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Portland Timbers Defeat Philadelphia Union for Second Road Win of the Season

From Last Word on Soccer, by Joe Hojnacki

The Timbers returned to their winning ways with a 3-1 victory in Philadelphia against the Union and, for once, it was more than the usual suspects getting the job done. Sure, Fanendo Adi provided the icing on the cake from the penalty spot and shockingly rare goal scorer Darlington Nagbe opened the scoring in the first half. But, it was unlikely hero Roy Miller providing the winner and bench player Darren Mattocks who won the penalty to set up Adi’s goal.

Portland Timbers Defeat Philadelphia Union for Second Road Win of the Season

The match was a pretty even affair until the Timbers conceded the first goal of a game for the first time all season in the 26th minute. Poor marking on a Philly corner allowed Richie Marquez to rise up for a header, which he thumped past a helpless Jake Gleeson. That was the best scoring chance of the game at the time and the only one that came close was a 16th minute Union free kick by Haris Medunjanin that forced a diving save out of Jake Gleeson.

Darlington Nagbe had the answer for Portland six minutes after Marquez’s header. He was able to roll a shot from great distance past Andre Blake for a 32nd minute equalizer. That goal from nothing sparked some life in the Timbers. They had allowed the Union to control the first half hour with relative ease up to that point. After the score was level again, Portland pressed forward more aggressively, and really should have had a second goal in the 39th minute when Fanendo Adi botched a shot from seven yards out by putting it well wide of the far post.

The Timbers would take the lead shortly after the hour mark on a set piece of their own. A 66th minute free kick saw Diego Valeri float a ball into the running head of defender Roy Miller, who flicked the ball inside the far post.

It looked like it would then be up to the rickety Timbers defense to do what they couldn’t do six days before. Their defense would need to hold off a late charge with a one goal lead while the opposition found increasingly threatening looks at goal. However, Darren Mattocks and Adi had different ideas. Mattocks created a turnover at the center line and bolted alone on goal before he was tripped at the very edge of the penalty area by Blake. After some deliberating by the officiating staff, a penalty was awarded and Adi confidently smashed the attempt home for the insurance goal in the 88th minute. That tally made Adi the Timbers’ all time leading scorer across all eras of the team.

The remaining two minutes plus stoppage time didn’t provide much production from either side. The main action was the potential loss of backup winger Darren Mattocks to a painful looking leg injury. He was plowed into by Oguchi Onyewu during stoppage time and had to be stretchered off while clutching his hamstring.

Away Woes a Thing of the Past

The win was Portland’s second away win of the year after they went all of 2016 without earning a single victory outside Providence Park. The gritty 1-0 win at StubHub Center wasn’t overly convincing, but this one showed that the team can, in fact, play well outside their own house. Their next away match is a real doozy, though. They head to Dallas on April 29 for what could be their biggest away game of the season.

FInishing, Finishing, Finishing

Portland’s issues with finishing their chances last weekend against New England carried over into this away match. Adi’s poor shot in the first half was one example, but Sebastian Blanco was guilty of some glaring misses as well. He was free behind the defense with the ball a couple times in the second half and failed to put it in the back of the net on both occasions. The first was thanks to a lucky intervention by Blake and the second was a flat out miss that Blanco surely wants back.

The Timbers managed to win the game by a pair of goals, but it really could have been more comfortable. They took a total of six shots from the edge of the six yard box and only Miller’s flicked header went into the net. The rest were all straight into the keeper or missed entirely.

Central Defense Still Shaky

Caleb Porter has to be begging for Liam Ridgewell to return to health. Miller has done an admirable job filling in for the many injuries in the Timbers starting defense, but Lawrence Olum has been old and slow. Olum showed his lack of pace again as he was seemingly unable to keep up with the quick Union attack. He didn’t attempt a single tackle and struggled to make any sort of defensive impact. The Union were rather ineffective going forward all night long, otherwise this game could have been much closer.

Set piece defending was also a little off. The lone Union goal came from losing track of Richie Marquez. Other corners throughout the night were poorly defended. Onyewu had a great chance off a 56th minute corner that required a timely stop by Gleeson. Ilsinho was gifted an open shot off a corner earlier in the game. Overall, set piece defending wasn’t at its best throughout this game.

The Timbers won’t complain, however, thanks to the 3-1 final score. They are atop the Supporters Shield standings with 13 points through their first six games. Up next, they return home to Providence Park to face Sporting Kansas City at 10:30pm eastern time on Saturday, April 15.


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