Despite fielding a semi-rotated lineup, the Portland Timbers were able to grind out a tough 1-0 win and hand New York City FC their first home loss of the season off a well-placed Blanco goal from a Valeri free kick.
The match was an open affair early, with both teams streaking down the miniature pitch at Yankee Stadium. While both teams made early forays into the box, the first real chance came in the 12th minute when the Timbers played Diego Valeri into the box behind the defense, only to have his shot blocked. Sebastian Blanco picked up the rebound, however, and dribbled into the box, only to have his close-range effort blocked as well.
Minutes later, the Timbers looked to get out on the break again and Blanco drew a foul in a dangerous area. Valeri looped the free kick to the box and after a failed clearance by a NYCFC defender, the ball fell calmly to Blanco who curled it into the top right corner of the net to put the Timbers up by one early.
The first half continued with NYCFC holding the lion’s share of possession and repeatedly calling Steve Clark into action while the Timbers looked to strike out on the break. Despite a number of half-chances for both teams, neither created any real danger for the rest of the first half. Despite the lack of serious chances, the Timbers managed to pick up five yellow cards in the dying minutes of the half, putting Blanco, Dairon Asprilla, Marco Farfan, Zarek Valentin, and Claude Dielna all on a caution heading into the second half.
Once again, both teams started the second half with some quick chances. First, the Timbers exchanged a series of slick passes in midfield to work Andres Flores into the box. He squared the ball in for Brian Fernandez near the penalty spot, but it was cut out just before he could fire the shot. Then, New York responded with a quick, dangerous counter attack, creating multiple shots of their own from inside the box, requiring some heroic blocks from Timbers defenders.
In the 63rd minute, the Timbers looked to have scored a goal from a corner. Valeri’s corner came in behind his runners, but Blanco pulled up and chipped a bicycle kick over City’s back line to Fernandez, who was able to head it into the net. Unfortunately, the offside flag went up and the goal was called off.
In the 67th minute, New York City had a penalty shout after Maxi Moralez fired a shot from inside the box that was blocked by Marco Farfan who had just fallen down. While the ball looked like it may have struck his arms, Referee Ted Unkel pointed for a corner and after holding his earpiece for a VAR check, elected not to go to the monitor.
In the 76th minute, after a lengthy injury break for Claude Dielna, the Timbers immediately struck on a counter. Blanco took a great dribble down the left side then curled a low cross for second half substitute Jeremy Ebobisse at the far post. Brad Stuver came out and missed the cross, but Ebobisse’s first touch was behind him, leaving time for a defender to close him down. New York City almost struck back on a counter of their own, getting Jesus Medina in behind the back line, but he was unable to send his chipped shot over Clark on target.
Despite NYCFC chasing the game, the Timbers continued to press in the dying minutes of the match and, in the 83rd minute, they even worked the ball into the back of the net for the third time only for the offside flag to once again go up and take the goal away.
While all five minutes of second half stoppage time were spent in or around the Timbers’ penalty area, their defense bent, but did not break and the Timbers held on to all three points.
The Timbers are back in action on Wednesday when they will travel to Banc of California Stadium to take on LAFC in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup.