The Portland Timbers defeated Minnesota United 1-0 Saturday night at Providence Park, behind yet another set piece goal. This time, Dairon Asprilla headed in a Santiago Moreno corner kick to give Portland three massive points, and netting them their fourth win in a row.
The Timbers trotted out the same starting eleven as last weekend, with one notable exception as Eryk Williamson returned from suspension and replaced Cristhian Paredes. Minnesota meanwhile featured an adjusted look and lineup, as they dealt with a myriad of injuries and absences.
Despite being at home and playing against a depleted Minnesota squad, the Timbers were decidedly on the back foot for the majority of the first half. It was only through the continued brilliance of Aljaz Ivacic and key interventions from the backline that Portland was able to keep Minnesota off the scoresheet in the opening frame.
In need of a second half spark, head coach Giovanni Savarese made a tactical switch and swapped Santiago Moreno and Dairon Asprilla, moving Asprilla to the wingback spot and Moreno higher up the field.
The move paid off, as Portland looked more dangerous attacking in the second frame. It culminated in the winner in the 61st minute, when Moreno’s corner kick connected with Asprilla’s head as he knocked home the game’s lone goal.
The win lifted Portland to fifth place in the West, boosting their playoff positioning with three games left to play.
10’ The first real action in front of goal in the game came in front of the Timbers’ goal, as Aljaz Ivacic made a stupendous stop off a flicked shot, and then Claudio Bravo cleared the point-blank follow-up off the line.
18’ Ivacic was in action yet again as he came off his line well to deny Mender Garcia.
28’ Santiago Moreno juked his man in the box with some fancy footwork and lofted a ball up for Dairon Asprilla. Asprilla tried to fast-forward to October and attempted an overhead kick, but too many defenders were in the way and his attempt was blocked.
44’ Dairon Asprilla won the clearest half-chance for the Timbers in the first half, as he cut out a clearance. The chance went begging as he couldn’t corral the ball after some interplay with Eryk Williamson, and Minnesota cleared.
It should tell you all you need to know about the opening forty-five minutes that the above highlights were sparse, and that most of the them were saves by Aljaz Ivacic.
The first half ended with Minnesota clearly being the better of the two sides, outshooting the Timbers 4-13(!!) and getting three of their shots on target, while Portland had yet to get a shot on frame.
46’ The second half started with a switch on the field for the Timbers, as Asprilla swapped into Moreno’s right wingback spot, pushing Santi higher up the field to play next to Blanco while Yimmi Chara took up a false-nine position to lead the line.
53’ Moreno chipped a long ball over the top for Y. Chara to run onto, but the ball was just long and Michael Boxall cleared the danger.
59’ Eryk Williamson tried to do it himself, and had a shot from distance. It sailed wide right of the goal.
61’ GOAL TIMBERS 1-0! After some good work from Moreno and Yimmi Chara won Portland a corner, Moreno whipped in a beauty of in-swinger towards the near post. Dairon Asprilla was first to the ball, out-leaping his man. Asprilla’s glancing header sailed past St. Clair and into the back of the net, giving Portland a one-goal lead midway through the second half.
72’ First sub of the game, as Jaroslaw Niezgoda replaced Sebastian Blanco. Blanco subbed out of what was his 500th professional soccer match, a sterling achievement for Portland’s Argentine dynamo.
77’ Portland’s offense woke up, as a nice attacking interplay with Yimmi and Niezgoda almost ended in a shooting chance, but instead won Portland a corner kick.
80’ Moreno served in a fantastic ball to the far post on a recycled play, but it was just past the feet of McGraw and Tuiloma.
83’ Luis Amarilla skied a point blank shot from right in front of Ivacic, after he found a break of space in front of McGraw.
84’ Two substitutions from the Timbers, as Marvin Loria and Cristhian Paredes replaced Eryk Williamson and Yimmi Chara.
85’ Ivacic made yet another key intervention, this time with his foot, as he denied Lod from close range.
85’ McGraw was shown a yellow card, and will be suspended for Portland’s next match against Columbus.
As the game entered four minutes of stoppage time, Portland tried to keep control of the ball and kill off the remaining minutes.
90’+2 Paredes had a great opportunity to finish off the game for Portland, but he skied his chance from the middle of the box.
90’+4 Moreno had a golden chance to ice things, but he sent his shot wide of the net. Santi fell to the ground in frustration (or maybe disbelief) of missing the chance— but in the end it didn’t matter as the whistle for full time blew seconds later.
Portland got past Minnesota to win their fourth game in a row, and leap all the way up into fifth in the Western Conference in the process.
They will next be in action on Sunday September 18 when they travel to Columbus to face a familiar face in Caleb Porter and his Columbus Crew SC at 10am Pacific.