled.
- 81’ SUBSTITUTION Nathan Fogaca and Zac McGraw became the Timbers’ first substitutes of the match, replacing Sebastian Blanco and Yimmi Chara. Nathan slotted in directly next to Niezgoda up top, and McGraw’s introduction moved Tuiloma into midfield.
- 90’ YELLOW CARD Zac McGraw was issued a yellow card for a strong challenge in the middle of the park that looked to be a fair one on second viewing.
- 90+2‘ Jaroslaw Niezgoda nearly blew the roof off Providence Park with a thunderous half-volley from the edge of the 18, but Joe Willis made a spectacular save to deny him a special goal.
- 90+4’ Nathan went close to winning the match in the dying moments, speeding past Dave Romney and taking the ball around Joe Willis, but the Brazilian’s shot agonizingly hit the side-netting.
The match finished 1-1, but the Timbers will feel like they could have stolen all three points late on. Portland’s next match is a home match against a strong FC Dallas side on Saturday, August 6, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific.