PORTLAND, Ore. – During the Portland Timbers four-game goalless streak, head coach John Spencer continually pleaded with his team for better service into the box.
With dangerous forwards like Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe prowling the area, the Timbers boss said it has been the final pass that was lacking.
So naturally, it was a defender who ended Portland’s 448-minute stretch without a goal.
Central defender Eric Brunner tallied his first of the year and fourth as a member of the Timbers in the 20th minute to help give Portland a 2-1 victory Sunday over the Chicago Fire at JELD-WEN Field.
But even if it wasn’t Boyd or Nagbe, the lesson was still learned.
“We’ve been asking the guys for a couple weeks now to put better service in the box, and I think we got that today and got a couple goals,” Spencer said.
And for Brunner and the Timbers, finally finding the back of the net lifted a weight that had been building for more than a month.
“It happens; it’s part of the game,” Brunner said of Portland’s offensive woes. “You just have to kind of deal with it, and you know it’s going to be coming. We have quality players on this team. And we’ve done a good job of keeping [goals] out, so it was nice to get one in.”
The Brunner goal came about thanks to exactly what Spencer had been preaching: quality service.
A Franck Songo’o corner kick met perfectly with Hanyer Mosquera’s head at the far end of the goal, which resulted in a Boyd bicycle attempt in the box. Boyd didn’t get much on the shot attempt, but it fell to Brunner.
And the lanky defender knew just what to do, burying a right-footed shot past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“It kind of just floated off [Boyd],” Brunner said. “I kind of anticipated that maybe if he didn’t get a touch on it then it might fall my way, and I was just kind of there in the right place at the right time.”
Portland’s second tally in the 52nd minute was ruled an own goal when it bounced off Chicago midfielder Logan Pause’s foot, but it also came thanks to a perfectly-place corner kick by midfielder Sal Zizzo.
Boyd slid under the near-post service and headed on the dangerous volley, fulfilling another of Spencer’s requests for good movement in the box.
“His movement to get across the defender and get a head to it was good, a great ball by Sal,” Spencer said. “It would be nice if it was [Boyd’s] goal. But for us we’re happy to get three points.”
And for Brunner, ending up as the unlikely offensive hero on a team needed it so badly is something he’ll gladly accept.
“You always like to score,” Brunner said. “I’m guessing I’m due for at least one a year, so I hit my quota. Hopefully we continue to put some more in.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
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