PORTLAND, Ore. – Ike Opara’s header in the 120th minute broke a scoreless deadlock to give the San Jose Earthquakes a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in a second-round play-in game of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
The win breaks San Jose’s three-game losing streak in all competitions. Portland, meanwhile, dropped their first match at newly renovated JELD-WEN Field.
For more than two hours, chippy play gave way to offensive creativity, as the ref blew the whistle 45 times and dished out eight yellow cards issued over the course of the rugged game.
San Jose, who have eight days before their next match, started six players who have made four or more MLS starts this season. That lineup included starting forwards Ryan Johnson and Chris Wondolowski.
In contrast, Portland decided to rest most of their regulars for Friday’s nationally televised home contest against the Philadelphia Union. The only Timbers player who started in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake and returned to start against San Jose was goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Steve Purdy (six starts) and James Marcelin (four) led a Timbers side made up mostly of reserves.
Nevertheless, it was the home side who would fire the first warning when, in the 15th minute, Marcelin tried his luck from distance. His effort, however, was stopped by Quakes ‘keeper Andrew Weber.
Twelve minutes later, Opara threatened the Timbers when he got past the defense and collided with Perkins as they both went in search of the ball.
Just before the whistle signaling the end of the first half, San Jose midfielder Khari Stephenson missed out on a great opportunity, failing to connect the ball to send it into the net despite being unmarked.
The slow first half gave way to a more action- and foul-packed second 45 as each team struggled to control the match and not give their opponents too much space.
The most noteworthy chance happened in the 75th minute, when San Jose’s Johnson tested Perkins, who passed with flying colors by tipping the forward’s shot over the crossbar.
Unable to break through in regulation, the teams entered overtime still scoreless. Then, near the end of the first 15-minute overtime period, Quakes striker Steven Lenhart appeared to nod a goal into the Timbers net. However, officials ruled he used his hand to score, the goal was waived off, and Lenhart was issued a yellow card.
When it appeared the defensive tug-of-war battle was headed to penalty kicks, Opara came through for San Jose. Midfielder Sam Cronin, who had collected a cleared corner kick, crossed the ball into the box, where Opara flicked it past Perkins for the winner.
The Timbers mounted a late attack but failed to find the equalizer.
With the win, San Jose go on to face the Chicago Fire in a third-round play-in match later this month.