The Portland Timbers have proven tenacious throughout the first month of the 2013 season. While they had yet to earn their first victory under new head coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers had sandwiched come-from-behind draws against New York, Seattle and Colorado around a 2-1 defeat at home to the Montreal Impact. Against another tough challenger on Saturday, things finally came together for Porter’s first win as an MLS coach as Portland gradually grabbed control in a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo.
The win came despite the loss of two key starters in the first half hour of the match. Defender David Horst rolled his ankle in the 16th minute as he challenged Giles Barnes, crumpling to the turf and unable to return to the match; Porter would use his first substitution to put in second-year center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Less than fifteen minutes later, Designated Player Diego Valeri was lost from the midfield when he was elbowed in the face by Jermaine Taylor as they battled for a ball in the air, and Porter was forced to use his second substitution to bring in Kalif Alhassan along the right flank.
Andrew Driver and Brad Davis forced Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts to make several saves soon after Valeri left the match. But as time advanced toward the intermission, the changes seemed to invigorate the Timbers. They pushed forward late in the first half with several opportunities for a go-ahead goal, but the contest would remain scoreless through the first 45.
Portland returned motivated and with all the momentum in the second half. Rodney Wallace found Darlington Nagbe for a clear opportunity four minutes after the restart, but Porter’s former star at the University of Akron pushed the shot just wide of the post. Just over five minutes later, Timber Joey went to work with his chainsaw as Diego Chara charged up the right side and crossed in a laser to the streaking Ryan Johnson. Redirecting the ball with pace, it glanced of the leg of Dynamo keeper Tally Hall before rolling into the net to give the home side the lead.
Instead of falling back and defending the lead, Portland continued to surge forward unceasingly in the rain. Wallace would ping a potential second goal off the crossbar and the post a few minutes later. In the 73rd, as Portland continued to break down the Dynamo defenses and held the bulk of the possession, Nagbe found Johnson staying just onside as he ran up the middle. Tapping a through ball to the striker, Johnson controlled the pass and charged on goal before shooting over Hall for his third of the season.
Houston looked increasingly frustrated in the rain, and Portland missed several opportunities to further extend their lead as they finished the night with 61% of possession and completing 83% of their passes against the vanquished finalist of the past two MLS Cups. But if the Dynamo had to lose somewhere, at least it was in Portland rather than BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston will face the Chicago Fire next Sunday with the chance to extend their record-setting home winning streak to 35 matches. Portland will look to extend their own unbeaten streak to a fourth match when they host San Jose later that evening.
HOUSTON DYNAMO @ PORTLAND TIMBERS
April 6, 2013
- 55′ — POR/Ryan Johnson (Diego Chara)
- 73′ — POR/Ryan Johnson (Darlington Nagbe)
- POR (4-3-3): Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Mikael Silvestre, David Horst (Andrew Jean-Baptiste/18′), Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan/29′); Rodney Wallace, Ryan Johnson (Frederic Piquionne/88′), Darlington Nagbe
- HOU (4-1-2-1-2): Tally Hall; Corey Ashe, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Sarkodie; Adam Moffat (Warren Creavalle/64′); Brad Davis, Andrew Driver; Ricardo Clark (Omar Cummings/81′); Cam Weaver (Brian Ching/71′), Giles Barnes