The Portland Timbers were in a bad spot for most of tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League match against El Salvador’s CD Dragon, but the team staged a dramatic late-game comeback and left Estadio Atletico Las Delicias with all three points.
The Timbers had a good chance in the 9th minute as Diego Valeri whipped in a hard free kick that forced Dragon keeper Henry Hernandez into a scrambling save, knocking the ball down in the Dragon box, only to see it sin out of bounds before a Timbers player could reach it.
Dragon got a chance of their own in the 21st minute as the hit the Timbers on the break. Forward Kenroy Howell drove at the Timbers back line before unleashing a powerful shot form just outside the box that forced Jake Gleeson into a diving, acrobatic save, pushing the ball wide of goal for a corner.
The Timbers would continue to earn free kicks around the Dragon box for the remainder of the first half, but thanks to several offside calls and some compact defending from the home side, the Timbers could not get the break through before going into the locker rooms knotted at zero apiece.
As both teams returned from the break, it was Dragon who brought some energy to the pitch, putting high pressure on the Timbers back line and looking for the quick counter down the pitch.
In the 54th minute those quick attacks from Dragon payed off and Kevin Melara got on the ball in the Timbers’ half. Melara drove at the Timbers back line and wove through the stumbling defenders before playing a quick one-two pass off Jamal Jack at the top of the box. Jack’s return pass found the feet of Melara and the Dragon winger was able to take another touch before slipping a shot past the dive of Gleeson and inside the far post to give Dragon the 1-0 lead.
The Timbers came close to pulling one back in the 72nd minute as Alvas Powell clipped a cross into the box that skimmed along the heads of several players before falling to the feet of Ned Grabavoy. Grabavoy was able to get the ball out from under his feet and fire off a shot from close range that looked destined for the back of the net. The Dragon keeper could only swipe at the ball, but just before it could cross the line, a Dragon defender made the last-second clearance to preserve the home side’s 1-0 lead.
Things were looking dire for the Timbers until, in the 79th minute, Fanendo Adi provided a ray of hope for the side. After a foul out wide on the right flank, the Timbers clipped a curling free kick into the Dragon box. A host of defenders was waiting for the ball and managed to head away, but the ball only got to the top of the box where Adi was lurking. With the ball bouncing in front of him, Adi lined up a side volley and struck, sending a skipping volley through the crowd and past the Dragon keeper to even things up at 1-1.
The Timbers almost grabbed the game winner in the 88th minute as Adi brought the ball down in the Dragon box and dropped it off for Valeri. The Maestro hit a quick shot, trying to curl the ball past the keeper, but Hernandez got down to make the save.
The Timbers break through would come moments later, however, as Adi was taken down at the edge of the box. After a brief shoving match, the Timbers lined up for the free kick and it was Darlington Nagbe who, in the 90th minute, struck the ball. After Valeri stepped up to the spot, Nagbe took a quick, surprising run up and hit a hard, curling free kick that splashed into the back of the net to give the Timbers the 2-1 lead.
With only stoppage time to go, the Timbers ground out the final minutes of the match, preserving their 2-1 lead and bringing home all three points. The side is back in action on Saturday as they return to league play with a road match against the Colorado Rapids.