US Open Cup: Portland Timbers maintain winning habits amid trying circumstances

Portland celebrate in the US Open Cup vs. FC Dallas

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USA Today Sports

A letdown from the Portland Timbers against FC Dallas in their US Open Cup quarterfinals match Wednesday – if not expected – would certainly have been forgivable.

After all, they just hit the halfway point of the MLS season atop the Western Conference with a Sunday victory over the Colorado Rapids. Their reward was a Monday flight out of the Rose City before a light training session in Dallas on Tuesday, all to play in their eighth game in the last month.

Oh, the game-time temperature at FC Dallas Stadium was a welcoming 100 degrees.

The Timbers, however, just kept on rolling, overcoming a 1-0 deficit to beat FC Dallas for the second time in 10 days with a thrilling 3-2 victory to advance to the USOC semifinals for the first time in team history. It was also Portland’s first victory in the state of Texas as a MLS team.

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“I’m a little tired, but besides that I’m feeling good,” Timbers forward Darlington Nagbe told MLSsoccer.com.

Nagbe tied the game at a goal apiece with another in the long line of his brilliant goals, a 61st-minute strike after slashing his way to the 18 and around the Dallas defense.

“As long as we’re winning games and getting results, I’m feeling good,” Nagbe said.

Feeling good is the order of the day in Timbers camp.

They’re tied for first place in the West with Real Salt Lake, who also happen to be the Timbers’ USOC semifinal opponent on Aug. 7. Portland’s MLS franchise unbeaten streak is now at 18 games across all competition. They’ll go into a well-deserved 10-day break before their next MLS game, July 7 at Columbus, having exceeded all expectations set by those outside the Portland locker room.

“We always imagined it, but now that it’s here it feels good knowing that we prepared for it all season,” Nagbe said. “And it’s paying off. We’re all excited and feeling good.”

The game started like Portland was a team coming off a brutal stretch of games. They were on their heels early, and Dallas capitalized with a 15th-minute goal by Je-Vaughn Watson. That only served to make Portland “angry,” Nagbe said.

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And after a dominant start to the second half by the Timbers, Nagbe made Dallas pay. He also scored Portland’s only goal in their 1-0 MLS win over FC Dallas on June 15 at JELD-WEN Field.

Just two minutes later, Nagbe found Diego Valeri on a perfectly timed run for Portland’s second goal. Second-half substitute Frédéric Piquionne hit the eventual game-winner, his fifth goal in the USOC tournament, in the 72nd minute.

“I feel like it’s becoming a habit, not losing,” Nagbe said. “And if we continue to make it a habit, we’ll be in great shape because we have good players and a good coach and a good organization and we just have to keep moving forward.”

But before that, Nagbe and the Timbers will get a much-deserved rest.

“It will be nice to recharge the batteries,” Nagbe said.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.