The Portland Timbers defeated Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on the opening night of their MLS season, starting off the year on the right foot. Juan Mosquera scored his first Timbers goal, and the defense of Dario Zuparic, Zac McGraw and David Bingham held firm to preserve the three points and clean sheet.
After having their home opener delayed by two days due to snow in the region, the Timbers instead had to kick off their season on a frigid Monday night, where intermittent snow and rain fell as kickoff approached.
Several Portland players were still dealing with injuries, so Portland rolled out a rotated starting eleven, with Santiago Moreno and Claudio Bravo starting on the bench and David Bingham getting the start in goal.
The highlight of the starting lineup was of course the debut of Evander, Portland’s marquee offseason signing.
The match kicked off with the Timbers playing the role of the aggressors, with Sporting Kansas City sitting in a midblock in defense.
That defense was promptly broken after just six minutes, when Juan Mosquera scored the first goal of the Timbers 2023 season. Mosquera earned the chance by winning the ball back in the box after a marauding run forward, and was assisted by Yimmi Chara.
In the twenty minutes that followed, Sporting worked their way to the front foot while the Timbers were caught on their back foot. Bingham was called into service, and he made two vital saves midway through the first frame to keep Portland in front.
With about fifteen minutes left in the first half, Yimmi Chara pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury. He forced Portland into an early change, being replaced by Santiago Moreno
Despite the increased pressure from the visitors and injury troubles, the Timbers went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
Portland continued that form and came out of the locker room determined, with Evander finding more room around the top of the box. He showed flashes of the magic the Timbers bought him for, but Portland couldn’t quite string together an attacking sequence and hit the final pass needed to be in on goal. Loria came the closest with a handful of attempts, but none were wholly threatening.
As the second half progressed Sporting ascended into the game, just as they had in the first. They created more and more pressure on Portland’s backline, finding a particular amount of joy down Portland’s left side.
Nathan had a chance to ice the game in stoppage time, as he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. But the Sporting ‘keeper did just enough to block Nathan’s shot wide.
It wound up not mattering in the end, as Portland held on for a 1-0 victory, starting out the 2023 season with three points.
1’ The 2023 season got underway in the cold under the lights at Providence Park.
5’ Jaroslaw Niezgoda nearly opened the scoring, as he pounced on a loose back pass. It was only through some double-save heroics from John Pulskamp that Jaro was denied.
6’ GOAL TIMBERS! 1-0 Juan Mosquera made a lung-busting run forward, and stayed after the ball after SKC won it back. Mosquera won the ball back himself and laid it off to his Colombian compatriot Yimmi Chara, who collected and sent the ball right back to Mosquera at the near post. Mosquera turned, shot, and scored the Timbers first goal of 2023.
16’ Erik Thommy was shown the game’s first yellow card for tripping up Eryk Williamson on the run.
22’ SKC forward Willy Agada missed a golden opportunity right in front of the Timbers goal as the visitors upped the pressure.
24’ David Bingham with two HUGE reaction saves. He first reacted well to parry away a point-blank shot, and then tipped a follow-up attempt over the net to keep SKC off the socreboard.
26’ Dario Zuparic was shown a yellow card for a heavy challenge on a Sporting attacker.
29’ After making a big run to chase a clearance, Yimmi Chara pulled up holding his hamstring. He went down in pain, and after being attended to by the trainers was replaced by Santiago Moreno.
The first half wound down with the Timbers starting to find their footing, and limiting Sporting’s attacks. The first forty-five minutes came to end with Portland still holding a 1-0 advantage.
46’ The game got back underway with both sides unchanged, and the Timbers attacking the North End.
53’ Evander, after being quiet for the first half, came alive in the start of the second half, with him almost generating a few half-chances for himself and being one touch or pass away from breaking in on goal.
58’ Marvin Loria gets on the end of a nice passing move from the Timbers at the top of the box, but he sends his attempt high and into the Timbers Army.
60’ Sporting comes close to responding at the other end, as Agada sends a flashing header just wide of the goal off a corner kick.
62’ Loria again uncorks one from distance, but it flies wide of the goal.
62’ Portland made their second change of the game, as Nathan Fogaca came on for Jaroslae Niezgoda. The Polish striker was mostly anonymous on the night, and didn’t look on the same wavelength as the rest of the Timbers team.
73’ Nathan made his presence known and streaked in on goal, and after laid off a cheeky backheel for Loria in the box. His attempt on goal while falling was low on power however, and was saved.
74’ Eryk Williamson was shown a yellow card for a late challenge.
77’ Bingham again comes up big for Portland with a jumping stop to snag a volley attempt in the box.
80’ Portland makes their final subs of the night, as Cristhian Paredes and Diego Gutierrez replaced Williamson and Loria, respectively. It was Gutierrez’s first time back on the field after he suffered a season ending injury last Spring.
89’ Evander receives his first MLS yellow card for a late challenge.
90’+1 Agada put a whole lot of hearts in mouths as he sent a bullet header just wide of the goal.
90’+2 Nathan breaks in behind the Sporting backline and was one-on-one with the keeper, but Pulskamp did well to come off his line and stonewall the Portland forward’s shot.
Despite the flurry of attacks from Sporting at the end, the Timbers held on. The final whistle blew, and Mosquera’s first Timbers goal wound up being the difference. Portland did what they haven’t done since 2017: start the season off with a win.
Portland will have shorter rest than they would have liked, as they are next in action as they head down to LA to face the defending MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shield champs LAFC on Saturday March 4 at 1:30 p.m.